Show of the week
After you've had a child through artificial insemination, what do you do for an encore? That was the question facing Tracy (the winning Cynthia Stevenson) when this sitcom entered its second season last month. Based on the first three episodes, Ob Baby is still funnier than average, even if Tracy's single parenthood seems routine compared with her pregnancy.
As the main character deals with such new-mom problems as breast-feeding and babysitter recruitment, Stevenson again receives stalwart comic support from Joanna Gleason (as wry friend Charlotte) and Jessica Walter (as Tracy's guilt-inducing mother). The weak link is boyfriend Rick (Jack Coleman), currently sane, supportive and pretty bland. I'd like to see Tracy drop him and form an odd couple with balding Dr. Bryan (Doug Ballard), her gynecologist. His engagement to Charlotte was obviously ill-conceived.
Bottom Line: Healthy infant
ABC (Fridays, 9 p.m. ET)
ABC, UPN (check local listings)
September's a Sabrinafest. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, with Melissa Joan Hart, starts its fourth season Sept. 24. (Can't wait? Catch the cute Sept. 10 rerun in which the characters get trapped in an old-time silent film.) The TV movie Sabrina Goes to Rome repeats Sept. 12, and the sorceress takes a two-hour Australian trip, Sabrina, Down Under, on Sept. 26. As if all this witchery weren't enough, Sabrina, the Animated Series premieres Sept. 6 as part of the daily Disney's One Too package of children's shows (on UPN and in syndication) and joins the Disney's One Saturday Morning block on ABC as of Sept. 11.
The lively cartoon show is a prequel, featuring Emily Hart (age 13) as the voice of a 12-year-old Sabrina. Emily's sister Melissa is heard as Sabrina's two aunts, who appear to be mature witches in prime time but take on teen form in this version. At 23, Melissa no longer looks the part of a high schooler, but the animated series allows her voice to prolong its adolescence.
Bottom Line: Double spell on the kid crowd
Showtime (Sun., Sept. 5, 8 p.m. ET)
"I make jokes sometimes about things that aren't really very funny—that's how I deal with the horror," says a cop (Marg Helgenberger) investigating a grisly slaying in Happy Face Murders. Presumably that was the thinking behind this misguided, erratic attempt at black comedy (loosely based on fact). Ann-Margret stars as a 58-year-old grandmother and TV mystery fan who tells the police that her abusive, 39-year-old boyfriend (Nicholas Campbell) killed a mildly retarded young woman. As A-M keeps revising her story—talking herself into so much trouble that she's arrested as an accomplice—the murder flashbacks proliferate, each more gruesome than the last. Then another suspect (Rick Peters) emerges, and his account, too, is illustrated as unpleasantly as possible. The filmmakers play up the irony in certain details, particularly the smiley-face symbols on Peters's written confessions. But they don't seem to realize how much the horror outweighs the humor.
Bottom Line: Something to frown on
PBS (Tues., Sept. 7, 10 p.m. ET)
If former Rep. Douglas "Pete" Peterson gets a yen to run for office again after completing his tenure as America's first postwar ambassador to Vietnam, he may want to consider using this one-hour documentary as a campaign infomercial. The program gets a bit puffy as it recounts Peterson's career in the military (Air Force bomber pilot, POW in Vietnam for 6½ years), on Capitol Hill (three-term Democrat from Florida) and at our Hanoi embassy (working tirelessly to promote trade and reconciliation). But there's no denying the emotional pull of Peterson's personal story, including his 1998 marriage to a Vietnamese-born Australian diplomat. And the documentary performs a valuable function by prodding Americans to think of Vietnam in terms of the promising future, not just the bitter past. Speaking from experience, Peterson says, let's move on
Bottom Line: Fruitful diplomacy
FOX (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
No use complaining anymore about TV shows referring to other TV shows. Nearly all of them do it, but must this "nontraditional family series" (FOX's description) be so competitive about it? Speaking directly to the audience in the Sept. 8 premiere, the 17-year-old daughter (Anne Hathaway
) sneers at the WB's Dawson's Creek ("I wouldn't be caught dead watching it") and 7th Heaven (for those who "want everything tied up in a bow"). As the media-wise remarks indicate, this comedy-drama makes a point of placing itself in the television world, not the real world. The very title can be viewed as a joke and a fairly intelligent one at that.
But to be clever is not always to be likable. Though the grandmother (Christina Pickles) and the 15-year-old boy (Jesse Eisenberg) aren't hard to take, Hathaway's character suffers from excess self-esteem, and the 16-year-old brother (Eric Christian Olsen) is aptly described as a "sadistic moron." As for the busy, bickering parents (Jon Tenney and Debrah Farentino), they're not real enough when they get serious. "I miss you; I miss MS," the wife says in a plea for intimacy. She must've heard that line on TV.
Bottom Line: Smart but off-putting
>Sunday, Sept. 5 TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL CBS (8 p.m. ET) Fly like a seraph, sting like a bee. Muhammad AH guest stars in this rerun.
Monday, Sept. 6 ATF ABC (9 p.m. ET) That's the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Kathy Baker and Amy Brenneman are brave feds in this TV movie.
Tuesday, Sept. 7 BIOGRAPHY: KURT RUSSELL A&E (8 p.m. ET) Now Goldie Hawn won't be the only one who knows everything about the busy actor.
Wednesday, Sept. 8 PHILADELPHIA CBS (8:30 p.m. ET) Tom Hanks took home his first Oscar for playing a gay lawyer with AIDS in this 1993 drama.
Thursday, Sept. 9 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS MTV (8 p.m. ET) Get ready to rock the Metropolitan Opera House. Live from New York; Chris Rock emcees.
Friday, Sept. 10 PROVIDENCE NBC (8 p.m. ET) Syd in Bella Mafia? A guy with Mob ties courts the darling doc in this repeat.
Saturday, Sept. 11 ANTZ HBO (8 p.m. ET) Thanks to the voice of Woody Allen, this animated 1998 flick is crawling with comedy.
Lifetime (Saturdays, 10 p.m. ET)