It's not quite such a long, long while from May to September as it used to be, now that the networks insist on "previewing" their new fall shows before the fall season even begins.
This weekend, two Fox droppings make their first appearances: "True Colors," about a polychromatic and populous Baltimore household; and "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," a "Ferris Bueller" rip-off about a smart-alecky teenager.
"True Colors," at 8:30 tomorrow night on Channel 5, is hailed by Fox publicists as "the first series in network television history based on an interracial marriage." Well, maybe, but an interracial couple was part of Norman Lear's "The Jeffersons" way back in 1975.
There is something refreshing about the matter-of-fact way race is dealt with in the show itself. Frankie Faison as Ron and Stephanie Faracy as Ellen are both effortlessly agreeable. An aging Nancy Walker, as Ellen's mother, crabbily disapproves of the marriage, but she is not depicted as a bigot. Just as a grouch.
Indeed, the superficial way writer-producer Michael J. Weithorn deals with it, the interracial marriage is just another sitcom gimmick. Without it, this is strictly standard stuff about two previously married people trying to combine their families in the same house.
Ellen has an environmental-activist daughter named Katie (Brigid Conley Walsh), and Ron has two adolescent sons -- Terry (Claude Brooks) and his younger, and funnier, 14-year-old brother, Lester (Adam Jeffries, the show's chief candidate for stardom).
The plot of the first episode could have been lifted right from a '50s sitcom -- a dumb '50s sitcom too. Dad, who's a dentist, offers to take a turkey as payment from a patient for filling a cavity. But jumpin' jiminy, hold onto your hats now (better hold onto your channel-changers too), the patient delivers a live turkey!
Whereas "True Colors" is more along the lines of a dead one.
At least "True Colors" is merely mediocre. "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," another Fox sitcom premiering tomorrow night (at 9:30 on Channel 5), is actively, aggressively, even vindictively terrible. TV sets have probably been set ablaze over less offensive trash.
Not only that, but Fox is airing the first "Parker" opposite the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (9 p.m. on Channel 7). That seems not only downright rude but practically un-American!
As far as the show itself goes, no one need give it a second thought, or a first one either. Parker Lewis is a smug, smirky slouch of a kid, irritatingly played by Corin Nemec, who in his opening narration declares, "School -- a totally bizarre concept."
Hey, yer bummin me out, dude.
Parker has three good buddies, and a big Neanderthal bully as a nemesis (making bullies funny is not funny). He also squares off against a mean, macho principal played by Melanie Chartoff, in what is clearly the season's most thankless role so far.
The principal gets her comeuppance in the first episode when Parker discovers she's made a home porno tape. Isn't that amusing?
In addition, Parker sees a beautiful girl in the hallway and instantly falls madly in love but, aw-oh!, she turns out to be the girlfriend of his best friend, Mikey, and Parker didn't even know it. Spurned by pal Mikey when he learns the truth, Parker reinstates himself in the annals of cool by helping Mikey cheat on a test. This is held up as model behavior.
There are some flip, supposedly hip touches in the editing and scoring of the show, but these contribute to the overall impression that "Parker Lewis" is really a '60s movie about the '90s. A dumb '60s movie too.
If there is any justice at all in the world -- and never mind that recent events suggest there isn't -- Parker Lewis won't last.