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A Sobering Look At the Networks' New Fall Lineups

I WISH I could tell you that ``My So-Called Life'' - the ABC series that got a jump on the new season with its premiere last night - was typical of the other new fall shows on the major networks.

But that creatively venturesome new family drama from the makers of ``thirtysomething'' seems to be an anomaly in a lineup that may be inventive here and there, but is largely a defensive retreat into the known.

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Far from plunging into stimulating new territory, the networks appear to be seeking what some analysts have kindly described as ``stability.''

This fall, for instance, fewer new series will be offered compared with last fall. More shows are returning, and fewer of them are moving into new time periods than last year.

Several series focus on single parents looking after a disparate array of kids.

The approach may sound demographically trendy, but in spirit it harks back to much earlier TV shows, not to mention shows returning this season.

But judge for yourself. Here are the new series:


In addition to ``My So-Called Life,'' ABC is fielding:

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* ``On Our Own'': Seven orphaned ``kids'' live by themselves. When a social worker visits, the eldest - a young man of 20 - impersonates his aunt.

* ``Blue Skies'': Two men are running a mail-order business. A new partner arrives - a woman with an MBA - and plans to improve the business.

* ``McKenna'': From their ranch in the Northwest, the McKenna family leads tourists through the wilderness in this action-adventure series.

* ``Me and the Boys'': A widower is struggling to guide his three sons the best way he can. His mother-in-law treats all four like her own kids.

* ``All American Girl'': A modern 22-year-old Korean-American woman lives with her traditional family, with cultural clashes geared to gags.


* ``The Boys Are Back'': Grown sons move back into their parents' ``empty nest,'' just when the parents were getting ready to enjoy a little freedom.

* ``Daddy's Girls'': A man's wife and his business partner abandon him - for each other - leaving the husband to deal with his three daughters.

* ``Touched By an Angel'': Monica is a sometimes comic, independent-minded guardian angel sent to earth to look after kids destined for great things.

* ``Under Suspicion'': The only woman detective in a squad-room is expected to be one of the boys.

* ``Due South'': A Chicago cop and an ex-Mountie - the odd couple of law enforcement - try to work together.

* ``Chicago Hope'': Human drama in the high-stress life of a Chicago high-rise hospital.

* ``The Five Mrs. Buchanans'': Five sharply disparate, married sisters-in-law deal with an overbearing mother-in-law.


* ``E.R.'': Young residents work under great stress in a Chicago hospital (sound familiar?).

* ``The Martin Short Show'': The star of a popular TV series is also a husband and father.

* Now a regular series, ``The Cosby Mysteries'' stars Bill Cosby as a ``retired'' criminologist who can't seem to stay away from crime-solving.

* ``Friends'': Six young adults try to make it in Manhattan.

* ``Madman of the People'': A renowned columnist who can't stand authority gets a new boss: his daughter.

* ``Sweet Justice'': Two women lawyers in the South are committed to the underdog.

* ``Something Wilder'': An older father and his young wife raise their small twin boys.

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