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Shows Return for Good or Bad, 09.04.01 ...

We haven't reached fall yet, but we can see the crossroads ahead of us. Officially, the fall 2001 TV season won't get underway until Sept. 17, which is when the networks will launch most of their new series. Still, you can feel autumn's approach in the post-Labor Day air, and it won't be long before it arrives in force on your TV.

Before we get to the new season and its new series, however, we thought we'd take a look at some returning shows that are at a crossroads themselves. Some are veterans, some are relative newbies but all are at a turning point in their runs, where the right move could mean further success, and the wrong one creative collapse. What follows over the next few days is a night-by-night look at the returning shows that are facing the most interesting challenges, starting with shows from Tuesday.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer (UPN)

The challenge: Well, for one thing, the show's heroine is dead. That tends to put a crimp in things.

The fix: You can pretty much count on Buffy coming back to life, and considering creator Joss Whedon's track record, odds are he will find a way to do so that doesn't damage the integrity of the show or call to mind such disasters as Bobby's "Hey, who left the shower running?" return to Dallas.

The prognosis: Great. The show is coming off an extremely strong season, and while Whedon has said he's cutting back on his day-to-day commitment, you can bet he's not going to let anything happen to the franchise if only because he's not about to let WB get the last laugh.

Frasier (NBC)

The challenge: It may be too much to ask that a show in its 10th season retain the comic brilliance and freshness that earned it a spot among TV's best-ever sitcoms. But we can ask Frasier to end its run with energy and style, rather than sputter along as it did last season.

The fix: The best fix would be to bring back all the writers who have left the show for development deals that never developed, but that's not going to happen. So this year, how about giving Frasier a steady girlfriend? There are only so many ways even Frasier can sabotage a relationship.

The prognosis: Fair. Even in its decline, Frasier is better than most shows are at their heights. But, boy, it sure would be nice to see the decline halted.

Gilmore Girls (WB)

The challenge: For last year's best new series, the challenge is avoiding one of TV's more common pitfalls: the Sophomore Slump. And because Girls can be very witty, it also has to avoid falling in love with the sound of its own dialogue.

The fix: The show is adding new characters which is fine, as long as it doesn't lose sight of the unique tri-cornered grandmother-mother-daughter relationship that gives it heart.

The prognosis: Great. Look for Girls to firmly establish itself with TV's best.

Credit: USA Today

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