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The WB: The Bizarro Network

Every year, one show appears on the schedule that appears to have wandered in from some alternate universe where television programmers try to get as low ratings as possible. This year, Family Affair takes center stage on Thursday at 8:00 as it updates the, um, "classic" show with the central role of Mr. French taken by Tim Curry.

The President of The WB's Entertainment division alleges that Family Affair will be "sure to be one of the most talked-about comedies anywhere this fall," which sounds like a good idea until you remember how much smart-ass websites talked about Wolf Lake last year. Uncle Bill will be played by Gary Cole. I want to make fun of him for having played Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch movies, but he's also the voice of Harvey Birdman, so he gets a pass.

After Family Affair, the WB will present to us Do Over at 8:30. In what is somewhat inadequately described as a "freak accident," a 34-year-old salesman is flung backwards in time to land in his own 14-year-old body. And then he starts living his life again, until he gets canceled about two months later.

At 9:30, the Jamie Kennedy Experiment show does whatever it's been doing. I don't know much about it, really. Then at 10:00, Off Centre has also managed to elude my attention, although not TeeVee's.

The most female-friendly show on the air, Gilmore Girls has been reasonably successful on the WB (considering that it's still scheduled directly against Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is the second most female-friendly) so it gets to stick around for another year on Tuesday at 8:00. And on Sundays at 7:00, something called Gilmore Girls: Beginnings isn't a comic-book-style Origin Story in which Lorelei gets bitten by a radioactive coffee bean; it's actually just the first season of Gilmore Girls being aired again. If you missed it, you should watch it, because it was really good the first time.

One of the WB's returning shows is Smallville (still on Tuesday at 9:00 right after Gilmore Girls), which features a young Clark Kent and his relationship with Lex Luthor, a relationship that some have called "gayer than Queer as Folk."

Flush with success, the producers of Smallville are now bringing out Birds of Prey, a show about three female crimefighters in Gotham City. It starts with Catwoman dying, Batgirl being crippled, and Batman leaving town. So Batgirl renames herself "Oracle" and picks up a couple of hottie assistants: Huntress and The Black Canary, who really needs a catchier name. Those three are the Birds of Prey, and they will presumably be waging telegenic battle against supervillains. For those who wonder whether Smallville's homoerotic overtones will carry over onto Birds of Prey, one piece of information should suffice: one of the villains will be Twin Peaks's Sherilyn Fenn. Rrrowr!

Birds of Prey will be on Wednesdays at 9:00, right after Dawson's Creek, which is, yes, still on the air.

Last time the fall schedules were announced, it didn't make sense to anyone that Angel came on right after 7th Heaven. Most people figured that the people who design the schedule hadn't ever seen either show and just assumed "heaven" and "angels" were similar concepts. This time out, 7th Heaven stays on Monday at 8:00, and it's now followed by Everwood, which involves a neurosurgeon whose wife dies, so he and his two kids move from Manhattan to Colorado. Then he opens a general practice and doesn't charge any money. It's a little like Northern Exposure but, you know, without the quirkiness.

Angel has moved to Sundays at 9:00, where it will follow the much more similar Charmed.

The WB Friday will be anchored by Sabrina, the Teenage Witch at 8:30 and Reba, the country singer, at 9:00. The night starts at 8:00 with What I Like About You, starring Amanda Bynes, who is being described as "Nickelodeon's hottest star since Melissa Joan Hart," which clearly ignores the fine work being done by Kenan and Kel. She plays the wacky 16-year-old sister of straight-arrow Jennie Garth. And hilarity, it is implied, ensues.

The night ends at 9:30 with Greetings from Tucson, which clearly ignores the ancient comedy rule that Arizona should never, ever be mentioned. I can't bring myself to read the description too carefully, but it includes the phrases "the challenges of growing up sane," "proud yet impossibly pragmatic," "diva of an older sister," "irreverent uncle," "grandmother," "hipper than most teenagers," "eternal adolescent dilemma," and "unconventional family comedy." Also, the word "Mexican," which doesn't appear in too many show descriptions. So that's something, at least.

In the event that one of these shows somehow gets canceled, The O'Keefes will present Judge Reinhold in the role he was born to play: a father who has home-schooled his children without letting them ever watch television, experience pop culture, or even, barbaric though it sounds, read sarcastic web pages. And then the children (who "can speak six languages, but are unable to converse with kids their own age") somehow go to public school. It's fish-out-of-water meets schoolyard hijinks! It's Due South meets Welcome Back, Kotter! It's, well, it's a WB midseason replacement. I hope you weren't expecting genius here.


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