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The Preston Episodes

Filmed in Los Angeles by Twentieth Century Fox Television in association with Dahoco Prods. and Job Site Prods. Executive producers, Jace Richdale, David Alan Grier, Amy Howard; co-executive producer, David Babcock; producer, Wenda Fong; director, James Burrows;script, Richdale; camera, Donald A. Morgan; editor, Tucker Wiard; production designer, Ed LaPorta; sound, Dana McClure; music, Bruce Miller. Cast: David Alan Grier, Judith Scott, Tommy Hinkley, Matthew Walker, Brent Hinkley, Clive Revill, Ron Canada, Lynne Thigpen, Deborah Lacey, Jeff Horny, Adam Tomei. To their credit, producers of "The Preston Episodes" acknowledge show's debt to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" with a literal tip of the hat under the final credit sequence. If the rest of the show hit that kind of a wry comic note consistently , Fox would have something to brag about. Preston moves to Gotham, situates himself in an apartment with a wacky, over-friendly neighbor (Tommy Hinkley), and winds up accepting the only job he can get: as a copy editor with "Stuff," a weekly magazine that's virtually all froth and pictures -- any similarity to People is probably intentional.

Filmed in Los Angeles by Twentieth Century Fox Television in association with Dahoco Prods. and Job Site Prods. Executive producers, Jace Richdale, David Alan Grier, Amy Howard; co-executive producer, David Babcock; producer, Wenda Fong; director, James Burrows;script, Richdale; camera, Donald A. Morgan; editor, Tucker Wiard; production designer, Ed LaPorta; sound, Dana McClure; music, Bruce Miller. Cast: David Alan Grier, Judith Scott, Tommy Hinkley, Matthew Walker, Brent Hinkley, Clive Revill, Ron Canada, Lynne Thigpen, Deborah Lacey, Jeff Horny, Adam Tomei. To their credit, producers of “The Preston Episodes” acknowledge show’s debt to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with a literal tip of the hat under the final credit sequence. If the rest of the show hit that kind of a wry comic note consistently , Fox would have something to brag about. Preston moves to Gotham, situates himself in an apartment with a wacky, over-friendly neighbor (Tommy Hinkley), and winds up accepting the only job he can get: as a copy editor with “Stuff,” a weekly magazine that’s virtually all froth and pictures — any similarity to People is probably intentional.

Staff at the magazine consists of its personnel director, Adam Green (Matthew Walker), a former student of Preston who harbors a grudge; award-winning journalist Kelly Freeman (Judith Scott), also stuck writing fluff for “Stuff” and perhaps driven to drink; Harlow (Brent Hinkley, unrelated to Tommy H.), a nebbishy reporter whose characterMore TV reviews on page 80.

isn’t really defined in first episode; and editor Larry Dunhill (Clive Revill), a Brit who’s somewhere between grumpy but lovable Lou Grant and a network dilution of crass and acerbic Australian “Dream On” editor, Gibby Fiske.

“You’ve got brains,” Dunhill tells Preston, “you’ve got class, you’ve got integrity — I can’t help you.” The line doesn’t sing like Grant’s “You’ve got spunk — I hate spunk,” but so far Dunhill is by far the most interesting supporting character.

Show would be even better if its writers showed any knowledge of basic journalistic procedures — the difference between a proofreader and copy editor, for instance — and it may take a couple of episodes for characters to settle in. Still, Grier and company are a likable enough bunch.

Tech credits are O.K. (bringing James Burrows in to direct premiere is a sign that producers are serious about coming up with a relatively sophisticated vehicle for Grier), and viewers have seen far worse sitcoms than “The Preston Episodes.” On Fox, though, that may not be enough.

The Preston Episodes

(Sat. (9), 8:30-9 p.m., Fox)

Production: Grier stars as David Alan Preston, college literature professor who, nearing 40, wants to chuck academia and move into the real world. "I'm tired of teaching about writers," he tells his family. "I want to skip down those ivory stairs. I want to burst out of that ivory door.""Could we move on," his father ripostes, "to another metaphor?"

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