It Had to Be You (CBS, 8-8:30 p.m.; premieres Sunday, Sept. 19, 8-8:30 p.m.)
Concept: Bonnie and Clod
Our Take: In Faye Dunaway’s first TV series, she and Robert Urich play a new couple — she’s a publisher, he’s a carpenter — and her character must adjust to being a substitute mom to the three children from Urich’s previous marriage. The premise is cookie-cutter sitcom stuff, right down to the trio of young hunky boys. The series depends upon the odd-couple casting of Dunaway and Urich. Her comic haughtiness and his affable ordinariness make for one of the season’s more novel pairings.
Behind the Scenes: And you thought Dunaway and Urich were a strange duo — It Had to Be You was originally developed for former fashion waif Twiggy and TV tough-guy Terence Knox (Tour of Duty). After they were dropped, Dunaway was signed, and she set her sights on Urich. ”Faye was unrelenting in her pursuit,” Urich says, recalling that she sent both telegrams and flowers to convince him. ”My wife said, ‘Bob, if she’s this persistent about getting who she wants to star with her in the show, she’s gonna be the same way about scripts, publicity, and time slots.’ And I said, ‘You know what, you’re right.”’
Prediction: It has the best shot of the three new shows challenging Family Matters.
Against the Grain (NBC, 8-9 p.m.; premieres Oct. 1)
Concept: Coach played for no laughs.
Our Take: A drama about a small-town Texas football coach (John Terry) and his family, the series attempts to go against the grain of this TV season with its serious depiction of a close-knit clan and a realistic portrayal of high school athletics. Like just about every other show around, this one has three kids in the family, and Grain’s biggest challenge will be to avoid becoming an I’ll Fly Away without substance.
Behind the Scenes: High school football players hmm. Think there’ll be lots of locker-room scenes with bare-chested young men? Not if Ben Affleck (School Ties), who plays the coach’s beefy quarterback son, can help it. ”[Locker-room scenes] make me a little uncomfortable,” Affleck says. ”Not because I’m embarrassed about my body, but because I don’t want to get into a thing where it’s done just for that gratuitous effect, just to get young girls to watch.”
Prediction: They’re going to need lots of locker-room scenes to get young girls to watch this hard-sell series.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (Fox, 8-9 p.m.)
Concept: Indiana Jones with saddle sores.
Our Take: These are the escapades of Wild West adventurer Brisco County Jr. (horror-flick veteran Bruce Campbell), a rowdy guy with a Harvard law degree. Fox’s most imaginative new series parodies Westerns without excessive smugness. The key to the show’s freshness is the way it revives the concept of the cliff-hanger: Brisco’s frontier shoot-outs and horse chases won’t necessarily be wrapped up tidily at the end of each episode, making this Western wilder and more unpredictable than most.
Behind the Scenes: ”The crew on the pilot kept asking me why I was so nice,” says Campbell, who attributes his on-set agreeability to his own experience working on film crews. ”I’ve been on the other side. I’ve edited sound effects. I’ve done postproduction work. I know what the guy who does the focus on the camera does. If you insult him, you’ll be out of focus, and I’m not stupid.”
Prediction: Anyone remember Tales of the Gold Monkey? Bring ‘Em Back Alive? The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles?