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Viewing the 27 new network shows that debut this fall could lead you to believe you're suffering from double vision.

Almost two-thirds of the series on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox bear more than a passing resemblance to another of the programs.For example, both ABC and Fox have shows about orphaned children trying to hold their families together - ABC's is a comedy, "On Our Own," while Fox's is a drama, "Party of Five."

ABC's "Me & the Boys" is a sitcom about a single father and his three sons. CBS's "Daddy's Girls" is a sitcom about a single father and his three daughters.

ABC's sitcom "All American Girl" and CBS' sitcom "The Boys Are Back" are both about three generations of a family all living in the same house.

NBC's drama "Sweet Justice" is about an estranged father and daughter trying to work out their relationship. ABC's drama "McKenna" is about an estranged father and son trying to work out their relationship.

Fox has two shows in which a good guy tries to beat the bad guys with the help of high-tech wizardry - "Fortune Hunter" and "M.A.N.T.I.S."

Both CBS' "Due South" and Fox's "New York Undercover" are buddy cop shows.

There are actually three sitcoms about twentysomethings trying to make it on their own - with a bit of support from their friends - in the big city: ABC's "Blue Skies," NBC's "Friends" and Fox's "Wild Oats."

And not only are two networks debuting hourlong medical dramas - CBS' "Chicago Hope" and NBC's "E.R." - but the two networks have scheduled the two shows opposite each other on Thursday nights.

There may be a good deal of redundance, but there isn't a great deal of quality among the incoming freshman TV class. Fortunately, only five shows are really dreadful, but, unfortunately, only five rise above average.

Which leaves 15 stuck somewhere in the TV middle. (Two series were unavailable for preview.)

In other words, there's not a great deal to look forward to - but there are a few gems to look out for and a few bombs to avoid.

Here's a night-by-night rundown of the new shows:


FORTUNE HUNTER (6 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Mark Frankel stars as the title character, a privately employed mercenary of sorts who travels the world on fabulous adventures trying to locate people and things with the aid of some nifty high-tech gadgetry.

Quality quotient: Not a bad show for a James Bond rip-off, but a rip-off nonetheless. The pilot drags and it's too hokey, but the extremely handsome Frankel has star potential. Needs a lot of work on the writing and humor.

Performance potential: Fox is hoping the NFL audience will stick around for "Fortune Hunter." It probably won't.

Debut date: Premiered Sept. 4.

EARTH 2 (6 p.m. NBC/Ch. 2): Sometime in the future, the Earth has become uninhabitable and humans live on space stations orbiting the planet. A group of hardy colonists set out to settle a new world but crash on the wrong side of the planet and have to struggle to traverse this new planet and establish their colony.

Quality quotient: Not available for preview.

Performance potential: It's hard to say without seeing any episodes, but the fact that Steven Spielberg has asked to have his name removed from the show should tell you something.

Debut date: Sometime in November.

ON OUR OWN (6:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Sitcom about seven siblings (six of them the real-life Smollett brothers and sisters; stand-up comedian Ralph Harris plays the oldest brother) who try to keep the family together after the parents are killed. Among the ploys - Harris in drag pretending to be a maiden aunt.

Quality quotient: Another silly, sappy, dopey piece of junk from ABC, which seems to specialize in family sitcoms that insult the viewers' intelligence.

Performance potential: What with the rapidly declining popularity of "America's Funniest Home Videos," this show doesn't stand a chance.

Debut date: Previews on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.; regular premiere is Sept. 18.

HARDBALL (7:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Ensemble cast-sitcom about a struggling professional baseball team. Characters include an over-the-hill pitcher (Bruce Greenwood), a young stud star (Joe Rogan), the team's owner (Rose Marie) and a no-nonsense new manager (Dann Florek).

Quality quotient: Even big baseball fans will have a hard time stomaching this unfunny, tasteless drivel.

Performance potential: Even hammocked between "The Simpsons" and "Married . . . With Children" this show will have a hard time surviving.

Debut date: Premiered Sept. 4.

WILD OATS (8:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Twentysomething sitcom about a pair of best guy buddies, Jack and Brian, and a pair of best girl buddies, Shelly and Liz. Shelly used to date Jack, despite the fact that he's a sexist, disgusting pig, and now she's interested in Brian - although she still has the hots for Jack.

Quality quotient: Another tasteless, vulgar, smarmy sitcom from Fox that, if it survives, has the potential to degenerate into something as dreadful as "Married . . . With Children" has become over the years.

Performance potential: Fox has a way with this kind of thing, and "Oats" has a good chance of succeeding.

Debut date: Premiered Sept. 4.


BLUE SKIES (2:05 a.m. - very late Sunday - ABC/Ch. 4): Sitcom about two twentysomething buddies (Corey Parker and Matt Roth) who run a successful mail-order business - or it would be successful if their accountant hadn't embezzled all the profits. Along comes a brilliant and attractive young woman (Julia Campbell) who is not only a business whiz, but who attracts the attentions of both guys.

Quality quotient: This show has a good cast and experienced writers and producers (whose credits include "Newhart" and "Coach"), but falls oddly flat. Needs lots of improvement.

Performance potential: "Coach" is already struggling badly on Monday nights, and this show will do even worse on the network.

Debut date: Because of Monday Night Football, this will not air in its regular time slot in this time zone. KTVX will air the first episode on Sunday, Sept. 18 (early Monday, Sept. 19) at 1:05 a.m.; the second episode on Sept. 25 at 1:35 a.m., and the succeeding episodes on Sundays (early Mondays) at 2:05 a.m. Assuming the show is still around, it will be seen on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 2.

PARTY OF FIVE (8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): Hourlong drama about five siblings (an 11-month-old boy, girls aged 11 and 15 and boys aged 16 and 24) who try to put their lives together - and keep their family together - after their parents die in a car accident.

Quality quotient: This is the best fall pilot of the bunch. A strongly pro-family show that deals with both its characters and its audience intelligently. And Scott Wolf, who plays the 16-year-old, has all the makings of a break-out star.

Performance potential: This show is badly mis-scheduled. Not only is it opposite some strong competition, but its lead-in is "Melrose Place" - a show that it has nothing in common with.

Debut date: Sept. 12


ME & THE BOYS (7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): A hip, widowed father (stand-up comedian Steve Harvey) and his mother-in-law (Madge Sinclair), who are raising his three sons.

Quality quotient: Another dopey, predictable sitcom that is more lame than funny.

Performance potential: Hey, this could be a perfect match for the show that precedes it, "Full House," and has the potential to be a decent hit.

Debut date: Sept. 20.

THE MARTIN SHORT SHOW (7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Short stars husband, father and the star of a television comedy/variety show whose wife (Jan Hooks) also appears on the show. Short's fellow SCTVer Andrea Martin is also in the cast.

Quality quotient: Some of Short's comedy sketches are fairly funny, but overall this is an uncomfortably bad mix that is far too self-concious, self-aware and self-congratulatory. A little bit of Short goes a long way - and there's a lot of Short in this show.

Performance potential: Another iffy proposition. NBC's chances of succeeding with "Wings" and "Martin Short" on this night are slim indeed.

Debut date: Sept. 20.


THE BOYS ARE BACK (7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Hal Linden and Suzanne Pleshette star as parents prepared for a second honeymoon when they send their third and final son off to college. But son No. 1 moves back in - with his wife and three kids - closely followed by divorced, alcoholic son No. 2.

Quality quotient: Linden and Pleshette are fun to watch and have chemistry, but the rest of the show needs work. It's comfortable, not quality. There's nothing to really distinguish this sitcom from others of the genre, other than the stars.

Performance potential: A new show leading off a network's schedule on any night is tough, but the competition here isn't so tough that "Boys" doesn't have a chance. Could finish second in the time slot if it's lucky.

Debut date: Previews on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 7 p m.; regular premiere is Sept. 14.

THE COSBY MYSTERIES (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Bill Cosby returns as a retired police criminologist and private eye who investigates all manners of mysteries in New York City.

Quality quotient: Imagine Cosby as Jessica Fletcher - this idea is as old and unoriginal as Cosby himself is becoming.

Performance potential: Will probably be a hit among the older set, but this show has no chance to repeat the huge success of "The Cosby Show.

Debut date: Sept. 21.

ALL AMERICAN GIRL (7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Standup comedian Margaret Cho is the title character, a first-generation American who tries to balance being an "All-American Girl" with the expectations of her Korean-born parents.

Quality quotient: The show's pilot is quite amusing, although the premise has undergone some reworking and refining, and the character of the grandmother is silly and stereotypical. Particularly enjoyable is Jodi Long as Margaret's mother - she's a hoot! And watch for B.D. Wong as her brother.

Performance potential: If "Thunder Alley" succeeds at 7 p.m., this will be at least a moderate hit. If not, "Girl" will be in trouble.

Debut date: Previews on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 8:30 p.m.; regular premiere is Sept. 21.

DADDY'S GIRLS (7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Dudley Moore stars as the owner of a high-fashion house whose wife runs away with his partner, leaving him with three daughters. Harvey Fierstein co-stars as a gay fashion designer.

Quality quotient: Surprisingly good sitcom, particularly in light of Moore's ill-fated outing last year in the dreadful comedy "Dudley." He's quite funny, and the supporting cast offers him plenty to play off. Fierstein is a great, and there are a lot of laughs here.

Performance potential: Again, the lead-in here is all-important. If "The Boys are Back" doesn't pull decent ratings, "Daddy's Girls" is going to be in trouble.

Debut date: Sept. 21.

TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL (8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Family-oriented drama about a pair of angels (Roma Downey and Della Reese) who come to earth to help good, decent folks at pivotal times in their lives.

Quality quotient: Not available for preview.

Performance potential: The odds are against "Angels," up against "Roseanne" and another edition of the increasingly popular "Dateline NBC." It may take divine intervention to turn this series into a hit.

Debut date: Sept. 21.


MY SO-CALLED LIFE (7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Outstanding hourlong drama that centers on a 15-year-old girl as she tries to navigate adolescence. From the writers and producers of "thirtysomething."

Quality quotient: May just be the best new show of the season. "Life" not only treats teenagers as real people, but their parents as well. It's not afraid to tackle tough subjects, and handles them well amid outstanding writing, acting and direction.

Performance potential: This is a real long shot in this tough time slot - but this show is so different and difficult to sell it would have a tough time catching on no matter where ABC scheduled it.

Debut date: Premiered Aug. 25.

DUE SOUTH (7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Action/comedy hour about a pair of mismatched police partners - an uptight Canadian Mountie (Paul Gross) and a street-smart Chicago cop (David Marciano) who team up to solve crimes.

Quality quotient: As buddy cop shows go, this one isn't half bad. The best part of the show is the humor and the chemistry between the two stars.

Performance potential: This show could survive by attracting the older audience that's not going to be interested in "Mad About You," "Martin" or "My So-Called Life."

Debut date: Sept. 22.

FRIENDS (7:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Ensemble sitcom about six twentysomething friends - three men and three women - who support each other as they struggle with life and love.

Quality quotient: Oh, it's OK. But it's certainly nothing to get excited about.

Performance potential: Should be at least a moderate hit because it's hammocked between "Mad About You" and "Seinfeld" on NBC's schedule.

Debut date: Sept. 22.

McKENNA (8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4): Hourlong family drama about an estranged father and son (Chad Everett and Eric Close) who try to work out their problems while working on the family's high-adventure wilderness tour business.

Quality quotient: Not bad, but not particularly good either.

Performance potential: Chances of success are slim and none.

Debut date: Sept. 15.

NEW YORK UNDERCOVER (8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): A pair of ethnic cops - one Hispanic (Michael DeLorenzo) and one black (Malik Yoba) - are the NYPD's hip answer to police detectives. Patti D'Arbanville is along for the ride as their boss.

Quality quotient: Desperately hip, this is designed to appeal to the younger crowd with slang and cool music. The two leads are both appealing, but the story itself is predictable and familiar.

Performance potential: May appeal to that young crowd, but won't appeal to many people over the age of 25.

Debut date: Sept. 8.

MADMAN OF THE PEOPLE (8:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Dabney Coleman is the title character, an abrasive, obnoxious magazine columnist whose new boss is his daughter (Cynthia Gibb). There are also assorted characters at the office, and a supportive wife and ditzy son at home.

Quality quotient: Coleman is playing the same character he's been doing since the movie "9 to 5," and it's wearing awfully thin. And the rest of the show is mundane at best.

Performance potential: Because it follows "Seinfeld," it should be a hit. But without a lot of improvement, this may be the greatest disappointment of the season.

Debut date: Sept. 22.

CHICAGO HOPE (9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin and E.G. Marshall star in this medical drama that takes place in one of the nation's leading hospitals. High-profile cases will be center stage each week.

Quality quotient: The pilot is rather overdone, but the potential is here for another fine series from "Picket Fences" creator David E. Kelley. This show has good writing, well-drawn characters and good acting - just about everything but originality.

Performance potential: Is there room for two medical dramas in this time slot? Probably not - and what with CBS' weaker Thursday night slate, "Chicago Hope" could well lose out to NBC's "E.R."

Debut date: Previews on Sunday, Sept. 18; regular premiere is Sept. 22.

E.R. (9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): NBC's medical drama, this one is also set in a big-city hospital - but in the emergency room, where cases go by quickly and there's always another crisis around the corner. Great cast is headed by Anthony Edwards and George Clooney.

Quality quotient: Excellent show. Fast-paced and exciting, with likable, believable characters.

Performance potential: Should be a hit.

Debut date: Two-hour preview on Monday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m.; regular premiere on Sept. 22.


M.A.N.T.I.S. (7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13): A black scientist (Carl Lumbly) who was paralyzed when he was shot during a riot develops a high-tech suit that not only allows him to walk but gives him super powers. In the guise of the M.A.N.T.I.S., he becomes sort of an urban Batman.

Quality quotient: A live-action cartoon that may appeal to kids, but there's a good deal of cartoon-like violence.

Performance potential: Might pull some of the kids away from ABC's lineup.

Debut date: Premiered Aug. 26.

UNDER SUSPICION (8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): Karen Sillas stars as the lone woman in a squad room full of police detectives, and her first case involves the disappearance of her partner.

Quality quotient: The producers are trying for something different, and play up the show's moodiness and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it's largely smoke and mirrors that can't cover up painfully slow pacing and lack of coherent plotting. And plans call for airing a series of two-part mysteries that continue from one week to the next - an remarkably daring but highly iffy undertaking.

Performance potential: This could be the first show CBS cancels this fall.

Debut date: Sept. 16.


SOMETHING WILDER (7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Gene Wilder stars as man in his 50s who married late in life and now has toddler twins.

Quality quotient: Not awful, but not particularly good, either.

Performance potential: A long shot.

Debut date: Oct. 1.

THE FIVE MRS. BUCHANANS (8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 5): The five Mrs. Buchanans are four very different sisters-in-law - a former floozy (Beth Broderick), a social climber (Harriet Sansom Harris), a New York Jew (Judith Ivey) and a very young, very perky former Disneyland employee (Bree Buchanan) who are united in friendship - and against their unbearably difficult mother-in-law (Eileen Heckart).

Quality quotient: The best new sitcom of the season, this is a worthy successor to "Designing Women" and "The Golden Girls."

Performance potential: Far from a sure hit, but CBS is hoping that the same people who watched "The Golden Girls" in this time slot all those years will tune in.

Debut date: Sept. 24

SWEET JUSTICE (8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 2): Legal/family drama about a young lawyer (Melissa Gilbert) who leaves a high-powered Wall Street firm to return to her hometown in the South. But instead of joining her father's (Ronny Cox) prominent law firm, she goes to work for a social activist (Cicely Tyson).

Quality quotient: The characters are appealing and the personal interplay isn't bad, but this is extremely weak in terms of legal drama - the pilot includes an unbelievable witness-stand confession that could have come out of an old episode of "Perry Mason."

Performance potential: NBC is hoping to attract the folks who were watching "Dr. Quinn" on CBS earlier in the evening. They probably won't get enough of them to allow this show to succeed.

Debut date: Previews on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 9 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. Regular premiere is Sept. 24.