January 13, 1997 12:00 PM

CBS (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)


Larry Hagman returns to series television for the first time since Dallas wrapped five years ago. Here we have another metropolitan setting, this time the Crescent City, but the tone is quite different from that of Dallas—less high-octane energy and a lot more moral swampiness. Orleans is about a prominent family headed by Hagman as a cagey, powerful old judge named Luther Charbonnet. His son Jesse (Michael Reilly Burke) is an assistant district attorney and harbors an incestuous fondness for his cousin. Another son, Clade (Brett Cullen), works as a police detective. And the judge’s daughter Paulette (Colleen Flynn) is trying to build a casino, although her drug problems may derail that plan. Given these occupations, a Charbonnet party usually winds up with a lot of seamy shoptalk (bribery, murders, mobsters) while a Cajun band plays in the background. Hagman, looking older—and, oddly enough, like Jimmy Carter in some scenes—is gritty and good. Unlike J.R., Charbonnet does not get his kicks from wickedness. But he has seen so much evil and knows so much dirt, he seems tarnished nonetheless. The two-hour, Jan. 8 premiere indulges in too much cute courtroom humor, but Orleans might develop into something good.

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