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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY HOT TOPIC

Best and worst new TV shows

Midseason's greetings

By Bruce Fretts
Entertainment Weekly

Kingpin
Blood feud: Arias (right, with Jacob Vargas) struggles to maintain his family's drug empire in ''Kingpin.''

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(Entertainment Weekly) -- In case you hadn't noticed, the network-TV midseason is already upon us.

Alas, when Fox's gold-diggers-a-go-go ''Joe Millionaire'' sets the new standard for programming excellence, it doesn't bode well for the future. One new series, CBS' egregious courtroom drama ''Queens Supreme,'' has already been dismissed, and NBC's ''Mister Sterling'' hasn't emerged as a ratings winner, either. But fear not, dear viewers. There are a few enticing midseason replacements -- and no, I'm not talking about ABC's ''Are You Hot?''

Here's a handy guide to help you figure out what's hot or not:

HOT

"Kingpin" (NBC) The most exciting network drama in years comes from the potent mind of David Mills (the cowriter of HBO's Emmy-winning inner-city miniseries ''The Corner''). Don't let the fact that it's about a drug lord (the Benjamin Bratt-y Yancey Arias) kill your buzz. At heart, it's the sweeping saga of a super-rich family -- kinda like ''Dynasty,'' but with much better acting, writing, and direction. No wonder Aaron Spelling's one of the executive producers.

"Dragnet" (ABC) With Ed O'Neill forcefully taking over Jack Webb's classic LAPD-detective role, viewers will once again say, ''Thank God it's (Joe) Friday.'' If only it didn't air on Sunday -- opposite ''Kingpin.''

"The Surreal Life," "High School Reunion" (The WB) Fox's ''Joe Millionaire'' and ''American Idol'' may be getting more press (and, okay, viewers), but the midseason's best reality shows are on the Frog net. In case you haven't checked them out yet, ''Surreal'' throws together semi-celebs like Corey Feldman, Emmanuel Lewis, and Jerri Manthey, while ''High'' throws together classmates like ''The Nerd,'' ''The Pipsqueak,'' and ''The Bitchy Girl'' -- which, come to think of it, are pretty good descriptions of Corey, Emmanuel, and Jerri.

"The Pitts" (Fox) I don't know much about this sitcom focusing on the world's unluckiest family, but the eternally great Dylan Baker (''Happiness'') plays the father, so you know it can't be the pits.

NOT

"Veritas: The Quest," "Miracles" (ABC) These new dramas explore unexplained phenomena, but the biggest mystery about them is how they ever got on the air in the first place. Then again, these were the shows that ABC passed over to put duds like ''MDs'' and ''Dinotopia'' on the fall schedule, so it's no surprise they suck.

"A.U.S.A." (NBC) I've got two more letters for this sitcom starring ''Felicity'' alum Scott Foley (who deserves better) as an assistant United States attorney: P.U.

"Black Sash" (The WB) Imagine if they crossed ''The Karate Kid'' with ''21 Jump Street.'' Now imagine anyone would want to watch it.

The O'Keefes (The WB) I don't know much about this sitcom focusing on a family of home-schooled geniuses, but the eternally grating Judge Reinhold (''Beethoven's 4th'') plays the father, so you know it's gonna be the pits.


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