Monday's new shows
ABC, 8-9 P.M.
Concept: Take the Michelle Pfeiffer movie, subtract Pfeiffer, add Annie Potts, and crank up that Coolio! The Scoop: If a former Designing Woman as a ghetto schoolteacher isn’t your idea of a credible gangsta’s paradise, reserve judgment until you’ve seen the way Potts takes hold of the role — commandingly yet charmingly. Executive producer Diane Frolov says the plots will be gritty: ”There’s one episode when [a student] gets out of a gang. If he leaves, he can be killed, or he can go through what’s called a jump-out, where you can be beaten to death. If you’re a teacher, how do you deal with that one?” Um, a really long detention? Bottom Line: Iffy — an hour drama so early in the evening, so early in the week? Its pre-sold title will help, but the show’s rough-hewn family values will have it fighting for the same viewers as a more likely hit — Cosby.
CBS, 8-8:30 P.M.
Concept: The Cos as a codger without a cause. The Scoop: CBS is ballyhooing Bill Cosby as a beloved familiar face who’ll spearhead its Big Comedy Monday lineup and bolster the network’s ratings. ”I hope [Cosby] tickles people’s funny bones,” says executive producer Dennis Klein (The Larry Sanders Show). ”But it’s not my job to save CBS.” Klein notes of Cosby‘s character, a cranky premature retiree, ”I think it’s about time that the world was made safe for somebody with strong and nasty opinions about things.” But playing a man in his 60s who gripes incessantly, Cosby (who’s also executive-producing) tends to leave costars Phylicia Rashad and Madeline Kahn with far fewer lines and diddly to do. Bottom Line: If the star can prevent Cosby from turning into an old-age ego trip, the show will no doubt attract millions of the fans of his beloved 1984-92 sitcom.
NBC, 8:30-9 P.M.
Concept: A laid-back liberal teacher shakes up a conservative prep school. The Scoop: Scarcely known stand-up comic Tom Rhodes seems to have landed this show on the basis of his hair — a scraggly, Michael-Bolton-on-a-bender growth that is the object of way too many jokes in the pilot. This certainly does not faze Rhodes: ”I’m kind of biased and a little bit of a braggart, but I think it’s a hell of a show,” he says. ”It’s the Rolling Stones of sitcoms; we rock, we’re a tight little band. There’s one reason the Stones are still together, and it’s ’cause they jam!” Bottom Line: Well, Mr. Rhodes, if the show bombs — and your half-smug, half-smart-aleck teacher character looks to be the least likable fellow on a major network — you can always get work as a rock critic.
FOX, 9-9:30 P.M.
Concept: Clueless set in a library. The Scoop: Based on the 1995 movie of the same name, Fox’s show substitutes Christine Taylor (who plays Marcia in the Brady Bunch movies) in Parker Posey’s role as an alluring airhead who pays for her party clothes with a job stacking books in the library under her godmother and boss, Swoozie Kurtz. Executive producer Efrem Seeger says, ”The thing that was special to me about the movie was not the way this girl used drugs or drank or partied…what I loved was her willfulness, and that she went after a goal and made it happen.” Bottom Line: Disguised as a sexually liberated romp, Party Girl plays up dumb chick/hunk stereotypes unamusingly. We’d rather see a show about a smartie: Dewey Decimal Girl.