(CBS, 8:30 p.m.) “I do not hate women!” Jimmy (Alfred Molina) repeats like a mantra throughout the first episode, but after watching it, I do. When he’s not getting sniped at by his annoying wife, Donna – played by Sharon Lawrence, who looks to be about fourteen months pregnant – he is fending off gripes from younger daughter Wendy, who wears a hat that says WENDY and is so generally unbearable she makes one nostalgic for Punky Brewster. Sometimes Jimmy’s trashy cocktail-waitress ex-wife shows up to add her ire to the mix, and then there’s his nagging mom played by Betty White and his brassy southern mother-in-law Dixie Carter, who doesn’t seem to mind playing the same caricature over and over again. The only bright spot is Stephen Root – who is so funny, it doesn’t seem to matter how bad his lines are.
(UPN, 8:30 p.m.) Brandy herself narrates the first Moesha spin-off, about a mother-daughter team fond of dressing up as “ghetto-fabulous Doublemint twins.” Mother (Mo’Nique Imes) follows daughter (Countess Vaughn) everywhere, including college. Boundary issues ensue.
(UPN, 9 p.m.) It’s hard to believe Jaleel White is no longer Urkel but a grown-up corporate widget who’s best friends with a chubby white guy in a basketball jersey, but here he is in this silly take on dating, marriage, and friendship. Expect lots of Three’s Company-esque misunderstandings about sex and genitals.
(CBS, 10 p.m.) What happens when Lynn Holt’s (Kathleen Quinlan) husband and law partner leaves her for another woman who isn’t young and pretty but Lynn’s middle-aged best friend? Well, for one thing, Lynn strips down to a very dicey bustier-and-thong outfit and parades around her office ranting about leg lifts. Then, more improbably, this high-powered L.A. attorney takes on broke clients like the recovering-crack-addict mother who once sold her kids’ Christmas presents for drug money and hires everyone who pops out of the woodwork: an ambulance-chasing television-commercial slickster named Rex and a hick (played, of course, by Dixie Carter!) who has seen The First Wives Club so often she says things like “I hate men, and I play very dirty.” Yikes! Hide your sons, and send your money to Switzerland.
(UPN, 9 p.m.) Plenty of sex and violence in Vegas, where, apparently, people are wont to say things like “There will be friction – I don’t care how much juice your boss has.” And friction there is, for “private security consultants” Elvis and Jesse, who used to be cops but now need to make some fast cash to deal with gambling debts. Great moment in feminist TV history: A female contortionist is strapped into weird, S&M-like bindings and made to wear a dog’s choke collar for no apparent reason before being shoved down an air shaft to wriggle and writhe and tinker with casino cameras.
The Mike O’Malley Show
(NBC, 9:30 p.m.) O’Mals and his pal Weasel live together in New Haven, and boy oh boy, do they love hockey! You’ll never guess what they realize when their other friend Jimmy decides to get married: We’re not getting any younger, and no ladies love us. Stay tuned to see if O’Malley can woo back his erstwhile best gal Shawna and drag himself out of the mire of sitcom maleness.
(CBS, 10 p.m.) Amy (Amy Brenneman) faces many challenges after leaving her husband in New York to move in with her mom (Tyne Daly) in Hartford and become a superior-court judge: how to make her excruciatingly cute daughter happy, how to absorb the endless demands and denigrations of her unyielding mother, and how to put together an outfit that strikes just the right note between respectable member of the judicial system and sexy tootsie.
(MTV, 10:30 p.m.) An oh-so-late-nineties cartoon in which multiethnic slackers with names like Chaka, Mecca, and Goat inhabit a murky East Village. The show is based on interviews with real live Village people, and indeed there is something deadpan and dead-on about characters like 24-year-old Alex, who fetishizes comic books and action figures, works at a copy shop, and ogles Goth chicks. Whether you want to see him on TV as well as on St. Marks Place is your call.
Work With Me
(CBS, 8:30 p.m.) Poor Jordan (Kevin Pollak) doesn’t make partner at his fancy Wall Street law firm, so he throws things at the boss, burns his files, and decides to start working with his perky wife, Julie (Nancy Travis). This may or may not ease the pressure on their respective assistants, who are secretly messing around, and that’s about as dramatic as the conflict gets.
(Fox, 9 p.m.) Recast The Wonder Years, set it in the late nineties, and you’ve got yourself Get Real. All of the characters get to narrate the show from their own perspective this time, but our primary guide is, at least at the start, a bright, contemplative preteen boy worried about his family’s troubles and his own chances at seeing/touching a real boob. Meanwhile, Mom is a party planner who can organize anyone’s good time but her own as she struggles to keep a little love in her marriage, a little connection with her smarty-pants daughter, and a little control over her obnoxious older son, who crashes cars and sneaks girls in for sleepovers.
(WB, 9 p.m.) From veterans of The X-Files and My So-Called Life comes this swell, spooky show about Liz (Shiri Appleby), who is happily going about her teenage business waiting tables in Roswell, New Mexico, in a uniform with the universal alien symbol stitched on it, when blam! she gets shot in the tummy. Fortunately for her, Max Evans (Jason Behr), the boy she fancies, happens to be there, and happens to be an alien with magic healing powers. This gets Max in trouble with the other aliens, who are identifiable only in that they consume a great deal of Tabasco sauce and are very, very attractive. Tune in to find out whether Liz will dump the sheriff’s dull (albeit human) son and try out romance with an e.t. before the shrewd, steely-eyed sheriff (William Sadler) and his long-haired deputy expose the mutants.
(Fox, 8 p.m.) After one too many naughty stunts, Sebastian Valmont is booted out of his prep school, just in time to move in with his rich, icy father, who has married seductive Mimi Rogers and lives in an improbably large house in Manhattan. Unfortunately, Mimi has a horrible, sexy, bitchy daughter, Kathryn, who will be Sebastian’s new classmate at Manchester Prep, where she is student-body president and on the side runs a secret society for students of “affluence and popularity” who get the school’s coat of arms tattooed on their backs. Um, if you say so.
(ABC, 9 p.m.) If you can’t wait for Felicity to graduate, you can just watch Wasteland now to see self-involved twentysomethings obsessing about their nascent careers, their inability to get laid, and so on. For example, blonde and delicious little Dawnie (Marisa Coughlan) is fighting an uphill battle to be deflowered before she turns 30 (as if) and writing a thesis for grad school about how people in their twenties undergo a second coming-of-age. Brought to you by Kevin Williamson, the creator of juicy recent additions to the young-adult entertainment canon like Dawson’s Creek and Scream.
Stark Raving Mad
(NBC, 9:30 p.m.) The boy from Doogie Howser, M.D. (Neil Patrick Harris) is a book editor – is there nothing this precocious young man can’t do? – but things get a little hairy when he’s moved from working on romance novels to nurturing the temperamental talent of a nutty horror writer who loves nothing more than frightening the bejesus out of Doogie – sorry, Henry – by pretending to jump off the balcony, etc. (think Stephen King meets the Marx Brothers). Henry can’t handle all these thrills and chills, so he manages to get a new author, but you know what? He misses the macabre kook after all.
Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends
(Bravo, 8 p.m.) Louis, the son of writer Paul and a thoroughly charming nerdy Brit in his own right, is our guide on visits to militia encampments, porn-film sets, and other enclaves of freaky Americana. He has a knack for connecting with even the weirdest of the weird, thus providing us with surprisingly intimate peeks at their lives and some good yuks in the process.
Love and Money
(CBS, 8:30 p.m.) This thoroughly old-school comedy features the Super (Brian Van Holt), who lives in the basement with his dad, the Doorman (Brian Doyle-Murray), and steals the heart of the Rich Girl (Paget Brewster), who was about to get married up in her penthouse to the Princeton Guy. Every character is a shameless cliché, including Swoosie Kurtz as the champagne-swilling mother of the non-bride, but the show is so unpretentiously eighties, it’s sort of weirdly charming.
Now and Again
(CBS, 9 p.m.) Not to be confused with Once and Again or Time & Again. Poor John Goodman can’t convince his wife to sleep with him, doesn’t get the promotion he’s worked twenty years for, and to top it all off, he gets killed by an F train. Or mostly killed. Somehow, a special secret government team gets his brain and puts it into the body of a hunky Frankenstein whom they’ve cobbled together from various almost-dead parts. In exchange for the gift of life, he must never speak to his family (fat chance), and he will be sent to combat terrorists like the terrifying elderly Asian man who puts egg bombs in public places across the globe (giving rise to a very freaky sequence on a Tokyo subway complete with ominous, giggling child and blood everywhere). Sadly, the show will lose the irresistible blend of pudge and wit that is John Goodman after the first episode, but the high-action plot and cool cinematography will remain.
(NBC, 10 p.m.) Take the lonely achiness of Singles, mix with the parental-domestic discontent of thirtysomething, cook over extremely low heat, and you, too, will get Cold Feet. The most sympathetic character is the preverbal baby.
Freaks and Geeks
(NBC, 8 p.m.) The worst thing about this show is that it reminds you how god-awful high school actually was. The actors are painfully tiny and gawky and funny-looking; the guidance counselor is an earnest hippie loser; and Brenda, Kelly, and Dylan are nowhere in sight. Like many an intelligent middle-class adolescent chick before her, the show’s heroine, Lindsay (Linda Cardellini), is struggling to make that all-important transition from geek to freak, but she is learning that the dubious rewards of abandoning the Mathletes will be watching stoner guys play drums and getting lectures from Dad (Joe Flaherty), who is convinced that the wages of adolescence are death. “There was a girl in our school who had premarital sex,” he warns. “You know what she did on graduation day? She died!”
Malcolm in the Middle
(Fox, 7 p.m.) Brilliant, pissy little Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is one of this season’s most engaging and appealing characters. He is so irritated by his weird mom, who answers the door topless and shaves his father’s back while the kids are eating breakfast, he has decided that “the best thing about childhood is, at some point it stops!” A fantastic cast manages to make these unimaginably peculiar lives seem remarkable instead of ridiculous.
(ABC, 9 p.m. ) Sexy Gina Gershon and a few other hot people are L.A. private dicks equipped with better gizmos than the local security guards and far fewer ethical restrictions than the real cops in David E. Kelley’s latest. As fast-paced as it is far-fetched.
(Nickelodeon, 8:30 p.m.) New-kid-on-the-block Sam finds out he’s not in Kansas anymore when he meets his next-door neighbors Reggie, Otto, and Twister, who are computer-literate skateboarders. Fortunately, they need a new goalie for their street-hockey club, and after a brief hazing, he’s in. This nicely animated cartoon is loaded with already-outdated nineties-speak (“Chill, dude, she’s gonna blow!”), so you can rest assured you’ll still be able to understand everything you’ll hear.
(Disney, 6:30 p.m.) A group of skateboarding suburban kids resist an eager new member (sound familiar?), in this case a girl named Morgan. Meanwhile, one of the boys has inherited a magic jersey from his dead grandfather that enables its wearer to turn into a famous athlete and participate in big, televised games.