The 2007-2008 SeasonThe new seasonPreviewing the new shows
By Rob Owen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TV Editor Sunday, September 23, 2007
Is it a better or worse fall TV season than in recent years?
That's the question I inevitably hear around this time of year and it's always a difficult one to answer. Great pilots can devolve into mediocre shows ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"). Thin premises can blossom into terrific series ("Ugly Betty").
This fall will probably be a lot like fall 2006 and fall 2004, years in which just a couple of shows broke out from the pack ("Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" in '04; "Heroes" and "Ugly Betty" in '06), and the rest of the new shows either failed or muddled through.
Geeks, wealth that corrupts and shows with supernatural/fantasy themes are hot in the 2007-08 TV season that begins in earnest this week. Why? Because they've worked before.
Nerds and superheroes rule at the box office ("Superbad," "Knocked Up," "Spider-Man") and on TV (see: last year's breakout hits), so viewers can expect to see more of both this fall. Some of the fantasy shows are more grounded ("Journeyman"), others are outrageous and funny ("Reaper").
As for the shows about wealthy families ("Cane," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Big Shots"), that subject has been a TV staple going back to "The Beverly Hillbillies" and in the 1980s with "Dallas" and "Dynasty."
A couple of housekeeping notes: No new series premiere on Saturday, a graveyard night not worthy of programming as far as broadcast network executives are concerned. We previewed My Network TV shows in the Aug. 31 Tuned In column, available online at post-gazette.com/tv
. Premiere dates follow each capsule review in parentheses.SUNDAY"CW Now" (7 p.m., The CW):
A weekly newsmagazine that tracks the latest fashions, music, movies and gadgets of interest to teens and twentysomethings. (Today)"Online Nation" (7:30 p.m., The CW):
User-generated content from the Internet (think: YouTube videos) gets a broadcast outlet. Not available for review. (Today)"Life Is Wild" (8 p.m., The CW):
Aiming to be "7th Heaven" of the Sahara, this genial family drama is a remake of a British show, "Wild at Heart," which airs in the United States on BBC America. The CW's American version has more kids and is told from the teenage daughter's point of view with occasional narration. A New York blended family moves to South Africa to live in a game reserve, marvel at the animals and date the locals. D.W. Moffat ("Hidden Palms") and Stephanie Niznik ("Everwood"), playing the parents, are the only actors you're likely to recognize in this fine but unremarkable show. (Oct. 7)"Viva Laughlin" (8 p.m., CBS):
Based on the BBC America miniseries "Viva Blackpool," this drama also features characters who break into song but, unlike on "Cop Rock," which featured original compositions, the characters here just sing along with popular tunes such as "Viva Las Vegas" and "One Way or Another." Ripley Holden (Lloyd Owen) wants to open a casino, but when his top backer backs out and then turns up dead in the unopened casino, complications ensue. This American version -- sappier and with a defanged lead -- lacks the verve of the British original, especially during the music numbers, which are too brief and feature too simplistic choreography to make much of an impact. If you're going to do that little with the musical numbers, why even bother? (Previews 10 p.m. Oct. 18, premieres Oct. 21)MONDAY"Chuck" (8 p.m., NBC):
Chuck (Zachary Levi), a computer geek for a big box store -- the sign says Buy More, but think Best Buy -- gets the nation's top secrets downloaded into his brain in this comedic thriller that gives Chuck a hot CIA agent partner (Yvonne Strahovski) and a menacing NSA agent boss (Adam Baldwin). Light, action-packed and fun, "Chuck" was executive-produced by "O.C." wunderkind Josh Schwartz. (Monday)"Aliens in America" (8:30 p.m., The CW):
Justin (Dan Byrd), a sensitive, nerdy teen, finds a kindred spirit in a Pakistani Muslim foreign exchange student, Raja (Adhir Kalyan), who comes to live with his family despite the misgivings of his over protective mother (Amy Pietz, "Caroline in the City"). "Aliens" offers funny social commentary that makes the show a good companion, tonally, with The CW's "Everybody Hates Chris." (Oct. 1)"The Big Bang Theory" (8:30 p.m., CBS):
The smart-but-socially-awkward-nerd-meets-hot-but-vapid-girl jokes may wear thin quickly, but it definitely generates laughs in this pilot. Johnny Galecki of "Roseanne" plays one of the geeks who likes to play Klingon Boggle with his geeky friends, including roommate Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Meanwhile, new blond neighbor (Kaley Cuoco) is a vegetarian "except for the occasional steak." (Monday)"K-Ville" (9 p.m., Fox):
Anthony Anderson stars as a New Orleans cops in post-Katrina New Orleans (hence "K-Ville"). It's a premise rife with possibilities that are immediately squandered on typical cop show plots. (Already premiered)"Samantha Who?" (9:30 p.m., ABC):
Samantha Newly (Christina Applegate) wakes from a coma, but she remembers nothing about her old life. Her nasty personality is also gone, but the new, nicer Sam soon discovers, with the help of family and friends, who she really was. Applegate's winning performance helps the show rise above ABC's comedy malaise. (Oct. 15)"Journeyman" (10 p.m., NBC):
Kevin McKidd ("Rome") plays a San Francisco newspaper reporter who inexplicably begins to travel back and forth through time, changing people's lives, possibly including his own when he meets up with his first love (Moon Bloodgood). That complicates matters because in the present, he's married and has a kid. McKidd is an actor of great emotional depth who makes you feel for his character's situation despite the show's frustratingly opaque premise. (Monday)TUESDAY"Cavemen" (8 p.m., ABC):
Based on the Geico commercials, the cavemen get their own TV show in this comedy that positions them as a minority group that faces frequent discrimination in modern society. The original pilot will not air as the first episode, which wasn't available for review. (Oct. 2)"Carpoolers" (8:30 p.m., ABC):
Four guys carpool to work together every day, sharing in each other's successes and failures. This is another one of those ABC, single-camera comedies that's just not funny. Carpool members include the family man (Fred Goss, "Sons & Daughters"), the playboy who's getting a divorce (Jerry O'Connell, "Crossing Jordan"), the pushover nice guy (Jerry Minor) and the newbie (Tim Peper, "Guiding Light"). (Oct. 2)"Reaper" (9 p.m., The CW):
Sam (Bret Harrison, "The Loop") wakes on his 21st birthday to discover his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born and now it's time to pay the satanic piper. Ray Wise ("Twin Peaks") is perfectly cast as Beelzebub, who insists that Sam act as his bounty hunter on earth, returning hell's escapees. Harrison has mastered the deer-in-the-headlights look that aids in ratcheting up the show's comedy quotient. (Tuesday)"Cane" (10 p.m., CBS):
A Latino "Dallas" that substitutes sugar for oil, this family soap stars Jimmy Smits as an adopted son who is given control of a family rum and sugar business, much to the chagrin of oldest son Frank (Nestor Carbonell). In a bit of ewww storytelling, Smits' Alex is married to a woman he grew up with as his sister. The show sort of glosses over this unfortunate factoid. There's a rival family, of course, secrets and a twist that makes Alex a less sympathetic character than he should be. "Cane" has a decent premise, but character introductions in the pilot are handled in a confusing, haphazard manner that may keep viewers from sticking with this one. (Tuesday)WEDNESDAY"Back to You" (8 p.m., Fox):
Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") star as a reunited Pittsburgh news anchor team in this traditional sitcom that begins with a strong premise but founders a bit on sex-obsessed writing. Grammer and Heaton make the show worth watching and "Back to You" also takes welcome shots at local news conventions. (Already premiered)"Kid Nation" (8 p.m., CBS):
Forty kids spend 40 days in a ghost town without adult supervision. They attempt to build a society for your viewing enjoyment while CBS lawyers stand by waiting for the first lawsuit to be filed. Full pilot not available for review. (Already premiered)"Kitchen Nightmares" (9 p.m., Fox):
In this "Extreme Makeover: Restaurant Edition," chef Gordon Ramsay ("Hell's Kitchen") tries to help restaurant owners fix their foundering restaurants. (Already premiered)"Pushing Daisies" (9 p.m., ABC):
Reminiscent of Tim Burton's "Big Fish" or "Edward Scissorhands," this pilot directed by Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black") and written by Bryan Fuller ("Dead Like Me," "Wonderfalls") has some flourishes that bring to mind Sonnenfeld's 1998 ABC series "Maximum Bob" (think: mermaids). It's a visually distinctive pilot, but one that made me wonder, how will they keep this up on a weekly basis? Lee Pace stars as Ned, a guy who can bring the dead back to life with a touch. The only rule: If he touches them again within a minute, they're dead for good. If they live beyond a minute, he can't touch them again or they die forever. This becomes problematic when he revives his childhood sweetheart (Anna Friel) but can't even hug her. Weird but wonderful, "Pushing Daisies" is like a cracked fairy tale. (Oct. 3)"Bionic Woman" (9 p.m., NBC):
Dark, broody and completely missing the occasional joy of the 1970s original, this re-imagining comes from David Eick, an executive producer on "Battlestar Galactica." "Bionic Woman" is just as bleak. Several "Galactica" cast members have guest spots in the pilot, which stars British newcomer Michelle Ryan as the title character, who's given new life by her professor/surgeon boyfriend after the pair are in a car crash perpetrated by the first, evil (and more interesting) bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff). (Wednesday)"Gossip Girl" (9 p.m., The CW):
A well-made teen soap that brings to mind the setting of "Manchester Prep," Fox's aborted TV version of the movie "Cruel Intentions," "Gossip Girl" follows the haves, the have-nots and a have-girl caught in between. Serena (Blake Lively) returns from a year at boarding school to be rejected by her best friend, Blair (Leighton Meester), who's paranoid (for good reason, it turns out) that Serena will steal her boyfriend, Nate (Chace Crawford). Meanwhile, Dan (Penn Badgley) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen), less-privileged children of a rock star-turned-artist (Matthew Settle), are finally being recognized by members of the in-crowd, and it turns out their father and Serena's mom (Kelly Rutherford) have a past. If it sounds like an Upper East Side rendition of "The O.C.," well, that's because it is. (Already premiered)"Private Practice" (9 p.m., ABC):
Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery (Kate Walsh) leaves Seattle Grace and "Grey's Anatomy" for the sunnier climes of Santa Monica, Calif. The back-door pilot that aired as a "Grey's" episode in May -- featuring co-stars Tim Daly, Paul Adelstein, Chris Lowell, Taye Diggs and Amy Brenneman -- received a mixed-to-negative response from critics and fans. The premiere episode isn't much better. (Wednesday)"Dirty Sexy Money" (10 p.m., ABC):
Lawyer Nick George (Peter Krause, "Six Feet Under") follows in his father's footsteps and makes a deal with the devil -- in the form of patriarch Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland) -- to work for the wealthy, spoiled Darling family (think: The Kennedys), whose closets are full of skeletons. It's one of those maddening series where, if the protagonist simply made the logical decision not to work for the Darlings, there would be no show, which makes it difficult to cheer for dumb-dumb Nick. (Wednesday)"Life" (10 p.m., NBC):
British actor Damian Lewis is a fantastic actor as evidenced by his roles in "Band of Brothers" and "The Forsyte Saga," but in "Life" he's saddled with an oddball character so socially awkward that he's uncomfortable to watch. It's obvious producers were going for a "House"-like vibe, but instead this story of a cop who was wrongly imprisoned for a decade before being cleared and returning to work is just strange. When Lewis' Detective Charlie Crews says, "It's the universe that makes fun of us all," viewers may make fun of this series and its frequent bouts of new-age mumbo-jumbo. (Wednesday)THURSDAY"Big Shots" (10 p.m., ABC):
Some critics call this show misogynistic, but I simply found it to be a male "Desperate Housewives" about high-power business executives who behave badly and pay a price for it. Michael Vartan ("Alias"), Christopher Titus ("Titus"), Dylan McDermott ("The Practice") and Joshua Malina ("The West Wing") play the title characters who more often fail in humorous ways than succeed in this portrait of modern masculinity. (Thursday)FRIDAY"The Next Great American Band" (9 p.m., Fox):
An "American Idol" clone that seeks to crown an entire band and not just a singer as victor. (Already premiered)"Midnight" (9 p.m., CBS):
Los Angeles private investigator Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) also happens to be a vampire, but he doesn't dine on humans and instead tries to aid the living. Full pilot not available for review. (Friday)"Nashville" (9 p.m., Fox):
Imagine the faux reality of "Laguna Beach" with a bunch of wannabe country music stars. That's this show. (Already premiered)"Women's Murder Club" (9 p.m., ABC):
A group of San Francisco women -- a detective, district attorney, medical examiner and reporter -- secretly work together to solve crimes in this likable character-driven procedural drama. Angie Harmon stars as a recently-divorced cop in this series that's based on the James Patterson book series. Part-procedural, part-character driven drama, "Women's Murder Club" is one of the better pilots of the fall season. (Oct. 12)http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07266/819444-237.stm#