Television, perhaps the trendiest of the popular media, is just bursting with trends this fall.

As always, of course, there's a trend toward what works. And, as much as producers and programmers would like us to believe that each and every show is new and different, there's a perpetual trend toward sameness. There are even a couple of stunningly similar ideas that each appear in a couple of "different" shows.Comebacks - at least attempted comebacks - are very much in vogue. Stars like Bill Cosby, Ted Danson, Michael J. Fox, Rhea Perlman, Sherman Hemsley and Ken Olin are returning for another go-round on the TV ratings wheel of fortune.

Buddies are big. And not just boy buddies, but girl buddies as well in shows like "Lush Life" and "Townies."

The surprise success of "Touched by an Angel" has spawned a handful of shows that attempt to at least capture the uplifting spirit of that show - including a made-in-Utah "Angel" spin-off, "Promised Land."

Science fiction's presence continues to grow. And the shows range from the deadly dark "Millennium" to the ridiculously stupid "Homeboys in Outer Space."

Families may not last forever on TV, but there are forever more TV families popping up. This year's crop ranges from a minister's family in "7th Heaven" to families that would fit right in with the Bundys of "Married . . . With Children."

And teachers are terrifically trendy. Not only do four TV shows feature teachers as the main character, but another has a teacher in a prominent supporting role.

Of course, many of these trends overlap and there are shows that fit into more than one category. Here, however, is a breakdown of the 39 new series debuting this fall on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB:


Some shows seem like such good ideas to TV programmers that not one but two networks put on basically the same show.

Millennium (Fridays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is about a former FBI agent (Lance Henricksen) known as a "profiler" who, upon seeing a murder scene, can rather magically envision the crime itself from the point of view of the killer. The pilot involves the hunt for a serial killer.

Premieres October 25.

Profiler (Saturdays, 10 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is about a current FBI agent (Ally Walker) who, upon seeing a murder scene, can rather magically envision the crime itself from the point of view of the killer. The pilot involves the hunt for a serial killer.

Premieres Sept. 21.

"Millennium," from the producer/creator of "The X-Files," is the better produced of the pair - although it's exploitative, violent and derivative. (The pilot episode borrows heavily from the movies "Seven" and "Silence of the Lambs.") "Profiler" is muddled, unattractive and unpleasant.

Party Girl (Mondays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13), based on the movie of the same name, is about a twenty-something blond airhead (Christine Taylor) whose main desire is to party all night, every night. But to prove she's more than just a "Party Girl," she takes a job at a library.

Premieres Sept. 9.

Clueless (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4), based on the movie of the same name, is about a teenage blond airhead (Rachel Blanchard) whose main goal in life is to be popular. She has annoying friends and leads an annoying life.

Premieres Sept. 20.

Neither of these sitcoms is as good as the movies on which they're based. They're both cotton candy TV - sweet, frothy and full of empty calories.


If you've succeeded at television, this would seem to be the season to try to do it again. A bunch of former prime-time stars are trying to re-create that old magic

Cosby (Mondays, 7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) brings Bill back as an older, crankier Cliff Huxtable with fewer children. He's a 60ish man forced into retirement who isn't particularly happy with the way the world works. Phylicia Rashad returns as his wife, and Madeline Kahn is great as the wife's friend - and Cosby's main antagonist.

This is a darn good sitcom that should be with us for quite a while.

Premieres Sept. 16.

Ink (Mondays, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) marks the spot where former "Cheers" star Ted Danson returns - along with his real-life wife, Mary Steenburgen. They play a divorced couple who work at a struggling newspaper - and she's his boss.

After producing four episodes, everyone involved agreed the show wasn't as good as they'd hoped. So those four episodes have been scrapped, and former "Murphy Brown" executive producer Diane English has been brought aboard to fix things. Whether she can remains to be seen.

Premieres Oct. 21.

Pearl (Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) brings back another "Cheers" veteran - Rhea Perl-man. She plays the title character, a blue-collar widow who enrolls at an Ivy League-ish school, where she runs into (and up against) a tyrannical, egotistical professor (Malcolm McDowell).

This is another potential winner. Perlman is a pro, and there's some nice chemistry between her and McDowell.

Premieres Monday, Sept. 16. Remains on Mondays for five weeks before moving to Wednesdays on Oct. 23.

Spin City (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) brings back Michael J. Fox some seven years after "Family Ties" went off the air. And his character could well be a grown-up version of Alex P. Keaton - he's the deputy mayor of New York City whose problems include a bumbling mayor and a live-in girlfriend who's a reporter.

Fox is still wonderful, but the show has a ways to go. The pilot has flashes of hilarity, but it's uneven. It is likable, however, and it's a surefire hit, what with following "Home Improvement."

Premieres Sept. 17.

Goode Behavior (Mondays, 8 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14) proves that comebacks aren't always such a great idea. Sherman Hemsley is basically playing the same character he played for a decade on "The Jeffersons" (and, before that, on "All in the Family") - an obnoxious, strutting know-it-all. The hook here is that he's a convicted swindler who's paroled to the home of his uptight, college-professor son and his family.

"Goode" is pretty bad.

Debuted Aug. 26.


Teachers are very popular this fall, with four shows on three networks featuring educators as the main characters. (And, as mentioned above, a teacher figures prominently in "Pearl." Plus one of the lead characters in "Something So Right" - previewed below - is also a teacher.)

Only one teacher show is a drama, and the other three are all-but-indistinguishable sitcoms - none of which are very good.

Dangerous Minds (Sundays, 11:35 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is an adaptation of the film of the same name, with Annie Potts ("Designing Women") taking over the Michelle Pfeiffer role. (Really!) She plays a caring, giving soul out to help her disadvantaged, sometimes criminal students with school and with life.

Potts is surprisingly good, and the pilot for the show isn't bad. But whether this can hold up week after week is a big question.

("Minds" will air on Monday nights in most of the country, but will be delayed until the following Saturday at 11:35 p.m. in this time zone because of "Monday Night Football.")

Premieres Oct. 5.

Mr. Rhodes (Mondays, 7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) features standup comedian Tom Rhodes - a man with no appreciable acting talent - as a hip, cool, unsuccessful author who takes a job teaching at a swanky private school. The kids love him, but he has to go up against entrenched tradition.

Premieres Sept. 23.

Nick Freno, Licensed Teacher (Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) features standup comedian Mitch Mullany as a hip, cool, unsuccessful actor who lands a job as a substitute teacher at a public school. He intends it as a temporary gig but decides to stay. He runs up against the school's dean of discipline.

Debuted Aug. 28.

The Steve Harvey Show (Sundays, 7:30 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) features standup comedian Harvey ("Me and the Boys") as an aging musician who signs on as music teacher at a public school, only to discover he's been assigned to teach other classes as well. He's out of his league but decides to stay. (Sounds suspiciously like "Mr. Holland's Opus," doesn't it?)

Debuted Aug. 25.

The characters on these shows are interchangeable, the quality mediocre and the shows themselves forgettable.


The surprise success of "Touched by an Angel" has, not unexpectedly, led to a few imitators - shows that try to mimic "Angel's" do-good, feel-good attitude. (As TV trends go, this isn't a bad one.)

Early Edition (Saturdays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) inherits the Saturday time slot vacated by "Touched by an Angel's" move to Sundays. And it has a similar feel.

The extraordinarily likable Kyle Chandler stars as Gary Hobson, a man whose life changes when he begins receiving tomorrow's newspaper today - thus having a peek into the future. A good and decent guy, he feels compelled to try to help people and change the bad news in the paper.

How exactly this is happening isn't revealed. And the show isn't all sweetness and light - Gary feels that this gift is often a millstone around his neck.

But, due in large part to Chandler, this is a very appealing show.

Premieres Sept. 28.

The Pretender (Saturdays, 8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) has already been dubbed by one critic as "Touched by a Really Smart Guy." And not without reason.

Michael T. Weiss stars as Jarod Russell, a genius who was apparently kidnapped by an evil corporation as a child - a corporation that exploited his genius. He escapes some 30 years later and sets out to do good in the world by using his high IQ to assume the identity of doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, etc. (In the pilot, he rights a wrong committed by a drunken doctor.)

In the meantime, Jarod is being pursued by a beautiful agent of that evil corporation (Andrea Parker) who wants him back - dead or alive.

It's an appealing show - NBC's best new show of the season. (But then, NBC's new crop of shows is nothing to get excited about.)

Previews Thursday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 28.

Promised Land (Tuesday, 7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is a direct spinoff of "Touched by an Angel." (The angels themselves appear in the pilot episode.)

Gerald McRaney stars as a husband and father who loses his job, but - along with his wife (Wendy Phillips) decides to turn misfortune into an adventure by taking the family on the road. With faith in God, they encounter various adventures and help various people along the way.

And before anyone counts this show out, you've got to remember that "Touched by an Angel" was expected to flop but turned into a hit.

Premieres Sept. 17.


Everybody Loves Raymond (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is, quite simply, the best new comedy of the season.

Stand-up comedian Ray Romano stars in a situation based closely on his own life. He plays a husband and father of three - a young daughter and toddler twin boys. And right across the street are his well-meaning but often overwhelming parents (Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle) as well as his 40ish single brother. And their constant intrusions make life difficult for Ray and his wife (Patricia Heaton).

The pilot episode is an absolute scream. If it can maintain the quality, "Raymond" may overcome a bad time slot - or get moved to a better one.

Premieres Sept. 13.

Life's Work (Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is standup comedian Lisa Ann Walter's second attempt to do a sitcom about a married, working mother. And it's a little bit better than "My Wildest Dream," which Fox quickly axed.

But then, "Dreams" was dreadful.

What's nice about "Life's Work" is that Walters and co-star Michael O'Keefe plays a happily married couple. And that she plays a smart woman - a lawyer.

What's not so nice is the rather crude humor and the low quotient of laughs here.

Premieres Sept. 17.

Love and Marriage (Saturdays, 8:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is sort a kinder, gentler version of the show it follows on the Fox schedule - "Married . . . With Children." Of course, that's not saying much.

Patricia Healey and Tony Denison star as a working-class New York couple who work opposite shifts while trying to raise three kids. They're more than a bit crude, but at least they love each other and their family.

The new next-door neighbors, however, are right out of the June and Ward Cleaver mold, leading to antagonism and conflict.

It's an OK show. And, considering that it's on Fox, perhaps it's a bit better than you might expect.

Premieres Sept. 21.

7th Heaven (Mondays, 7 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) is the sort of show so many viewers have been saying they want to see on TV - a show about a family whose members love each other.

In "7th Heaven," that family includes a father who's a minister (Stephen Collins), his perky wife (Catherine Hicks) and five kids. There's some bickering, but this is a warm, supportive group.

It's not a perfect show. The problems are a little too pat, the solutions a bit too easy. But it is a nice show.

One that all of you looking for family entertainment ought to check out.

Debuted Aug. 26.

Something So Right (Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is so, so wrong. NBC is promoting this as a "family comedy." But while it is indeed a (supposed) comedy about a family, it's not fit for family viewing.

Carly (Mel Harris of "thirty-some-thing") and Tom (Jere Burns of "Dear John") are newlyweds on their fourth marriage, collectively. Carly is neurotic with two kids, one from each of her former marriages; Tom is a relatively stable teacher with a teenage daughter from his first marriage.

The humor here is supposed to be about a blended family. It ends up being about sex, for the most part. And not just married sex, but Carly's teenage son lusting after Tom's teenage daughter.

It's far too crude and vulgar for the younger kids. And it's not particularly funny.

More "Must Miss TV" on NBC.

Premieres Sept. 17.


EZ Streets (Wednesdays, 9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is an intriguing new drama that looks at both sides of the law. The main characters are a nowhere-near-perfect cop (Ken Olin of "thirtysomething") and a less-than-imperfect criminal (Jason Gedrick of "Murder One.")

The cop gets caught up in conspiracies and murders in the show's two-hour pilot. And the petty criminal, who went to prison for a crime committed by the local gang boss (Joe Pantoliano), is caught up in the same series of events from the other side.

This is very nicely done. Very intriguing. It's too rough for kids to be watching but has real possibilities.

Whether it can survive up against "Law & Order" and "PrimeTime Live" is questionable, however.

Premiere date to be announced.

Moloney (Thursdays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) features the always-appealing Peter Strauss in the title role - a police psychiatrist who deals with wacko criminals and wacko cops. However, he's a bit too glib, a bit too cute for his own good - and for believability.

This attempt at a twist on the standard police-show formula that still seems far too familiar and doesn't quite work.

Premieres Sept. 19.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Fridays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is sort of an attempt to update "Hart to Hart" - two attractive people who are attracted to each other who are involved in unraveling various mysteries.

Scott Bakula is Mr. Smith, a top agent (a.k.a. spy) for a mysterious company know as "The Factory." Mrs. Smith (Maria Bello) is a gorgeous free-lance spy who gets involved - professionally if not personally - with Mr. Smith.

The aim here is for humor and sexual tension as well as suspense. The aim is a little off - it's not as good as it tries to be.

Premieres Sept. 20.


The Burning Zone (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14) is an effort to capture that "X-Files" magic - by way of the movie "Outbreak."

In this one, a highly trained team of medical experts battles outbreaks of deadly disease. The pilot episode has the team fighting a virus with a collective conscience that's plotting to take control of the human race.

It's sort of B-movie sci-fi, with a bit of violence and special effect thrown in.

Debuted Sept. 3.

Dark Skies (Saturdays, 7 p.m., NBC) is a blast from the past - literally and figuratively. The series begins in 1961, as young congressional aide John Loengard (Eric Close) discovers that not only are there aliens out there, and not only are those aliens taking over human bodies, but there's a secret cabal in the government committed to keeping that news quiet.

As the series advances through time - the two-hour pilot advances through JFK's assassination (which is, of course, tied to the conspiracies) - John and his girlfriend (Megan Ward) do battle with both the alien "Hive" and the government conspiracists.

It's intriguing but probably would have worked better as a movie or a miniseries. It's also quite graphically bloody and violent - way too violent for an early evening time slot on Saturday.

Premieres Sept. 21.

Home Boys from Outer Space accomplishes the nearly impossible - it's even stupider than it sounds.

Flex and Darryl M. Bell star as a pair of 23rd-century homeboys who travel in the Space Hoopty (a cross between the Enterprise and a wrecked Impala) looking to pick up chicks.

I am not making this up.

Not only is it stupid, low-brow and offensive, but it's full of those racial stereotypes UPN seems so fond of in its sitcoms.

Avoid this one at all costs.

Debuted Aug. 27.


Common Law (Saturdays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is ABC's response to pressure from Hispanic groups to put a show with one of their own in a lead role.

Well, this does have Greg Giraldo in the lead. Too bad it's not a better show.

Giraldo, a stand-up comedian, stars as John Alvarez, a Hispanic, Harvard-educated lawyer who's a nonconformist at a big New York law firm. He's got an Anglo girl-friend (Megyn Price) - who's also a lawyer at the firm - and a father who isn't very happy about it.

But the nonconformity here conforms to TV stereotypes. So do the stereotypically lame jokes.

And as an actor, Giraldo is a good stand-up comedian.

It won't be around for long.

Premieres Sept. 28.

Sparks (Mondays, 8:30 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14) is as predictable as it is lame.

In this corner, we have one uptight brother/lawyer. And in this corner, we have one hip, free-spirited brother/lawyer. They both work at their father's (James Avery of "Fresh Prince") inner-city law firm.

Along comes a gorgeous female lawyer (Robin Givens) and the boys have something new to fight over.

Predictable and lame pretty much sum it up. There are no sparks here.

Debuted Aug. 26.


Life with Roger (Sundays, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 30; 7:30 p.m., WGN) is the best sitcom on either of the new networks, WB or UPN. Not that that's saying much.

The buddies here meet when Jason (Maurice Godin) prevents Roger (Mike O'Malley) from jumping off a bridge - and, immediately, Roger insinuates himself into Jason's life. Not that it's such a great life - he's uptight, neurotic and about to marry a woman he doesn't love.

Roger, on the other hand, is a free spirit. And the two work very nicely together.

This show certainly has potential. It's one to keep an eye on.

Debuted Aug. 25.

Lush Life (Mondays, 8:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) features a pair of female buddies. The extremely odd Lori Petty stars as the extremely odd Georgette "George" while Karyn Parsons ("Fresh Prince") is her best friend Margot - who moves in when she walks out on her rich husband.

The two are meant as sort of a modern-day Lucy and Ethel, but they're not even up to the rather low standards of Laverne and Shirley. This show is dumb, dumb, dumb.

Premieres Sept. 9.

Malcolm and Eddie (Mondays, 7:30 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14) is yet another in a long list of UPN sitcoms that feature black casts - and black stereotypes.

Malcolm (Malcolm-Jamal Warner, whose best work was as a 14-year-old on "The Cosby Show") is the straight man in this pair of buddies - a sportscaster-wannabe who is pretty strait-laced.

Eddie (standup comedian Eddie Griffin) is the jive-talking funster who lives life loose - and who magnifies the stereotypes of black males to an appalling level.

And, again, it's just not funny - a real problem for a comedy.

Debuted Aug. 26.

Men Behaving Badly (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is about two guys, one of them slightly stupid and the other a complete idiot. The slightly stupid one is Kevin (Ray Eldard of "ER"). He's got a job and an apartment, but he doesn't understand either women in general or his girlfriend (Justine Bateman of "Family Ties") in particular.

(And, while we're on the subject of Bateman, she's yet another former child actress who never really learned to act.)

The complete idiot is Jamie (Rob Schneider of "Saturday Night Live"), an out-of-work slacker who mooches off Kevin and is, in general, a crude, boorish lout.

And a lot of what passes for humor here is crude, boorish lout-ism. Even more "Must Miss TV" from NBC.

Premieres Sept. 18.

Townies (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is this year's "Friends" rip-off. But whereas "Friends" is clever and witty, "Townies" is not.

Molly Ringwald heads an ensemble cast that centers on three female friends still living in the dying New England town where they grew up - one a pregnant bride, the other committed to playing the field (a k a the tramp) and the other sort of the referee. The only characterizations thinner than those of the female leads are their male counterparts, who are definitely supporting players.

The only thing "Townies" proves is that female characters can be as crude and boring as males.

And, apparently, someone was under the impression that Ringwald could carry a comedy. They were woefully wrong.

Premieres Sept. 18.


Dick Van Dyke. Mary Tyler Moore. Roseanne. Brooke Shields.

Brooke Shields? Well, she's NBC's idea of a star to build a sitcom around.

And, somewhat farther down the network evolutionary scale, the WB tries to do the same thing with Jamie Foxx. (Keep reading to see who he is.)

Suddenly Susan (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) has already been completely revamped before even going on the air. The original pilot was scrapped, and a new producers, new writers, and a new supporting cast were brought in.

It didn't help. The second pilot isn't as good as the first one.

Shields plays a single woman who dumps her fiance at the altar, then gets a job writing a singles column for a San Francicsco magazine.

Shields clearly demonstrates her limited acting talents - but then, since when did lack of acting ability keep anyone from become a TV star? She also displayed a willingness to poke fun at herself and some facility with physical humor.

Even though it's not very good, the show will probably be a hit - it will air between No. 2-rated "Seinfeld" and No. 1-rated "ER."

Premieres Sept. 19.

The Jamie Foxx Show (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) plays like a bad "In Living Color" sketch - which should come as no surprise, since Foxx is a veteran of that show.

The premise makes Foxx a sex-obsessed would-be actor who moves into his aunt and uncle's struggling hotel - where he ends up working, as well.

The show is full of black stereotypes and so offensive it's amazing any black actors would take a role on it. The humor is low-brow, off-color and just not funny.

This is a genuine stinker.

Debuted Aug. 28.


Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is a rarity among shows aimed at younger viewers - it actually provides a decent role model.

Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart of Nickelodeon's "Clarissa Explains it All") has the title role in this sitcom, which is loosely based on the comic-book character. Yes, her magic powers put her in a league with Samantha Stevens of "Bewitched." But the show is really about a teenager trying to navigate adolescence and do the right thing.

If it holds true to its pilot, it's one of those rare network shows that you can let your kids watch without worrying.

It does, however, need to work on keeping the attention of adults.

Premieres Sept. 27.