By Terry Kelleher
May 18, 1998 12:00 PM

>Catherine Hicks

Serial Mom

During a recent stroll through her Beverly Hills neighborhood, 7th Heaven’s Catherine Hicks was approached by a starstruck fan. “Excuse me,” said the man, “my name is Ron Howard, and I just wanted to let you know that every Monday night I sit down with my family to watch your show.” Since being cast as Annie Camden, a stay-at-home minister’s wife with five kids, on the WB series in 1996, Hicks, 46, has seen her flock of reverential admirers multiply. This season, Heaven’s popularity has soared with its ratings climbing 65 percent over last year.

But Hicks, whose previous credits include the title role in the TV movie Marilyn: The Untold Story and the horror flick Child’s Play, was unsure about playing such a traditional woman in the age of Ally McBeal. “My first question was, ‘Isn’t this a little corny?’ ” she says. Hicks took the part, however, because it resonated with her own life as a married mom (she has a daughter, Catie, 6, with her husband, special-effects expert Kevin Yagher). “It’s weird that I started out as a sex symbol [Marilyn Monroe] and now I’m Donna Reed,” says Hicks. “But at least this is a family show that adults can watch and not have to apologize for.” Which, to some, will seem like a small miracle in itself.