WB (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Filmmaker Robert Townsend takes another ungainly dive into television in this sitcom about black baby boomers engaged in an often-queasy struggle to raise four children of their own. Townsend plays a New York college professor. His wife (Suzzanne Douglas) is a law student.
The kids, as so often happens on TV, are off-puttingly precocious and obnoxiously manipulative. The only funny one is Curtis Williams, a chubby little cherub missing a few front teeth. The only amusing ancillary character so far has been Faizon Love in a guest appearance as a dense ex-con handyman.
The intent of Parent Hood was clearly to fashion a Cosby Show for the '90s. But the structure, the timing and the humor are all strictly standard, even a little clichéd. To boost its hipness quotient, the show's pilot included a cameo from rapper Coolio. It didn't helpio.
Fox (Sundays, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Though the concept may seem ludicrous to some, TV has its classics too. One such prime-time paragon was Get Smart, the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry-created spy spoof from the '60s starring Don Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart. Now, Fox has exhumed the show. "Revived" would be too positive a word to apply to this fiasco.
In this rehash, Max has risen to the office of chief of the espionage agency C.O.N.T.R.O.L. The chiefs underling, his cracked operative, is Zach Smart (Andy Dick), his son with the former Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon redux).
Whereas Dad was a pompous blockhead, the younger Smart has a weak, ineffectual air. The sitcom—all slapstick and silly gadgetry—is demeaning to its returnees. In fact its only asset is Dick, who resembles a gaunt, bespectacled Tim Allen. A gifted light comic, Dick single-handedly rescues this feeble show from a failing grade. (Ironically, Dick has been outspoken in disparaging the program to the press.)
Fox hasn't done anyone a favor by dumbing up Get Smart. Why couldn't they have remade F Troop?
UPN (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)
The Star Trek franchise just keeps rolling along. Now, Voyager. A Federation ship has been slung 70,000 light-years into uncharted space. Like Dorothy in Oz, the crew seeks a way to get home from an exotic, often hostile galaxy. (Even at warp speed, that's a killer commute.)
At the helm of the Voyager is no-nonsense Capt. Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew; see story, page 45). The design of Janeway's ship (Intrepid-class, bioneural circuitry) is sleek and cetacean. Along on the odyssey are a black Vulcan (Tim Russ), a humorless holographic doctor (Robert Picardo), a half-Klingon-half-human hothead (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) and, for comic relief, an alien scavenger (Ethan Phillips) who looks like a speckled hedgehog. The strongest cast member is Robert Beltran as a Native American officer. Mulgrew, with her swept-up hair and haughty chin, seems like a starchy Katharine Hepburn.
The new entry is more action-oriented and less morally ponderous than the recent Star Trek series. But it still suffers from its predecessors' overdeveloped air of gravitas.
CBS (Tues.Jan. 31, 9 p.m. ET)
When a task force releases a detailed profile of the arsonist who has been ravaging the Seattle area, the kin of Neil Patrick Harris immediately recognize him. Recently divorced and exhibiting frequent episodes of rage, Harris has a longstanding fascination with firemen.
Despite a rather glib conclusion, this fact-based film presents an interesting psychological portrait. Gerald McRaney, Scott Allan Campbell, Tom Verica, Cindy Pickett and Ari Meyers costar.
>TUBE: Star Trek: Voyager is a serious trip; Fox dumbs up Get Smart; The Parent 'Hood is weak Cosby
SCREEN: Miami Rhapsody is nothing to moon over; Far from Home has a leg up on other dog movies; Demon Knight should have stayed in the crypt
SONG: The Chieftains rule; Massive Attack needs better Protection
PAGES: Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot is worth focusing on; in Vanessa Redgrave's autobiography, politics is personal; Pete Dexter's Paperboy delivers
VIDEO: Celebrity workouts: Lucky Various, Kathy Ireland, OJ. and Mary Tyler Moore break a sweat
>ANIMAL AND HUMAN NATURE
The networks offer up two keepers this week. God created the big-screen TV for just such spectacles as 30 Years of National Geographic Specials (NBC, Wed., Jan. 25,8 p.m. ET), a vivid testament to the diversity and splendor of our planet. The following night CBS devotes its entire schedule to In the Killing Fields of America Clan. 26,8 p.m. ET). Ed Bradley, Dan Rather and Mike Wallace report this stirring examination of the epidemic of violence in our cities.
HERE WE GO AGAIN: A WEEK OF FOOTBALL foofaraw leading up to the Super Bowl. Actually, since the contest for the best team in the NFL took place a week ago in San Francisco, this will be more of the Supernumerary Bowl. Nonetheless, when the 49ers and the Chargers tee it up in Miami on ABC on Sunday (Jan. 29, kickoff: 6 p.m. ET), the hoopla will be deafening: the interminable pre-game show culminating with Hank Williams Jr. bellowing "All My Rowdy Friends," the ostentatious commercials, the half-time extravaganza with an Indiana Jones theme. Can you feel the electricity? Me neither.