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Friday's Returning Shows

‘Providence,’ ‘Popular,’ and ‘Law and Order: SVU’ are all returning

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TWO GUYS AND A GIRL
Despite the fact that the sitcom is moving to the former home of ABC’s kiddie-oriented TGIF lineup, ”it’s going to be a much sexier show this year,” says coexecutive producer Vince Calandra. How so? ”A lot more nipples,” quips executive producer Kevin Abbott. Actually, another erogenous zone will come into play. In the Halloween episode, Sharon (Traylor Howard) will fall under a curse and sprout a penis. Be that as it may, the title will not be changing to Two Guys, a Girl, and Three Penises. (Oct. 6)

PROVIDENCE
To hide the real-life pregnancy of star Melina Kanakaredes, her character was bedridden at the end of last season. Now that the actress has given birth, Syd wakes up from her coma and resumes her medical career. She’ll be assisted by Rob Estes (Melrose Place, Suddenly Susan) as a physical therapist who becomes Syd’s new love interest. ”As much as he’s helping her physically, he’s also helping her head,” says creator John Masius. If Estes is such a miracle worker, why couldn’t he rescue Susan? (Oct. 20)

NORM
Norm (Norm MacDonald) starts taking his social work seriously. Says executive producer Bruce Helford, ”He’s gonna be trying to accomplish things in his workplace as opposed to just being a screw-off.” Yeah, right: He’ll teach sex education at a girls’ reform school and take temporary custody of a teenage boy. ”He’s kind of a young Norm,” Helford explains of the new character (not yet cast). ”He’s a real wise guy, and he just gives Norm total s—.” Nikki Cox has split to do her own WB sitcom, but Faith Ford signs on full-time as Norm’s ex-girlfriend. As if she could ever hope to fill Cox’s, um, shoes. (Wed. Oct. 4, 9:30 p.m.)

POPULAR
”The basic thrust of our second season is a complete reversal of fortune,” says creator Ryan Murphy. ”All the populars become unpopular, and all the unpopulars become popular.” To wit: Ex-geek Sam (Carly Pope) starts dating the school’s hot new quarterback (A.T. Montgomery), while deposed teen queen Brooke (Leslie Bibb) must reinvent herself as an academic achiever. Meanwhile, pampered princess Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) escapes from the sanitarium where she spent her summer vacation. Gosh, and all we did was go to the beach. (Debuted Sept. 22)

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT
Following his Law & Order strategy, executive producer Dick Wolf institutes cast changes on its spinoff as well. ”Cop Killer” rapper Ice-T joins the squad as Det. Odafin Tutuola, partner to Richard Belzer’s Det. John Munch. Stephanie March (Showtime’s Death of a Salesman) also signs up as an assistant DA assigned to the sex crimes division. ”The addition of her character will give us a legal component,” says Wolf. ”It’ll help satisfy some of the regular Law & Order viewers.” So would better scripts, we’re guessing. (Oct. 20)

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