Replacement shows -- ''The Critic,'' ''Sister, Sister,'' and ''South Central'' are a few backup series awaiting their debuts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated September 17, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sure, all these new fall shows look great on paper. Okay, a few do. But most of them won’t survive the season. We know that, you know that, and most importantly, the networks know that. So, as always, each has lined up a roster of backup series just in case, by some wild chance, The Trouble With Larry doesn’t turn out to be the next Cheers.

ABC’s offerings include The Critic, a cartoon from The Simpsons‘ James L. Brooks featuring the voice of Jon Lovitz as a Manhattan movie reviewer, and Steven Bochco’s The Byrds of Paradise, about a Yale professor who moves his family to Hawaii. Brian Dennehy plays a big-city shrink in the drama Birdland, and comic Ellen DeGeneres stars in These Friends of Mine, an L.A. version of Seinfeld. The sitcom Sister, Sister pairs Tim Reid and Jackee Harry as mismatched parents of identical-twin teens. The network also has the single-topic newsmagazine Moment of Crisis and the veteran kidcom Dinosaurs on deck.

Call them crazy, but CBS execs have signed Tom Arnold to play a blue-collar dad in the sitcom Tom. And Dick Van Dyke will reprise his TV-movie role as a crime-busting physician in Diagnosis Murder. Four series will return: Hearts Afire (which will move from D.C. to a small Southern town, where John Ritter and Markie Post will run a newspaper), the newsmagazine Street Stories (minus Ed Bradley), and the reality shows How’d They Do That? and Top Cops.

NBC will unveil Gene Wilder’s first television series, Eligible Dentist (the sitcom’s sterling cast also includes Carol Kane, Jill Clayburgh, Mary Gross, and Wallace Shawn), and The Bowmans, starring John Caponera (yet another stand-up comic) as a hardworking parent raising three children. Winnetka Road is an Aaron Spelling-produced suburban drama with Meg Tilly and Ed Begley Jr., and Viper stars a souped-up sports car in a Knight Rider for the ’90s.

Fox has sitcoms on tap starring rookie thespian Hammer (as a teacher at City High) and old-hand Henry Winkler (as a Rush Limbaugh-like talk-show host named Monty). Two major cities figure prominently in other comedies: My Kind of Town, about a Chicago cop, and South Central, a family comedy set in L.A. Darkman‘s Sam Raimi and Batman‘s Sam Hamm join forces as producers of the live-action African-American superhero show Mantis, and Cop Files is a spin-off of Cops hosted by Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree.