Originally created 03/01/01

New TV shows look familiar



Brace yourself: The second wave of television's midseason assault is about to hit as network programmers continue to toss their wares against the glass screen in hopes that something - anything - will stick.

There's the usual fare: sitcoms and cop and legal dramas. And almost every new show has a familiar face. Second-string shows can't run the risk of unknown actors. A core celebrity gives viewers someone they recognize and might tune in to watch.

Here's a peek at what will be cluttering the airwaves in the coming post-sweeps weeks:

Kate Brasher (CBS - WRDW-TV, Channel 12): An Erin Brockovich-style drama (working woman stands up for the downtrodden) that's missing most of the charm and smarts of the Oscar-nominated film. Mary Stuart Masterson plays a struggling single mother who takes a job at a community advocacy center overseen by the scenery-chewing Rhea Perlman and Hector Elizondo. Ms. Masterson is appealing, but this rather hokey show is so earnest it creaks. It premiered Saturday.

Some of My Best Friends (CBS): Danny Nucci and Jason Bateman star in this sitcom based on the motion picture Kiss Me, Guido. Our odd-couple heroes share a Greenwich Village apartment. One's gay. One's straight. You do the math. Premieres 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Big Apple (CBS): We can argue all day about whether television really needs yet another cop show, but at least this one comes with a good pedigree: Executive producer David Milch was one of the main masterminds of NYPD Blue. Still, the drama starring Ed O'Neill, Titus Welliver and Michael Madsen has its work cut out for it against ER. Premieres 10 p.m. today.

The Lone Gunmen (Fox): After playing second fiddle to Mulder and Scully in The X-Files, can three computer-hacking conspiracy geeks carry their own show? Judging from the rather uninspiring pilot, the chances of that are about as good as David Duchovny starring in a really successful feature film. (The show will replace The X-Files on the schedule for three weeks this month and will also appear on Fridays March 16, 23 and 30.) Premieres 9 p.m. Sunday.

The Fighting Fitzgeralds (NBC): The Irish invasion continues with this comedy that stars Brian Dennehy as the "loud but lovable" patriarch of a restless brood that includes three grown sons. Doesn't television already have its fill of loud but lovable guys? Premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Job (ABC): Caustic comedian Denis Leary stars as a booze-guzzling, cigarette-sucking, pill-popping New York cop. This irreverent show, filmed with a single camera and on location, is one of the most distinctive and interesting offerings of the season. Still, it's difficult to imagine Mr. Leary's blunt humor playing to a mass audience. Premieres 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14.

First Years (NBC): An ensemble drama that focuses on the lives of five first-year lawyers in San Francisco as they attempt to launch their careers. The cast includes Samantha Mathis, Mackenzie Astin, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Edgar Ross and Ken Marino. NBC desperately needs a Monday-night hit, and, judging from early clips, this show has some promise. Premieres 9 p.m. March 19.

The Joan Cusack Show (ABC): Joan Cusack comes to television as a Chicago high school teacher blundering her way through a relationship with Kyle Chandler. Ms. Cusack is an appealing star with natural comedic talent and a Silly Putty face, but will audiences be able to handle large doses of her frenetic energy? Premieres 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27.

My Wife and Kids (ABC): Damon Wayans produces and stars in this generally likable sitcom. He's a not-so-modern husband and father of three who finds himself living in a very modern world and struggling to maintain what he envisions as a "traditional" family. Premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.