US college life stars in next TV soap hit

October 23, 1998

It is that time of year in Hollywood when the television networks try out their new series on the discerning viewer.

Many of these ill-conceived ventures rapidly crash and burn as audiences turn their thumbs down, but each year, it is hoped, a future Seinfeld emerges from the mix.

A leading candidate among this year's new offerings is Felicity, the story of student Felicity Porter. In the first episode, the Californian 17-year-old ignores parental pressure to study medicine at Stanford and opts instead for a New York university of uncertain quality.

American TV stations, led conspicuously by Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV, are fighting hardest for the loyalties and advertising dollars of younger viewers.

It was only a matter of time, therefore, before someone delivered a soap opera set in a university - perfectly timed for the start of the new school year.

The critics have already lavished such praise on Felicity - "among the most gratifying and promising new series" of the year, according to the Los Angeles Times - that it is a fair bet to survive at least a season or two.

Felicity, played by Keri Russel, 22, struggles with her overpowering crush on a boy from high school in the opening episode. What she is studying is evidently unimportant. Intellectual life just does not rake those viewers in.

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