If all else fails, we still have Sopranos
Clip 'n' save! Here is everything you'll need to know about the slate of series debuting with the 2002-2003 TV season.
The season gets under way tonight, with the premieres of five Tuesday prime-time shows and a sixth that premieres tonight but eventually switches to Thursday, just to keep everybody on their toes.
Now for the questions I know you'd want to ask if you weren't busy wondering whether Rachel will opt for Ross or Joey Ñ and if this is the year that 'Survivor' doesn't.
Should I get all worked up about the new season like I used to when it really was a big deal, and when cable programs didn't take the wind out of network sails 12 months out of the year?
Yes, if only because 'The Sopranos' is back on HBO after a 15-month layoff that felt like 15 years. By all indications, the show's fourth season is going to be even better than last. Tony already is telling his shrink he's depressed, and as we've already learned from Sunday night's premiere, he has good reason to be.
OK, but should I get excited about the 34 new network shows?
At your own risk. The overall quality of both dramas and sitcoms has advanced a notch, and I don't detect as many offerings in the 'horrendous' category. But I'd be shocked if there were more than two breakout hits.
And what would they be?
You won't have to wait long to check out a couple of contenders: the quirky 'Push, Nevada,' a 'Twin Peaks'-ish ABC drama debuting at 9 tonight on KATU (2), and Fox's 'Cedric the Entertainer Presents,' which premieres at 8:30 Wednesday night on KPTV (12).
'Push, Nevada' follows the travails of a nerdy-but-somehow-tough IRS agent (played by the charismatic Derek Cecil) who investigates a heist of a casino in the small, odd make-believe town of Push, Nev. Viewers can win $1 million by solving the crime.
Cedric the Entertainer, who rose to stardom in Bud Lite commercials, is hilarious in a comedy sketch show that resembles the old Fox laugh riot 'In Living Color.' Cedric shines (his 'cafeteria lady' and Barry White rip-off are classics), and is joined by a first-rate ensemble.
Any other decent new shows worth switching over to?
Two might be worth a look: the NBC Sunday-night drama 'Boomtown,' at 10 p.m. on KGW (8), and the Monday night CBS drama 'CSI: Miami,' a spinoff starring on-again, off-again comeback kid David Caruso. Look for it at 10 p.m. on KOIN (6).
Are there any trends or programming themes we can glean from the new offerings?
Nothing worth mentioning, unless you want to count the continuing strength of dramas and the slow demise of sitcoms. There are, for the time being, no new reality shows and no 'American Idol' copycats.
But just wait a couple of weeks for the first shows to fail, and there they'll be.
More bad sitcoms this season?
Of course. I had high hopes for ABC's 'Life with Bonnie,' starring Bonnie Hunt as a frantic morning TV host in her third sitcom. (The show debuts at 9 tonight on KATU.) But the hyper character she plays makes me want to switch over to C-Span. Why not try for the droll, sarcastic type she portrayed as the sister in 'Jerry McGuire'?
Is there any chance that ABC and Fox might gain some ground on front-runners NBC and CBS?
No, although ABC should improve from last season when 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' did a fast fade, taking the network down with it.