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Deja vu Has Starring Role In the Networks' New Shows

Many of the 36 series rely on formulas, but a few may wind up as big hits.

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After three long months of reruns, Americans starved for fresh entertainment are heading for the couch to check out the new crop of fall television shows. With a mighty clicking of remotes, eager viewers across the country hope to find new favorites.

But they are, for the most part, likely to be disappointed. While ABC's slogan proclaims "TV is good," viewers may find this increasingly difficult to believe.

Sticking with the tried, and in many cases, the tired, networks are serving up formulaic blends of jaded lawyers, cynical cops, and perky professional women with fabulous wardrobes. Also, in a continuation of last year's trend, viewers will see a plethora of familiar faces on their screens. Among old friends they'll be welcoming back in living rooms are Bob Newhart, Fred Savage, and David Caruso.

Of the 37 new shows created last year, a respectable 17 have been renewed. We're guessing the return rate for this season's 36 new series won't be so high.

Familiar faces

Taking a chapter from the "Dilbert" handbook on work is Fred Savage's ("The Wonder Years") show exploring the perilous world of the cubicle. Snappy writing and a strong lead make Working (NBC) one of the best new sitcoms. In the pilot, Savage starts work at a multinational corporation where a golden retriever draws a salary and only the secretaries are qualified to make important decisions. While Savage is likable, the supporting cast's chemistry needs to jell, and we kept expecting to see Scott Adams credited as the guiding fluorescent light.

At the top of every critic's list but ours is Veronica's Closet (NBC) starring Kirstie Alley ("Cheers"). She plays the queen of romance, a lingerie company head saddled with a philandering husband, whom she dumps in the pilot. Now that she's jettisoned the louse, maybe they can lose such lines as "Someday you'll find someone wonderful enough to cheat on your husband with." Alley's been given the best real estate on prime time (between "Seinfeld" and "ER"), so it's not in danger of being canceled, and she'll have plenty of time to hire some new writers.

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