At last, it’s here: the arrival of the fall season. It was a long time coming for the return of some series, given the hiatus that was necessitated by the writer’s strike, and I think I speak for the staff of Bullz-Eye when I say that we’re thrilled to have most of them back. But it’s also a very strange season, too, since we have yet to receive screeners for NBC’s new dramas or any of ABC’s new series. I tried to hold out until I could offer full-fledged opinions on all of the new shows, but here we are in the middle of September, and all that’s happened is that several shows on Fox and The CW have already premiered, and we’re still waiting around on NBC and ABC. Nice. Anyway, here’s Bullz-Eye’s look at the new season, both on broadcast and cable networks, and if my estimation about the worth of some of these series proves inaccurate, rest assured that you’ll hear about it on Premium Hollywood.
Fox (Premiere date: Sept. 9)
The network says: “When an international flight lands at Boston’s Logan Airport with no signs of life, FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham is called in to investigate as part of an inter-agency task force. After her partner, Special Agent John Scott, is nearly killed during the investigation, a desperate Olivia searches frantically for someone to help, leading her to Dr. Walter Bishop, our generation’s Einstein. There’s only one catch: he’s been institutionalized for the last 17 years, and the only way to question him requires pulling his estranged son Peter in to help. When Olivia’s investigation leads to multi-billion dollar corporation Massive Dynamic and its manipulative corporate executive, Nina Sharp, our unlikely trio, along with Department of Homeland Security Agent Philiip Broyles and FBI Agents Charlie Francis and Astrid Farnsworth, will discover that what happened on Flight 627 is only a small piece of a larger, more shocking truth.”
We say: It’s a fine line to walk between being excited about a new J.J. Abrams production and knowing that not everything bearing Abrams’ name is worth getting excited about, so I tried to approach the show with as open a mind as possible. As a longtime sci-fi geek with the ability to suspend disbelief to an almost absurd degree, I was fascinated by the pilot episode from the horrifying opening sequence and followed it straight through to the end, leaving the proceedings thoroughly satisfied. Whether the show will live up to the promise of the characters and concepts that it has introduced remains to be seen, but there’s so much promise on hand that I can’t help but be excited to find out where “Fringe” goes from here.
CBS (Premiere date: Sept. 23)
The network says: “Patrick Jane is an independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation. Within the Bureau, Jane is notorious for his blatant lack of protocol and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium, whose paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned. Jane's role in cracking a series of tough high-profile cases is greatly valued by his fellow agents. However, no-nonsense Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon openly resists having Jane in her unit and alternates between reluctantly acknowledging Jane's usefulness and blasting him for his theatrics, narcissism and dangerous lack of boundaries. Lisbon's team includes agents Kimball Cho, Wayne Rigsby and rookie member Grace Van Pelt, who all think Jane's a loose cannon but admire his charm and knack for clearing cases.”
We say: Don’t dismiss this show just because it sounds like “Psych.” Embrace it because of that. I’m not knocking “Psych,” per se, but for such a smart concept, James Roday always plays the character with such snark that it’s always been a disappointment for me. Not so with “The Mentalist.” Yes, Jane is ready with a quip, but there’s a streak of darkness within this series that’s nowhere to be found in “Psych.” Plus, not only does Simon Baker have a lot of charisma as the title character, but he’s also a gifted actor who can deftly handle both humor and seriousness. Throw the dependable Robin Tunney into the mix as his nemesis in the Bureau, and you’ve got the second most promising new show of the season…so, of course, naturally, it’s airing directly opposite the first most promising new show, “Fringe.” Nice.
The Eleventh Hour
CBS (Premiere date: Oct. 23)
The network says: “Dr. Jacob Hood is a brilliant biophysicist and special science advisor to the government who investigates scientific crises and oddities. His jurisdiction is absolute and Hood is dogged in his pursuit of those who would abuse and misuse scientific discoveries and breakthroughs for their own gain. His passion and crusade is to protect the substance of science from those with nefarious motives. He is called in at the eleventh hour and he represents the last line of defense. Special Agent Rachel Young is the decorated FBI protection officer assigned to watch Hood's back.”
We say: We haven’t seen the full pilot yet, but the clips we have seen look damned good. Based on a British miniseries starring Patrick Stewart, the American interpretation features Rufus Sewell as its lead, and he’s gotten a free “let’s give it a shot” card from me ever since he starred in “Dark City.” It might be ballsy to list this one so high on my list, but the fact that it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production makes me anticipate it even more.
Life on Mars
ABC (Premiere date: Oct. 9)
The network says: “Where were you in 1973? NYPD Detective Sam Tyler finds himself suddenly hurtled back in time when he's ripped from 2008 after being hit by a car while chasing down a criminal. He's trying mightily to understand what has just happened to him and how he can get back ‘home.’ Forced to use a different moral code and without hi-tech crime fighting techniques, Sam clashes with his new boss at the 125th Precinct, the irascible Lieutenant Gene Hunt, who would rather use his fists than his brains to solve a crime. Then there are the other squad members of the 1-2-5. Detective Ray Carling, a big, mean guy in a street-fight with life. Ray may be a rough, tough sexist, but when the chips are down, he's a handy guy to have in your corner. Annie Norris is a member of the Police Women's Bureau. At a time when females were only allowed to do menial tasks and not real police work, she's the smartest person in the room. Rookie Detective Chris Skelton is a sweet guy trying to make it in this uncompromising world, but right now he's out of his league with Gene and Ray. In his 2008 life, Sam was in love with Maya Daniels and, although Maya and Annie will never meet, Annie's workplace battles have paved the way for Maya to become a full-fledged cop. But a fascinating, unique love triangle evolves between Sam's "real" in-the-moment friendship with Annie, his longing to get back to Maya and the fantasy of what could be. At home in Sam's apartment building in the East Village, there's Windy, a free-spirited, post-hippie chick who can teach Sam a thing or two about the cultural revolution taking place in front of his unbelieving eyes.”
We say: Again, I haven’t seen the pilot yet, but while the significant about of retooling and recasting would normally concern me greatly, I cannot deny that the resulting addition of Harvey Keitel, Lisa Bonet, Gretchen Mol and Michael Imperioli to the cast has only served to get me more excited. Like “Eleventh Hour,” this has also been adapted from a British series, but there’s been way more uproar about this one. Oh, sure, it’s the usual claptrap about how there’s no way it can possibly live up to the original, but aren’t we all tired of hearing that baloney? No, maybe it won’t be as good as the British version…but, c’mon, are you kidding me? A cast like that demands that you at least tune in to see what the producers will come up with.
CBS (Premiere date: Sept. 22)
The network says: “Sam Briggs is an entertainment magazine editor who will do anything to please his girlfriend's parents ... but instead becomes a one-man wrecking crew whenever he's around them. Sam and his girlfriend, Melanie Clayton, have only one hurdle left to clear as they start their life together: breaking the news to Mel's conservative parents that they have a wedding in the works and a baby on the way. Dick, a stern Judge, and his wife, Angela, are protective of their daughter, and are really trying to let go of the anger they feel toward Sam ... after all, disaster follows whenever he visits their house. But despite his best efforts, every time Sam takes one positive step forward in winning over his future in-laws, he inevitably takes two crushing steps back. But with support and love from Melanie who stands up for him despite his knack for making himself look bad, Sam will hopefully charm his way into her family.”
We say: Holy crap, three shows in a row that are adaptations of British series…? Not that I’ll be complaining if they turn out to be creative successes, but, seriously, there really are some great original ideas in Hollywood, too, you know. (There are, aren’t there?) Kyle Bornheimer plays the well-intentioned Sam with great slapstick timing, but it’s Kurtwood Smith as Judge Dick Clayton ( the artist formerly known as Red Foreman on “That ‘70s Show”) and Nancy Lenehan (Earl’s mother on “My Name Is Earl”) who provide the comedic comfort food here. I have certain reservations, most notably the fact that, despite the first episode being thoroughly hilarious, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to keep up that kind of momentum on a weekly basis. But, damn, that first episode is funny.
My Own Worst Enemy
NBC (Premiere date: Oct. 13)
The network says: “Henry Spivey is a middle-class efficiency expert living a humdrum life in the suburbs with his wife, Angie, their two kids, a dog, and a minivan. Edward Albright is an operative who speaks 13 languages, runs a four-minute mile, and is trained to kill. Albright works at Janus Headquarters for Mavis Heller, a tough, extremely intelligent woman with a hidden compassionate side. Henry and Edward are polar opposites who share only one thing in common -- the same body. When the carefully constructed wall between them breaks down, Henry and Edward are thrust into unfamiliar territory where each man is dangerously out of his element. Tom Grady is Henry's best friend and co-worker with an alter ego named Raymond, a sadistic and violent secret agent. Dr. Norah Skinner is the smart and savvy psychologist who is in tune with the inner workings of both Edward and Henry.”
We say: Well, first and foremost, we say that NBC sucks for A) getting rid of pilots, and B) making the critics wait so long to see the first episode of the show that, as of this writing, it still remains a mystery. But the idea of seeing Christian Slater essentially playing two different roles in the show has piqued my interest, if only because you just know he’s going to take the role of Edward over the top and into the stratosphere, and having Alfre Woodard in the cast gives the show a touch of class.
CBS (Premiere date: Sept. 24)
The network says: “Gary Brooks, a recently single painting contractor, and his controlling ex-wife, Allison, face post-divorce mayhem after 15 years of marriage as they each embark on new relationships. He's the fun parent and she's the strict one. Together, they share custody of their two children - Louise a politically correct and environmentally conscious 11-year-old, and Tom their socially awkward 14-year-old son who is nervous around girls. Charming and acerbic, Gary hasn't dated since the split, but finally connects with Vanessa, a single mother whose condo he was hired to paint. He dreads telling Allison about Vanessa because it doesn't adhere to her belief in their marriage counselor's book, ‘Rules for the Perfect Divorce.’ However, when Allison tells him that she's engaged to their shrink, all bets are off and Gary decides it's time to move forward. Now, in pursuit of post-marriage happiness, Gary must juggle his eclectic world of an ex-wife, their two kids, their shrink and his gorgeous new girlfriend.”
We say: Granted, CBS’s track record for sitcoms is hit-or-miss, and for every “How I Met Your Mother” and “Big Bang Theory,” there’s a “Welcome to the Captain” or “The Class.” So why is “Gary Unmarried” on our list? Because I think Jay Mohr’s funny. Obviously, it helps that I’ve thought Paula Marshall was cute ever since she was on “Spin City,” and you can never go wrong with Ed Begley, Jr., but the reality is that I heard Jay Mohr was getting a sitcom, and my first thought was, “I’d watch that.” So don’t let me down, Jay, or you’re never going to hear the end of it.
The Ex List
CBS (Premiere date: Oct. 3)
The network says: ”Bella Bloom is a single, 30-something, successful business owner who is surprised to learn from a psychic that she's already dated her future husband AND there's a catch: if she doesn't find him in the next year, she'll remain alone forever. During a bachelorette party for her sister, Daphne, Bella learns from the psychic she must revisit her past relationships and sort through the mistakes to find her soul mate. Skeptical, Bella begins to analyze every past liaison and failed romance with her close circle of friends, Augie, an endearing guy who has listened to Bella's love woes since college, Vivian, Augie's long-term girlfriend, and Cyrus, who's chronically unemployed and full of wry observations. Once Bella witnesses proof of the psychic's other predictions, her cynicism disappears and she begins her search. Along her trip down break-up lane, Bella is determined to remain optimistic and receptive, believing that when destiny reopens doors to the past, every relationship can matter in the future.”
We say: You’ve read the description, so there’s no point in pretending that this is a program that has the potential to suck the testosterone right out of you…and CBS clearly knows it, having scheduled it for Friday nights at 9 to unabashedly cater to the romantically-inclined women who are watching TV rather than going out on dates. Still, the premise is a little bit “My Name Is Earl” and a little bit “High Fidelity,” and the dialogue in the pilot is really great. I can’t imagine anyone really believes that the show will end in a year if it’s still doing well in the ratings, but it’ll still make for a nice gimmick come season-finale time.
The CW (Premiere date: Oct. 2)
The network says: “The first day at West Beverly Hills High School leaves no doubt that Annie Wilson and her brother Dixon aren’t in Kansas anymore. The Wilson family, including dad Harry and mom Debbie, has relocated to Beverly Hills to keep an eye on Harry's mother Tabitha, a feisty-but-faded former television star and a charter member of the Betty Ford Clinic. For Annie and Dixon, the awkwardness of being the new kids is made worse by the fact that their dad has taken a job as the high school principal. The school is one big culture shock for Annie, a sweet and friendly girl with a passion for the theater, and Dixon, a star athlete and scholar who was adopted by the Wilson family after they took him in as a foster child. Annie and Dixon have a close sibling relationship, which they'll need to help them cope with all the new cliques and classmates, including Naomi, a hot, spoiled, rich girl; Ethan, a popular jock whose abilities rival Dixon's; Navid, an aspiring journalist who heads up the school's daily newscast; and Silver, a rebel who produces and stars in a YouTube-type video series. Even the faculty seems hip and sophisticated at WBHHS, such as smart and funny teacher Ryan Matthews and beautiful guidance counselor Kelly Taylor. The Wilson family has just begun to realize how much their lives are about to change.”
We say: I give up: the hype got me. Clearly, that’s all that it was, because it’s not like I was a regular viewer of the original “90210,” and I’m not exactly of the demographic to be particularly interested in a teen drama. But, still, when you’ve got Rob Thomas (“Veronica Mars”) spearheading the show, and Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, both of whom worked on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Life as We Know It,” as executive producers, you’ve got to admit that there are possibilities to be had. As of this writing, the show is two episodes in, and the adults on the show remain considerably better written than the teens, but I’m still hanging in there.
NBC (Premiere date: Sept. 24)
The network says: “Absolutely the coolest car ever created, KITT – Knight Industries Three Thousand – is equipped with an “AI” (artificial intelligence) that is capable of hacking almost any system. Its weapons systems match that of a jet fighter, and its body is capable of actually transforming into other vehicles and using sophisticated holographic imagery to elude villains.”
We say: After the incredibly disappointing TV movie earlier this year, which played like a two-hour-long car commercial with a really bad script, there is absolutely no rational reason for my including this within my top 10, but, dammit, sometimes nostalgia wins out over common sense. It is almost certainly telling that the powers that be couldn’t manage to get us a copy of the first episode prior to a network conference call to promote the series, and I will be the first to bail out if the premiere is as bad as the movie was, but – God help me – I can still remember how much enjoyment I got out of the original series, and I cannot for the life of me shake that off.
“Eli Stone, ABC (Return date: Oct. 14) – I remain fascinated that the series ever got green-lighted in the first place, but now that they’ve apparently removed the tumor from Eli, I’m anxious to see how they’ll have his storyline play out, since you know they’re not going to suddenly say, “Well, that’s it: no more visions!”
“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” Fox (Returned Sept. 8) – Season 1 really found its sea legs at the 5th-episode mark, and the only thing the 2nd season premiere could’ve added to make it more of a “T2” throwback was to have Ahnold himself pop up. With Shirley Manson onboard as a T-1000, it’s right up there with “Heroes” as the must-see TV of Monday night drama.
“Life,” NBC (Return date: Oct. 3) – As recently as two weeks ago, this never would’ve made my list, but I finally fell for this series after watching the Season 1 DVD set, and I’d advise you doing the same before the new season premieres. “Life” is a interesting and quirky drama which could unfold in a lot of different directions now that the majority of the mystery from Season 1 has been tackled.
“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS (Return date: Sept. 22) – Honestly, I don’t really care if Penny and Leonard get together. I just want to see America’s favorite geeks back for more comedy…and, of course, more incredibly nerdy references that I feel guilty for getting, let alone laughing at.
“Dirty Sexy Money,” ABC (Return date: Oct. 1) – By all rights, I should’ve put “Gossip Girl” here, but this was my guilty pleasure all last season, and I’m sticking by it at least until I find out the secret behind the death of Nick’s father. After that, we’ll see what happens.
“Heroes,” NBC (Return date: Sept. 22) – After the disappointment of last season, you might be surprised to find this at the top of my list, but when Tim Kring and the gang are proud enough of their season premiere to offer it up to the wolves at Comic-Con, you know they’ve got something major cooking for Season 3.
“House,” Fox (Return date: Sept. 16) – Not everyone loved the way House played his own version of “Survivor” in Season 4 to find new members for his diagnostic team, but it really invigorated the show for me, and the final few episodes provided some of the most gripping drama in the series’ history. How will the relationship between House and Wilson be affected? I must know!
“How I Met Your Mother,” CBS (Return date: Sept. 22) – Are you kidding me? Even if this wasn’t one of my favorite sitcoms, I’d still be all over this season, if only because Ted may well have finally found the mother of his kids!
“The Office,” NBC (Return date: Sept. 25) – Yeah, I know in my heart of hearts that Jan having a baby has the potential to be a total “jump the shark” moment, but the series hasn’t let me down yet, and the prospect of Michael finding love with the new Dunder-Mifflin H.R. person is extremely intriguing.
“CSI,” CBS (Return date: Oct. 9) – It’s all about Lawrence Fishburne coming in. I can’t wait to see him interacting with the rest of the cast, especially given the back story they’ve created for his character.
Call me an elitist, but when I think “Fall TV Preview,” I still think first and foremost of new programs on the broadcast networks. Indeed, this is the second year in a row that I’ve turned in my initial draft of the preview and been asked by our editor-in-chief, “What, no cable shows?” I hang my head in shame, because he’s right…and one of these days, it’ll occur to me to add this list right off the bat, because it’s not like there aren’t a plethora of programs to choose from.
“True Blood,” HBO (Premiered Sept. 7) – The triple-threat of Alan Ball, vampires, and an uber-hot Anna Paquin was more than enough convince me on checking out the series before I’d seen anything other than a press release and a promo photo, but the first episode was intriguing, and by the time you read this, I anticipate having enjoyed the second episode just as much.
“Crash” Starz (Premiere date: Oct. 17) – The mere fact that Starz is premiering its first original drama is, in and of itself, a reason to tune in, but after hearing Dennis Hopper describe his character (a Phil-Spector-like music producer who talks to his penis, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Plus, I really liked the original movie, and given its framework, I’d expect that to lend itself quite well to a regular series. Fingers crossed.
“Californication,” Showtime (Return date: Sept. 28) – As I noted in my review of this show’s first season, your mileage with “Californication” varies based on how high your tolerance is for David Duchovny in full snark mode. Given that the first season ended with what was as close to a happy ending as was possible for the show, I’m curious to see how quickly Hank will fuck his life up again.
“Primeval” (Premiered Aug. 9) / “Gavin and Stacey” (Premiered Aug. 26), BBC America – It feels like a cheat to include both of these series in this list, since British viewers will almost certainly yawn and say, “Seen ‘em,” but we lowly Americans haven’t. Between the sci-fi action of “Primeval” and the romantic comedy of “Gavin and Stacey,” BBC America is really providing us with some top-notch stuff right about now…even if it is old news to the Brits.
“Raising the Bar,” TNT (Premiere date: Sept. 1) – Hey, hey, hey! Why all the hostility toward Steven Bocho’s new series, people? Not everything needs to be groundbreaking, you know. Sometimes, it’s just nice to kick back and watch a bunch of talented actors working within an established formula, and that’s what I’ve been doing – and enjoying – with “Raising the Bar” thus far.
“Little Britain USA,” HBO (Premiere date: Sept. 28) – I wasn’t nearly as big a fan of the original British series as a lot of my friends were, but having seen several clips from the new show, including one with Rosie O’Donnell that was way funnier than I had any reason to expect (mostly because – gasp! – she had a sense of humor!), I’m ready for David Walliams and Matt Lucas to take on the States.
“Rita Rocks,” Lifetime (Premiere date: Oct. 20) – Given my recent appreciation of “Army Wives,” it shouldn’t be too startling to find a Lifetime series amongst my picks. Nicole Sullivan was always a highlight of “The King of Queens,” and Tisha Campbell is consistently funny herself, so the idea of them both playing in a garage band is a sitcom that’s just too tempting to resist.
“Sanctuary,” Sci-Fi Channel (Premiere date: Oct. 3) – The big gimmick about this series is that it’s almost entirely filmed via green-screen, with virtually no real sets to be had. Yes, it might end up looking really, really lame, but the possibilities are tremendous.
“The Locator,” WEtv (Premiered Sept. 6) – Troy Dunn is called “The Locator” because he finds lost people. It’s as simple a premise as that, but if you’ve ever been desperate to find someone who’s been out of your life for far too long – a friend, a relative, even a parent – then you can imagine the potential emotional power of a show like this…and with me being a big ol’ softie, It took about two seconds to suck me in.
“Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…,” Sundance (Premiere date: Dec. 3) – This would be #1 if it wasn’t so damned far out on the calendar, but I don’t forsee another TV preview between now and then, and I’ve gotta mention it. I’ve seen an advance cut of the episode where Elvis chats up Elton and sings a few songs with him, and it’s music-geek heaven. I’ll be there for every last episode, guaranteed.