Every new television season, much like a sports season or college semester, is
marked by venerable veterans, refreshing upstarts and regrettable experience.
This year, the networks are all hoping for their own sleeper hit of the fall --
the way The WB struck gold with last year's hit "Dawson's Creek" -- and for a
conquered night of programming like NBC's "Must See" Thursday lineup.
New programs may be important for bringing in new viewers, but it is equally
essential that the return shows retain or even increase their viewership.
The following are the favorites of the new season.
Will & Grace (NBC, Monday 9:30)
Eric McCormack (right), Debra Messing (right), Sean Hayes, Megan
NBC may very well have a hit on their hands to build a new Monday night lineup
around. The one burning question is whether the show can hold off perennial
Monday titan "Monday Night Football."
While the two main characters, a gay lawyer (McCormack) and his best friend
interior designer (Messing), have decent chemstry, the best scenes in this sitcom
occur whenever Hayes and Mullally are on screen. Hayes plays an overly
flamboyant, comfortably "out" friend of Will's and over-plays every scene with
fabulous ease. Mullally is Grace's socialite assistant who works because she
adores Grace, not because she needs the money.
L.A. Doctors (CBS, Monday 10:00)
Rick Roberts, Sheryl Lee,
Ken Olin, Matt Craven
CBS' conclusion to a great Monday lineup that features "Everybody Loves Raymond".
The premise sounded questionable and rehashed at first: three zealous doctors
open a plush practice in L.A. and, along with a beautiful female recruit, battle
over money, love, divorce, ethics and, oh yeah, medicine. However, solid
character acting and balanced, informed writing bring the concept to life without
seeming trite. CBS avoids making this a sort of "ER" goes to Hollywood and
instead relies on depth of character and non-examination room scenes to drive the
Felicity (WB, Tuesday 9:00)
Keri Russell, Scott Foley,
Scott Speedman, Tangi Miller
Give credit where credit's due, the WB knows its target audience and has a proven
formula to succeed. Every year since coming onto the scene along with UPN in
1996, the WB has introduced a solid new show, starting with Felicity lead-in
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and then last year's "Dawson's Creek." They have
outdone themselves this time with a show that combines the quirkiness of "Ally
McBeal", the attractiveness of "Beverly Hills 90210", and the plot lines of "My
So Called Life." This show is easily an advertiser's dream because it will mostly
draw from the spend-thrift age group of 18-24 year olds.
The show features new comer, Keri Russell, as a college freshman who followed her
heart and (questionable) instincts to New York, leaving behind a free ride to
Stanford and her parents' blessing. New York presents many obstacles to the over
analytical Felicity and she is forced to grow up fast.
Jesse (NBC, Thursday 8:30)
Christina Applegate, George Dzundza, Bruno Campos
NBC's latest plug-in sitcom will easily become a time slot hit as the filler
between "Friends" and "Fraser," but will have to work hard to stay on the
Thursday night schedule. Every year, there is a new show in this position and
only "News Radio" is still on television. Applegate, the former "Married With
Children star" plays a single mother who must juggle a job, her intrusive father
and a clumsy love life. It has been done before, but this cast just may have the
right spunkiness to stick around.
Cupid (ABC, Saturday 10:00)
D. Sams, Jeremy Piven, Paula Marshall
This show is worth mentioning for the chemistry between Jeremy Piven (Ellen) and
Paula Marshall (Chicago Sons) alone. Piven plays a fallen-from-grace cupid who
must create romantic sparks before he can regain his immortality. Marshall stands
in his way as a sexy but uptight psychiatrist who has seen too many relationships
turn sour. Worth watching if it were on a different night especially since the
audience ABC is targeting isn't exactly the stay-at-home "Dr. Quinn: Medicine
Spin City (ABC, Tuesday 9:00)
King of the Hill (Fox, Tuesday 8:00)
Dawson's Creek (WB, Wednesday 8:00)
NewsRadio (NBC, Wednesday 9:30)
Fraser (NBC, Thursday 9:00)