Just after the return of Boston Public on Monday, Fox debuts producer David E. Kelley's girls club, a series about three female lawyers working in San Francisco. On cable, TNT offers The Big Time, set against the backdrop of the early days of television; USA has Case of Evil, with Vincent D'Onofrio; and Animal Planet presents its original movie Scent of Danger, about rescue dogs. A new CBS series called Hack is doing well with viewers. And TLC launches Full Metal Challenge, co-hosted by Henry Rollins.

Producer David E. Kelley's hour-long "girls club," a female-lawyer series to replace "Ally McBeal," debuts Monday at 9 on Fox. The earlier Kelley show also featured a woman attorney as the lead character.

This one is set in San Francisco instead of in Boston, where "Ally McBeal" took place. It focuses on three young, female attorneys, each determined to make her mark on the judicial system--and to crack the old boys club.

Gretchen Mol is Lynne Camden, Kathleen Robertson is Jeannie Falls and Chyler Leigh is Sarah Mickle. Best friends and roommates since law school, they share a Victorian loft apartment in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood.

Giancarlo Esposito co-stars as critical, no-nonsense senior partner Nicholas Hahn, who doesn't mince words.

In the premiere, Lynne must prove herself to Hahn and an experienced prosecutor (guest star Felicity Huffman) when she is assigned her first criminal trial and has to defend murder suspect Wayne Henry (guest star Scott Foley). Sarah brings in her first big case, only to have it taken away as a result of a sabotaging colleague. And Jeannie is taken under the wing of a senior partner who may not have appropriate intentions.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN FRONTIERS

Tuesday at 9 on MPT

This episode explores research aimed at making computers, or machines controlled by computers, as friendly as a family pet. Host Alan Alda visits the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a hotbed for new ideas, and catches up with seveal scientists and their projects including virtual playmates and animals. He also encounters an office door that can greet and screen visitors and a robot with almost-human emotion.

EXTREME VARIETY

Wednesday at 8 on NBC

Tom Cavanagh hosts a glitzy, one-hour variety showcase taped at Le Theater des Arts at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.

Among the novelty and animal acts are Brad Byers, a sword swallower who fit seven sabers down his throat, and contortionist Jeff Brennan, who can fit his entire body through the head of a tennis racquet.

There's also Todd Robbins, who eats light bulbs; crossbow archer Paan Moretti; Larissa, the world record-holder and originator of the flaming hula hoop; Inversion, a dance troupe of 18 aerial and bungee-flying acrobats; and the Garza brothers, a strong-man act.

PRESUMED GUILTY:

TALES OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDERS

Wednesday at 9 on MPT,

Thursday at 10 on WETA

This documentary takes the view that public defenders are underappreciated, often maligned and misunderstood, that they are instead gutsy, passionate advocates who sometimes clash with police, district attorneys, judges and even their own clients in an effort to secure justice for accused indigents who cannot afford private lawyers.

This program looks at behind-the-scenes struggles in jails, holding cells and courtrooms, allowing viewers to step into the inner sanctum of lawyer-client confidentiality. The two-hour special, built around two murder cases, was made in San Francisco, where 84 attorneys handle about 20,000 cases a year.

RETURNING PRIME-TIME SERIES

Boston Public Monday at 8 on Fox.

GUESTS OF NOTE

Betty White on "Yes, Dear" Monday at 8:30 on CBS; Matt Damon on a repeat episode of "Will & Grace" Thursday at 9 on NBC; Bob Eubanks and Fabio on "Providence" Friday at 8 on NBC; Pam Grier and John Heard on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Friday at 10 on NBC.