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Cover Story

Roll of the Dice: 36 to Show

September 20, 1998|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three physicians leave a thriving practice to open a private medical corporation treating the "soul and the sickness." Roger (Ken Olin) is the cocky, Jaguar-wheeling bachelor and rainmaker; Tim (Matt Craven) is the concerned family man with two adopted daughters; Evan (Rick Roberts) is the ethical and caring good Samaritan; . The new partner is Sarah (Sheryl Lee), an idealistic workaholic who, though happily married, may be attracted to Evan.

The outlook: Operating on a night geared toward guys, "Doctors" sets up nicely against "Dateline NBC," but will be thrown for a big loss whenever "Monday Night Football" has a strong matchup. Nevertheless, it should post stronger numbers than "Brooklyn South," which opened well and faded quickly. The youthful amiability of Roberts, a potential breakout star with charm and good looks (expect the obvious comparison to Noah Wyle in some circles) is a major asset.

TUESDAY

"The Hughleys"

8:30 p.m. ABC

Comedy

Premieres Tuesday

Bombastic Darryl Hughley (D.L. Hughley) loves his new suburban home. Ditto for his wife (Elise Neal) and two children. If only his elderly neighbor wasn't ordering him to "fetch" her trash. Darryl, you see, is an African American who has moved on up to a spiffy middle-class neighborhood, a signal to one friend (John Henton) that he's "on the slippery slope to losing your blackness."

The outlook: One of two new sitcoms sporting the same premise (the other is Fox's "Living in Captivity"), this series should inherit the lead-in of "Home Improvement." The big boy in this neighborhood, however, is "JAG," which could leave everyone else in the dust.

****

"Encore! Encore!"

8:30 p.m. NBC

Comedy

Premieres Tuesday

Tony Award winner Nathan Lane plays Joseph Pinoni, a pompous, overbearing opera star who comes home to a family-owned Napa Valley winery after losing his golden voice. He's reacquainted with his loving mother (Joan Plowright), jealous sister (Glenne Headly) and naive nephew (Trevor Fehrman).

The outlook: In terms of character and premise, this pilot bears more than a passing resemblance to "Frasier." But before anyone screams plagiarism, you should know the new sitcom comes from the producers of Kelsey Grammer's Emmy winner. Whether "Encore" can succeed hinges on viewers warming to Lane's theatrical performance style. If they don't, there will be no curtain call.

****

"Costello"

8:30 p.m. Fox

Comedy

Already premiered

In-our-face comedian Sue Costello plays a tough bartender at a South Boston watering hole where everyone knows her name. The rowdy, blue-collar clientele also knows she just dumped her boyfriend, favors a "word of the day" (capacious is a favorite) and serves up more wisecracks than suds. On the home front, Sue contends with a stubborn father (Dan Lauria), a neurotic mother (Jenny O'Hara) and a protective brother (Chuck Walczak).

The outlook: The crass dialogue flows as freely as shooters, which could turn off anyone opening their evening with the sly, satirical "King of the Hill." And teens are likely to opt for the second half of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which would result in a stake in the heart for "Costello."

****

"Brimstone"

9 p.m. Fox

Drama

Premieres Oct. 27

Peter Horton of "thirtysomething" stars as a fallen NYPD homicide cop emerging from Hell with a directive to capture the 113 callous creatures who slipped out of Satan's grasp, spreading chaos on Earth with their supernatural powers. (In the pilot, the monster of the week is a pedophilic priest!) Detective Ezekiel Stone (Horton) lost his soul 15 years ago after killing the man who raped his wife.

The outlook: Dark, edgy and reminiscent of the comic book "Spawn," this hour possesses a distinctive, shadowy look and atmosphere that should set it apart from every other show. "Just Shoot Me" will dominate, but it's conceivable the fiery "Brimstone" could slowly snare the souls of "Spin City" and others from 9 to 10 p.m.

****

"Mercy Point"

9 p.m. UPN

Sci-Fi/Drama

Premieres Oct. 6

Think of a futuristic "ER," add a menagerie of slimy "Star Wars"-esque aliens and you have the formula for this unconventional knockoff, um, hybrid. Joe Morton and Brian McNamara are the most familiar faces of the ensemble. The outlandish creatures, we assure you, have not surfaced elsewhere to date.

The outlook: Have mercy on the creators of this curiously derivative project, who evidently saw promise in a show interweaving medical crises, ooze and ahs, as in "Ah, I can't believe they made this!"

****

"Felicity"

9 p.m. WB

Drama

Premieres Sept. 29

An intelligent, impulsive senior (Keri Russell) bound for Stanford gives up everything after falling for a handsome fellow student (Scott Speedman) who signed her yearbook on graduation day. The 11th-hour decision angers her parents and throws her life for a loop, particularly because it prompts a move to the University of New York. For introspective Felicity, it's either a "colossal mistake" or a bold declaration of independence.

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