Share this article

print logo

CBS LOOKING FOR ANOTHER HOME RUN IN ITS FALL LINEUP

A group of unknowns created the best buzz that CBS has had since J.R. Ewing was roaming the network.

American viewers are on a first-name basis with Rudy, Jenna, Sean, Richard, Colleen, Susan, Gervase and Kelly after a summer of "Survivor."

The question now at CBS is whether Bette, Christine, Marg, Craig T. and other actors whose first names are well known will be able to create the same buzz and whether their series will survive the weekly Tribal Council known as the Nielsen ratings.

Thanks to "Survivor" and the success last season of "Judging Amy" and "Family Law," CBS is in fine shape. And if it could get anyone to watch on Wednesdays or Friday nights, the network would really be sitting pretty.

Which bring us to "Bette," the new comedy starring Bette Midler that has been placed in the "Survivor" time slot to compete with one of ABC's four versions of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

"Bette" clearly has the best buzz of any fall comedy, but it is an old-fashioned show starring a middle-aged star who is unlikely to draw many younger viewers.

One of CBS' best new dramas, "The Fugitive," also is getting some decent buzz. Like "Bette," it is hardly revolutionary television, since it is a remake of a classic series and a good feature film. So you never know.

If "Survivor" taught us anything this summer, it is that you never know what is going to capture the imagination of American TV viewers.

Now let's take a brief look at the seven new series on the CBS schedule:

"Yes, Dear" (8:30 p.m. Monday): Bland sitcom given the comfy spot after "King of Queens." It's about two sets of parents with different ways of raising their young children and it manages to insert just about every parental cliche in its pilot. However, it also has the funniest scene in any new series, involving the creative use of young parents' favorite machine - a video camera.

It's a series as routine as its title. But it is different in one way for CBS. It isn't led by a cast of big names. All four of its stars -- Anthony Clark, Michael O'Malley, Liza Snyder and Jean Louisa Kelly -- are survivors of NBC comedies that failed.

"Bette" (8 p.m. Wednesday): She is loud, she is brassy, she is insecure, she is self-deprecating, she is Bette playing Bette. She is surrounded by a supportive husband, a more supportive best friend and manager (Joanna Gleason) and an English musical accompanist (James Dreyfus). A teenage daughter also spices things up. The hype may have given this series unrealistic expectations, but Bette can even have fun with that. In the pilot, she pokes fun at her eating habits, her chest, her movies, her decision to turn to TV and her jealousy of Sally Field. The pilot is such a hoot you'll forgive her for making "For the Boys."

"Welcome to New York" (8:30 p.m. Wednesday): Christine Baranski was added to the pilot late in the game, and it since has been altered with Sara Gilbert ("Roseanne") joining the cast as her assistant. As in "Cybill," Baranski's character enjoys alcohol and has a sharp edge. She plays the producer of a New York morning news show who has just hired a naive weatherman from Indiana (Jim Gaffigan). She has to educate him on the ways of New York and keep the ego of the show's co-anchor (Rocky Carroll) and staff intact.

The fish-out-of-water concept isn't exactly revolutionary and Gaffigan's character seems so naive that you might think he came from India instead of Indiana. That said, the series is produced by David Letterman's company, so you know that Baranski will get some colorful lines to deliver. It isn't "Murphy Brown." But if "Bette" delivers, "Welcome to New York" should get a decent welcome from viewers, too.

"The Fugitive" (8 p.m. Friday): Tim Daly is Richard Kimble and Mykelti Williamson is Lt. Gerard in this timeless classic produced by the same people responsible for the Harrison Ford movie. The pilot has some high-wire scenes and high-priced crashes and looks like a million bucks. Daly is a likable, softer Kimble and Williamson is a solid Gerard. The plan is for the series to be filmed in several cities across America, which could heighten interest. Looks promising, though it could get lost because of the early time slot.

"CSI" (9 p.m. Friday): Feature film actor William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger ("China Beach") star in this series from producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("Con Air," "Armagedddon") about a crime unit in Las Vegas that can solve a case with a sliver of evidence. The pilot has suspense and Petersen delivers a dry line as well as anyone. The two leads are attractive-looking pros and the supporting cast is strong. In short, this is a smart series that could help solve CBS' Friday woes.

"That's Life" (8 p.m. Saturday): Remember Rhea Perlman's one-season CBS comedy, "Pearl," in which she played a blue-collar woman who went back to college and was harassed by a professor with an English accent (Malcolm McDowell)? Didn't think so.

In any event, make Perlman about a foot taller and make the show a dramatic comedy and you have "That's Life."

The pilot is a pleasant surprise with a solid soundtrack and a script that sings. Heather Paige Kent stars as the 32-year-old Lydia DeLucca, from New Jersey, who chucks her sexist fiance and decides to make something of herself by going to college. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and father (Paul Sorvivo) are more supportive of the New York Giants than they are of their daughter. Her brother (Kevin Dillon) is a policeman and her best friend (Debi Mazar) is a smart, mouthy hairstylist.

Based on the life of creator Diane Ruggiero, it might have been better as a movie than a series, but, hey, as Sinatra says, "That's Life." The pilot is nothing short of adorable. CBS premieres it this Sunday before moving it to a more difficult Saturday night slot. If any series deserves success as much as its lead character, it is this terrific one.

"The District" (10 p.m. Saturday): Craig T. Nelson chews the scenery as a crime fighter who takes his unorthodox methods to Washington, D.C., to straighten out the leaders there who haven't been able to handle the heavy dose of crime in certain sections of the city. The pilot was being tinkered with to tone down the racial stereotypes. It would help if Nelson toned his act down, too. But the pilot certainly can't be accused of lacking passion. And after "Walker, Texas Ranger," this series may even pass as subtle. It is more likely to win over audiences who would do anything to combat crime than with critics who still are concerned with doing things responsibly.

There are no comments - be the first to comment