It's the fall season, a time when television networks prove their freshness and creativity. Fox offers That '70s Show, a drug-laced, coming-of-age story set in suburban Wisconsin. The WB network gives us Felicity, a coming-of-age story set in New York City. ABC, in a bit of contrarian programming, invites us to watch Malcolm McDowell age gracelessly on Fantasy Island.
Here in South Florida, we are blessed with our very own network. WAMI-TV (Channel 69) is the first of what mogul Barry Diller hopes will be a national chain of locally programmed stations. It was launched in June with a promise of eight hours per day of "network-quality" local shows. Four months later WAMI showcases only two-and-a-half hours of new local production each weekday. Prominent original shows died off. The dance program Barcode lasted a week. The gabfest Out Loud folded last month. And two advertised series never materialized: the evening cabaret Lincoln Lounge and the true-crime tales of Edna Buchanan.
Instead, WAMI's roster is filling up with such fresh and creative fare as Charlie's Angels, Baretta, and T.J. Hooker. As of last week, WAMI officials were using their self-described "state-of-the-art Lincoln Road studios" to broadcast M*A*S*H as often as four times a day.
If ever a station needed to make a splash in the fall, it's WAMI. So what are its new shows?
The Munsters and AQue Pasa USA?
The Munsters ain't set in the subtropics. AQue Pasa USA? is local, all right, but production took place more than 15 years ago, and the show is already seen regularly on Galavision and WPBT-TV (Channel 2). Thanks to WAMI, cable viewers can now spend Sunday night watching Steven Bauer on two channels at the same time.
As network officials consider expanding the WAMI concept into Los Angeles and New York, Diller and company might want to ready a defense against criticism that the bulk of their programming isn't really "TV from here." As the following digest shows, WAMI is local. One just needs to look a bit below the surface.
The Six Million Dollar Man
Saturday 8 p.m.
Premise: In this '70s show, astronaut Steve Austin has his legs, arm, and eye replaced with high-tech bionics that allow him to move in slow motion and make strange noises. He uses these powers to complete secretive missions up and down the California coast.
Local angle: Star Lee Majors owns property in Fort Lauderdale.
Saturday 7 p.m.
Premise: Three beautiful and braless female police officers are hired by a speakerphone to crack down on California crime.
Local angle: Costar is Farrah Fawcett... Majors. (See above).
Monday-Friday 6:30, 7:30, 11, and 11:30 p.m.
Sunday 6:30 and 7 p.m.
Premise: Army doctors endure Jamie Farr and the Korean War.
Local angle: M*A*S*H mainstay Alan Alda has acted in a bunch of Woody Allen films. Demi Moore appeared in Allen's Deconstructing Harry. Moore also appeared in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon, who filmed Wild Things in Miami.
Monday-Friday 6 p.m.
Sunday 5:30 and 6 p.m.
Premise: The story of a ghoulish clan that perceives itself to be just an average American family.
Local angle: Yes, the pilot of this '60s hit was filmed on the Psycho lot in Los Angeles. But Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis) starred in a 1996 bikini flick titled South Beach Academy. He also appeared in Married to the Mob, which included a climactic scene filmed at Miami Beach's Eden Roc hotel.
Monday-Friday 8:30 p.m.
Premise: A hodgepodge of celebrities sits around a soundstage in Los Angeles and discusses current events.
Local angle: Magic City icon Gloria Estefan once appeared as a panelist. She may return!
Sunday and Monday 12:30, 1, 4:30, and 5 a.m.
Premise: New-Age music accompanying video footage of scenic American landscapes such as Arches National Park in Utah.
Local angle: The Everglades, which is in South Florida, is also a national park.
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.
Premise: Cop played by William Shatner joins up with Adrian Zmed and Heather Locklear to fight crime for the L.C.P.D., a fictitious stand-in for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Local angle: L.C.P.D. might actually mean "Lincoln (Road) Community Police Department." If that's too much of a stretch, William Shatner filmed the TekWar CD-ROM game in Miami. If that's too much of a stretch, Adrian Zmed costarred in Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks, who captained a spaceship in Apollo 13 with... Wild Things star Kevin Bacon.
The Three Stooges
Saturday 10:30 p.m.
Premise: The madcap misadventures of a trio of bungling knuckleheads.
Local angle: Hmmmm.
Saturday 9 p.m.
Premise: Robert Blake plays an unconventional cop who owns a cockatoo in this '70s series set in California.
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Local angle: During the coke-crazed '80s, Fred the cockatoo spent a week in rehab at South Miami-Dade's Parrot Jungle.
The Newlywed Game
Monday-Friday 10 a.m.
The Dating Game
Monday-Friday 10:30 a.m.
Premise: These sister shows are updated versions of the '70s afternoon staples.
Local angle: Although both shows are taped in California, people in South Florida date all the time. Many go on to marry. Kevin Bacon, for instance, is married to Kyra Sedgwick.