CBS, Global, 8 p.m.
Stars: Heather Paige Kent, Ellen Burstyn, Paul Sorvino, Debi Mazar
Out of the blue, New Jersey waitress Lydia Savage (Kent) dumps her wiseguy fiancé and decides to fulfill her life-long dream -- to attend a high-class university in New York. This, of course, sends her parents into shock, since their dream of having grandchildren seems to be drifting further away. Fortunately, Lydia's girlfriends from the old neighbourhood, Jackie and Candy (Mazar, Kristin Bauer), are supportive of their friend's quest for higher education. Lydia enrolls in school, where her tacky dress and Jersey accent make her a target of her snottier classmates. That's Life is a different situation -- the pilot looked like GoodFellas meets Providence -- but there's plenty of room for burgeoning romances and life experiences.HHH(AR)
CBS, ONtv, 10 p.m. Genre: Drama.
Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Lynne Thigpen
Career cop Jack Mannion (Nelson) is one tough cookie. After cleaning up a crime-ridden town in New Jersey, Mannion is airlifted into the mean streets of Washington, D.C. His task is to clean up the city's growing crime rate and at the same time clean out the corruption-ridden police force. Naturally, there is opposition to Mannion's methods as soon as he arrives, mostly coming from corrupt local politicians, but he still puts together a dedicated staff to help him hammer through his new crime-fighting incentives, aided by a computer-savvy statistician (Lynne Thigpen). While the premise is that of a cop show, the delivery is more in line with The West Wing -- with plenty of lengthy, idealistic sermons on law enforcement coming from Mannion. Don't blink, or you'll miss it.H(AR)
CKVR, 7 p.m. Genre: Satiric teen soap.
Stars: Irene Molloy, Lindsay Sloane
In a less than promising season, this mild satire of teen dramas is a hot number. Created by Darren Star, once the executive producer of Melrose Place and 90210 (now he's in charge of Sex and the City and this season's The Street), it's about the antics on the set of a show very much like 90210. There's even a gormless teen star, Hunter (Irene Molly), who bears a resemblance to Tori Spelling and who has a relative running the network. The gang of young teen stars engage in diva behaviour, backstabbing and are generally neurotic about their looks and weight. The contrast between the on-screen roles of the actors and their real-life idiocies and insecurities is the gist of the comedy. The first episode is good, but even casual viewers can sense that punches are being pulled and the satire is diluted. It's worth a look, but it's not as sharp as its advocates imply.HHH(JD)
Canada: A People's History
CBC, 8 p.m. Genre: Epic Documentary
Far removed from the sitcoms and dramas that you'll find described through these pages, A People's History is the CBC's big-ticket series for this new season. Thirty hours long, nine episodes will be shown between October and January and then more next year. On the evidence of the first few hours, it looks stunning, but lacks an emphatic dramatic pulse. (In fairness, this could develop as the series moves forward.) The first episode attempts to cover about 15,000 years of history and, using scraps of oral history and legend, relies heavily on spectacular footage of the place, not the people. In fact, in the first two hours, it is the land that is the true star. In the typical mode, figures from history, played by actors, turn up and talk to the camera. This is often wooden, but a necessary tactic. One merit that's evident in the first few hours is a resistance to prettifying the past -- the brutal reality of life in this early story of "ancient migrations and fields of ice" is not hidden. You're obliged to watch, not because it's your tax dollars at work or because it's good for you, but because it does deserve your attention.HHH(JD)
Global, Fox, 8 p.m. Genre: Drama.
Stars: Fyvush Finkel, Anthony Heald
The staff at Boston Public High School are from all different walks of life. Principal Steve Harper (Chi McBride) is a tough but fair administrator, who honestly sees the best in students; veteran history teacher Harvey Lipshultz (Finkel) yearns for the days when students respected their elders; and vice principal Scott Guber (Heald) is actually a nice guy, though students refer to him as "The Nazi." Boston Public was created by TV wunderkind David E. Kelley, and in keeping with his previous shows (Ally McBeal, The Practice), he's devised a colourful palette here. The pilot was intriguing, despite the ambiguous moral messages inserted for viewers. The problem is there isn't a solid strong leading character here. If Kelley can fix that problem, the show could stick around. Otherwise, it's class dismissed.HH(AR)
The Michael Richards Show
CTV, 8:30 p.m. (NBC, Tues., 8:30 p.m.)
Stars: Michael Richards, William Devane
Impossible to review because only brief clips from the first version of the show (which was probably retooled completely) have been available. It's the pedigree that's the point here -- a comic vehicle for the man who played Kramer on Seinfeld. Here he's a private eye, Vic Nardozza, a bumbling one of course, who manages to solve cases in spite of his obvious madness and inability to control his rag-puppet body. Tim Meadows plays another gumshoe and Devane is Vic's boss, the owner of the demented detective agency. Richards was ornery with the press when forced to promote the show. He wasn't funny, which gave critics the impression that the show ain't funny. On curiosity value alone, The Michael Richards Show will draw an initially large audience.HH(JD)
NBC, 8:30 p.m. Genre: Sitcom.
Stars: Eli Marienthal, Katey Sagal
Obvious comparisons can be drawn with Fox's Malcolm in the Middle -- Tucker is about a precocious 14 year old who is generally smarter and more sensitive than other kids and most adults. As Tucker, Marienthal (American Pie) is sweet-looking and enthusiastic, but the show is ragged and uneven. It lacks the smarts and freshness of Malcolm. The plot has Tucker and his newly divorced mom being forced to stay with relatives, where his harridan aunt (Sagal from Married with Children) annoys and insults Tucker and mom on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Tucker's sensitivity is underlined through contrast with his cement-head cousin. The humour is in the American Pie style -- lots of jokes about masturbation and spying on girls while they undress. Sagal overdoes it and Tucker's mom is way too sweet and silent. Only a sudden, tidal wave of little girl affection for Marienthal can keep Tucker trucking.HH(JD)
CBS, ONtv, 8:30 p.m. Genre: Sitcom.
Stars: Anthony Clark, Jean Louisa Kelly, Mike O'Malley
First-time parents of a one year old, Greg (Clark) and Kim (Kelly), are nervous wrecks. They spend most of their time watching their son intensely, just to make sure he's all right. Enter Greg's brother-in-law, Jimmy (O'Malley), who has kids of his own, but whose idea of child-rearing involves plunking the tot in front of the TV. To be blunt, what was CBS thinking? Certainly they've had good success the past few years with uncomplicated family sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens, but Yes, Dear is positively dreadful. There is absolutely nothing redeeming to say about this show, so we'll just stop now.(AR)
Fox, CTV, 9 p.m. Genre: Newsroom drama.
Stars: Oliver Platt, Tom Conti
Another show that's hard to review with confidence because only clips were provided in advance, Deadline still looks like a possible winner. From Dick Wolf, the Law & Order producer, it features Platt as Wallace Benton, a legendary, award-
winning columnist for a New York paper. Benton relies upon awe-struck journalism students to investigate stories and help him attack the corrupt and powerful from his column-pulpit. Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith on Cheers and Frasier) is the paper's difficult managing editor while Conti plays the paper's wheeling-and-dealing owner. Pessimists will point out that TV dramas about newspapers rarely work because there isn't enough glamour in the print business. Here, however, the stories seem so overcooked that the newspaper setting doesn't really matter. The casting of Neuwirth and Conti was a shrewd move and much will depend on their roles, because no actor (even one as good as Platt) can carry an hour-long drama every week.HH(JD)
CBC, 9 p.m. Genre: Satiric sitcom.
Stars: Diane Flacks, Ellie Harvie
A knock-off of Absolutely Fabulous, P.R. is tame and, worse, it's gauche. It's mainly the creation of writer/actor Diane Flacks and it's about three dizzy dames running a public relations agency in Toronto. Flacks is Alexandra, the agency owner and Harvie is the even more excitable Jill, her business partner. Fiona Reid has the plum role of Deirdre, who runs the office and knows more than anybody else about everything. There are cute little tres Canadian references -- the gals need to do damage control for a client before Frank magazine gets the scoop and a handsome airhead singer used be with "The Moppets." Everybody is trying hard here, but it's all too laboured and always less than scathing about a business that deserves a dose of comic loathing. The pace is frantic, but frantic doesn't make for funny. Nice try.H(JD)
UPN, Global, 10 p.m. Genre: Sci-fi.
Stars: Holt McCallany, Scarlett Chorvat
Welcome to the future -- or what's left of it. In a distant, post-apocalyptic tomorrow, where the stock markets have crashed and martial law runs rampant, the only hope for salvation lies with the underground resistance fighters. In particular, there are four outstanding soldiers: Colonel Calley Beach (McCallany), loner Londo Pearl (Bodhi Elfman), feisty James Barrett (Darius McRary) and rookie Becca Ashe (Chorvat). Each is a highly-trained fighting machine who has been recruited by the resistance force to topple the corrupt government. Unless you're a fan of sci-fi or action shows, who cares?H(AR)
Fox, ONtv, 9 p.m. Genre: Sci-fi.
Stars: Jessica Alba, Michael Weatherly
Two decades into the future, Max (Alba) is a seemingly innocent bicycle courier.
In reality, she's a genetically-enhanced prototype, with genes that are half-human and half-feline, who has escaped from the military. She joins forces with a tech-minded journalist named Logan (Weatherly), and together they fight an inside battle against a corrupt and crumbling government. The series was created by director/producer James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator 2) and the pilot has the look of a big-screen movie, with sprawling sets and hundreds of extras. The talented Alba has the perfect look for Max -- soulful, haunting eyes with a glint of fury beneath. Teens will love it and even their parents could become interested. It's a can't-miss hit.HHH(AR)
ABC, CTV, 9:30 p.m.
Genre: Suddenly Married Sitcom.
Stars: Geena Davis, Peter Horton,
John Francis Daley
Geena Davis's TV debut is a slim thing, a conceit that has much less comedy than any of the producers and stars seem to realize. Davis plays Teddie, a Sex and the City-type single executive who falls quickly for single dad, Max (Horton, from thirty-something), and must adapt even more quickly to life as a suburban wife and mother. In the pilot, there's heavy emphasis on Davis's uber-babe status (a sign of the star getting her way?) and the voyeuristic interest of her new son in seeing Mom in very little underwear. That's kind of creepy, actually. There's little real chemistry between Teddie and Max, and Horton is shrewdly subdued -- if this thing tanks, as it might, the blame will be on the star, not the co-star.HH(JD)
CBS, ONtv, 8 p.m. Genre: Sitcom.
Stars: Bette Midler, Kevin Dunn
A multi-talented actress/diva named Bette (guess who?) is the idol of millions on the big screen. At home, she's loving wife to beleaguered husband Roy (Dunn) and mother to 13-year-old Rose (Lindsay Kohan). Naturally, Bette is wildly insecure about growing old, getting heavier and her career in general, all of which she blames on her manager, Connie (Joanna Gleason). This is Midler's first foray into television, and the show's producers did her a favour by simply casting her as herself. The pilot was half-decent, and since Midler is playing a Hollywood star, after all, the door is wide open for innumerable celebrity cameo appearances (Danny De Vito turns up in the first show). In short, if you like Midler, you'll probably love this show. If not, look elsewhere.HHH(AR)
NBC, CTV, 8 p.m. Genre: Soap Opera.
Stars: Yasmine Bleeth, Perry King
Let's do the time-warp again -- Titans is a 1980s soap in the style of Dallas and Dynasty from the soap-master himself, Aaron Spelling. NBC had promoted it heavily as "a guilty pleasure" and, for once, the advertising is accurate if you indulge secretly in watching handsome, overdressed airheads act despicably. Brimming with vixens and schemers, Titans' main storyline has Yasmine Bleeth marrying a wealthy, older man (Perry King.) It turns out that she once had a passionate affair with his son. The thing is, she didn't know he was the older guy's son! Imagine her horror. Titans is trash. Even worse, it doesn't have a true camp quality.HH(JD)
Fox, Global, 8:30 p.m. Genre: Sitcom.
Stars: John Goodman, Anthony LaPaglia
William "Butch" Gamble Jr. is an average guy with one big exception: He's gay. That's why, four years earlier, he left his small Ohio home town -- as well as his ex-wife and son -- to live in L.A. Well, now he's back, but the old town isn't quite the same. His son Charlie (Greg Pitts) has grown into a young man, but Butch is still noticing that people in Ohio aren't quite as accepting as they were back in L.A. -- especially his single-mom sister and her two teen children --his ex-wife seems to still have the hots for him. Although Goodman is a likable TV commodity, this show has disaster written all over it. The pilot episode was recast and reshot a few times. Besides which, the clips we did see were erratic and not very funny.H(AR)
Welcome To New York
CBS, ONtv, 8:30 p.m. Genre: Sitcom.
Stars: Christine Baranski, Jim Gaffigan
Indiana TV weatherman Jim Gaffigan moves to the Big Apple to take a job as meteorologist for the morning show AM New York. His new boss, Marsha Bickner (Baranski) is a latte-drinking barracuda who wants to re-mold Jim into a slick TV personality. She wants to buy him new clothes, fill in his thinning hair and work on his "corn-fed belly." Jim is further intimidated when he meets his on-air partner, news anchor Adrian Spencer (Rocky Carroll), who, like Marsha, immediately sizes Jim up as a hick. And all of this transpires within Jim's first 10 minutes on the job. This is arguably the fall's best new sitcom. The talented Baranski is in her element as the acid-tongued Marsha, but the real find here is Gaffigan, who has the perfect amount of guile and gullibility to play a shy weatherman. The writing is crisp, in the vein of Frasier. It's a keeper.
Fox, Global, 9 p.m. Genre: Drama.
Stars: Tom Everett Scott, Rick Hoffman
At the New York stock brokerage firm of Balmont Stevens Inc., money is king and they live for the big score. Among the crew of hot young stock-traders, there's Jack Kenderson (Scott) who has a knack for picking a winner; former Navy Seal Mark McConnell (Sean Maher); and confirmed chauvinist Freddie Sacker (Hoffman). Also on the floor is stern trading desk head Tom Divack (Giancarlo Esposito), intern Adam Mitchell (Christian Campbell) and research analyst Adam Mitchell (Adam Goldberg). And just to keep things stirred up among the boys' club is new VP of sales Catherine Miller (Jennifer Connelly) who can more than hold her own. It should be said up front that The Street was created by Darren Star, who also invented Sex and the City. Hence, we can expect plenty of sex in between all the wheeling and dealing. There's also already been a bit of stunt-casting, with former '80s brat packer Molly Ringwald joining the show as the rich daughter of a business tycoon. Essentially, The Street is a soap opera. If viewers get hooked early on, expect it to hang on.HHH(AR)
ABC, ONtv, 10 p.m. Genre: Medical Drama.
Stars: Andre Braugher, Reuben Blades
There were very high expectations for this, an obviously serious drama from one of the Homicide producers, Paul Attanasio, and starring the former Pembleton from Homicide, the always compelling Andre Braugher. The expectations are only partially rewarded in the first episode, an overwritten, badly paced drama that gives Braugher way too much time to pontificate. He plays Ben Gideon, who is in charge of experimental medicine at a big teaching hospital. Making life and death decisions, Gideon takes a deeply philosophical view and makes speeches about the role of medicine in history and in contemporary culture. The series aches for a good foil for Gideon, but, in the first episode, it comes in the form of a patient who will obviously only last one episode. Blades plays the hospital's chief executive, a former shrink who indulges in deep conversation with Gideon. If Gideon's Crossing took itself a tad less seriously, it could evolve into a compelling dramatic force.HH(JD)
WB, Global, 10 p.m. Genre: Family drama.
Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel
Single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Graham) leaves the big city and moves to remotely rural Connecticut, where she takes over a small hotel. Lorelai and her daughter, Rory (Bledel), have a great relationship -- they're actually more like sisters than mother and daughter. But Rory is also coming to that age where she wants to start dating boys and become more independent. But Mom is having a tough time letting go. Given the success of shows built around strong-willed women these past years, there's every chance that Gilmore Girls could follow suit. In the pilot at least, there is genuine chemistry between Graham and Bledel, which makes the dialogue and scenarios all the more believable. There's also a succession of oddball locals wandering in and out of scenes, which gives the show a quirky Northern Exposure feel to it. Hopefully, it will survive the ratings race.HHHH(AR)
CBC 7:30 p.m. Genre: Teen drama.
Stars: Cara Pifko
The latest in CBC's fine tradition of smart teen shows, Our Hero has an appealing heroine in Kale (Cara Pifko), a 17 year old with the usual troubles at school and home. What's unusual is her method of dealing with these troubles. Kale's Dad (Robert Bockstael) is a newspaper columnist who constantly uses exaggerated versions of his daughter's life as material for his column. The endless embarrassments caused by Dad force Kal to retaliate with her own little publication -- a 'zine -- called Our Hero. Filled with her rambling observations and stories, the 'zine becomes part of the show. Pifko is a great lead here, a real teen, unlike the Barbie-doll types who populate the American shows of the same ilk. Snappily written, Our Hero has weaknesses (the Dad figure is a bit stiff) but enough strengths to last.HHH(JD)
NBC, Global 8:30 p.m. Genre: Kooky sitcom.
Stars: Steven Weber, Chris Elliott
A show built from the cast-offs of other sitcoms, Cursed is a sign of the awful state of American network comedy. Steven Weber (Wings) plays Jack, a computer game designer just starting out on the dating game after the end of a long relationship. He's got a roommate, Larry (Chris Elliott, star of the cult hit Get A Life) and a boss who is mad and pretentious, played by John O'Hurley, the guy who used to be J. Peterman on Seinfeld. On a blind date, Jack annoys his date and she puts a curse on him. Immediately, everything in Jack's life goes wrong and the same angry people keeping turning up at work and home. The level of comedy is deeply unoriginal. In the pilot, directed by James Burrows, the laughs are few. Its plum spot on NBC's Thursday line-up guarantees some longevity, but the show stinks.H(JD)
CBS, CTV, 8 p.m. Genre: Action.
Stars: Timothy Daly, Mykelti Williamson
Wrongly accused and convicted of murdering his wife, Dr. Richard Kimble (Daly) gets a sudden chance to break free while being transferred to prison. He takes to the road, travelling from state to state by car, train and on foot. On his tail is the dogged Lt. Philip Gerard (Williamson) who is determined to bring Kimble back to serve his sentence. This is a first: a TV series based on a movie that was based on a TV series. Back in the '60s, the original version of The Fugitive starred David Janssen as the innocent man on the lam. The pilot had more action in it than most feature films, so that has to work in its favour. If the quality level remains high, this show could be a Friday-night staple for years to come.HHH(AR)
The Trouble with Normal
ABC, 8:30 p.m. Genre: Wacky Guys Sitcom
Stars: Paget Brewster, Jon Cryer
One of the season's weirdest shows is about weird people. These five gently disturbed, paranoid guys are in therapy and their therapist, Claire (Brewster) really wants them to get better. She's so nice that she lets them invade her life. There's something creepy about a show which has a gang of disturbed men stalk and attempt to manipulate a young woman. On the other hand, Claire is the matriarchal figure of authority and clearly the only sane person. The antics of the serious paranoids allows for some shrewd satire of contemporary American politics and social mores. Brewster is very, very good and the show has an odd sparkle. It could be huge, but may get too weird for many viewers.
CBS, 9 p.m. Genre: Police drama.
Stars: William Peterson, Gary Dourdan
Based in Las Vegas, the Crime Scene Investigators unit is the team that police call in to unravel a crime scene. Headed by Gil Grisson (Peterson), they're a crack group of forensic pathologists who use the latest scientific techniques to discover how and when a person died. And they're not just about fingerprints and DNA samples. In one case, an investigator looks at a corpse and determines that one shoe is tied differently than the other -- which, as it turns out, is what helps police find the killer. Produced by film veteran Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun), C.S.I. is a nifty fit for Friday night. Shot on location, there's plenty of action, and the cast is solid -- especially Peterson, who lends a big-screen presence to the proceedings. If Nash Bridges is still on the air, then C.S.I. has every chance at survival.HHH(AR)
ONtv, 9 p.m. (NBC, Sundays, 8 p.m.)
comedy/drama. Stars: Tom Cavanagh
The critic's favourite for the new season, Ed has an undeniable laconic charm. Coming from two former producers of The Late Show with David Letterman, it looks on smalltown life with a quirky, irreverent sense of humour. Ed is played by Cavanagh, a Canadian guy familiar from his beer commercials. He's a charmer all right, and needs to be, in a role that has his character returning to his hometown after discovering his wife with another man. Back in Stuckeyville, Ohio, Ed decides to pursue the girl he adored in school, Carol (Julie Bowen). Then he buys the local bowling alley and tries to run a law practice from the premises. There's a touch of Northern Exposure and Providence about Ed and it may take time to develop its own special humour. It looks very, very promising.HHH(J.D)
Fox, Global, 9 p.m. Genre: Sci-fi.
Stars: Ethan Embry, Lisa Sheridan,
Laidback web designer Derek Barnes (Embry) runs a Web site called FreakyLinks, in which he debunks occult and supernatural phenomena with his partner, Jason (Prince). One day, he receives an anonymous E-mail claiming that his dead brother is still alive. Rattled, Derek teams with his brother's ex-fiancée Chloe (Sheridan) to discover whether the rumour is true. The biggest buzz on FreakyLinks is that it was created by the The Blair Witch Project folks, a fact made clear in the pilot by the abundance of jerky, hand-held camera work and disturbing imagery. The show is also being aired simultaneously on the Web -- a television first. It's not the next X-Files, but it should do well.HH(AR)
UPN, CKVR, 9 p.m. Genre: Sci-fi
Stars: Kate Hodge, Tim Guinee
All of a sudden, high-tech crime is happening all over the world. Enter a clandestine group of computer experts, known as Level 9, whose job is to battle against such cyber crime. Each member of the group is a certified expert, and has been hand-selected by a government task force. This show earns points for originality. It's like taking a cop show and marrying it to the Internet. It doesn't really matter that virtually none of the stars are brand names and there was plenty of action in the pilot. It should draw younger viewers, but won't be around for the long haul.HH(AR)
These Arms of Mine
CBC, 9 p.m. Genre: Relationship Drama.
Stars: Conrad Coates, Stuart Margolin
There are a dizzying number of dramatic elements in this new Canadian series. First, it's about grown-ups -- all the characters are in their thirties or older. Second, it's about west-versus-east -- a man character moves from Toronto to Vancouver and suffers culture shock. Third, it's got a storyline about gay love. It's sunny and nice, but probably too nice to catch on. Inspired by the success of such American series as Once and Again and the British Cold Feet, it concentrates on personal relationships. Everything is kickstarted when Claire (Shauna MacDonald) , a Toronto DJ, moves to Vancouver to be with her boyfriend, single father David (Alex Carter). MacDonald is the true star here, a luminous presence and, unfortunately, everyone else seems too subdued in her character's presence.HHH(J.D)
ABC, 9:30 p.m.
Genre: Single dad sitcom.
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Roy Dotrice
Movie star Byrne tries TV in this slick, scant sitcom about three generations of Irish men in New York. Byrne is Ben Madigan, a divorced architect who is about to start dating again. His shyness and lack of enthusiasm for the single life are a source of comedy for his 16-year-old son Luke. Into the situation comes Seamus (Dotrice), Ben's platitude-spouting Dad from Ireland. Byrne says he wanted to do a series that treats men the way Sex and the City treats women. However, this is an ABC sitcom, not a HBO drama. There's no edge here. It's all soft and mushy. Far from being the worst new show, it's moderately amusing. The problem for a discerning viewer is the waste of such talented actors as Byrne and Dotrice in such slender material.HH(JD)