January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

NBC (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET)

Implausible at every turn, the Jan. 8 premiere may drive you away from this “quirky” (NBC’s term) drama. So avoid some annoyance and wait for the second episode, which compresses the pilot into a 3½-minute flashback. Melina Kanakaredes (once Jimmy Smits’s flame on NYPD Blue) plays Dr. Sydney Hansen, who chucks her lucrative career as a Los Angeles plastic surgeon (we’re told she “bobbed Tori Spelling‘s beak”), returns to her native Providence, R.I., and goes to work in a family-practice clinic. Why the big move? Syd’s mother (Concetta Tomei) dropped dead at the wedding of Syd’s pregnant sister (Paula Cale), and her veterinarian father (ex-M*A*S*H doc Mike Farrell) needs someone to talk to besides sick dogs. Oh, and Syd caught her L.A. lover in a gay tryst, and she still pines for a Providence high school classmate (Tom Verica) she calls a real man. Kanakaredes is appealing, but the series is too fond of flaunting its eccentricity (Mom inhabits Syd’s dreams), too short on authentic Providence atmosphere (despite some location filming) and too eager to remind us that the title also refers to God’s will.

Bottom Line: Not exactly providential

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