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Fall TV: Two New Shows to Keep on the Air, 12.12.00 ...

Maybe this damns them with faint praise, but here goes anyway: Among all the new shows, "Welcome to New York" and "Gilmore Girls" are my favorites.

Both would shine even if the rest of the fall crop weren't so lackluster. Yet each of them, stuck with a lousy time slot, has been overlooked by much of the audience. Too bad. Anyone who gives them a chance may well agree: They're both keepers.

"Welcome to New York," which airs on CBS (KIRO/7) Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., has the burden of going up against "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" on ABC. Besides, its country-mouse-joins-city-rats concept may not seem exactly innovative.

But wait! "Welcome," which focuses on an Indiana weathercaster hired for a Manhattan-based morning TV show, takes great glee in tweaking New York's self-obsession. On this sitcom, the country mouse usually gets the last laugh.

Sure, Hoosier transplant Jim Gaffigan (played by standup comic Jim Gaffigan) seems a bit backward. What's with him, anyway, not wearing black and having a listed phone? Little wonder that Jim's boss, Marsha Bickner (Christine Baranski), who brought him in from flyover country, feels obliged to remake him for the big time.

Meanwhile, in their own individual ways, Marsha's assistant Amy (Sara Gilbert), anchor Adrian Spencer (Rocky Carroll) and office flunky Vince (Anthony DeSando) join Marsha in treating Jim as an exotic life form.

But even when he isn't sure what game they're playing, it's Jim who usually gets the winning hand. He's the perfect blend of innocent and logical.

What could be better!

Now for "Gilmore Girls." Aired on Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. on KTWB/22, it's slotted against ABC's "Millionaire" and NBC's "Friends." It's on the WB, and who watches the WB? Besides, why watch a show with "girls" in the title, unless maybe the "girls" are fighting crime in skimpy get-ups?

But wait! "Gilmore Girls" is a lighthearted look at growing up, however long that may take. It is set in a pristine yet quirky New England hamlet that's as much fun to visit as "Northern Exposure's" Cicely, Alaska. And the girls -- who are best buds, even sisters, yet, most important, mother and daughter -- happen to be two of TV's most delightful leading ladies.

Lauren Graham sparkles as Lorelai Gilmore, an unwed mother raising 16-year-old Rory (Alexis Bledel) in cozy Stars Hollow, Conn.

Herself the daughter of old-money, old-fashioned parents, Lorelai got pregnant at 16. Striking out on her own, she worked her way up from scrubbing the floors at the Independence Inn to running it. Along the way, she has imbued her daughter with the same defiant spirit. But now she's been forced to ask her parents for help in paying Rory's prep-school tuition.

Much to Lorelai's dismay, her chilly mother and father (played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann) are back in the picture -- and she is newly beholden to them.

At this point, "Gilmore" has staked out a small but loyal following. The pity is that more viewers haven't found this gem.

Can "Welcome to New York" and "Gilmore Girls" win the viewership they deserve? And what will be the impact of CBS's sure-to-be-a-hit reality sequel, "Survivor: The Australian Outback," which is just around the corner?

After premiering on Sunday, Jan. 28, "Survivor II" likely will claim one of two 8-9 p.m. time periods, uprooting "Welcome to New York" on Wednesday, or, on Thursday, crushing WB rival "Gilmore Girls."

For a worthy pair of shows, "survivor" is indeed the word.
Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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