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Spring's TV shows

Spring’s TV shows — From ”The Dana Carvey Show” to ”Muppets Tonight!”, a look at the season’s programming

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Let’s see, we’ve got mid-season shows from Don Johnson, Dana Carvey, and the Muppets, plus a J.R. Ewing wannabe, an ad agency right out of thirtysomething, and an alien sitcom that sounds like ALF: The Next Generation. That’s right, folks — it’s the ’80s all over again!


DreamWorks’ first shot at a TV series, Champs, was a ratings air ball, so it’s being more hands-on with High Incident (ABC, debuts March 4, 9-10 p.m.), a suburban police drama starring David Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman). ”Steven Spielberg is on the set almost every day,” reports coexecutive producer Charles Haid (a cop-show vet from his role as Renko on Hill Street Blues). ”It’s a double-edged sword — one’s in my hand, the other’s to my throat.”

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie Bear rub elbows with human celebs Billy Crystal, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Garth Brooks on Muppets Tonight! (ABC, debuts March 8, 8:30-9 p.m.), an update of The Muppet Show. Crystal pairs with Piggy in a When Harry Met Sally… spoof, but old Muppets won’t hog the spotlight. ”We have to create new characters,” says executive producer Brian Henson (Jim’s son). ”The classic Muppets are movie stars now.”

Those wizards at Jim Henson Productions will also create creatures for Aliens in the Family (ABC, debuts March 8, 9-9:30 p.m.), an intergalactic Brady Bunch takeoff about a businessman with two kids who marries a space creature with three of her own. Is the small screen big enough for Aliens and 3rd Rock From the Sun? ”The Munsters and The Addams Family coexisted peacefully,” notes executive producer Andy Borowitz.

”We wanted to follow Step by Step, but they wouldn’t let us,” sobs Dana Carvey. Instead, the SNL alum’s new sketchcom, The Dana Carvey Show (ABC, debuts March 12, 9:30-10 p.m.), had to settle for following an obscure little show called Home Improvement. Will NBC let Carvey revive his old characters? ”The Church Lady will be there,” he says, ”because you cannot keep that bitch down.”

Don Johnson is back on the beat as Nash Bridges (CBS, date and time TBA), a San Francisco cop. But don’t expect a West Coast Miami Vice. ”The rap Vice got was that it was style over substance, and that was accurate in a lot of ways,” says Johnson. ”This show is stylish, but it’s full of content.” Like Crockett (or Johnson), Bridges can’t stay married. He has two ex-wives, plus a teen daughter. This time the sidekick (Cheech Marin) supplies a little comic relief. Let’s hope Cheech and Don don’t go up in smoke.

A Manhattan ad agency provides the setting for Good Company (CBS, date and time TBA), a new sitcom featuring Dream On‘s Wendie Malick. That may not be the most familiar location for a TV show, but coexecutive producer Rob Long isn’t concerned: ”Every job is the same — there’s always a back stabber, a ruthless boss, and a group of friends.” Did someone say Friends? Don’t worry, stresses Long. ”We have some old folks on the show, too.”

The Larry Sanders Show meets In Living Color on The John Bowman Project (Fox, date and time TBA), a sitcom about a white writer (Sam Seder) who joins the staff of a black TV series. ”It’s like the Alan Parsons Project,” quips executive producer Bowman of the show’s working title. So what’s it really going to be called? ”I like minimalist titles, like The Show or Black and White TV. I don’t like corny, glib titles like Hope & Gloria.” Good thing — that one’s taken.