The four broadcast networks and the two broadcast network wannabes are heavily into comedy again this fall. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB will premiere 19 new sitcoms.
Meanwhile, the Lifetime channel is debuting two new half-hour comedies tonight. And the cable network's two - "Maggie" and "Oh Baby" - are easily better than 16 of the 19 sitcoms the networks will be sending our way.And you could debate whether the Lifetime shows are as good as - or better than - the other three.
Of course, all of this is based on seeing pilot episodes, and you can never be quite sure what's going to happen to a show after its premiere. Still, "Maggie" and "Oh Baby" are a couple of shows that are worth checking out and keeping an eye on if you subscribe to a cable or satellite service.
"MAGGIE" (8 p.m., Lifetime) is about a woman who's in the midst of a midlife crisis but still manages to charm viewers with her sense of humor. Maggie (Ann Cusack) is pretty normal, but when we first meet her she's visiting a therapist for the first time.
"There's not much to tell, really," Maggie says of herself. "I live here in Portland. Married. Happily. To a doctor. Cardiologist, actually. Nineteen years. We have one daughter - 18 years old. She's beautiful. Very smart. I'm lucky, really."
"Did you leave anything out?" the her therapist asks.
"Uh, let's see. I'm studying to be a veterinarian, I think I'm falling in love with another man, and I drive a Honda."
Maggie's going through a bit of a midlife crisis as she turns 40. She loves her husband (John Getz) and he loves her. Yet, she is indeed attracted to the smart, funny, attractive veterinarian (John Slattery) she's working with.
What could turn out to be nothing more than a TV cliche is nicely handled, though. There are not good guys and bad guys here.
"Maggie" is not a laugh-a-minute gag-fest. Oh, there are indeed some funny lines, but the show's major appeal is just the sheer likability of the star.
"OH BABY" (8:30 p.m., Lifetime) also goes a long way on the tremendous appeal of its star, Cynthia Stevenson ("Hope & Gloria," "Bob"). She plays Tracy, a single woman approaching 40 who decides to have a baby through artificial insemination.
And the show breaks down the fourth wall - Tracy speaks directly to the audience as she tells the tale of her life. Including, in Tuesday's premiere, how she decided to do what she did.
"My brother said you wouldn't watch this because most of the country thinks artificial insemination is weird," Tracy says. "Well, I had it - it is weird. . . . But if its going to be your only chance to make your own family, it's also a miracle."
"Oh Baby" has strong writing, a great lead and a superior supporting cast - the fabulous Joanna Gleason as Tracy's best friend; Jessica Walters as her mother; and Daniel Hugh Kelly as her boyfriend.
It's smart, funny and entertaining stuff.