Winning trio trumps lone loser tonight

Friday, September 26, 2003

When did Friday night television become so fascinating? Three of the new season's most promising network series debut tonight. And so does one of its bona fide stinkers.

In "The Sopranos," Pantoliano had the difficult job of playing Ralph Cifaretto, a despicable character who was not without his funny, likable quirks. He's perfectly cast here as a tough, affable cop who inhabits a shadow world in which you can't tell the good guys from the bad.

Tamblyn does a nice job of capturing teenage boredom, confusion and angst without lapsing into "Dawson's Creek"-style cliches. Joan's "hallucinations" become one more worry for her police chief father (Joe Mantegna) and meddling mother (Mary Steenburgen), who have yet to recover from the accident that left their eldest son in a wheelchair.

Tonight's other highlights