Sisters: Chris Haston
Kristen Baldwin
January 01, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Three Sisters” leads a slate of weak new TV series

This Christmas, Santa didn’t leave what I really wanted under the tree: New TV series that don’t suck! So far during the 2000-01 season, the networks have been woefully unsuccessful in launching compelling, quality new shows (four exceptions: the WB’s ”Gilmore Girls” and ”Grosse Pointe”; NBC’s ”Ed,” and the dear departed ”Titans”).

Well, I’m not going to turn all Scrooge just yet, because all across Los Angeles, TV execs are toiling away in their workshops to create a whole new sackful of series for what those in the biz like to call ”midseason” (loosely translated: ”second string crap that couldn’t make it on air the first time around”). Sure, they won’t be ready in time to stuff your stockings, but at least viewers have something to look forward to in the new year. Herewith, a peek…

”Three Sisters” (NBC, premieres Jan. 9) Good news for ”Newsradio” fans: Vicki Lewis is back! Bad news for ”Newsradio” fans: She seems to be channeling ”Suddenly Susan” star Kathy Griffin. But this estrogenfest — about a hapless husband dealing with his wife’s bond with her two kooky sisters — does have one thing going for it: It also stars A.J. Langer from ”My So-Called Life.” Rayanne lives!

”Grounded for Life” (Fox, Jan. 10) ”The Tao of Steve” star Donal Logue was hilarious in the original pilot of ”Ed” (he played bowling alley slacker Phil, now portrayed by Michael Ian Black), but he might have a harder time getting laughs in this hybrid of ”Malcolm”/ ”Married…With Children”/ ”every crass family sitcom Fox has ever tried.” Logue plays a dad who — whaddya know? — doesn’t always agree with his wife (Megyn Price) on how to parent their sullen teen (Lynsey Bartilson). Well, it can’t do worse than Logue’s last sitcom, the one episode wonder ”Public Morals.”

”All Souls” (UPN, spring) The mastermind of escapist TV, Aaron Spelling was dealt a nasty blow by NBC earlier this season when the network canceled his soap ”Titans,” but there’s no keeping this uberproducer down. He’s back this spring with this creepy haunted hospital drama. Grayson McCouch (four or five of you may recognize his name from UPN’s now defunct series ”Legacy”) stars as a young doctor who uncovers ghosts and hideous human experiments at his new job. The pilot is pretty darn scary, but also a lot more gruesome and disgusting than necessary. I’m sure the ”Smackdown!” crowd will love it.

”The Joan Cusack Show” (tentative title, ABC, spring) Cusack, like her brother John, can make anything funny, so building a sitcom around her makes a lot more sense than giving a series to, oh, I don’t know… Geena Davis. This Chicago set comedy finds the Oscar nominee playing a high strung high school teacher who just can’t figure out exactly how to make things work with her hunky banker boyfriend (”Early Edition” star Kyle Chandler). Adding a ”Sex and the City” vibe to the series is Cusack’s pack of chatty friends, sassy psychiatrist Ruby (Donna Murphy), and flaky Betsy (”Friends” vet Jessica Hecht). Who knows? What with Fox’s faculty drama ”Boston Public” pulling decent numbers, perhaps it’s time for teacher sitcoms to make a comeback too. It’s been far too long since ”Head of the Class.”

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