Fall Television Preview:
What the big five have in store for us...
Unsurprisingly, since the last time I hammered out this list, the networks have axed a whopping twenty-one shows that I painstakingly summarized (and sometimes with less accuracy than anticipated). This might be a sign that I should maybe stop writing television previews, as the television schedule is far less predictable than the next celebrity meltdown. But as with anything in life, I must accept that nothing lasts forever - or, in this case, twenty-two episodes. So as CBS struggles to stay number one in the coveted 25-54 age bracket (and didn't it seem like we just making fun of CBS' geriatric appeal a couple of years back?), and NBC tries to drag itself out of fourth place, what do the networks have in store for us? And will we like it? Let's tune in to find out. ¤ C.Ho.
If You Like Movie Stars Who Make the Leap to the Small Screen…
Commander-in-Chief (ABC, Tuesdays 9:00-10:00)
Those kooky guys over at ABC are at it again, and this time, we've jumped to 2025 and there's an actual female president, and she looks strikingly like Geena Davis. Not only is she a happily married career woman, mother of teenaged twins and a six year old, she's also next in line to inherit the Presidential role. Rather than be voted in (because, honestly, can we really swallow that in this social climate?), she's the successor to an ailing president. Not everyone in the oval office is happy for this turn of events, especially mean ol' Donald Sutherland, who also stars.
Status: Decent, but not good enough to last.
Heather Graham is Emily, a woman we're sure is not neurotic about relationships at all.
Emily's Reasons Why Not (ABC, Mondays 9:00-9:30)
Based on a book by Carrie Gerlach of the same name, this half hour sitcom stars Heather Graham, who got a taste of television while guest starring on "Scrubs," as the titular Emily, a successful publisher who has a number one novel under her belt. Unfortunately, she has just broken up with said author of the best-selling tome and, scorned in love, decides to start following the "Reasons" - not as in "reason" or "good sense," but as in a unabashed rip-off of The Rules. But instead of following a list of things that she can do to land a husband, Emily will follow a list of reasons as to why she shouldn't date a possible suitor.
Status: "Emily's Reasons Why Not" isn't off to a great start (or, more aptly, no start at all) - ABC is bringing it in as a mid-season replacement. And then...cancelled it.
Everybody Hates Chris (UPN, Thursdays 8:00-8:30)
No they don't, but Chris Rock wasn't having it, so he decided to executive produce his own show to prove it. A young Chris (Tyler Williams) grows up in the early '80s in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, where he attends a predominantly white school. He's the eldest of three children, and has steadfast, hardworking parents in the form of Tichina Arnold ("Martin") and Terry Crews. Rock brings his usual charm and sense of humour through voice-overs very similar to another show we all loved to watch when we were actually in the '80s, "The Wonder Years."
Four Kings (NBC, Midseason)
From the creators of "Will & Grace" comes this comedy about four childhood chums who are now young adults living in New York. The friends in question are prototypical opposites: Ben (Josh Cooke, fresh off the cancelled "Committed") is a perennial slacker; Bobby (Shane McRae) is dumb; Jason (Todd Grinnell) is uptight and anal; and Barry (Seth Green, who, after Without A Paddle, should know better) is loud and obnoxious. With all these great and not at all exasperating, two-dimensional characters, the show should be around for years to come.
Status: Gone, baby, gone.
Freddie (ABC, Wednesdays 8:30-9:00)
Freddie (Freddie Prinze, Jr., who, in my humble opinion, really doesn't deserve to have a show named after him) is a successful chef and restaurateur who owns a bitchin' bachelor pad. (Contrived) conflict comes in the form of his sister, sister-in-law, niece, and spunky grandmother. They travel together like a pack of hungry wolves and move in with Freddie when his brother-in-law dies. This, of course, forces Freddie to compromise as he copes with living with four (surely annoying and loud, or as they say in television land, "sassy") women who probably have no respect for his lifestyle or personal space. Manly relief comes in the form of best friend Chris, played by 90210 alumni Brian (Austin) Green. In the pilot, Freddie's sister and grandmother wait up for Freddie after a date, and berate him for coming home at all hours. Even though Freddie is probably in his late twenties. And has lived on his own for years. And is paying the rent.
Chris O'Donnell is crazy! Just look at his uncombed hair and orange t-shirt!
Head Cases (FOX, Wednesdays 9:00-10:00)
Attorney Jason Payne (Chris O'Donnell) has it all (and doesn't everybody on television shows start out this way?), but it all goes downhill (like it always does) when his wife Laurie (Krista Allen) kicks him out of the house. Jason has a nervous breakdown and checks into a "wellness centre," where he spends the next three months. As a way to have a support system on the outside, Jason's psychiatrist pairs him up with Schultz (Adam Goldberg, A Beautiful Mind), a lawyer with an anger management problem. Although Schultz is too much for Jason to handle at first, he eventually starts to warm up to the crazy guy, and they team up to fight for justice by taking on "underdog" cases. Rachel Leigh Cook also stars as Kate, a young woman Jason befriends at the "wellness centre."
Status: Faster than you can say, "What happened to Chris O'Donnell?," the show has been cancelled after a measly two episodes.
My Name is Earl (NBC, Tuesdays 9:00-9:30)
Earl (Jason Lee) is a soulless, small-time crook and self-proclaimed loser who wins the lottery, gets hit by a car before he can cash his winning ticket, and winds up in the hospital with broken bones and free cable. While watching Carson Daly on television, he has an epiphany and decides to make amends with all those that he's robbed, conned, and wronged. Unfortunately, it's hard for Earl to be a good guy when ex-wife Joy (Jaime Pressly) and ne'er-doer brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) won't leave him alone.
Night Stalker (ABC, Thursdays 9:00-10:00)
Night Stalker offers not only one, but two big screen actors who are trying their hand at a more consistent salary on the small screen. Stuart Townsend, last seen as Charlize Theron's arm candy, stars in this remake of this 1972 television show as Carl Kolchak, a crime reporter whose wife was murdered 18 months ago. If that didn't suck enough, he's the number one suspect in the crime, and goes on the lam. When a pregnant woman is snatched from her home, Carl suspects foul play. This is compounded by the fact that victims are popping up everywhere with red snake-like marks on their hands. Aided by the very excellent Gabrielle Union as Perri Reed, a fellow reporter who plays Scully to his Mulder, Carl embarks on a supernatural journey to expose the truth.
Status: Pretty, but no cigar.
Pepper Dennis (WB, Midseason)
Pepper is really hot, because she looks just like Rebecca Romjin. She's an ambitious reporter in Chicago who can't help but sleep with her boss (Josh Hopkins). To complicate matters, Pepper's equally hot sister Kathy (Brooke Burns), a spoiled, needy mess who just got separated from her husband, decides she misses her big sis and comes to Chicago. D'oh for Pepper!
Status: Good, but not good enough to last.
The residents of Silver Lake lie, scheme, and bed each other every Tuesday night.
Sex, Lies & Secrets (UPN, Tuesdays 9:00-10:00)
When you include "sex" in a title, you expect to get some, and the early buzz on this show is that it delivers just that. How could it not when it stars Denise Richards and Eric Balfour? You gotta milk it when you can, even if the title is a rip-off of a Steven Sodenbergh film and the plot is straight out of a daytime soap opera. So there's a group of people who live in a mythical place called Silver Lake, which is not exactly in Hollywood but close enough to have surprise cameos. The show follows the lives of these twenty-somethings as they tackle treachery, betrayal, and hot monkey lust. Status: UPN changed the show's name to "Sex, Love & Secrets," and yet, surprisingly, this did little to protect the show from cancellation.
South Beach (UPN, Midseason)
Executive producer Jennifer Lopez is still keepin' it real after all these years by helming a show about the steamy nightlife in South Beach. In this glossy drama, best friends Matt (Marcus Coloma) and Vince (Chris Johnson) jet off to Miami to start life anew. Matt stalks, er, follows his ex-girlfriend and gets caught up in the naughty world of high fashion (in Miami?), while Vince gets the much less glamorous plotline as he uncovers the city's shifty underbelly. Vanessa L. Williams also co-stars as a tough hotelier, which kind of sounds like she's actually been cast on another show. The network describes South Beach as "The O.C. meets the Sopranos," which gives me the hope that annoying characters will be offed in a cameo by James Gandolfini. No word on whether we will be forced to hear Jennifer Lopez or Marc Anthony on the soundtrack.
Status: Was this even on?
Twins (WB, Fridays 8:30-9:00)
From the producers of "Will & Grace" comes this comedy about twins (fraternal, I suppose, since the actresses cast look nothing alike, and also because they look like they've been born years apart); like the 1988 film of the same name, these sisters could not be any more different, which always equals laughs, right? Mitchee (Sara Gilbert) is a savvy businesswoman, while Farrah (Molly Stanton), in case we couldn't gather from her name, is a ditzy lingerie model. When the two set out to run their parents' lingerie business, heads will roll. Also stars Mark Linn-Baker ("Perfect Strangers") as dad, and pouty Melanie Griffith as mom.
Status: Even the power of Melanie Griffith's lips could not save this one.
War At Home (FOX, Sundays 8:30-9:00)
When Michael Rapaport plays dad, you know he's going to be kinda cool. But even he's no match for boisterous teenagers and raging hormones (although he did okay in "Boston Public"): Mike (Dean Collins) is thirteen and obsessed with video games and prepubescent lust, Larry (Kyle Sullivan) is fifteen and unpopular, and Hillary (Kaylee Defer) is sixteen and starting to discover boys. Because this concept has been done to death, producers have brought in a twist: throughout the episode, characters will reveal their deepest thoughts in a confessional space.
Status: After two seasons, the show was finally put out of its misery.
If You Like Television Actors Who Try Other (and Hopefully Better) Shows…
Crumbs (ABC, Midseason)
Mitch (Fred Savage) and Jack (Eddie McClintock) Crumb are brothers who have nothing in common. Mitch went off to Hollywood to start a career but failed miserably (insert your own meta-Fred Savage joke here), while Jack stayed behind in New England to run the family business. But when mom (Jane Curtin) goes a little psycho and tries to run down her no-good, cheating husband (William DeVane), the brothers reunite to take care of her once she's completed her stay at a mental health facility. Unfortunately, deadbeat dad has used this time to impregnate his much-younger girlfriend. Will mom snap when she finds out? Will she verbally attack his libido with sassy insults? Will Mitch voiceover about his lost childhood and his girlfriend Winnie?
Status: A little off-beat, and a whole lot of unfunny.
Benjamin channels the Boy Scouts of America, while Dennis does a mean Johnny Carson.
E-Ring (NBC, Wednesdays 9:00-10:00)
Jerry Bruckheimer teams up with Taylor Hackford (Ray) to bring us a show about the inner workings of the Pentagon. It's like "The West Wing," but instead of Martin Sheen we get Dennis Hopper, and instead of Allison Janney we get Benjamin Bratt in a grown-up Boy Scout uniform. But onto the good stuff: "24"'s Sarah Clarke is listed as Bratt's on-screen wife, but rumours abound that her role has been scrapped because she didn't agree with test audiences, who would rather see Bratt as a raging bachelor. What, they couldn't cut her a break and just kill her off at the end of the season like everyone else?
Status: Bruckheimer and Hackford should stick to the big screen.
The Gate (FOX, Fridays 9:00-10:00)
Since this is a working title only, it remains to be seen what will actually become of this show. But what we do know is that Detective Graham Hale (Johnny Messner) and Lt. Matt Cavanaugh (Chi McBride of "Boston Public") work for San Francisco's Deviant Crime Unit, investigating "bizarre" crimes by "dangerous" criminals (as opposed to the safe type of criminal we're so fond of). Rookie detective Ava Lyford (Marguerite Moreau) rounds the squad. She may possibly have a hidden agenda because, as television taught us, you can't really work for a police unit without carrying one around. The show opens with Graham returning to the squad after a one-year absence following his partner's death. He's probably going to be a little moody for a while.
Status: The cancellation upside is that you can now watch Chi McBride on the much better "Pushing Daisies."
Ghost Whisperer (CBS, Fridays 8:00-9:00)
Poor Jennifer Love Hewitt: besides starring in a generic Enrique Iglesias music video and promoting skin care products, the girl hasn't gotten much action. Her "Party of Five" spin-off, "Time of Your Life," was cancelled pretty quickly, and the sitcom she signed on for last year, in which she would play a spunky sportscaster, never materialized. So what is a failing actress with great skin to do? Well, she might star in a new supernatural thriller about a woman who can communicate with the dead, leading her on a whole bunch of wacky adventures to tie up the loose ends that these pesky ghosts keep bothering her about. In her spare time, she also runs an antiques shop with friend Aisha Tyler, and gets married to David Conrad. This show is based on the CBS mini-series, "Living With the Dead," which in turn is based on the life of famed psychic James Van Praagh; Mary Ann Winkowski, a real life ghost chaser and Van Praagh's best friend, acts as a consultant on the show.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS, Mondays 8:30-9:00)
Told in flashbacks, Ted (Josh Radnor) recounts how he met his wife, Robin (Cobie Smulders). Along for the ride are Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan as the couple's friends, and Bob Saget, who does his voice-over thing.
Inconceivable (NBC, Fridays 10:00-11:00)
The dedicated doctors at the Family Options Family Clinic are in the business of helping barren couples conceive. Like all medical dramas, these doctors are quite self-absorbed and hook up with their co-workers more often than real life dictates. In fact, "these doctors are often distracted by their personal quests involving sex, deception, and secrets." Is it too much to ask for doctors who actually care about something besides themselves? Ming-Na, whose "ER" training should come in handy with the self-absorbed doctor part, stars. Also in the mix are Jonathan Cake and last-minute addition Angie Harmon. The latter plays a doctor with a questionable past.
Status: What was really inconceivable was this show doing well, so NBC gave it the axe before we got to find out what kind of questionable past any of these people may have had.
Holly Robison Pete poses with co-star Sha--, er. Good thing we got the udpated cast photo.
Love Inc. (UPN, Thursdays 9:30-10:00)
Controversy follows Shannen Doherty wherever she goes, and "Love Inc." is just the latest. Faster than you can say "hissy-fit," "prima donna," and "wild cat," it seems that the producers of this half-hour sitcom have pulled the plug on Doherty's character, Denise Johnson, a woman who runs a successful dating consultation business but has trouble finding a match to call her own. Her other "big name" co-star, Holly Robinson Pete (who appears more on Oprah than she does on her own shows), steps up as the lead instead, and is joined by Reagan Gomez-Prestin, Ion Overman, and Vince Vieluf.
Status: Blink and you missed it.
Misconceptions (WB, Midseason)
Last time we saw Jane Leeves, she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy on "Frasier." But this time, she's a single mom raising a teenaged daughter (Taylor Momsen, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) unfortunately named Hopper. It seems mom took a trip to an Ivy League sperm bank, and was artificially inseminated thirteen years ago. Since Ivy Legue sperm banks don't do background checks very well, she's chagrined to find that the donor was not in fact a Yale-graduating surgeon but a beer-guzzling, uncivilized shmoe named Eddie DiCaprio (Adam Rothenberg). When Hopper decides that she wants Eddie in her life, straight-laced mom has to learn to put up with the annoying oaf. Which shouldn't be too much of a stretch, considering her best friend is played by French Stewart ("Third Rock From the Sun").
Status: Was this even on?
[ Alien invasions, unscrupulous lawyers, and the return of Fonzie. Part II of the preview. ]