Originally created 10/01/00

Usual suspects, usual shows

Andre Braugher can make you believe in a medical miracle.

Braugher, who won an Emmy for "Homicide: Life on the Street," brings his usual charisma, compassion and determination to his role of Dr. Ben Gideon.

Braugher and the incredible writing make ABC's "Gideon's Crossing" easily the fall season's best new show. What's more, it's the best medical drama - and like you, I've seen plenty of them - since "ER."

The second-best new show in a season that will produce only a few hits is "Dark Angel," Fox's James Cameron-produced sci-fi series about a woman with genetically enhanced abilities.

The new season begins Oct. 2. Most of the CBS and Fox series will debut that week, and NBC and ABC shows will premiere throughout October.

Last season, the networks were willing to take chances with their formats and were putting a lot of emphasis on sex. Remember "Wasteland"? "Grapevine"? "Oh Grow Up"? "Then Came You"? All the romance didn't save them from the real heartbreak of cancelation.

As this season begins, Hollywood is seeing the success of shows that don't require actors - CBS' "Survivor" is the biggest success story. There's more "reality" programming to come later this season; "Survivor II," set in the Australian Outback, starts in January. I think I'll use the time to catch up on reading.

So in this uncertain season - three Hollywood unions might strike next summer - the broadcast networks are relying on the usual genres, familiar actors and successful writers, including some from cable hits such as HBO's "Sex and the City." If you're successful, Hollywood loves you, more so than ever - at least until the ratings fall.

Once again, TV is about police and medical dramas, along with sitcoms about typical couples and their typical 2.5 children. On CBS' "Yes, Dear," we're back to husbands breaking the rules and trying not to get into trouble with their wives. On ABC's "Geena Davis Show," we're back to a woman trying to win the love of her fiance's children.

It's the season of dij` vu - except on Fox. The "X-Files" network is experimenting with sci-fi with mixed results. I urge you to watch "Dark Angel." But don't waste a minute with "Freakylinks," a show inspired - and I use that word loosely - by the Internet and "The Blair Witch Project."

Veteran TV stars are back on new shows. Tim Daly is starring in CBS' "The Fugitive." Fyvush Finkel, who played the outlandish defense lawyer on David E. Kelley's "Picket Fences" and the outlandish travel agent on "Fantasy Island," plays an 80-year-old history teacher on Kelley's "Boston Public" on Fox.

Even the Divine Miss M is gracing the small screen, with a sitcom that's blatantly autobiographical in the funniest sense of the word. CBS' "Bette" stars Bette Midler at her unrestrained best.

One show stands out for its brilliance in showing a teenager's life that's close to what many viewers might remember - NBC's "Tucker." Most men and teen-age boys will relate to this show about a 14-year-old boy.

And CBS is tackling police work with "The District." Craig T. Nelson stars in a role based on Jack Maple, a former New York deputy police commissioner who now advises New Orleans and other cities how to reduce crime. It's set in Washington, D.C., which has one of the nation's worst crime rates.

I asked Maple if he heard of Simi Valley, Calif. - the city with the nation's lowest crime rate. He hadn't. "Oh, it's Mayberry," Maple said. He was referring to the lack of crime on "The Andy Griffith Show." (Well, Opie did jaywalk a few times, and there was that one drunk guy.) So far, I haven't heard of Barney Fife coming back to TV, but I wouldn't be surprised. When it comes to new shows, everyone wants to be a survivor.

Dave Mason is television editor of the Ventura County Star and can be reached at mason@insidevc.com


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