Are the stars out tonight?

The answer, according to TV critics, is that few shows are very bright

It was probably not the coming-out party syndicators were hoping for. At last week's sneak peek at upcoming syndicated series for TV critics, several of the featured strips were given the third degree. It got nasty.

Why watch King World's The Ananda Lewis Show? Critics pointed out that viewers already have Oprah, a King World talk series similarly led by an African-American female. Who has time to catch Warner Bros.' ElimiDate
or Universal's The 5th Wheel, especially since Warner Bros.' Change of Heart
and Universal's Blind Date
fill the dating-show genre.

Critics may be, well, critical, but their skepticism can be legit, considering last season when several high-profile syndicated shows failed, including Dick Wolf's Arrest & Trial; Dr. Laura
and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Television Critics Association members were also remembering last year's TCA syndication event in Pasadena when anticipated big-name attendees like Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Cindy Margolis were no-shows.

So this was no love fest. For example, when Ananda Lewis told critics she wanted a talk show "that can educate people," a scribe shot back, "Why then surround yourself with the two of them?" referring to ex-Sally Jessy Raphael
veterans Mary Duffy and Jose Pretlow, who are executive producers of the new Lewis show.

Duffy defended herself, noting thatSally
won an Emmy in 1989 for best talk strip. Later, a King World spokesman said he wasn't rattled by the interrogation. "A critic's disposition is to say, 'Prove it.' They've seen a lot of talk shows come and go."

Panelists who were part of the dating- show sessions also fended off questions about why they deserve to survive, following one critic's comment that "there's an awful lot of shows out here like this." The bunch also includes Fox's upcoming Love Cruise
and Paramount's fall 2001 strip Rendez-View.

The relationship pack didn't back down from such tough inquiries as "Isn't ElimiDate
just Chains of Love
without the chains?"

According to USA Today
TV critic Robert Bianco, there was a sense that many critics weren't impressed. "Nothing that I heard or saw compelled me to pay attention."

Tom Jicha, television critic for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel
complained that "there was no star power" presented to critics. "There was no one that my readers would be interested in."