"Townsend Television" (Fox, 7 p.m.): Robert Townsend has a ton of talent. But resurrecting the variety show and running it against "60 Minutes" on CBS could take superhuman powers. And Superman is already busy with his own new show on ABC on Sundays nights, "Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman."
But don't write "Townsend Television" off. The skits are funny, and the musical segments in the pilot are knockouts. Premieres
"SeaQuest DSV" (NBC, 8 p.m.): How many TV bombs has Steven Spielberg had anyway? This one's a futuristic adventure starring Roy Scheider as the chief of a high-tech sub. Glub, glub, glub. Up periscope.
Did I mention the talking dolphin? Yes, there's a talking dolphin named Darwin in "SeaQuest DSV."
Can Darwin say "Family Dog"? Good boy, Darwin. Now fetch the nuclear submarine and don't chew the core. And remember, Darwin, it's survival of the fittest in prime time. Premieres tonight. (Only for Darwin.)
"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 8 p.m.): The producers say they're "updating the Superman myth for the '90s." I worry about Hollywood types who think they can update myths to suit the fashion of a decade. And what is the fashion of the '90s anyway?
In this romantic telling, Superman (Dean Cain) is a big hunk of a innocent farm boy come to Metropolis and just plumb bowled over by the chic, sophisticated star reporter of the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher).
The series will live or die on whether 12-year-old boys dream of Hatcher. I think she's kind of twerpy myself. But I'm not 12. Phyllis Coates, the original Lois now there's a woman. Premieres tonight.
"Living Single" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): A sitcom about four twentysomething, African-American women living in Brooklyn. Queen Latifah, who plays the publisher of fledgling magazine, could be the next "Roseanne" a blunt, no-nonsense TV persona the audience can identify with. Kim Coles is terrific as her ditsy cousin.
It's been compared to "Designing Women," but there's a lot more edge here. Fox premiered the series early, and the ratings have been strong. Premiered Aug. 22. 1/2 (With a bullet.)
"Daddy Dearest" (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): Richard Lewis is a recently divorced, baby-boomer, single-parent psychiatrist (a what?) whose father moves in with him. The father is played by Don
Think of it as "All in the Family," with Rickles as Archie and Lewis as Meathead only in the '90s, Meathead is paying the rent and is very, very neurotic.
I love Lewis. I hate Rickles. It's got a great time period, married to "Married ... With Children." Premiered Sept. 5. (But only if I never have to interview Rickles again and hear what a "dear, dear friend and great human being" Frank Sinatra is.)
"The New America's Funniest People" (ABC, 7:30 p.m.): New name and new co-hosts, with Dave Coulier, of "Full House." Each week, Coulier is joined by a different child star. As if this isn't the Year of the Kid already on TV. Season premiere Sept. 19.
"Married ... With Children" (Fox, 9 p.m.): Bud (David Faustino) Bundy goes to college. What a frightening thought. Talk about lowering academic standards.
I'm still adjusting to Shannen Doherty and the rest of the loveable "Beverly Hills 90210" crew going to college after four years of majoring in sex at Beverly Hills High. Season premiere aired Sept. 5.
"Dave's World" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.): The baby-boomer signature series of the TV year, with Harry Anderson, of "Night Court," as humor columnist Dave Barry, whining about having to be an adult. The pilot is wall-to-wall male fortysomething angst:
"If you saw me walking down the street, would you think I'm a hip, good-looking guy or a pathetic middle-aged fool?" Dave's boss asks him plaintively.
"I'm just a fossilized old fud," Dave says even more plaintively to his wife, played by DeLane Matthews.
The wisdom in "Dave's World" goes like this: "Adulthood is a big, sleek, snake . . . that swallows you." Being cool and staying hip is knowing all the words to "Louie, Louie" and buying a big amplifier for your guitar.
I think the show defines self-absorbed, yuppie whining, but give it credit for psyching out the mainstream male boomer in all his
baby-ness. Premieres Sept. 20. 1/2
"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 8 p.m.): The No. 1 show with African-American viewers ("Roc" is second) gets even better this year with Daphne Reid, once of "Frank's Place," taking over the role of Aunt Vivian. Meanwhile, Will (Will Smith) and Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) go to college.
Just think if the networks had gotten hip to college as a way of continuing series years ago. "Leave It to Beaver: The College Years." "Opie: From Mayberry to Chapel Hill." Season premiere Sept. 20.
"Blossom" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.): The girl-coming-of-age show takes Blossom to Paris in the season opener. We meet Blossom's mom, played by Melissa Manchester. Blossom won't go to college until next season. This year, she and brother Joey (Joey Lawrence) graduate from high school. Season premiere Sept. 24.
"Murphy Brown" (CBS, 9 p.m.): Baby Avery takes a back seat as CBS tries to get Murphy back on track with viewers. Scott Bakula joins the cast as a reporter. Season premiere Sept. 20.
"Love & War" (CBS, 9:30 p.m.): Annie Potts replaces Susan Dey as jet-set chef and love interest of Jack (Jay Thomas). Was it only a year ago, that producer Diane English told TV critics that Dey was one of the greatest comedic actors she had ever
worked with? Right. Season premieres Sept. 20.
"Northern Exposure" (CBS, 10 p.m.): The relationship deepens between Maggie (Janine Turner) and Joel (Rob Morrow). Does that mean he's going to start being pathetic and asking her if she thinks he's a fossilized old fud, like Dave Barry? Oh yeah, Shelly (Cynthia Geary) and Hollings (John Cullum) have a baby. Season premiere Sept. 20.
"Saved by the Bell: The College Years" (NBC, 8 p.m.): The "Saved by the Bell" boys move from Saturday mornings and high school to college and prime time. What kind of SAT scores do you think Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) got? Will Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, as Kelly, ever be asked to do any acting beyond getting in and out of a shower? And wait until you see former football player Bob Golic as a dormitory boss. Premieres Tuesday. 1/2
"Phenom" (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): A single mom (Judith Light) with a brood of three kids. The focus, though, is on the 15-year-old daughter (Angela Goethals), who's a phenomenal tennis player. Hence the title, pronounced Fee-nom.
Mispronunciations have led some critics to think this is a sitcom about a city in Cambodia. It isn't. But it is the most confusing title of the season on a sitcom that deserves better. William Devane, late of "Knot's Landing," plays the pro tennis coach who wrestles Light for the soul of her kid. Premieres Tuesday.
"Bakersfield P.D." (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): A weird police comedy about a big-city detective (Giancarlo Esposito) who somehow winds up working in Bakersfield with a very strange partner (Ron Eldard). Esposito is a person of color, while his partner is very white. Lots of ethnic jokes. Not a lot of laughs. Premieres Tuesday. 1/2
"The John Larroquette Show" (NBC, 9 p.m.): Simply the best sitcom of the new season with four-time Emmy winner Larroquette as a recovering alcoholic who works as night manager of the downtown bus terminal from hell.
Speaking of hell. . . . With all the savvy and intelligence we have come to expect from the programmers at NBC, they are putting this series on opposite "Roseanne" in the time slot from hell. Does anyone at NBC remember what such scheduling did to "Homicide" last spring? Premiered Sept. 2.
"The Second Half" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.): Comedian John Mendoza plays a Chicago sportswriter and divorced father of two girls. It's every bit as interesting and exciting as you might think a sitcom about a divorced Chicago sportswriter would be. Premiered Sept. 7.
"NYPD Blue" (ABC, 10 p.m.): The new cop drama from Steven Bochco that had the pickets marching outside ABC affiliates before they even saw the show.
It's a quality drama that Bochco pushes too far in terms of violence and needlessly harsh language to secure his title as Great Pusher of the Envelope on network television. Premieres Sept. 21. (You don't want to miss it.) 1/2
"Full House" (ABC, 8 p.m.): Mr. Danny (Bob Saget) marries Miss Vicky (Gail Edwards). What's Tiny Tim got to say about this? Season premiere Tuesday.
"Roc" (Fox, 8 p.m.): It's no longer live. Roc and Eleanor have a baby and adopt an 11-year-old girl (Alexis Fields). The girl can act. Season premiere was Aug. 31.
"Roseanne" (ABC, 9 p.m.): Darlene goes to art school in Chicago, but will still be seen in the show from time to time. Her boyfriend, David (Johnny Galecki), stays with the Connors and will be seen all the time. I think they got the short end of the stick on the David-for-Darlene trade. Season premiere Tuesday.
"Coach" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): Coach Hayden (Craig T. Nelson) and Christine (Shelley Fabares) want to have a little coach. Isn't that cute? Why not have three like everybody else on network
television this year? Season premiere Tuesday.
"Thea" (ABC, 8 p.m.): Stand-up comedian Thea Vidale gets her )) own show as a widow with four kids, and she delivers the goods.
Vidale is a major talent. And this is clearly the most talented crew of child and teen actors in a season drowning in them. The show also has a good time period. Should be one of the year's most successful newcomers. Premiered Sept. 8.
"The Trouble With Larry" (CBS, 8 p.m.): Bronson Pinchot plays Larry, a man who was presumed dead, but who shows up very much alive, to the surprise of his wife (Shanna Reed) and her new husband (Perry King). Should be the first show canceled if there is any justice in this world. Premiered Aug. 25. No stars. In fact, we should take stars away from other CBS shows to punish
the network for dumping this on us.
"Joe's Life" (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): Peter Onorati goes from lawyer in Mariel Hemingway's "Civil Wars" firm to laid-off Mr. Mom in a household with three kids. Mary Page Keller plays Ms. Dad, the breadwinner. The pilot was being reshot, so it wasn't available for preview. Premieres Sept. 22.
"The Nanny" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.): Fran Drescher is hired as a nanny to the three kids of a Broadway producer. It deserves the time slot after "The Trouble With Larry." It's the second-worst new sitcom of the year. No premiere date set. 1/2
"South of Sunset" (CBS, 9 p.m.): Former Eagles' guy Glenn Frey plays a down-and-out private eye (is there any other kind?) in Los Angeles. Frey makes nice music videos, and he was hot for a minute or two on "Miami Vice." But "South of Sunset" is opposite "Home Improvement, which means there's going to be a heartache Wednesday nights in the ratings for CBS. The network does not have a pilot available or even a premiere date set. This is not a good sign, Glenn.
"Grace Under Fire" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): Stand-up comedian Brett Butler plays the single mom of (da-dum) three kids. Butler has a just-folks appeal. And the producers introduce a budding relationship for her with a gentle soul played by Dave Thomas, once of "SCTV."
Produced by Carsey-Werner, of "Roseanne" fame, and blessed with just about the cushiest time period on television, after "Home Improvement," it's fairly safe to call "Grace" a sure-fire hit. Premieres Sept. 22. 1/2 (It loses half a star for an unnecessarily bitter tone in the pilot.)
"Moon Over Miami" (ABC, 10 p.m.): Good time period, terrible show. It's a romantic comedy about a slick private eye and the rich girl he loves-hates-loves. The "Moon" in the title is supposed to make you think of "Moonlighting." Premieres Wednesday.
"Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 8 p.m.): The West Beverly High gang goes to college. Will Shannen Doherty make the dean's list in pouting? Will Tori Spelling find a new sense of direction in Calculus 101? Only Fox could make this work. Season premiere aired Sept. 8.
"Home Improvement" (ABC, 9 p.m.): Tim loses his sponsor. Beyond that, not much change here. If it ain't broke ... Season premiere Wednesday.
"Melrose Place" (Fox, 9 p.m.): Rhonda (Vanessa Williams) gets written out of the show. Meanwhile, Amanda (Heather Locklear) takes over as owner of Melrose Place and goes after Jake (Grant Show). How could the Emmy folks possibly have passed over Heather Locklear as best dramatic actress? Go figure. Season premiere aired Sept. 8.
"Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.): It becomes less of a man's world with the addition of S. Epatha Merkerson as a police lieutenant and Jill Hennessy as an assistant district attorney. Unfortunately, Richard Brooks is gone. Season premiere Wednesday.
"Missing Persons" (ABC, 8 p.m.): Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Daniel J. Travanti, formerly Capt. Furillo on "Hill Street Blues," heads a missing person's unit in the Chicago P.D. A low-rent, no-talent, pointlessly bleak cop show that should be among the first cancellations. Premiered Aug. 30.
"The Sinbad Show" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): Another stand-up comic who gets his own show and comes through. Sinbad plays a young professional who winds up with two foster kids and a sudden crimp in his bachelor ways.
The word is that Fox is having some problems fine-tuning the show. But the pilot looked OK, and it's got a great time slot, after "The Simpsons." Premieres Thursday. 1/2
"Frasier" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.): Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) leaves Cheers-less Boston and returns solo to hometown of Seattle to be a radio talk-show shrink. But the newly single Crane picks up a family in a hurry, as his cranky dad, his dad's dog and dad's nurse all move in before you can say where's Lilith and the little Frasier?
It's not "Cheers," but with "Seinfeld" as a lead-in, it doesn't have to be. Premieres Thursday. 1/2
"Angel Falls" (CBS, 10 p.m.): I think it's a worthy successor to "Knot's Landing" as keeper of the prime-time soap opera flame. Chelsea Field returns to her small-town hometown in Montana as a thirtysomething single mom who sets men's hearts and pants on fire. Peggy Lipton, James Brolin, Kim Cattrall and Brian Kerwin appear in various states of undress.
As steamy as Field & Co. make "Angel Falls," it probably still won't be a ratings threat to Diane Sawyer and her red-hot ABC newsmagazine, "Primetime Live." Premiered Aug. 26. 1/2
"In the Heat of the Night" (CBS, 8 p.m.): Carl Weathers joins cast, and Howard Rollins becomes only an occasional player. Season premiere Thursday.
"The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.): No big changes. Biggest guest voice announced so far is Michelle Pfeiffer. Season premiere Sept. 30.
"Mad About You" (NBC, 8 p.m): New time period. Wonder how the let's-make-love-on-the-kitchen-table scenes will play with kiddies watching at 8. Season premiere Sept. 30.
"In Living Color" (Fox, 9 p.m.): New time period. Lots of new
faces as Fox tries to find its way after losing the Wayans. Anna Marie-Johnson and Carol Rosenthal among newcomers. Season premiere Thursday.
"Seinfeld" (NBC, 9 p.m.): No major changes. Thursday's first episode of the new season deals with the topic of orgasms. Think of it as a sequel to last year's episode on masturbation.
"L.A. Law" (NBC, 10 p.m.): Alan Rosenberg and Debi Mazur, late of Mariel Hemingway's "Civil Wars" firm, join McKenzie, Brackman. Meanwhile, Susan Ruttan is gone from the firm that has had more personnel changes in recent years than the San Diego Padres. Season premiere Oct. 7.
"It Had to Be You" (CBS, 8 p.m.): CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky is a brilliant programmer. But he has no idea how to reach kids at 8 o'clock. Remember "Uncle Buck"?
His latest bad idea is putting Faye Dunaway in a sitcom and placing it head-to-head against Steve Urkel and ABC's "Family Matters" at 8 on TGIF night.
Earth to Jeff. To you and me, Jeff, Faye Dunaway is sexy and glamorous. To an 8-year-old, she's Mommie Dearest.
Dunaway is an upper-crust publisher who falls for blue-collar Robert Urich, who has (yipes) three kids. It ain't Chinatown, Jake. Premieres Friday. 1/2
"Against the Grain" (NBC, 8 p.m.): A family drama about a baby-boomer dad in Texas who has a wife, three kids (you guessed it), and a mid-life crisis. He chucks his job to become a high school football coach in the land where football is God.
Not a bad show, but it's the victim of more knucklehead scheduling by NBC. The folks who might like this show will probably be attending high school games on Friday nights this fall when it airs. Why don't these things occur to NBC? Premieres Oct. 1.
"The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr." (Fox, 8 p.m.): A '90s version of "The Wild, Wild West," with cult film star Bruce Campbell as Brisco County Jr., the hero of this western. The show plays on several levels. Lots of pop culture references for adults and action for kids. 1/2
"Boy Meets World" (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): The newest addition to ABC's killer TGIF block stars Ben Savage as boy-coming-of-age.
Great time slot between "Family Matters" and "Step by Step," and young Ben is the younger brother of Fred Savage, who did pretty well as boy-coming-of-age on "The Wonder Years" for a few years.
William Daniels overplays the demanding teacher just a wee bit. (Chill, Bill, this is not "St. Elsewhere.") But, otherwise, "Boy Meets World" has the makings of a can't-miss sitcom. Premieres Sept. 24. 1/2
"Family Album" (CBS, 8:30 p.m.): Here's a baby-boomer family that's easy to hate. Peter Scolari and Pamela Reed are Dr. and Mrs. Yuppie who move back to his hometown of Philadelphia so he can help run his elderly father's medical practice.
The grandparents and the yuppie parents fight, fight, fight about who's the parent to whom and how to raise the (could it be any number but three?) kids. It's supposed to be a sitcom. Stop this couple before they reproduce again. Premieres Sept. 24. 1/2
"Friday Night Mystery Movie" (NBC, 9 p.m.): NBC isn't exactly sure when they are actually going to have these movies made so that they can be shown. But the plan is some time after the World Series to have a rotation of: Perry Mason; remakes of "Hart to Hart"; remakes of "I Spy" with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp; plus films featuring Larry Hagman, Pierce Brosnan and Kenny Rogers. None were available for preview. No premiere date set.
"The X-Files" (Fox, 9 p.m.): Two FBI agents one a believer and one a skeptic investigate cases that involve the paranormal. Sound stupid?
Actually, it's pretty cool. David Duchovny plays the believer, a kind of quirky Agent Cooper (remember "Twin Peaks?) type, while Gillian Anderson plays the skeptic in a manner that is homage to Jodie Foster from "Silence of the Lambs." Should play well following "Brisco County Jr." Premiered Sept. 10. 1/2
"Family Matters" (ABC, 8 p.m.): Urkel (Jaleel White) gets a girlfriend (Michelle Thomas). Season premiere Sept. 24.
"Bob" (CBS, 9:00 p.m.): It was canceled, then brought back as a possible mid-season replacement, and now it's back on the fall schedule with an all-new work place promised for Bob. Promises, promises. Season premiere Oct. 22.
"Good Advice" (CBS, 9:30 p.m.): Teri Garr joins the cast, while CBS says Shelley Long will be featured more. How could Long be featured more? She produces the show and barely allowed Treat Williams enough crumbs of dialogue for us to know he was there. It ought to be fun to watch this series self-destruct. Season premiere Oct. 22.
"Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): Dawnn Lewis leaves the show, while Raven-Symone and Nell Carter sign on. Season premiere Sept. 24.
"George" (ABC, 8 p.m.): George Foreman plays an ex-boxer who runs a youth center for middle-school kids. Foreman can't act. And the anything-but-enlightened script for the pilot made the champ seem like a child. ABC has canceled the premiere and is said to be overhauling the show. No premiere date set.
"The Mommies" (NBC, 8 p.m.): Marilyn Kentz and Caryl Kristensen are two boomer moms who turned their suburban lives into a stand-up act and now a sitcom. There's lots of frank and funny talk about sex, kids and middle age. Premieres Saturday. 1/2
"Cafe Americain" (NBC, 8:30 p.m.): Valerie Bertinelli trying to be a '90s Mary Richards, but in Paris instead of Minneapolis. Premieres Saturday. 1/2
"The Paula Poundstone Show" (ABC, 9 p.m.): I really like comedian Paula Poundstone, but I think this is going to be the disaster of the year.
Poundstone says her show is going to be a "post-modern variety show." ABC is saying, "Show us something, anything, post-haste." But Poundstone has nothing to show them. ABC brass is getting real unhappy. No premiere date set.
Paula, ask Glenn Frey what not having a premiere date means. It means you're going to be playing out your contract as host of ABC's bowling show on Saturday afternoons if you don't get it together fast.
"Harts of the West" (CBS, 9 p.m.): In the midst of a post-heart-attack, mid-life crisis Beau Bridges packs up wife and three kids and leaves Chicago to buy a broken-down dude ranch in the West.
More boomer mid-life angst, but it works rather well in this show, with Beau's real-life dad, Lloyd, as a leathery old foreman and father figure of sorts. Should do well with the mighty "Dr. Quinn" as a lead-in. Premieres Sept. 25. 1/2
"Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" (CBS, 8 p.m.): No big changes. More Jane Wyman as Dr. Quinn's mom. Season premiere Sept. 25.
"Empty Nest" (NBC, 9:00 p.m.): Richard Mulligan's Dr. Weston gets a new assistant, Marsha Warfield, and a new urban practice. He also gets to date Loni Anderson. Premieres Sept. 25.
"Nurses" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.): Loni Anderson joins the cast as hospital administrator. In a bit of cross-plugging of series, she and Mulligan meet and date and ... Season premiere Sept. 25.
"Walker, Texas Ranger" (CBS, 10 p.m.): CBS says scripts have been rewritten to reduce violence. That leaves us with Chuck Norris, the actor. So, how are they going to fill the other 58 minutes a week? Season premiere Sept. 25.
Here's a day-to-day guide to the new season by TV critic David Aurawik