Townsend Television (Fox, 7-8 p.m.)
Concept: Ed Sullivan for In Living Color fans.
Our Take: Comedian-filmmaker Robert Townsend (Meteor Man) hosts this hour of skits, spoofs, and musical performances. As has been true of all of Townsend’s projects, the chief drawback may be Townsend himself, since his constant geniality regularly verges on blandness. Still, in the show’s pilot episode, he pulls off a deft detective spoof, playing the title role of ”Nigel Spider,” and he has had the good taste to have spotted budding comic talent in his choice to play Nigel’s big, goofy sidekick, Mad Dog: rapper Biz Markie, who’s a natural scene stealer.
Behind the Scenes: The Sunday-at-7 slot is generally reserved for ”family programming,” but some of Townsend’s planned sketches (”Rodney King: The Musical”) seem a bit questionable. ”I will always try to be tasteful,” Townsend vows. ”If a gag is too easy, if it’s a cheap shot, if 50 people have thought of it, I don’t want that gag.” Townsend also may send up the show that has long owned the time slot, CBS’ 60 Minutes, with the spoof ”6.5 Minutes.” He jokes, ”Fox has told me if we don’t knock them out of the box quick, I’m in big trouble.”
Prediction: He’s in big trouble.
seaQuest DSV (NBC, 8-9 p.m.)
Concept: Jaws meets The Abyss.
Our Take: Steven Spielberg brought Roy Scheider to prominence when he directed the actor in the 1975 classic Jaws; now Scheider comes to network television in another watery Spielberg vehicle. Set in the year 2018, this adventure- fantasy takes place primarily on seaQuest, a 1,000-foot-long, fancy-schmancy submarine, with Scheider playing its commander, Capt. Nathan Bridger. The show costars, most prominently, Spielbergian special effects and derring-do, but also Beverly Hills, 90210’s Stephanie Beacham and The Round Table’s Stacy Haiduk. The pilot featured the odd villain-casting of the season thus far: Charlie’s Angelic Shelley Hack.
Behind the Scenes: With a 22-episode order (at a reported $2 million a pop), Spielberg’s seaQuest DSV is the most expensive television series in history, so it’s no wonder that NBC ordered what network Entertainment president Warren Littlefield nautically termed ”a course correction” (read: some scenes were reshot) after a disastrous summer screening of the pilot for critics drew hoots and hisses. One wag dubbed the series ”seaQuest PMS” because of its hostile female characters. ”In an effort to make a premier film, you try to give everyone a little edge, to keep the conflict alive,” Scheider says. ”In the future, I think we can find other ways to do that. We will get much mellower.”
Prediction: Journey to the bottom of the ratings.