The star of CBS' new crime comedy/drama "Over My Dead Body" takes great offense when critics refer to the series as "Murder, He Wrote."

"Why you shouldn't in any way confuse it with `Murder, She Wrote' is because it's not a bit bloody well like `Murder, She Wrote,' " said Edward Woodward. "It has nothing to do with `Murder, She Wrote.' "Well, Mr. Woodward, let's think about these two shows for a moment.

In "Murder," Angela Lansbury stars as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, who spends most of her time running around solving murders.

In "Body," Woodward stars as mystery writer Maxwell Beckett, who spends most of his time running around solving murders.

Right, Mr. Woodward. No similarities there.

There is one major difference between the two series. While Jessica works alone, Maxwell has a sidekick - newspaper obituary writer Nicki Page (Jessica Lundy).

"It's `Murder, They Wrote.' I'm in it, too," Lundy said.

No matter what you want to call it, "Over My Dead Body" premieres tonight (8 p.m., Ch. 5) with a two-hour telemovie. It will remain in the Friday 8 p.m. time slot with one-hour episodes beginning next week.

Woodward is best known for his role as tough-guy Robert McCall in "The Equalizer." But don't tune in expecting to see another McCall tonight - on the contrary, Beckett is often whiney and wimpy.

He's also not much of a mystery novelist, as we soon discover. And his background isn't exactly what it seems.

Although the Beckett character is extremely foolish at times, Page's character is absolutely ludicrous. She's a flighty, ditzy, unbelievable newspaper obituary writer.

Tonight, Page becomes involved in a convoluted murder mystery and seeks help from her idol - Beckett. Through a series of stunts and tricks the unlikely pair begins working together.

The producers talk about a "David-and-Maddie" or a "Laura-and-Remington" relationship between the two lead characters, but this May-December relationship doesn't get off the ground - at least not in the pilot.

It's all highly unlikely and somewhat silly, but there is some degree of charm here. Lundy almost makes Page likable. And if you can accept Woodward as a wimp . . .

The premiere is undoubtedly too long, but may work in an hourlong format. CBS is aiming for the same older audience that watches "Murder, She Wrote," and it just might hit the target with "Over My Dead Body."

- ELSEWHERE ON THE TUBE: Sam leaps into the body of a horror novelist on Quantum Leap (7 p.m., Ch. 5); Wood's son and father-in-law both have girl troubles on Evening Shade (7 p.m., Ch. 5); Harry Anderson wrote tonight's Halloween episode of Night Court (8 p.m., Ch. 2); Great Performances (8 p.m., Ch. 7) features the New York City Ballet; and tonight is Wendy Kilbourne's farewell performance on Midnight Caller (9 p.m., Ch. 2). Mr. Spud jumped the gun last week.

- LOOKING TOWARD SATURDAY: The Utah at Air Force (noon, Ch. 2) football game is on TV - the BYU vs. New Mexico game is not; the Young Riders (7 p.m., Ch. 4) help the Indians; China Beach (8 p.m., Ch. 4) flashes back through Beckett's eyes this week; and Patrick Swayze hosts Saturday Night Live (11:35 p.m., Ch. 2).