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Fall TV preview 1993: Thursday

”Missing Persons,” ”The Sinbad Show,” and ”Angel Falls” are a few new shows debuting this fall

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Missing Persons (ABC, 8-9 p.m.)
Concept: Hill Street Lost and Found
Our Take: Hill Street Blues‘ Daniel J. Travanti returns to series TV with this crime drama overseen by executive producer Stephen J. Cannell. Travanti is the head of a Chicago missing-persons police unit, playing a cranky old pro to a team of callow officers who fear and respect him. Unlike his work as the meditative Frank Furillo, Travanti’s performance here is harsher, tougher. It’s difficult to imagine Furillo yelling this bit of invective, as Travanti’s character does in the pilot: ”If you killed that old lady, you’re fryin‘ meat!” Oh, my.
Behind the Scenes: You think Travanti is sick of talking about Hill Street Blues? He won’t even utter the title. ”Other people do it so much, it’s easy for me not to say it,” he says. ”It’s like an ex-wife. I don’t have to say her name.” ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert vows Persons will be more upbeat than Hill Street: ”We’re not going to do a lot of episodes that end with ‘Oh, they’re still lost, bummer’ or ‘Oh, she’s dead’ or ‘We screwed up.’ Viewers want to see the person found.”
Prediction: Odd show out in this slot — kids’ll watch The Simpsons and Sinbad, yuppies Mad About You and Wings, and elders In the Heat of the Night.

The Sinbad Show (Fox, 8:30-9 p.m.; premieres Sept. 16)
Concept: Martin meets The Cosby Show.
Our Take: Rangy, affable Sinbad (A Different World) plays a bachelor video-game designer who takes in two foster children (Willie Norwood and Erin Davis), bucking the single-mother trend that permeates the fall season. Expect this to be one of Fox’s less lewd ‘n’ crude sitcoms. Unlike Married…With Children or the new Daddy Dearest shout-fest, Sinbad seems aimed at presenting a positive picture of semi-hip family life.
Behind the Scenes: Sinbad‘s first two episodes were reshot because Fox thought they weren’t warm enough. Adding to the brood might increase the cuddly factor. Sinbad says his role will be modeled on Hill Street Blues actor Taurean Blacque: ”He adopted, like, 12 kids, and a couple years down the road, [my character] will be like that. He’ll be surrounded by kids of all colors.” Kind of like Mia Farrow? ”With one big difference,” Sinbad says. ”Woody won’t be allowed to come to the house.”
Prediction: Should benefit from the same post-Simpsons slot that helped make Martin a hit.

Angel Falls (CBS, 10-11 p.m.)
Concept: Knots Peaks
Our Take: A drama about a single mother played by Chelsea Field (Nightingales), who, after a long absence, moves back to her dinky hometown of Angel Falls, there to become involved in soap-operatic tribulations with costars James Brolin, Twin Peaks‘ Peggy Lipton, Wild Palms‘ Kim Cattrall, and I’ll Fly Away‘s Jeremy London. A downer with sex and Peaksy eccentricity, Falls is a series to root for: In a season overrun by cheery sitcoms, an involving soap — even a depressing drama — is something to celebrate. Behind the Scenes: James Brolin has done a prime-time soap before, but he’s hoping for a different experience this time. ”The first two years [on Hotel] we had a pair of writers who knew how to put all their frustrations on the page, and it was so powerful,” Brolin recalls. ”The third year, some soft writers were brought in, and it lost its punch. All I asked this time was let’s keep it interesting. If it’s done right, and I think it will be, we’ll all be like flowers opening up.”
Prediction: No 14-year run like Knots Landing, which it replaces, but could survive against NBC’s fading L.A. Law.