Fall TV Preview 1997: Tuesday | EW.com


Fall TV Preview 1997: Tuesday

''Dellaventura,'' ''Over the Top,'' and ''Soul Man'' are some of the shows we examine

CBS, 10-11 PM

Do you think feature-film veteran Danny Aiello is up for the world of series television, as he takes the title role in the new avenging-investigator series Dellaventura? Just listen to the way he greets David Caruso, whose own new show, Michael Hayes, precedes Dellaventura on Tuesday nights. Spying the orange-haired actor across a crowded Pasadena restaurant, Aiello rises from his table and bellows, his great arms outstretched, ”David, you beautiful SOB, you better give me a good lead-in rating!” Caruso flashes a small grin, looks down at the floor, and calls out in a soft voice, ”Do what I can for ya, Danny.”

Danny Aiello knows from lead-in ratings? ”It’s a whole new hamburger,” he says, sitting back down again and picking up his — well, his hamburger. ”I’m learning the difference between movies and TV, but what I want to do is, I want to make the difference as small as possible. I want the quality — the excellence — to carry over.”

Aiello’s The Last Don was CBS’ top-rated miniseries last season, and network president Les Moonves says he called Aiello as soon as he saw Don’s numbers and pushed the 64-year-old actor to do a series. So the big-screen mainstay (Moonstruck, Do the Right Thing, Ruby) is out to conquer TV as Anthony Dellaventura, an ex-cop so disgusted with the bureaucracy of the police force that he forms an investigation firm with a bunch of similar-minded mavericks, including Anne Ramsay (Helen Hunt’s sister in Mad About You, and here a tough gal who’s going to surprise you).

Executive producer Richard DiLello says Moonves gave him a mandate: ”He wanted ‘The Equalizer with cojones,’ so this is going to have a lot of action.” And the network is confident Dellaventura is qualified to go up against ABC’s esteemed NYPD Blue; the scheduling makes a certain amount of sense, if you figure older viewers may well be looking for an alternative to Blue’s down-and-dirtiness. ”Danny has no interest in doing seminude love scenes, and his show is more black-and-white, less gray, than NYPD,” says DiLello. ”You’re never in doubt about the strength of the hero here.”

Aiello is known to be a very hands-on performer who’s not afraid to let his writers, directors, and producers know his opinions. ”Yes, yes, but do I deserve a label like ‘difficult’? I doubt it. Hey, I used to be a bouncer [in the New York comedy club The Improv]. That’s where I learned to be firm with people, and I saw too many performers mess up their careers by agreeing to do things they didn’t want to. So I don’t.”

Tell Aiello his show makes him look like a Kojak for the ’90s and his eyes light up. ”I love Telly Savalas!” he shouts. ”If Dellaventura could be half as good as Kojak, I could do what I dream about for this show: make it so good, my friends would want to appear on it.”

These ain’t just any friends, either. ”I want to be able to call up my friend Bobby De Niro and say, ‘Bobby, there’s a little b-story [a short plotline] I think you’re gonna love. Only take you two days to film.’ And he, or my friend Harvey Keitel, or Chris Walken, they might say, ‘Sure, ‘cause you’re doing good stuff there, with that Dellaventura.”’ Aiello says he’s already gotten Mikhail Baryshnikov to do a guest spot, ”because Mickey is a good friend of mine, and we have a story about Little Odessa, the Russian section of Brooklyn — it’s a part he wouldn’t ordinarily be given.”