Bullz-Eye's 2006 Fall TV Preview: Fox
Otherwise known as “The Home of ‘American Idol,’ Plus Some Other Shows That Aren’t Nearly As Popular.” Yes, we know, they have “24,” “House,” “The Simpsons,” blah blah blah…but ask most anyone on the street their favorite Fox show, and, based on the ridiculously huge ratings it gets, you know it’s gonna be “American Idol.” This year, Fox is premiering a pair of sitcoms and a trio of dramatic series, but whether they’ll have staying power remains to be seen.
Vanished (Monday, August 21 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Gale Harold, John Allen Nelson, Joanne Kelly, Rebecca Gayheart, Margarita Levieva, John Patrick Amedori, Chris Egan, Robert Hoffman, Ming-Na
Executive Producers: Josh Berman (“C.S.I.”), Paul Redford (“The West Wing”) and Mimi Leder (“Deep Impact”)
The Pitch: Sara Collins, the beautiful young wife of prominent Georgia Senator Jeffrey Collins, is gone…but before the FBI can solve the mystery of where she is, they first need to figure out who she really is. Through the eyes of Senior FBI Agent Graham Kelton (Harold), ambitious reporter Judy Nash (Gayheart), and the distraught members of the Collins family, viewers will journey inside a sensational mystery that not only exposes one of the nation’s most prominent families but also uncovers evidence that could rock the very foundation of American society.
The Buzz: C’mon, Fox, one “24” is enough, isn’t it? Maybe not. Come January, this is the show that’ll be following it; since a “24” movie is in the works, maybe the network’s hoping that this will take its place whenever it leaves the airwaves.
Pilot Highlight: Mystery, schmystery. I’m a red-blooded American male, and nothing’s gonna top a scene that begins with Rebecca Gayheart in a bed, wearing a thong and removing her bra while straddling her lover.
Bottom Line: Certainly, Fox set the industry standard on TV shows that unfold week by week to a grand finale. Given how they split the Monday night 8 PM slot between “Prison Break” and “24,” this is a good way to keep the audience around through the 9 – 10 PM slot all year ‘round.
Standoff (Tuesday, September 5 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt, Michael Cudlitz, Gina Torres, Raquel Alessi
Executive Producer: Craig Silverstein (“The Dead Zone”)
The Pitch: There’s no crisis situation they can’t handle...unless it involves each other. Matt Flannery (Livingston) and Emily Lehman (DeWitt) are the top-ranked negotiators in the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit. They’re trained to talk their way through volatile situations. They’re experts at knowing what makes other people tick. They’re also sleeping together, a secret that they agreed to keep to themselves until Matt reveals it to the entire world during a tense hostage standoff. The public revelation causes friction between Matt, who relies on gut instinct, and Emily, an academic who analyzes every move.
The Buzz: Someone’s got to say it, so it might as well be me: you see Livingston onscreen and, instantly, you think of him in his “Office Space” role…and that’s gonna be a problem in the whole suspension-of-disbelief thing, right? Thankfully, they’ve incorporated Livingston's deadpan comedic delivery into his character’s personality, and damned if it doesn’t work really well. As a result, it’s surprisingly easy to buy his performances during the dramatic moments.
Pilot Highlight: When, in the midst of a standoff that appears to be going south, Flannery decides to try honesty, admitting that everybody’s got problems. He then proceeds to divulge that he’s been having sex with his partner for the past three months…a revelation that instantly sends eyebrows shooting skyward throughout the crowd of agents.
Bottom Line: Easily the best of Fox’s new dramas, with a solid ensemble. Having one deadpan leading man following another (“House” precedes “Standoff”) should translate into at least a full season commitment…fingers crossed.
Justice (Wednesday, August 30 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Victor Garber, Kerr Smith, Eamonn Walker, Rebecca Mader
Executive Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer (“Cold Case”), Jonathan Littman (“Without a Trace”), Jonathan Shapiro (“Boston Legal”), David McNally (um, “Kangaroo Jack”)
The Pitch: An unflinching, behind-the-scenes look at the way high-profile cases are tried in the media age. Love them or hate them, in the high-stakes world of criminal defense, these are the people you want in your corner when your life is on the line. A dream team of four lawyers from disparate backgrounds joins forces to tackle the most controversial and newsworthy cases; with their unique skill sets and the power of forensic law, this formidable team becomes indispensable to the law firm of Trott, Nicholson, Tuller & Graves.
The Buzz: Fox makes its bid for a legal drama, adding equal parts “Bones” and “C.S.I.” to the mix. Since the former series is the lead-in for “Justice,” that ups the chance of audience carryover. The bosses in this show – Garber and Walker – are among the least sympathetic characters on television. Kerr Smith (Jack from “Dawson’s Creek”) plays the part of the naïve kid who wants to believe the best of people, but his general kindliness may not be enough to warm audiences up to this show.
Pilot Highlight: When the prosecutor’s team attempts to demonstrate how a woman’s death occurred and takes a golf club to a plastic head. Repeatedly.
Bottom Line: “Justice” plays a lot like so many other crime-related shows currently on the air…possibly because Jerry Bruckheimer is responsible for, what, about a dozen dramas nowadays? This one doesn’t stand out enough to make one hopeful for its long-term survival.
‘Til Death (Thursday, September 7 @ 8:00 PM, Fox)
Starring: Brad Garrett, Joely Fisher, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Kat Foster
Executive Producers: Husband and wife team Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa (“The King of Queens”)
The Pitch: Middle-aged Eddie (Garrett) and Joy (Fisher) are on day 8,743 of their marriage and have the battle scars to prove it. Their new next-door neighbors are young newlyweds Steph (Foster) and Jeff (Thomas) – idealistic, passionate, adorable and married for all of 12 days. It’s a show about new marriage versus old marriage, about keeping the romance alive...or at least staying together so you have someone to drive you to the hospital for your operations.
The Buzz: Brad Garrett is clearly the most valuable player in this cast, coming off “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but don’t discount the recognizability of Eddie Kaye Thomas (Finch from the “American Pie” flicks).
Pilot Highlight: When Eddie assures Jeff that Jeff's wife isn’t going to let him put a pool table in the dining room. “She’ll say, ‘But isn’t it more important to have a nice room to have dinner parties?’ And you’ll say, ‘Well, in reality, sweetie, we don’t really host that many dinner parties.’ And now you’ve pissed her off…because even if women don’t actually host dinner parties, they want to believe that they have dinner parties. That’s why you just registered for thousands of dollars worth of china.”
Bottom Line: The show has possible cross-generational appeal, and Garrett is definitely perfect as an old, married everyman, but it’s suicidal for Fox to put the show up against “My Name Is Earl.” Unless it gets a new timeslot, it’ll be gone by mid-season.
Happy Hour (Thursday, September 7 @ 8:30 PM, Fox)
Starring: John Sloan, Lex Medlin, Nat Faxon, Jamie Denbo, Beth Lacke, Brooke D’Orsay
Executive Producers: Jackie and Jeff Filgo (“That ‘70s Show”), Tom Werner (“Grounded for Life”), Eric Gold (“Twenty Good Years”), Jimmy Miller (“The Guardian”)
The Pitch: Straight arrow Henry Beckman (Sloan) had it all: a great job, a perfect girlfriend and a sweet apartment. He was a big fish in the small pond of Amsterdam, Missouri. And then he let Heather (D’Orsay) talk him into moving to Chicago to work in her family business, where it all went wrong. In the space of one morning, Henry gets dumped by Heather, the girl he thought was “the one,” learns he can no longer work for Heather’s uncle, and gets kicked out of their apartment. It’s in this vulnerable state that he meets his new roommate, a vain, flashy, loveable rogue named Larry Cone (Medlin), who’s just lost his own roommate and best friend, Brad (Faxon).
The Buzz: Not good. There’s been a lot of talk on the ‘net about how the press conference for the show involved plying the media with free alcohol…and how even that wasn’t enough to ensure a positive review.
Pilot Highlight: Larry’s explanation about why he starts drinking eyeball-melting martinis at 4 PM. “Forty years ago, every man in this country was half drunk by sundown. It was a gracious, golden time…and I want it back. The revolution starts here.”
Bottom Line: There’s comedic chemistry between leads Sloan and Medlin, but the supporting cast spends too much time trying to be funny; in particular, Beth Lacke’s delivery comes off as intentionally quirky. The show also has the most obnoxious laugh track of any new show this season…and given the competition, that’s really saying something. Throw into the mix that it’s up against NBC’s powerhouse comedy lineup, and we’re probably looking at last call happening sooner rather than later.