Lots of comedies and family shows
THE summer TV doldrums are over now that the new season is getting underway. But after a survey of the new fare, with its strong sense of d'ej`a vu, a critic might be tempted to speak of the fall doldrums, despite a few isolated attempts to break out of old patterns. The three commercial networks offer 24 new series. Most of the premi`eres are scheduled for this month and early next.
Except for the PBS premi`ere tonight of ``The Story of English,'' a gem of a series awash in a sea of glitz, public television has once again wisely decided to hold off its new shows until October and November, after the commercial networks have sated viewers with their familiar fare.
A number of trends and patterns emerge from a sampling of the new shows:
Mature performers will be seen more often. With the success of ``Golden Girls'' has come the idea that viewers will once again watch shows in which mature people play major roles. That reasoning accounts for ``Life with Lucy'' and ``The Ellen Burstyn Show,'' as well as the presence of older characters in just about every new series. In many cases, they are attached to youngsters . . . but they are there.
Family shows are in. With the success of ``The Cosby Show,'' everyone is trying for togetherness. There are many shows with unorthodox family units and virtually no traditional families in sight. But any combination is regarded as a family nowadays -- at least on TV.
Newsmagazine shows are coming. The fact that they can be produced comparatively inexpensively has resulted in a place on the schedule for NBC's ``1986,'' a promise from CBS that ``West 57th'' will replace the first sitcom that falters, and the scheduling of ABC's ``Our World'' as the sacrificial lamb opposite ``The Cosby Show'' on NBC. ``Our World'' has been sneered at because it will take a ``cheapie'' retrospective look at major world events with old newsreels and new interviews. But it sounds like fine TV to me, and I hope it starts a trend toward thoughtful information entertainments. Anyway, anything hosted by Linda Ellerbee deserves a sympathetic sampling.
More risqu'e material is slipping into the air. Since ``Golden Girls'' has broken new ground with borderline tastelessness, more shows are trying it.
Comedies are the thing this year. The new shows include many more sitcoms than action shows or dramas, because producers believe that viewers want lighthearted escapism to take their minds off such subjects as terrorism and disasters like the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
Two leading Madison Avenue advertising agencies, BBDO and DFS/Dorland Worldwide, have studied the new series carefully and come up with their selections, based on the shows themselves and their time slots, for probable winners:
On CBS, ``Designing Women,'' ``My Sister Sam,'' and ``Kay O'Brien, Surgeon.''
On ABC, ``Head of the Class'' and ``Jack and Mike.''
On NBC, ``Amen,'' ``L.A. Law,'' and ``Matlock.''
Most heavily promoted but seldom mentioned as potential hits are ``Life with Lucy'' and ``Crime Story.''
Arthur Unger is the Monitor's television critic.