ABC, 8:30-9 P.M.
Concept: Less friendly Friends. The Scoop: Molly Ringwald finally gives up on that movie career, surrounding herself here with a group of mostly amusing pals, all of them post-college layabout waitresses in working-class Gloucester, Mass. One of the actors playing a chum, Lauren Graham, offers these glimpses into future Townies riotousness: Unhappy with adult life, ”we try to do something to reclaim our youth. And I get a belly-button ring, and it gets infected, and I try to hide it from my husband.” Can’t wait. Bottom Line: Actually, while Molly is a tad stiff, Townies isn’t unpleasant (except for the character whose sole purpose is to be called a ”slut”). And ABC gets a new theme night: Working-Class Wednesday!
CBS, 8:30-9 P.M.
Concept: Middle-aged woman, Pearl, goes to college and gets a really grumpy teacher. The Scoop: The woman is Cheers’ Rhea Perlman, playing up the blue-collar angst. The cranky prof is Malcolm McDowell, chuckin’ his film career to give Pearl a hard time about Chaucer. ”It’s a magnificently written part,” quoth McDowell. ”I was terrified of doing television because it’s so much work to do in so little time, and I’m used to having a bit more time in movies and theater.” Yeah, yeah — get to the point: Any hanky-panky between your character and Pearl? ”I don’t think there will be romance, but who knows? Maybe in our seventh year.” Bottom Line: Smartly scheduled after The Nanny, this slight sitcom could end up seeing that romance blossom.
CBS, 9:30-10 P.M.
Concept: Barney Miller with a naughty mouth. The Scoop: Cocreator Steven Bochco goes sitcom, courtesy of executive producer Jay Tarses (The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd). The vice-squads-can-be-funny premise clears the way for cruder language than you’ve heard in a sitcom, plus numerous opportunities for prostitutes, transvestites, and all manner of flatulence jokes. Bochco is refreshingly frank about his taste for tastelessness: ”I love toilet jokes. I love scatological humor. I love Benny Hill. And I’m a dirtbag, what can I say?” Asked whether he believes there is not enough of that kind of humor on television already, Bochco says, ”Absolutely.” Bottom Line: Bochco likes his dramas dark; apparently, he likes his comedies dank.
Men Behaving Badly
NBC, 9:30-10 P.M.
Concept: Er, men behaving badly. The Scoop: ER’s Ron Eldard and SNL’s Rob Schneider star as guy’s-guys guys; Justine Bateman is Eldard’s long-suffering girlfriend. Talk to the folks involved in this reworking of a big British TV hit, and you get a lot of canine comparisons. Executive producer Matthew Carlson says the show is about ”what men are capable of doing…it’s not necessarily that men are pigs, it’s just men are capable of being idiots. And, I think, more dogs than pigs.” Eldard barks, ”Men are very much like big grown dogs…they can be trained really well in other areas but you never know when they’re going to lick themselves with company in the room.” Bottom Line: To switch metaphors: As the overripe cheese in the tasty NewsRadio-Law & Order hoagie, Men should perform goodly.