Valuation...acquisition costs...share price.... The high-flying twentysomething stockbrokers of Wall Street's Balmont Stevens Inc. spout such jargon with dizzying speed. But just as I was reaching for my copy of Finance for Dummies, this slick new series from Sex and the City creator Darren Star shifted gears in the Nov. 1 opener to reveal that guys, too, just want to have fun after hours. And it ranges from the concupiscent to the kinky. One scruffy broker (Saving Private Ryan's Adam Goldberg) gets turned on by a dominatrix Xena impersonator. Meanwhile Boiler Room's Tom Everett Scott dumps his banking exec fiancée (Nina Gabiras) after learning she still yearns for her old beau. Not that the show's women aren't equally assertive. Jennifer Connelly, as a clean-cut new sales VP, neatly skewers the office sexist (Rick Hoffman). "You're scum," she says. Well, that needs no translation. Nor does the look of elation on one lucky trader's face when he shouts, "I'm worth $140 million!" Cool and cocky and filthy rich, these Street-smart characters just might grow on you.
Bottom Line: Buy now
NBC (Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)
How ironic that the White House, home of NBC's classiest drama, The West Wing, could also be the setting for its trashiest sitcom. In Living Color's David Alan Grier is Jerome Daggett (Dag to his friends, get it?), a Secret Service agent whose body-guarding blunder one day almost costs the dim-bulb President (David Rasche) his life. In punishment Dag is reassigned to protect the testy First Lady (Delta Burke) and to put up with her smarmy chief of staff (Paul F. Tompkins). Burke makes Dag's life even more miserable by ordering him to walk the pee-brained family pooch and escort the bratty First Child (Lea Moreno Young), who resembles a pubescent Monica Lewinsky. But the humor is relentlessly infantile. If there's a White House Situation Comedy Room, they ought to call an airstrike and bomb this witless show back to the Flintstone age.
Bottom Line: Hell to the chief at NBC
CBS (Sun., Nov. 19, 9 p.m. ET)
Mercedes Ruehl, a 1991 Tony winner for Lost in Yonkers, here finds herself in Arizona—after getting a phone call from a Navajo woman who claims to be her sister. Turns out that Ruehl's character, adopted as an infant by a Jewish couple and now in search of her birth parents, has come to the right place. Though her Navajo mother is dead (after years of despair following the abduction of her twin babies from a local hospital), Ruehl's dad and sibs warmly welcome her back to the fold. But her construction worker husband (Jamey Sheridan) and their two suburban-reared daughters aren't too keen about relocating with Mom to a reservation. Therein lies the conflict. While a happy ending is preordained—hey, it's a Hallmark Hall of Fame drama—Ruehl's gutsy turn as a woman reborn transcends the formulaic plot.
Bottom Line: Fish-out-of-burbs story will hook you
NBC (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)
"Are you sleeping your way through the entire family? Because if so, I'd like to make my reservation now." So black-sheep son Peter Williams (John Barrowman) tactfully inquires of his seductive new stepmother, Heather (former Baywatch babe Yasmine Bleeth), who has already bedded Peter's brother Chandler (Starship Trooper Casper Van Dien) and gotten pregnant by him before marrying the boys unsuspecting tycoon dad, Richard (Perry King). Peter's crack gets him a slap in the face, which is what this anemic new soap from Aaron Spelling sorely needs. Parading Bleeth around in a gold bikini swimsuit, though it quickened my pulse, isn't enough to resuscitate the show's low ratings. And replacing King with Melrose Place regular Jack Wagner as Richard's scheming brother (starting Nov. 8) sounds like an SOS call.
Bottom Line: Titanic flop
The WB (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)
The season's nicest surprise, this one-hour dramedy explores the ties that bind—and sometimes chafe—Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), a small-town Connecticut innkeeper, and her 16-year-old daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), whom Lorelai bore out of wedlock when she was 16 and has reared, unmarried, ever since. Though their narrow age gap can result in sibling-like squabbling, the two get along like best buds. Their rapport feels genuine rather than cloying, and the show's sweetly low-key ambience is enhanced by a quirky ensemble that includes Melissa McCarthy as the inn's accident-prone chef, Yanic Truesdale as its supercilious concierge (think Bronson Pinchot in Beverly Hills Cop) and Liz Torres as Miss Patty, the hippo-hipped local dance teacher ("Hands in the air, not in the nose," she gaily instructs her tutued moppets).
Bottom Line: You go, girls
The Arturo Sandoval Story
HBO (Sat., Nov. 18, 9 p.m. ET)
Show of the week
There's a gorgeous moment early in this TV-movie bio when Sandoval (Andy Garcia), the Cuban jazz trumpeter who defected to the U.S. in 1990, is courting his future wife, Marianela (Mia Maestro). He invites her to meet him at an empty baseball stadium, where, standing on second base and hoping to get at least that far with her, he bleats out a shimmering solo that he titles "Marianela." Her eyes melt; she's entranced, and so, at this point, was I. (That's the Grammy-winning Sandoval on the soundtrack.) The drama mostly examines his political awakening. Banned from playing American jazz—dismissed as "the music of the enemy" by one Communist bureaucrat—Sandoval sees his talent stagnating. But to defect, he'd have to leave a son behind. Garcia fully captures the musician's anguish, while Charles S. Dutton provides an exuberant riff as Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval's mentor and, ultimately, savior.
Bottom Line: Horn of plenty
Terry Kelleher is on temporary leave.
>Sunday, Nov. 19 SANTA WHO? ABC (7 p.m. ET) Who better than Naked Gun klutz Leslie Nielsen to portray an amnesiac Kris Kringle in this World of Disney TV movie?
Monday, Nov. 20 THIRD WATCH NBC (10 p.m. ET) Mia Farrow, in her first TV series gig since Peyton Place, guests as Officer Yokas's troubled mom.
Tuesday, Nov. 21 BEING JOHN MALKOVICH Showtime (8 p.m. ET) Office worker John Cu-sack tumbles into actor Malkovich's head in a surreal 1999 comedy.
Wednesday, Nov. 22 LOVE LESSONS CBS (9 p.m. ET) This TV movie works a miracle on Patty Duke: She gets pregnant at 50!
Thursday, Nov. 23 FAITH! CBS (8 p.m. ET) Breathe a sigh! Faith Hill
offers up her solo hits and duets with hubby Tim McGraw
in a taped concert.
Friday, Nov. 24 ANASTASIA FOX (8 p.m. ET) Meg Ryan is the voice of the czar-crossed heroine in this 1997 animated film.
Saturday, Nov. 25 THE WIZARD OF OZ TNT (8 p.m. ET) Keep your Munchkins up after the end credits to catch scenes deleted from this 1939 classic.
FOX (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)