First look: ‘Education of Max Bickford’

Dreyfuss makes move to network TV

As far as Academy Award-winning casts go, CBS’ “The Education of Max Bickford” has every other one of this fall’s new series beat.

“Max Bickford” stars Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss as a college history professor in the midst of a midlife crisis. Marcia Gay Harden, who won the supporting actress Oscar in March for her role in “Pollock,” plays a former student who’s promoted into a job above her ex-professor.

Dreyfuss says the success of “The West Wing” convinced him to finally make a move into TV.

“‘West Wing’ was pretty persuasive,” he says. “When I realized that one could write like that, about subjects like that and that the quality could remain so high, my fear went down.”

“Max Bickford,” which comes from CBS Prods., Regency TV and 20th Century Fox TV, landed one of the Eye’s most coveted timeslots: Sundays at 8 p.m. after “60 Minutes.” If previous inhabitants are any indication, “Bickford” could see a long life: “Murder, She Wrote” spent 11 seasons there; “Touched by an Angel” lasted five years in the slot before moving to Saturdays this fall.

There’s very little direct competition for “Max Bickford” this season as well. The drama airs opposite the second hour of ABC’s family movie “Wonderful World of Disney,” NBC’s gamer “Weakest Link” and Fox’s young-, male-skewing “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

“Max Bickford” may also make waves this fall for featuring primetime TV’s first regular transgendered character. Helen Shaver will play Dreyfuss’ best friend, Steve, who undergoes a sex operation and returns as Erica.

“We just thought, what an interesting challenge for (Max) in the midst of everything that his best friend has become a woman,” says Nicole Yorkin, who exec produces the show with Dawn Prestwich. “CBS was very enthusiastic about us going down that road.”

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