'Nanny' debuts none too spectacularly


One week ago, CBS unveiled its newest prime-time series "South of Sunset." After that one showing, "South of Sunset" already has faded into the sunset, which can't be an encouraging sign for "The Nanny," a new CBS series that premieres tonight.

* "Scientific American Frontiers" (8-9 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67, WETA, Channel 26, and WHMM, Channel 32) -- Alan Alda is in the driver's seat as host of tonight's "Scientific American Frontiers," but he's not steering: One of the stories concerns a "driverless" car, and shows him tooling down the road with a nervously "hands-off" attitude. PBS.

* "The Nanny" (8:30-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Fran Drescher, who concocted this new series with husband Peter Marc Jacobson, plays a non-singing Mary Poppins from Queens who has the colorful wardrobe of Robin Williams in "Mork & Mindy," the attitude of Marisa Tomei "In My Cousin Vinne," and her own honking accent. Drescher is talented, beautiful and singular enough for stardom, but this may not be the vehicle. Except for Daniel Davis as the butler, the show provides no surprises, and even though Drescher can milk laughs out of almost any line, she deserves, and needs, better lines. CBS.

* "The American Experience: 'The Hunt for Pancho Villa' " (9-10 p.m., WETA, Channel 26) -- Another interesting "Experience," this one documenting the rise of the famed "Mexican Robin Hood" and the unprecedented military battle waged against him by the United States. Letters from soldiers, lots of photographs, music and sound effects combine to make this an intended, and somewhat worthy, little brother to "The Civil War." PBS.

* "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues" (9-10 p.m., WNUV, Channel 54) -- David Carradine plays host tonight to two other TV icons from the '60s: Patrick Macnee of "The Avengers" and Robert Vaughn of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

* "Law & Order" (10-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Hey, does this plot ring a bell? There's this militant cult, see, that decides to explode a bomb in a parking garage . . . NBC.

* "48 Hours: 'Without a Trace' " (10-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- ABC has a new dramatic series called "Missing Persons." Tonight's "48 Hours" is like a nonfiction version of that show, as Richard Schlesinger, Harold Dow, Erin Moriarty and others detail cases of missing persons -- and solve at least one of them. CBS.


* "Tales From the Crypt" (10-10:30 p.m., HBO) -- Martin Sheen plays three roles, very entertainingly, in "Well Cooked Hams," a funny story about a hack magician (Billy Zane) who risks being hacked up.

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