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Fall Sprawl 5

The definitive Only TV Column That Matters preview of the new fall 2001 shows: This week: The WB.



The WB isn’t known for its lasting sitcoms—not since the late, great, five-season Unhappily Ever After was canceled a couple of years ago, anyway. I still cry about that one … damnant quod non intelligunt, Mr. Floppy!

Tube StopsThursday, Sept. 13: Night Visions (Fox, 8 p.m.) Series Finale: Henry Rollins and his T-shirt will be looking for a new TV-host gig after tonight, and Tube Town suggests VH1’s Cover Wars: “Play ‘Slip It In,’” pussies!”

Friday, Sept. 14: Sabrina the Teenage Witch (The WB, 7 p.m.) Season Premiere: Sabrina and Miles team up to produce a student vampire film, but then Sisqó shows up to suck at something besides music—necks!

Saturday, Sept. 15: Mariah Carey’s Greatest TV Moments (VH1, 7:30 p.m.) Remember how Mariah’s hair used to be really big, but her boobs weren’t? And now, her hair is all flat and straight, but her boobs are the size of bowling balls? And how she used to dress classy, but now she’s in her 30s and dressing like a teenage skank-ho? Yeah, it’s better now.

Sunday, Sept. 16: 2001 Emmy Awards (CBS, 6 p.m.) Ellen DeGeneres hosts and, in a stunning upset, The Family Guy sweeps all categories!

Monday, Sept. 17: King of Queens (CBS, 7 p.m.); Yes Dear (CBS, 7:30 p.m.); Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, 8 p.m.); Family Law (CBS, 9 p.m.); Third Watch (NBC, 8 p.m.) Season Premieres! The Ellen Show (CBS, 8:30 p.m.); Crossing Jordan (NBC, 9 p.m.) Series Debuts! Watch: Crossing Jordan—Jill Hennessy rocks. Avoid: Ellen—she doesn’t.

Tuesday, Sept. 18: Dharma & Greg (ABC, 7 p.m.); JAG (CBS, 7 p.m.); That ’70s Show (Fox, 7 p.m.); Three Sisters (NBC, 7:30 p.m.); Spin City (ABC, 8 p.m.); Frasier (NBC, 8 p.m.); Judging Amy (CBS, 9 p.m.) Season Premieres! Emeril (NBC, 7 p.m.); The Guardian (CBS, 8 p.m.); Undeclared (Fox, 8 p.m.); Philly (ABC, 9 p.m.) Series Debuts! Watch: Undeclared, the new Freaks & Geeks, only cooler. Avoid: Emeril, the new Michael Richards. Also avoid: The Guardian, which … zzzzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, Sept. 19: My Wife & Kids (ABC, 7 p.m.); Grounded for Life (Fox, 7:30 p.m.); Drew Carey (ABC, 8 p.m.); The West Wing (NBC, 8 p.m.); Law & Order (NBC, 9 p.m.) Season Premieres! Will Bartlett run for another term? Duh! Will L&O hire another hot-chick ADA? Double duh!

Sure, the Frog Net has The Steve Harvey Show, which has been on for four years (and I still have yet to meet anyone who’s even heard of it), and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but only one of her five seasons has been with The WB. (ABC gave Sabrina up for adoption last year to make room for the now-dead Two Guys & a Girl—brilliant move.) Does The WB have any sitcoms in 2001 that’ll break the five-year barrier? Hell, the five-week barrier? And why do TV writers ask questions they already know the answers to?

Maybe It’s Me (debuts Friday, Sept. 14) is the only new WB comedy worth the 30 minutes it takes to watch, even though they did knuckle under to the PC crowd and dilute the name from the waaay better Maybe I’m Adopted—what’s next? Heat from the NAACP over Dark Angel? Reagan Dale Neis (now there’s a name in dire need of changin’) stars as a sweet, normal teen rightly embarrassed by her carny-worthy family. Mom and dad are Julia Sweeney and Fred Willard, so most of the funny is sewn up right there, and her older brothers (one a future guest on Cops, the other a wannabe rock star—Christian rock star), younger sisters (twins straight outta The Shining) and live-in grandparents (just the “live-in” part is bad enough) distract from the blatant Malcolm in the Middle tendencies. Still, must everyone on TV own an I-Mac laptop?

Compared to what follows, Maybe It’s Me is subversively twisted stuff: Reba (also debuts Friday, Sept. 14) is a family sitcom vehicle for, you guessed it, country diva Reba McEntire, while Raising Dad (same night) brings us the unasked-for return of Full House’s Bob “No Comedy Here, Move Along” Saget. Just as we’re looking at House’s developing Olsen Twins in a different, when’s-the-Maxim-spread? light, America has also finally realized that Saget is in fact The Antichrist and must be destroyed—canceled by Thanksgiving will also do. As for Reba … well, why her? A script I developed last year for the networks, with neo-country hotties Faith Hill and Sara Evans as bikini car-wash employees by day, leather-clad superheroines by night, is still sitting on some studio weasel’s desk. Perhaps if I punched up the pillow-fight scenes …

It’s exactly that kind of sexist man-banter—used by Tube Town for satirical purposes only, my sisters—that Men, Women & Dogs (debuts Sunday, Oct. 7) and Off Centre (same night) are based upon. MTV VJ Bill Bellamy stars as a smooth-talkin’ chef (all pretty women give it up instantly for gourmet dessert dishes, we learn) who trolls for ladies at a Los Angeles dog park with his horny buds (ditto for cute doggies). See, we lost the funny somewhere around MTV VJ, compounded by Bill Bellamy. Off Centre is about an American dork (American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas) and a Limey chick-magnet (British TV’s Sean Maguire, hence the annoying “Centre” spelling) who room together in a New York apartment that’s ridiculously huge even by Friends standards. Off Centre sucks even by just-lowered-by-Bill-Bellamy WB standards.

By now, it should be clear that dramas with a twist of sci-fi and a big ol’ purple nurple of teen angst are what The WB does best, and few TV nets have anything better than Smallville (debuts Tuesday, Oct. 16) coming this fall. Yes, it’s another retelling of the Superman/ Clark Kent comic-book legend, but that’s where it goes off the page: No glasses, no red capes, no flying, just a present-day teenage Clark (newbie dreamboat Tom Welling) trying to figure out his weird super powers and why high-school love interest Lana Lang makes him puke (it’s her Kryptonite necklace, not her hygiene).

This isn’t the historically sleepy version of the hayseed Kansas town where Kal-El quietly lands his spaceship, either. Right before Ma and Pa Kent (Annette O’Toole and John Schneider) stumble upon Superbaby in 1989, we’re treated to Apocalypse Smallville, with one hella meteorite shower that violently wipes out half the town and spawns all sorts of cosmic-radioactive strangeness for Clark and school-paper reporter Lois Lane to deal with. Less Superboy, more Mulder and Scully: The Early Years. Young Lex Luthor is also on the Smallville scene as a moneyed-up preppy, the embodiment of ee-vil in J. Crew. Sweet.

Screw Roswell (the teen-aliens show that defected to UPN with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, remember?), Smallville is the new purple-nurple deal.