ABC (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

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I'm checking my notes on this show's late-September premiere, and I notice half of them are crossed out.

Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) works for a bank. No, it's a front for the CIA's SD-6 division. Hold on. SD-6 is really a renegade espionage outfit inimical to U.S. interests. And apparently one of the evildoers is Sydney's stern father (Victor Garber), thought to be an importer—or was it exporter?—of airplane parts. Out of patriotic duty, she'll have to become his covert foe by serving as a CIA mole inside SD-6. Wait—or are they both secretly on the side of right? By the time the exciting pilot was done, Alias had established itself as a drama where nothing is written in ink, much less set in stone.

Not that I'm totally sold on the series. Sydney gets out of jams with martial artistry Jackie Chan might envy, and episode 2 was a mite early for her to be disarming a nuclear bomb. But Garner (Pearl Harbor) has an appeal that transcends implausibility, and the strong supporting cast includes Ron Rifkin as the ruthless chief of SD-6 and Carl Lumbly as the partner Sydney probably can't afford to trust.

Bottom Line: Spy vs. spy with style

NBC (Mondays, 10 p.m. ET)

"You are not a cop.... Why don't you just stick to your job?"

Yeah, sure. Naysaycrs won't keep Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy, formerly of Law & Order) from crime-busting in this new series any more than they dissuaded Jack Klugman's character from solving murders in NBC's Quincy, M.E. between 1976 and 1983. On TV—as in the bestselling novels of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs—medical examiners think outside the box. Jordan is certainly sexier than Quincy. In last month's pilot, she stirred a rogue policeman's lust, cuffed him to the bed, then checked his arm for the bite mark that tied him to a slaying. Unfortunately she's in danger of being bogged down in the back story involving her ex-cop father (Ken Howard from The White Shadow) and his search for whoever killed her mother 22 years ago. Dad makes himself useful only when he and Jordan brainstorm about current mysteries. Maybe he could lose his bland lady friend (Lois Nettleton) and turn private eye.

Hennessy has the feistiness the lead role requires, and Miguel Ferrer bears watching as her tense, neurotic supervisor. Too bad the first couple of cases were too easily cracked.

Bottom Line: Middling M.E.

ABC (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Raising Dad
The WB (Fridays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

These new entries are the latest in a long line of sitcoms about extremely fallible fathers. Though neither is blessed with much wit, one at least has some energy.

Raising Dad finds Bob Saget (Full House) trudging back to single parenthood as Matt, widowed father of two girls. Sarah (Kat Dennings) has the bad luck to attend the high school where Dad teaches creative writing as if it were Introduction to Standup Comedy. His apparent function in life is to embarrass her unthinkingly, but he does so with zero flair. Elementary schooler Emily (Brie Larson) has more fun with easygoing Grandpa (Jerry Adler, who plays Hesh on The Sopranos).

According to Jim is basically a playpen for Jim Belushi as an unrefined Chicagoan with three kids. To get an idea of his character, recall the beer buddies of Saturday Night Live's old "Da Bears" skit. Courtney Thorne-Smith (late of Ally McBeal) is too glamorous to be portraying the wife of a guy who'll scratch his backside in front of his sister-in-law (Kimberly Williams). Still, Belushi's gusto is all this show has going for it. Bottom Line: Jimbo by a nose

Sunday, Oct. 21 JENIFER CBS (9 p.m. ET) Laura San Giacomo, Jane Kaczmarek and Annabella Sciorra star in this TV movie as sisters who unite when one is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

Monday, Oct. 22 LABORS DELIVERY 2 TLC (9 p.m. ET) Young residents at New Orleans's University Hospital learn fast about high-risk pregnancies.

Tuesday. Oct. 23 VH1/V0GUE FASHION AWARDS VH1 (9 p.m. ET) Alicia Keys and Lil' Kim are among the stylin' celebs set to appear.

Wednesday, Oct. 24 BIOGRAPHY: IMELDA MARCOS A&E (8 p.m. ET) A look at the life of the Philippines' ex-first lady.

Thursday, Oct. 25 TESTING OUR SCHOOLS PBS (9 p.m. ET) Can President Bush's education plan pass a Frontline exam?

Friday, Oct. 26 RADIO MUSIC AWARDS ABC (9 p.m. ET) Live from Las Vegas, Elton John gets the Legend Award, and Kid Rock and Sugar Ray perform.

Saturday, Oct. 27 WORLD SERIES FOX (7:30 p.m. ET) Baseball's boys of autumn take the field for Game 1.

As the host of the syndicated matchmaking show Blind Date, Roger Lodge has seen it all. Like the insect buff who tried to impress his date with a gift-wrapped live scorpion over dinner. Or the guy who planned the evening around a visit to the Hustler pornography store. "The level of inappropriateness is amazing," says Lodge.

Inappropriate or not, Lodge, 41, who got his break guest-hosting E!'s Talk Soup in 1995, watches every date—10 times each—and adds his own snarky comments to the ones that pop up in cartoon thought balloons ("When exactly did you get the lobotomy?") over the couple's heads. "I want to be the voice of the viewer and comment on what people are thinking back home," says the Orange County, Calif ., native. Home for the divorced Lodge, who has a 12-year-old son, is now L.A. And as for seeing him on his own blind date, don't hold your breath. Lodge, who is dating a 30-year-old actress, insists he has never been set up. And if he were, he certainly wouldn't want the added pressure of having a Blind Date camera crew tag along. "Heavens, no," he says. "What could be tougher?"

  • Contributors:
  • Lorenzo Benet.