Bruce Fretts
October 18, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Just as viewers seem to be giving up on Melrose Place, the show has rediscovered itself. Patrick Muldoon’s dull Richard has been mercifully put out of our misery, and Andrew Shue’s Billy has wisely turned back into a dupe. Matt’s dope addiction has finally given Doug Savant something to do other than share warm hugs with boyfriends, and, best of all, Laura Leighton’s Sydney is back to her old tricks. (Jack Wagner’s Dr. Peter Burns fired Syd as his assistant after she sold his house while he was in jail.) The jury’s still out on new tenants Rob Estes and Lisa Rinna (what’s the deal with her lips?), but Brooke Langton is a suitable substitute for Daphne Zuniga as the token smoky-voiced, dark-haired, East Coast-bred gal. Now, if Fox and Aaron Spelling could do something about the mess they’ve made of 90210

Say what you want about Caroline in the City, but there’s no other sitcom that uses guest stars as well. Last season featured memorable gigs by NYPD Blue‘s Sharon Lawrence as a chain-smoking head-hunter (a performance that persuaded NBC to reward her with a mid-season sitcom, Fired Up), Frasier‘s Dan Butler as a gay art-gallery owner, and Evening Shade‘s Elizabeth Ashley as the flamboyant mom of Malcolm Gets’ Richard. Now, in the Oct. 15 episode, Caroline boasts an uproarious appearance by Frasier‘s David Hyde Pierce as an IRS agent who audits Annie (Amy Pietz). With his show on hiatus while Kelsey Grammer does rehab, perhaps Pierce can stay for more than just one week.

Big developments in the Oct. 15 season premiere of NYPD Blue: Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) worries about his weight gain, Martinez (Nicholas Turturro) gets a crush on the new secretary upstairs (Lourdes Benedicto), and Simone (Jimmy Smits) pops the question to Russell (Kim Delaney). But once again, the soul of NYPD is Dennis Franz’s tortured Andy Sipowicz. Although he’s off the sauce, he’s still struggling with the death of his grown son — and the birth of his new son — and Franz brings his angst to life brilliantly. Savor this show; what we are witnessing is one of the finest performances in TV history.

Thanks in large part to the star’s galumphing charm, The Drew Carey Show has transformed itself from a mediocre sitcom into a good one. But to become a great one, Carey needs to streamline its supporting cast. Kathy Kinney’s screaming Mimi is a potent comedic weapon, but a little of her goes a long way. She’s taking over the show in an Urkel-like fashion. As for Drew’s goofy pals, Diedrich Bader and Ryan Stiles are utterly interchangeable. One of them has got to go, and it’s not a tough choice. As anyone who saw him do improv on Comedy Central’s Whose Line Is It, Anyway? knows, Stiles can be funny. As anyone who saw him do Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies movie knows, Bader can’t. Hey, Ellen used to ditch friends all the time.

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