EW Staff
September 11, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

We’d like to make a bold, controversial statement about the new fall season: We’re looking forward to it! Yes, we know, the press just loves to pooh-pooh the broadcast networks’ drecky prime-time programming. The Big Four, critics snipe, are dinosaurs that deserve to lose viewers. Cable has the only fresh ideas. Blah, blah, blah.

And, okay, the nets have delivered a couple of stinkers this fall (CBS’ Ken Olin drama L.A. Doctors comes to mind), not to mention a handful of knockoffs and rehashes (single dads, attractive twentysomethings, paranormal shenanigans, etc.). But cynics take note: There’s enough smart writing and originality among this season’s 36 debuts to restore one’s faith in mega-conglomerates. (When, for example, was the last time we saw a sitcom with a horny, cross-dressing Abraham Lincoln? Must have been at least a couple of years ago.) Add these promising newcomers to returning gems — Everybody Loves Raymond and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance — and you too can have no social life.

Our comprehensive, fact-packed critical guide to this fall’s lineup follows. See for yourself if TV isn’t good.

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