Fall TV preview: Friday returning shows | EW.com


Fall TV preview: Friday returning shows

'Providence,' 'The Hughleys,' and other shows returning to start the weekend in fall 1999

NBC 8-9 PM Starts Sept. 24

Don’t expect the powers that be at Providence, NBC’s saintly sleeper hit, to mess with success in its second season. As creator John Masius puts it, ”There wasn’t much that was broken, so there’s not a lot to fix.”

While cranky critics may beg to differ (one even christened the unabashedly sentimental drama ”must-flee TV”), Masius and crew are obviously doing something right. Since its January bow, the series — in which follicularly blessed plastic surgeon Sydney Hansen (Melina Kanakaredes) trades performing tummy tucks in L.A. for firming up familial ties back East — has become the Peacock’s highest-rated new drama since ER. Even more impressive, Providence has managed to draw young women to NBC’s traditionally male-skewing Friday night (it even finished the season ahead of Ms. McBeal in the desirable distaff demo). The show’s rapid rise also prompted the other nets to sprinkle their fall schedules with female-friendly dramas, including CBS’ Judging Amy, which just happens to focus on a follicularly blessed corporate lawyer (Amy Brenneman) who chucks a lucrative practice in New York City in favor of — that’s right — familial bonding back home in Connecticut. Cracks Masius, ”Imitation is the sincerest form of television.” Maybe. But the ultimate sign that Providence has arrived? ”The Hansen house is now part of the Universal Studios tour!” says Kanakaredes. ”That’s pretty wild.”

Another jaw-dropper: In under eight months, the 32-year-old Kanakaredes has gone from being ”that actress with the tongue-twister last name” to a question on Jeopardy! to the female lead in Robert De Niro’s new flick, Fifteen Minutes. ”I’ve been working 30 days straight,” she says, ”trying to finish the movie in New York and shoot Providence in L.A. At this point, I’m ready for Syd to play patient and just be in a coma.”

Masius, however, has other plans for the good doctor: Look for Syd to move out of chez Hansen, leaving Dad (Mike Farrell), sis Joanie (Paula Cale), and kid bro Robbie (Seth Peterson) to fend for themselves. A two-hour Thanksgiving episode will focus — à la It’s a Wonderful Life — on how things would’ve been if Mom (Concetta Tomei) hadn’t died. And finally, ”Syd might actually have sex!” says Kanakaredes. The most likely suspect: her cancer-stricken high school sweetheart, Kyle (Tom Verica), who may lose an arm to the disease. ”That would certainly be the bold choice,” says Verica. ”But I don’t know if the network is prepared to see Syd [making love to] a one-armed man.” — SHAWNA MALCOM