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Preview ’93 : Falling Into Place : ALL MANNER OF FAMILY SITCOMS, COWBOYS AND COPS FIGHT FOR ATTENTION

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bronson Pinchot has been making “Trouble.” Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric have been heard from “Now” and again. “Missing Persons” has been found twice and millions have seen “Eye to Eye” with Connie Chung since early summer.

While a handful of this fall’s 38 new shows already have taken a bow, the four major networks are just getting warmed up. In the coming days, you’ll become acquainted with controversial cops, a sensitive super guy, high-tech voyages to the bottom of the sea and a sleepless shrink in Seattle.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Sep. 26, 1993 For the record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 26, 1993 Home Edition TV Times Page 7 Television Desk 1 inches; 15 words Type of Material: Correction
In the TV Times fall preview edition Sept. 12, “South of Sunset” co-star Maria Polito’s name was misspelled.

Certainly it does not take a mind reader to foretell that a lion’s share of the rookies on television’s 1993-94 roster will strike out by next spring. On the positive side, a fortunate few are bound to emerge as bona-fide hits.

SUNDAY

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“TOWNSEND TELEVISION”

Sundays 7-8 p.m. Fox.

Premieres Sunday.

Filmmaker Robert Townsend (“The Meteor Man”) is the host and co-executive producer of this variety show offering a mix of music, comedy and short films. One of the sketches in the pilot is a commercial parody in which three gents named Bobo, Willie and Fruity promise potential customers “protection from the ‘hood.” Cash, credit and checks, the trio tell us, will suffice as payment. “We accept checks ‘cuz if they bounce, so will you.”

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Shop talk: A genial alternative to video-driven shows on ABC and NBC, though it will draw no devotees of “60 Minutes,” the king of newsmagazines.

“LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN”

Sundays 8-9 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Sunday.

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Closer in style to the Superman films of the ‘80s than the TV series of the ‘50s, this whimsically hip incarnation for the ‘90s gives us an ambitious Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher). In Lois’ words, Clark Kent (Dean Cain) “eats like an 8-year-old and looks like Mr. Hard Body.” Kent, of course, uses his powers for good deeds as Superman, while in search of a sedate family life. He’s attracted to Lois, who keeps an eye on the suave, eligible bachelor Lex Luthor (John Shea).

Shop talk: Cain is a super choice as the Man of Steel, but can the show attract a broad base of both adults and younger viewers who will enable it to fly opposite the indomitable “Murder, She Wrote”?

“seaQuest DSV”

Sundays 8-9 p.m. NBC.

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Two-hour premiere Sunday. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 19.

No ordinary submarine, “seaQuest” is a state-of-the-art deep-submergence vehicle whose mission is to patrol the oceans as a military peacekeeper while conducting research projects as a scientific laboratory. Roy Scheider stars as Capt. Nathan Bridger, the former attack-sub commander who designed it.

Shop talk: After a press screening in July, unkind scribes dismissed this Steven Spielberg entry as “Das Bomb” and “seaQuest PMS,” referring to the hostile attitudes of the pilot’s female characters. Executive producer David Burke (“Tribeca”) is expected to strengthen the scripts, but that may not be enough to prevent the costly series, which has a network commitment for 22 episodes, from diving in the ratings.

“LIVING SINGLE”

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Sundays 8:30-9 p.m. Fox.

Already premiered.

Queen Latifah plays the editor of Flavor magazine, a publication written from a woman’s point of view. The Queen’s court includes a ditzy cousin (Kim Coles), a shallow social climber (Kim Fields) and a take-no-prisoners divorce attorney (Erika Alexander). One thing these women can agree on is their shabby assessment of men, who remind them of cheap pantyhose: “At the worst possible moment, they run out on you.”

Shop talk: Latifah, who gives the show a strong center as its lead character, is undermined by weak writing and a cast of broadly played characters. With “Martin” as a compatible lead-in, however, the series has a shot.

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“DADDY DEAREST”

Sundays 9:30-10 p.m. Fox.

Already premiered.

In his second comedy series, Richard Lewis (“Anything but Love”) plays a put-upon psychologist whose abrasive father (Don Rickles) moves in with him after being tossed out by his long-suffering wife (Renee Taylor). Not surprisingly, there is an abundance of insults in the Mitchell household. For example, when concerned son asks disconsolate father why he’s feeling low, Dad’s caustic comment is, “It’s your mother’s perfume. Smells like landfill.”

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Shop talk: Rickles’ brand of in-your-face humor is anachronistic at best and offensive at worst. Ironically, such crudeness makes “Daddy” an ideal show, from the network’s viewpoint, to follow the irreverent “Married . . . With Children.”

MONDAY

“DAVE’S WORLD”

Mondays 8:30-9 p.m. CBS.

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Premieres Sept. 20.

“Night Court’s” Harry Anderson returns in a comedy based on the domestic experiences of Dave Barry, a happy-go-lucky humorist with a wife (DeLane Matthews) and two boys. Mom hates being the responsible parent and Dad, who teaches the hokey-pokey at soccer practice, thinks “life should be fun.” It’s the sort of laid-back attitude that has been passed along to his son, who says, “I don’t wanna make a difference. I wanna be like you.”

Shop talk: The producers can thank CBS executives for giving them one of the choice slots on the network’s prized Monday schedule. If the series does not perform up to expectations, however, look out: “Hearts Afire” is waiting in the wings as a midseason replacement.

TUESDAY

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“PHENOM”

Tuesdays 8:30-9 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Tuesday.

After eight seasons on “Who’s the Boss?,” Judith Light is back in another ABC comedy as the protective mother of a gifted tennis player (Angela Goethals). A conflict arises when Lou Del La Rosa (William Devane), the self-proclaimed “greatest tennis coach that ever lived,” offers the talented teen a scholarship at his academy. We know the coach is capable of bringing out the best in athletes. After all, his promotional cassette features a testimonial from Tracy Austin, who admits, “I never liked Lou, but I sure liked being the youngest person to win the U.S. Open.”

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Shop talk: Not phenomenally good or bad, this series should hold an edge over the opposing comedies on NBC and Fox.

“SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS”

Tuesdays 8-8:30 p.m. NBC.

Premieres Tuesday.

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Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Slater (Mario Lopez), Screech (Dustin Diamond) and Kelly (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) graduate to prime time in a new comedy set at the coed dorm of a fictional university.

Shop talk: Banking on a built-in audience from Saturday mornings, this silly sitcom may lure teens and youngsters who have tired of ABC’s “Full House.”

“BAKERSFIELD, P.D.”

Tuesdays 8:30-9 p.m. Fox.

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Premieres Tuesday.

Det. Paul Gigante (Giancarlo Esposito) is a half-black, half-Italian, thinking-man’s police officer adjusting to a new job in California after relocating from Washington, D.C., with his wife and son. The transition will not be easy. Gigante has a new partner (Ron Eldard) who was weaned on TV cop shows, he’s nearly arrested by a dimwitted colleague (Chris Mulkey) because of his pigmentation and the department is run by an indecisive, wishy-washy captain (Jack Hallett). Could the situation get any worse? You bet. Mulkey’s cop files a complaint against the longtime partner who kissed him during a stakeout. His partner is a male.

Shop talk: Arguably the best new entry on Fox’s schedule, this sly, wry and clever comedy may have difficulty finding a sizable audience despite its placement between the established “Roc” and “America’s Most Wanted.” Last year the network flopped on Tuesdays with the low-rated dramas “Class of ’96" and “Key West.”

“THE JOHN LARROQUETTE SHOW”

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Tuesdays 9-9:30 p.m. NBC.

Already premiered.

Everyone wants to buy a drink for John Hemingway (Larroquette) when he starts his new job as the night manager at a dingy bus station in St. Louis. Although Hemingway is a recovering alcoholic, he’s tempted to take someone up on their offer after discovering that six predecessors were killed on duty (two committed suicide). Somber as that may sound, the situation is played for laughs in this comedy created by Don Reo (“Blossom”).

Shop talk: A series with marginal potential, it will face an uphill struggle against “Roseanne” and CBS movies. One other pertinent consideration is whether Larroquette, a four-time Emmy Award winner in a supporting role on “Night Court,” can draw a crowd as the star of his own show.

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“THE SECOND HALF”

Tuesdays 9:30-10 p.m. NBC.

Already premiered.

John Mendoza stars in this comedy as a newly divorced father with two young daughters who pulls down a salary as a sports columnist in Chicago. On his own during the week, Mendoza opens an unkempt apartment to his impressionable youngsters on the weekends.

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Shop talk: Mendoza is likable in an Oscar Madison sort of way, but his show figures to be overmatched by ABC’s “Coach,” which also tackles sports and relationships.

“NYPD BLUE”

Tuesdays 10-11 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Sept. 21.

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Generating controversy months before going on the air because of its provocative content involving rough language and bare skin, Steven Bochco’s police drama deals with a team of New York City detectives. One (David Caruso) is divorcing his wife, who blames their separation on the job. The other is his embittered, hard-drinking partner (Dennis Franz) who, in an early scene from the pilot, makes a lewd gesture while growling at an attorney. It’s an example of the manner in which Bochco intends to push the boundaries this season in spite of concern by network affiliates.

Shop talk: Remove the show’s titillating elements, which are minimal in the opener, and you still have one of the most promising dramas of the fall. Nearly everything about the series works, and Caruso is an intelligent actor worth watching each week. So much for the positives. Will it hold the audience delivered by “Coach,” a mainstay in Nielsen’s Top 10? Bear in mind that its time slot has given ABC fits for years.

WEDNESDAY

“THEA”

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Wednesdays 8-8:30 p.m. ABC.

Already premiered. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 22.

This family comedy stars Thea Vidale as a widow raising four children by holding down two jobs. She’s an attentive mother determined to instill proper values in her youngsters. One of them is a fast-talker (Jason Weaver) who will steal several of his scenes before the series runs its course.

Shop talk: The dominance of “Unsolved Mysteries” poses a problem for any show that faces it. “Thea” inherits the time slot of “The Wonder Years,” which struggled against Robert Stack’s popular reality series last year.

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“THE TROUBLE WITH LARRY”

Wednesdays 8-8:30 p.m. CBS.

Already premiered.

Missing and presumed dead for 10 years, arrogant adventurer Larry Burton (Bronson Pinchot) resurfaces and moves in with his former wife (Shanna Reed), her husband (Perry King) and daughter in upstate New York.

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Shop talk: Hoping to avoid any trouble in the Nielsens, this uninspired sitcom was given an early push, which probably won’t help Pinchot, who is on his own after several seasons of ABC’s “Perfect Strangers.”

“JOE’S LIFE”

Wednesday 8:30-9 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Sept. 22.

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Struggling to make ends meet after losing his job as an electrician, Joe Gennaro (“Civil War’s” Peter Onorati) works nights at his brother’s restaurant. By day, he manages the household and cares for two children while his wife (Mary Page Keller) toils as a temp. It’s not the ideal scenario Joe envisioned for his family, but, hey, that’s “Life.”

Shop talk: Onorati, who was consistently good in “Civil Wars,” tries on comedy for size with an assist from Keller, a veteran of the form whose credits include “Camp Wilder,” “Baby Talk” and “Duet.”

“THE NANNY”

Wednesdays 8:30-9 p.m. CBS.

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Premieres in October.

Fran Drescher (“Princesses”) takes a second stab at prime-time comedy as Fran Fine, a “girl” from Queens who improbably lands a position as nanny for the three children of a widowed--and very wealthy--Broadway producer (Charles Shaughnessy).

Shop talk: Although she was quickly dethroned in 1991 as one of CBS’ “Princesses,” the network evidently saw something it liked in Drescher’s distinctive face and voice. Will viewers feel the same way?

“SOUTH OF SUNSET”

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Wednesdays 9-10 p.m. CBS.

Premieres in October.

Former Eagle Glenn Frey sings a new tune as Cody McMahon, a private eye who works out of an office on the border of Beverly Hills. McMahon’s secretary (Maria Pitillo) is an aspiring actress and his assistant is a young thief (Aries Spears) ready to mend his ways.

Shop talk: Going south could be the direction this derivative series takes with the ABC smash “Home Improvement” as its chief opposition.

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“NOW”

Wednesdays 9-10 p.m. NBC.

Already premiered.

Caught between the proverbial rock (“Home Improvement”) and a hard place (“Grace Under Fire”), this Tom Brokaw-Katie Couric newsmagazine hopes to carve out a niche for itself with those who eschew comedy, melodrama (“Melrose Place”) and private eyes (“South of Sunset”).

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“GRACE UNDER FIRE”

Wednesdays 9:30-10 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Sept. 22.

Comic Brett Butler plays Grace, a 35-year-old native of Alabama coming off a bad marriage to a redneck husband. Bolstered by a brittle sense of humor, Grace is determined to support her three children by working at an oil refinery. Dave Thomas plays a humorous fellow who could be Mr. Right. And that’s fine with Grace, who thinks of her abusive ex-husband as Mr. Right Hook.

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Shop talk: The latest entry from Carsey-Werner Productions (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show”), this smart blue-collar comedy is more than likely to catch fire in its coveted time slot following “Home Improvement.”

“MOON OVER MIAMI”

Wednesdays 10-11 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 22.

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“Danger, suspense and bad checks” are all in a day’s work for Walter Tatum (Bill Campbell), the glib, good-looking owner of a private investigation agency in Miami. Tatum’s latest case puts him on the trail of a runaway heiress (Ally Walker), who in relatively short order becomes his newest operative. Taking a tattered page from the book of “Remington Steele” and “Moonlighting,” they bicker, brood and generally behave as if they hate each other. But we know better, don’t we?

Shop talk: Unlike “Steele” or “Moonlighting,” this lighthearted detective series is missing one essential element: chemistry. Campbell and Walker are a cute couple, but their banter and love-hate relationship seems artificial and contrived when compared to the genuine on-screen sparks of Zimbalist and Brosnan or Shepherd and Willis.

THURSDAY

“MISSING PERSONS”

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Thursdays 8-9 p.m. ABC.

Already premiered.

Daniel J. Travanti oversees a missing persons bureau for the Chicago police department in this hourlong drama. Travanti’s staff of ethnically diverse investigators scours the city for clues to the whereabouts of those who cannot be found, including children, the elderly and any others who abruptly vanish without a trace.

Shop talk: ABC finally became competitive in this slot last season with “Matlock,” which moves to 9 p.m. That puts Travanti head to head with the CBS drama “In the Heat of the Night,” which stars another TV veteran, Carroll O’Connor.

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“THE SINBAD SHOW”

Thursdays 8:30-9 p.m. Fox.

Premieres Thursday.

Sinbad encounters a different world as a video-game designer and freewheeling bachelor who takes in two foster children. He easily wins the affection of a 6-year-old girl whose streetwise brother proves to be less gracious about the situation.

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Shop talk: After postponing the show’s scheduled premiere in August, Fox officials acknowledged that it required retooling. No one specified what would be changed, but clearly the pilot’s laugh-meter was askew.

“EYE TO EYE WITH CONNIE CHUNG”

Thursdays 9-10 p.m. CBS.

Already premiered.

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One of the network’s three newsmagazines, this hour gets its first taste of real competition when it faces the potentially dynamic duo of NBC’s “Seinfeld” and “Frasier.”

“FRASIER”

Thursdays 9:30-10 p.m. NBC.

Premieres Thursday.

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Pompous shrink Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) bolts Boston to be the host of a radio talk show in his hometown of Seattle. Crane is no more competent now than before (he refers to Jerry, a caller with an identity crisis, as Jeff, for example). He has a meticulous brother (David Hyde Pierce) whose wife is “like the sun without the warmth” and a gruff father (John Mahoney) who moves in with a dog that can’t seem to take its eyes off the confounded Crane.

Shop talk: Seemingly a can’t-miss enterprise, “Frasier” is expected to take its place in the Top 20 by virtue of a lead-in from “Seinfeld,” the network’s most talked-about show, and the viewers’ familiarity with good Grammer.

“ANGEL FALLS”

Thursdays 10-11 p.m. CBS.

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Already premiered.

One in the cluster of series to get an early jump on the competition, this serial revolves around a single mother (Chelsea Field) with a saucy reputation who returns to Montana and hooks up with her high school sweetheart, an unhappily married rancher (Brian Kerwin).

Shop talk: Given a six-episode order, this mundane melodrama’s ratings will determine whether it returns following baseball’s league championship series and World Series in October.

FRIDAY

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“IT HAD TO BE YOU”

Fridays 8-8:30 p.m. CBS.

Premieres Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 24.

Faye Dunaway, in her first series, and Robert Urich, the star of countless others, are cast as opposites who attract in this brisk comedy. She’s a sophisticated publisher and he’s a widowed carpenter raising three sons. There’s plenty of verbal sparring in the early rounds, but the twosome comes to savor the clinches before the bell is rung.

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Shop talk: “The Golden Palace” failed to derail the durable “Family Matters” last season, but CBS thinks the pairing of Dunaway and Urich just has to be a hit.

“AGAINST THE GRAIN”

Fridays 8-9 p.m. NBC.

Premieres Oct. 1.

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A former high school football star (John Terry) assumes a formidable task when he’s named head coach of his alma mater’s floundering team in a small town outside Dallas where the game is not taken lightly.

Shop talk: When the topic of conversation turns to new quality dramas, this thoughtful entry deserves honorable mention. But will NBC have second thoughts after scheduling it at a time usually reserved for comedies seen by a youthful audience?

“THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR.”

Fridays 8-9 p.m. Fox.

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Already premiered.

Set in the Old West, this hour tracks the trail of a Harvard man turned bounty hunter (Bruce Campbell) and his attempts to corral the territory’s most notorious outlaws.

Shop talk: A “Wild, Wild West” of sorts, this amusing yet uneven mixture of humor, adventure and double entendres sets out to please youngsters and teens while supplying just enough sex appeal to attract adults as well.

“BOY MEETS WORLD”

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Fridays 8:30-9 p.m. ABC.

Premieres Sept. 24.

The world is spinning too quickly for 11-year-old Cory Matthews (Ben Savage). His older brother has discovered girls, he can’t grasp the romantic nuances of “Romeo and Juliet” and worst of all, his neighbor (William Daniels) is one of the toughest teachers in school.

Shop talk: Ben Savage is more of a wiseacre than older brother Fred ever was on “The Wonder Years,” which tends to limit the show’s appeal.

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“FAMILY ALBUM”

Fridays 8:30-9 p.m. CBS.

Premieres Sept. 24.

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Keep earplugs handy while watching this sitcom. Why, you ask? At least three vocal characters tend to yell in the pilot and none of them has much to say. The show centers on a married couple (Peter Scolari and Pamela Reed) who move back to Philadelphia to be near their folks. With so much squabbling among the characters, we had the impression Scolari would be better off in California. But then there would be no series . . . . Now that’s an interesting notion.

Shop talk: The creators of HBO’s “Dream On” have conceived the most irritating show of the fall. It’s a comedy devoid of values--family or otherwise.

“THE NBC FRIDAY NIGHT MYSTERY”

Fridays 9-11 p.m. NBC.

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Premieres Oct. 22.

Five series are planned for this revival of the “NBC Mystery Movie,” which alternated such shows as “Columbo,” “McCloud” and “McMillan and Wife” during the 1970s. The new entries include “Frame-Up,” with Pierce Brosnan as a private eye; “McShane,” starring Kenny Rogers as the troubleshooting gambler for a Las Vegas casino, and “Staying Afloat,” with Larry Hagman playing a former millionaire who helps the government solve crimes among the elite. The two familiar elements are “Hart to Hart,” with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as a crime-solving couple, and “Perry Mason.”

Shop talk: Giving its old “Mystery Movie” wheel a few new spokes, this rotational series stands a solid chance against ABC’s lineup and the vulnerable CBS triad of “Good Advice,” “Bob” and “Picket Fences.”

“THE X-FILES”

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Fridays 9-10 p.m. Fox.

Already premiered.

An FBI agent (David Duchovny) investigates unexplained cases that he believes are tied to paranormal phenomena. He’s paired with a skeptical agent (Gillian Anderson) who believes in scientific explanations.

Shop talk: “Sightings,” a reality series delving into the occult, failed to attract viewers on Fridays last season, which may not bode well for this diverting drama. Duchovny will be a familiar face for viewers of the racy Showtime series “Red Shoe Diaries.”

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SATURDAY

“GEORGE”

Saturdays 8-8:30 p.m.

Premiere to be announced.

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At 42, retired heavyweight boxing champion George Foster (George Foreman) battles the temptation to eat snacks and watch TV all day. Seeking a new challenge, he becomes the counselor for a class of problem students at the school that employs his wife (Sheryl Lee Ralph). In what may be a fight to the finish, Foster starts an afterschool program stressing discipline and proper guidance. His goal: knocking out bad attitudes.

Shop talk: A comedy without much punch, this lackluster series could succeed solely on the charisma of its star. Foreman is a naturally funny fellow, but the youngsters he’ll be working with are a surly lot.

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“THE MOMMIES”

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Saturdays 8-8:30 p.m. NBC.

Premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 25.

Feed the kids. Wash the clothes. Cook the meals. A mother’s job is never done, particularly for Marilyn Kentz and Caryl Kristensen, who play the unhappy homemakers in this domestic sitcom. Juggling their roles as wives, moms and maids, it’s a wonder they have time for themselves. And when they do, the chatter generally leads to their favorite subject: the foibles of their unappreciative husbands (David Dukes and Robin Thomas).

Shop talk: Oh, mommy. Oh, daddy. Oh, brother! Beleaguered moms across the country initially may embrace this misfired comedy, but even they are likely to grow weary of its one-dimensional jabber.

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“CAFE AMERICAIN”

Saturdays 8:30-9 p.m. NBC.

Premieres Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Moves to its regular slot Sept. 25.

Taking it one sitcom at a time, Valerie Bertinelli stars as Holly Alridge, a naive American divorcee in Paris who lands a job at the aforementioned locale, a legendary establishment run by an overbearing woman (Marion Ross). Among the quirky clientele: a spoiled Italian model, a French executive and a deposed foreigner who plots to reclaim her country.

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Shop talk: If you discount the unbelievable situation, the buffoonish characters and the mirthless script, it’s one heckuva show. Will someone please close this “Cafe”?

“THE PAULA POUNDSTONE SHOW”

Saturdays 9-10 p.m. ABC.

Premiere to be announced.

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At the network press tour in July, Poundstone told critics she wants “to do a show that’s entertaining, but not celebrity-driven.” Specific details on the format of the comedy hour remain sketchy, but its “jumping-off place” is a show Poundstone previously did for HBO. “My hope would be that I could call on people that I just happen to admire,” she said.

Shop talk: Poundstone’s series is the biggest question mark on the schedule, chiefly because the star and her staff were uncertain of what they wanted it to be. NBC’s “Empty Nest” and “Nurses” are a vulnerable tandem on an evening when many viewers either go out or rent a movie.

“HARTS OF THE WEST”

Saturdays 9-10 p.m. CBS.

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Premieres Sept. 25.

Hoping to realize his lifelong dream of being a cowboy, city slicker Dave Hart (Beau Bridges) moves his family to the Flying Tumbleweed Ranch in Nevada. It’s a dilapidated piece of property run by a cantankerous foreman (Lloyd Bridges, in a recurring role), and the bad news is that the real estate agent who sold it has died, taking a money-back guarantee with him.

Shop talk: “Harts” has the advantage here because “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” figures to deliver the largest audience at 9 p.m. as part of a lineup whose shows have a rural flavor.

“FRONT PAGE”

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Saturdays 9-10 p.m. Fox.

Already premiered.

This newsmagazine has been a bust in the ratings to date, but Fox remains committed to it. The subject matter has ranged from child abuse to floods in the Midwest.


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