Something familiar: Monday night fall TV
August 31, 1999
This is the first installment in a five-part series in which we look at plans for each weeknight of the fall television season.
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- For a substantial portion of the audience, the first night of the week means "Monday Night Football" on ABC -- end of story. The other networks are left scrambling to lure away football widows and anyone else who has a disdain for the sport.
8 p.m. Eastern
Prime time opens with the hit "King of Queens" on CBS and "Suddenly Susan" on NBC. The latter show is trying to inject some energy into sitcom midlife with a new-yet-familiar cast member: "Monty Python's Flying Circus" alumnus Eric Idle.
"I like the idea of being out there regularly with an audience and with a funny gang of people," Idle says. "That's what I grew up with -- doing television, doing shows every week."
On FOX, Jennifer Love Hewitt spins off her character from "Party of Five" into an hourlong drama set in New York called "Time of Your Life."
"I don't know if people are going to like it or not," she says. "It's a big change, but it's a great one.
The WB keeps one of its heavy hitters, "7th Heaven," in the family-friendly evening slot. UPN starts off its Monday night with "Moesha."
8:30 p.m. Eastern
UPN follows "Moesha" with a spin-off of the show, "The Parkers" at 8:30 p.m. "The Parkers" is fashioned around former "Moesha" character Kim Parker, played by Countess Vaughn.
"On the show," Vaughn says, "you always saw her hanging out with her friends. This time you get to to meet her mother (stand-up comedienne Mo'Nique) and see what the other side of Kim is all about."
There's another season of "Veronica's Closet" planned for NBC. And CBS' new sitcom "Ladies Man" brings noted character actor Alfred Molina to Monday night. He's the only new face in an ensemble designed for audience comfort.
"They've kind of surrounded him by some old friends of the audience," co-star Betty White says, "so that the audience will feel secure and they can concentrate on Alfred."
When the clock hits 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
CBS has slotted its 9 p.m. hour on Mondays for its multiple Emmy-nominated "Everybody Loves Raymond," followed by last year's midseason success "Becker" with Ted Danson.
"Ally McBeal" sings to FOX viewers at 9 p.m. opposite the WB's "Safe Harbor," from the producers of "7th Heaven." A tough-love sheriff heads a single-parent household living in a motel in "Safe Harbor."
NBC is scheduled to bring out the companion to a now legendary show with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," which focuses on sex crimes. Actress Mariska Hargitay says "Special Victims Unit" is different from its parent show because it focuses more on the detectives and how the crimes take a toll on them.
How maturity takes its toll on Urkel (Jaleel White of "Family Matters") is the idea of UPN's 9 p.m. "The Grown Ups," which is followed by the returning "Malcolm and Eddie" at 9:30 p.m.
At 10 p.m., nonfiction rules with "Dateline NBC," ABC's post-game "20/20" and local news on the younger networks.
CBS counters with "Family Law," featuring Academy Award-nominated actress Kathleen Quinlan playing that primetime staple, a professional who's also a single parent. Quinlan's Oscar nomination was for best supporting actress in the 1995 film "Apollo 13."
"I find those situations" -- the single-parent plot in "Family Law" -- endlessly humorous in a black sort of way," Quinlan says. "And just very current on the issue of how we're all trying to keep our families together."
And it's clear that network programmers have the same idea in mind, trying to keep together their own families of viewers on Monday nights -- by trying to make the new seem familiar, and the familiar seem new.
Broadcast networks say they're adjusting racial mixes on shows
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