Reception fuzzy for debut of TV shows

Spring officially is here, which in the TV world means a new crop of weekly series will sprout this week, hoping audiences respond with enough ratings nourishment to make them bloom again come fall.

The timing is awkward, to say the least. Executives couldn't have known for certain when they did their scheduling that American troops would be attacking Iraq; gauging how receptive audiences will be to new entertainment fare now is anyone's guess. Whether the premieres will be preempted for breaking news coverage is equally uncertain, but as of now they are in the lineup.

First out of the box is the Fox comedy "Wanda at Large," premiering Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes stars as a struggling stand-up comic who gets a shot at fame when she's hired as an on-air correspondent for a Washington, D.C., talk show. The series also stars Phil Morris, who played Jackie Chiles on "Seinfeld."

ABC is tossing its new sitcom, "Regular Joe," into its beleaguered Friday night lineup at 9:30. At least the show's lead-in is the network's popular sitcom, "Eight Simple Ways to Date My Teenage Daughter." Well, make that repeats of "Eight Simple Ways." Daniel Stern, whose Friday night CBS sitcom "Danny" was yanked after a couple of airings in 2001, stars as a widower who lives with his teenage son, his college-freshman daughter and her baby daughter. Sitcom veteran Judd Hirsch ("Taxi," "Dear John") plays Joe's busybody of a father.

WB's "Black Sash," premiering Sunday at 9 p.m., gives martial arts star Russell Wong ("Romeo Must Die") plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his karate moves in this hourlong series about an ex-cop who "sacrificed everything" and is rebuilding his life by becoming a mentor and teacher to a group of teens. Robert Kamen, writer and executive producer of "The Karate Kid" and "Kiss of the Dragon," is one of the executive producers.

Also arriving Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox is "The Pitts," a sitcom from Mike Scully and Julie Thacker-Scully of "The Simpsons." And no, it's not an up-close-and-personal look at Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. These Pitts just happen to be one of the unluckiest families on the planet. The always-terrific character actor Dylan Baker ("Murder One") plays patriarch Bob Pitt.

But wait, there's more. Friday brings the premiere of "Tremors: The Series" on the Sci Fi Channel (9 p.m.), an adaptation of the monster-filled feature films, and "Ground Rules," an HGTV offering (10 p.m.) that lets people relandscape their neighbors' yards. And the Travel Channel plans to introduce three more series on Sunday.

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