By Terry Kelleher
Updated January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

CBS (Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET)

I’ve been searching this season’s episodes for points in Becker’s favor besides its high-powered star (Ted Danson) and advantageous time slot (following Everybody Loves Raymond). Either I’m missing something or the show is.

I still don’t buy the combination of misanthropy, integrity and ill temper that are supposed to make up the character of Dr. John Becker (Danson). Would he cry at the movie Love Story? Would his conscience grow feverish at the prospect of a one-night stand with a married woman (comely guest star Jaclyn Smith)? He’s just a softy who’s mad at the world. Yeah, right.

But without Becker and his weekly rants (mildly amusing, though hardly of Dennis Miller caliber), this third-year sitcom would have nothing going for it. The setting, in the New York City borough of The Bronx—featuring a seedy diner with a gorgeous proprietor (Terry Farrell)—is wholly artificial. And the office byplay between Becker’s efficient nurse (Hattie Winston) and her lazy, spacey assistant (Shawnee Smith) is seriously anemic. When the aide kept fouling up an elderly patient’s X ray, I contemplated suing the writers for malpractice.

Bottom Line: Not worth making an appointment