St.  Louis Post-Dispatch, 08-14-1997

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.

" "Different 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.

And although 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.

Copyright © 1997, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Kelly Barclay;
TVData Features Syndicate