With the spectacular February 2001 Sweeps period over (thrilling, wasn’t it?), your friendly broadcast networks are now rolling out the really good stuff. Are you buying that? Didn’t think so.
Mid-season replacement shows are usually lamer than lame, but there have been exceptions: Fox’s current hits Malcolm in the Middle, Titus and Grounded For Life were all mid-seasoners, as well as NBC’s Providence and the inexplicable Three Sisters. There are more, but the list of losers is far longer—remember Clerks? See if you can spot any winners here:
Kate Brasher (CBS, Saturdays, 8 p.m.) Looking to fill Walker, Texas Ranger’s recently vacated cowboy boots in the void of Saturday nights, CBS served up Kate Brasher two weeks ago, and the XFL was summarily squashed. OK, not really—the XFL is summarily squashing itself without an assist from what’s essentially Erin Brockovich minus the Julia Roberts cleavage farm and the agenda. Relatively flat Mary Stuart Masterson passes muster as single-mom-turned-community-activist Brasher, but Rhea Perlman, who spends every second onscreen yelling at people, is annoying even by Rhea Perlman standards.
Some of My Best Friends (CBS, Wednesdays, 7 p.m.) It’s gotta suck being known only as Justine (Family Ties) Bateman’s brother, but Jason Bateman hasn’t shown much tenacity to move beyond it—Teen Wolf Too or The Hogan Family, anyone? In this generically named sitcom—Crap Ahoy! was taken—Bateman plays non-stereotypical gay guy Warren (think Will & Grace’s Will) who ends up sharing an apartment with stereotypical Italian meatball Frankie (think Friends’ Joey playing Italian, times 10), all the while dealing with mega-stereotypical gay-Asian neighbor Vern (think Will & Grace’s Jack, squared by Margaret Cho, times Pi). A Sopranos crossover with Queer as Folk would have been waaay funnier than this.
Big Apple (CBS, Thursdays, 9 p.m.) Along with actors whose work includes such acclaimed bullet points as Reservoir Dogs, L.A. Confidential, NYPD Blue, Brooklyn South and Men of Honor, gritty New York crime drama No. 374 also boasts Al Bundy (Married With Children’s Ed O’Neill) and the “bad boy” from New Kids on the Block (Donnie Wahlberg). The intertwined worlds of the FBI, beat cops and the Mob would seem like fertile cop-show ground, but Big Apple is all yakkin’ and no action. The debut episode did, however, set a record for getting to the obligatory strip-club scene (15 minutes in), but even the other unemployed New Kids were watching ER.
The Lone Gunmen (Fox, Sunday, 8 p.m.; moves to Fridays, 8 p.m. on March 16) Fox knows full well that this conspiracy-chasin’ trio from The X-Files doesn’t exactly have industry-standard leading-man looks (or even catering-man looks), hence the inclusion of Yves Adele Harlow, a sizzling exotic beauty who’s also their equal in the master-hacker spy biz—strictly on the V.I.P plane of reality. Expect fanboy websites dedicated to actress Zuleikha Robinson to pitch cyber-tents in the hundreds within weeks. The second episode this Sunday introduces Jimmy Bond, who’ll be bankrolling the Lone Gunmen’s expose newspaper after his previous venture, a blind football league, falls through. Insert XFL joke here.
The Fighting Fitzgeralds (NBC, Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.) “NBC has assembled an all-star creative team of proven winners such as Brian Dennehy and Edward Burns, and the result is an entertaining and inviting family comedy for all ages,” says NBC Entertainment prez Jeff Zucker of this Irish-clan sitcom. “The core of the humor derives from the realistic relationships and as a result, we feel confident that the audience will come to know and love all of The Fighting Fitzgeralds.” Uh-huh. Truth-o-meter translation: “It was either this or a ‘super-sized’ DAG.”
The Job (ABC, Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., beginning March 14) Easily the best thing coming this month, brought to you by comedian-turned-actor Denis Leary and The Larry Sanders Show writer Peter Tolan. Take NYPD Blue, punch up the funny, compact it into 30 minutes, add causti-comic Leary, pretend it’s a cable show and watch it piss off everyone: Airing before 9 p.m., hellfire protest letters against The Job are oh-so-predictably guaranteed. As New York detective Mike McNeil, Leary takes everything to the extreme: cussing, slandering, drinking, smoking, popping pills, cheating on his wife—and yet he still winds up on a date with supermodel Elizabeth Hurley (played almost convincingly by supermodel Elizabeth Hurley) in the March 21 episode … Denis Leary is a hero to all men.
With its NYPD Blue jitter-focus camera style, omnipresent hip-hop theme in place of an idiotic laugh track and near-total lack of sitcom niceties, The Job is either going to go over big or go down in flames in a matter of weeks. Then it’ll go to cable, where it probably belongs anyway, and uptight Americans can have their safe little Spin City or Dharma & Greg back—or maybe even ABC’s brand-new Crap Ahoy!