While no one could confuse three-time ratings-champ CBS’ older-oriented programs with fourth-place Fox’s youth-appeal shows, both networks’ fall schedules have one thing in common: A majority of the new series are dramas. Could this mean the end of the decade-long reign of sitcoms as the predominant TV genre? (Consider that Bill Cosby, whose Cosby Show single-handedly revived sitcoms in 1984, is starring in a new NBC drama, The Cosby Mysteries.) Probably not as long as shows like Home Improvement and Seinfeld continue to rule the Nielsens. But not every stand-up comic in America can count on getting his own sitcom — at least not on CBS or Fox.
Not surprisingly, the first-place network is standing firm, moving only one old show to a new time slot (John Ritter’s Hearts Afire, to Saturday at 9:30 p.m.) and adding a conservative (read: dull) roster of new series. Evening Shade, Tom, Traps, 704 Hauser, and The Road Home get the boot. Christy and Burke’s Law will return at mid-season, and In the Heat of the Night will air as a series of four two-hour movies. CBS’ new shows are:
*The Boys Are Back (Mondays, 8-8:30 p.m.) Or My Three Sons: The Next Generation. Hal Linden and Suzanne Pleshette play parents whose trio of grown boys returns home. Hilarity ensues.
*Daddy’s Girls (Wednesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) Or My Three Daughters. Dudley Moore plays a fashion executive whose trio of nearly grown girls helps him deal with his divorce. Hilarity oh, never mind.
*Touched by an Angel (Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m.) Roma Downey (A Woman Named Jackie) stars as a guardian sent from above to protect endangered children in L.A. It’s sappy as hell, but then again Highway to Heaven ran for four seasons.
*Due South (Thursdays, 8-9 p.m.) A Dudley Do-Right Canadian Mountie, (Paul Gross) teams up with a weaselly Chicago cop (David Marciano) in this series based on April’s surprise-hit TV movie.
*Chicago Hope (Thursdays, 10-11 p.m.) More medical ethics debates from Picket Fences executive producer David E. Kelley. Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin head the cast of this ensemble doctor drama, which airs opposite NBC’s new Chicago hospital opus, E.R. *Under Suspicion (Fridays, 9-10 p.m.) An Americanized Prime Suspect, with Karen Sillas as the lone female detective in a squad room full of male chauvinist pigs. *The Five Mrs. Buchanans (Saturdays, 9-9:30 p.m.) A New York Jew (Designing Women’s Judith Ivey) unites with her disparate sisters-in-law — a Texas ditz, an Indiana snob, and a California ingenue — in distaste for their evil mother-in-law (Eileen Heckart).
On the heels of its deal to acquire 12 CBS, ABC, and NBC affiliates, the network is shaking things up, shifting its hottest show, Melrose Place, to Monday at 8 p.m., where it will battle NBC’s Fresh Prince/Blossom hour, ABC’s Coach and Blue Skies, and CBS’ Boys Are Back and Dave’s World. Fox Night at the Movies moves to Tuesday, and The Simpsons slides to Sunday at 8 p.m., pushing Martin and Living Single to Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. South Central, The Sinbad Show, In Living Color, Herman’s Head, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and Code 3 have been axed. The George Carlin Show will be back later in the season. Fox’s freshman class:
*Party of Five (Mondays, 9-10 p.m.) A softhearted neighbor to Melrose, this family drama concerns an irresponsible 25-year-old (Matthew Fox) struggling to raise his four orphaned siblings.
*Models, Inc. (Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m.) A hot-blooded neighbor to 90210, this soap follows the ruthless owner of a modeling agency (Linda Gray, Heather Locklear’s Melrose mama) and her comely charges.
*Uptown Undercover (Thursdays, 9-10 p.m.) NYPD Blue meets Miami Vice: A new-jack cop show set in the Big Apple about a pair of club-hopping crime-busters (Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo).
*M.A.N.T.I.S. (Fridays, 8-9 p.m.) Sam Raimi (Darkman) and Sam Hamm (Batman) are cocreators of this African-American superhero show starring Carl Lumbly and spun off from January’s TV movie. Could fit better with The X-Files than Brisco County did.
*Fortune Hunter (Sundays, 7-8 p.m.) Fox hopes 007-like spy Carlton Dial (Mark Frankel) will keep football fans from flipping the dial to 60 Minutes or NBC’s new sci-fi series, Earth 2. Don’t bet on it.
*Hardball (Sundays, 8:30-9 p.m.) A locker-room sitcom about a hapless pro baseball team. The perfect show for all those people who just can’t wait for Major League 3.
*Wild Oats (Sundays, 9:30-10 p.m.) Two Generation X bachelors stay out all night looking for love in all the wrong places. Reality bites, indeed.