Thursday, September 12, 2002
Los Angeles Come to momma, poppa and the television set, and everything will be all better.
Family life and bittersweet nostalgia are unmistakable themes in the 2002-2003 fall TV lineup as broadcast networks try to strike a reassuring chord with audiences.
Among the 34 new series the six major networks are introducing, there are 16 family sitcoms and dramas occupying airtime previously devoted to comedies about cute, self-absorbed singles.
The rigid network focus on young adult viewers is, if not out, softened; programs designed to draw family audiences, once a TV staple, are again a key part of the mix.
The emphasis is a reaction to the terrorism of a year ago, say industry experts.
"A good portion of the schedule is made up of shows that can be traced back to the aftershock of 9-11," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, a television analyst for Initiative Media.
"Maybe they think the American public wants to go back in time," said analyst Roy Rothstein of Zenith Media Services Inc.
Old TV friends including Carol Burnett proved ratings stars when a flood of backward-looking specials aired during the 2001-2002 season. And MTV's "The Osbournes" was a loud signal that multigenerational family shows could work. Network executives took the hints.
There are new versions afoot of the classic anthology series "The Twilight Zone" and the cheery sitcom "Family Affair," while Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" is the inspiration for a 1960s-era family drama.
The past is also the setting for two uncannily similar shows set in the 1980s, "That Was Then" and "Do Over," in which discontented men get the chance to relive their youth.
There are seven new crime dramas with heroes ranging from FBI agents tracking missing persons ("Without a Trace") to hip undercover cops ("Fastlane") to a diligent IRS agent ("Push, Nevada"). Physicians, including HMO rebels, are the heroes of a pair of dueling hospital shows ("MDs" and "Presidio Med," competing Wednesday).
The spate of crime shows also was inspired by the popularity of the CBS forensics drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." A spinoff, "CSI: Miami," is regarded as one of the likeliest hits.
There are five new science fiction or fantasy shows to sample, including the "Batman"-derived tale "Birds of Prey," the space adventure "Firefly" and the dinosaur epic "Dinotopia."
And look for a few other trendlets. Miami and Los Angeles are popular locales, and sibling rivalries are hot. The place to work is at a TV station ï¿½ the office setting for sitcoms "Good Morning Miami," "Less Than Perfect" and "Life with Bonnie."
Three new shows will bow Tuesday, including two comedies and a sneak peak at the drama-cum-contest show "Push, Nevada."
ï¿½ "8 Simple Rules": stars John Ritter as a dad who lays down the dating law when it comes to his sexy teen-age daughters ï¿½ or tries to. Katey Sagal (of "Married ... With Children") co-stars in the sitcom airing at 7 p.m.
ï¿½ In "Life with Bonnie," at 7:30 p.m., Bonnie Hunt plays a morning TV show host juggling job, children and husband with wit if not success. The comedy moves to its regular 8 p.m. Tuesday slot Oct. 1.
ï¿½ "Push, Nevada" has a sneak preview at 8 p.m. Tuesday, moving to its regular time slot 8 p.m. Thursday. The Ben Affleck-produced series combines a casino-heist plot with a $1 million viewers' prize.
ï¿½ HMO physicians are the heroes in "MDs," which stars William Fichtner and John Hannah as brash docs who delight in bending company rules at a San Francisco hospital. The drama premieres 9 p.m. Sept. 25.
ï¿½ In the drama "That Was Then," debuting 8 p.m. Sept. 27, unhappy grown-up Travis Green (James Bulliard) magically wakes up as a teenager with a chance to get things right for himself and others.
ï¿½ Schemers and dreamers inhabit a TV newsroom in "Less Than Perfect," starring Sara Rue as an office temp elevated to anchorman's personal assistant. The comedy with Andy Dick, Andrea Parker and Eric Roberts bows 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1.
ï¿½ "Dinotopia," debuting 7 p.m. Oct. 10, continues the miniseries saga about a world in which people and dinosaurs enjoy the harmony that generally eludes people minus dinosaurs. Erik von Detten, Shiloh Strong and Michael Brandon star.
David Letterman is writ large in CBS prime time. The network is trying to deliver on its promise of stronger "Late Show" lead-ins with five new dramas. CBS, which is also adding two sitcoms, is once again front-runner NBC's top competitor.
ï¿½ The heat is up, and so is the humidity as "CSI: Miami" debuts 9 p.m. Sept. 23. Onetime "NYPD Blue" star David Caruso is in charge in this "CSI" spin off, backed by Khandi Alexander, Emily Procter and Kim Delaney.
ï¿½ "Presidio Med" has a 9 p.m. Sept. 24 sneak peek before moving to its regular 9 p.m. Wednesday slot the next night. Blythe Danner, Dana Delany, Anna Deavere Smith and Oded Fehr are dedicated docs.
ï¿½ Someone's missing, and FBI experts headed by Anthony LaPaglia ("Murder One") are on the case in "Without a Trace," debuting 9 p.m. Sept. 26. Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Eric Close co-star.
ï¿½ In "Hack," bowing 8 p.m. Sept. 27, fired policeman David Morse ("The Green Mile") finds a new road to justice as a cabbie. Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street") co-stars.
ï¿½ A Los Angeles Police Department elite unit is the focus of "Robbery Homicide Division," which starts 9 p.m. Sept. 27. Tom Sizemore ("Black Hawk Down") is the top cop in this Michael Mann ("Miami Vice") series.
ï¿½ Mark Addy ("The Full Monty") and Jami Gertz play a blue-collar Chicago couple trying to keep the spark alive after 15 years of marriage and three kids in "Still Standing." It bows 8:30 p.m. Sept. 30.
ï¿½ "Bram and Alice," debuting 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6, stars Alfred Molina as a crusty novelist who's lost touch with his muse and Traylor Howard as a fan who discovers her literary hero is also her dad.
Facing a double whammy ï¿½ last season's end of trademark series "The X-Files" and "Ally McBeal," plus sagging ratings ï¿½ Fox is counting on four dramas and three comedies for triage. In a scheduling twist, the network is competing for Sunday viewers with sitcoms instead of the standard dramas.
ï¿½ "Cedric The Entertainer Presents," at 7:30 p.m., showcases the comedian and his alter egos, including the Love Doctor and Mrs. Cafeteria Lady, in a variety format.
ï¿½ Undercover cops take a walk on the wild side among Los Angeles lowlifes in "Fastlane," airing at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy star in the drama from "Charlie's Angels" director McG.
ï¿½ Sci-fi adventure "Firefly," (7 p.m. Friday), from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon, tracks a spaceship crew fighting to survive in a postwar world circa 2800 AD.
ï¿½ "John Doe," following at 8 p.m. Friday, stars Dominic Purcell as a mystery man with boundless knowledge who doesn't know two key facts: who he is and why he'd be the perfect "Jeopardy!" candidate.
ï¿½ "Ally McBeal" is gone, but her creator, David E. Kelley, retains custody of the 8 p.m. Monday slot with "girls club," about pretty attorneys (Gretchen Mol, Kathleen Robertson, Chyler Leigh) in San Francisco. It bows Oct. 21.
ï¿½ "The Grubbs," debuting 8:30 p.m. Nov. 3, stars Randy Quaid as the head of a proudly underachieving family and Michael Cera as the teen-age son who dares dream for more. The sitcom co-stars Carol Kane.
The No. 1 network knows to leave well enough alone. NBC is introducing just five new shows, a trio of comedies and two dramas, and leaving four nights (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) unchanged as it savors what is expected to be the last year of its anchor sitcom, "Friends."
ï¿½ In "In-Laws," debuting at 8 p.m. Sept. 24, newlyweds Matt and Alex (Elon Gold and Bonnie Somerville) move in with her parents ï¿½ overprotective dad Dennis Farina and mom Jean Smart ï¿½ and find the digs come at a price.
ï¿½ Debuting at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 is "Hidden Hills," which promised to explore suburbia's "wild, sexy and funny side" through two couples played by Justin Louis, Paula Marshall, Dondre T. Whitfield and Tamara Taylor.
ï¿½ "Good Morning Miami," starting 8:30 p.m. Sept. 26, stars Mark Feuerstein as a TV producer who moves to Miami to salvage a failing morning show. Ashley Williams plays a fetching hairdresser.
ï¿½ The early '60s are the setting and "American Bandstand" is the inspiration for "American Dreams," about teenagers angling to dance on the show and encountering social change, too. It airs at 8 p.m. Sept. 29.
ï¿½ "Boomtown," debuting at 9 p.m. Sept. 29, tracks L.A. life through the experiences of police, paramedics, reporters and city officials. Donnie Wahlberg, once a member of New Kids on the Block, plays a burned-out cop teamed with ambitious partner Mykelti Williamson.
The network is entering the Twilight Zone and summoning ghosts in a bid to expand its young-adult audience. Two new dramas ï¿½ and a new comedy ï¿½ will fit into UPN's pattern of mostly black sitcoms on Monday, sci-fi at midweek, Thursday wrestling and movies on Fridays.
ï¿½ "The Twilight Zone," a revamped version of the Rod Serling series, debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday, with Jason Alexander among the first guest stars. Actor-director Forest Whitaker is the host.
ï¿½ Two half-sisters (Rachel True, Essence Atkins) raised in very different homes discover each other and sisterhood in the comedy "Half and Half," starting 8:30 p.m. Sept. 23. Telma Hopkins co-stars.
ï¿½ "Haunted," airing at 8 p.m. Sept. 24, stars Matthew Fox as a police detective trying to rebound as a private eye after a family tragedy. He has a ghost of a chance with help from the other side.
Piling on the laugh tracks, WB introduces four comedies as it builds Thursday and Friday into all-sitcom nights. The "7th Heaven" network, retaining its emphasis on family and young female viewers, also introduces a pair of dramas.
ï¿½ Treat Williams ("Prince of the City") is a widowed doctor who retreats from New York to a Colorado town to raise his two children (Vivien Cardone, Gregory Smith) in "Everwood," bowing 8 p.m. Monday.
ï¿½ "Birds of Prey," starting 8 p.m. Oct. 9, puts a female twist on the Batman tale. Villains face three heroic women, including a wheelchair-bound Batgirl and the lovechild of Catwoman and Batman.
ï¿½ "Do Over" stars Penn Badgley as an unhappy grown-up who gets the chance to relive his life, starting from age 14, and fix his dysfunctional family. It starts 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
ï¿½ "What I Like About You," at 8 p.m. Friday, features Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth as ill-matched sisters stuck together.
ï¿½ "Greetings from Tucson," at 8:30 p.m. Friday, looks at life through the eyes of a teenager (Pablo Santos) with a Mexican-American father and Irish-American mom.