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What To Watch

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Monday October 2

TUCKER
Spinal Tap had it right: There is such a fine line between clever and stupid. Where Malcolm in the Middle succeeds in originality, this carbon copy coming of age series about a teen (Eli Marienthal) moving in with zany relatives falls utterly flat. Not only is the tone and in story narration lifted directly from the Fox hit, but the gags (spitting food down a woman’s shirt, the old chair tipping over bit) are about as recycled as they come. NBC canceled Freaks and Geeks for this? C-

Tuesday October 3

THAT ’70S SHOW
Hyde (Danny Masterson) gets sprung from the slammer after his pot possession arrest, only to have Red throw him out — and supportive Eric confess to taking the occasional toke himself. The sitcom reaches a high point of another kind with a hilarious (but way too brief) parody of the 1936 antiweed screed Reefer Madness. A-
Mike Flaherty

Wednesday October 4

STAR TREK: VOYAGER
When we last saw Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her noble crew, they were sticking their noses where they don’t belong, trying to liberate the few Borg drones who can access the individualizing dream state called Unimatrix Zero. Why they’re doing this is, as the Borg Queen would say, irrelevant. The upshot is that Janeway is put in the kind of moral quandary that Trek thrives on: Should she let the entire Borg Collective perish to save an innocent few? As one who has watched the rascally cyborgs routinely kick Starfleet butt, all I can say is, ”Duh.” B
Marc Bernardin

Thursday October 5

GILMORE GIRLS
Such a nice surprise: A sharply written show about a mother-daughter relationship filled with vibrant emotions instead of cheap sarcasm. Lorelai Gilmore (the radiant Lauren Graham) is exactly twice as old as her 16 year old daughter Rory (a shrewd, brooding Alexis Bledel, near left with Graham). A single mom struggling with prep school tuition and Rory’s blossoming adolescence, Lorelai grapples with the frustrations and happiness of motherhood, which are mirrored, in this fine comic drama, by Rory’s teen insecurities and adventurousness. All this, plus lovely Sam Phillips music on the soundtrack. Now, if only it wasn’t on opposite Friends. A-
Ken Tucker

Friday October 6

C.S.I.
This new drama about Las Vegas crime scene investigators is punctuated by high tech gadgets, smart dialogue, and some really nifty camera work. William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger lead the forensics team in their relentless quest for clues, even if that means pulling nail clippings from a toilet bowl via some sort of Sharper Image style gizmo. The action is swift, the characters lively, and if that’s not enough, you also get this season’s first on camera vomit scene! B+

Saturday October 7

GENE RODDENBERRY’S ANDROMEDA
Throw a couple of actors into costumes straight out of the ”Beat It” video, add a few aliens that look like rejects from the Mos Eisley cantina, and you have the makings of syndication’s latest interstellar offering. Hercules‘s Kevin Sorbo basically plays Hercules in a space suit as captain of the starship Andromeda, the last remaining vessel of a long destroyed government called the Commonwealth. After surviving a hilariously bad slow motion fight sequence and traveling three centuries into the future, Sorbo meets up with a band of misfit scavengers who may not be as bad as they seem, but make up for it by being twice as annoying. C-

Sunday October 8

BABY
In this adaptation of a novel by Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall), an abandoned infant left on their doorstep helps a married couple (Farrah Fawcett and Keith Carradine) heal after the recent death of their unnamed five day old son. Carradine’s quiet, coiled presence offsets Fawcett’s drab, scattered performance, and the Thora Birch-y Alison Pill turns in impressive work as the family’s grieving teenage daughter. Despite the script’s often stilted dialogue (Carradine: ”I never believed in destiny before; it somehow felt cowardly, like an abdication of will”), the simple storyline of Baby — executive produced and narrated by Sarah‘s Glenn Close — packs an inescapable punch. B
Bruce Fretts

NIKKI
Hey, here’s a story about a Las Vegas showgirl that’s supposed to be funny. Nikki Cox (Unhappily Ever After) plays the dancer with a heart of gold trying to make it in big bad Sin City with her wrestling crazed husband (Nick von Esmarch). In addition to being easy on the eyes, the buxom beauty actually does possess a measure of charm and comic delivery, but the lack of fiery sparks between Cox and her aw shucks, goody two shoes beau makes it impossible to really care all that much. Also clogging up the screen is Christine Estabrook as von Esmarch’s mother, whose only purpose seems to be in trading comedic put downs with the hot to trot protagonist. (Must every series have one of these characters?) Why, it’s almost enough to make one stop drooling. C

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