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ON CBS, LAW AND DISORDER

If you're looking for a lawyer this season, the address is CBS. Just don't expect him or her to have an organized personal life.

In an incredible coincidence -- or is it lack of creativity? -- half of the six new shows that CBS has on its schedule have a law element.

The three series -- "Judging Amy," "Family Law" and "Work With Me" -- really are about the personal lives of the female leads, two of whom have been separated and a third of whom is now testing her marriage by working with her husband.

CBS' idea, apparently, is to woo younger female viewers who have fallen in love with "Ally McBeal."

After winning the 1998-99 season in household viewers by appealing to older viewers, CBS and its advertisers would like its new series to reach a slightly younger audience.

At first look, chances of that happening are about equal to the chances that CBS lawyers won't charge for negotiating the merger deal with Viacom.

The smartest thing CBS appears to have done is to keep its new shows down to six, which will enable all of them to get decent promotion.

It has saved two of its higher-profile series, Steven Bochco's hospital series, "City of Angels," and the mob series, "Falcone," for midseason.

Looking at the new shows, midseason could be as early as December for CBS.

Other than its new shows, the network appears to be in decent shape, thanks to the Monday success of "The King of Queens" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the Tuesday success with "JAG."

Its riskiest moves are actual moves including putting "Cosby" on at 8 p.m. Wednesday, one of the toughest slots in network television. It is the time slot where CBS puts shows to die, so it looks like this will be the last season for "Cosby."

It also has rescued "Chicago Hope" from cancellation, allowing David E. Kelley to develop a new cast as long as he doesn't mind the show being placed in the killer 9 p.m. Thursday time slot.

What's the creator of "Ally" and "The Practice" supposed to do about that? Call a lawyer?

Without further ado, let's take a look at new shows on CBS' schedule.

"Ladies Man," 8:30 p.m. Monday: Alfred Molina, who looks like Joey on "Friends" with 40 extra pounds, is Jimmy Stiles, a furniture craftsman overwhelmed by the confusing life he has constructed with a pregnant wife (Sharon Lawrence), a cynical ex-wife, Clair (Park Overall), a sharp-tongued mother (Betty White) and two daughters, ages 15 and 10, fighting for attention.

In other words, he has to be a pretty engaging guy to deal with so many raging hormones.

The pilot from Chris Thompson (the same guy who writes Fox's "Action") is as messy and as silly as Stiles' home life. It has its moments, particularly when Stiles learns that not all doctors know what they are talking about. But all these larger-than-life characters may give the audience a big headache. You may wish someone would just shout, "Calm down," before you head for the remote.

"Family Law," 10 p.m. Monday: Kathleen Quinlan stars as a marital attorney, Lynn Holt, who used to work in the same firm as her husband. He leaves her and takes their partners and clients and her self-esteem with
him.

Holt eventually decides to prove living well is the best revenge. She fights back with the help of one lawyer, Danni (Julie Warner of "Mr. Saturday Night"), who stays with her. She also hires two lawyers -- Rex Weller (Chris McDonald), who advertises on cable, and Randi (Dixie Carter), who has her own marital woes.

Co-created by Paul Haggis, the pilot has some outrageous moments -- by CBS standards anyway. But the contrived dark humor and silly sexual situations in the network promos certainly are far from the standards set by "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelley.

One supposes the idea is for viewers who finish watching "Ally" at 10 to head over to CBS to watch a woman who gains control of her life again. But unless Calista Flockhart joins the firm, the chances of that happening are about equal to the chances that CBS agreed to carry MTV's "The Real World" as part of its Viacom deal.

"Judging Amy," 10 p.m. Tuesday: Amy Brenneman, who was David Caruso's squeeze on the first season of "NYPD Blue," is the star of a series based on her life as the daughter of a family court judge in Connecticut.

She is Amy Gray, a lawyer and a single mother who becomes a judge and moves in with her all-knowing mother, Maxine (Tyne Daly), after separating from her husband. Amy's uninhibited brother, Vincent (Dan Futterman), also is around, but he doesn't get to do much.

CBS bought this series based on a 35-minute presentation, in which Judge Amy appeared as ill-equipped to handle her job as she is handling her mother. One supposes the idea is that viewers will root for her to grow up.

But judging by the dull pilot, she better grow up in a hurry. To make matters worse, the show is premiering opposite the best new drama of the season, ABC's "Once and Again."

The verdict: Quick cancellation.

"Work With Me," 8:30 p.m. Wednesday: Nancy Travis, last seen on CBS in the romantic comedy "Almost Perfect," is back in a comedy with a more skilled co-star, Kevin Pollak.

She plays easy-going Julie Better, who is happily running her own law firm until her Type-A husband quits his job with a Wall Street firm and decides to work with her so they can spend more time together.

How romantic. How dangerous. How predictable.

Of course, jealousy and arguments over office cleanliness ensue. Laughs do not, despite the principals' best efforts. And didn't the writers read the outline of "Family Law" and learn the hazards of married lawyers working together?

To get more stories out of the shallow premise, the Betters' assistants are secretly romancing, too.

Since this sophisticated series is incompatible with the "Cosby" lead-in, whether it works or not almost is irrelevant. But it doesn't look like this routine marriage show can be saved.

"Love & Money," 8:30 p.m. Friday: For love or money, how can you figure why CBS would put this adult farce on immediately after "Kids Say the Darndest Things"?

All it proves is that producers do the darndest things -- or that CBS feels like it is just wasting its money on this romantic comedy.

Paget Brewster stars as Allison Conklin, a spoiled socialite who falls in love with young handyman, Eamon (Brian Van Holt), in her deluxe New York City apartment. They used to date in high school and are reunited when she locks herself in the bathroom rather than get married to a man stiffer than the shirts he wears.

Swoosie Kurtz is Effie, who has a love of champagne that she acquired as the spoiled wife of a billionaire husband, Nicholas (David Ogden Stiers). Brian Doyle-Murray, who hasn't aged like fine wine, is Eamon's father, the building doorman.

There are some broad laughs in the pilot and Kurtz obviously is having fun. If producers Dan Staley and Rob Long had supplied more laughs, they would have a better case for suing over the darn time slot.

"Now and Again," 9 p.m Friday: This series from "Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron is being dubbed an action-comedy-drama-romance.

John Goodman plays a middle-aged insurance executive, Michael Wiseman, who dies in a violent freak accident the day he discovers that some calamity in Buffalo cost him the promotion he expected. As consolation, his brain is put in the body of a 26-year-old hunk (Eric Close), who was manufactured in a laboratory for a government experiment.

The doctor in charge, Theodore Morris (Dennis Haysbert), tells him the government has allowed him to stay alive because it is trying to create "supermen" to fight wars and do other dangerous jobs that anyone with his own brain wouldn't consider.

Safe to say, Caron's brain is different from most Hollywood producers'.

Wiseman can't tell his wife (Margaret Colin), daughter or best friend, but since they are part of the series, you know he'll die trying.

It is a goofy premise, with some confusing elements involving an Asian man and eggs on a subway that aren't explained in the abbreviated pilot. But the music, the romance, the mystery and the cheap shots at insurance companies separate this from most shows that come out of the cookie cutter network laboratory. And, amazingly, the one lawyer in it appears to be a good guy.

On Wednesday: The new shows NBC is offering for the fall season.

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