The WB (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Fall is a time of transition in the bloodsucking business. On the Oct. 5 premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the title character (Sarah Michelle Gellar) enrolls at a college only five miles from her smalltown California high school. An hour later, the undead hunk who's the love of her life makes the big move to Los Angeles in the debut of his own spinoff series.

Given that there's no earthly reason for Angel besides the sex appeal of David Boreanaz, it looks like a pretty good show. His conscience-plagued vampire opens the pilot pining for Buffy, but he's quickly into a new gig as knight errant of the underside. Angel will be assisted by Doyle (Glenn Quinn), his raffish liaison with the supernatural "powers that be," and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), the fabulously shallow Buffy alum who has come to the entertainment capital in vain pursuit of an acting career. The pilot, in which the hero saves Cordelia from a sharp-toothed mover and shaker, has that Buffy blend of chills and humor. So would it kill Angel to crack a smile?

Bottom Line: Take a bite

HBO (Sat., Oct. 16, 8 p.m. ET)

HBO has received critics' huzzahs—and flak from a few Italian-American groups—for The Sopranos, its series about fictional New Jersey mobsters. Well, here's the other side of the coin: an earnest TV movie based on the true story of an incorruptible Italian prosecutor who gave his life in the fight against Mafia terror in Sicily.

I wish I could state unequivocally that a good guy is more interesting than a bad guy any day. Alas, I can't. Giovanni Falcone, assassinated in 1992 after targeting the underworld for a dozen years, is portrayed here by Chazz Palminteri as dedicated, thorough and colorless. Sopranos fans may dismiss him as a square. By contrast, F. Murray Abraham (the only other well-known American in a predominantly Italian cast) feasts on the juicier role of Tommaso Buscetta, a Mafia turncoat who testified in a mass trial of hundreds of his former colleagues in crime. Except for his big courtroom scene, this worthy drama is a little low on electricity.

Bottom Line: Solid but stiff

Lifetime (Mon., Oct. 11, 9 p.m, ET)

"Consider the source" is the rule in judging a statement's credibility. So be aware that this TV movie is taken from the 1993 book Marita, in which Marita Lorenz not only says she had an affair with Fidel Castro, bore his child and took part in a failed 1960 plot to poison him; she also recounts her involvement in a number of other sexual adventures and covert operations, including a 1963 gunrunning mission featuring Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Some have suggested that Lorenz may be inclined to stretch the truth.

That said, My Little Assassin is a surprisingly engrossing, though murky, exercise in intrigue. Dramatizing just the Castro-related portion of the Lorenz saga, the film features an effective lead performance by Gabri-elle Anwar (Scent of a Woman), who manages to win a smidgen of sympathy for Marita as she's torn between getting cozy with the Cuban dictator and slipping him a couple of botulism capsules. The reliable Joe Mantegna handles the Castro role—and the requisite cigar—with confidence.

Bottom Line: Watchable? Si. Believable? Hmm...

ABC (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)

On Kevin Williamson's Dawson's Creek, the teenagers seem to be in their 20s. On this talky new series, also created by Williamson, the characters seem to be in their 20s—and they are! You've got to like the realism.

Whether you like the people is another story. Graduate student Dawnie (Marisa Coughlan) describes herself—and, by extension, the rest of the show's regulars—as "acutely self—aware to the point where I'm clueless." Dawnie's also a virgin, a condition she strives to change in the Oct. 7 pilot. Her circle of Manhattan friends includes Jesse (Sasha Alexander), an irritating publicist accurately labeled "far too toxic" by her latest lover; Russell (Dan Montgomery), a soap-opera actor unready to broadcast his homosexuality; Sam (Rebecca Gayheart), a perky Southerner starting a low-level job in the district attorney's office; and Vandy (Eddie Mills), a bartender and aspiring musician carrying a torch for Sam. Rejoining the group after long absence is Ty (Brad Rowe), an ex-boyfriend for whom Dawnie has a major love-hate thing. Similarly mixed emotions may be in store for Sam and Vince (Jeffrey D. Sams), her initially hostile boss. The cast is attractive, and the characters are convincing in their confusion. But already I wish they'd quit overanalyzing their feelings and make some new acquaintances.

Bottom Line: Not a total waste, but looks like a slow bloomer

>Sunday, Oct. 10 A TOUCH OF HOPE NBC (9 p.m. ET) There, that feels better. Anthony Michael Hall stars in a TV movie about a man with healing hands.

Monday, Oct. 11 EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND CBS (9 p.m. ET) Keeping it in the family, Ray and Debra turn to his crazy parents for sex tips.

Tuesday, Oct. 12 THE STRIP UPN (9 p.m. ET) Place a small wager on the premiere of this action show about casino security dudes in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, Oct. 13 LETHAL VOWS CBS (9 p.m. ET) Remember when John Ritter was Mr. Nice? In this TV movie he's suspected of murdering his wife.

Thursday, Oct. 14 ANNA KARENINA TNT (10:15 p.m. ET) Sophie Marceau has the lead in a 1997 version of Tolstoy's classic.

Friday, Oct. 15 RYAN CAULFIELD: YEAR ONE FOX (8 p.m. ET) A rookie cop pounds the Philly pavement in this series premiere.

Saturday, Oct. 16 PAUL MCCARTNEY & FRIENDS LIVE VH1(10p.m.ET) The ex-Beatle, the B-52's and other biggies perform at an animal-rights bash.