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South Central (Fox, 8-8:30 p.m.): If you've been fruitlessly seeking a sitcom that bears some connection to real life, don't overlook the new series premiering here. It's a show that deals with survival - in the face of gangs, poverty, and struggle - but does so in a funny, sometimes touching, and almost always credible way. It is South Central Los Angeles's answer to white, middle-class sitcom fluff.

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Set in a section of the city known mainly for crime and violence, the characters and dialogue offer a heartening close-up of black family life. The basically positive picture presented is far more typical of the law-abiding people living there than one might guess from some of the lurid media stories following the riots and unrest in the area two years ago.

Joan Mosley (Tina Lifford), a tough-minded single mother of three children, fights a hard battle - economically and socially, inside the home and out - as she looks for work. Having lost one child to street violence, she tries to keep teenager Andre away from gang involvement. He wants to buy a beeper - an ominous note that is left pending at the end of the opening episode, thus planting a potential running theme.

Joan is a compelling figure who cracks as many jokes as people on more typical sitcoms, but these jokes have a sometimes painful point. They make the family's harsh environment all the more real for the insightful comedy through which it emerges.

The dialogue is couched in the raw idiom of street talk. But such realism gives an effective and cutting edge to the upbeat message underlying the format: With enough self-support, love, and resolution, families can cope, and their individual members can succeed, even in the face of bleak and often deadly circumstances. * WEDNESDAY

Talk Radio Week (C-Span, 6-10 a.m., EST): The cable channel is devoting this week to live simulcasts of various radio talk shows. This morning it offers ``The J.P. McCarthy Show'' from Detroit.

Please check local listings for these programs.

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