Deja vu Has Starring Role In the Networks' New Shows
Many of the 36 series rely on formulas, but a few may wind up as big hits.
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The obnoxious and offensive Jenny McCarthy is out; a tamer and funnier Jenny (NBC) is in. Jenny and Maggie (Heather Paige Kent) are grocery clerks in Utica, N.Y., but their lives suddenly change when Jenny's actor father (George Hamilton), whom she's never met, dies. They head for L.A. for the viewing of the video will (starring Hamilton) and decide to stick around after learning he's left her his house, the Playpen.Skip to next paragraph
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Lawyers, guns, and money
Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) is a young Boston lawyer. She should be on top of the world, but she has just filed a sexual harassment suit against a co-worker, has changed jobs, and now works with her former boyfriend, who is now married. This Fox show from David E. Kelley ("Chicago Hope") takes an innovative approach by blending drama and humor, but it doesn't always succeed.
Some scenes are melodramatic (the theme from "Psycho" is played when she meets her former boyfriend's wife), and the writing is sometimes weak and corny. Despite these flaws, its sassy and fresh story line shows potential.
TV shows made from movies rarely work, even if their inspiration was a bona fide hit. Timecop (ABC), a weak sci-fi cop show, is based on a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie of the same name. Need we say more?
ABC has transplanted a popular British mystery series across the Atlantic. Robert Pastorelli ("Murphy Brown") stars in Cracker, taking over the role of Fitz, a salty-tongued criminal psychologist originally played by Robbie Coltrane. In the two-part premire, Fitz receives love letters from a real poison pen, a particularly nasty serial killer who enjoys electrocuting her lovers.
From Steven Bochco, the producer of "NYPD Blue" and "Hill Street Blues," comes Brooklyn South (CBS), a bloody, rough, but compelling urban cop drama. The show literally starts with a bang: a nine-minute opener with a madman gunning down officers on the streets of the 74th Precinct, which earned it the first TV-MA ever handed to a network episode.
We don't understand how the producer of "Brooklyn South" could produce such a silly and low-quality drama as Total Security (ABC). Bochco attempts to mix drama and comedy but doesn't succeed. The show stars James Remar as a former cop who runs a Los Angeles security firm and James Belushi as the bumbling sidekick. Skip this one - it's bland and boring.
After an unsuccessful stab at the movies, David Caruso is back on prime time in Michael Hayes (CBS), one of those nocturnal, moody dramas where everyone speaks in low tones. Caruso is commanding as the ex-cop-turned-federal-prosecutor, and the pilot was both intricate and smartly written. In it, Caruso puts his job (and a high-profile mob case) on the line to solve a decade-old murder.
A "Sneakers" for the small screen, Players (NBC) is an engaging show that combines energy and tongue-in-cheek humor. Ice-T, Costas Mandylor ("Picket Fences"), and Frank John Hughes star as ex-cons who run stings for the FBI.
A mixed bag
413 Hope St. (Fox) is a teen-crisis center where troubled youths turn for help with drug problems, poverty, and AIDS. Produced by Damon Wayans, it's a meaningful drama with lighthearted moments, but be prepared for gritty, violent scenes.
Starring funny woman Carol Leifer (ex-writer/producer of "Seinfeld"), Alright Already (WB) shows promise. Set in Miami, the plot revolves around a single woman, her friends, and family. In the premire, a little white lie goes very wrong when she tells her neighbors she has a baby to get them to turn down the music.
Head Over Heels (UPN) is so bad we're wondering how it ever made it into production. The plot centers around Jack and Warren Baldwin (Peter Dobson and Mitchell Whitfield), two competitive young brothers who own and operate a South Beach, Fla., video dating service. The set is cheap and so are the sex jokes, which are incessant.
Derivative fluff set in a New York diner, Union Square (NBC) is a would-be comedy featuring Michael Landes as a would-be playwright and Constance Marie as a would-be actress. Trying for satisfying belly laughs la "Friends," it's likely to leave viewers feeling hollow.
John Corbett ("Northern Exposure") is The Visitor (Fox), a Navy pilot who was abducted by aliens over the Bermuda Triangle 50 years ago.
Now he's back and out to make Earth a better place, if he can just keep ahead of the warmongers who'd like to see him disappear, permanently. The show has two catch phrases, which sound like excerpts from "The Celestine Prophecy": "All life is connected" and "You just have to open your eyes."
You'll have better dreams if you sleep through Sleepwalkers (NBC), about a team of researchers who help people with disturbing dreams. The dream scenes are so frightening, we were waiting for Freddy Krueger of "Nightmare on Elm Street" to emerge.
Still on their way
"Public Eye With Bryant Gumbel" (CBS), "C-16" (ABC), "Dellaventura" (CBS), and "World's Funniest ..." (Fox) were not available for viewing.