Wanna ogle bikinied secret agents in Mexico, learn a thing or two about the sex lives of sea horses, or catch Daryl Hannah on a Godzilla-like rampage? Then flip away from the networks and turn to cable, syndication, and PBS. Some new alternative highlights:
VERDICTS (Court TV, October) A real-life courtroom series that downplays boring legal technicalities like testimony and cross-examinations and gets right to the good stuff — the look on defendants’ faces when they learn whether the jury finds them guilty or not guilty.
TRASHED (MTV, October) A game show Beavis and Butt-Head could love. Contestants gamble personal possessions by answering questions on topics like ”MTV Plugged” (balding rock stars), ”Heavy Petting” (the animal kingdom), and ”Tori Spelling” (a spelling bee).
DRIVE-IN REVIEWS (Comedy Central, October) Chicago radio shock jocks Julian Kilman and Tony Fitzpatrick do Siskel and Ebert-style reviews of the month’s most violent home videos; includes clips.
ZELDA (TNT, Nov. 7) A made-for-cable movie starring Natasha Richardson as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fruitcake wife and Timothy Hutton as the boozy novelist.
ATTACK OF THE 50-FT. WOMAN (HBO, December) John Kennedy Jr. sidekick Daryl Hannah stars in a pseudo-feminist remake of the ’50s sci-fi flick about a socialite who grows to huge proportions after getting zapped by an alien ray. Spi¨al Tap-per Christopher Guest directs.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA PRESENTS VH-1 MUSIC FILMS (VH-1, September) The Godfather director attempts to push music videos a notch higher on the evolutionary ladder with six ”long-form” (i.e. 23-minute) music vids.
And in ongoing cable series, Comedy Central’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 gets a new host, Michael J. Nelson, in October (say it ain’t so, Joel!); Showtime’s 30-Minute Movies features directorial debuts by Kathleen Turner and Meg Ryan; and HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show plays host to Jerry Seinfeld, Burt Reynolds, and Howard Stern.
Cobra (starts the week of Sept. 13) An hour-long action series with Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja) as an AWOL Navy SEAL recruited by a super-secret organization known as COBRA. Sounds like it could be really BAD.
ACAPULCO H.E.A.T. (starts the week of Sept. 27) Charlie’s Angels meets Baywatch in another spy series about a team of bikini-clad secret agents (including Catherine Oxenberg) who work out of a luxury hotel owned by a billionaire (played by Fabio) in that hotbed of espionage, the Mexican Riviera. (H.E.A.T. stands for Hemisphere Emergency Action Team — in case you were wondering.)
BABYLON 5 (starts in January) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gets some competition from a new sci-fi series also set in a seedy space station. This year’s two-hour pilot movie was way-cool, so DSN better get its engines in gear.
Ricki LAKE (starts Sept. 13) A newly trim Ricki Lake (John Waters’ Hairspray) enters the daytime talk show arena — and she’s not the only one. The Les Brown Show and The Bertice Berry Show arrive on the syndicated airwaves the same month.
And returning syndie series Star Trek: The Next Generation reportedly warps off the air at the end of this season (and warps back as a feature film in 1994), while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine outpost gets a face-life. Plus, Susan Faludi does a guest spot on Baywatch. (Joke.)
THE SECRET OF LIFE (Sept. 26-29, 9 p.m.) A show that gets to the DNA of the matter, reporting on breakthroughs in decoding life’s genetic blueprint.
JULIA CHILD — COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS (Oct. 2) The 81-year-old national treasure gets out of her kitchen and into the pots and pans of others’, including Jacques Pepin and Alice Waters.
DEATH: THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME (Oct. 4-5, 9 p.m.) How various cultures deal with the end of the road; includes visits to an Ashanti funeral in Ghana and a drive-through funeral parlor in Florida.
I’LL FLY AWAY (Oct. 11) The rebroadcast of NBC’s classy series starring Sam Waterston and Regina Taylor is introduced with a new two-hour movie that opens in the present and flashes back to ‘62.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION (Oct. 25, 9 p.m.) A sweeping new series from Henry Hampton (Eyes on the Prize) documents the economic, social, and psychological upheavals of the 1930s.
And in ongoing PBS series, Charlie Rose keeps on talking (and talking, and talking…), Great Performances and American Playhouse join forces for a production of Porgy and Bess, Nature presents ”The Nature of Sex” — a sordid peek into the sex lives of sea horses, tarantulas, and elephants — and ”In the Company of Wolves,” a documentary hosted by Timothy Dalton. Masterpiece Theatre introduces its new host, New York Times humorist Russell Baker.