The first of the new "fall" shows makes its debut Sunday on Fox, but don't be frightened.

There are better things ahead than the new sitcom "Holding the Baby" (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 13).(Of course, there are also worse things - but that's an entirely different story.)

This is a comedy that starts off with this hiliarious premise - Gordon (Jon Patrick Walker), the workaholic father of an infant boy, is left "Holding the Baby" when his his wife runs off with another man.

And, of course, hilarity ensues.

We don't actually see the departing wife and mother, but we do get to hear Gordon's end of a telephone conversation with her. After Gordon asks how she could abandon her child, we hear, "You'll see him when you can? You're going to be in Tibet, Michelle! What do you expect me to do - put him in some bubble-wrap and Fed-Ex him to the Himalayas?"

Real side-splitting humor, huh?

Gordon isn't left entirely on his own. His hunky, dim-bulb brother Jimmy (Eddie McClintock) is also on hand - but he's there as comic relief. Or, at least, attempted comic relief.

Jimmy's major characteristics are his exceptionally low IQ and his exceptionally high libido. We first see him arriving home from a date and getting his tonsils nearly sucked out of his head by a gorgeous blonde.

"You're not even going to remember my name tomorrow," she says.

"I don't remember it now," Jimmy replies.

Not that he's completely useless. When Daniel gets sick and needs to go see his pediatrician, Jimmy remembers her name - because he had a one-night stand with her.

But Jimmy also manages to leave Gordon and young Daniel nanny-less when he accidentally climbs into bed with the current child-care giver and she quits.

Enter Kelly (Jennifer West-feldt), an attractive young grad student who comes into the consulting firm where Gordon works looking for a job as a part-time receptionist and leaves with a job as a nanny. She's the most capable of the bunch (not that that's saying much), although even Kelly has had little experience with babies.

And, of course, the possibility of some sort of romantic entanglement between Kelly and Gordon is left open.

Gordon is under pressure both at home and at work. His boss, Stan (Ron Liebman), is a caricature of the driven executive. Stan tells Gordon to choose between his family and his career and adds that he has made such choices himself.

"Tonight, I'm missing my kid's school play, and it's killing me," Stan says.

"Really?" asks Gordon. "Which kid is in a play?"

"Uhhh . . . you know, the short one," Stan replies.

"Holding the Baby" is not completely without merit. The actors are all pretty likable. And Gordon does indeed love his son - he chooses being a father over his high-pressure career in the pilot episode.

On the other hand, this is not exactly witty, erudite comedy. The show is replete with flatulence jokes and poop jokes and pee jokes and puke jokes.

One particular scene features a view (from behind) of young Daniel urinating on Gordon's secretary.

If any of this sounds appealing to you, you'd better tune in quickly. Chances are that "Holding the Baby" won't be with us for very long.

At least not if we're lucky.

SURVIVING THE BABY: This isn't a really good show, but you have to feel a little bit for everyone involved with trying to shoot a sitcom that features a real live baby.

"I was amazed when we saw the pilot," said Westfeldt. "They had to cut it together like a film, because just to get any usable shot was a real feat. You know, where the baby wasn't screaming, hair everywhere and toys everywhere."

Which is why, if you look closely, you'll be able to see that it's a doll - not a real baby - in a couple of scenes.

"The beautiful thing about working with a baby, though, is that when the baby's on the set, he's in charge," Walker said. "He's the boss."

Which doesn't make it easy for the actors.

"I thought the best part about working with the baby was when it wasn't on the set," McClintock said. "It was a little tedious for me."

Not that he dislikes babies or anything.

"I think when the baby starts crying on the set - because you feel bad for the baby because it's in front of the lights and all these people - you start thinking about the baby a lot more than your work," McClintock said.

And it was particularly hard for actress Sherri Shepherd, who plays Gordon's definitely non-maternal secretary, Miss Boggs.

According to executive producer Howard J. Morris, Shepherd is "the sweetest woman in America."

"Her personality is so completely different (from her character's), and she could not be hostile to the real baby," he said. "So, I mean, literally, she just couldn't do it. We actually dubbed in her voice in those places."

Still, all those problems have nothing to do with the fact that twins Brendan and Kyle McRob-erts, who play baby Daniel in the pilot of "Holding the Baby," will not be seen in any subsequent episodes of the show.

"He was a wonderful baby," Morris said of the McRoberts twins.

"Two wonderful babies," corrected Westfeldt.

And, despite the fact that the McRoberts boys had not reached their first birthday, it was their age that doomed them.

"The real sad thing is the ageism in Hollywood because, you know, 9 months and you're out," Morris joked. "No, the funny thing about a pilot is, you shoot it in March and then it comes on the air later, so we just have to recast the baby."

In other words, the baby that was 6 months old in March is almost a year old by the time the show goes into production in August. So a new, younger set of twins - Jordan and Carter Kemp - will play Daniel beginning in the second episode.

"If this baby turns into a wonderful actor, then he's our guy," Morris said. "We're going to stick with him.

"We're not just going to fire him like we did callously with the guy from the pilot," he added with a laugh.