Now, we can all be 'Friends' * Sounds familiar: Fall shows feature a lot of young adults hanging around. And around.


If memory serves -- and it usually does, but you'd best be advised to leave a 15 percent tip -- fall seemed a much bigger deal when I was a kid.

September meant a new crop of television shows. Oh, how glorious it seemed. The horizon looked endless. I'd eagerly await the TV Guide "Fall Preview" issue and tear through it.

It had been a while since I'd done that, but in the spirit of the season, I thought I'd give it just one more try.

What I found is that every new show apparently is just like "Friends." You know, that's the NBC sitcom about three young men and three young women living in New York and just hanging out a lot and not becoming romantically attached to each other. Oh, and it used to have a monkey. So there you go. Who wouldn't want to copy that?

Let's check out the top new shows:

* "The Jeff Foxworthy Show": Comedian Foxworthy, who has built his career on one joke -- "You may be a redneck if . . . " -- plays a family man living in Indiana. Best episode is likely to be the one in which he tells Bobby Knight: "If you rearrange furniture by throwing it around, you may be a redneck."

* "Maybe This Time": Marie Osmond plays a divorced mom. Reason for the divorce: She was a little bit country; he was a little bit rock and roll.

* "Brotherly Love": High-concept show stars Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Andy Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, Larry King and Larry "Bud" Melman as a wacky family living in Lawrenceville, N.J., trying to get oldest brother Joey a job at -- whoa! -- the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

* "Too Something": A couple of New York guys with "skewed sensibilities" try to make it as a writer and photographer "without succumbing to the system." Unfortunately for this show's chances, the system they are trying to avoid is the endocrine system.

* "Misery Loves Company": A divorced film professor (Dennis Boutsikaris) moves in with his single brother (Christopher Meloni), and the two frequently are visited by two pals (Julius Carry and Stephen Furst). In the premiere, the three men comfort Furst, who wonders how long he can keep getting roles just because he was Flounder in "Animal House."

* "Can't Hurry Love": Despite kidnapping Courtney Cox's hairstylist, star Nancy McKeon is unlucky in love. It seems that she can't get through a date without talking about her old school friend, Tootie. If the theme song is Phil Collins' version, expect a cancellation in two weeks.

* "Ned and Stacey": A woman needs an apartment, so she gets "an ambitious young exec" to share his condo with her. But she must agree to a "sham marriage in order to improve his corporate image." Doesn't she know that over half of the sham marriages in this country end in ersatz divorces?

* "John Grisham's The Client": JoBeth Williams and John Heard provide legal help to the downtrodden, all the while searching for whoever made off with their movie careers.

* "Hudson Street": Tony Danza is a Hoboken homicide detective. In his last series, he was a housekeeper from Brooklyn. OK, let's plot this one on the map (kids, you can try this at home, too). My calculations show that, by 2008, he'll be playing a butcher in Youngstown, Ohio.

* "Charlie Grace": Mark Harmon is a tough L.A. private eye. No, it's not a comedy.

* "The Monroes": William Devane is the head of a Kennedy-esque political family. He cheats on his wife, Susan Sullivan. It may be because she claims still to have a headache each night despite all of those aspirin commercials.

* "New York News": Mary Tyler Moore is the publisher of a tabloid. Madelaine Kahn is a boorish columnist. Gregory Harrison stands around looking like no man who ever has worked in a newsroom. Feel the heat as copy editors change pronouns from objective to possessive when they precede gerunds -- right on deadline.

* "American Gothic": Gary Cole stars. I think he plays the bald guy with the pitchfork.

* "Cleghorne!": Ellen Cleghorne, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," is joined on the program by Garrett Morris, who can tell her about the times when "SNL" actually was funny. Warner Bros. doesn't have much of a network, but it did spring for the extra bucks to add that exclamation mark in the show's title.

* "Deadly Games": "In a lab accident, a young scientist releases lethal creatures from a video game." Run for your lives, Sonic the Hedgehog is loose! (Warner lent me that exclamation mark.)

* "Ready . . . . Set . . . Cook": This game show on the TV Food Network (check your local listings . . . then circle them, draw squares on every other line and put a caricature of Bob Hope in the margin) requires contestants to buy food for $10 and then cook a delicious meal on camera, all the while competing against the clock. The guess here is that ordering a medium pepperoni from Domino's wouldn't count.

* "U.S. Customs Classified": From Stephen J. Cannell, a syndicated series details the harrowing tales of agents who sort through suitcase after suitcase of underwear in defense of their country.

Geez, why didn't they have shows like this when I was a kid?

TV's top shows

Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. figures:

............... .......... Rating

1 E.R. ................. NBC 25.3

2 Seinfeld ............. NBC 24.6

3 Caroline in the City.. NBC 20.5

3 (tie) Friends ........ NBC 20.5

5 Home Improvement ..... ABC 20.3

6 Single Guy ........... NBC 19.2

7 Coach ................ ABC 18.6

8 Murphy Brown ......... CBS 18.0

9 NFL Monday Football .. ABC 17.1

10 Grace Under Fire .... ABC 16.5

11 Hudson Street ....... ABC 15.9

12 Frazier ............. NBC 15.6

13 Murder One .......... ABC 15.5

13 (tie) Roseanne ...... ABC 15.5

15 Mad About You ....... NBC 14.6

20 (tie) Chicago Hope .. CBS 13.6

The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.

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