In the new ABC sitcom Full House, two would-be fathers frantically try to diaper a baby, using an electric fan, a roasting pan and a roll of paper towels. It is one of the dumbest scenes in one of the dumbest of the season's new shows, but a sharp-eyed viewer will notice a small breakthrough: the baby. Infants on prime-time TV are sometimes talked about, maybe even glimpsed from afar; yet with rare exceptions (O.K., Little Ricky), they have traditionally been nonpersons in a medium that prefers tots old enough to fire one-liners at the grownups.
This season preverbal toddlers turn up as characters on no fewer than three new series. The children are a fitting symbol for TV's discovery of yuppies and their world. Young married couples, coping with baby strollers and middle- of-the-night feedings, are a chief focus of two new family dramas, thirtysomething and A Year in the Life. Striving young professionals -- single, well appointed and usually living in New York City -- populate several others.
Yuppie shows are easy to spot. CBS's Everything's Relative revolves around two brothers who share a New York apartment and a nagging mother. One (John Bolger) is a blue-collar swinger; the other (Jason Alexander), a buttoned-down yuppie who does consumer research for products like sushi-on-a-stick. In NBC's My Two Dads, two bachelors get joint custody of a twelve-year-old girl, whom one of them -- no one knows which -- has fathered. Again, they are a contrasting pair: Greg Evigan is a free-spirited artist, Paul Reiser a compulsive financial analyst who describes himself as a "coffee achiever." In CBS's Leg Work, a former assistant D.A. (Margaret Colin) goes into the private-eye business, but seems to spend less time solving crimes than caring for her Porsche and commiserating with girlfriends about the dating scene. It is no accident that this fall marks the debut of the first network series to deal with that formative experience for the baby-boom generation, the Viet Nam War.
The sudden prominence of yuppies in prime time can be traced at least partly to the success of L.A. Law, NBC's classy drama series set in a Los Angeles law firm. Never mind the courtroom theatrics; this is a show about attractive young professionals grappling with '80s problems: managing relationships, balancing a career and personal life, reconciling ideals with the demands of the real world. Another influence has been the advent of people meters, the new ratings technology that is expected to mean higher ratings for shows watched by younger, upscale viewers. Most important may be the fact that TV writers and producers -- mostly well-paid men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s -- are simply creating shows about what they know. They don't know much about autoworkers in Detroit.