Only thing missing is Murphy Preview: You may not laugh at 'Maggie Winters,' but you might need to take notes for a sociological dissertation.

September 30, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Faith Ford plays a small-town girl who returns to her roots after the bust-up of her big-city marriage in the new CBS sitcom "Maggie Winters."

Ford is a nice supporting player, as anyone knows who watched her Corky Sherwood character over the years on "Murphy Brown." But this leading role may be too much for her to handle. Ford's two or three Corky moves start wearing thin by the first commercial break.

But just because she's not much of a leading actress and the sitcom is not all that entertaining, it doesn't mean "Maggie Winters" is dead meat. In fact, this sitcom might have something more important than talent or laughs: sociology.

"Maggie Winters" might be a show that connects with larger changes and patterns in our culture.

Maggie Winters and Corky Sherwood are basically the same character. The writers might have intended it that way, but I suspect it's just that Ford is not a good enough actress to make us forget Corky. But that might turn out to be a blessing, because, ultimately, "Maggie Winters" is really the de-education of Corky Sherwood.

In her emulation of Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen), Corky grew from airhead, beauty-queen anchor- woman to competent professional. If Murphy was the sitcom poster woman of the women's movement -- and she was -- Corky was a prize poster girl.

Nowadays we're talking post-feminism in prime time or at least ++ post-NOW feminism: short skirts on professional women on shows like "Ally McBeal," and the I-love-being-called-a-chick attitude on series like "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place."

In "Maggie Winters," the heroine returns home to Shelbyville, Ind., to live with her mother (yes, her mother!) and reunites with her old high school friends. One message some viewers might take from this is Corky renouncing the workplace/Washington feminism of "Murphy Brown."

Oh, come, let us joyously regress.

As entertainment, you can forget about "Maggie Winters." But, as sociology, it's worth watching for what it says about Corky and might be saying about us. ** 1/2

Quick takes

Here's a quick-hit guide to new series premiering tonight.

**** Must-see. *** Has promise. ** Worth a look. * Forget about it.

"To Have and to Hold" ** 1/2 (CBS) -- She's a "feminist" public defender. He's an "old-fashioned" police detective. No, it's not Joyce and Frank from "Hill Street Blues." But there is some heat between this couple played by Jason Beghe and Moira Kelly. Like NBC's "Trinity," this series also features a family of cops within a big Irish community. The pilot never finds a consistent tone, but there is some promise here in the main relationship. (9-10 tonight, WJZ, Channel 13)

"The Secret Lives of Men" * (ABC) -- A sitcom about three men in their 30s who play golf together once a week and serve as emotional support system for each other full-time. Could some men's secret lives really be as dull as this? Creator Susan Harris needs to make the acquaintance of some new men. (9: 30-10 tonight, WMAR, Channel 2)

New show

What: "Maggie Winters"

When: 8: 30 to 9 tonight

Where: CBS (WJZ, Channel 13)

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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