GOING up against NBC's blockbuster Thursday lineup might strike fear into the hearts of most actors.
But not Gerald
McRaney, whose CBS drama "Promised Land" is competing with the Gen-X hit "Friends" at 7 p.m. (But not this week because Channel 4 is showing a Billy Graham crusade instead. "Promised Land" returns to its 7 p.m. Thursday slot next week).
"I'm very pleased about the move," McRaney says. "Thursday night was my old stomping ground with "Simon & Simon."
McRaney's latest series has the potential to match his '80s detective drama's
longevity. Part of television's new trend toward feel-good TV, "Promised Land" is a spinoff of the hit "Touched by an Angel." It tells the story of laid-off factory worker Russell Greene, who packs his family and all their belongings into a truck and heads cross- country to find work.
The series advocates family togetherness and the idea that there' s more to life than money, but McRaney sees more in its message.
"If you get your priorities straight," he says, "America is truly the best of all
worlds." McRaney believes the success of his show, and of feel-good television in general, is a backlash against urban cynicism. "I think people have flat ran out of cynicism," he says. "It gets to be terribly boring."
But he does see a place for darker, grittier shows. "There is certainly room on the schedule for a balance . . . of programming," he says.
McRaney says he doesn't agree with the ultraright-wing critics who bash some TV shows for what they see as immorality or unfriendliness to family values.
"In their own way, those shows deal with the nobility of the human condition," he says. "I'm against censorship of any kind. I think even comparing shows like
`Promised Land' to different types of programming is a form of censorship.
types of programming" is what second-place CBS is trying in the new season. After missing the "Melrose Place" boat with the failed "Central Park West" (which, coincidentally, also starred McRaney for a short time), CBS is trying to hop on the "NYPD Blue" bandwagon with "Brooklyn South," one of the more violent offerings this fall.
such programming might bother former Vice President Dan Quayle - whose criticism of Murphy Brown's single motherhood heated up the "family values" debate in 1992 - it doesn't faze McRaney. " I don't have a problem with those shows," he says. "It's a wise move for the network to have a mix."
McRaney credits his wife, actress Delta Burke, for helping him through the rigors of Hollywood.