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TV preview

TV preview With all of the TV networks announcing their fall lineups recently, I felt now was a good time to give you all an introduction to all of the new shows, and more importantly, to tell you how long all of these shows will last. More impressively, I am doing this based solely on the one paragraph blurbs the networks have provided on their web sites. Also, I will attempt to answer the one burning question of the 2004-05 season: Will NBC, ABC, and UPN still be financially solvent a year from now. (Hell, I can answer that immediately: NOPE!)

ABC- These guys needed the most help, and they don't get it. They canceled most of the shows that debuted last fall, which was desperately needed since most of them sucked. They also say good-bye to "Drew Carey" causing husbands to turn to their wives (or in Massachusetts, wives to turn to their wives) and say, "I thought they canceled that show three years ago." Then they also canceled "Alias." This was a bold move, assuming you think the definition of bold is "incredibly stupid." You have Jenny Garner, the hot young actress who seems to be everywhere, and the one project she is most readily identifiable with is an action packed TV drama with a cult following. So you cut the cord. The plus side is this will free her up to do more movies, which is where she belongs anyway, and who knows, maybe Disney has her under contract and wants her to go where the big money is, but still. So, on to the new shows.

Sunday at 9 is "Desperate Housewives" staring a bunch of women like Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman who you go months and months without thinking about and then they show up on Conan and you realize you kind of recognize them. It is a family drama narrated by a woman who has just offed herself. Episode 1 will involve the rest of the cast in shock. Episode 2 will be the funeral. Episode 3 will be them sitting around in silence asking each other why this would happen. I can't see them keeping this up for long. Sure, "Providence" kept up the gag of the older daughter talking to her dead mom, but they only did it for five minutes each episode and by the end of the run it was quite stale. I cannot see any better fate for "Desperate Housewives." I give it half a season.

At 10 is "The Practice: Fleet Street." At first "The Practice" was one of those cute little shows that you didn't really have to invest much in emotionally or intellectually and in return it was good when you just needed the TV on and didn't want to watch it really. Then it went downhill. James Spader showed up last fall in what everyone knew would be the last season and renewed his evil rich guy persona he honed in such Brat Pack films as "Pretty in Pink." You absolutely hated the guy, but he was still entertaining. Now the original show has died and been reborn with Spader's character in tow lest we not get tied down by nagging feelings of guilt over the cast members that were fired in 2003. Joining Spader will be. . .wait for it, wait for it. . . .William Shatner. Yes, THAT William Shatner. James T. F'n Kirk as a high priced Boston lawyer. Back in college my friends and I had a running joke where we would often get drunk and pitch each other these horrid ideas that would surely turn out to be, if produced, some of the worst entertainment ever. "Hey, let's do a lawyer drama with James Spader and William Shatner," seems like one of those ideas. I'll admit I am mildly curious about the dynamic between those two actors. On novelty value alone, I give it one year.

Monday at 8, "The Benefactor" with Mark Cuban. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks is entertaining when he rips on NBA officials and I'm sure he can carry his own reality show. They'll do it once and people will watch, but like all reality shows, they'll do it a second time and no one will. I give it two seasons.

Tuesday at 9:30 it's "Rodney" starring no one I've ever heard of. Rodney Carrington plays the title character, a stand up comedian who keeps getting fired from his day jobs. Maybe Jon Favreau's character in "Swingers" had the right impression after all. Maybe they really DO give out sitcom deals to comedians at the airport. I give it four episodes.

Wednesday at 8 is "Lost," a drama about 48 people who survive a plane crash and are trapped on some island somewhere. There are books, movies and reality shows that explore the same theme. With the exception of the reality show, I am sure they are all much better. I give it two episodes.

Wednesday at 10 it's "Wife Swap." Hopefully this premise proves so morally offensive it will kill the entire reality genre. We are all fortunate they did not broadcast this when the New York Yankees did it in the 1970's. I give it six episodes.

Thursday at 9 they have "Life as We Know It," advertised as a teen drama. The three main characters are described as a sensitive jock, a camera touting artist, and a straight-A student whose folks are nonplused. When the show was known as "Dawson's Creek" these characters were named Jack, Dawson, and Joey respectively. In real life, high school students fitting these descriptions would not be friends with each other. But this is TV and they will be inseparable, at least for the show's four episode run.

Friday at 8:30 we have "Savages." It's a sitcom about a family of sloppy boys starring Keith Carradine. Luckily the Friday time slot ensures no one will ever watch it. I give it one season.

CBS, America's top rated network, needed the least amount of help, so of course, they get the most. The newcomers of the 2004-2005 season will essentially help CBS pad their lead.

Mondays at 8:30 is "Listen Up," Jason Alexander's new sitcom based on the life of Tony Kornheiser. Mr. Tony's Washington Post column is entertaining, as is one of the truly inspirational shows on TV, "PTI." About a decade ago CBS came up with "Dave's World" based on the writings of humorist Dave Barry. With the new century comes a new show based on a humorist who bills himself as fat bald and orange. Malcolm-Jamal Warner plays Wilbon. I'll admit, I am a big fan of "PTI" and was a big fan of Mr. Tony's radio show (which someone desperately needs to bring back) and I feel the source material ought to lead to a great show. I give it six seasons.

Tuesdays at 9 is "Clubhouse" about the batboy for a baseball team obviously meant to be the New York Yankees, but not, probably because of licensing issues. The network web site says the protagonist will be mentored by "a gruff but fair equipment manager" and an all-star third baseman. I cannot imagine any scenario where this works. I give it three episodes.

Wednesday's at 9:30 is "Center of the Universe" starring John Goodman. It's a family sitcom with Goodman essentially playing straight man to a cast of oddball relatives which include Ed Asner, Olympia Dukakis, and Deidrich Bader. Hey, it worked on "Everybody Loves Raymond." I give it five seasons.

Wednesdays at 10 is "CSI: New York." We actually got a sneak peak at this one with the "CSI: Miami" episode that sets up the spin-off. Gary Sinise leads a cast full of talent. One of the ingenious aspects of the other two programs in the paddock is the way the city plays its own role and gives the show some extra character. In the original show there are crimes in casinos and bodies dumped in the desert. In the second installment there are crimes at posh nightclubs and bodies dumped in the Everglades. There are not too many cities with more character than New York, which will serve as a major positive, despite the fact that there already are a number of New York set crime dramas. The NY scenes in "CSI: Miami" were shot with a very gray background which counterpoints the vibrant colors of the scenes set in Miami and reminded me of the movie "Payback" but I hope they don't keep that up for the entire series run. I give it five seasons.

Fridays at 10 is "Dr. Vegas." Joe Pantoliano and Rob Lowe take another shot at this television thing after both had highly touted shows last fall that failed to catch on. This happens to be the same night, time and network as Pantoliano's show from last year, "The Handler" which I thought was well done and deserved better. If that show failed to survive, what chance does this one have? Lowe plays a doctor who becomes the on-site physician at a casino. There is also a nurse and blackjack dealer thrown into the fun, because the network figured, hey, the show needs more hot women. I give it 12 episodes.

FOX is ignoring the concept of TV seasons entirely by debuting most of their new shows in the summer. With the World Series on their schedule in October they had previously been debuting shows in November, after everyone else. Now they go first. The concept of the September through May TV season was never actually written into the Constitution, so if FOX wants to do something innovative they can, and more power to them for having the guts to do what others don't.

With Arrested Development moving to 8:30 Sundays, its old time slot goes to the new Andy Richter sitcom "Quintuplets." You have to be innovative to win a spot on FOX's Sunday lineup and this show has the premise that could fulfill that. While most family sitcoms throw in one kid from each age group (rebellious teen, genius preteen, cute elementary school kid and/or infant) "Quintuplets" obviously has all five of the family's children the same age, 15. I give it four seasons.

Mondays at 8 is "North Shore." It's a drama filled with young adults set at an upscale hotel in Hawaii. I guess Hawaii is the hot state to set a TV show this year. You'd think Delaware would get jealous. I give it one year.

The other hot state for a TV show (thanks to "CSI") is Nevada. Mondays at 9 is a new reality series, "Casino," which strikes me as similar to NBC's "Restaurant" except, you know, in a casino. Mark Burnett continues in his never-ending quest to take a dump on your mind with this show about two guys with money and the kind of ego that makes them want to be on TV really bad (or in this case really bad TV). I give it one season.

Tuesdays at 8:30 (and for some reason also Wednesdays at 9:30) is "Method and Red." Anyone want to take a guess as to which two rappers star in this show? They move their parties to an upscale New Jersey community where the folks next door are not entirely happy with them. Though Fish Out of Water is a conventional tactic in comedy, it can be pulled off with the right combination of writers and actors. Methodman and Red Man have displayed great chemistry with each other in previous projects. One writer Kell Cahoon is a veteran of "Larry Sanders Show." The other writer, Will Gluck, did some work on underrated shows "John Larroquotte," "Working," and "Single Guy." I give it three seasons.

Tuesdays at 9 is "The Jury." Each week is a new case, and as such a new cast. Unlike other crime dramas where the guy arrested is guilty so that we get the sense of good guys winning, guilt will be in doubt here to provide drama. On it's surface it looks to be fresh and innovative, but will it just be yet another crime drama based in New York? I give it two seasons.

NBC's brave new world begins with "LAX" Mondays at 10. This is one of those shows that has a fresh premise, but could either be very good or very bad. Blair Underwood and Heather Locklear are back on TV, I guess because they have nothing better to do with their lives. NBC's web page introducing the show promises drug busts and missing children, which is what I would expect from a drama set in an airport, but they also mention power struggles. What, the manager of the Cinnabon near gate G-5 wants to take some of the coffee business away from the Coffee Beanery by gate G-4? Going on nothing more than a guess, I give it three years.

Tuesdays at 9 on "Father of the Pride" fans of Siegfried and Roy get an up close look at the very performers who ate Roy's face, the white lions. The animated series will feature the voices of John Goodman, Carl Reiner, and Orlando Jones, a trio I would normally compliment as heavyweights in comedy and three people anyone would be proud to have together on one project. Here is my major concern. The good prime time animated shows ("Simpsons," "South Park," "Critic") deal in social commentary, parody, and satire. If the Vegas magic duo lent their name and identities to the project, I don't think this show will try for satire. Hopefully this won't kill any careers. I give it six episodes.

Wednesdays at 8 we get "Hawaii." In case you missed "Magnum P.I." here it is again. The main difference of course is that this time around no one is wearing a Tigers hat. But hey, where Thomas Magnum got a surprise visit from Tiger shortstop Alan Trammel, maybe this new cast 20 years later can get a surprise visit from Tiger manager Alan Trammel. I don't think a whole lot here is going to be creative. I give it one season.

Thursdays at 8 it's "Joey." Of all the insipid sextet from "Friends" they made the absolute worst choice in giving this twerp a spin-off. The sad part is there are fans of the old show left somewhere who will watch this thing. Ratings talk with TV execs and even though this show will be absolutely painful to watch, I give it two years.

Just when you thought every governmental organization had a show about its exploits, along comes "Medical Investigations" Fridays at 10 which looks inside the National Institutes of Health. When does the Forest Service get its show? What about the DEQ? "Medical Investigations" will doubtless be this season's "Threat Matrix" meaning blink and you'll miss it. I give it four episodes.

Because what the world really needs is another reality show, Tuesdays at 8 we get "The Contender." Some of the biggest names in boxing, like Sly Stalone, team up to find someone, anyone, with enough personality to get people interested in boxing once again, thus saving the sport from Don King. Personally I can't wait for this media darling to spark some interest, then get crushed in the ring by IBF champion Chris Bird. I give it two seasons.

Tag-teaming with "West Wing" in the Wednesdays at 9 time slot is "Revelations" a show certain to appeal to the Montana loner crowd. NBC claims the show is about the end of the world, which reminds me of every season finale of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" only this show won't be half as fun. Right wing nutcases from the Unibomber to the President will love it. No one else will. Wasn't there a show a couple years ago that dealt with some guy running around investigating stigmata and stuff? Didn't that only last a few weeks? Same here. I give it four episodes.

In the era of "Felicity," "Dawson's Creek," and "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" it looked like the WB was on its way to being on top of the world. With all three of those shows in the past the network has not yet found any replacements with anywhere near as much cultural significance. "Enterprise" never took off like some people thought it would. "Seventh Heaven" is closer tot he end of its run that the beginning. "What I Like About You" could be that show, but it has never gotten a time slot that would allow it to take off like it should. The WB needs a big show that will get people to pay attention to it.

Sundays at 9 is "Jack and Bobby," a drama about two teenagers, one of whom we find out through flashforewards will become President in about 40 years or so. This is another one of those shows with a unique premise that will depend entirely on execution. It could be gone after a month. It could last several years. I give it four years.

With "Angel" being dusted by network execs, the Wednesday at 8 time slot is available and the powers that be went in a very different direction with "Blue Collar TV." It's a sitcom staring Jeff Foxworthy. Unfortunately there isn't much information the network's web site provides about the show, other than the fact that it and the show after it are "unique." I hope so. I'm not certain it will be of course. I give it six episodes.

Wednesday at 9:30 comes "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show." It's basically the green screen skit from "Who's Line is it Anyway" stretched to a full hour. It was a good skit, but come on. Keeping it up for 30 minutes every week will kill it quickly. I give it 10 episodes.

The network's web site does the service of mentioning that Thursdays used to be trouble, because NBC's juggernaut of comedies drew people in to one channel for the entire evening. Then "CSI" took a big chunk right out of the middle by constantly winning the 9-10 time slot, and since NBC has utterly given up, the 8 o'clock hour is up for grabs. The WB enters the contest with "The Mountain," a drama about a man who inherits a ski resort in Utah. It will either be essentially "Dallas" set in Ogden or "The OC" set in Provo. I haven't decided yet. I give it three seasons.

Thursdays at 9 is "Studio 7" which is evidently a combination reality show and quiz show. Contestants will live with each other for a week to learn strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, then they try to use that knowledge to their advantage when it comes time to answer questions. Why can't they just start up a professional quiz bowl league? I give it one season.

Fridays at 9:30 is "Commando Nanny" based on the life of reality producer and destroyer of civilizations Mark Burnett. A former British soldier signs on to look after some rich guy's kids. Didn't Hulk Hogan star in a movie with that premise? Geez, if rich people had time to look after their own children there would be far fewer sitcoms. I give it six episodes.

Oh, hey, UPN still exists, for now.

Mondays at 9:30 is "Second Time Around" about a couple who married sometime in the past, then divorced, then remarried, and all the while everyone around them throws advise their way. Sounds, well, contrived. It may be entertaining enough to last on UPN, but what lasts on UPN might well be the type of show that would quickly disappear elsewhere. The show will last three seasons and no one will notice.

Tuesdays at 9 is "Veronica Mars" set in Neptune (a seaside resort town, not the eighth planet from the sun). The title character is a 17 year old high school student/ apprentice private investigator who digs up dirt on all the rich people who control the town and the school. This ought to create some very vile antagonists because, let's face it, we can all get behind hating snobbish rich kids. This show seems like the kind of shot in the arm the network needs. Everyone brags about fresh and unique shows, and most of them are lying. This time UPN avoids both adjectives in their synopsis, although both would seem to fit. I give it four seasons.

Tag-teaming with "America's Next Top Model" in the Wednesday at 8 time slot is "Missy Elliott Project." It is essentially the same idea, only the winner will land a hip-hop gig instead of a modeling deal. It's a reality show so it's inexpensive, and it's on UPN so it's unlikely to be canceled. I give it three seasons.

Taye Diggs shows up Wednesdays at 9 in "Kevin Hill," a drama about an entertainment lawyer who quits his job and party-boy lifestyle when he is left in charge on his late cousin's infant daughter. Why is it that in the land of fiction people always name the irresponsible partier in their wills as the legal guardian of their kids? So our title character joins an all-female law firm that is more friendly toward parents. I give it one season, but only because I doubt UPN would be able to find anything to replace it.

FOX will begin debuting shows in a few weeks and everything else shows up in the fall. From time to time in this space I will check back and see how i did with these predictions. Feel free to have yur say. If you think one of my predictions is off, make your own.

comments (1) 06-12-2004

The People's Comments:

Eric, from what I've heard, meaning from the wife... 'Alias' will be back on Jan. 2005. Just a little FYI... Spike

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