Fox is counter-programming as a new network is launched


January 16, 1995|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

Last week, Warner Bros. launched its WB "network" with a disastrous lineup of losers. Tonight, Paramount launches its own network, UPN, with the two-hour premiere of "Star Trek: Voyager." It's a fabulous beginning -- and UPN hits the ground running.

* "Melrose Place." (8 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- CBS, NBC and ABC are proceeding with business as usual tonight, but Fox, which has good cause to take independent fledgling networks seriously, is counter-programming rival Paramount's opening-night lineup with a strong draw of its own: a two-hour episode of "Melrose Place," with guest star Traci Lords. Fox.

* "Star Trek: Voyager." (8 p.m.-10 p.m., WNUV, Channel 54) -- The special effects in this two-hour premiere are first-rate, the new Voyager starship is sleek and neat, and the plot, by the time this first episode is over, gets us more involved in the lives and fates of its characters than the premiere of "Deep Space Nine" ever did. Standouts in the premiere are many, but include Robert Picardo of "China Beach" as a holographic physician, Robert Duncan McNeill as a likable loose cannon, Ethan Phillips as a sort of alien-creature Radar O'Reilly and, very effectively, Kate Mulgrew as the first female starship captain in "Star Trek" history. UPN.

* "America's War on Poverty." (9 p.m.-11 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) -- Today through Wednesday, executive producer Henry Hampton ("Eyes on the Prize") presents a detailed look at American poverty, beginning in 1945 and proceeding right to the present day. Tonight's installments recount the problems of coal miners in Kentucky and of poor blacks in Mississippi, and the often brutal local resistance to assisting either group. PBS.

* "Cybill." (9:30 p.m.-10 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- This series, in a few short weeks, has turned into a reliable place to find some playful "Extras," or in-jokes, usually in cooperation with celebrity cameos. This week, the guest celebrity has a much larger role: She's Morgan Fairchild, who here plays a rival actress on Cybill's soap opera. CBS.


* "The Thorn Birds." (8:05 p.m.-11:05 p.m., TBS) -- Just as news surfaces that TV is making a sequel of this top-rated miniseries, TBS reruns the original all this week.

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