The 1991 Fall TV Preview Thursday | EW.com

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The 1991 Fall TV Preview Thursday

The 1991 Fall TV Preview Thursday -- All of the information you need on this seasons new and returning shows

Pros & Cons
Last season, James Earl Jones starred in Gabriel’s Fire, a ponderous, humorless drama about Gabriel Bird, an ex-con-turned-detective — and last month he won an Emmy for it. But in an attempt to boost that downer’s mediocre ratings, the show has metamorphosed into Pros & Cons: Jones’ Bird will be joined by Richard Crenna as detective Mitch O’Hannon, the series will move from Chicago to L.A., and lighter moments — perhaps even a joke or two-are promised. Crenna has been so good recently in his string of Frank Janek TV cop-movies that he might indeed liven things up. But the big question is whether viewers want to watch two excellent actors huff and puff through what last year was a pretty standard action show.

Behind the scenes
Trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Gabriel’s Fire, the producers of Pros & Cons briefly considered scrapping Bird’s character and starting from scratch with a new James Earl Jones series. Instead, they jettisoned most of the supporting cast (Laila Robins, Dylan Walsh, and Brian Grant are out, but Emmy-winner Madge Sinclair returns as Josephine) and offered Jones a short list of potential costars (he picked Crenna, with whom he worked in the NBC movie Last Flight Out). This fall, Jones vows to re-create Bird without ”the moroseness my character tended to bring with him (last season),” and indeed, Gabriel will have reason to cheer up: The writers plan to have him marry Josephine later this year.

Chance of survival
Improving on last year’s rock-bottom ratings shouldn’t be hard, but airing opposite Cosby and The Simpsons, Pros isn’t going to start any fires. Nonetheless, ABC has ordered 22 episodes, and the network will probably settle for a decent third-place finish.

Drexell’s Class
In television’s apparently unending attempt to find the terrific Dabney Coleman a comfortable sitcom vehicle, Fox has made him a con man sentenced not to prison but to something worse: a job teaching a fourth-grade class of wisenheimers. Problem is, Coleman already had his perfect TV show — Buffalo Bill — and it proved too mean-spirited for most of the public. So, in the scenes we’ve seen from this one, it looks as if Coleman has turned his misanthropy meter down to ”crabby” and ends up seeming like little more than a petulant scold.

Behind the scenes
Frenzied title changes are usually indicative of a new show’s poor health, and Drexell’s Class is already the third attempt at finding a label for this kidcom. Coleman says the first, Shut Up Kids, was ”a little negative” (more important, Fox found that focus groups hated it); then came Oh No, Not Drexell. Another area of fine tuning may be the class itself. ”If you don’t (get the right kids),” Coleman told reporters this summer, ”it’s not going to be much fun.”

Chance of survival
By any name, Coleman’s irascibility may be a tough sell to young viewers; if Drexell can’t hold on to a large portion of Simpsons fans, another series will get a shot at Fox’s best time slot.

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