FOX (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)

When Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt) departed Party of Five on Oct. 19, she told boyfriend Bailey (Scott Wolf) that she'd be gone only five days. I almost believed her—even though the goodbye scene was followed by a promo for her spinoff series. Such is Hewitt's fresh-faced charm.

The new show, Time of Your Life, could have been called A Naif in New York. In the Oct. 25 premiere, Sarah came to Gotham seeking her biological father. Though she didn't find him, she quickly made new friends, including Romy (Jennifer Garner), an aspiring actress who becomes her roommate, and Maguire (Johnathon Schaech), a musician whose dark eyes declare "I'm in love" whenever Sarah draws near. Her new setup looks promising, but Sarah isn't so sure. In the Nov. 8 episode, she talks of jetting back to California (just for a weekend, of course), then flip-flops and hurls herself into New York hedonism. Weep profusely, smile winningly: That's Sarah's pattern. Hewitt fans figure to be there for her.

Bottom Line: Ingenue-intensive hour

The Partridge Family Story
ABC (Sat, Nov. 13, 9 p.m. ET)

If you're actually fond of The Partridge Family (hey, it's a free country) or if That '70s Show doesn't satisfy your appetite for nostalgia, you'll find this TV movie mildly entertaining. Otherwise, it may seem as. pointless as a pet rock.

The Partridge Family, sort of a cross between The Monkees and The Brady Bunch, was a '70s sitcom about a pop band consisting of a widow (Shirley Jones) and her five kids. Come On Get Happy depicts the behind-the-scenes conflicts as the series goes from hit to history in four years (1970-74). Eve Gordon makes a fairly convincing Jones, and Rodney Scott conveys the discontent of David Cassidy, the show's teen idol and Jones's real-life stepson. But the story is told primarily from the viewpoint of Danny Bonaduce (Shawn Pyfrom), who played Mrs. Partridge's smart-alecky middle child. Though it mostly mocks the Partridge phenomenon, the film tries to play it straight in portraying Danny's home life with a bitter, angry father (William Russ). If in doubt whether to laugh or cry, you may simply shrug.

Bottom Line: Inside look at nothing

CBS (Wed., Nov. 17, 9 p.m. ET)

Anna Quindlen's 1998 novel Black and Blue is deceptively difficult to adapt into a film. On one level, it's a Sleeping with the Enemy-type thriller about a battered wife hunted by her husband. But Quindlen ended up going deeper, into a meditation on the consequences of choice and the mystery of fate. This well-acted TV movie stays mainly on the surface.

Mary Stuart Masterson is most sympathetic as a nurse who escapes her abusive spouse (Anthony LaPaglia), a New York City cop, and flees to Florida with her 10-year-old son (Will Rothhaar). LaPaglia is genuinely menacing in an underdeveloped role. The stars have the strength to carry you along—until the drama comes to a pat conclusion.

Bottom Line: Involving but disappointing

PBS (Sun.-Thurs., Nov. 14-18, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Not everyone wants to wake up in the city that doesn't sleep. Thomas Jefferson, this film points out, called New York City "a sewer filled with all the depravities of human nature." But if you're willing to grant that the metropolis is at least a nice place to visit, don't miss this monumental American Experience special from Ric Burns (brother of Ken and co-producer of The Civil War).

The first 10 hours, covering New York's history from 1609 to 1931, air Nov. 14-18. The final installment is set for spring, and I can hardly wait. The narration is superbly written (allowing for the overuse of "explosive" metaphors to describe the city's growth) and delivered with just enough gravity by David Ogden Stiers. The onscreen commentators are insightful, with historian (not the TV journalist) Mike Wallace the liveliest of the bunch. Quotations from historical figures and unsung citizens are read by a first-rate assemblage of voice-over talent, most notably actor Philip Bosco and author George Plimpton. And the visuals are often breathtaking, especially the aerial shots that illuminate the street plan, celebrate the skyscrapers and explore the sylvan oasis of Central Park.

Though inclined to wax rhapsodic, the film doesn't shrink from the city's shameful moments, including the horrific race riot of 1863 and the ghastly Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. The Big Apple's all here, and it's awesome.

Bottom Line: It's a wonderful town

Earthquake in New York
CBS (Sun., Nov. 14, and Tues., Nov. 16, 9 p.m. ET)

Only in New York. The same week that PBS builds the city up in New York: A Documentary Film, CBS tears it down in this old-fashioned disaster epic.

Aftershock does its quake damage by the numbers. First, it spends about 40 minutes introducing the characters: the fire chief (Tom Skerritt), who's fighting with the mayor (Charles S. Dutton); the mayor's public-defender daughter (Lisa Nicole Carson), who just helped a smarmy guy (JR Bourne) beat a murder rap; a mom (Sharon Lawrence) who feels guilty about a car accident that left her son with a limp; a struggling ballerina (Jennifer Garner from Time of Your Life) riding with an immigrant cabbie (Frederick Weller). Then Manhattan's ready to rumble. See the Guggenheim Museum crack up! See the Statue of Liberty crash down!

Skerritt and Dutton maintain their dignity amid the emergency-management clichés. But Bourne's true colors are too obvious, Weller's Russian folk wisdom is too cloying, and Lawrence's climactic heroics register 8.2 on the absurdity scale.

Bottom Line: Too many fault lines

>Sunday, Nov. 14 TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL CBS (8 p.m. ET) Golden-throated Charlotte Church appears as a singing prodigy who needs an attitude adjustment.

Monday, Nov. 15 VERONICA'S CLOSET NBC (8:30 p.m. ET) You can bet on a good time when baseball's Pete Rose and skater Tara Lipinski guest star.

Tuesday, Nov. 16 SPIN CITY ABC (8 p.m. ET) Paul (Richard Kind) becomes a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Regis Philbin is typecast as himself.

Wednesday, Nov. 17 THE DREW CAREY SHOW ABC (9 p.m. ET) In a madcap media mix, Drew allows a Web camera into his home (and you can watch this episode on TV or the Internet).

Thursday, Nov. 18 STARK RAVING MAD NBC (9:30 p.m. ET) It's a Wings reunion as Steven Weber turns up on Tony Shalhoub's sitcom.

Friday, Nov. 19 TEEN FILES UPN (8 p.m. ET) Los Angeles youths examine their violent behavior in a two-hour special.

Saturday, Nov. 20 ONE FINE DAY ABC (9 p.m. ET) Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney pool their sex appeal in this '96 flick.