Freshman Contenders: ‘Once and Again’

Series ranked 5th among new dramas

The Touchstone series “Once and Again” — the latest sensitive drama from “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life” creators Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, tells the story of two single parents whose burgeoning romance radically changes their lives and those of their families.

Sela Ward, an Emmy-winning actress for “Sisters,” plays Lily Manning, and Billy Campbell, star of the feature film “The Rocket-eer” and a regular on “Dynasty” in the ’80s, plays Rick Sammler. Both are divorced and re-entering the dating scene.

“Once’s” recipe for success uses two key ingredients from Zwick and Herskovitz’s other ABC series: a fiercely loyal but not huge following coupled with great reviews from critics.

The series ranked fifth among new dramas, but picked up some ratings steam after a midseason move to Mondays from Tuesdays. No longer facing CBS’ “Judging Amy,” another rookie femme fave, “Once and Again” helped ABC keep a grip on the Monday at 10 hour, winning easily among women in the key advertiser demo of 18-49.

It also fared especially well with women 18-34, ranking as the No. 1 new drama of the season by that measure.

Critics loved the series from the outset, with the Chicago Tribune calling it “an intelligently observed slice of contemporary life” and the New York Times hailing it as “sharply written, with a bite.” It also recently received two nominations for the Television Critics Assn. noms, for new program and drama.

— Rick Kissell

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