THE KING OF QUEENS
CONCEPT A working-class guy (Everybody Loves Raymond's Kevin James) with simple desires e.g., a 70-inch TV and a loving wife (Fired Up's Leah Remini) finds his world pinched when his rascally father-in-law (Seinfeld's Jerry Stiller) moves in.
THE SCOOP James hopes it will remind viewers of The Honeymooners: ''They made funny stuff out of everyday things; that's what I want to do.'' And costar Remini says she doesn't mind being compared to Alice Kramden: ''I thought she was great. [Ralph and Alice] loved each other. That's what the show was about, not him yelling.''
BOTTOM LINE A solid, earthy sitcom and a strong, sensible bridge between Cosby and the fab Raymond.
CONCEPT Prodigal son (Saved by the Bell's Mark-Paul Gosselaar, above) goes home to start a company he hopes will save his small town's economy. Wouldn't you know, he's got a jealous brother gumming things up.
THE SCOOP Pretty low-rent considering the source: thirtysomething's Joseph Dougherty. Nonetheless, ''Joe says this is thirtysomething with more steak, less sizzle,'' says Gosselaar, who hopes to shake his teen-idol status: ''People feel like they were my best friend for six years; what can you do?'' Be grateful? Most actors never experience that sort of audience fealty.
BOTTOM LINE Opposite Ally McBeal, this Knots Landing landfill doesn't suggest an audience holder, despite a strong opener (7th Heaven).
WILL & GRACE
CONCEPT A straight woman (Prey's Debra Messing) and a gay guy (Eric McCormack) share an apartment. Lifestyles commingle for laughs.
THE SCOOP Razor-sharp writing, crack timing, and a terrific ensemble cast give this show quality buzz. Says McCormack: ''The relationships between gay men and straight women I know, they have more fun than anybody. Straight guys like me are jealous because of how much fun they have. We can show the audience part of that.'' Notes executive producer and cocreator David Kohan (Dream On), ''Look at all the tv shows, and outside of [Seinfeld's] Jerry and Elaine, I can't think of a man and woman who are a couple and who are close and compatible where the inevitable question isn't 'Will they or won't they?' Here they won't''
BOTTOM LINE The best thing Ellen hath wrought.
THE BRIAN BENBEN SHOW
CONCEPT High-strung TV anchor demoted to lifestyles reporter (Dream On's Brian Benben) copes and plots his way back to the top.
THE SCOOP Exec producer and Drew Carey Show vet Robert Borden says the doofus new anchor (Charles Esten) will be an ongoing nemesis for Benben, á la Kathy Kinney's Mimi on Drew. One promising plotline: Benben will go to an anger-management class and pack on the pounds while trying to control his temper. ''We'll put a little weight on him,'' says Borden, ''and see how he relates to women with the added girth.''
BOTTOM LINE The key to Benben's style is his air of desperation. Unfortunately, the whole show seems a little desperate frantic and overdone. Everything around him should calm down and sharpen up.
CONCEPT Four L.A. physicians Ken Olin, Matt Craven, Sheryl Lee, and Rick Roberts share a private practice.
THE SCOOP Says exec producer John Lee Hancock, ''It's a tough time to start a business as a doctor; we'll examine that.'' In the HMO era, it's even harder to be a patient; as Hancock notes, ''people are trying to figure out what to expect from a doctor. Also, how much is a doctor expected to give?'' Describing the story lines, Hancock says, ''We're not doing brain surgery.'' But the slick pilot, with Olin's oleaginous doc particularly unsympathetic, could use a few more brain cells.
BOTTOM LINE Watching the pilot was akin to sitting in a waiting room with a white-noise machine.