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EW Online picks five quality shows that deserve a time slot

Bruce Fretts names the series that’s as good as ”The Sopranos”

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EW Online picks five quality shows that deserve a time slot

It’s nervous time in TV land. As the six broadcast networks set their schedules for next fall, marginally rated shows sit precariously on the proverbial ”bubble,” and fans organize campaigns to save their favorites. Devotees of the WB’s alien sudser ”Roswell” have made the most noise, and it appears to be working; in its new Monday slot, the series has retained more of its ”7th Heaven” lead-in than any other show this season. But it’s far from the only sleeper worth reviving.

Freaks and Geeks NBC has already canned this critically embraced high school ”comma” (creator Paul Feig’s word for ”a lot of comedy, a little drama”), but there’s still hope another network might pick it up. At the very least, somebody needs to buy the six ”lost” episodes and air them. I saw them at a marathon screening at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York, and they’re packed with great stuff, including a hysterical cameo by Ben Stiller as a frustrated Secret Service agent, vintage footage of Garry Shandling on Dinah Shore’s talk show, and the return of ”Election” costar Jessica Campbell’s tuba-playing band geek (and boy, does she have a secret!). Are you listening, MTV?

Now & Again CBS would be making a big mistake if it pulled the plug on this wildly original freshman drama, which, like ”Roswell,” combines sci-fi with romance. Recent episodes have been uneven, but so was ”The Sopranos” this year. That’s what happens when you take creative chances. When ”Now & Again” is at its best — as it was in an episode that resurrected John Goodman’s dead character from the pilot — it’s as good as anything on TV, including ”The Sopranos.”

The Beat UPN barely gave this cop drama from the ”Homicide” team of Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson a shot, yanking it after only five weeks. Perhaps if they had given it a more compatible lead-in than the putrid ”Secret Agent Man” or reruns of ”Moesha,” viewers might have found it. Or maybe Fontana and Levinson are just too smart for the network that brings us ”WWF Smackdown!”

City of Angels CBS seems determined to kill off Steven Bochco’s steadily improving inner-city hospital show. After launching it in ”Touched by an Angel”’s Sunday slot, the network let it languish on Wednesdays at 8 — a too-early hour on the Eye’s weakest night. For all the talk about improving diversity on TV, you’d think CBS would back it up by actively promoting this African-American drama.

Sports Night ABC has shown remarkable patience with this ratings underachiever, leaving it in the same plum Tuesdays-at-9:30 time slot for two seasons now. While I’ve never been a huge fan (I think creator Aaron Sorkin’s NBC drama ”The West Wing” is much funnier), the show is a lot more interesting than ”Talk to Me,” the unwatchable Kyra Sedgwick sitcom that briefly replaced it. Now ABC has silenced ”Talk” and returned ”Sports Night” for two more weeks during May sweeps. Maybe there’s hope for network TV after all.