Show of the week
The basic story of The Fugitive, a TV sensation from 1963 to '67 and then a hit movie with Harrison Ford in 1993, has such clear, direct narrative power it might as well be a Joseph Campbell myth. Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly convicted of killing his wealthy wife, escapes from custody and goes off in pursuit of the one-armed man he saw at the murder scene. Meanwhile, police Lt. Philip Gerard tracks him down. It's a game of dog, cat and mouse, and it can go on and on, building and building. (The finale of the original series won a 72 percent share of the audience.) You could cast David, Patrick and Shaun Cassidy in the main roles, and the thing probably would still work. Maybe they'd sing occasionally.
In fact, this new Fugitive has a very good Kimble in Tim Daly. As a doctor and man on the run, Kimble analyzes his situation and calculates his next move from second to second. Daly has the right face—sharp, foxlike—and eyes that deepen into a soulful stare in rare moments of repose. (Somewhere out on the road, he should be able to find a fugitivette.) Mykelti Williamson plays the lieutenant as both cool and coolheaded. As the one-armed man, seen boarding a bus at the end of the Oct. 6 premiere, Stephen Lang slowly turns his head and, in that brief glimpse, seems sinister yet haunted.
Bottom Line: Off and running
WB (Fridays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Darren Star, the creator of HBO's very mature comedy Sex and the City, is still best known as the man behind Beverly Hills, 90210, the teen drama that made stars of Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry, Jason Priestley and, to a lesser degree, Tori Spelling
, daughter of megaproducer Aaron Spelling. Star's new series revisits his old 90210 stomping grounds. "Stomp" is right. Premiering Sept. 22, Point is a sitcom satire about the cast of a teen soap much like 90210. The premiere episode is pitiless—more pitiless than funny, actually—as it introduces the soap-within-the-sitcom's vain, stupid, ruthless young stars. The bigger laughs (still pitiless) come in a few scenes from the inane soap itself. A girl, having lost a baby, whines, "I lose everything."
Odd wrinkle: The senior Spelling was upset that a character named Marcy Sternfeld, the most neurotic of the soap's players, seemed to allude to Tori. Star has since removed telltale details, including a nepotism joke. This is like plucking a quill from a porcupine. The animal remains armed.
Bottom Line: Sharp Pointe
NBC (Mondays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
An insult to the intelligence is bad enough, but this sitcom is an insult to stupidity. Tucker (Eli Marienthal) is a 14-year-old boy whose parents are splitting. He and his mother move in with the mother's sister (Katey Sagal). Tucker's aunt lords it over them, and her son is a sadistic lout. Tucker's problems are compounded by the fact that he's in the thrall of puberty, which in the Oct. 2 premiere provides the excuse for an excruciating running gag about how he tries to camouflage his state of arousal.
This sort of sexual humor is now acceptable family viewing, I suppose, either because of the Starr report, which made masturbation a topic of common discussion, or silly but explicit comedies like American Pie. The difference is that the Starr report and American Pie were entertaining.
Bottom Line: Brat's life!
NBC (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)
Oliver Piatt, who in the past 10 years has made more than a dozen movies (Mouse Hunt, Bulworth, et al), is a welcome addition to prime time. His specialty, a tricky one, consists of being off-putting yet slyly ingratiating. He has a doughy, open face anchored by a disapproving mouth, a dapper elegance dampened by occasional sourness—W.C. Fields sent to finishing school. He's well-cast as Wallace Benton, a Manhattan tabloid reporter and columnist who doesn't mind twisting arms, hurting feelings and stooping to a thousand mildly unethical manipulations to get that story.
Benton also has the good luck to work in a newsroom with an actor's dream cast: Hope Davis (Mumford) as a fellow reporter (and Benton's ex-wife); Bebe Neuwirth as his editor; Lili Taylor (The Haunting) as a gossip columnist; and the old reliable Tom Conti as the paper's owner, gruff but harmless.
But what deadline are these folks trying to make? The show, which premieres Oct. 2, is often slack when it should crackle along. In the first two episodes—one about a massacre in a fast-food joint, the other involving a '60s student radical on the lam—the suspense seeps out by the end. It's like watching newsprint yellow. These are ace performers; why not make 'em hustle a little?
Bottom Line: Great cast on a slow news day
>Sunday, Oct. 1 60 MINUTES CBS (7 p.m. ET) The 33rd season kicks off with veterans Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley.
Monday, Oct. 2 NOBODY'S FOOL Cinemax (6:40 p.m. ET) Touching 1994 movie starring Paul Newman as an aging construction worker in a wintry little town. With Bruce Willis
Tuesday, Oct. 3 WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE ABC (8 p.m. ET) Season premiere. Regis Philbin asks the big-bucks questions.
Wednesday, Oct. 4 COUNTRY MUSIC ASSOCIATION AWARDS CBS (8 p.m. ET) The 34th annual.
Thursday, Oct. 5 BIOGRAPHY A&E (8 p.m. ET) Jack Webb. Just the facts, ma'am, about the pokerfaced star of Dragnet.
Friday, Oct. 6 OFFICE SPACE HBO (8 p.m. ET) A 1999 comedy, from the creator of Beavis and Butt-head, about a computer programmer cheating the rat race.
Saturday, Oct. 7 THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER PBS (check local listings) Live broadcast of Nathan Lane and Jean Smart in the current Broadway revival of the 1939 comedy.
- Tom Gliatto.
CBS (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET)