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Fall TV Preview

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As the seasons change, so do the programs on the broadcast networks. Yes, even with the world of television having changed to the point where you never really know when a show’s new season is going to start, you can still count on the fall to be the predominant time for new series to hit the airwaves. This particular fall brings a surprising amount of parallel evolution between ABC and NBC, with both networks each having produced a series about the swinging ‘60s and one about fairy tales intersecting with the real world in present day. ABC’s putting a real focus on guy-centric sitcoms, while CBS is breaking out a couple of hourlong dramas that unabashedly recall past successes, presumably in an effort to duplicate them. Fox is putting its promotional power behind sci-fi action, Simon Cowell, and the most adorkable actress you’ve ever seen, and The CW…well, they’re still busy being The CW. But that works for them, so fair enough. Join us now as Bullz-Eye takes a look at what the five broadcast networks are offering up this fall, and see what floats your boat this season.

Bullz-Eye's 2011 Fall TV Preview: What's New for Fox

: (ABC), / (CBS), (NBC), (The CW)

: Jason O’Mara, Stephen Lang, Shelley Conn, Andon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Mido Hamada, Christine Adams, Allison Miller

: Brannon Braga, Alex Graves, Rene Echevarria

: “In the year 2149, the world is dying. The planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded, with the majority of plant and animal life extinct. The future of mankind is in doubt, and its only hope for survival is in the distant past. When scientists at the FERMI Particle Accelerator unexpectedly discovered a fracture in time that made it possible to construct a portal into primeval history, the bold notion was born to resettle humanity in the past – a second chance to rebuild civilization and get it right this time.

The Shannon family joins the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in this beautiful yet forbidding land. Jim Shannon, a devoted father with a checkered past, guides his family through this new world of limitless beauty, mystery and terror. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth Shannon, is a trauma surgeon and the newest addition to Terra Nova’s medical team. Josh Shannon is their 17-year-old son who is angry to leave life as he knows it behind; upon arriving at the settlement, he finds himself instantly drawn to the beautiful and rule-breaking Skye. Maddy Shannon, Josh’s endearingly awkward 15-year-old sister, hopes Terra Nova will give her a new chance to reinvent herself. Although Elisabeth’s medical training secured the family a spot on the pilgrimage, a secret involving their five-year-old daughter, Zoe, soon endangers their place in this utopia.

Upon the Shannon’s arrival, they are introduced to Commander Nathan Taylor, the charismatic and heroic first pioneer and leader of the settlement. Taylor, along with his right-hand man, Guzman, warn the travelers that while Terra Nova is a place of new opportunities and fresh beginnings, all is not as idyllic as it initially appears. Along with blue skies, towering waterfalls and lush vegetation, the surrounding terrain is teeming with danger – and not just of the man-eating dinosaur variety. There is also a splinter colony of renegades led by the battle-hardened Mira, who is vehemently opposed to Taylor and his leadership. Even more threatening than what lies outside the protective walls of the colony is the chilling possibility that something sinister is happening inside Terra Nova. The Shannons will come to suspect that not everyone on this mission has the same idea of how to best save mankind; in fact, there may be forces intent on destroying this new world before it even begins.”

: Critics began sharpening their knives when they heard that Fox was delaying the premiere of the series by several months in order to make sure everything was ready to roll without having to rush, but as a sci-fi geek, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of the premise and the unrolling of the series' mythology. Anyone concerned that the whole thing is little more than a bunch of haphazardly-thrown-together plot ideas covering up a bunch of big-budget CGI dinosaurs needn't be worried. Not that there aren't quite a few rampaging dinos on the premises, but there's also a nice amount of family drama, intriguing characters brought to you by established sci-fi guys like O'Mara (ABC's "Life on Mars") and Lang ("Avatar"), and a mystery about this strange alternate-universe past the Shannons and their fellow colonists have found themselves in. Fox used to be really awful about letting sci-fi series catch their breath and find a groove, but with the way they've kept "Fringe" alive for the past few seasons, there's a very real possibility that "Terra Nova" will have an opportunity to build a fanbase beyond just the gawkers who want to see dinosaurs.

: (ABC), (CBS), (NBC), (The CW)

: Zooey Deschanel, Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone

: Peter Chernin, Elizabeth Meriwether, Katherine Pope

: “Jess, an offbeat girl, moves in with three single guys after a bad breakup and essentially sets a bomb off in their lives.”

: I stand by my position that "Suburgatory" is my favorite new sitcom of the season, but if I had to pick the most imminently new sitcom, it's "New Girl" by a country mile. I could watch Zooey Deschanel do just about anything, so is she. My biggest concern about the show for the long haul is that, as it stands right now, all I've seen is the pilot for the series, and the funniest non-Zooey person was Damon Wayans, Jr., who - unfortunately for all of us - remains trapped on ABC's "Happy Endings." I'm not saying that his replacement on the show, Lamorne Morris, isn't a funny guy, but Wayans leaves a major void to be filled. Still, the reality of the situation is this: it doesn't really matter who else is on the show, since it's unquestionably all about Zooey. Not only is she the playing the title character, but she's just . Some may have no tolerance for her. I am not one of those people. I will be watching "New Girl."

: (ABC), (CBS), / (NBC), (The CW)

: Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger, Steve Jones

: Simon Cowell, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Siobhan Greene, Richard Holloway, Andrew Linares, Rob Wade

: “Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger search for undiscovered talent 12 years old and over – both solo artists and vocal groups – who are worthy of the largest prize in television history: a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music.”

: Is there really any point in a TV critic offering an opinion of a reality competition series? I'm sure some cynics will say that Paula Abdul's failure to succeed with her own show means that Simon won't be able to pull it off, either, but I'd bet a hell of a lot more people are interested in what Mr. Cowell has to say to prospective pop stars than what Paula had to offer up-and-coming dance divas. The promotional blitz has been ridiculous for this series, so there's little doubt that it's going to come out of the starting gate with a big-ass bang, but let's see how the ratings look as the season progresses.

: (ABC), (CBS), (NBC), (The CW)

: Jaime Pressly, Kate Finneran, Kevin Rahm, Julia Ling, Chad Coleman, Rosa Blasi, Aisha Dee, Kristi Lauren, Eric Sheffer Stevens

: Sherry Bilsing, Ellen Kreamer

: “Single moms, life-long friends and former nerds Annie and Nikki fear their privileged and overly indulged daughters are turning out to be just like the girls who picked on them in high school.”

: Say hello to the worst sitcom of the new fall season. Seriously, it's absolutely excruciating. I love Jaime Pressly, and if you liked her as Joy on "My Name Is Earl," you'll still like her here, but she's not the problem. That honor belongs to Kate Finneran, who has been allowed to indulge in the broadest slapstick imaginable, up to the point where she literally buries her face in a pie. But let's not put the whole thing off on Finneran. The writing's straight out of "ABC TGIF" territory, so much so that there's even a "joke" at one point about how one of the moms grew up so deprived that she never even got to see an episode of "Full House." Plus, the combination of being painfully unfunny and getting the choice post-"X-Factor" timeslot leads me to presume that someone in Fox's programming department has brain damage. What a complete waste of high-value prime real estate. There's a good show to be made about parents dealing with ungrateful teenage children, but if this is the one America chooses to embrace, then I weep for our future...and, yes, it really that bad.

: (ABC), (CBS), (NBC)

: Jonah Hill, Will Forte, French Stewart, Nat Faxon, Joy Osmanski, Cristina Pucelli

: Peter Chernin, Jonah Hill, Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul, Katherine Pope

: “Allen Gregory is the world’s most celebrated seven-year-old embarking on the greatest challenge of his life: attending elementary school with regular kids.”

: As of this writing, I haven't seen any more of "Allen Gregory" than you have, which is to say that all I've seen is that little two-minute-long presentation reel that paints the title character with really broad strokes: he's a little kid, but he's some sort of upper-class super-genius who comes across like Stewie Griffin if he was raised by Frasier and Niles Crane...uh, if they were a gay couple instead of brothers. I laughed a few times during the clip, and I cringed a little, too, which currently puts the series on par with the majority of the other "Animation Domination" series, but I have no way of knowing if it's going to prove successful with Fox's Sunday night audience. I will say, though, that they made "Bob's Burgers" into a hit, so I guess the chances are about as good for a non-Seth-MacFarlane series to find viewership as they're ever going to be .

Bullz-Eye's 2011 Fall TV Preview: What's New for ABC

Bullz-Eye's 2011 Fall TV Preview: What's New for CBS

: (ABC), (NBC), (Fox), (The CW)

: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Garrett Morris, Matthew Moy, Jonathan Kite, Brooke Lyons

Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings

: “A comedy about two young women waitressing at a greasy spoon diner who strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business - if only they can raise the cash. Sassy, streetwise Max Black works two jobs just to get by, one of which is waiting tables during the night shift at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. Sophisticated Caroline Channing is an uptown trust fund princess who's having a run of bad luck that forces her to reluctantly give waitressing a shot. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers she must cover for, but she's surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style. When Caroline discovers Max's knack for baking amazing cupcakes, she sees a lucrative future for them, but they first need to raise the start-up money. While they save their tips, they'll stay at the restaurant, working with Oleg, an overly flirtatious Russian cook; Earl, a 75-year-old kool-kat cashier; and Han Lee, the new, eager-to-please owner of the diner. Working together, these two broke girls living in one expensive city might just find the perfect recipe for their big break.”

: What's this? A new sitcom in CBS's Monday night lineup that a Chuck Lorre production? Will wonders never cease! Better yet, it's a relatively strong one, though like so many other sitcom entries this season, it's one where the leads are strong but the ensemble surrounding them is hit or miss...and, unfortunately, that includes Garrett Morris, who deserves so much better than hackneyed one-liners. (There's a Duke University locker room joke, for God's sake. Uh, ?) Dennings, however, is the sarcastic version of Zooey Deschanel, which is to say that she's cute, funny, and she could take you down a peg without even blinking, and Beth Behr is, for lack of a more elaborate phrase, sweet and pretty. The two of them also have instant chemistry together. If a cast as strong as "Mad Love" couldn't make it more than a season, we probably shouldn't pin any major hopes on "2 Broke Girls," but it's a certainly a show that we wouldn't seeing succeed.

: (ABC), (NBC)

: Poppy Montgomery, Dylan Walsh, Michael Gaston, Kevin Rankin, Daya Vaidya

Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Ed Redlich, John Bellucci

: “A drama about an NYPD detective with a flawless memory who not only remembers her every moment and emotion, but is physically incapable of forgetting. This extraordinary ability both enhances and complicates all aspects of her life.”

: If you're a sucker for a procedural with a gimmick, look no further. Call it Marilu Henner meets "The Mentalist," with Carrie Wells - Montgomery's character - using her memory to solve crimes while also being tortured by a childhood event which, for reasons we will no doubt learn in the season finale cliffhanger, has been one of the few moments in her life that she remember. Of course there's a romantic past with fellow detective Al Burns (Walsh), so you know that'll be a recurring plot line as well. Frankly, the best member of the ensemble is television stalwart Michael Gaston, who's the only member of Burns's team of detectives who makes any sort of impression whatsoever. Like "The Mentalist," they'll have to quickly make the show less about the gimmick and more about the ensemble for "Unforgettable" to come anywhere close to living up to its title.

: (ABC), / (NBC), (Fox), (The CW)

: David Hornsby, Kevin Dillon, Dave Foley, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nancy Lenehan, Rhys Darby

David Hornsby, Adam Chase, Ted Schachter and Joe Hipps

: “A comedy about the unlikely friendship between a traditional, refined writer and an unrefined personal trainer.”

: It doesn't take much to figure out that if you blended Hornsby's and Dillon's characters together, you'd get some approximation of Barney Stinson, but this definitely isn't "The Bro Code: The Series." Ironically, "Gentleman" is the exact opposite of just about every other new sitcom to hit the airwaves this season, in that the ensemble is much more charming and funny than the leads. Actually, that's not entirely true: the leads are fine, but Dillon in particular is stuck playing a man-brute while Hornsby has to be perpetually prim and proper, and although the latter's not so bad, Dillon seriously needs to dial it down a few notches. But Foley's as hilarious as usual in the role of Hornsby's boss, who's feeling his age and is trying desperately to make himself look young and seem relevant, and although Rajskub doesn't get to do much more than act bitchy, there's a lot of potential with the casting of Rhys Darby as her husband, who's laugh-out-loud funny every time he opens his mouth. As it stands, though, we're still a long, long way from inspiring me to switch my allegiance from "Parks & Recreation."

: (ABC), / (NBC), (Fox), (The CW)

Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman

J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Jonathan Nolan, David Semel and Greg Plageman

: “A crime thriller about a former-CIA agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes using their own brand of vigilante justice.”

: Be honest: you know the mere fact that J.J. Abrams' name is in the credits was enough to inspire a raising of the eyebrows and an immediate curiosity about the series. Then, however, you may have suddenly flashed back to last season's "Undercovers" and sighed a bit. Fortunately, this is much closer to "Alias," but with the added bonus of Michael Emerson, who's got just as much creepy charisma here as he did when he was playing Benjamin Linus on "Lost." Caviezel's playing a strong but silent type who throws out the occasional witty one-liner, but the action's what keeps things going, plus a bit of the fear of the information age that drove such films as "Enemy of the State" and "Eagle Eye." I'm inevitably way more intrigued by Emerson's character than I am Caviezel's, but the latter sure plays the bad-ass well in the pilot. I'm just curious to see if CBS's audience can a bad-ass on a weekly basis. For the moment, though, they've got sold.

: (ABC), (NBC), (Fox), (The CW)

: Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale, Pablo Schreiber

Neal Baer, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman and Susannah Grant

: “A drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the ‘hereafter.’”

: Okay, seriously, what is it about CBS Friday nights and series about people who can talk (or at least whisper) to ghosts? Beats me, but you can't blame the powers that be for playing it safe and sticking with what's worked for them in the past. There's schmaltz, as you'd expect from a series where a guy's talking to the spirit of the late love of his life, but Wilson plays it well, and with Margo Martindale in the mix, you can count on a certain amount of snippy dialogue. For my part, I'd watch this thing every week if we could keep Jonathan Demme in the director's chair, as he is for the first episode - call me crazy, but I'd rank this right up there with "Reaper" as a perfectly delivered pilot - but somehow I suspect that's not likely to happen. Still, if future episodes can match the tone that he's set and keep the proceedings from wallowing in sentimentality, I'd be willing to revisit the series on a regular basis.

Bullz-Eye's 2011 Fall TV Preview: What's New for NBC

Bullz-Eye's 2011 Fall TV Preview: What's New for The CW

: (ABC), / (CBS), (NBC), (Fox)

: Rachel Bilson, Jaime King, Wilson Bethel, Cress Williams, Scott Porter

Leila Gerstein, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Len Goldstein and Donald Todd

: “Fast-talking New Yorker Zoe Hart has her life all figured out: after graduating top of her class from medical school, she’ll follow in her father’s footsteps as a cardio-thoracic surgeon in New York City. But life has other plans for Zoe. Turned down for the prestigious fellowship she had been certain she would get, Zoe is without a job and without a plan. Desperate, she decides to finally respond to the kindly stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, whom she met at her medical school graduation and who had offered her a place at his small medical practice in Bluebell, Alabama. She swallows her considerable pride and heads down South – temporarily, she assures herself.”

: If you thought the worst thing about "Hart of Dixie" would be trying to buy Bilson as a surgeon, you're wrong. In addition to painting the character of Zoe with the sort of broad strokes where she starts the pilot as a complete bitch who's dismissive of living in a small Southern town and ends it as a thoughtful young woman who believes the people of Bluebell just might have a few life lessons to teach her, the proceedings tend to be little more than cornpone cliches slathered atop a heaping helping of schmaltz. There are a few clever lines and amusing characters, like the mayor of Bluebell, a former football player who regularly refers to himself in the third person, but viewers below the Mason-Dixon line will likely sneer at the way they're portrayed, while everyone else will just roll their eyes and switch over to...well, just about anything else, really.

: (ABC), (CBS), (NBC), / (Fox)

: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell, Mike Colter, Ioan Gruffudd

Pam Veasey, Jon Liebman and JoAnne Colonna

: “Bridget Kelly is a recovering addict, struggling to turn her life around. She's six months sober, and beginning to get back on track, when she witnesses a professional hit. She's placed in federal protection under the watch of Victor Machado, an agent determined to see that justice is done. But Bridget knows that Victor can't keep her safe and she flees, telling no one, not even her close friend and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor Malcolm Ward. Hoping to buy some time, Bridget contacts her identical twin sister, Siobhan Martin, and joins her in New York City, reuniting with her for the first time in six years. Siobhan is fabulously wealthy, with a strikingly handsome husband, Andrew, who has no idea that Bridget exists. When Siobhan suddenly disappears, seemingly taking her own life, Bridget makes the split decision to take on her sister's identity.”

: With so many unabashed "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans among the writing staff, no one wants to see Sarah Michelle Gellar succeed in a series more than Bullz-Eye, but for that to happen, viewers are going to have to get past the painful sequences at the beginning of the pilot where Gellar interacts with herself. If you can get beyond that, Gellar's interactions with the trifecta of Carbonell, Colter, and Gruffudd may offer enough charisma to keep people coming back, but given that we weren't even halfway through the pilot before we started wondering incessantly just how long Bridget was going to be able to perpetuate her chicanery, things are going to have to get really interesting really quickly for the show to maintain the initial "welcome back to the small screen, Sarah Michelle" momentum in the ratings.

: (ABC), (CBS), / (NBC), (Fox)

: Mario Lopez

:Mike Fleiss, Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Mario Lopez and Jeremy Spiegel

: “Celebrities are constantly in the public eye - but not everyone is a fan. Each week, celebrities from the world of television, sports and music will come face-to-face with their biggest ‘haters’ to try to win them over.”

: All we've seen thus far is a "presentation" to give us a feel for what the show will be like, but it now appears that the season premiere is going to feature the same material, namely Snooki from "Jersey Shore" and Jake Pavelka from "The Bachelor" each confronting a "hater." The concept itself isn't so awful - it's about time some of these internet trolls were taken to task by the people they're mouthing off about from the safety of their computers - but based on the sampling of future "stars" who'll be appearing on the show, it's clear that the word "celebrity" is going to be pretty relative. Given the competition, it's hard to imagine that reality-show alumni facing off against their "haters" are going to pull sufficient ratings to make much of a ratings dent against reality shows like "Survivor" and "The X-Factor."

: (ABC), (CBS), / Whitney (NBC), (Fox)

: Britt Robertson, Thomas Dekker, Gale Harold, Phoebe Tonkin, Shelley Hennig, Jessica Parker Kennedy

Kevin Williamson, Andrew Miller, Les Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo

: “Cassie Blake is a normal, happy teenager, leading an everyday life with her devoted single mom, Amelia. But when her mother dies in what Cassie thinks is a tragic, accidental fire, her world is turned upside down. Cassie moves in with her warm and loving grandmother Jane in the beautiful small town of Chance Harbor, Washington - where the residents seem to know more about her than she knows about herself.”

: The fact that it's from Williamson, most recently known to CW viewers as the man who brought them "The Vampire Diaries," may lead everyone who's aged out of their teens to believe that "The Secret Circle" will be at best no more than another guilty pleasure that they'll never publicly admit to watching. "Circle," however, begins without the bandwagon-jumping feel that "Vampires" had at the outset - "It's just like 'Twilight,' except it's on !' - and instantly offers a dark, intriguing premise as well as all the teen angst you've come to expect from a Williamson project. Yes, many oldsters will smile knowingly at the similarities to "The Craft" when the bitchy teen witches hit the screen, but it feels more like an homage than a rip-off. This could prove to be one of the more enjoyable series of the season. Stay tuned.

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