(ABC, 8-9 p.m.)
*CONCEPT: Bonanza meets Robin Hood.
*COMMENTARY: The season’s goofiest attractive-group-of-young-people show is this howler about an English knight’s family life in the Middle Ages. Sir Thomas Gray (Nigel Terry) is raising four kids in a fully moated castle; they’re all bodacious young adults in chain mail—the most familiar face belonging to Ione Skye (Say Anything, Gas Food Lodging). Cross is supposed to be an action drama with comic moments, but the sight of these shaggy pinups wielding swords and bows whenever they’re not asking for the keys to the horse—well, the whole thing’s pretty ludicrous.
*BEHIND THE SCENES: News of cast changes comes from Glenn Quinn, who will be seen on both Roseanne (where he is Becky’s soon-to-be-husband) and Cross (where he plays Cedric, the gentlest of the sons): ”I think they’re canning one of my brothers. One of them is going off to the Crusades, sadly enough. (Test) audiences couldn’t distinguish between them-they were like ‘Richard, William—who the f— is who?’ I had the same problem.” Cross’ suits of armor probably didn’t help. ”Actually,” says Quinn, ”it’s fiberglass. They painted it to look like armor.”
*CHANCE OF SURVIVAL: Unless it attracts a very unlikely cult following, nil.
(CBS, 8-8:30 p.m.; premieres Sunday, Sept. 13, 8-8:30 p.m.)
*CONCEPT: I Love Lucy meets Shirley Valentine.
*COMMENTARY: Frannie is a housewife and mother; the ”turn” in the title refers to her decision to work as a seamstress. A sitcom about the blossoming of a middle-aged working woman, the show is also about cultural differences; Frannie’s husband (Tomas Milian) is a Cuban-American whose machismo conflicts with Frannie’s feminism. And though you’d never know it from Frannie’s broad all-Amurrican accent, she’s played deftly by an English actress, Miriam Margolyes. All of which makes Frannie’s Turn interesting; now let’s hope it gets funny.
*BEHIND THE SCENES: Many find Frannie’s Turn a strange choice to anchor an entire night for CBS; even some network insiders concede that the pilot is unexceptional, and in fact, Imogene Coca, originally cast as Frannie’s mother-in-law, has already left the show. For the record, CBS remains cheerful. ”For six years, the heart of NBC’s Saturday-at-eight success was with Golden Girls,” says CBS vice president Peter Tortorici. ”We’re going after that type of audience, and I think Frannie will click—she’s a woman in her 50s coming of age and saying, ‘What about me?”’
*CHANCE OF SURVIVAL: We knew the Golden Girls. The Golden Girls were friends of ours. Frannie, you’re no Golden Girl.
HERE AND NOW
(NBC, 8-8:30 p.m.; premieres Sept. 19)
*CONCEPT: Theo Huxtable meets some Little Boyz N the Hood.
*COMMENTARY: The Cosby Show’s Malcolm-Jamal Warner plays A.J., an earnest psychology student closing in on a graduate degree while doing volunteer work in a Manhattan youth center. A.J. advises his impoverished young charges on ways to escape the ghetto. Right off the bat, the primary problem with this show is that heavy inner-city problems must, on a sitcom, be played for laughs-the first episode’s story, about A.J. confronting a youth gang, seems all too tidily resolved.
*BEHIND THE SCENES: ”It’s a community with serious problems,” says executive producer Richard Vaczy of Here and Now’s locale. ”Guns, knives, fathers checking out. We showed it to some kids in L.A., and they said they found it very real.” But viewers may not be looking for message-driven reality in a Saturday-night sitcom; in fact, some of the pilot’s dialogue would be more at home in a motivational speech than a comedy. ”The network was scared of the pilot,” says Vaczy. ”They thought it was too real.” But, he assures, ”we’re writing it only one way. Funny.”
*CHANCE OF SURVIVAL: Not bad, but only because the competition is weak.