Originally created 09/24/01

Big guns return as fall season premieres



We interrupt your normally scheduled TV Queen for this message from her sponsor. Me.

The horror of the last 10 days has left me, like many Americans, so very sad and angry and numb. My heart and hope and blessings go out to the victims and survivors of the horrific acts of violence on Sept. 11 and their families.

It is incomprehensible to me that the human heart can harbor such a devastating hate for humanity.

I went back and forth about even writing a column last week. It didn't feel right to write a humorous column in the wake of national tragedy. In the scheme of things, I thought, it seemed so incredibly trivial and unfeeling. Who cares what's on TV? Who cares about silly new TV shows that seek only to entertain us for an hour or two?

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that perhaps after being saturated by news about the attack and its aftermath, maybe some wouldn't mind a little distraction, a few laughs, a bit of entertainment.

I'd decided that I'd be damned if I'd let some murderous, knuckle-draggers belched up from hell strip away my faith in humanity or take away what I love most about my job: making you laugh.

So I wrote a column last week - only to have it bumped because of the networks' decision to hold their fall premieres for a week, feeling it was more important to give news the space to do its job.

But, of course, I'm gonna try it again.

Here's what's on TV this week, including new and returning fall shows that were postponed by the tragedy. (Shows will air barring pre-emption by the news or those fickle network CEOs.) I hope that perhaps you'll be able to find one or two that will give you some respite.

SUNDAY

"The Education of Max Bickford" (8 p.m., CBS) Richard Dreyfuss and Marcia Gay Harden star in this nice new drama set at a college. Good dialogue and great chemistry. And, of course, Ricky D. is more adorable than ever.

"The Practice" (9 p.m., ABC) In the two-hour season premiere, Elleanor (Camryn Manheim) faces Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) in a heated, high-profile murder trial of a well-liked state senator. And the firm is really on the line when the senator's wife and daughter can't seem to keep their stories straight.

MONDAY

"King of Queens," "Yes, Dear," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Ellen Show" and "Family Law" (8, 8:30, 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m., CBS) The winning comedy lineup is back for another season and includes special preview of "The Ellen Show." It's a pretty gentle comedy and Ellen Degeneres has some inspired moments, but the setup - her character leaves the big city to live and work in her hometown - just isn't anything special. And I hate the laugh track with the red hot passion of a thousand suns. (It moves to its regular spot at 8 p.m. Friday.)

"Crossing Jordan" (10 p.m., NBC) I liked this one. It's a show starring former "Law & Order" star Jill Hennessy as a medical examiner. She's kind of grating at first, but as it settled in it worked for me. Also, Miguel Ferrer is a endearing as her depressive boss.

TUESDAY

"That '70s Show," "Undeclared" and "Love Cruise" (8, 8:30 and 9 p.m., Fox) The fourth season of "'70s" is a take-off of "It's a Wonderful Life," with Eric finding out what life would be like if he never kissed Donna. And the new show "Undeclared" is a charmer about knobby undergrads. As for the reality show "Love Cruise," in which singles get together to backstab each other, I just ... I just ... Aaaaahhhhhh!

"Dharma & Greg," "Spin City" and "Philly" (8, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC) Find out what happened to Dharma and Greg after they crashed their car at the end of last season; Michael J. Fox returns to "Spin" in a guest shot; and Kim Delaney and Tom Everett Scott star in the new and way too overwrought legal drama "Philly." Delaney should've stayed on "NYPD Blue."

"Emeril," "Three Sisters" and "Frasier" (8, 8:30 and 9 p.m., NBC) "Emeril" sucks. Skip it. "Sisters" is back for another season and it still sucks. Skip it. "Frasier" is back for a new season with a one-hour episode that finds our hero torn between two lovers and feelin' like a fool. We should all have such problems.

"JAG," "The Guardian" and "Judging Amy" (8, 9 and 10 p.m., CBS) The cliffhanger in which Harm (David James Elliott) is lost at sea on "JAG" is resolved; the potentially good legal drama about a shark of a lawyer forced to work as a child "Guardian" debuts; and "Amy" is back for season three in an episode in which a heart attack may bring love into her life.

WEDNESDAY

"My Wife and Kids" and "The Drew Carey Show" (8 and 9 p.m., ABC) Damon Wayans goes into season No. 2 with a hourlong episode that features guest Shaquille O'Neal; "Drew" pumps up the volume in an hourlong season premiere that departs the format and turns into a variety show with performances by Sugar Ray, Peter Frampton, Smash Mouth, SheDaisy and Uncle Kracker. You go, boy.

"West Wing" and "Law & Order" (9 and 10 p.m., NBC) The big guns return. "Wing" begins a third season with President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) gearing up for reelection; and there's a killer dog with an irresponsible owner charged with murder as "L&O" opens its - get this - 12th season. Elizabeth Rohm joins the cast as the new ADA.

THURSDAY

"Friends," "Inside Schwartz," "Will & Grace," "Just Shoot Me" and "ER" (8, 8:30, 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m., NBC) Find out if Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is preggers on the eighth season opener of "Friends"; the new show "Inside Schwartz" is a one-note comedy about a guy whose sports fantasies run his life; Woody Harrelson is back as Grace's (Debra Messing) annoying squeeze on "W&G"; Finch (David Spade) gets busted with the boss' ex in the sixth season opener to "Shoot Me"; and tune in to "ER" to see how Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) hides his role in the death of a killer. Wow.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "The Agency" (9 and 10 p.m., CBS) "CSI" starts its sophomore season with an investigation into the puzzling death of a high rolling drug addict. And "Agency" is a new drama about CIA operatives that's just a big snore.

FRIDAY

"Dark Angel" and "Pasadena" (8 and 9 p.m., Fox) Big Lips (Jessica Alba) is back for a second season of tush-kickin' on "Angel"; and the dark - murky, really - drama "Pasadena" is a mean soap starring Dana Delaney (not related to Kim) that takes itself too dang seriously.

"Providence" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (8 and 10 p.m., NBC) The cliffhanger that left Jim Hansen (Mike Farrell) gunned down resolves; and "L&O" starts the season with a therapy patient suddenly recalling being sexually abused by her father.

"The Mole II: The Next Betrayal," "Thieves" and "Once and Again" (8, 9 and 10 p.m., ABC) "The Mole II." My head just popped. "Thieves" stars John Stamos and Aussie Melissa George as "master criminals" who go to work for the Feds. They're pretty. That's it. Season three of "O&A" begins with newlyweds Rick and Lily (Billy "Grrrr" Campbell, Sela Ward) coping with his son, who just got busted for pot possession.

"Danny" and "That's Life" (8:30 and 9 p.m., CBS) Well, Daniel Stern stars in "Danny," a comedy about a recently divorced father who runs a community center. It has a few fun moments, but just doesn't cut it. And "Life" squeaks into a second season in search of justification for its existence.