'Hearts Afire' flickers dimly in dull lineup


Is it me, or is there very little going on tonight where TV is concerned? Let's see . . . Hmm. It's not me.

* "Hearts Afire" (8-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Two other CBS sitcoms have retooled themselves substantially this season. "Love & War" revitalized itself by replacing Susan Dey with Annie Potts, and "Bob" shifted focus successfully by adding Betty White and Jere Burns to the mix. Now comes the revamped "Hearts Afire," which snaps the network's winning streak.

Even with Conchata Ferrell as a new member of the cast, and with Billy Bob Thornton tossing off more and drier rejoinders than ever, this second-season pilot, which moves Markie Post and John Ritter from Washington to a small town, is forced and surprisingly flat. When the funniest scene is purely visual, with Ms. Post approximating a native dance for some disinterested grade-schoolers, you know writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason isn't on top of her game this time out. The ending, like many lines of dialogue throughout, recalls "The Andy Griffith Show," but pales in comparison. CBS.

* "South of Sunset" (9-10 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- If you've seen the ads for this new series, and are confused about just what sort of tone it's trying to project, join the club. As late as yesterday, CBS didn't have any copies of the show ready to send out -- never a good sign. But with Stan Rogow, who did "Shannon's Deal," in charge, don't count "South of Sunset" out quite yet. Glenn Frey stars. CBS.

* "The Great Depression" (9-11 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) The second hour tonight, "To Be Somebody," easily could fit into Henry Hampton's previous documentary miniseries triumph, "Eyes on the Prize." It's about racism and the fight for equality, and it's one of the most powerful hours in "The Great Depression." PBS.

* "48 Hours: 'Betrayed' " (10-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This hour looks, from several different angles, at the doctor-patient relationship gone too far -- with the doctor becoming physically involved with his patients. Dan Rather anchors. CBS.

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