Keeping a watch on TV

It’s a new year, and I’ve got a few TV resolutions to make. I resolve to suffer through another entire episode of Fox’s Ally McBeal, if only to see what all the fuss is about. I resolve to read between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Thursdays, so as not to subject myself to another atrocious second of NBC’s Union Square. And I resolve to stop taking potshots at CBS’ Murphy Brown, since it’s not nice to speak ill of the near dead (I’m referring to the show, not the character—oops, broke that one already).

But I’m not the only one with bad habits. Plenty of TV shows would be wise to make a few resolutions of their own for 1998. Here are a few helpful suggestions: FRASIER (NBC, Tuesdays, 9-9:30 p.m.) should resolve to give Kelsey Grammer’s title character a girlfriend who’s as funny as he is. The terminally lovelorn shrink had more dates than usual last year, going out with a supermodel (a sorely miscast Sela Ward) and a powerful attorney (a chilly Lindsay Frost). It was amusing to watch Frasier become enamored of his lovers’ celebrity lifestyles, but the women’s roles were seriously underwritten. Ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) matches Frasier yuk for yuk, but her annual visits just aren’t enough.

NYPD BLUE (ABC, Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m.) should resolve to stop revealing the killers’ identities from the get-go almost every week. The recent two-parter in which Simone (Jimmy Smits) and Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) persuaded a father (the remarkable Brian Markinson) to confess to the murder of his young son added some much-needed emotional depth, but it would’ve been even more effective had there been some doubt as to the guy’s guilt. Take a clue from NBC’s Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street, which sometimes even let the culprits get away.

JUST SHOOT ME (NBC, Tuesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) should resolve to quit trying to be so artsy-fartsy and concentrate on just being funny. The sitcom’s protracted send-ups of King Lear and Annie Hall were painfully arch. Shakespeare and Woody Allen references—are they trying to turn off mainstream viewers?

THE PRETENDER (NBC, Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.) should resolve to get a decent haircut. Michael T. Weiss’ Jarod goes undercover as a doctor one week, a lawyer the next, yet he’s always got that dorky Caesar-meets-George Clooney ‘do. Maybe he could pose as a hairdresser one week and give himself a new coif.

DHARMA & GREG (ABC, Wednesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) should resolve to dole out a few jokes to Thomas Gibson’s Greg. Sure, we adore Jenna Elfman’s dippy hippie, Dharma, but her straitlaced TV spouse got more laughs as a humorless doctor on CBS’ Chicago Hope.

THE X-FILES (Fox, Sundays, 9-10 p.m.) should resolve to rehire mad genius Darin Morgan. Millennium is a lost cause; the episode Morgan wrote and directed reviving Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly) was its finest—but lowest-rated—hour ever. And when The X-Files tries to clone Morgan’s idiosyncratic style (e.g., the black-and-white goof on the Frankenstein myth), it merely seems like a weak imitation.