Yielding just a handful of hits (Drew Carey’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Dawson’s Creek), the ’98 TV season won’t be a tough act to follow. Here’s how cable and the nets plan to entice viewers:
Although James Cameron’s Terminator-esque sci-fi drama may not make it on the air before the end of ’99, there will be plenty of movie names moonlighting on TV. Saving Private Ryan soldier Adam Goldberg is writing a sitcom about a frenzied personal assistant to a tantrum-prone celeb (MTV). Director Francis Ford Coppola turns his attention from the Mafia to little green men in an aliens-among-us serial entitled First Wave (Sci-Fi Channel), while Oliver Stone — fully recovered from his failed attempt at an ABC conspiracy-seeking special — tries his hand at Witchblade (TNT), an action-adventure series centering on a New York detective. Susan Sarandon is a disillusioned housewife kidnapped by Stephen Dorff in Earthly Possessions (HBO) and Martin Short plays the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (NBC). Very Bad Things writer-director (and Chicago Hope star) Peter Berg is developing the tentatively titled Bellevue, a drama about psychiatric medicine for ABC. Finally, Total Recall 2070 (Showtime) will explore the work of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick.
CLASSICS WITH A TWIST
Prepare to see Charles in charge as A Christmas Carol (TNT), starring Patrick Stewart, and Great Expectations (PBS), featuring Charlotte Rampling, usher in a Dickens revival. Old MacDonald’s worst nightmare is an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (TNT), with players from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Meanwhile, the networks draw inspiration from the TV past as John Larroquette attempts a Stateside remake of Fawlty Towers in Payne (CBS); Aaron Spelling pours on the sirens in Rescue 77 (The WB), an updated Emergency!; and Patty Duke pays homage to herself in The Patty Duke Show Reunion Movie (CBS), re-creating her dual role as perky Patty Lane and her identical British cousin, Cathy.
The good news is, Puddy returns: Seinfeld‘s Patrick Warburton has a sitcom in the works (NBC). The bad news is, so does Bob Saget, who is shopping a comedy around town. The Larry Sanders Show‘s Jeffrey Tambor is a divorcé in Everything’s Relative (NBC); Paula Poundstone drives Home Movies, an animated sitcom from the producers of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist (UPN); and ex-Saturday Night Live player Norm Macdonald is an ex-hockey player — turned — social worker in The Norm Show (ABC). Also in the pipeline: new shows from Just Shoot Me creator Steven Levitan (NBC), Homicide: Life on the Street gurus Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson (UPN), and the prolific David E. Kelley, with his PI drama, Snoops (ABC). Finally, The WB attempts to draw an audience over 25 with a gritty cop hour from Sleepers author Lorenzo Carcaterra, and with DC, a peek inside the world of Washington interns from Law & Order‘s Dick Wolf. (And, no, Monica’s not booked for the pilot.)
Rich Man, Poor Man-itis continues at the networks. Watch for sweeps offerings from big-name authors like Tom Clancy’s Netforce (ABC) and Stephen King’s Storm of the Century (ABC). Lauren Bacall plays the doomed heiress in Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (CBS). For the kiddies, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen shepherd the creatures of Noah’s Ark (NBC). And you can tune in and check out The ’60s (NBC), a fictionalized account of the already chimerical decade. Most ambitious of all is the $30 million-plus production of Cleopatra (ABC), which casts relative unknown Leonor Varela (The Man in the Iron Mask) as the Nile’s premier goddess, Timothy Dalton as Julius Caesar, and Titanic‘s Billy Zane as Marc Antony. We can see the ABC ads already: Won’t you watch like an Egyptian?!