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CBS' new series "Judging Amy" is guilty of not having a clear focus. 

The Verdict is In

"Judging Amy"
CBS-TV
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

If you're going to try to take a whack at "NYPD Blue" on Tuesday nights, you might as well go with a chick show.

And since "Blue" doesn't reappear on ABC's schedule until early November, you can get a leg up by starting now. And if you really want to show your stuff in front of a large audience, you can do a special premiere episode on a Sunday night right after "60 Minutes."

So went the thinking at Black Rock, the CBS corporate headquarters in New York, when it came to trotting out its new series for Tuesday nights, "Judging Amy."

Trouble is, it ain't gonna work.

That's mostly because "Amy" can't decide what it is. Is it a series about relationships, or is it a series about a domestic relations court judge? And the audience — the ones not watching "NYPD Blue" or "Dateline" — is likely to give up trying to figure it out and go find something else to watch. These are not like the old days, when there were only three or four choices.

Amy is a Harvard graduate who used to practice corporate law in New York. But now she's separated from her husband of 10 years and has moved back home to Hartford, Conn., with her 6-year-old daughter. She's living with her mother, a retired social worker and full-time meddlesome busybody. Almost before Amy could get her suitcases unpacked, she was approached by the Hartford bar and asked to be a juvenile court judge — and she agreed.

At home, her life is run by her mother ("Drink your orange juice before the vitamins escape."), and at work it's run by her clerk ("We've got 60 cases on the docket today and you've got to pace yourself."). Her daughter is having problems with her new teacher at school, and Amy's brother, Vincent — does he live with his mother, too, or just nearby? I haven't figured that out yet — has a degree in comparative lit and washes dogs for a living.

In Amy's world, life is a bitch, but it's also oh-so-cute. And warm and fuzzy, too.

Amy Brenneman has the title role of Judge Amy Gray. (You may remember her as Janice Licalsi on "NYPD Blue," where she once stood in front of a judge herself as a good cop gone bad.) Five-time Emmy Award-winner Tyne Daley ("Cagney & Lacey") plays her mother, and Dan Futterman ("The Birdcage") is her dog-washing brother. Brenneman is also one of the series executives.

Daley, a workhorse show-biz veteran, is doing her best to give the show a center, and she has all the good lines. ("What's anorexia? It's a disease women get from reading magazines.") But one solid character does not a successful series make, especially up against a winner like "NYPD Blue."

What's missing from "Judging Amy" is focus. Because it's split evenly between the courtroom and the kitchen, both are getting short shrift and the audience — even those who might want to like this series — is left to
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