What's Worth Watching, scripted TV shows, writer's strike

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In these dark days, with the writer’s strike continuing along unabated, new episodes of scripted television are getting harder and harder to come by. For the most part, our favorite series have either run all of the episodes that were finished before the strike or, if their respective networks are really stingy, they’re still holding on to one or two episodes, to dole out as the need arises. There are, however, a few exceptions to that rule, and we’re here to spotlight those series that still have at least half a dozen new episodes on deck. We’re not going to pretend that we here at Bullz-Eye are actually fans of every single one of these shows, but we are fans of scripted comedy and drama, and as steadfast supporters of the writers in this strike, we’d like to think that watching even the worst of these shows is still better than having reality series like “America’s Top Dog” or “Farmer Takes a Wife” shoved down our throats.

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ABC

October Road (Mondays, 10 PM, currently airing) – I’ve never actually watched this show, mostly because the initial previews looked so awful that I could never bring myself to check it out, but I do find it interesting that it’s written by Scott Rosenberg, who wrote a book entitled “Beautiful Girls” that was turned into a movie starring Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman. Apparently, that book was more or less based on Rosenberg’s own hometown, and “October Road” is also semi-autobiographical, inspired by how the people in his hometown reacted to their fictionalization. I’m betting the first complaint was, “What did I ever do to you that made you cast Rosie O’Donnell to play my character?” But I’ve digressed when I should be mentioning that Armand Assante will be guest-starring in at least one of the upcoming episodes and The Commander (Tom Berenger) will discover that he has a serious health issue. Yikes!

Carpoolers (Tuesdays, 9:30 PM, returning Jan. 22) – There’s only one better sitcom on ABC, and that’s “Samantha Who,” but when you consider the competition, I guess we’re really not offering “Carpoolers” much praise. Still, it says something about ABC’s confidence in the series that it managed to survive its pairing with the much maligned “Cavemen” to make its way back onto the schedule. Plus, I think you have to give it up to a series where, in one of the upcoming new episodes, the show’s resident white-bread character (Dougie, played by Tim Peper) is ecstatic because he’s won tickets to see the Spin Doctors. The band might not think it’s funny, but I’m laughing my ass off.

Lost (Thursdays, 8 PM, returning Jan. 31) – Do I really even need to write much here? Fans of the show have been chomping at the bit for the return of “Lost” ever since that damned flash-forward at the end of Season 3…and since I am one of those fans, you can bet I’ll be sitting in front of my TV on the 31st with everyone else.

Eli Stone (Thursdays, 10 PM, starting Jan. 31) – The creators of “Brothers and Sisters” bring us “a unique, character-driven drama that explores the very different worlds of law and spirituality in a humorous and heartfelt way.” Does that tell you anything? Nah, me neither. The ABC website says the show is guilty of “combining the fantasy and spirituality from ‘The Ghost Whisperer,’ sincerity and passion from ‘The Practice,’ and quirky humor from ‘Monk’,” but that tells me even less. So why will I be tuning in? Because I’m amused by the fact that George Michael’s “Faith” seems to play a big part in the pilot. It’s not much of a reason, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

Men in Trees (Wednesdays, 10 PM, returning Feb. 27) – I think the critics actually like this series more than the viewers do – that’s the impression I got when we ended up with an unexpected “Men in Trees” panel at the last TCA press tour – but whatever the case, it still scored a second season, so hooray for the show’s fans. I just remember watching the pilot and being struck by how much it reminded me of “Northern Exposure,” and I never went back. Sorry.

ABC Family

Kyle XY (Mondays, 8 PM, currently airing) – A great sci-fi drama that manages to impress adults even as it enthralls teens. The last time we had any new episodes, we were handed a cliffhanger which left us wondering if Jessi XX, Kyle’s female counterpart, had survived her leap of faith…and, no, that’s not a figure of speech: she actually leapt off a cliff and into a waterfall. By now, of course, her fate’s been revealed, but somehow I suspect “Kyle XY” will continue to provide reasons for us to tune in.

Wildfire (Mondays, 9 PM, returning Jan. 21) – Horse TV: it’s not just for equestrians anymore. Or, at least, that’s the position taken by fans of this series, which has been telling tales of Kristine "Kris" Furillo (Genevieve Cortese) and Wildfire, the horse she saved from going to slaughter and helped turn into a champion racer. The show’s third season ended with an illegal match race between Wildfire and another horse, and the fourth season’s first episode is a two-part epic entitled “The More Things Change.” Giddy up!

Greek (Mondays, 8 PM, returning Mar. 24) – A show about college life on ABC Family? I understand your skepticism. But while the series isn’t quite as accurate or hilarious a portrayal as, say, the late, great “Undeclared,” it’s still an enjoyable teen drama which has at least one thing going for it: Clark Duke, a.k.a. the “Clark” in CBS’s awesome online mockumentary series, “Clark and Michael.” (The “Michael” in question, in case you’re unaware, is Michael Cera, which would explain why Duke scored a brief appearance in “Superbad.”)

AMC

Breaking Bad (Sundays, 10 PM, starting Jan. 20) – After the critical success of “Mad Men,” all eyes are on AMC to see if they can get lightning to strike twice. All signs point to “yes,” based on the facts that’ve been presented to us. Produced by Vince Gillian (“The X-Files”), the show stars Bryan Cranston, best known as the dad on “Malcolm in the Middle,” as Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher with a handicapped child and a pregnant wife; after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Walter sets up a meth lab in order to support his family. It sounds a little bit like “Weeds” to me, but since Cranston’s got a solid track record of invigorating any project he’s involved in, it’ll probably be worth checking out, anyway.

BBC America

TorchwoodTorchwood (Saturdays, 9 PM, returning Jan. 26) – The words “a ‘Doctor Who’ spin-off’” are enough to put the fear of God into most people who consider themselves to be cool, but despite its connections to the good Doctor, “Torchwood” might as well exist in a whole other universe. The general premise involves a secret government organization that deals with alien technology that’s been found on Earth (as well as the aliens occasionally attached to it), but it’s darker, more violent, and – perhaps most surprising of all – it’s sexy. Season 2 brings us a guest stint from James Marsters, a.k.a. Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” For geeks, it’s like a dream come true…and, uh, for cool people like me, too. Ahem.

CBS

Welcome to the Captain (Mondays, 8:30 PM, starting Feb. 4) – Ensemble comedies are always a dangerous proposition; the few that work tend to be remembered as the funniest of their generation, but if the stars aren’t aligned precisely right, things can go horribly awry. Unfortunately, there are only three consistently funny things about this show: Jeffrey Tambor and Raquel Welch. If you don’t understand why the previous sentence was funny, don’t blame me, blame Gags Beasley; I’m pretty sure he wrote that one…about 50 years ago! (Rimshot!)

The New Adventures of Old Christine (Mondays, 9:30 PM, returning Feb. 4) – Julia Louis-Dreyfuss broke the so-called “‘Seinfeld’ Curse” by having her sitcom make it to a second season, but during that sophomore year, the show’s ratings dropped significantly. Nonetheless, CBS granted her a third year, and even though they opted to sit on it ‘til mid-season, they’re also giving her back her old post-“Two and a Half Men” timeslot, so let’s hope her ratings rebound as a result. “L.A. Law” fans may be interested to know that Blair Underwood is back on board for Season 3 as Christine’s boyfriend, Mr. Harris. (No relation.)

Jericho (Tuesdays, 10 PM, returning Feb. 12) – As excited as I am about “Lost,” I’m even more excited about the return of “Jericho.” If you haven’t seen the trailer for Season 2, go watch it right now by clicking here. Did you watch it? Do you see why I’m so excited? It looks like they’ve abandoned most of the “Little House on the Prairie” family melodrama of the first season and embraced what most captivated the viewers: a town drawn together by disaster. Throw into the mix that it’s been moved to a 10 PM timeslot, and – fingers crossed – it looks like the producers of “Jericho” have made the mailing of all those peanuts to CBS in order to save the series worth the fans’ while.

Comedy Central

Reno 911 (Wednesdays, 10:30 PM, currently airing) – If “Cops” can keep going for 20 seasons, there’s no reason “Reno 911” can’t keep doling out reality-inspired comedy for a few more years, too.

The CW

One Tree Hill (Tuesdays, 9 PM, currently airing) – If you read my review of the season premiere, you know I’m not going to actively recommend the show to you as anything other than a car wreck. But I’ll give them credit: if they’re gonna be a car wreck, they’re clearly gonna be the best car wreck they possibly can be. Case and point: they’re hired K-Fed for a three-episode stint. He’s no Britney, but he’ll do in a pinch.

Smallville (Thursdays, 8:00 PM, returning Jan. 31) – I admit it: I never should’ve bailed out of “Smallville.” I’m a comic geek from way back but when it first started, the series just felt took much like DC Comics meets “Beverly Hills 90210,” and I jumped ship. Recently, however, I took a gander at how the series has come along and, damn, it’s a freaking geek’s paradise!  As Season 7 progresses, we’ll be seeing the return of James Marsters as Braniac, Justin Hartley will come bearing his bow as Green Arrow and finally get to meet up with Black Canary, and – for the first time since Season 3 – Sam Jones III will return to “Smallville” as Pete Ross.

Everybody Hates Chris (Sundays, 8 PM, returning Feb. 10) – I don’t know how great this move to Sundays is going to be for the show, but it speaks well for The CW’s opinion of “Everybody Hates Chris” that they’ll be showing two episodes per night: a repeat…oh, sorry, I meant an encore…at 7:30, followed by a new episode at 8 PM.  We don’t know much about the new episodes unfortunately, but based on the show’s track record, we can only presume that they’ll be A) hilarious, and B) totally worth catching.

Aliens in America (Sundays, 8:30 PM, returning Feb. 10) – Unfortunately, we know even less about the new “Aliens in America” episodes, but we will say this: you’d have to go to NBC’s Thursday night lineup to find a better back-to-back hour of comedy.  Well, except maybe for CBS’s 8 – 9 PM lineup; that’s pretty good too, come to think of it.  Basically, what we’re trying to say is that as long as you’re tuning in to “Everybody Hates Chris” anyway, then “Aliens in America” is a solid reason not to change the channel afterwards.

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