Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Fall Season Is Full of Big News

By Devin D. O'Leary

JUNE 21, 1999:  We've still got another three months of summer reruns to endure, but the major television networks have already announced their line-ups for next fall. With a remote control-draining 38 new shows and 32 timeslot changes for old stuff, it's looking like a whole new Idiot Box come late August/early September. Here's a night by night run-down of the "Big News" for each network.

Monday -- "Law and Order" spin-off "Special Victims Unit" preems on NBC following "Veronica's Closet," which finds itself exiled from Must See TV and subbing for a booted "Caroline in the City" in the Monday Dead Zone. ABC bumps "Monday Night Football" ahead by an hour, with a "20/20" lead-in. "Party of Five" spin-off "Time of Your Life" leads in to FOX's "Ally McBeal."

Tuesday -- FOX debuts its half-hour sitcom version of "Ally McBeal" (entitled "Ally"), constructed entirely of comedy bits left on the cutting room floor from previous episodes. "That '70s Show" returns as a follow-up. WB pairs "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with LA-set spin-off "Angel." UPN pairs "Dilbert" with the hip-hop comedy "Shasta McNasty."

Wednesday -- WB debuts its much-buzzed comedy/drama "Roswell" about four alien teens who crash their flying saucer in the New Mexico desert, disguise themselves as humans and end up going to high school in Roswell.

Thursday -- NBC thankfully boots "Veronica's Closet" from its Thursday time-slot, but brings in the weird-sounding "Stark Raving Mad," a sitcom about a nutty Stephen King-like horror novelist (Tony Shaloub of "Wings") and his fussy editor (Neil Patrick Harris of "Doogie Howser"). NBC also unwisely sends "Will & Grace" back to Tuesdays in favor of more tiresome "Jesse" episodes. ABC debuts a fourth night of "20/20" after Kevin (Scream, "Dawson's Creek") Williamson's new post-collegiate drama "Wasteland." FOX spins the hit film Cruel Intentions into a weekly teen drama called "Manchester Prep." UPN adds professional wrestling.

Friday -- "X-Files" guru Chris Carter adds "Harsh Realm," an action series about a soldier trapped in a virtual reality world, to FOX's line-up. The show replaces Carter's previous Friday failure "Millennium." WB adds slacker toon "The Downtowners" to its urban sitcom line-up.

Saturday -- DreamWorks' early '80s high school-set dramady "Freaks and Geeks" is the only addition to an otherwise stable oldster line-up.

Sunday -- My prayers are answered! FOX brings "Futurama" back to its rightful place between "The Simpsons" and "X-Files." As a bonus, "King of the Hill" returns from Tuesdays! Crappy toon "The Family Guy" now finds itself stuck opposite "Frasier" on Thursdays. ABC debs David ("Ally McBeal") Kelly's new detective actioner "Snoops," starring sexy Gina Gershon.

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