George (ABC, 8-8:30 p.m.; premieres after October)
Concept: Here and Now, round two.
Our Take: Ex-heavyweight champ George Foreman stars as a family man who starts a youth center in a poor neighborhood. The idea seems to be to surround the gruff but friendly Foreman with sweet but smart-alecky kids, and to play up the guy-with-a-big-appetite image the boxer has cultivated in recent years. Typical gag line from George: ”Go eat your breakfast — before I do.” Float like a butterfly, eat like a bear?
Behind the Scenes: Designing Women‘s Sheryl Lee Ralph declined the role of Foreman’s wife twice — first because she thought Women would be renewed, and again because she was scheduled to replace Bernadette Peters in The Goodbye Girl on Broadway. After both projects fell through (and the pilot had been shot with Suzzanne Douglas in the role), the producers called again. ”I said, ‘Hell, yes, I’ll do it!”’ Ralph says. ”I was never meant to turn this show down.”
Prediction: Won’t be standing at the season’s final bell.
The Mommies (NBC, 8-8:30 p.m.; premieres Sept. 18, 9-9:30 p.m.)
Concept: Roseanne times two.
Our Take: Two real-life mothers who formed a comedy stage act a few years ago, newcomers Marilyn Kentz and Caryl Kristensen have parlayed the boom in baby-boomer sitcoms into a series. A couple of wisecracking best friends who live next door to each other, they josh their way through their suburban existences. The Mommies suggests that sisterhood is at least as bonding as motherhood. David Dukes (Sisters) and Robin Thomas (as the father of Murphy Brown’s love child) have the rather thankless roles of the mommies’ husbands.
Behind the Scenes: Kentz and Kristensen were once homemakers intrigued by the idea of show business, but they deny any parallel to Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz. ”Our husbands weren’t like Ricky or Fred at all. They were encouraging from the start,” says Kentz. Kristensen adds, ”We would never have been like Lucy. We wouldn’t try to get into Ricky’s show. We’d start our own damn band. I watch that show now and think, ‘Hey, Lucy, start your own show — stop asking Ricky for permission. I mean, come on already!”
Prediction: A difficult birth — many men may not want to watch it, so it will have to draw lots of female viewers away from the mighty Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Cafe Americain (NBC, 8:30-9 p.m.; premieres Sept. 18)
Concept: Cheers on the Champs-Elysées.
Our Take: Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time, Sydney) has spent the past few years establishing herself as a queen of the women-in-jeopardy TV movie. She returns to the sitcom here, playing a recently divorced woman, Holly, who moves to Paris and gets a job in a small restaurant. Expect lots of language- confusion jokes, as Bertinelli’s character, who doesn’t speak a word of < French, settles into her new life. And if the French characters here continue to spout the pidgin English they do in the pilot (''If I might be with you frank''), expect even ruder service than usual the next time you visit France.
Behind the Scenes: Turmoil is already on the menu at Café Americain: British stage actress Lila Kaye, who played the role of the bistro’s owner in the pilot, was supposed to be replaced by Marion Ross (Happy Days, Brooklyn Bridge). But after a single reading of the script, the show’s producers and Ross agreed that she was not right for the character. Kaye was rehired for the role but won’t be able to appear until the series’ fourth episode. For her part, Bertinelli is trying to stay out of this messy casting situation; when Ross was first hired, Bertinelli said she didn’t know why Kaye had been let go and dismissed the decision as a ”network thing.” Unlike her last series, the 1990 CBS private-eye sitcom flop Sydney, Bertinelli’s just the star of the show this time, not an executive producer as well. ”I have a child now,” she explains, ”and I really like going home at a decent hour.”
Prediction: A speedy au revoir.