Season Of Twentysomethings

CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard takes a look at the upcoming fall television season.
This week, a ripple; next week, a wave: The fall television season is upon us. We are about to drown in 38 new series programs, most of them about teen-agers and twentysomethings.

When the schedule was announced early this summer, organizations like the NAACP noticed something odd. The whole season looked like NBC on Thursday nights: not many blacks and fewer Hispanics.

There will be a rush before Thanksgiving to add some like raisins, or maybe M&Ms, on the angel food cake. So far nobody has mentioned the surprising number of gay people on these new shows. What this means I don't know, but there are also lots of aliens. Anyway, let's get started.

John Leonard
The most buzzed-about new show is the scabrous sitcom Action, starting this Thursday night on Fox.

Jay Mohr stars as Peter Dragon, a pill-popping Hollywood producer, with Illeana Douglas as Wendy Ward, a former child-star turned cocaine addict turned hooker, whom he hires as a creative consultant. Peter and Wendy, get it?

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There are jokes about Jews, gays and O.J. Simpson, not to mention guest stars like Keanu Reeves, and more lewd talk than a Tarantino two-step, all of it bleeped, and more references to the male sexual organ than the Kamasutra or the impeachment proceedings.

All this, from the Joel Silver who gave us Lethal Weapon and the Chris Thompson who wrote The Larry Sanders Show, is revved up like a music video or satanic ritual.

Reviews by CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard
Action is very funny, extremely mean and so inside-Hollywood narcissistic that you may actually want to read a book to wash your mind out.

But if books are absolutely out of the question, you might instead try an experiment in troubled wholesomeness called Judging Amy, which gets a sneak preview on CBS Sunday night before setting in on Tuesdays.

Amy Brenneman first lit up our television screen in a CBS summer series called Middle Ages, where she sang her radiant way into the hearts of a bunch of crybaby boomers. After which, in the first season of NYPD Blue, she loved David Caruso, but also tried to kill him.

In Judging Amy, sheÂ's a newly single mother who quits her New York Citlaw practice to become a juvenile-court judge in Hartford, Conn., in the process moving back in with her mother, Tyne Daly, a retired social worker with more opinions than the Internet, and her brother, Dan Futterman, who wants to be a writer but is washing dogs instead. Chaos in the house, order in the court.

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Brenneman is one of her own executive producers for Judging Amy, which is based on the experiences of her own mother. It's an unusual and promising premise for a dramatic series, with a strong cast. The less time Amy spends at home and the more in court, the better so far as I'm concerned.

But I like the idea of growing into the robes we wear, as if by pretending to be an adult we might actually become one - judicious, merciful and forgiving even of our imperfect selves. What a concept: growing up!