What About Joan (3/27; 9:30 to 10 p.m.; ABC), with the immensely talented Joan Cusack as a trying-too-hard Chicago high-school teacher with an oversexed best friend (Jessica Hecht), a psychiatrist who makes house calls (Donna Murphy), and many, many talk-show issues, is a new sitcom so overwrought that it sucks all the oxygen out of the room and the brain.
The Woman Chaser (3/30; 9 to 10:45 p.m.; Sundance), a Robinson Devor adaptation of Charles Willeford’s pulp fiction, stars Patrick Warburton as a used-car salesman so bored with black-and-white life in fifties L.A. that he ends up trapped in his own semi-wicked noir.
And Never Let Her Go (4/1 and 4/4; 9 to 11 p.m.; CBS), from Ann Rule’s true-crime-in-Wilmington, Delaware, best-seller, is a by-the-numbers miniseries docudrama with Kathryn Morris as the innocent blonde victim of Mark Harmon’s murderous possessiveness, plus Rachel Ward, Steven Eckholdt, Olympia Dukakis, and Paul Michael Glaser as listless spear-carriers.
Wives and Daughters (4/1, 4/8, 4/15, and 4/22; 9 to 10:30 p.m.; Channel 13) is more fun as a six-hour Masterpiece Theatre mini-series than it was as an Elizabeth Gaskell novel, mainly because of Justine Waddell as supergoody Molly and Keeley Hawes as wayward Cynthia, along with such ever-reliables as Francesca Annis, Iain Glen, Barbara Flynn, and Michael Gambon. Only in England is upward mobility still a scandal worth so much frenzied emoting.
Bands on the Run (4/1; 10 to 11 p.m.; VH1) launches four unsigned rock bands on a thirteen-week road trip competing for $50,000. Two bands will be eliminated from competition by week eleven. They all think they’re more interesting than I do.
Maze (4/2; 8 to 9:45 p.m.; Starz!) stars Rob Morrow, who also directs and co-wrote, as an artist with Tourette’s syndrome who falls in love with Laura Linney, who is pregnant by Craig Sheffer, who is off in Africa Doctoring Without Borders. As if to mimic the syndrome, the camera twitches, too. Fine performances almost redeem sentimental slop.
Midwives (4/2; 9 to 11 p.m.; Lifetime) accuses Sissy Spacek (!) of murder for a botched delivery. Peter Coyote and Piper Laurie don’t believe it, and neither will you.