For Those Watching at Home TV SEASON PREVIEW

September 04, 1994

The four major broadcast networks are raising the curtain on the new fall season. Here is TV critic David Zurawik's guide to tell you where and when to find your old favorites and new prospects on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Nightly schedules include the times shows will appear and the date of their season premieres.

ratings:

**** -- Excellent

*** -- Very good

** -- Good

* -- Poor

SUNDAY

* "Earth 2" (NBC, 7 p.m.): It's 200 years into the future, and we're all forced to live in space stations in this would-be "Star Trek" from the Steven Spielberg factory. Despite lots of hype, the producers have yet to deliver a pilot that NBC is willing to show critics. It's awfully late not to have a pilot (which explains why there's no premiere date set for the show). Earth to "Earth 2": Does the name Paula Poundstone ring any bells from last year?

* "Fortune Hunter" (Fox, 7 p.m.): A suave Englishman (Mark Frankel) is paired with a computer geek played by John Robert Hoffman in this spy adventure series from Fox. They bond -- as in James Bond. They also steal from "Remington Steele" and "Mission Impossible." Lots of women in skimpy outfits falling for Frankel, which probably has absolutely nothing to do with this series following NFL football and Fox trying to hold those male viewers. **

* "On Our Own" (ABC, 7:30 p.m.): It's "Mrs. Doubtfire" meets the Jackson Family in this sitcom about a family of five brothers and two sisters whose parents were killed in a car crash. To keep the family together, the oldest brother (played by comedian Ralph Harris) cross-dresses in hopes of passing himself off to social workers as a proper guardian named Aunt Jelcinda, aka Mama J. Six members of the real-life Smollett family play Harris' brothers and sisters. It's the kids' ultimate wish fulfillment when it comes to Mom and Dad. **

* "Hardball" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): For guys who can't get enough jock action on Sundays comes this small-screen sitcom version of "Major League." The pilot was really dumb. But the producers have since promised to ax a gratuitous sex scene, add an African-American cast member and bring a woman in as owner of this sorry baseball team. In the pilot, women were the victims of only every other joke. It's still going to be a dumb show, but it's a very smart move by Fox to create a guys' show that can be plugged all afternoon by John Madden and Pat Summerall. Great lineup spot, too, between "The Simpsons" and "Married . . . With Children." *** (two of them for the network programmers)

* "Wild Oats" (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): Could Fox be Fox without at least one new twentysomething show? This is it. Remember "About Last Night," with Rob Lowe? This is the bite-size, TV knockoff version. A singles bar, two young men, two young women, lots of talk about sex, sex, sex. Occasionally, they do mention the word relationship -- the women, that is. Tim Conlon is the one to watch. He looks, sounds and acts like a young Bob Cummings. Furthermore, he plays an oversexed fashion photographer just as Bob did back in the '50s. No Schultzy, though, in this one. Sorry. ** 1/2

Big changes/big questions: CBS' prime-time lineup no longer has the NFL as a lead-in. How will "60 Minutes" and "Murder, She Wrote" fare without it? How will Fox do with the football lead-in? How will "The Simpsons" do on Sundays instead of Thursdays? Is Fox trying to slice the youth audience one way too many with "The Simpsons" in a head-to-head with "seaQuest DSV" and "Lois & Clark"?

MONDAY

* "Blue Skies" (ABC, 8:30 p.m.): Two young guys, best friends, have a back-to-nature mail-order catalog company, like L.L. Bean. When they find themselves in financial trouble, they take on a third partner named Ellie, who's a Harvard MBA. Ellie's brilliant, both guys are attracted to her, and you wonder what's going to crash first -- the business or the friendship. Corey Parker, the house-painter/lover from "thirtysomething," is one of the partners. His character, Joel Goodman, gets most of the laughs in the pilot. Tough time period, but it's one of the more promising sitcoms of the freshman class. ** 1/2

* "The Marshal" (ABC, 9 p.m.): This drama joins the lineup in January after Monday Night Football ends. It's about a modern-day U.S. marshal, played by Jeff Fahey. He hunts fugitives by day. At night, he's just a baby-boomer dad trying to make a living from Uncle Sam in the '90s. * 1/2

* "Party of Five" (Fox, 9 p.m.): Like ABC's "On Our Own," this is another show with the premise that Mom and Dad have been killed in a car accident. A trend? Probably just two networks getting the same idea at the same time. This one's a drama with a decidedly weepy tone about teens and pre-teens living on their own under the guidance of a twentysomething big brother. * 1/2

Big changes/big questions: How will "Melrose Place" and "Coach" do in a new time period, Monday nights at 8? How will CBS do with an unproven show, "The Nanny," leading off the evening? Has "Murphy Brown" reached the end of its run?

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