By all appearances, the broadcast television networks finally got the message that audiences are hungry for original programming even during summer months. What's more, they've learned to do it with relatively inexpensive programming.
But summer fun is over, and now it's time for the networks to return to what they do best, or at least what they're more accustomed to doing: unleashing a fall stampede of 35 new comedies and dramas, episodics and anthologies, shows focusing on cops and kids, doctors and degenerates. A few new shows have dribbled out already, with the stream picking up this week in advance of TV's official premiere week the seven days following the Emmy Awards on Sept. 22.
It's difficult for even the most dedicated TV watcher to keep track of it all--made no easier this year by the presence of two medical shows set in San Francisco airing opposite one another, one show offering a welcome to Tucson and another sending out greetings to Miami, and three new cop series set on the gritty streets of Los Angeles--but maybe we can help.
Title: "Oliver Beene"
Time slot: 7:30 p.m. Premieres in early 2003, after fall sports season ends
Key cast: Grant Rosenmeyer, Grant Shaud ("Murphy Brown"), Wendy Makkena ("Sister Act"), Andrew Lawrence
Behind the camera: Executive producer Steven Levitan ("Just Shoot Me")
The gist: The Cold War fears of 1962 are nothing compared to the everyday dangers of being 11-year-old Oliver Beene (Rosenmeyer). He copes with on-edge parents (Shaud, Makkena), a tuned-out brother (Lawrence) and daily humiliations of being class clown at school.
Target audience: Baby boomers
Most like: "The Wonder Years"
Major competition: ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney," CBS' "60 Minutes"
What it has: A nostalgic pull for anyone who grew up with the Kennedys, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the early Johnny Carson years What it needs: To lose the attitude
Title: "American Dreams"