The idea in Lifestories is to present a dramatization of a different person’s battle with a different disease each week. The diagnoses and treatments of the diseases are shown in medical detail more explicit than anything I’ve seen on network television since Dr. Westphall dropped his pants on St. Elsewhere.

Take the first episode, on colon cancer — please. Actor Richard Masur does a fine job as a man who discovers he has the disease, but the portrayal of his anguish is surrounded by so much guff it’s hard to take seriously. A homeless man gives Masur a drink of water, and in response to this nice gesture, Masur abruptly decides to build an entire homeless shelter. This moment is so out of whack with the slow pace and calm tone of the rest of the show that Masur’s sudden generosity seems comic, not moving.

Lifestories is narrated by Robert Prosky, formerly a crusty policeman on Hill Street Blues but here a garrulous softie whose folksy voiceovers strive to sound like the narrator of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. And lest anyone miss that association, Prosky begins the debut episode by saying, ”Welcome to our town.” This is a show that underlines even the obvious. C-