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Monday's Returning Shows

‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ ‘Third Watch,’ and ‘Ally McBeal’ are among Monday’s returning series

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Ricki Lake signs on for a recurring stint as Kevin James’ feisty sister, and Larry Romano (dim-bulb buddy Richie) will appear only sporadically, as he’ll be shooting NBC’s midseason sitcom Kristin. ”Hopefully it’ll bomb, and he can stay with us,” kids James. A hit in the leadoff spot last season, the show won’t book Ray Romano for any more ratings-boosting guest shots. ”We can suck on our own,” jokes James. Don’t expect to see Mike O’Malley or Anthony Clark crossing over from new CBS neighbor Yes, Dear, either. ”I’m going to fight that with every fiber of my being,” says James. This time, he’s not joking. (Oct. 2)

In the not-so-great tradition of Suddenly Susan and Veronica’s Closet, the sophomore sitcom moves from its comfy Thursday slot to a barren Monday berth, but Michael Chiklis isn’t worried. ”We’re going to diversify a little bit,” he says. ”We’ve established I’m a stay-at-home dad, but we’re not going to harp on it.” Instead, we’ll see Chiklis’ Chris take his tots to school and a theme park. Pregnant play-group pal Holly (Suzy Nakamura) gives birth, and ”speaking of pregnant, we have four kids, but who knows?” teases Chiklis. Way to go, Daddio! (Oct. 2)

Giving Keri Russell’s Felicity a run for her college-angst money, Brandy’s undergrad spends her sixth season grappling with new roomies, dorm romances, and campus politics (NAACP president Kweisi Mfume guests on Nov. 6, urging students to vote the next day). But she’ll still find time to chill. ”We have a very funny Nutty Professor-like Halloween episode,” reports executive producer Jacque Edmonds. Just promise us Brandy won’t dress up as Granny Klump. (Debuted Sept. 4)

It probably doesn’t include posing nude for Gear, but the recent bad behavior of Mary (Jessica Biel, who’ll leave after seven episodes) will only grow worse, while big brother Matt (Barry Watson) must decide whether to go through with his wedding to Heather (Andrea Ferrell). Though creator Brenda Hampton hints that parents Eric (Stephen Collins) and Annie (Catherine Hicks) may suffer midlife crises, she proclaims, ”This season’s intent is to have more fun.” 7th Heaven, fun? Insists Hampton, ”Hey, we’re fun!” Sure you are. (Oct. 2)

Mother-daughter co-eds Nikki (Mo’Nique) and Kim (Countess Vaughn) will each get full-time pals, played by Yvette Wilson (moving from sister show Moesha) and Jenna von Oy (Blossom’s Six). Yet the sophomore sitcom — and the No. 1 show among African-American viewers — will still be fueled by its costars’ chemistry. ”When Countess walked in to our first meeting, I said, ‘I like your hair.’ She said, ‘Would you like to have it?’ and she took off her wig,” recalls Mo’Nique. ”She said, ‘Mama!’ And I said, ‘Come here, baby!”’ Touching, isn’t it? (Debuted Sept. 4)