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Sisters a Fighting Chance

Unabashedly aimed at a female audience, "Sisters" carries into primetime plot convolutions -- and florid names for many of its male characters -- that only someone weaned on daytime drama could accept with a straight face. Buttressed by agreeable central cast and a loopiness that puts it into a class with "Northern Exposure," the series (which debuted in May 1991) more than justifies its 28 -episode order for 1995-96 season. If male characters are a little more shallowly written than the women, it's not a serious drawback and stands as a small compensation for the way in which most series underwrite female roles.

With:
Cast: Swoosie Kurtz, Patricia Kalember, Sela Ward, Elizabeth Hoffman, Garrett M. Brown, Jo Anderson, Heather McAdam, Dustin Berkovitz, Philip Casnoff, John Wesley Shipp, Jill Novick, Sharon Martin, Bill Dearth, Dennis Bailey, Robert Ayers, David Sederholm, David Sebastian Williams, Ryan Tomlinson.

Unabashedly aimed at a female audience, “Sisters” carries into primetime plot convolutions — and florid names for many of its male characters — that only someone weaned on daytime drama could accept with a straight face. Buttressed by agreeable central cast and a loopiness that puts it into a class with “Northern Exposure,” the series (which debuted in May 1991) more than justifies its 28 -episode order for 1995-96 season. If male characters are a little more shallowly written than the women, it’s not a serious drawback and stands as a small compensation for the way in which most series underwrite female roles.

Having just concluded an arc in which Teddy (Sela Ward) avenges the murder of her husband by bedding the suspect until she can gather enough evidence to incriminate him, the series introduced a new recurrent character with Saturday’s episode. Back on the dating scene, Teddy strikes out until handsome stranger Jack Chambers (Philip Casnoff) arrives on her doorstep to announce that he’s the recipient of late hubby Falconer’s heart.

Evidently a little of the mind comes with heart transplants: according to Lindsay Harrison’s script, Chambers suddenly shares Falconer’s taste in hot dog condiments and enthusiasm for the Chicago Bulls. A trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chambers is just about to don his leather jacket, hop on a motorcycle and head for parts unknown — at least until he comes back as a recurrent character, say next episode.

In the meantime, Evan (Dustin Berkovitz), threatened by a bully at school, asks Lucky (John Wesley Shipp) for boxing lessons. Evan’s father, John (Garrett M. Brown), objects, preferring that his son not lower himself to fisticuffs.

While all this is going on, mother Beatrice (Elizabeth Hoffman) gets a job in the clinic alongside half-sister Charley (Jo Anderson).

That’s all in a single hourlong episode: One thing “Sisters” doesn’t share with daytime soaps is unhurried plot development.

Main nutty note in this episode (other than presence of Jack, thatis) is a dream sequence in which Teddy imagines herself striking out on a “Dating Game” parody, with Teddy fit out in a hairdo the likes of which hasn’t been worn by anybody (except, perhaps, Priscilla Presley) since the ’70s, and Jim Lange look-alike “Chuck Teeth” (Dave Sebastian Williams).

Other stars, including Swoosie Kurtz as Alex and Patricia Kalember as Georgie (Evan’s mother) turn in usual fine work, and episode — directed by Rachel Feldman — has a thoroughly pro look.

Sisters a Fighting Chance

(Sat. (22), 10-11 p.m., NBC)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Cowlip Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman; co-executive producer , Kevin Inch; coordinating producer, Jessie Ward; producer, Tammy Ader; co-producer, Dennis L. Judd II; supervising producer, Lisa Melamed; associate producer, Mary Kay Kelly; director, Rachel Feldman; script, Lindsay Harrison.

Crew: Camera, Dennis T. Matsuda; editor, Kevin Casey; production designer, James Hulsey; sound, Lowell Harris; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden.

Cast: Cast: Swoosie Kurtz, Patricia Kalember, Sela Ward, Elizabeth Hoffman, Garrett M. Brown, Jo Anderson, Heather McAdam, Dustin Berkovitz, Philip Casnoff, John Wesley Shipp, Jill Novick, Sharon Martin, Bill Dearth, Dennis Bailey, Robert Ayers, David Sederholm, David Sebastian Williams, Ryan Tomlinson.

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