ABC (Wed., Sept. 23, 9 p.m. ET)
In L.A. Law, producers Steven (Hill Street Blues) Bochco and Mary Louise Fisher add humor to drama. As dramatists go, they’re good comedians. But they’re not funny enough to make a sitcom. Here’s the proof. In a series as sweetsy and gooey as an overdone marshmallow, John (Three’s Company) Ritter plays Harry Hooperman, an unlucky shmo of a cop whose own car gets broken into and whose own landlady gets murdered. That’s how Ritter becomes a landlord and ends up with wacky co-stars at work and home. Each ensemble comes with a cheap San Francisco gay joke: a drag queen and a gay cop who spurns the advances of a woman cop. (“Under this drab blue uniform I’m wearing a flimsy silk teddy,” she whispers. “Does that make you hot?”) Ritter is the sensitive cop, probably a product of therapy. He cries. He’s the one they call to coax suicidal leapers off ledges. (Stealing a gag from David Letterman, Ritter takes out a watermelon: “This is you before…”—then drops it—”…and after.”) He’s a softy, but he’s not soft on crime. He tramps on civil rights to get an illegal warrant because “as a cop and as a citizen, I’m damned sick and tired of seeing scum like him get away with murder!” Clint Eastwood was Dirty Harry. John Ritter is Mellow Harry. And I’m just unamused.