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Friday's New Shows

A look at ‘Madigan Men,’ ‘Grosse Pointe,’ and other new Friday series

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FREEDOM
CONCEPT After an economic collapse, America is taken over by the military; hero-dissidents, a.k.a. the Resistance, rebel.
THE SCOOP Feature-film producer Joel Silver (The Matrix) brings his big-bang F/X to the small screen, with Jenna Elfman’s husband, Bodhi, starring as one of the leaders of the patriotic dissidents. Executive producer Hans Tobeason describes the show’s ethos: ”It’s that Hong Kong-style action à la Matrix, so our heroes can do things that are gymnastic and acrobatic and slightly extra-human.”
BOTTOM LINE We’d settle for regular-human. Up against The Fugitive on CBS, this action entry may have a tough time drawing the young male audience it is designed to attract. The snippet we saw was noisy, over-the-top, and full of facist overtones. If they don’t make this thing more plausible, its catchphrase should be ”Let Freedom ring … false.”

THE TROUBLE WITH NORMAL
CONCEPT Four paranoids (Jon Cryer, David Krumholtz, Brad Raider, and Larry Joe Campbell) become mutually suspicious buddies, with the help of their lovely therapist (Paget Brewster). And they say TV is out of touch with reality!
THE SCOOP ”Everybody is in one way or another paranoid or neurotic, so hopefully [the audience will] enjoy … the characters being paranoid or neurotic,” says Brewster. Creator Victor Fresco offers a typical upcoming plot: ”The management of [two characters’] apartment building puts a surveillance camera downstairs. For most of us that’s something we might think about — our comings and goings being monitored. For these guys, it’s a huge disruption in the emotional fabric of their lives.”
BOTTOM LINE Gosh, if we say the show is weirdly off-putting, do you think that will disrupt the emotional fabric of their lives?

GROSSE POINTE
CONCEPT A parody of nighttime soaps like 90210 and Melrose Place, from Sex and the City, Melrose, and 90210 creator Darren Star.
THE SCOOP ”I’m making changes with the characters so Aaron and Tori don’t feel they’re being personally attacked,” says Star, referring to the dustup over the show’s vaguely Tori-esque character (Lindsay Sloane) — originally a bulimic who got her job through her uncle. ”Let’s put it this way: Tori is the tiniest target in an enormous target range. There are things about her that are universal to many actresses, and that’s something that we’re not going to lose.”
BOTTOM LINE Star wanted to get Shannen Doherty in the pilot, but she was ”directing an episode of Charmed. I thought, ‘Why not just be in on the joke from the beginning?”’ We like the guy’s attitude — and the show’s.

C.S.I.
CONCEPT The title stands for Crime Scene Investigators, headed up by ex-movie Manhunter William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger (China Beach).
THE SCOOP The C.S.I. folks tote high-tech gadgets and then make commonsense deductions to solve crimes that baffle ordinary cops. Helgenberger says, ”I think people will dig the fact that the viewing audience is actually part of the criminologists’ thought process. You really are there, and it changes as more evidence is gathered. It’s fun, you know?”
BOTTOM LINE You know, it is. The pilot has zip and star chemistry; but is it too smart to be a good lead-in to ol’ Nash Bridges?

LEVEL 9
CONCEPT An elite group of computer watchdogs (led by Kate Hodge) takes a byte out of crime.
THE SCOOP Executive producer John Sacret Young (China Beach) says plotlines will include techno-terrorists ”bringing down power grids; we have viruses breaking out.” The emergencies are handled by ”a group of people from different federal agencies who have computer expertise. ‘Level 9’ is an actual term [for these emergencies] — it’s like Def Con 5. The hope is the young male demographic will like the high-techiness of it, the suspense and action.”
BOTTOM LINE As we write, the show is undergoing some cast changes, so this baby’s up for grabs.

MADIGAN MEN
CONCEPT Gabriel Byrne goes the sitcom route, as a newly single New York father. He’s an architect with a teen son and a crusty Irish dad (Roy Dotrice).
THE SCOOP ”Gabriel wanted to talk about male issues,” says creator/executive producer Cindy Chupack. ”Like a male Sex and the City [which Chupack also coproduced]. But rather than a group of male friends, I thought about an intergenerational story — three guys, all dating and dealing with women in different stages of their lives.” Sabrina Lloyd, of the lamented Sports Night, plays Byrne’s office assistant. Dotrice brings heroic gusto to wobbly aphorisms like ”Guests and fish start to turn after three days.”
BOTTOM LINE The spots for this series have Byrne saying people don’t expect to see this brooding Irishman in a sitcom — truth in advertising may be all too accurate in this case.