Picks and Pans Review: Tv Series Saved by Radical Surgery

updated 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

>TV LOVES TO LULL US WITH THE FAMILIAR, so shows rarely change drastically over time. This season, though, an unprecedented number of series have been radically retooled either in cast (Designing Women) or in tone (The Trials of Rosie O'Neill). Especially over at ABC, the show surgeons have been operating with purposeful abandon. Gabriel's Fire won three Emmys last year in its first season but lacked ratings. So the detective show starring James Earl Jones has been retitled (Pros & Cons), recast (adding Richard Crenna as a private eye), relocated (from Chicago to Los Angeles) and, most importantly, reconceived (from heavy drama to light comic adventure). Don't knock it till you've tried it. Pros & Cons (Thursdays, 8 P.M. ET) is much more entertaining and, each week, Crenna and Jones put on an acting seminar.

On Baby Talk (Fridays, 9:30 P.M. ET) ABC threw out the bathwater but kept the baby—barely. Star Julia Duffy has been replaced by Mary Page (Open House) Keller, a much warmer and more engaging actress. By downplaying the talking tot and bringing in a blue-collar romantic interest (Scott Baio, as the super of Keller's apartment building), the show has upgraded itself from disastrous to respectable. All right, lines like "Do you think Mrs. Mozart ever asked Wolfie that question?" aren't the soul of wit. But Baio must be pinching himself. After spending most of his career on brain drains like Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge, Baio must feel like he landed in Noel Coward's salon.

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