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‘Presidio Med’ is no ‘ER’

‘In-Laws,’ ‘Hills,’ ‘Haunted’ are all weak or worse

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Eight years ago, producer John Wells set television on its ear with the biggest hit of the '90s, "ER" — a show that was both a critical and a ratings success. Three years ago, he and Aaron Sorkin wowed critics and viewers again with "The West Wing."

But . . . not everything has gone as well for Wells and his team. "Trinity" bombed in 1998. "Third Watch" is entering its fourth season but has always been underwhelming.

And "Citizen Baines" imploded a year ago.

Wells and fellow executive producer Lydia Woodward are going back to the "ER" roots this season with "Presidio Med" (9 p.m., Ch. 2), which is sort of the predominantly female, private-practice version of that other medical drama. Actually, Wells is going back even further than that, reteaming with Dana Delany, his "China Beach" (1988-91) star.

And "Presidio Med" boasts a fabulous cast — if only they had a better script to dig into. Delany stars as Dr. Rae Brennan, a dedicated doctor who, as the show opens, is ending a stint as a volunteer in Pakistan and leaving her lover, Greek doctor Nicholas Kokoris (Oded Fehr) behind to return to her husband and her San Francisco oncology practice.

She's in for a surprise when Kokoris joins her in California.

Blythe Danner also stars as a motherly obstetrician who mentors a young pediatrician (Julianne Nicholson), who has health concerns of her own; Anna Deveare Smith plays a straight-talking cardiologist; Sasha Alexander plays the self-confident-bordering-on-obnoxious plastic surgeon; and Paul Blackthorne plays a renegade internist.

The problem is that all of tonight's storylines look like things we've seen before. Even great actors can't make this more than OK.

"Presidio Med" isn't a bad show, but it certainly won't reach out and grab you.

The second episode of "Presidio Med" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. in its regular time slot.

IN-LAWS (7 and 7:30 p.m., Ch. 5): This show almost amounts to something, but not quite — despite a decent premise and a great cast.

Elon Gold stars in this semiautobiographical sitcom as a newlywed who, along with his bride (Bonnie Sommerville), moves in with his in-laws. And his father-in-law (Dennis Farina) is a scary sort of guy who clearly resents sharing his daughter's affections, whereas his mother-in-law (Jean Smart) is an over-the-top dame.

If only it was funnier. Oh, there are a few laughs, but the batting average on the gags is pretty low. And the second episode that airs tonight isn't as good as the first.

Not a good sign.

HIDDEN HILLS (8:30 p.m., Ch. 5): According to NBC's advertising campaign, this new sitcom is "like your life. Only funnier." If that's the case, please seek professional help. Immediately.

I hate this show.

We're supposed to laugh at a self-absorbed suburban couple (Paula Marshall and Justin Louis) who are obnoxious, sex-obsessed and just plain unpleasant. As are their friends (Dondre T. Whitfield and Tamara Taylor). Oh, and the guys spend an inordinate amount of time hyperventilating over the local soccer mom/online porn queen (Kristin Bauer). Really.

This is an awful, awful show.

HAUNTED (8 p.m., Ch. 24): He sees dead people. And he tries to help them. Oh, and he's a private detective.

He is Frank Taylor (Matthew Fox of "Party of Five"), an ex-cop tortured by the unsolved kidnapping of his young son. After a near-death experience, he's also tortured by various dead folks whom he can see but no one else can.

(Gee, do you suppose the "creators" of this show ever saw "The Sixth Sense"?)

This show is not without redeeming qualities. It could be interesting.

But I'm not particularly confident that the producers/writers can make this any better than the pilot. And that won't be good enough.

E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com