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And they're off!

'Race' and 'Boston' return; 'Sex' debuts

When CBS announced that the latest edition of "The Amazing Race" would be a "Family Edition," I was a little bit worried.

"Race" is the best reality/competition show on TV. Why mess with a successful formula?

And, having seen tonight's two-hour season premiere (8 p.m., Ch. 2) — well, all but the last few minutes, which the network is keeping secret — I still don't see much reason to play with the format.

The "Family Edition" isn't as bad as I feared, but it seems somewhat, well, annoying. But that might be just because I find no entertainment value in teenagers yelling at their mother, and the preteens on some of the family teams seem, well, just too darn young for this.

The format remains basically the same — 10 teams compete at various tasks as they race around the world. (Although they never get out of the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area in tonight's premiere.) The difference is that instead of two-person teams, they're four-person teams. And each team consists of people who are somehow related to each other.

Now, I did get caught up in the competition. Eventually. But I didn't really like much of anybody. (Note to future contestants: Don't be obnoxious and boastful as you tell us just how it is you're going to win.)

I'll still watch "Race" every week. But I think I'm already looking forward to a more traditional version early next year.

BOSTON LEGAL (tonight at 9 on ABC/Ch. 4) started out as a spinoff of the highly dramatic "The Practice." But it has definitely veered in the direction of another of producer David E. Kelley's shows, "Ally McBeal."

Which, believe it or not, is a good thing. At least in the first couple of episodes this season, which are loaded with odd characters behaving in a quirky manner — but they're not so weird so as to drive you away (as "Ally" did after a couple of seasons).

Heather Locklear guest stars this week and next as a woman accused of killing her much-older, extremely wealthy husband. Denny Crain (Emmy winner William Shatner) all but trips over his tongue as he pants after her, but the so-called "black widow" wants Alan Shore (Emmy winner James Spader) to defend her.

Meanwhile, Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen) is defending a doctor accused of attacking a mute woman. (OK, having that woman communicate by means of her cello is over the edge.) And it turns out her lawyer (Rupert Everett) had a relationship with Tara (Rhona Mitra).

And wait 'til you see what happens to Alan's secretary (Betty White) next week!

I don't know how long it will last, but it's a lot of fun to watch "Boston Legal" right now.

SEX, LOVE & SECRETS (tonight at 8 on UPN/Ch. 24) deserves at least some credit — the title is truth in advertising.

There is sex. And love. And more than a few secrets.

Basically, this is a twentysomething soap opera that you might enjoy if you enjoy soap operas. If not, well, there are plenty of other things on TV.

It revolves around a group of (mostly) good-looking people (the cast includes Denise Richards, James Stevenson, Lauren German, Omar Benson Miller, Eric Balfour, Tamara Taylor and Lucas Bryant) who live in the trendy Silverlake area of Los Angeles. (Where, in truth, probably none of them could afford a place.)

They're caught up in each other's lives, which are full of soapy complications.

lt's not "Masterpiece Theatre" by any means, but it has the makings of a decent prime-time serial.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com