Keeping a watch on TV Jumbo stars. Jeffersons redux. He-man hausfraus. A look at this fall's TV trends

By A.J. Jacobs
Updated August 07, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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The fall TV season’s hot new trend: sitcoms about Abraham Lincoln’s pompous British butler! Okay, so it’s not exactly a trend. There’s only one: UPN’s The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. But if it hits, expect NBC to develop a kick-ass Chester A. Arthur dramedy for 1999. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the bona fide fads the networks have adopted this year:

SINGLE GUYS RAISING KIDS (AND USING THEM AS CHICK MAGNETS) For those keeping score, there are four such sitcoms containing three harried fathers, one harried older brother, two sexy nannies, a couple of hard-drinking womanizing uncles, plenty of men- are-bad-at-housework cracks, and two Olsens. We can’t keep straight which is which, but the names are: UPN’s Guys Like Us, Fox’s Holding the Baby, ABC’s Brother’s Keeper, and ABC’s Two of a Kind. That last one’s with the ladies Olsen. Will those adorable devils ever get a mom?

POTBELLIED PROTAGONISTS Perhaps inspired by Cartman, South Park’s breakout fat-ass, the networks are bulking up with portly actors. Among those living large: Nathan Lane as a washed-up opera star on NBC’s Encore! Encore!, David Anthony Higgins (one of the heteros on Ellen) as a stout sergeant on The WB’s The Army Show, stand-up John DiResta as a Pop-Tarts-loving transit cop in UPN’s DiResta, and roly-poly Chinese action star Sammo Hung as a kickboxing Shanghai cop who joins the LAPD in CBS’ Martial Law. Craft services are in for a banner year.

BLACK FAMILIES IN THE BURBS Think The Jeffersons with minivans. Both such sitcoms feature liberal white neighbors and assimilation punchlines, but the sharper of the two is ABC’s The Hughleys, exec-produced by the prolific Chris Rock. (The g is not silent, by the way.) The other, Fox’s Living in Captivity, can at least boast a decent visual gag: The black family proudly displays a white lawn jockey.

TWIN PEAKS ACTRESSES REVIVAL Ooooh, eerie! Seven years after David Lynch’s spooky drama vanished from the air, the Twin Peaks gals have mysteriously returned to prime time. Madchen Amick stars as a Tattoo replacement in ABC’s wry Fantasy Island revival. Sherilyn Fenn plays a bed-hopping alcoholic on Showtime’s Rude Awakening. And Sheryl Lee — Laura Palmer herself — has been resurrected as a sexy-but-smart healer on the CBS drama L.A. Docs. That’s not to mention Peaks alum Lara Flynn Boyle, who’s been lawyering on ABC’s The Practice. Now, what ever happened to that David Duchovny guy?

NEWLY SINGLE BLOND BARMAIDS IN THE NORTHEAST The nets ordered a double, with NBC’s Jesse the more intoxicating of the pair. It stars a surprisingly charming Christina Applegate (Married…With Children’s former bimbette) as a Buffalo-based drink-slinger who plans to attend nursing school despite the objections of her blue-collar family. On Fox’s Costello, high-decibel stand-up Sue Costello plays the South Boston version, who plans to attend college despite, yes, objections from her blue-collar family.

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