Ah, autumn. That time of year when the leaves turn colors, school children open their books, and the networks work overtime to lure viewers with all the smut, weird plot twists, and ratings-grabbing hype they can concoct. Here’s an inside look at the series stunners and cool cameos you can expect this season.
ACTION (debuts Sept. 16)
This new series from Fox, which stars Jay Mohr as a sleazy Hollywood executive, is already knee deep in hype thanks to the celebs it’s attracted. Keanu Reeves, Scott Wolf, Salma Hayek, and Sandra Bullock have all signed on for cameos. But the big-screen wattage isn’t the only reason to watch the show, which was concocted by the writers of ”The Larry Sanders Show.”
”Sandra Bullock said very specifically that she wanted to do something crazy, so through trial and error we narrowed it down to her and I filming a porno,” says Mohr. ”I put it on the Internet and made a fortune off it, and she wants a piece of the pie after she beats me up.” Bullock’s ”Speed” costar Keanu Reeves gets equally down and dirty in the debut episode. ”He receives a sexual favor from Illeana Douglas in a movie theater,” Mohr shrugs. With shows like this, who needs cable?
3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN (Sept. 21)
Having learned their lesson from the show’s dipping ratings last season, the creators of ”3rd Rock” are returning to their roots. ”Last year there were lots of long stories told,” says star John Lithgow, ”and one of the things that did trouble us was that the four of us were being split apart too much, that we were all being sent off in our own directions. This season takes us back to the impulses of the first two seasons, where the aliens confront some sort of human issue and react completely wildly toward it. I’ve always felt the heart and soul of the show was that it’s the Marx Brothers from outer space.” Yeah, but which one’s Harpo?
THE PRACTICE (Sept. 26)
Can you say the Fonz? ”Henry Winkler is a guest star on the show for the first two episodes, and I play his lawyer,” says costar and recent Emmy winner Michael Badalucco. Badalucco won’t reveal what Winkler stands accused of, but he hints that his own character, the I-get-no-respect barrister Jimmy, will be getting into hot water as his relationship with an older female judge, played by fellow Emmy winner Holland Taylor, heats up: ”I ain’t saying why, but watch the third episode.”
Taylor is more forthcoming about the sexed-up show. ”I have a nude scene that’s actually quite funny,” she says. ”I had to be completely naked in front of 40 people on the set. In the scene I’m expecting Michael… well, you’ll see.” Taylor’s character, who appeared in only six episodes last season, seems closer to becoming a series regular; she’s shot scenes for every episode filmed thus far: ”David [Kelley] has found a very useful character, and he’s going to run with it. And I’m going to be running with him.” Hopefully while fully dressed.
NYPD BLUE (Nov. 9)
After last season’s emotional meat grinder, in which Sipowicz lost both his partner and his wife, four-time Emmy winner Dennis Franz is catching a break this time around. ”I think he needs some down time, maybe have a few good things happen in his life,” says Franz. A few of those good things include rekindling the relationship with his ex-wife and his young son. ”I’ve asked that Andy go on a few bad dates this year, and I’ve been assured we’ll have some good dates and some bad ones,” adds Franz. ”But I think it’s going to be an optimistic year rather than one like what we just went through.” Optimistic? Have any of the ”Blue” writers tried dating lately?