Syndication, cable, specials: what's new

SINCE the 24 new fall series on commercial television offer little that's innovative, viewers may turn to syndicated and cable programming, and to network miniseries and made-for-TV movies. Of course, the PBS season, which starts in October, will also offer alternatives. [Public television's new season will be previewed in this space next month.] Selective viewers -- especially those with access to cable service as well as PBS and commercial television -- should be able to find several hours a week of superior entertainment or information. Syndicated and cable shows

In syndication there are several newcomers that offer promising entertainment. Most interesting is Viacom-Tribune's What a Country! -- a sitcom about a US citizenship class, with Yakov Smirnoff, an expatriate Soviet comic. (Check local listings for days and times of syndicated shows.) There's also Throb, a show about life at a rock record company, starring Diana Canova; One Big Family, in which Danny Thomas plays the crotchety uncle of a large family of kids; and The Oprah Winfrey Show, an offbeat talk show whose host had a major role in the film ``The Color Purple.''

If you long for the good old days of long-gone commercial TV series, syndicators are bringing back new episodes of Nine to Five, Mama's Family, Silver Spoons, and It's a Living. There's also a desperate search for nostalgia with The New Gidget show.

And speaking of nostalgia, you may want to look for The New Leave It to Beaver Show on cable's WTBS. Also on cable are such goodies as: A&E's The Triumph of the West, a 13-part series about the rise of Western civilization, which started last night; Sanchez of Bel Air on the USA channel, about an upwardly mobile Hispanic family; and The World of Audubon and Cousteau's Rediscovery of the World on WTBS. The USA channel is also scheduling The Jewel in the Crown, seen earlier on PBS. For many cable viewers, the big event may be the Disney Channel's airing of Pinocchio on Sept. 20.

To turn back to the special programming on the commercial networks, here is a checklist that includes the cream of the specials for the new season as well as some that are merely newsworthy. ABC miniseries, movies, specials

Miracle at Philadelphia is a four-hour celebration of the shaping of the US Constitution, produced by David Gerber, who is also responsible for the George Washington miniseries on CBS.

Amerika is a controversial, multimillion-dollar, 12-hour series imagining how things would be 10 years after the Soviet Union has taken over the US. Kris Kristofferson stars in this much-postponed series.

The Beate Klarsfeld Story is based on the true experience of a young German who dedicated herself to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice. Stars Farrah Fawcett, Tom Conti, and Geraldine Page. CBS miniseries, movies, specials

George Washington: The Forging of a Nation is a four-hour continuation of last year's miniseries on Washington. This one also starring Barry Bostwick and Patty Duke as George and Martha, follows the general through his eight tumultuous years as president.

Fresno sounds like a miniseries spoof that will make for five hours of offbeat fun. It's the ``Dallas''-inspired saga of bitter family rivalry in the ``raisin capital of the world.'' Carol Burnett stars as the femme fatale.

De Gaulle traces the little-known personal life of the general through two world wars and as president of France. Executive producer is Norman Rosemont, who is known for high-quality work.

Agatha Christie's ``Murder in Three Acts'' stars Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis.

Ingrid Bergman: My Story stars her daughter, Isabella Rossellini.

Young Jimmy Cagney -- would you believe Michael J. Fox as the great actor/dancer in his early days?

Courage stars Sophia Loren in a fact-based antidrug tale. NBC miniseries, movies, specials

Society's Child presents Philip Michael Thomas (``Miami Vice'') in his first starring role in a TV movie.

Gore Vidal's Lincoln is a teleplay by Ernest Kinoy based on Vidal's biography of Lincoln.

Perry Mason III brings back Raymond Burr, who will once again resurrect his Emmy-winning characterization as TV's most celebrated attorney.

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