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Sunday, June 3, 2001

Do you remember the CBS series "Welcome to New York"?

Chenoweth oddly miscast in comedy that lacks humor

Kristen Chenoweth in the new NBC series "Krisitn" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
Most don't, and the new NBC sitcom "Kristen" (premieres at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on NBC) is about to follow in its infamous short-lived footsteps. Both "Kristen" and "Welcome to New York" feature corn-fed Midwesterners introduced into the volatile environment of New York City. The characters' occupations are different ("New York" featured a weatherman and "Kristen" focuses on a personal assistant/aspiring actress), but the result will be the same.
   And since "Welcome to New York" was immediately cancelled, "Kristen" can expect the same fate.
   Kristen (played by Broadway actress Kristen Chenoweth) is from Tulsa, Okla. After not making it in the theater world, her church minister recommends her to a personal assistant job in the office of a multimillionaire businessman. Her boss is playboy Tommy Ballantine (Jon Tenny), known throughout the gossip columnists of the Big Apple as the biggest player with an appetite for interoffice sexual relations.
   They see each other as challenges (Tommy wants to seduce Kristen, and she wants to straighten him out), and the alleged humor supposedly unfolds.
   Lacks real comedy
   As with many of its competitors, the sitcom lacks real comedy and is oddly miscast. Chenoweth, known for her Tony Award-winning stint in "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," has a larger-than-life voice and persona, but not in a western kind of way. She would play an uptight L.A. fashion designer or a much-desired, successful native New Yorker better than her hayseed Oklahoman.
   The poor writing doesn't stop at her character. It spreads like an infection throughout the stereotype-pilfering cast and contaminates inane stories that will grow to be known not for successes but for lack of an audience.
   Other programs on this week include:
   Sunday
   6 p.m. on ABC: HARRIET THE SPY This 1996 movie version of the perennially popular children's book stars Michelle Trachtenberg as the spunky sixth-grader whose secret journal leads to plenty of trouble when it's discovered. Rosie O'Donnell plays her supportive nanny.
   7 p.m. on TNT: BOSS OF BOSSES Based on the true story of New York "Godfather" Paul Castellano, this new made-for-cable movie stars Chazz Palminteri as the leader with the unlikely goal of turning the mob into a legitimate business. (He was murdered by associates who disagreed.)
   8 p.m. on CBS: THE TONY AWARDS Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane host the 55th annual ceremony honoring Broadway shows and performers, shown live from Radio City Music Hall.
   8 p.m. on A&E: THE IMPRESSIONISTS This "Biography" special looks at the radical departure of artists who, starting in the mid-1800s, "changed painting forever." Most of the attention goes to five major practitioners - Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro and Auguste Renoir. Concludes at 8 p.m. tomorrow.
   8 p.m. on E!: MIAMI VICE: THE TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY Now seen as an icon of '80s pop culture, "Miami Vice" was an instant hit, but its initial success was hard to sustain. Stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas were never quite as famous afterward, though they wound up together on "Nash Bridges."
   9 p.m. on HBO: SIX FEET UNDER The Fisher family faces the usual obstacles of daily life while trying to sustain its business of death - a funeral home in Los Angeles. This new series is billed as offering "dramatic irony and dark situational humor." In the usual HBO pattern, new episodes will continue for 13 weeks.
   Monday
   8 p.m. on the History Channel: VIETNAM: ON THE FRONTLINES As part of its "Remembering Vietnam Week," the History Channel offers this four-night documentary that tells the story of the war "through the words of the soldiers who survived it."
   Tuesday
   7 p.m. on the WB: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER Movies are getting less time on the broadcast networks, but the WB is bucking the trend with Tuesday night films. Like this one with Jennifer Love Hewitt from 1997, they are likely to be chosen for their proven appeal to teen audiences.
   Wednesday
   8 p.m. on NBC: BASKETBALL The NBA playoffs do drag on a bit, but the finals really are scheduled to begin tonight.
   9 p.m. on Bravo: PROFILES RuPaul has won considerable acceptance performing in drag, but showed versatility appearing as a man in a recent TV movie. "Every time I bat my eyelashes, it's a political act," he says. But, as this program makes clear, that doesn't mean that the girl in him doesn't want to have fun.
   Thursday
   7 p.m. on Fox: THE FRIGHTENERS In a trend that has continued, horror and dark comedy are mixed in this 1996 movie that finds Michael J. Fox on the trail of a supernatural serial killer. With Trini Alvarado and Peter Dobson.
   7 p.m. on Encore: THE DIRECTORS Robert Altman, tonight's subject, has remained a maverick through good times and bad. His breakthrough film, "MASH," (1970) follows at 9 p.m.
   8 p.m. on MTV: The MTV Movie Awards Winning one of these won't guarantee your name above the title, but in an era of proliferating award shows, there's something refreshing about recognition in categories that people may really care about - best villain, best fight, best kiss, etc. The hosts are Jimmy Fallon and Kirsten Dunst.
   Friday
   6 p.m. on the Disney Channel: JETT JACKSON: THE MOVIE A filming accident causes Jett (Lee Thompson Young) to trade places with his movie alter ego, Silverstone, and - surprise - it turns out that only he can save the world from the evil Dr. Kragg (Michael Ironside).
   7 p.m. on BET: FREEDOM SONG This well-regarded TV movie about the civil rights movement stars Danny Glover and Vicellous Reon Shannon as father and son. They disagree over the tactics used when the movement reaches their town, and in the process shed light on how "ordinary" people were affected.
   Saturday
   7 p.m. on Starz: SAVING GRACE An English widow (Brenda Blethyn), struggling with her husband's debts, turns to marijuana-growing as a source of income. Also starring in the comedy that debuted last year are Craig Ferguson, Martin Clune and Tcheky Karyo.
   8 p.m. on HBO: THE REPLACEMENTS Remember when the NFL players went on strike? This movie from last year seeks comedic inspiration in the efforts of strikebreakers to turn themselves into winners. With Keanu Reeves as the replacement quarterback and Gene Hackman as the coach.
   9 p.m. on NBC: BEST OF THE GAME SHOW PARODIES A whole hour on one topic seems like a lot, but this rerun, a compilation of "Saturday Night Live" skits, shows what an inviting target the game shows can be.
   9 p.m. on Showtime: DREW CAREY'S IMPROV ALL STARS Speaking of "Saturday Night Live," not long ago it was reported that Carey was going to host the show - without a script. The whole idea turned out to be just a joke, but it underscored Carey's reputation as a master of improvisation. This show was done before a Las Vegas audience.
  
  


Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688 or by e-mail at bacar@caller.com


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