Playing a bed-hopping bachelor on HBO's Dream On (1990-96), Brian Benben inevitably found himself in various states of undress during each episode. Shortly after CBS recruited him for his own series last year, the word came down from network suits: no nudity. "To the great relief of everyone," Benben jokes, "I keep my clothes on this time." Though less racy than Dream On, The Brian Benben Show (Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET) finds plenty of fodder for the actor in the role of a seasoned TV news anchor demoted to covering absurd human interest stories when he's replaced by a news reading team. Benben, 42, says he drew his inspiration from hours glued to the local news. "Some of what you see is incredible," he says of the antics of ratings-hungry newsmen. "They almost parody themselves."
Those comic possibilities persuaded Benben to return to the small screen. When Dream ended 2½ years ago, he retreated to his ranch outside Fredericksburg, Texas, with his wife, actress Madeleine Stowe, 40, and their daughter May, 2. There, Benben and Stowe helped ranch hands with, among other chores, castrating bulls. He also developed a sitcom about—get this—an actor who moves to Texas. The networks passed on the pilot, but CBS snagged him for the newsroom comedy. What's the one thing Benben hates about The Brian Benben Show? The title. "People will hear that," he says, "and think it's a children's clown show."