ABC (Wed., July 31, 10 P.M. ET)
The primary aim of television pilots, whether they succeed or fail (as this one did), is to be eye-catching. This slick miniflick, directed by Robert (Hill Street Blues) Butler, has the requisite energy but not enough to overwhelm a formulaic plot and egregiously artificial characters.
William (Wiseguy) Russ plays a dashing San Francisco TV reporter. Cheryl (Hull High) Pollak is his Harvard-Sorbonne-educated protégée.
For Russ, it's a faster talking version of the role he played in last year's quickly canceled Capitol News. But farfetched doesn't begin to describe this trench-coated crusader, who packs a pistol in his boot. Is this guy Geraldo or Bat Masterson?
CBS (Sat., Aug. 3, 8 P.M. ET)
Another frantic, failed pilot trying too hard to stand out from the pack, this action-comedy focuses on the ever-so-wacky guys in Manhattan's police equestrian unit.
Dan Gauthier plays a transplanted rodeo cowboy (Whoa, shades of McCloud), Dennis (Hill Street Blues) Franz plays his partner, a seen-it-all New Yorker. (Bet those horses winced every time the portly Franz showed up for a scene.) Cliff DeYoung and Roxann Biggs costar.
The pace is steeplechase jumpy and there are lots of attitude-heavy pseudo-New York bit characters around to liven things up.
The script, though, lurches toward the outrageous: A runaway stallion gallops through Macy's and a clothes-shredding Bengal tiger prowls the streets. Horse 54, where are you?
Lifetime (Tuesdays, 10 P.M. ET)
Seems to be the season for female private eyes. Kathleen Turner is on the big screen in V.I. Warshawski (see review, page 13); television offers this new series, starring Canadian actress Laura (Night Heat) Robinson.
Robinson brings a good deal more glamour than plausibility to the role of the breathy detective. Her vacuity is appropriate for a show that while trying for a mysterious Samantha Spade style ends up murky and contrived. Tony Plana, Robert Beltran and Christina Pickles costar.
Veronica Clare is immediately preceded each week by Confessions of Crime (9 P.M. ET), a harshly graphic reality crime show hosted by Theresa Saldana, the actress who was attacked by a knife-wielding stranger nine years ago, and The Hidden Room (9:30 P.M. ET), a cluttered anthology drama series with a supernatural bent.
The trio constitutes Lifetime's first night of original programming. All shows:
SATURDAY AS USUAL IS COMEDY night on cable. In Rodney Danger-field's The Really Big Show on HBO (Sat., Aug. 3, 11 P.M. ET), the host uses skits to introduce five lesser-known stand-ups (Sid Youngers, Hugh Fink, Bob Zany, Harry Basil and David Tyree). This quizzical quintet gives it their best shot, but none is as funny as Paul (My Two Dads) Reiser in Showtime's 3½ Blocks from Home (Sat., Aug. 3, 10 P.M. ET). The genial comic verbally bobsleds through a routine that takes in hot beverages, greeting cards, number overload and a variety pack of embarrassments.
What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Mostly got away from workaday concerns...such as constantly watching TV. As a result, I return home to discover I've forgotten how to program my VCR. Help!