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Wednesday's Returning Shows

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DAWSON’S CREEK
After spending a long, hot summer together, Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey (Katie Holmes) return for their senior year at Capeside High — and Dawson (James Van Der Beek) just has to deal with it. Will he find solace in the arms of Pacey’s sexy older sister (Sasha Alexander)? ”I’m not saying a word,” demurs executive producer Paul Stupin. At least Pacey’s ex Andie (Meredith Monroe) will get some action: She shares a kiss with a French exchange student played by Jason Daniel Roberts, better known as gay Danny from MTV’s The Real World New Orleans. That’s what we call playing it straight. (Oct. 4)

THE DREW CAREY SHOW
Kate (Christa Miller) gets a job at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Drew (Drew Carey) rocks her world when he pops the question. Mimi (Kathy Kinney) gives birth (just in time for February sweeps!), and Oswald (Diedrich Bader) receives a visit from his ex-con dad (Tom Poston). ”He was in jail for fraud for having a fake mammogram van,” exec producer Bruce Helford explains. ”He had women come in so he could squeeze their breasts.” The sitcom will stage its annual dance number, error-filled April Fools’ episode, and another live telecast, albeit without one twist. Says Helford, ”We talked about having the actors drunk, but I don’t think anyone’s gonna let us do it.” Buzz kill! (Oct. 4)

THE WEST WING
”A lot of people were unhappy” with last season’s assassination-attempt cliff-hanger, creator Aaron Sorkin concedes. ”If they watch the season opener, it will make them feel better.” So too should the promotion of Janel Moloney (lovably contentious aide Donna Moss) to full-time regular. Additional females, including national security adviser Anna Deavere Smith (The American President) and conservative Emily Procter (Body Shots), should offset the exit of Moira Kelly (unlovably contentious aide Mandy Hampton) and help keep Allison Janney company. We’ll see less of Joint Chiefs of Staff chair John Amos and Secret Service agent Jorja Fox, who’ve moved to CBS’ The District and C.S.I., respectively. But First Lady Stockard Channing will be back — and in January, a certain ex-President will have time to do some cameoing. (Oct. 4)

STAR TREK: VOYAGER
The series completes its seven-year mission, having reached its goal: syndication. ”The question will be: ‘What is the fate of Voyager? Is it going to get home?”’ says exec producer Rick Berman. What’s the answer? ”I’m not telling, but the season is going to end in an unexpected way.” Let us guess: Kate Mulgrew’s Capt. Janeway wakes up and finds it was all a bad dream. (Oct. 4)

FELICITY
First things first: How’s Keri Russell’s mane? ”It’s gorgeous,” reports creator/executive producer J.J. Abrams. ”It’s touching her back and coming down the sides.” Felicity likewise lets her hair down with Ben (Scott Speedman), impulsively shacking up with him. ”It’s sort of Barefoot in the Park-y,” says Abrams. And while Felicity gets tutored by a pot-puffing professor (Once and Again‘s Paul Mazursky), Ben’s recovering-addict dad (John Ritter) tries to make amends. All together now: ”Come and knock on our door … ” (Oct. 4)

JACK and JILL
A surprise renewal after its low-rated first season, the dramedy will temporarily take over Felicity‘s time slot starting in January — and ”there will be no dramatic hair changes,” says exec producer Randi Mayem Singer. Happy couple Jack (Amanda Peet) and Jill (Ivan Sergei) will meet each other’s parents, and aspiring mannequin Mikey (Simon Rex) hits the runway. Says Singer, ”If you’ve ever seen Simon do his ‘angry model walk’ and his ‘friendly model walk,’ you’ll know how funny that’s going to be.” We’ll take her word for it. (January)

LAW and ORDER
”Crime is a maddeningly renewable resource,” observes creator Dick Wolf, who’ll continue to tear stories from the tabs for the drama’s 11th season. Among them: a ”wilding” incident in Central Park and a woman randomly attacked by an ex-mental patient. And it wouldn’t be fall without a new Law & Order costar. Double Oscar winner Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway) replaces Steven Hill as the new DA, Nora Lewin. ”I see it as an opportunity to keep the show fresh,” says Wolf of his revolving-door casting policy. ”You get cats who have been together for many years, and there are not many new places to take them.” Um, did he just say ”cats”? (Oct. 18)

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