The rebirth of the drama (e.g., ER) may have been the story of this season, but that hasn’t stopped ABC and NBC — the No. 1 and No. 2 networks, respectively — from relying on sitcoms to fill their fall schedules. Six of NBC’s seven new shows are comedies, as are five of ABC’s eight new series. All three of ABC’s new dramas are bunched on Thursday: Charlie Grace and The Monroes counterprogram NBC’s comedies from 8 to 10 p.m., and Steven Bochco’s highly anticipated Murder One takes on ER at 10 p.m. ”I’m okay with it,” says Bochco of Murder’s tough time slot. ”Somebody’s got to go there. You can’t put a test pattern up.”
The network will gently tinker with its Tuesday and Wednesday comedy blocks. Roseanne and Coach will switch from Wednesday at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to the same slots on Tuesday, and Ellen will air a half hour earlier, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. But ABC was unusually aggressive in axing shows. Say bye-bye to the critically beloved My So-Called Life, the respectably rated Me and the Boys, All-American Girl, Thunder Alley, and Sister, Sister, and old standbys Matlock and Full House (also, more predictably, Day One and Extreme). And say hello to:
Tony Danza’s the boss as he executive-produces and stars in a sitcom about a Hoboken, N.J., detective who dates a bleeding-heart crime reporter (Full House’s Lori Loughlin). ”It was once set in Jersey City, but Hoboken sounds like a good place,” says Danza. ”That’s where Frank Sinatra comes from.”
The Drew Carey Show
The crewcut comedian, late of NBC’s short-lived The Good Life, headlines a low-rent version of Friends about a pack of slackers in Cleveland.
Bad Boys’ Tea Leoni plays a paparazzo rebounding from a bad marriage to a media baron. Watch for tabloid staple Anna Nicole Smith in the pilot.
We have reasonable doubts that Mark Harmon’s L.A. PI will survive against Friends. For this they canceled My So-Called Life?
Knots Landing’s William Devane lands in another prime-time soap: Here he’s the lusty patriarch of a Maryland political dynasty.
A hotshot L.A. lawyer (Daniel Benzali, NYPD Blue’s bald attorney) defends a high-profile client (Kiss of Death’s Stanley Tucci) accused of killing his mistress’ teenage sister. The case will span the entire season — but it still might not outlast the O.J. trial.
Maybe This Time
A divorcee (Marie Osmond) and her widowed mother (Betty White) team up to run a coffee bar. So is Betty the one who’s a little bit rock & roll?
Somewhere in America
Southern-fried stand-up Jeff Foxworthy brings his humor to a family sitcom. ”It’s totally clean,” he says. ”I’m probably one of the cleanest comics working in the country.”
Inspired by last season’s successful transplants of Wings and Frasier from Thursday to Tuesday, the network will move its Thursday hits Mad About You and Hope & Gloria to Sunday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. opposite ABC’s Lois & Clark and CBS’ Murder, She Wrote. SeaQuest DSV slides to Wednesday at 8 p.m. to challenge Fox’s Beverly Hills, 90210, and Friends will shift from its post-Seinfeld slot to Thursday at 8 p.m. ”We’ve moved all over the place,” says Friends’ Jennifer Aniston, whose show originally aired Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ”We’ll try on a bunch of shoes and see what fits.” Gone are Earth 2, Blossom, Pride & Joy, The Cosby Mysteries, Mommies, Empty Nest, Amazing Grace, and Sweet Justice. The newcomers are:
Joey Lawrence segues from Blossom to a sitcom set in a Philadelphia garage and costarring his real-life kid brothers, Matthew and Andy. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
Stand-up Rondell Sheridan plays a shticky child psychologist with two precocious brats (Bobby E. McAdams II and Camille Winbush).
Pursuit of Happiness
From the creators of Frasier comes a comedy about a Chicago attorney (The Untouchables’ Tom Amandes) with a gay partner (Brad Garrett) and a buttinsky brother-in-law (Larry Miller).
The Single Guy
A lonely bachelor (Jonathan Silverman of Weekend at Bernie’s) finds himself surrounded by married friends, including ER’s Ming-Na Wen. ”She’s a downtown girl — very different from Deb [on ER],” says Wen of her new role. ”And I’ll get to wear sexier clothes.”
Caroline in the City
Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson leaps to TV as a New York City cartoonist in a sitcom from hitmaker James Burrows (Cheers, Friends). ”Hopefully, this will be a long marriage,” says Thompson. ”So it’s nice to be in bed with good people.”
The title stands for Judge Advocate General — a Navy lawyer (Melrose Place quarterback David James Elliott) investigating military mysteries.
Tne Home Court
Grand wasn’t, and Family Album flopped, but Pamela Reed returns as a hard-case Chicago judge trying to keep her four kids in order.