Bullz-Eye's 2007 Fall TV Preview: Fox
As ever, Fox is entering its new season with all smiles, hoping we'll forget how many good shows from last season got the axe without really getting much of a chance. (We're thinking "Drive," specifically, but the second season of "The Loop" qualifies, too.) Given that three of the five new series are reality-based and the network's best dramas are being saved for mid-season, though, we're a little mystified about their fall game plan.
Anchorwoman (Wednesday, August 22 @ 8:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Lauren Jones, Phil Hurley, Annalisa Petralia, Dan Delgado, Michelle Reese
Producers: Brian Gadinsky, Josh Bingham, Chad Damiani, J.P. Lavin
Network's Description: Phil Hurley is the owner of a middle-market Texas news station, KYTX Channel 19. Willing to do anything to get viewers to tune in to his newscasts in a highly competitive local market, Phil has shocked the station and town of Tyler, Texas, by bringing in a gorgeous model and ex-WWE diva with no previous news experience to be his next anchorwoman. Former Miss New York and über-vixen Lauren Jones packs up her Versace dresses and heads to Tyler to start a new career. Can this bombshell make it as a serious reporter? Will she save KYTX, or make it the laughingstock of the Lone Star State? Lauren wants to show everyone she's no airhead, and this is her big chance to prove she's more than just a pretty face. The entire newsroom thinks the boss has made a giant mistake. Reigning anchor Annalisa Petralia is not about to lose her Queen Bee status to some L.A. hottie. News Director Dan Delgado is fit to be tied, fearful his beloved journalistic standards will go out the window. Michelle Reese, a hard-nosed reporter bound for CNN, will take no prisoners. Lauren has a big job in front of her as she struggles to fit in with her news team and an unfamiliar town.
The Buzz: Given that this is the network that brought you Paris and Nicole living "The Simple Life," Fox is as good a place as any for this "reality sitcom." As you watch the show, though, and see how completely and totally clueless Jones is when she arrives at KYTX, you can't help but feel that the percentage of actual reality within "Anchorwoman" is pretty slim.
Pilot Highlight: The frustration and unabashed disgust of the KYTX crew as they watch Jones flail and fumble her way through her trial run at the news desk, a train wreck which ends with her blowing a kiss at the camera.
Bottom Line: There are laughs here, but this feels like something that's been sitting on a shelf for several years rather than a new series. It's probably starting early because Fox expects it'll end early as well.
Update: After the premiere episode of “Anchorwoman,” which aired before this piece went to print but after it was already written, Fox promptly yanked the show from its line-up. Yikes. The remaining episodes are, however, being made available online…you know, for the five or six people who might be interested in seeing how Jones’s saga unfolds.
Nashville (Friday, September 14 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Jeff Allen, Rachel Bradshaw, Mika Combs, Sarah Gunsolus, Lindsey Hager, Matt Jenkins, Jamey Johnson, Clint Moseley, Monty Powell, Chuck Wicks
Producers: Gary Auerbach, Julie Auerbach
Network's Description: From the creative minds behind the series "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" comes a high-stakes, high-drama docu-soap set in "the biggest small town in America." The show focuses on the dreamers and dream-makers in the music industry, as well as those trying to make their mark on Nashville's big business and high society. The show follows a diverse and vibrant young cast perched on the cusp of achieving their greatest successes in a town that can make you or break you. Talent, power, drive, love and hope are the fuel that makes Nashville burn bright -- and makes this unique place the true embodiment of the American Dream. Behind every song there's a story waiting to be told, and there are many such stories on this show.
The Buzz: It's a bunch of good-looking folks singing songs, and it might well grab the attention of the country-loving viewers out there, but it's a far cry from the reality that struggling musicians in Nashville experience every day.
Pilot Highlight: No pilot available.
Bottom Line: Following Jeff Foxworthy and "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader" is a smooth scheduling move on Fox's part, and it's possible that the show's escapism might catch the interest of people who are home watching TV on a Friday night. Personally, though, we'd rather listen to average-looking people singing top-notch Americana than watch pretty people singing the polished radio fodder than passes for today's country music.
K-Ville (Monday, September 17 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Anthony Anderson, Cole Hauser, Tawny Cypress, Blake Shields, John Carroll Lynch
Producers: Jonathan Lisco, Craig Silverstein
Network's Description: A heroic police drama set -- and filmed -- in New Orleans. Two years after Katrina, parts of the city are still in chaos, but hope has emerged. Battling an upsurge of violence, understaffing of police forces and a lack of crime labs and other facilities, the cops who remain in the New Orleans Police Department have courage to burn and a passion to reclaim and rebuild their city. Martin Boulet is a brash, wry, in-your-face veteran of the NOPD's Felony Action Squad, the specialized unit that targets the most-wanted criminals. Even when his partner deserted him during the storm, Boulet held his post, spending days in the water saving lives and keeping order. Now, two years later, he's unapologetic about bending the rules when it comes to collaring bad guys. The stakes are too high, and the city too fragile, for him to do things by the book. Boulet's new partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser), was a soldier in Afghanistan before joining the NOPD. He's tough and committed, but if he's less than comfortable with Boulet's methods, it's because he's harboring a dark secret. Cobb has come to New Orleans seeking redemption, but redemption can be dangerous. Will Boulet be able to trust him? Will Cobb's past endanger them both? Rounding out the crew are wisecracking Jeff "Glue Boy" Gooden (Blake Shields), the team's comic relief; tough-as-nails Ginger "Love Tap" LeBeau (Tawny Cypress), the only female on the squad; and Captain James Embry (John Carroll Lynch), who wrangles the eclectic personalities of his squad with equal parts humor and tenacity. Through its no-holds-barred crime stories and dramatic personal stories, this intriguing series will take viewers from the Victorian mansions of the Garden District to the rubble of the Lower 9th Ward.
The Buzz: The concern that the series might somehow be preying on people's sympathies toward New Orleans to score viewers has begun to dissipate with word that the show is actually helping the city's economy by actually filming there, but to be brutally honest, how long can people's interest last if hurricane recovery is the driving force of the show?
Pilot Highlight: When a suspicious Boulet confronts Cobb about how a guy who's never lived in New Orleans can successfully find his away around a city with precious few street signs.
Bottom Line: With its blend of '70s-styled cop action with heavy-handed sentimentality toward staying put in the city of New Orleans despite the hardships involved (not that there's anything wrong with taking pride in your city, but this came off as pure schmaltz), "K-Ville" is gonna need some serious tightening up to last for any significant length.
Back to You (Wednesday, September 19 @ 8:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Fred Willard, Ty Burrell, Josh Gad, Ayda Field, Laura Marano
Producers: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd
Network's Description: In the '90s, the local TV news scene in Pittsburgh was dominated by one team: Chuck Darling and Kelly Carr. They had that elusive quality all news teams need: chemistry ... at least on-screen. Off-screen, Chuck was a bit of a self-centered womanizer, Kelly a bit of an uptight know-it-all. When Chuck grabbed the chance to move up to a larger market, no tears were shed. But after an embarrassing on-air tirade ended up on the Internet, Chuck found himself on the downswing career-wise. He even questioned whether his lifestyle of chasing women and living in hotels was as exciting as it used to be. So when he got the call to return to Pittsburgh, to reunite with Kelly and try to take the newscast back to No. 1, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. Back in Pittsburgh, Chuck and Kelly reteam with familiar faces including Marsh McGinley, the affable, endlessly inappropriate sports anchor, and Gary Crezyzewski, pronounced Kre-shoov-ski, the perennially put-upon field reporter who always seems to get left out in the cold; and they have a few new coworkers: Ryan Church, the under qualified, overstressed news director, and Montana Diaz Herrera, the perky, sexy, somewhat inept weather anchor. But perhaps the biggest change is that Kelly is now single mom to 10-year-old Gracie. There was magic between Chuck and Kelly once. Can they find it again?
The Buzz: It's the dude who played Frasier and what's-her-name who played Ray's wife, plus Fred Willard. Isn't that enough?
Pilot Highlight: Any time Fred Willard is on the screen is an automatic highlight, but the non-Willard moment that scores the biggest laugh comes when Gary is out covering a story during a storm and, while on camera, finds his umbrella caught in a gust of wind.
Bottom Line: It's fantastic to see both Grammer and Heaton back on the screen, but let's hope their characters get more fleshed out...or, more specifically, that the producers figure out that fine line where Chuck Darling is an egotistical blowhard while still being funny. Also, Josh Gad needs to tone down his portrayal of Ryan Church; he's coming off like the younger, slightly more successful brother of Chris Farley's Motivational Speaker character.
American Band (Friday, October 19 @ 8:00 PM, Fox)
Producers: Simon Fuller, Nigel Lythgoe, Ken Warwick, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Charles Boyd
Network's Description: The producers behind mega-hit phenomenon "American Idol" take the musical reality genre to a whole new level with a mission to find undiscovered American bands that are ready to rock the nation. From hair bands to hip-hop, classic rockers to country crooners, the show scoured the country seeking musical groups of all ages and styles, with hundreds of bands auditioning for a backstage pass to stardom. From the auditions, judges will narrow down the hopefuls to 10 semifinalist bands who will perform weekly in front of a live studio audience. Viewers will vote for their favorite bands to determine who stays in the competition. Each week, the bands will perform either original music or covers of varied styles. The range of genres will test their musical limits, and could also strike the wrong chord in their personal and professional relationships. The season finale brings the ultimate battle of the bands, with the last three groups competing to secure a contract with 19 Recordings and the title of "Next Great American Band."
The Buzz: It's "American Idol," except with a band. End of story. Frankly, we just want to know who the judges are going to be.
Pilot Highlight: No pilot available.
Bottom Line: Fox's decision to place the show on Fridays at 8 would seem to indicate that they're aware that this could turn into a debacle like the second season of "Rock Star," but given the kind of loathsome pap that's been churned out by most "American Idol" winners, we have no reason to believe that America will actually pick a band that's worth a damn, anyway.