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

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Fox

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Sundays, 8 PM, currently airing) – Sure, time travel-themed dramas are full of potential paradoxes, but the special effects are cool, Summer Glau – who plays the show’s resident Terminator – is hot, and if there’s one thing this continuation of the “Terminator” franchise has gotten right, it’s the rewriting of history to avoid making the events of “Terminator 3” come to pass. As such, please feel free to throw away your copy of that film…if you haven’t already.

New Amsterdam (Tuesdays, 9 PM, starting Mar. 4) – There’s at least one TV critic out there who’s never going to accept that this series is anything other than a rip-off of “Highlander,” as you can read here, but, really, aside from the fact that both are about immortals, the similarities aren’t all that strong. Here, John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the immortal, a New York homicide detective who stepped in front of a sword in 1642 to save the life of a Native American girl during a massacre of her indigenous tribe and, in return, she cast a spell that conferred immortality upon him…until he finds his one true love, that is. (Would it surprise you to learn that Amsterdam is an alcoholic?) Fox hasn’t shown much faith in the series, having shunted its premiere around the calendar since its original premiere date of Fall 2007, but it’s funny how a writer’s strike will make a network reconsider a show with seven episodes in the can already.

The Return of Jezebel James (Wednesdays, 9:30 PM, starting Mar. 12) – There are several reasons to be tentatively excited about this series, including a cast that features Parker Posey, Lauren Ambrose and Scott Cohen, but the one that’s got the hipsters giddy is that it’s the creation of Amy Sherman-Palladino, who also brought “Gilmore Girls” to the world. But the premise, about a businesswoman who’s so desperate to have a child without disrupting her schedule that she reconnects with her estranged sister and asks her to carry her baby, is less than thrilling. There have also been reports that Posey isn’t adapting to the sitcom lifestyle very well, leading one to wonder if it’ll show in the finished product. Time will tell, I reckon.

Canterbury’s Law (Mondays, 9 PM, starting Apr. 14) – Here’s a series that may have potential, featuring a promising cast (Julianna Margulies and Aidan Quinn) and a solid production team working behind the scenes, including Denis Leary and Mike Figgis, who directed the pilot. So why was it designated for a midseason spot rather than leading off the 2007 season? Best guess: it’s another law show in a sea of law shows. Granted, Elizabeth Canterbury (Margulies) does sound a bit like some other characters on the air these days; she’s a defense attorney who’s willing to bend the law in order to protect the wrongfully accused (“Shark”), and to put her career on the line to take risky and unpopular cases, even when they take a toll on her personal life (“House”). But Margulies works well on the small screen, so we’re hopeful.

FX

Dirt (Sundays, 10 PM, returning Mar. 2) – Yes, the kiss between Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston in the season finale was a desperate ploy to bring in viewers…and, yes, it worked. But will those viewers come back for Season 2? Lord knows the network’s been promoting the series’ impending return as much as humanly possible. Season 2 ended with Lucy – Cox’s character – having been stabbed by crazed actress Julia Mallory (Laura Allen), who ended up on the receiving end of a knife herself. With sirens in the distance, it looked like poor schizophrenic photographer Don Konkey (Ian Hart) was going to get the blame. Presumably, we’ll find out who’s alive, who’s dead, and who’s guilty when the new season begins.

HBO

The Wire (Sundays, 9 PM, currently airing) – As you may have seen in Jason Zingale’s blog of the fifth season of “The Wire,” he’s a little concerned about the pacing for this final year of the series. “True, previous seasons have always taken four or five episodes before jumping into the meat of the story,” he admits, “but with three fewer episodes than usual this time around, doesn’t it seem like David Simon and Co. should be getting a move on?” What, like it’s in danger of being cancelled if they don’t…? Just kidding. Even when it’s moving at a snail’s pace, “The Wire” remains one of the best series on television, and the world will be a lesser place when it has finally left the airwaves for good.

In Treatment (Mondays, 9:30 PM, starting Jan. 28) – HBO’s track record for new series really took a hit with “John from Cincinnati” and “Tell Me You Love Me,” but here they are, trying again with “In Treatment.” Produced by Mark Wahlberg, the series focuses on a psychotherapist named Paul (Gabriel Byrne) and his weekly sessions with his patients. If “John” proved anything, it’s that you can’t trust a show to be good just because it has a good cast, but still, Byrne’s consistently watchable and his patients include Melissa George (“30 Days of Night”), Josh Charles (“Dead Poet’s Society,” “Sports Night”), Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law”) and Dianne Wiest (“Law & Order”), so we’re tempted to trust it, anyway. But don’t fool us twice, HBO, or we’ll be pissed!

NBC

Law and Order (Wednesdays, 10 PM, currently airing) – As of this writing, no one can get a straight answer about how many new episodes of the show are actually in the can…and that includes the show’s publicist! Still, we’re going out on a limb and including it here anyway, mostly because we’re so psyched about how well the producers have managed to breathe new life into this old stalwart. If you have trouble sitting still for a re-run of the show on TNT but you haven’t caught any of the new episodes yet, you’re really missing out.

Las Vegas (Fridays, 10 PM, currently airing) – I can’t be bothered to research the ratings to see if the addition of Tom Selleck into the series’ cast has resulted in increased ratings, but it’s made me more interested in watching the show. If you haven’t checked it out since his introduction, now’s as good a time as any.

Medium (Mondays, 10 PM, currently airing) – Speaking of new changes to existing series, Glenn Gordon Caron and company made two bold moves at the end of the last season of “Medium” by revealing Alison DuBois’ psychic abilities to the world at large and laying off her husband, Jake. Based on the Season 4 episodes we’ve seen so far, though, it’s only served to make an already good show even better.

Lipstick Jungle (Thursdays, 10 PM, starting Feb. 7) – Before actually watching the screener of the first two episodes, I was going to open by saying, “That sucking sound you hear is the testosterone being forcefully removed from your system.”  Despite originating from the pen of Candace Bushnell, author of “Sex and the City,” this series about three lovely ladies who appear on the list of New York's 50 Most Powerful Women is just as much about the men who love them…or don’t love them enough, as the case may be. I actually enjoyed what I’ve seen of it thus far, except, ironically enough, for the scenes where the trio of lead actresses – Brooke Shields, Lindsay Price and Kim Raver – are all interacting together. Put any two of them together and they’re fine, but team the three of them up and the flow of the dialogue feels disconcertingly fake. Let’s hope they find their chemistry quickly.

Quarterlife (Mondays, 9 PM, starting Feb. 18) – When the writer’s strike hit, it was somewhat inevitable that the networks would turn to the ‘net and see what online series might be able to make the transition to the proper airwaves. All told, NBC could’ve done a lot worse than picking up the latest creation from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, who were also responsible for “My So Called Life,” “thirtysomething,” and “Once and Again.” It still feels a little bit like cheating, though.

Sci-Fi

Stargate Atlantis (Fridays, 10 PM, currently airing) – It’s always hell being a spin-off when the show that got you started is still on the air; you’re invariably stuck in that show’s shadow, no matter how good you might be. That being the case, you have to figure that the cast and crew of “Stargate Atlantis” are unabashedly guilty that “Stargate SG-1” has finally left the airwaves. The memories still linger, thanks to the character of Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) transitioning onto “Atlantis,” but the series is finally getting to stand on its own. Season 4 has featured two major multi-parters, but there’s still one yet to go, and for fans of the late Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion), it’s gonna be a doozy.

Battlestar Galactica (Fridays, 10 PM, returning Apr. 4) – Not that we didn’t enjoy “Razor,” the November 2007 TV movie that kept “Battlestar Galactica” obsessives from committing hara-kiri, but this is what the fans have really been waiting for. Well, sort of, anyway: Season 4 will be the final season for the series, so it’s a bittersweet return no matter how you look at it. Still, executive producers Ronald Moore and David Eick want to end the show on their own terms, and you have to applaud them for that, at least.

Showtime

The L Word (Sundays, 9 PM, currently airing) – Yeah, you guessed it: I’m another one of those heterosexual males whose only interest in watching this show is the fact that it’s about lesbians. Or, rather, that used to be my only interest. Our man Ross Ruediger felt more or less the same way but after he sat down to watch Season 4, he was surprised to find that A) there was no overt girl-on-girl action for the first half of the season, and B) it didn’t matter. “By the time the girls started takin’ it off and getting’ it on about halfway through the set,” he said, “the Hot Skin Nudie Watusi was as much distraction as it was turn-on. Simply put, ‘The L Word’ is some really good storytelling with a fantastic ensemble cast; it’d be a great show if its stars were dressed in iron maidens.” (I buy every part of that except the bit where it was as much distraction as turn-on.) Season 5’s on the air now, and both Cybill Shepherd and Wallace Shawn have popped up thus far, so whatever your reasons for watching “The L Word,” head over to Showtime and catch the new episodes.

The Tudors (Sundays, 10 PM, returning Mar. 30) – You wouldn’t think that a series about the early years of Henry VIII’s reign over England would be the sort of thing that kids today would get into. Turns out that there’s more sex and violence in this show than “The Sopranos.” Who knew history could be so awesome? Season 1 just came out on DVD, and Season 2 is just around the corner. Mind you, it’s probably best not to use the events of the series to write any school reports, given that it’s littered with historical “liberties” for the sake of drama, but, y’know, with all the bare breasts and bloodletting, I think we can hang with a few liberties, can’t we?

TBS

Tyler Perry’s House of Payne (Wednesdays, 10 PM, currently airing) – Including the name “Tyler Perry” before its title is enough to take any film to the top of the box office in its release week, so it’s no surprise Perry would also create a TV series bearing his name. I gotta be honest, though: Season 1 of the show is sitting about three feet from my desk and I’ll be damned if I can muster the courage to put so much as the first disc in my DVD player. But if you’re a fan of Perry’s work, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that there are a ton of episodes in the can – more than a season’s worth, in fact – ready for your viewing enjoyment.

USA

Monk (Fridays, 9 PM, currently airing) – “Monk” remains one of the most charming series on television, with Tony Shaloub’s performance in the title role giving the proceedings the feel of a modern-day “Columbo.” For that matter, the love/hate relationship between Monk and Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) is reminiscent of the bond between Jim Rockford and Dennis Becker on “The Rockford Files.” Even in its sixth season, “Monk” still manages to offer up that perfect blend of humor, mystery and characterization in a seemingly effortless fashion, even successfully surviving Mr. Monk’s change in assistants. (I never had a problem with it, anyway; I’ve thought Traylor Howard was cute as a button ever since “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.”)

Psych (Fridays, 10 PM, currently airing) – On the other hand, I still can’t offer up a whole lot of love for “Psych.” I know Jason Thompson loves it (and said as much in his TV Cavalcade of Crunk piece), and he’s more than welcome to his opinion, but for as much as I love the concept of a guy being so observant that he can pretend to be a “psychic detective” and solve crimes faster than the actual police, I still find James Roday’s performance to be downright obnoxious. But Dule Hill, who plays his comrade in arms, is funny, and not only was he the focus of the episode that premiered Season 2.5 – yeah, that’s how the USA Network does it – but Roday’s role was diminished considerably. I know it won’t always be that way but, personally, I kind of wish it would be.

Still kicking but presently without a scheduled premiere / return date

ABCCavemen (7 episodes)
BBC AmericaAfterlife (8 episodes), Footballers’ Wives: Overtime (7 episodes), In The City (15 episodes), MI-5 (10 episodes), Robin Hood (13 episodes), Wild at Heart (10 episodes)
Comedy CentralFuturama (16 episodes)
FXThe Shield (13 episodes)

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