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Previewing The Previews

May 25, 1986|Morgan Gendel

Clip this and file away in a place where you'll quickly forget it. What follows is a thumbnail handicap of next fall's new TV series. It's based on some first-hand previewing, some knowledgeable opinion, word on the street, buzz, rumor and innuendo and all analyzed with a deft combination of insight, foresight and hindsight:

Everyone will be talking about: "ALF" (NBC), with a curmudgeonly alien played by a puppet; "Designing Women" (CBS), a wittily packaged cat-fight that brings the "Golden Girls" motif to new levels of bitchiness, and the Joan Rivers series on the upstarting Fox Broadcasting network.

Surprise hits: "Head of the Class (ABC), with Howard Hesseman as the high school teacher trying to socialize a class of geniuses, and "Ben Matlock" (NBC), which combines Andy Griffith's homespun appeal with TV's rediscovered profession, law.

Critics will write incessantly about: "L.A. Law" (NBC) which will remind them of the things they liked best about "Hill Street Blues" in its early years; "Our House" (NBC), a seriocomic look at cootish Wilford Brimley as a retiree and suds star Diedre Hall as his newly widowed daughter-in-law; and the aforementioned Joan Rivers show, if for no other reason than everybody will be scrutinizing her ratings opposite Johnny Carson.

Fastest to the covers of People and US: Diedre Hall of "Our House" (NBC) and Harry Hamlin of "L.A. Law" (NBC). Backups: Dennis Farina of "Crime Story" (NBC), Patricia Kalember, a.k.a. "Kay O'Brien, Surgeon" (CBS), Michael Nouri of "Downtown" (CBS) and Ellen Burstyn, star of her eponymously titled ABC sitcom.

In six months you won't remember: On ABC: "Disney Movie" spinoff "Last Electric Knight"; "Starman," proving once again that sci-fi doesn't work on TV; and "Our Kind of Town," proving once again that Shelley Hack doesn't work on TV. On CBS: "Together We Stand," with zero chemistry between the low-key Elliott Gould and the ever-sincere Dee Wallace Stone; "Taking the Town," demonstrating that luscious-looking Pam Dawber's true talent was as a foil; and "Wizard of Elm Street," a fantasy-adventure too unsophisticated even for its target pre-teen audience. On NBC: "Easy Street," Loni Anderson and a couple of bums (that's right, bums ) is no match for "Murder, She Wrote."

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