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Guilty: New syndicated season of courtrooms, game shows and Dr. Laura offers little excitement

Thursday, September 07, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

At this point in September we should be counting the days until the new television season begins. Not this year.

Because of NBC's Olympics coverage, the broadcast networks aren't rolling out new episodes of returning series or their brand-spanking-new programs until the week of Oct. 1. Only UPN and The WB are premiering a few new programs this month.

However, some syndicated series sold directly to local stations are debuting as usual, including "Power of Attorney" (1 p.m. weekdays on WPXI), which already premiered.

These newcomers would be some consolation to viewers starved for new programming if any of them looked remotely interesting. They do not. Instead we get more court shows than you can shake a gavel at, the controversial and destined-to-fail "Dr. Laura" and a sprinkling of game shows.

Let the lackluster new season of syndication begin:

Channel 2
(KDKA)

There's little change on most of the local stations, and KDKA is emblematic of the same-old, same-old. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" stays put at 4 p.m., and the station reports no changes planned for daytime.

The only new weekend series already premiered. "The Cindy Margolis Show" (after midnight Saturdays at 1:35 a.m.) from CBS-owned Kingworld, is a vulgar, brain cell-destroying dance party. Call it "Breastsapalooza." Just don't watch it.

In the fall, local news will air Saturdays at 7 p.m., with "The Jerome Bettis Show" at 7:30 p.m.

Channel 4
(WTAE)

Few changes to report here, too. "Family Feud" is gone (moving to 12:30 p.m. on Channel 11 on Sept. 18), replaced by "Judge Hatchett" starting Monday.

"Hatchett" stars Glenda A. Hatchett, who "creates a courtroom environment aimed at offering solutions and 'real life' lessons to be applied beyond the courtroom," according to press materials. The show appears to be going for a younger demo than some courtroom shows and promises follow-up care for plaintiffs and defendants.

"Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," and heaven only knows where host Cybill Shepherd is from, but maybe viewers will find out when the talk show inspired by John Gray's best-selling books premieres at 1 a.m. weekdays starting Oct. 3. The show promises to look at topical and relationship issues from male and female viewpoints, with a mix of newsmakers, celebrities and ordinary people chatting it up with Cybill.

WTAE's only new drama, "Sheena," stars Gena Lee Nolin ("Baywatch") as defender of an African jungle. It's worth noting "Sheena" comes from Steven Sears, who spent four seasons as executive producer on "Xena: Warrior Princess." "Sheena" will air at 1 a.m. Sunday (after midnight Saturday) starting Oct. 8.

Channel 11
(WPXI)

"Dr. Laura" is the big news because of the controversy she's caused with her remarks about gays. Regardless of the brouhaha, physiologist "Dr. Laura" (11 a.m. weekdays beginning Monday) faces an uphill battle for ratings. Last season viewers showed a decided lack of interest in TV psychologist Dr. Joy Browne.

The "Today" show expands to a third hour at 9 a.m. on Oct. 2.

With "Family Feud" sliding into the 12:30 p.m. weekdays slot later this month, "Judge Mills Lane" has been bumped to 1:30 p.m. following the new "Power of Attorney."

Late night programs airing weekdays include "Street Smarts" (2:05 a.m. starting Oct. 3), featuring Pittsburgh area native Frank Nicotero as host of this man-on-the-street question show, and an updated version of "To Tell the Truth" (4:05 a.m. starting Sept. 19) with host John O'Hurley (J. Peterman on "Seinfeld"). "Change of Heart" moves to Channel 11 starting Sept. 19 when it will air weekdays at 2:35 a.m. All three late night shows get bumped a half-hour later after midnight on Fridays due to NBC's "Friday Night."

After midnight Saturday, Channel 11 will air reruns of "New York Undercover" at 1:30 a.m. starting Oct. 8. "State Police" will air at 2:30 and 3 a.m. beginning this weekend.

Channel 19
(WNPA)

This summer, executives from The WB were crowing about the synergy they'd have by picking up "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" from ABC because many WB stations will begin airing "Sabrina" reruns this fall. But that's not how it's working in Pittsburgh.

UPN affiliate WNPA will broadcast "Sabrina" reruns weekdays at 5 p.m. beginning Sept. 18. "Sabrina" will be followed by "Clueless" reruns at 5:30 p.m. for a one-hour teen block.

Teens who get out of school in the early afternoon (or who skip their last class) will also find a haven in reruns of "7th Heaven" (2 p.m. weekdays starting Sept. 18).

"Jenny Jones" moves from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 19. "Queen Latifah" moves to 1:30 a.m. the same day.

One of WNPA's highest-rated daytime programs, "Divorce Court," gets a new companion series, "Curtis Court," which will air at 6:30 p.m. starting Monday. "Curtis Court" stars former California prosecutor James Curtis as judge, and it includes expert witnesses and examinations of evidence, sometimes on location. A second run of "Divorce Court" and "Curtis Court" will air weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon.

"Star Trek: Voyager" remains in place at 10 p.m. with reruns of "Cosby" at 11 p.m.

On the weekend, Channel 19 adds "Stargate SG-1" at 6 p.m. Saturday on Sept. 16 and the new music show "Maximum Exposure" at 6 p.m. Sunday on Oct. 8. "Maximum Exposure" is a "Real TV"-type show that features caught-on-tape moments.

"ER" reruns will air in a two-hour block at 11 p.m. Sunday starting Sept. 24.

Channel 22
(WCWB)

Huzzah!

Channel 22 is finally doing the responsible thing, moving "The Jerry Springer Show" out of the just-home-from-school 5 p.m. time slot where it butts up against children's shows. In its place will be reruns of the far more compatible "Full House" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Springer's ratings have been down nationally, but WPGH/WCWB regional manager Dick Singer said that wasn't the reason for the move.

"[The ratings] actually started to come back this summer," Singer said. "We made the decision to do it. It just had to be done."

"Springer" will now air weekdays at 10 p.m. on WCWB and at 9 a.m. on WPGH.

Back-to-back episodes of "Friends" stay in place at 7 p.m.

Starting Oct. 2, Channel 22 will broadcast reruns of MTV's "The Real World" at 11 p.m. weekdays, followed by "The Jamie Foxx Show" at 11:30 p.m., "The Nanny" at midnight and Dick Wolf's "Arrest & Trial" at 12:30 a.m.

Think of "Arrest & Trial" as a reality-TV version of "Law & Order" as it follows real-life criminal cases. Actor Brian Dennehy hosts.

The success of Antonio Banderas' "Mask of Zorro" a few summers ago probably led to "Queen of Swords" (9 p.m. Saturday starting Oct. 7). Newcomer Tessie Santiago stars as Tessa Alvarado, who returns to her 19th century California birthplace to discover a military dictator making life miserable for everyone. Tessie dons a mask to become a mysterious avenger.

Boldly going where TV has gone before, "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda" (10 p.m. Saturday starting Oct. 7) stars Kevin Sorbo ("Hercules") as Dylan Hunt, captain of the starship Andromeda Ascendant. Hunt and his crew strive to restore order to the galaxy following a civil war. The good news: Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who worked on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" is a co-executive producer. The bad news: With its living ship and drones that run about the ship's decks, "Andromeda" sounds strangely like Sci-Fi Channel's excellent drama "Farscape."

"Beastmaster" moves to WCWB Saturdays at 11 p.m.

Channel 53
(WPGH)

No big changes for Pittsburgh's Fox affiliate in the all-important access hour of 7 to 8 p.m. "Drew Carey" and "Seinfeld" will continue there, with "Spin City" reruns replacing "Home Improvement" at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 (a second "Spin City" run at midnight replaces a second "Frasier").

Reruns of the atrocious "Suddenly Susan" air at the relatively benign 12:30 a.m. beginning Oct. 3.

"Moral Court" (7 a.m. weekdays beginning Oct. 2), presided over by radio personality Larry Elder, won't reach verdicts in legal disputes. Instead, Elder will decide who's right and who's wrong in cases of morality and values.

Veteran psychiatrist and relationship expert Dr. Irvin Wolkoff counsels couples in crisis on "House Calls" (10 a.m. weekdays starting Monday).

WPGH will broadcast an hour of relationship shows at 1 p.m. Two episodes of "Lover or Loser" are filling the hour now, but it moves to 1:30 p.m. when "Sex Wars" premieres at 1 p.m. Oct. 2.

"Sex Wars" features a team of men and a team of women answering questions to see how well they know the opposite sex. "Lover or Loser" puts two guys on stage with an audience of women choosing one as the "lover" and the other as the "loser" (that's gotta hurt). The "lover" then gets to pick a woman from the audience for a date.

Channel 59
(WBGN)

In a somewhat unusual arrangement, this low-power station will carry the new action hour "The Immortal" Friday at 8 p.m. (premieres Oct. 6), and the show will also air on WPXI after midnight Sunday at 2:35 a.m. (premieres Oct. 2).

"The Immortal" stars Lorenzo Lamas ("Renegade") as Rafael Navarre, the orphaned son of a European explorer who married a Japanese woman and had a son in the 16th century, only to see them both murdered by the evil Mallos. Rafael vows revenge and finds himself made immortal to fight all of Mallos' henchmen.

Former "Real World" star Eric Nies hosts "Thunder Box" (9 p.m. Friday starting Oct. 6), a show that features fighting and music.

This one sounds ugly: "Cheaters" (8 p.m. Wednesday beginning Oct. 4) features real people who contact investigators wanting to know if their partners are cheating on them "Cheaters" broadcasts the results.

Byron Allen interviews celebrities on "EntertainmentStudios.com" (5:30 p.m. weekdays, already premiered) and children get answers to their questions in "Did You Ever Wonder" (4 p.m. Thursday starting Sept. 21).

Fans of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" will be happy to know its co-host returns in "Jim Fowler's Life in the Wild" (4 p.m. Tuesday, premiering next week) with his children in tow. Wonder if he'll force them into dangerous situations the way his old boss, Marlin Perkins, sent him to do the dirty work?

WBGN offers three new shows Saturday afternoon. "The Wall Street Journal Report" (1 p.m. premiering Sept. 16) examines the financial week in review, while "Better Homes and Gardens" (1:30 p.m. premiering Sept. 23) and "P. Allen Smith Garden" (3 p.m. premiering Sept. 23) presumably spend a lot of time with their hosts digging in the dirt.


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.



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