by Ken Tucker, Mark Harris, Alan Carter
(CBS, 9-10 p.m.; returns Sept. 26)
*CONCEPT: Kung Fu meets The Six Million Dollar Middle-Aged Man.
*COMMENTARY: One of the summer's surprise success stories, Raven is CBS' attempt to keep action fans from renting Steven Seagal tapes on Saturday nights, and while the martial-arts moves of star Jeffrey Meek aren't nearly as graphic as Seagal's, the series is quirky and original enough to attract its own fans. Meek is a pleasingly self-parodic hero, a lone avenger breaking bad- guy windpipes all over Hawaii. A bulked-out Lee Majors provides genuine laughs as Raven's grumpy sidekick.
*BEHIND THE SCENES: Raven was supposed to disappear after its summer run-for starters, there was no room on CBS' fall schedule. But the show caught on, even opposite those twin towers of hype, Melrose Place and the Olympics. So instead of saying "Nevermore," CBS booted the softer, slower Jane Seymour vehicle Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (which few TV insiders thought would last a month on Saturdays), and Raven kicked its way into the lineup. One strength is its remarkable popularity with older women: Females over 50 are more than a quarter of Raven's viewers.
*CHANCE OF SURVIVAL: Good; it has already proved itself against competitors stronger than Empty Nest.