September 21, 2008 in Features

Rise or fall?

Despite familiar themes and many shows being relaunched, it’s still hard to gauge what the fall TV season really has to offer
By Gail Pennington St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 

What an awesome new TV season this will be. Maybe. Or not.

On paper, some new shows are intriguing. But the writers’ strike that disrupted television from November to February also set back series development and production for the broadcast networks.

For ABC, the focus is on relaunching series – “Pushing Daisies,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Private Practice” – whose freshman seasons were cut short by the strike. Only two new shows, one unscripted, made ABC’s fall schedule.

NBC has three dramas, one comedy and a reality show while relaunching “Chuck” and “Life.” CBS is introducing three dramas and two comedies.

Adding in Fox and the CW, the five broadcast networks offer 22 new series this season. Dramas, as usual these days, are stronger than comedies, and more abundant.

Six of the new series already have premiered. Fox has launched “Fringe,” a sci-fi drama from J.J. Abrams (“Alias,” “Lost”); “Do Not Disturb,” a hotel-set sitcom starring Jerry O’Connell and Niecy Nash (“Reno 911”); and “Hole in the Wall,” a Japanese-import game show from the producers of “American Idol.”

On the CW, there’s “90210,” an updated spinoff of the ’90s hit “Beverly Hills 90210,” and “Privileged,” about a Yale grad who ends up tutoring a pair of spoiled rich kids to pay off her college loans. And NBC has served up “America’s Toughest Jobs,” a reality show where 13 men swap routine careers for more dangerous pursuits.

Here’s a closer look at the remaining newcomers, with star ratings (out of a possible four) for programs that had previews available.

Sunday

“In Harm’s Way” (8 p.m., CW, premieres tonight): From Craig Piligian (“Dirty Jobs”) comes yet another reality show about “brave individuals who risk their lives” in their line of work.

“Surviving Suburbia” (8:30 p.m., CW, premieres Nov. 2): Bob Saget returns to sitcom territory as an anti-social family man.

“Valentine” (9 p.m., CW, premieres tonight): The CW network farmed out Sunday nights to the independent production company Media Rights Capital, which returns a ridiculous romantic comedy about a family of Greek gods matching up lovelorn mortals. (1 star)

“Easy Money” (10 p.m., CW, premieres tonight): Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”) and family run a payday loan business in what’s touted as “a modern-day Dickensian tale of money and identity.” Producers Diane Frolov and Andy Schneider’s previous shows include “Northern Exposure” and “The Sopranos.” So why is “Easy Money” unwatchable? (0 stars)

Monday

“Worst Week” (9:30 p.m., CBS, premieres Monday): In an adaptation of a British comedy, Kyle Bornheimer plays Sam, who’s about to get engaged to girlfriend Melanie (Erinn Hayes). Her parents don’t like him, but he’s determined to win them over – with disastrous results. The opener, which includes Sam in a trash-bag diaper and a mistaken declaration of death, is fast-paced, physical and often hilarious, offering hope that the sitcom isn’t dead after all. (3 stars)

“My Own Worst Enemy” (10 p.m., NBC, premieres Oct. 13): In this spin on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Christian Slater plays Henry, an ordinary soccer dad, complete with minivan. The twist? He shares a body with Edward, a superspy and trained killer. Alfre Woodard, Madchen Amick and Saffron Burrows also star.

Tuesday

“Opportunity Knocks” (8 p.m., ABC, premieres Tuesday): Be on a game show without leaving the Barcalounger. In this stunt show, conceived by Ashton Kutcher, a prize van will pull up to homes like ours, challenging family members on how well they know one another.

“The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS, premieres Tuesday): Simon Baker (“The Guardian”) returns to television as Patrick Jane, who uses his powers of observation to help the police crack big cases. “The Mentalist” feels overly familiar, and our hero has been saddled with a too-complicated back story. But Baker is charming, and the drama is a nice fit with other CBS procedurals. (2 1/2 stars)

Wednesday

“Knight Rider” (8 p.m., NBC, premieres Wednesday): This remake of the 1980s series stars Justin Bruening (“All My Children”) as the son of Michael Knight (originally played by David Hasselhoff), following in his father’s footsteps chasing bad guys in “the coolest car ever created.” Val Kilmer is the voice of KITT the car.

“Gary Unmarried” (8:30 p.m., CBS, premieres Wednesday): How much do you like Jay Mohr? Better love him if you plan to sample this loud, obnoxious sitcom with Mohr as a divorced dad and Paula Marshall as his ex-wife, who’s now engaged to their marriage counselor. (1 1/2 stars)

“Stylista” (10 p.m., CW, premieres Oct. 22): In a competition that will inevitably be compared with “The Devil Wears Prada” but is actually more like a dozen shows that have already aired on cable, fashion-industry wannabes will try out for a job at Elle magazine.

Thursday

“Kath & Kim” (8:30 p.m., NBC, premieres Oct. 9): Molly Shannon is mom Kath and Selma Blair is daughter Kim in an attempt to adapt a wacky Australian comedy. The plot has Kim ditching her new husband and moving back in with Mom. (No, Shannon isn’t old enough to be Blair’s mother; that’s part of the joke.)

“Eleventh Hour” (10 p.m., CBS, premieres Oct. 9): Rufus Sewell is Dr. Jacob Hood, a government science adviser called in to avert disasters at the last minute, in a thriller from Jerry Bruckheimer that is based on a British miniseries.

“Life on Mars” (10 p.m., ABC, premieres Oct. 9): New York cop Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973 – which might as well be another planet – in an adaptation of a BBC drama. Michael Imperioli (”The Sopranos”) also stars, with Harvey Keitel as Sam’s lieutenant and Gretchen Mol as a 1973 rarity: a female detective.

Friday

“Crusoe” (9 p.m., NBC, premieres Oct. 17): A 13-episode adaptation of the Daniel Defoe classic stars Philip Winchester as 17th-century castaway Robinson Crusoe and Tongayi Chirisa as his man Friday.

“The Ex List” (9 p.m., CBS, premieres Oct. 3): Elizabeth Reaser (“Grey’s Anatomy”) is Bella Bloom, a scattered young woman who is told by a psychic that she’s already met her future husband and that she needs to marry him within a year or she’ll wind up a spinster, in this occasionally crude comedy-drama. (2 1/2 stars)


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