By Terry Kelleher
August 02, 1999 12:00 PM

CBS (Mondays, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Given the failure last year of UPN’s notorious The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (low farce in the Lincoln Administration), the future would seem bleak for sitcoms set in America’s distant past. But this offbeat show, starting a six-episode run Aug. 2, travels way back to 1621 to see if Pilgrims can be funny. There’s something unappetizing in the pilot’s jokes about disease and starvation in the Plymouth colony, and the ravings of Cloris Leachman as a sex-starved grandma get old fast. On the plus side, Tim Dutton and Kirsten Nelson are engaging as married settlers, and only a Puritan could fail to laugh when their 10-year-old daughter (Amy Centner) is accused of witchcraft for advising the colony’s dentist to sterilize his pliers.

Bottom Line: At least this New World is different