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Originally Posted by Marcus Carr /forum/post/0

Comcast Spending $6 Mil. on HD Campaign

September 19, 2005

By John Consoli

Davis said the campaign is designed to motivate current Comcast analog subscribers to step up to a digital/HD package, and to convince nonsubscribers that Comcast offers more and better HD programming than the satellite TV services.

I'll betcha they won't even mention that all you need to get the local station's HD, like ABC(Monday Night Football) for example, is a basic cable subscription. This is clearly an effort to get subs/new-subs to purchase more expensive digital subscription packages using HD as a cover. Of course I wouldn't have expected anything less sneaky from the folks at Comcast.

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( September 19, 2005 )

NEW YORK – Sept. 19, 2005 – NBC Sports' Bucky Gunts won the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Director of a Variety, Music or Comedy Program for his direction of the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Summer Games.

Gunts' Primetime Emmy win brings NBC Sports' Emmy total this year to eleven, nine for its coverage of the Athens Olympic Games, having previously been awarded two Primetime Emmy Awards last week, and having received eight Sports Emmy Awards this spring, six for its coverage of the 2004 Summer Games. Gunts accepted the Emmy Award last night during the live broadcast of the Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

NBC Sports' coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games previously took home Primetime Emmy Awards for:

-Outstanding Lighting Direction (Electronic, Multi-Camera) for Variety, Music or Comedy Programming

-Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

This spring, NBC's coverage of the 2004 Athens Summer Games won Emmy Awards in the following categories:

-Outstanding Live Event Turnaround

-Outstanding Sports Documentary

-Outstanding Sports Personality - Studio Host (Bob Costas)

-Outstanding Technical Team Studio

-Outstanding Innovative Technical Achievement

-Outstanding Open/Tease

In addition to the Olympics, NBC also won the Emmys for Outstanding Editing for "Wimbledon on NBC" and Outstanding Edited Sports Special for "Ironman Triathlon World Championships."

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Discussion Starter #5,103
I was glad to see Bucky win, George. He deserved it.

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For CBS, Monday still seems a sure bet
Powerful primetime, even with 'Raymond' gone

By Kevin Downey MediaLifeMagazine.com Staff Writer

When the fall television season begins tonight, it will be the first time since 1997 that Everybody Loves Raymond isn't anchoring CBS's long-dominant Monday lineup.

But while NBC suffered terribly from a similar loss on Thursdays last year, the first season after Friends finished its run, media researchers fully expect CBS to continue outperforming all competitors. Researchers explain that the solid ratings for returning hits Two and a Half Men and CSI: Miami, coupled with high expectations for new sitcom How I Met Your Mother, virtually ensure CBS will retain its hold on No. 1, at least in the 25-54 demographic and most likely also among adults 18-49.

CBS last season averaged a 6.3 rating in the 25-54 demographic, far outpacing its nearest competitor on Mondays. NBC had a 4.7. ABC and Fox each had a 4.5 rating.

CBS had a 5.2 adult 18-49 rating, compared to 4.2 for NBC and a 4.1 for both ABC and Fox.

They have a lock on Monday night, says Shari Anne Brill, vice president and director of programming at Carat.

Their Monday night could conceivably be as good as a year ago or up because King of Queens' is returning to Monday nights. And they will be further bolstered by How I Met Your Mother,' which has the makings of a really great sitcom. Out of Practice' [at 9:30 p.m.] will benefit from a good time period. And CSI: Miami' fills out the night at 10 p.m.

Until first quarter, CBS will be competing with ABC's Wife Swap and Monday Night Football. NBC has the new science-fiction drama Surface and the returning Las Vegas and Medium. Fox has the low-rated comedy Arrested Development and the new Kitchen Confidential, followed by Prison Break, which two weeks ago ranked No. 8 among all shows. On the WB, Seventh Heaven is followed by the new Just Legal, while UPN continues with its comedy block.

Still, Jordan Breslow, director of broadcast research at MediaCom, thinks CBS will retain a solid lead in key demographics.

I absolutely think they will, he says. Two and a Half Men' is a strong comedy in a [television] landscape with few solid new comedies. And if you look at the night, other than UPN's African-American-skewing sitcoms, you only have Fox's two comedies. Everything else is drama, and then there is football.

Both Brill and Breslow note that CBS will face tougher competition after fourth quarter, but both think CBS will again maintain its lead.

On ABC, after football ends in January, the network will roll out a relatively weak lineup with the fading Bachelor, new sitcom Emily's Reasons Why Not, with Heather Graham, and the returning but low-rated Jake in Progress. ABC wraps up the night against CBS's CSI: Miami and NBC's Medium, both hits, with new comedy-drama What About Brian.

I don't think CBS will have problems with ABC, but I do think they will have some problems against Fox, says Breslow.

Fox will revamp its lineup in January by moving House from Tuesdays, which will be followed by the returning 24. House premiered last week with a strong 5.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

It will be a more competitive night for younger viewers, the 18-34 side of things, says Brill. There is way more choice for them. And 24' loyalists will certainly go back for more when it returns in January.

Meanwhile, NBC is expected to generate decent ratings on Mondays, but will likely be held down by anticipated weak ratings for Surface. And both UPN and the WB will be modest competitors, attracting mostly young viewers while CBS's strength is in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 and 25-54 demographics.

Come first quarter, I think Fox may make inroads in 18-49s and 25-54s, says Breslow. I think Fox has a chance of coming in at No. 2 [behind] CBS.


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'Just Legal': See it for its senior partner
Don Johnson takes an old-fashioned show and makes it his

By Paul Brownfield Los Angeles Times Staff Writer September 19, 2005

On the new WB drama "Just Legal," Don Johnson plays a criminal defense attorney with a sea of lazy plea bargains in his past (he hasn't cross-examined a witness in 15 years) and an ocean of sorrow in his eyes. He's like Paul Newman in the opening scenes of "The Verdict," mournfully and drunkenly playing pinball in a Boston bar, in the winter of his career.

Johnson's kind of the Paul Newman of TV (his Don Johnson-ness comes before the role he's playing), and the part that's been given him Grant Cooper, Esq. is a gift. It's a gift in the same way that "Boston Legal's" whacked attorney Denny Crane is a gift for William Shatner. Once again, we find the hair of the old-guard TV actor strangely fascinating in Johnson's case, it's a coif two shades less peacock than that of Michael Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau.

"Just Legal" comes from the machine of Jerry Bruckheimer and the legal pad of Jonathan Shapiro. His bio says he was a special assistant to U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno during hearings into the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas; he also clerked for David E. Kelley on "Boston Legal" and "The Practice."

On its face, "Just Legal" isn't special. It's rather old-fashioned, except that there's something real about the chemistry and a budding story, based in character between Johnson and his costar, Jay Baruchel, who plays David "Skip" Ross.

Ross (in what I guess makes this a WB show) is an 18-year-old wunderkind fresh out of law school who can't get hired at a big downtown L.A. firm (reverse ageism) and goes to work doing "street law" for Cooper, who's holed up in a dusty, dark office above the Venice Boardwalk.

I didn't know there were lawyers there, but the show makes decent use of the environment, the juxtaposition of Johnson's loping shabbiness with the bikini-clad Rollerbladers whizzing by, Cooper only sporadically mustering the energy to look.

Baruchel, like Johnson, is interesting to watch he hints at an old man's bent-forward posture, and he has an abashed way of speaking. This doesn't help in court, and with Cooper too defeated or tired or perverse to do the work himself, much of "Just Legal" is about watching Ross learn the ropes from chagrined judges, with Cooper (who, if he knows nothing else, knows juries) acting as his corner man.

But there's also a show-within-the-show, and it has to do with watching Johnson in another TV series go-around, after the salad days of "Miami Vice" and the strange durability of "Nash Bridges." Grant Cooper flatters the Don Johnson iconography. It's less in the impassioned speeches than in Cooper's throwaway lines ("She seems nice. She did stab a guy to death, though," he says of tonight's client) and in the scene, next week, in which Cooper reveals he's buddied up with the kid because maybe, just maybe, ole Skip'll reel in the big one.

Because as Cooper sees it, he's "one good murder away from being Mark Geragos or Johnnie C." Now that has the makings of an ongoing story. "Just Legal" needs to exploit this, Cooper's vigorous corruptibility, so that when he turns good and he will, degree by degree, every week we'll know it's also a momentary lapse in judgment, a slide toward the virtuous, like on Fox's "House."


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'Just Legal,' with Don Johnson, is among several premieres

By Ellen Gray Philadelphia Daily News

JERRY Bruckheimer, as nearly everyone who watches TV knows by now, can work wonders.

He has dead men - and women - telling all sorts of tales on "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI:NY" and "Cold Case."

He's turned former "ER" viewers into missing persons with "Without a Trace."

And he runs an "Amazing Race." But can he make me watch Don Johnson?

Having managed to largely avoid "Miami Vice" and "Nash Bridges," I consider myself pretty much Johnson-proof, but on the WB's "Just Legal" (9 p.m., Channel 17) one of five, count 'em, five, new series premiering tonight, Johnson's portrayal of a washed-up lawyer who acquires an 18-year-old whiz kid of a partner (Jay Baruchel) goes down as easily as whatever that amber liquid he keeps swilling appears to.

Too bad Bruckheimer has Johnson and Baruchel playing on the WB, where, up against CBS' "Two and a Half Men," ABC's "Monday Night Football" and Fox's "Prison Break," they just may vanish without a trace.

Also premiering tonight:

Fox's "Kitchen Confidential" , which stars Germantown Academy grad Bradley Cooper as a newly sober chef in a single-camera comedy loosely based on the life and times of chef Anthony Bourdain. Cooper ("Alias," "Jack & Bobby") is appealingly both arrogant and humble as a guy who's trying not to become a Don Johnson character, and the writing's as sharp as his kitchen knives.

CBS' "How I Met Your Mother", whose scheduling proves that if network TV finally comes up with two decent new comedies, they're bound to be scheduled opposite one another.

Smartly written and cast - the ensemble of New York-based singles includes Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan - the pilot has a twist that will either charm you or turn you off completely.

CBS' "Out of Practice" , which stars Stockard Channing, Henry Winkler and Paula Marshall as members of a dysfunctional family of physicians, and Christopher Gorham as a therapist who's the family's one non-M.D.

If you're fans of any of these people, you might want to avoid this one.

NBC's "Surface", one of three alien-invasion series this fall, asks the age-old question, what lies below.

But after an hour of watching shadowy critters menace navigation and Lake Bell ("The Practice") mope, I was rooting for one or more of the former to eat the latter.


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CBS scores with a pair of smart comedies

By Jonathan Storm [Philadelphia Inquirer[/b] TV Columnist

Official ratings for the 2005-06 TV season start tonight, and the Premiere Week traffic jam begins with the best new one-two comedy punch on a network in years.

CBS's How I Met Your Mother (8:30) looks an awful lot like the new Friends, and Out of Practice (9:30) combines the talents of some veteran actors with two of the chief writers from Frasier.

Sixteen series will debut by the end of the week, including three tonight. The sitcom Kitchen Confidential (Fox at 8:30) and the dramas Surface (NBC at 8) and Just Legal (WB, 9) fall into the same uninspiring category: Nice try, but better luck next time.

How I Met Your Mother is that rare TV comedy that relies more on character than jokes.

Like Friends, it's the tale of young love in the big city, and it starts with two teens sitting on a couch in 2030, as an off-camera voice explains:

"Kids, I'm going to tell you an incredible story."

Their faces fall a little bit.

"The story of how I met your mother."

The faces cave, and the boy asks, "Are we being punished?"

The story is anything but punishment.

Their dad is Ted, played in the 2005 flashbacks that make up virtually the entire show by Josh Radnor, who appeared in the Broadway version of The Graduate with Kathleen Turner. He's a sincere guy without a lot of fancy firepower for the dating wars.

His buddy Barney has more moves than Terrell Owens, and like Owens' football moves, they're not terribly productive in his personal life. Brash and immature, Barney is played by Neil Patrick Harris, the former Doogie Howser, M.D.

Ted's couple friends, Marshall and Lily, have been dating since the first minute of college, and tonight they get engaged. Alyson Hannigan (Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jason Segel (drummer Nick from Freaks and Geeks) complete a casting foursome that's awesome.

Tonight's installment examines Marshall's fear of champagne corks and Ted's fear of girls. Should he wait for "the signal" before kissing the beautiful and compassionate TV reporter? Is there even such a thing as "the signal"?

With plenty of laughs, but really no jokes to quote, How I Met Your Mother is not a TV critic's dream. It's better. It's a viewer's dream.

Out of Practice is a bit more normal.

"That suit must have cost you an arm and a leg," says Mom, the hard-driving cardiologist, to son Oliver, the smug plastic surgeon.

"No," he responds, "just a nose and a couple of chins."

Ben, the Mr. Normal non-physician in a family that also includes sister Regina, an E.R. adrenaline junky, and father Stewart, a gastroenterologist, is the center of the show.

Stockard Channing plays Mother Lydia, intensely competitive socially and professionally. Henry Winkler plays Stewart, who's sleeping with his receptionist. Was he doing that before they were divorced?

Paula Marshall, an empathetic comedy actress who, unfortunately, has appeared in a bucketful of series that didn't succeed, is Regina, and Christopher Gorham, also good though less famous as a series killer, is Ben.

Tonight's episode employs the same he's-talking-about-one-thing, she's-talking-about-another, and neither-one-knows-it farcical convention that was frequently featured in Frasier, and goes back at least to Moliere. These pros bring it off with panache.

Not the home run of How I Met Your Mother, Out of Practice nonetheless anchors a strong two-hour comedy block on Mondays that may make CBS's loss of Everybody Loves Raymond seem nothing more than a hiccup.

There are no hiccups on Kitchen Confidential, but the lead character vomits. Not exactly the best thing you can do if you're an ex-whiz-kid chef trying to make a comeback after a long trip with hard drugs, cheap booze and loose women as your traveling companions.

Confidential is a comedy hash - lots of heat, little taste. It won't make you regurgitate, but it might make you scratch your head and cancel any further reservations to watch.

In Just Legal, Don Johnson plays a low-rent, burned-out lawyer, and Jay Baruchel, the game but emotionally deficient amateur boxer in Million Dollar Baby, is the courtroom equivalent of Doogie Howser. He passed the bar at 18, and he has a passion for the law.

They team up to help the downtrodden in a series that's stunningly flat, especially for the WB. Better if they had added a compliment of the usual cute things that populate the network's shows and called this series Barely Legal.

This season, there are three new ocean-oriented dramas in which strange creatures threaten the world. One is good, and Surface is fathoms below the other one.

One of the lead characters is an evolutionary biologist, which makes sense, since there's not a lot of intelligent design here.


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'How I Met Your Mother'

By Hal Boedeker Orlando Sentinel Television Critic

For anyone longing for the next Friends, CBS offers a worthy candidate in How I Met Your Mother.

The comedy, debuting Monday, jazzes up its storytelling with flashbacks, split screens and an unusual framing device. Ted (voice by Bob Saget) explains the show's title, which happens in 2005, to his two children in the year 2030.

Ted has a long story to tell about his New York pals. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) are blissfully in love. Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) dispenses wacky advice. Ted (Josh Radnor) wonders if he'll ever meet the right woman. Robin (Cobie Smulders) enters the picture and wows Ted.

Romantic comedies depend on appealing actors, and these five are irresistible. In this adult show, series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas shift easily from risque material to tenderness before supplying the biggest surprise on any new fall series.

That twist should keep viewers coming back to How I Met Your Mother.


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Murdoch's Station Break
Fox Station Group may sell small-market outlets

By John M. Higgins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/19/2005

News Corp. is considering the sale of all its smaller stationsrepresenting a quarter of its station portfoliofor as much as $800 million, according to people familiar with the situation. Such a deal would relieve News Corp. of assets that aren't crucial to its high-margin, big-reach strategy, cut down on overhead, and simplify its operations.

The targets are all Fox O&Os outside the top 25 markets. But small by News Corp.'s standards doesn't mean they're all small towns. Included in the potential sale: Kansas City, Mo. (the 31st-largest TV market), Milwaukee (No. 32) and Salt Lake City (36). One is minor: Gainesville, Fla., the 162nd-largest.

A News Corp. spokesman would not comment on any plans for the stations.

Based on revenue estimates from broadcast-station research firm BIA Financial, the stations might sell for as much as $800 million. If News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch moves forward, he'd be adding a little more fuel to a warming market for TV stations. Emmis Communications recently cut a deal to sell nine of its 16 stations for $600 million, or a fat 14 times annual operating cash flow. Station owner Raycom cut a deal to sell to Liberty Corp. for $877 million, or around 12 times operating cash flow.

That's lower than the 16-18 times multiples seen during the go-go days of the late 1990s but still higher than the 7-8 times cash flow that the stocks of publicly traded station groups are fetching on Wall Street.

A sale would shrink Fox's station count from 35 to 27. Based on available estimates from BIA Financial, the stations believed to be on the block generate around $215 million, less than 10% of Fox Stations' total revenue, and about $85 million of operating cash flow, around 8% of the group's total.

The idea of shrinking the broadcast group predates Roger Ailes' ascent as chairman of both Fox Television Stations and Fox News Channel. He took charge of the station groupwhich generates more than $2 billion in annual revenuesafter Murdoch's son, Lachlan, quit in a funk in August. One Ailes goal is to create new national programming for the stations, including a morning news show, a late-night talk show and a crime-oriented show for other dayparts.

Executives at other station groups say News Corp. has considered selling smaller properties for a couple of years and still hasn't assigned investment bankers to actually stage an auction. Nevertheless, Murdoch is clearly edgy: He recently pitched the stations to Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, according to two media executives familiar with the discussions.

Murdoch had tried to use the stations to defuse Malone's moves on the company. Although Malone and Murdoch have long been partners, the Liberty chairman has accumulated 18% of the shareholder voting power in News Corp., alarming Murdoch, who sees Malone's big stake as a threat to his own control. News Corp. recently strengthened its defenses against a hostile takeover.

Murdoch has attempted to neutralize the threat by swapping assets for some of Liberty's shares. The executives say that, over the summer, Murdoch asked Malone if he wanted the small-market stations as part of the mix. Malone rejected the offer, noting that a group of small-market broadcast stations isn't exactly a high-growth operation, one executive says.

A sale seems counterintuitive because size has clear benefits in the station business. Most important, it gives smaller stations more leverage in securing syndicated programming, riding the coattails of siblings in the big markets. Those dayparts can account for more than 20% of a station's ad revenues. There are additional economies in producing local news and selling national advertising.


But Murdoch recently told one industry executive that he wants to streamline the TV unit's operations, hoping it will run more efficiently. Fox doesn't really need the extra reach; the company is the second-largest owner of TV stations in the country, owning properties that reach more than 45 million homes. Selling these smaller stations would shrink that reach by only 5 million and drop Fox back to No. 3. If these were growth markets, the executive says, it might be different.

Also, these cities don't get as much lift from Fox's most expensive programming, football. Fox has rights to the National Football League's National Conference, so owning stations in cities with NFC teamssuch as Detroit or Tampa, Fla.is more important than owning one in Kansas City. (Small-market Milwaukee, however, is arguably a secondary hometown for the NFC's Green Bay Packers.)

Getting smaller would also give News Corp. a little room under federal ownership limits. By purchasing Chris-Craft's stations in 2001, News Corp. blew through the ownership cap to 37% of U.S. homes. Pesky laws aren't a big deal to Rupert Murdoch, and Congress went into its customary bowing and scraping act, raising the ownership cap from 35% to 39%, a break that primarily benefits Murdoch and Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone. Shrinking to 34% would give Fox's stations group space to do a big-market deal later.

Fox for Sale?

Broadcast stations that Rupert Murdoch is considering putting on the block

Market---------Rank-Station-Homes-Share of U.S. TV Homes
Kansas City, Mo. 31 WDAF 903,540 0.8%
Milwaukee 33 WITI 880,390 0.8%
Salt Lake City 36 KSTU 810,830 0.7%
Birmingham, Ala. 40 WBRC 716,520 0.7%
Memphis 44 WHBQ 657,670 0.6%
Greensboro-Winston Salem, N.C. 47 WGHP 652,020 0.6%
Austin, Texas 53 KTBC 589,360 0.5%
Gainesville, Fla. 162 WOGX 117,190 0.1%
Total 5,327,520 5%

Source: Nielsen Media, company reports


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Wow FOX predicted to rise to #2? That's fascinating.

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Discussion Starter #5,112
How I met a great new show, and some wannabes

By Kay McFadden Seattle Times

Primetime Monday offers bewildering options to West Coast viewers. The last hour of football or the first hour of family time? Yo-ho-ho adventure or cozy soap?

Your best bet for starters is to go for the funny. Scheduling changes and a fresh infusion of creativity into the perpetually moribund sitcom make this choice newly attractive.

On TV's checkerboard of life, the brilliant "Arrested Development" and stalwart "King of Queens" move from less friendly confines to tonight at 8, while CBS' enticing "How I Met Your Mother" debuts at 8:30. There, it competes with an aspiring laugher from Fox called "Kitchen Confidential."

Humor's infinite variations also get an airing. Don Johnson returns to TV at 9 in The WB dramedy "Just Legal," while Henry Winkler co-stars at 9:30 in CBS' dyspeptic "Out of Practice," the latest project from the former "Frasier" producing team.

Toss Johnson and Winkler with Neil Patrick Harris in "How I Met Your Mother" and you have a salad of nostalgia mellowed by time, maturity and breaking type. And you get a lot of Winkler, who reprises his oily guest role in tonight's season opener of "Arrested Development."

This evening also will test the fortitude of CBS' "Two and a Half Men," which takes over the 9 p.m. spot once held by "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Based on ratings last spring and all summer long, it's looking pretty good for Charlie Sheen and company. But in the interests of rooting, let's hope Fox's exciting "Prison Break" can lock down second place ahead of other male-skewing competitors like NBC's "Las Vegas."

NBC is the resolute holdout against funny Mondays. The Peacock sallies into the sci-fi thriller field at 8 p.m. with "Surface," which leads off an evening of one-hour dramas that conclude at 10 with "Medium" versus "CSI: Miami."

Got all that straight? Never mind. Here's the Critic Cliff's Notes on new series to keep you away from dull strangers:

"Surface," NBC: Yeah, I know Bugs Bunny once said monsters were the most in-teresting people. But "Surface" features a ragged script, stereotyped characters and a rubbery villain that could have reared its head in the beloved 1960s live action/puppet series "Diver Dan."

The pilot has the laborious pacing of a two-night miniseries. It takes a half-hour to set up multiple scenarios of folks that stumble onto evidence of a suspicious aquatic presence: the intrepid single-mom oceanographer; the sinister Head of An Institute; the adolescent boy whose late-night encounter morphs into an "ET"-like obsession.

It's all pretty mundane, because the producers give the big surprise away early on, and it's the only surprise they've got. Compared with the sophisticated, well-produced "Threshold," NBC's "Surface" is just that. That glub-glub-glub you hear is the sound of a ratings dive.

"How I Met Your Mother," CBS: NBC is coming to resemble the CBS of the bad old days; CBS is taking on attributes of NBC that go beyond No. 1 status.

The newest evidence of this trend is "How I Met Your Mother," a New York-set sitcom with drop-dead timing and a likable, invigorating cast of twentysomethings. It's the "Friends" successor that NBC couldn't find and the perfect show to break CBS out of its fat-boy-skinny-wife syndrome.

The pilot begins with Ted (Josh Radnor) narrating the story of the title to his kids. We flashback to years earlier, when a younger Ted displays mixed envy and joy as his friend Marshall (Jason Segel) announces he's proposing to girlfriend Lily (Alyson Hannigan).

Meanwhile, a perpetually Peter Pan-ish pal named Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is happy to help Ted find a girl but is adamantly opposed to marriage. The story's romance goes from there and climaxes tonight in an unexpected twist that blatantly teases us.

As "Friends" did, "How I Met Your Mother" banks on cast chemistry and elements of comfortable familiarity. It even has a headquarters a bar instead of a coffee shop. If the script offers no big surprises, that matters less than the consummate execution of quick zingers leavened by affection.

All of the actors are adept. I especially enjoyed seeing Harris destroy what remains of his "Doogie"-like sincerity, and former "Buffy" acolyte Hannigan using comedy to kill.

As a bridge between the sweet-hearted "King of Queens" and the sardonic "Two and a Half Men," this new series exceeds expectations. CBS is determined to court viewers under 40, and the winsome and clever "How I Met Your Mother" is a very good start.

"Kitchen Confidential," Fox: Based on Anthony Bourdain's best-selling antidote to celebrity-chef worship, "Kitchen Confidential" tries to bring his bawdy autobiography to life. Alas, the script frantically jams together so many disparate bits, the result is less an amuse bouche than an amuse manque.

It's also for Fox and executive producer Darren Star curiously stiff and demure. Although an opening montage whisks Bourdain (Bradley Cooper) through the drugging and womanizing that landed him on the restaurant equivalent of Skid Row, he's reformed when the story begins.

What fun is that? Minus a rise-and-fall-and-rise-again framework, the show sags. The only suspense is whether Bourdain's new restaurant will succeed, and that's resolved in the pilot.

Some bold antics about the gritty side of cuisine might have compensated. But these elements from the book are toned down or scrubbed out. Even less forgivable is the virtual absence of Hispanic characters from a series about an industry where Mexicans and Ecuadorians reign.

Left lingering on our palates is some desperate slapstick and the possibility that the restaurant owner is mobbed up. With a paucity of food and sex, the only primary appetite that "Kitchen Confidential" fulfills is sleep. It was that, or the Food Channel.

"Just Legal," The WB: At first, I considered any show starring Don Johnson to be a discordant pairing with "7th Heaven," which returns at 8 for a wholesome and impressive 10th season.

That's before the screener arrived. It subsequently became clear that "Just Legal" is only partly about the humorous pairing of an earnest, 18-year-old lawyer named Skip Ross (Jay Baruchel) with Grant Cooper, an ex-trial whiz turned boozy reprobate (you know who).

Beneath the odd-couple veneer, "Just Legal" reveals a heartfelt venture that evokes the early, pre-Spader and Shatner days of "Boston Legal." What we can expect to see every week is a battle against a cynical legal system that rewards expedient deal-making and favors the rich and smart.

Tonight is a case study in point. After some delicious sparring that confirms comic compatibility between Baruchel and Johnson, the plot about a young woman wrongly accused of murder moves into more serious and sentimental waters.

Skip discovers that Cooper used to be a hotshot until he took on a case that confronted the police. He lost the trial and his reputation (though not a good golf swing or memory).

As we can guess, it's Skip's job to re-ignite Cooper's passion. And this is accomplished by such well-cast, talented actors that if "Just Legal" were a movie, I'd be thrilled to recommend it.

The problem demonstrated by Episode 2 is a rogue can only reveal his inner idealist so many times before the gimmick becomes maudlin and pat, especially when it's the overwhelming focus.

At a time when most TV law dramas favor prosecutors, "Just Legal" is a worthy endeavor undone by a custard heart. Maybe future shows will have more spice and some much-needed subplots.

"Out of Practice," CBS: A comedy about a family of physicians that have little in common may sound familiar. However, "Out of Practice" is no "Frasier," despite springing from two of the same creative sources.

This acidic series puts together some familiar faces without seeming to care if they're believable as doctors or even as relatives. Henry Winkler and Stockard Channing play divorced parents, with Christopher Gorham, Ty Burrell and Paula Marshall as their adult children.

There's a lot of competitive sparring and discontent that finds joy only in being proved right. Of course, "Frasier" contained plenty of similar vitriol. But it was balanced by a self-mocking awareness and an underlying affection wholly absent from "Out of Practice."

What's most off-putting is a crass script that produces punch lines like "You should come out with me some night. I'm like some dyke-sniffing truffle hog." Is it the 1990s again?

If CBS wants to learn from the glory years of NBC, just one little piece of advice: Stick to "Friends" and "Seinfield." Forget "Union Square" and "Veronica's Closet."


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Discussion Starter #5,113
Just another mindless Monday for comedies
networks offer ratings grabbers over substance

By Tim Goodman San Francisco Chronicle

Mitch Hurwitz should be satisfied that his sitcom "Arrested Development" is the misunderstood visionary in a field of wholly understood, seen-it-coming, laugh-track saturated lemmings.

All he has to do is look around -- even at his own network Fox -- for the cruelest evaluation of his series: We love it. We love the Emmys. Critics love it. We love you. We love your work. We're just not going to do anything like that again.

With three new comedies premiering tonight -- plus the third season of "Arrested Development" -- it's a like a compare-and-contrast slam dunk.

Fox's own "Kitchen Confidential," a companion piece to "Arrested Development," stops just shy of being a traditional sitcom while leaning on what must now be considered less than cutting-edge techniques: talking to the camera, voice-over, quick-cuts, etc.

"Kitchen Confidential," based on the life of chef-writer Anthony Bourdain, is funnier than most sitcoms, with little quirks and one-liners that hint at some sharper teeth underneath. In no way, however, is it in the same league as "Arrested Development."

That's probably why Fox chose it. There's a passable wackiness to "Kitchen Confidential" that gives it some street (or is that critical?) credibility when positioned next to, say, CBS' "Out of Practice," the second of Monday's offerings. But in that comparison, the freshness isn't earned. CBS likes its comedies safe, broad, easily understood, lacking in irony with a laugh track as ubiquitous as possible.

"Out of Practice" is comedy mush. Stockard Channing and Henry Winkler, as two divorced doctors with three kids -- all but one a doctor (that's the funny twist) -- deliver the goods to CBS in a manner that will wrap much of the audience in a cocoon of warmed-over jokes that don't demand much attention or participation. Compared with that, Mark Russell is Lenny Bruce.

(It's almost heartbreaking, by the way, to see Winkler reduced to tossing off predictable one-liners in "Out of Practice" when his cameos on "Arrested Development" as the bumbling, possibly gay but certainly transvestite-loving lawyer were so brilliant. Perhaps the lead gig pays too much to resist. Or maybe being on a cult hit wasn't satisfying enough for Winkler.)

The idea of the cult hit is key to Monday night. "Arrested Development," for all its genius, is now the go-to example for programmers across the network landscape. They can point to the low ratings numbers that painfully illustrate the lack of bottom-line heft of multiple Emmys. "Arrested Development" is loved by critics and savvy viewers. But what the network wants is, oh, about 10 million more viewers with a less discerning palate.

With "Kitchen Confidential," Fox has struck a balance between creativity and ratings suicide. Bradley Cooper stars as Jack Bourdain, a talented chef whose rise to the top hid an addiction to booze, drugs and women -- all revealed on his very public pratfall. No one will hire him despite his going straight -- until he finally gets his big comeback chance. Wanting not to blow it, Jack hires an eclectic cast of former kitchen mates and is this time determined to keep his demons at bay and his talent at the forefront.

The casting and pace of "Kitchen Confidential" (executive produced by Darren Star, "Sex and the City") are impressive. Cooper is likable; the writing is bright and with enough sharp edges to seem hip. It's a sitcom that works, a good offering in a good year.

The question is: Despite seeming downright mundane and middle-of-the-road in comparison with "Arrested Development," is what America really looking for in a sitcom something more along the lines of "Out of Practice," with a bigger-name cast (Paula Marshall and Jennifer Tilly are part of it), a formulaic patter (setup, punch line, setup, punch line -- commercial break) and a heavy-laugh track?

Maybe. The results are infinitely less funny than "Kitchen Confidential." Channing and Winkler might as well be robots. We've seen their type hundreds of times. Marshall as a lesbian is about as believable as Ty Burrell, who plays her brother the plastic surgeon, as straight. His character is clearly gay yet saddled with talking about women's breasts and how any woman who doesn't sleep with him must be lesbian.

Believable? Not this far west.

The star is Christopher Gorham ("Jake 2.0") as a psychologist without a doctorate, the family failure, who -- now this is a stunner -- is the only sane one. Despite the producer pedigree -- Joe Keenan and Christopher Lloyd of "Frasier" fame -- this is a laughless, cookie-cutter sitcom that doesn't yet match the worst of the "Frasier" episodes.

Unlike "Arrested Development," however, it's a sure hit in a cushy time slot. It won't get much good ink, doubtful any Emmy consideration next year but -- and what a big but this is -- people will probably love it and networks will make 56 more of these relatively the same shape and size.

Your laughter may vary.

A better bet is CBS' other sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," an original, funny and entertaining comedy that is, in CBS world, daringly original -- despite the oh-so-familiar patois of romantic comedy, the laugh track and the tight-and-bright approach. It is -- choking on the comparison here -- the "Arrested Development" of CBS' unhip but powerhouse Monday comedy lineup.

A flashback comedy with a big twist at the end, the title says it all. Ted (Josh Radnor) is a hopeless romantic who -- 25 years in the future -- is telling his kids how he met their mom. Though Radnor is engaging, and secondary couple Jason Segel ("Freaks and Geeks") and Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") bring down the CBS demographic considerably, it's an old (young?) familiar face that gives the series its laughs: Doogie Howser. Well, Neil Patrick Harris. His geeky, jaded, wannabe ladies man is a fine foil to Radnor's romanticism. And it's true -- Harris delivers the laughs.

"How I Met Your Mother" is one of the fall's standout comedies (and wouldn't you know it, goes up against "Kitchen Confidential"). As funny as both series are, however, they are far removed from the fearless lunacy of "Arrested Development," proving how mainstream comedy really is in this country.


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All but interest floats to 'Surface'

By Diane Werts Newsday Staff Writer September 19, 2005

"Surface" is a show that likes to build. Tonight's NBC pilot episode builds up suspense about something bursting forth from the sea, maybe even creepy monsters. It builds a list of unrelated characters that practically requires a lineup card to follow. It builds a geography-test assortment of locations: California, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maine, the Antarctic sea, the Caribbean. It builds an impressive array of big-boy toys: Navy ships, nuclear subs, research submersibles. It builds and builds and builds just about everything but interest.

Whether there's a "there" there to "Surface" remains unclear. The pilot ladles in tantalizing clues and varied stories, a half-dozen or more, without giving us much indication where our attention should focus. While fans of daytime soaps can follow that many story threads, new viewers of a weekly prime-time hour aren't likely to be quite that dedicated. Adventure freaks and curious kids may be the only ones still tuned in by the time all the loose ends get tied, if indeed they do.

The key one seems to be Lake Bell ("The Practice") as a busy single mom/marine biologist whose submersible deep-dive uncovers sea-floor craters with something zooming up out of them to produce lights and energy and screamy sounds. The effects reoccur for spear-fishing Jay R. Ferguson and his beer-chugging bayou buddies, for lonely nerd teen Carter Jenkins, and for mysterious Russian scientist and U.S. government consultant Rade Sherbedgia, who quickly circles the military wagons to shut out other inquisitors like Bell, who of course doesn't take kindly to the slight.

But military might can do nothing to stop young Jenkins, who, in a shameless steal from "E.T." decides he just might take one of those floating sea-creature eggs home to mom's aquarium. Will his nagging teenage sister squeal if she gets upset about all the goo it produces?

"Will we care?" seems the better question. The pilot serves up flashy ooh-ah instead of anything tangible to wrap our arms around. Not clearly showing the central creature may not be such a great notion, either. Delaying the payoff means it had better be better than we'd expect right off the bat. Twin creators Josh and Jonas Pate previously served up ABC's "youthful" remake of "L.A. Dragnet" and Sci Fi's gonzo "G vs E," which give us little indication where they're going here. Down for the third time, maybe, unless "Surface" floats something stronger fast.


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Where's Raymond When You Need Him?

By Verne Gay Newsday Staff Writer September 19, 2005

For reasons obscure except perhaps to network gurus, programmers, TV critics and other ne'er-do-wells, there are certain time periods on each network schedule that are either blessed or cursed and, but for some quirk of fate, these are occasionally right next door to each other.

A classic example is the CBS 9 p.m. hour where once reigned "I Love Lucy," "M*A*S*H," "Murphy Brown" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," and 9:30, where once flopped "House Calls," "George & Leo" and "The Brian Benben Show." Over the years, there were great shows cheek-by-jowl with unloved and unlovable beasts just a half-hour later, and while there was a major exception in recent seasons ("Two and a Half Men," which moves to 9 tonight), ancient TV curses have a way of returning at the worst possible moment.

Like perhaps tonight, when "Out of Practice," about a family of dysfunctional doctors, bows. If you expect the worst, your expectations will probably be met. CBS' 9:30 hammock hex is back!

The network has only two new sitcoms on its schedule this fall, this one and "How I Met Your Mother" (8:30). Both come out of the recent CBS sitcom tradition that yielded "Yes Dear" and "Still Standing," by-the-book laugh-track farces that are as progressive, fun and adventurous as a Ford Taurus. But where "Practice" is jaded, cynical and often vulgar - fulfilling the worst excesses of that tradition - "Mother" has some charm and freshness. One's a winner and the other's a bummer.

Indeed, CBS' Great Monday Night has a transitional feel to it this fall, beyond the obvious absence of "Raymond," which was such a huge crowd-pleaser that "Two and Half Men" stands to become the "Will & Grace" of the '05-'06 season. Starting in a few hours, the reality will hit hard and hit fast: "Raymond" is gone, and only those viewers on automatic pilot will want to drift to this schedule.

"How I Met Your Mother" could, however, become a very pleasant surprise. Starring relative TV newcomer Josh Radnor - whom some may remember from his 2002 role in Broadway's "The Graduate" opposite Kathleen Turner - the show is about a guy named Ted who tells his kids in a series of flashbacks about his early wild days in New York. Ted, of course, has friends - leading CBS execs to suggest during the recent press tour that this will be the next "Friends" - like extreme extrovert-ladies' guy Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Marshall (Jason Segel), who's getting married to Lilly (Alyson Hannigan, "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer"). And one day across a crowded bar, Ted falls for Robin (Cobie Smulders), who finds his foot-in-mouth boyishness irresistible.

Sounds innocuous, but the gimmick (and gambit) is to force viewers to guess who the real mother-to-be is each week. Think Fox's "Reunion," without the murder.

Meanwhile, "Out of Practice" is backed by TV royalty - Kelsey Grammer, as an executive producer, along with "Frasier" scribes Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan - which makes the leaden debut all the more mystifying. Christopher Gorham ("Jake 2.0") is Ben Barnes, a couples counselor and the only member of his family who's not an MD. He also seems to be the only one of them in a fulfilling relationship. There's his caustic sister, Dr. Regina Barnes (Paula Marshall), an ER doc, a lesbian who just broke up with her girlfriend. Brother Oliver (Ty Burrell), a playboy and plastic surgeon, has a taste for bimbos that he surgically remodels. Cardiologist mom Lydia (Stockard Channing, who will also appear in a few more episodes of "The West Wing" as the first lady) and a gastroenterologist dad, Stewart (Henry Winkler), are divorced.

Unfortunately, this all becomes fertile ground for lots of wrenchingly bad jokes about lesbians and large breasts. It seems as if CBS is making an attempt yet again to attract young adult urban viewers, a strategy that backfired in the early '90s (and would later be abandoned when "Raymond" came along in 1996).


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How I Met Your Mother 'Seinfeld's' hip replacement
TV has a Gen Y version of the classic in 'How I Met Your Mother.' Plus it's good to see Doogie, Willow and Nick again

By Robert Lloyd Los Angeles Times Staff Writer September 19, 2005

"How I Met Your Mother," which premieres tonight on CBS in a cozy spot between "The King of Queens" and "Two and a Half Men," is a considerably above-average Generation Y sitcom that manages to be both sharp and sentimental, like "Seinfeld" with feeling. And like that show, and "Friends" as well another series whose influence is felt here it's that very desirable thing: a three-camera comedy that also seems moderately hip and potentially attractive to the worshipped 18-to-34 set. And it's not even on NBC.

That it is narrated by an unseen Bob Saget from 25 years in the future is basically just a cute, dispensable device to make this relationship comedy seem less like other relationship comedies. (The more accurate title would be "How I Didn't Meet Your Mother Quite Yet.") "Is this going to take awhile?" the kids ask as voice-of-Saget Dad begins his apparently long-untold family tale. "Are we being punished for something?"

What makes the series immediately notable and certainly has much to do with its quality is a cast that includes Neil Patrick Harris, who was TV's Doogie Howser, and at 32 is what passes for an old pro here; Alyson Hannigan, who played Willow in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"; and Jason Segel, who was Nick on "Freaks and Geeks." It's a Crosby, Stills & Nash of 1990s cult television. (Oddly, Fox's "Kitchen Confidential," which runs opposite, also includes in its cast "Buffy" and "Freaks" vets, respectively Nicholas Brendon and John Daley, but they have less to do.)

The romantic pairing of Segel and Hannigan is especially felicitous, and it finds them more or less playing characters they already know. He's a big, helpless doofus it's a little hard to buy him as a second-year law student, as we're asked to and she's capable and sensible, although still girlish and a little goofy.

"Did you know there's a Pop-Tart under your fridge?" she asks Segel after they've made love on his kitchen floor, by way of sealing their engagement.

"No, but dibs."

Nominal protagonist Josh Radnor has played the Dustin Hoffman part in the Broadway adaptation of "The Graduate," and his role here isn't far different, as a young man waking up to the seriousness of life, amusingly.

News of his friends' engagement puts him in a sudden rage to love, and by the end of the pilot, he has disastrously declared it to cast member Cobie Smulders (who will not be his wife). It's the hardest part to play: Radnor has the burden of being "real," where everyone else can fall back on being cute or quirky. But he stays afloat.

As his needy second-best friend, Harris has the Kramer role, the clown who takes himself seriously.

Kramer-like, he is full of dubious theories that "Lebanese girls are the new half-Asians," that life is better when you wear a suit. ("Suit up" is his catch-phrase.) When he blackmails Radnor into putting one on, he says excitedly, "This is totally going on my blog."

They all hang out in a bar, rather than in a coffeehouse or a diner, which may say something about where the young are these days, and engage in the sort of pop-cultural, personal shorthand I am pretty sure was invented on "Seinfeld" and has since come to permeate the language of TV comedy: "the signal," "the olive thing."

It's the language of shared experience. Series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas (whose shared writing credits, for better and for worse, include "American Dad!," "Oliver Beene," "Quintuplets" and "Late Show With David Letterman"), have ostensibly based the Radnor and Segel characters on themselves, with Hannigan standing in for Thomas' wife, which may be "How I Met Your Mother" works as well as it does. The show glows with belief.


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Just Legal
Standing on precedent

By Matt Zoller Seitz Newark Star-Ledger Monday, September 19, 2005

In a medium that's increasingly obsessed with serving up the dramatic equivalent of 12-course dinners, the WB's new comedy "Just Legal" (9 p.m., Ch. 11) is more like a box of Nilla Wafers: delicious junk food.

Created by Jonathan Shapiro, who modeled the young hero on his own early life as a wunderkind attorney, the show stars Jay Baruchel ("Undeclared") as David "Skip" Ross, a brilliant but unemployed 18-year-old lawyer mentored by burned-out legal legend Grant Cooper (Don Johnson), a boozing, womanizing scalawag. Cooper hires Skip to handle the dull aspects of his private defense practice, but ends up partnering with Skip on a murder case involving a young, gorgeous defendant.

The concept is so familiar -- ambitious youngster reawakens old cynic's dormant idealism -- that a dead person could guess what'll happen next. "Just Legal" is mainly notable as a showcase for Shapiro's snappy, literate dialogue and its pleasing lead performances.

Baruchel is one of the most original young actors working today, mixing geekiness, eloquence and righteous passion. Like Jeff Goldblum and other off-center leading men, he has such a screwy way of delivering lines that just hearing him speak is a thrill.

Johnson answers Baruchel's oddball energy with melancholy and warmth, emotions you don't normally associate with Johnson. The scene in the pilot where Cooper rejects the easy road and resolves to fight in defense of his client is proof that committed acting can freshen up the moldiest material. And the stars' quiet exchanges are sweet and funny.

"'A man does not always fight to win; better to fight in vain,'" Ross tells Cooper, then reveals it's a paraphrase from "Cyrano de Bergerac."

"It is?" says Cooper, bewildered. "I thought I made it up."


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Out Of Practice

By Alan Sepinwall Newark Star-Ledger Monday, September 19, 2005


It's a bittersweet night to be a Henry Winkler fan. On the one hand, he has his first regular series role in over a decade on the new sitcom "Out of Practice" (9:30 p.m., Ch. 2). On the other, to get that job, he had to give up his occasional "Arrested Development" role as kinky, grossly incompetent lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn, which he plays for possibly the final time in tonight's season premiere (8 p.m., Ch. 5).

As Zuckerkorn, Winkler got a laugh virtually every time he opened his mouth. As Dr. Stewart Barnes, the father in a family full of doctors, his material isn't half as good.

The cast includes Stockard Channing as Winkler's bitter cardiologist ex-wife, Paula Marshall as his lesbian trauma specialist daughter, Ty Burrell as his cad plastic surgeon son and Christopher Gorham as a couples counselor and the only member of the family without an M.D.

The creator is Joe Keenan, who wrote most of the classic farce episodes of "Frasier." He tries to recreate that tone here, with lots of half-overheard conversations and people walking into rooms when they shouldn't, but the jokes feel more labored. Gorham, last seen on "Medical Investigation," doesn't make enough of an impression in the lead role. The only actor who consistently makes the jokes work is Burrell, a theater vet new to TV.

With the talent on hand, this could be a decent comedy someday, but Winkler is leaving a show that was already brilliant. At least he gets an appropriate "Arrested" farewell, as Barry finally gets fired and ponders the only career left open to him: male prostitute. If only he knew how much to charge...


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By Matt Zoller Seitz Newark Star-Ledger Monday, September 19, 2005

NETWORK TV'S wave of nautical sci-fi serials continues tonight with NBC's "Surface" (8 p.m., Ch. 4), in which strangers scattered throughout the hemisphere try to fathom uncanny events.

Like CBS' "Threshold," which premiered Friday, and ABC's "Invasion," which debuts Wednesday, "Surface" owes its existence to ABC's "Lost," which proved that strong yet simple characterizations and cryptic plotting could be money in the bank. To that end, "Surface" -- written, produced and directed by Joshua and Jonas Pate -- introduces unrelated characters whose lives are linked by encounters with mysterious sea beasts.

There's Dr. Aleksandr Cirko (Rade Sherbedgia), a scientist investigating odd goings-on aboard a submarine; Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell), an oceanographer who finds deep tunnels on the sea floor; teenage Miles (Carter Jenkins), who stashes freaky sea eggs in his parents' fish tank, and Richard Connelly (Jay R. Ferguson), a fisherman whose brother was abducted by a creature during a dive.

The Pates are obviously huge Spielberg fans; the aquatic suspense sequences are modeled on "Jaws," and the narrative spine is lifted from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," as is the ensuing federal cover-up that militarizes Daughtery's discovery and forces her to keep silent about it.

The pilot wisely refrains from offering much information about the creatures aside from suggesting they're intelligent mammals. But the show's unnerving yet benevolent tone and the Pate brothers' on-the-record pledges to deliver "heart" suggest that humanity's darkest fears will prove unfounded.

"Surface" is the second best of the nautical sci-fi pilots, more elegantly directed and emotionally credible than "Threshold," but not as dense and purposeful as "Invasion." But serials being serials, we'll have to withhold final judgment and wait, like patient scientists, for further developments.

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