EW Staff
September 10, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Spin CITY
ABC 8-8:30 PM Starts Sept. 21

Heather Locklear claims she wanted a new challenge. She says she respects Michael J. Fox’s acting skills. She was also an unemployed actress looking for work. But the real reason the former Melrose Place vixen packed her bags to join ABC’s snappy political sitcom Spin City? ”I heard there’s a batting cage right next to where we shoot,” says Locklear, a mere 24 hours before making her move to Spin‘s home base, New York City. ”I love batting cages.”

Well, there’s no denying she’s got a pretty good home-run average when it comes to TV. Locklear’s career-making roles in T.J. Hooker and Dynasty earned her a permanent place in the camp hall of fame, even before her soap-operatic grand slam as Melrose‘s deliciously bitchy ad exec Amanda Woodward. Still, Locklear was eager to trade in catfights for comedy when Spin City came calling.

”My manager told me about the offer in passing, like, ‘What a compliment, but oh well, they’re shooting in New York,”’ says Locklear. ”Within half an hour I was on the phone with my husband [Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora] like, ‘Would you be interested in moving to New York?’ and he was like, ‘I’m ready. Let’s go.”’

Things won’t be as easy for Locklear’s Caitlin Moore, a wily workaholic who beats out James Carville (a season premiere guest star) to become manager of Mayor Winston’s (Barry Bostwick) senatorial election campaign. ”Caitlin is charming and funny but she’s got issues,” is all Spin executive producer David Rosenthal will divulge. ”Heather’s going to be a lot funnier and nuttier and looser than she’s been allowed to be in her previous roles.” Um, looser than on Melrose Place? Well, not that way — at least not initially. ”For the first half of the season, she and Mike are sparring constantly,” says Rosenthal, adding cryptically, ”But who knows?”

If sparks do fly, it’s doubtful they’ll last long, given Mike’s knack for Quayle-deep relationships and the fact that Locklear only signed a one-year contract. ”You never know what’ll happen,” she says. ”I don’t know if I’ll like it or if they’ll like me.” Should she strike out, Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth, who pondered wooing Locklear before Spin nabbed her, is said to be warming up with a new pitch. ”Oh, that Peter,” laughs Locklear. ”Maybe next time up.” — JESSICA SHAW, with additional reporting by Cheryl Klein

Dilbert
UPN, 8-8:30 p.m.

Ex-Seinfeld scribe Larry Charles calls in a few favors as Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Wayne Knight guest-voice on the animated series’ second season. Theirs aren’t the only celebrity pipes: Andy Dick, Buck Henry, and Christopher Guest will also be heard. ”On Seinfeld or any show, it takes a while to figure out the formula,” says Charles. ”We’re just trying to make it smarter and funnier — and to reach a wider audience.” Pssst: You might want to consider switching to a network with a wider audience. (Oct. 5)

BUFFY the Vampire Slayer
The WB, 8-9 p.m.

Everything is different, but nothing’s changed,” says creator Joss Whedon. To wit: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar, pictured), Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and Oz (Seth Green) are now attending the University of California at Sunnydale, conveniently located on the Hellmouth so they can keep on fighting demons. Odd-man-out Xander (Nicholas Brendon) is doing odd jobs — “He’s the townie,” explains Whedon. Librarian Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) has lost his job, but he might finally find love in the wake of his doomed affair with the late Miss Calendar. Or, as Whedon so delicately puts it, “He may have sex with someone who doesn’t die.” (Oct. 5)

JAG
CBS, 8-9 p.m.

The three-week opening arc sees Harm (David James Elliott, above) out to sea as he revives his flying career on an aircraft carrier near Kosovo. These episodes were shot aboard a U.S. military ship off the coast of San Diego. “We were out there for three days — it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” says costar Catherine Bell, whose Mac gets promoted to colonel, outranking Harm. “We slept on bunk beds.” Neato. (Sept. 21)

Just SHOOT Me
NBC, 8-8:30 p.m.

The sexual tension between Maya (Laura San Giacomo) and Elliott (Enrico Colantoni) accelerates, and he learns that Nina (Wendie Malick) was the driver in a hit-and-run accident he survived years before. Another dark secret emerges as sexually explicit photos surface of Elliott with the supermodel (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, above) who married the diminutive Finch (David Spade, above) in last season’s cliff-hanger. “That unlikely pairing will continue,” hints exec producer Marsh McCall. “I will say no more, but I can promise unmitigated high jinks.” Good, because we were getting tired of those mitigated high jinks. (Sept. 21)

it’s LIKE, you know …
ABC, 8:30-9 p.m.

More ado about nothing, as creator Peter Mehlman welcomes fellow Seinfeld alum Carol Leifer, who’s penned a script in which Lauren (A.J. Langer) dates a Siamese twin. Another close-knit pair appears when Joel Grey guest-stars as … Joel Grey, the Oscar-winning father of Jennifer Grey (above). After his Hollywood-bashing book gets trashed by critics everywhere except L.A., Arthur (Chris Eigeman) relocates to Manhattan. “There are a lot of phone scenes,” says Mehlman. “I hope New York is part of the show throughout the run. Unless it only goes, like, three more episodes.” (Sept. 21)

That ’70s Show
Fox, 8:30-9 p.m.

The recession hits — remember that? — and the plant closes, putting Red (Kurtwood Smith) out of work. Daughter Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly) flunks out of college and comes home, and neighbor Hyde (Danny Masterson, above) has moved in. “Our family has enlarged, and yet the income has decreased,” says Smith. “It sounds like an hour-long drama.” (Sept. 28)

3rd ROCK From the Sun
NBC, 8:30-9 p.m.

It’s the circle of life: Vicki (Jan Hooks) delivers the Big Giant Head’s baby, Sally (Kristen Johnston) goes on birth control, Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loses his virginity, and Dick (John Lithgow, above) ponders a face-lift. “It’s the first time he’s realized he’s not the most beautiful man on the planet,” says cocreator Terry Turner. Hope those aliens have a good HMO. (Sept. 21)

Dharma & GREG
ABC, 9-9:30 p.m.

The big news is, Greg flips out,” says cocreator Chuck Lorre. The uptight yuppie (Thomas Gibson, abbove) quits his job as a U.S. attorney and goes on a voyage of self-discovery, which freaks out his stodgy parents (Susan Sullivan and Mitchell Ryan) and his hippie wife, Dharma (Jenna Elfman, pictured). Says Lorre, “She could’ve married any of a dozen guys named Moondoggie, but she married a Rock of Gibraltar, and now he’s questioning his life.” Moondoggie? (Sept. 21)

Party of FIVE
Fox, 9-10 p.m.

The melancholy drama lightens up on its new night: Charlie (Matthew Fox) and Kirsten (Paula Devicq) tie the knot, Owen (Jacob Smith) gets a hip new nanny (My So-Called Life‘s Wilson Cruz), and Julia (Neve Campbell) works on a nonfiction book with an older-hunk editor (Homicide‘s Kyle Secor — yay!). What will Bailey (Scott Wolf, above) do now that his long-standing squeeze, Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt), is spinning off? Joshes exec producer P.K. Simonds, “He’s gonna be a big, fat slut.” That could give “party of five” a whole new meaning. (Oct. 5)

Sports Night
ABC, 9:30-10 p.m.

While all the interoffice romances percolate along and head honcho Isaac (Robert Guillaume) continues to rebound from his stroke, a ratings expert is hired to help Dana (Felicity Huffman, pictured) move the cable sportscast from third to second place. “This is not the guy we expect,” says creator Aaron Sorkin. “He’s aloof, a gunslinger, but he comes in and does his job and — needless to say — ruffles a few feathers.” Maybe ABC should consider giving this guy a call. (Oct. 5)

NYPD Blue
ABC, 10-11 p.m.

Nicholas Turturro’s Det. James Martinez will split after six episodes, but the producers swear that — unlike Jimmy Smits’ Bobby Simone and Sharon Lawrence’s Sylvia Costas — they won’t kill him off. Sorenson (Rick Schroder, above top) will date a policewoman, and Kirkendall (Andrea Thompson) will encounter her ex-husband. As for Sipowicz (Dennis Franz, above), “there’s going to be a dabbling in homosexuality, but it won’t stick,” goofs executive producer Mark Tinker. “Should I not have said that?” (Nov. 9)

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