Call me a survivor. I sat through the first six episodes of Big Brother.
Unless you live in a cloister untouched by CBS hype, you're aware that Big Brother is a "reality" series in which 10 strangers occupy a two-bedroom house rigged with cameras and microphones to record their every move and utterance, however aimless or banal. Magazine deadlines being what they are, I'm writing this review before the beginning of a ruthlessly democratic process whereby the audience banishes residents one by one until the presumably least offensive of the bunch claims a $500,000 prize at the close of the show's run (scheduled for late September). It's always fun to vote against somebody; that's the American way. But actually watching Big Brother five nights a week (total air time: 3½ hours) seems like the entertainment equivalent of enduring gavel-to-gavel convention coverage on C-SPAN.
Unless, of course, you organize Big Brother jeering parties. When William (black) and Brittany (white) have a racial argument, point out that his orange hat almost matches her orange hair. Next time college student Eddie mentions he's a broadcasting major and a theater minor, ask if that's why he tawks so good ("Ya know what um sayin'?"). When the announcer sets up a scene with something like "Jordan confides to Jamie about her night job," you can shout, "Confides? To Jamie and 10 million viewers?" By the way, Jordan is an "exotic dancer"—not that exhibitionism has anything to do with this program.
Bottom Line: Evict them all
Lifetime (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
It's a virtual rule in TV drama that two people can't work together unless they have a marked personality conflict that gives way to grudging respect. This new medical series establishes a partnership between Dr. Dana Stowe (Janine Turner), an ambitious research-oriented physician whose father was a Nobel Prize nominee, and Dr. Luisa Delgado (Rosa Blasi), a fiery working-class healer struggling to keep open a women's free clinic in Philadelphia. Why must Dana and "Lu" learn to get along? Because famous feminist Dr. Lydia Emerson (guest star and executive producer Whoopi Goldberg) says so in the July 23 pilot.
You might wish that the show's tone weren't so didactic, or that Lu didn't have a Liberty Bell-size chip on her shoulder. But Turner is a standout in her best TV role since Northern Exposure, and nurse Peter Riggs (Josh Coxx) qualifies as man of the year on Lifetime (slogan: Television for Women). He's handsome, caring, skilled at midwifery and effective against stubborn infections.
Bottom Line: A dose won't hurt
The WB (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET)
Show of the week
The theme song by Barenaked Ladies is "It's All Been Done"—appropriate for a series that's hardly a trailblazer in animated family comedy. But Baby Blues, based on the syndicated comic strip, puts a few surprisingly funny twists on ordinary domestic complaints and situations. Think of the show (premiering July 28 with two half-hour episodes) as a Family Guy that's not quite so rude.
Mike O'Malley, who bombed last year in an NBC sitcom (and has another on tap for CBS this fall), is more amusing here as the voice of Darryl, a white-collar guy with a baby daughter and a prominently oblong nose. Barely coping with new parenthood, Darryl and wife Wanda (Julia Sweeney) don't know exactly what to make of the disorderly brood next door: Carl (Joel Murray), a hairy-armed conspiracy buff; his wife, Melinda (Arabella Field); their 8-year-old son Rodney (Kath Soucie, heard on Rugrats), an alarmingly confident troublemaker; and two smaller offspring. Sometimes Baby Blues goes too wild (e.g., Carl gets trapped in a missile silo), but when Wanda bristles at being called a future "soccer mom," you know this cartoon is in touch with reality.
Bottom Line: Baby could develop
>Sunday, July 30 A HOUSE DIVIDED Showtime (8 p.m. ET) Jennifer Beals stars in this TV movie as the daughter of a plantation owner (Sam Waterston) and his slave mistress.
Monday, July 31 PRO FOOTBALL ABC (8 p.m. ET) Don't laugh: Dennis Miller makes his announcing debut with this 49ers-Patriots preseason game.
Tuesday, Aug. 1 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN NBC (8 p.m. ET) Dick starts seeing Mary's shrink (guest star Ana Gasteyer) in a repeat best watched from the couch.
Wednesday, Aug. 2 COVER ME USA (9 p.m. ET) The undercover family gets mixed up in a case of fish, wildlife and murder.
Thursday, Aug. 3 THE DIRECTORS: CLINT EASTWOOD Encore (8 p.m. ET) The virile filmmaker-star gets an hour-long close-up.
Friday, Aug. 4 THE 10TH KINGDOM NBC (8 p.m. ET) Trimmed from 10 hours to 8, the fantasy saga may improve as a rerun. Continues through Aug. 7.
Saturday, Aug. 5 BOWFINGER STARZ! (8 p.m. ET) Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy team up for laughs in this 1999 take on Hollywood folly.
CBS (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. ET)