FEATURE | 1998-99 TV Lineup

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ARCHIVES | Television




At a Glance

  1. ER (NBC)
  2. Fraser (NBC)
  3. The Simpsons (Fox)
  4. NYPD Blue (ABC)
  5. The X-Files (Fox)
  6. Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)
  7. NewsRadio (NBC)
  8. Spin City (ABC)
  9. Friends (NBC)
  10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB)

--Kevin Ridolfi


Hot Shows for 1998-99

KEVIN RIDOLFI | Fall has arrived, carrying with it the hopes and dreams of television producers, writers and actors. As usual, the four networks (and fresh upstart The WB) have cleaned out their deadwood from last season and now anxiously await viewer response on their 20 new sitcoms and 16 fledgling dramas.

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 and Grace Will & Grace (NBC, Monday 9:30)
Starring: Eric McCormack (right), Debra Messing (right), Sean Hayes, Megan Mullally

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.

LA Doctors L.A. Doctors (CBS, Monday 10:00)
Starring: 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 show.

felicity Felicity (WB, Tuesday 9:00)
Starring: 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)
Starring: 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)
Jeffrey 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 Woman" type.

Notable Moves:
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)

KEVIN RIDOLFI of Pawtucket, RI, is the creator and editor of Renaissance Online Magazine. He can be reached at

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