The Chris Isaak Show (Showtime, Mondays, 11 p.m.) Somewhere between Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and This is Spinal Tap lies The Chris Isaak Show, a self-deprecating send-up of the handsome crooner’s rock-star lifestyle. Isaak usually separates his wicked sense of humor from his music, saving the funny for late-night talk shows. But he plays himself to subversively comic effect in the midst of the solid hour’s Sanders-like showbiz ensemble, which could only exist on pay cable. There’s R-rated language and nudity, but neither from Isaak himself—sorry, ladies. Between dealing with record-label weasels, neurotic managers, teenage music-video “geniuses,” psychotic girlfriends, lovable stalkers and his eccentric bandmates (played by his real band, Silvertone), it’s easy to laugh at (and with) Isaak and his immaculate hair. One scene in the debut episode even had him being lectured on girl problems and masturbation by his mother (actually played by his mom, a psychologist). This is either a cult hit or a massive bomb waiting to happen—it’s got another 16 weeks to blow up.
First Years (NBC, Mondays, 8 p.m., beginning March 19) Good-looking young San Francisco lawyers having and talking about too much sex to ever make it into a courtroom during their first-year practice? Wait, it gets better: Since they’re all recent graduates short on cash, they all live together in a funky house in Haight-Ashbury! When these Real World rejects actually do get around to debriefing something besides each other, the court cases are of the standard-issue Let’s Learn Valuable Lessons About Ourselves variety—not up to the level of la-la law “reality” you get on The Practice, or even direct competition Ally McBeal. Yeah, it’s that bad.
What About Joan (ABC, Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., beginning March 27) Joan Cusack (Grosse Point Blank, In & Out and dozens of other movies) has always been relegated to sidekick roles, and she’s always been funnier than most everyone she works with. Can she carry her own series, or will it wind up in flaming wreckage like ABC’s Kyra Sedgwick disaster of last year? Giving film actresses TV sitcoms is just not a good idea—Bette Midler’s middling Bette has just been canceled by CBS, by the way. But Cusack could prove to be the exception—as soon as she calms the hell down. As a Chicago high school teacher, she’s as blindingly spunky as her costars are bland. Still, housewives across America will be thrilled to see that nice young man from Early Edition again (Kyle Chandler), and Friends fans will wonder how their favorite ancillary lesbian character (Jessica Hecht) went from curvaceous to cadaverous. Watch for her slimming steamed clam diet in next month’s Redbook.
My Wife & Kids (ABC, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m., beginning March 28) If the idea of Damon Wayans starring in a network family sitcom sounds as lame-brained as Chris Rock doing a PG-13 movie, you’re right! Here, Wayans is a stay-at-home dad whose wife has scored a high-powered office career, leaving him to tend their three cute ‘n’ wisecracking kiddies. If you’re thinking you’ve seen this before and it was NBC’s whiter Daddio, you’re right again! If you’ve guessed the sucky title of My Wife & Kids was chosen over the ever-popular-at-Tube-Town Crap Ahoy!, you’re three for three!
Boot Camp (Fox, Wednesdays, 8 p.m., beginning March 28) In further Survivor knock-off news, 16 male and female contestants are shipped off to Marine training camp and put through the drill-sergeant wringer. Weaker grunts are voted out of the camp every week, and new squad leaders must be chosen, yadda yadda yadda—anything different? Yep: Dismissed players get to drag another down with ’em, and the final two left at the end face off in a grueling 48-hour marathon called The Gauntlet (watching 48 back-to-back Temptation Islands? The horror).
The Oblongs (The WB, Sundays, 8:30 p.m., beginning April 1) If Fox’s we-don’t-know-when-or-even-if-we’re-going-to-air-it live-action version of The Tick is the strangest thing in flesh ‘n’ blood primetime (and it will be, rest assured—spoon!), then The Oblongs takes the animation freak cake. An appendage-less family of mutants living by a landfill may not seem like a comedic launching pad, but watch after a few hits of your favorite recreational substance and vive la difference! For all its visual abnormalities, the family still seems swiped from other ’toons: Dad (voiced by Saturday Night Live’s Will Ferrell) is your typical TV pop; Mom is Marge Simpson; the conjoined twin sons are Duckman’s Charles and Mambo; the daughter is Madeline (with what appears to be an adult toy growing out of her head); and the youngest is Charlie Brown with ADD. The trades say he’s just joined Chris Isaak’s band.