For better or worse, new series have adolescent feel. TELEVISION
Almost Grown CBS, Sunday, 9-11 p.m., then Mondays, 10-11 p.m. Creators/ writers: David Chase and Lawrence Konner. Executive producer/director: David Chase. TV 101 CBS, Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m. Stars: Sam Robards, Brynn Thayer, Leon Russom, Andrew White, and Stacy Dash. Creator/writer: Karl Schaefer. Director: Sam Weisman.
CBS is coming to the end of its fall-season premi`eres with ``Almost Grown'' and ``TV 101,'' and nobody can call it a grand finale.
The best one can say for ``Almost Grown'' is: too much, too late; for ``TV 101,'' a good try.
Both shows employ interesting, complex concepts that need deft handling. But both begin with scripts that cry out for more depth and sensitivity.
``Almost Grown'' prepares viewers for its regular season with a two-hour preview on Sunday night. The drama makes a desperate try at creating a catchall nostalgia for the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s, with moments reminiscent of ``The Wonder Years'' and ``Thirtysomething.'' But none of these moments are effective. What emerges is a huff-and-puff conglomeration of clich'ed situations and dialogue.
The story is basically a chronicle of the changing attitudes and life styles of the past three decades. It traces the relationship between Norman Foley, played with awkward impassivity by Timothy Daly, and Suzie Long, played a bit hysterically by Eve Gordon.
Starting with the changing sexual morality and ``know nothing'' activism of the 1960s and '70s, the story moves into a ``me-first'' portrayal of the '80s. The dialogue and action are so predictable and unsubtle that I didn't believe a moment of it.
Apparently, when the producers realized the show was running too long, they suddenly edited out about 20 years and jumped to the present, where new problems arise. The most difficult of these is the pregnancy of a teen-age daughter, which causes a postponement of the remarriage of Suzie to a ``living saint,'' a man so annoyingly altruistic that he exasperates everybody.
The preview adds large doses of smarmy, distasteful adolescent sexuality. In fact, almost everybody and everything proves to be perpetually adolescent - especially the script.
``TV 101'' might seem to be the perfect 8-to-9-p.m. show. It zooms right in on its high school target audience by presenting a with-it teacher (played with insistent hipness, if not very much charm, by Sam Robards) determined to teach the kids everything - English, morality, democracy, professionalism, and more - in the framework of a class in which the students produce their own TV news show.
Of course, they run into problems with the principal and end up doing their thing on a public-access cable channel. But not before there are obvious lessons learned and everybody - except the teacher - manages to straighten out snarled family relationships.
``TV 101'' has moments of good fun: ``What's the primary object when covering a story?'' the teacher asks. ``Don't break the camera!'' the kids respond. Amusing. But the series will need better stories that dig a bit deeper if it is to succeed in the long run.
Meantime, it can't do much harm and might even do some good in helping youngsters identify the evils of alcohol and drug abuse - and the value of a good, caring teacher.