TV STUFF: NBC Keeps it Real

PASADENA Calif., July 20, 2000 – Substance reigned over style as NBC unveiled its new Fall lineup to the media this week. Gone were the matching color schemes and meals by the pool that ABC employed to fete reporters just a few days ago; in their stead, there were neon peacocks and buffet trays with sternos. And the consensus among critics at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was that ABC surely hung window dressing on everything because it only had four new series to pump. NBC, on the other hand, needed no frills to roll out seven new series and two miniseries.

Not surprisingly, the Q-and-A sessions were shorter, with less time for breathing in between. Trashy dramatist Aaron Spelling unveiled his high-camp “Titans,” a Dallas-for-the-millennium evening soap with vixens, sex and greed, and starring Yasmine Bleeth, Casper Van Dien (“Sleepy Hollow“) and Victoria Principal. Critics broke into applause during a preview, when Bleeth tells Van Dien she is pregnant with his baby – even while walking down the aisle to marry his father.

Katey Sagal showed has ditched her Peg Bundy wig to play a neighborhood witch with heart in the coming-of-age sitcom, “Tucker.” Oliver Platt (“Bulworth“) and indie film queen Lili Taylor spoke about their New York newspaper drama “Deadline.” And writers and producers hailing from “The Late Show with David Letterman” brought out the romantic comedy “Ed,” starring Tom Cavanaugh (“Providence”), about a New York lawyer who gets fired, catches his wife cheating and moves back to his hometown to buy a bowling alley.

Then there was Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”), promoting his sitcom “The Michael Richards Show,” an Inspector Clouseau meets Ernie Kovacs P.I. romp. Steven Weber (“Wings”) was on hand to tout “Cursed,” co-starring Chris Elliot (“There’s Something About Mary‘), about a guy who, uh, gets cursed. And, David Alan Grier (“In Living Color”) joked about starring in the sitcom “DAG” about a demoted secret service agent who guards the demanding First Lady, the slimmed-down Delta Burke, saying “You will always hear these lines: ‘It’s because I’m black.'”

Then there were the two miniseries, the biblical drama “In the Beginning” starring Jacqueline Bisset and Martin Landau, and the Kennedy wives’ drama “Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot,” which features Jill Hennessey (“Law & Order”), Lauren Holly (“Dumb and Dumber“) and Leslie Stefanson (“The General’s Daughter“), respectively.

NBC’s marathon unveiling ended with a celeb-fest at Jillian’s Hi-Life Lanes, a bowling alley at the tourist-beseiged Universal City Walk shopping mall. While the food was, again, unspectacular, everyone was handed disposable cameras to take pictures of things like Rob Lowe and Kathy Ireland talking (two perfect creatures that seem freakish standing together), Martin Sheen mugging with “Daddio” tyke Mitch Holleman, and “Will & Grace” actor Eric McCormack discussing how the characters will soon have significant others. In short, the stars pranced, the critics howled.