Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fall TV Preview 2006:
Entertainment Weekly has done theirs, so now it's time to do mine. For those who care (and I know that might be none of you), here's Randy's Fall TV Preview. All times are central, because that's my time zone.

1. Studio 60 on Sunset
2. Heroes
3. Smith
4. The Nine
5. Kidnapped

1. Studio 60 on Sunset
2. Lost
3. Heroes
4. Smith
5. Veronica Mars

Fox got a jump on new TV this year, and they've already launched several of their shows. I have Tivo'ed but not yet watched the first two episodes of Bones (7 pm Wednesdays), Tivo'ed late and not yet gotten any episodes of Justice (8 pm Wednesdays) and Tivo'ed and watched the first episode of Standoff (8 pm Tuesdays).

Bones is like CSI or Law & Order with more of a sense of humor. David Boreanaz, who made his name playing moody and morose on Angel, is surprisingly fun as the witty, relatively lighthearted FBI agent Booth, and the team of scientist "squints" he works with, headed by Dr. Temperance Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel, sister of Zooey), are quirky and entertaining to watch. The runaway supporting character is artistic, sexy, funny Angela Montenegro, played by Michaela Conlin. The episodic nature of the show, not to mention its crime procedural nature, make it unlikely to ever become a huge favorite of mine, but I always enjoy watching it, and will if there's nothing else opposite.

Justice I'm watching for the cast (Victor Garber in a starring role, plus Eamonn Walker) but probably won't watch as soon as something goes on opposite. Standoff is the same way, as it features Gina Torres and Ron Livingston. I liked the first episode, and there's good chemistry between Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt, but as with Bones, it doesn't quite reach above solidly put together and well cast. One of those shows I'll watch as long as I don't have too much else to watch or there isn't something else on opposite.

Family Guy also starts again as of tonight at 9 pm. I always enjoy the show, although I haven't watched it for a while.

Studio 60 on Sunset (NBC, Mondays at 9, starting Sept. 18) - I've already seen this one online through the miracle of Youtube and a well-timed heads-up from Zack Smith, and I'll be very surprised if it doesn't turn out to be the best new show of the season. Take all the best of West Wing and Sportsnight, add in another amazing cast for writer/showrunner Aaron Sorkin to write for and you've got a great hourlong drama that is also hilariously funny and remarkably smart. I've already seen the pilot online, and I'm still chomping at the bit to watch it again when it finally airs.

The Unit (CBS, Tuesdays at 8, starting Sept. 19) - A military spec ops show crossed with a more serious Desperate Housewives. You'd think that a show by David Mamet and Shawn Ryan (creator of The Shield) and starring Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer of 24) would be can't miss, must-watch entertainment. But while the show is very good, and I found myself an avid follower, it's not quite the crack-addiction level of TV that The Shield or Lost are for me. I'll be watching, though, at least until Veronica Mars starts running opposite in October, at which point The Unit becomes DVD watching.

Smith (CBS, Tuesdays at 9, starting Sept. 19) - Ray Liotta as a career criminal, Virginia Madsen as his wife who doesn't know the truth, Shohreh Aghdashloo as the leader of the crew... that's amazing casting, and the buzz from those who've seen it is that it's great. Basically, it sounds like Heat: The TV series, and if done right, that could be a very good thing.

Kidnapped (NBC, Wednesdays at 8, starting Sept. 20) - The teenage son of a wealthy couple is kidnapped, and the show unfolds as a "hired gun" (played by Jeremy Sisto) and FBI agent (played by Delroy Lindo) try to get him back. Again, critical buzz is good, so I'll give this one a chance, at least until October, when it's up against Lost. At that point, if I like it, I'll watch it on my office TV or wait for DVDs.

My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC, Thursdays at 7, starting Sept. 21) - I watched Earl all of last season and, while it's no Arrested Development or Seinfeld, it does have some of the same comedic appeal and watchability of Friends at its best. I fell off watching The Office, but it's gotten so much critical love, and I did like some elements of it when I watched it, that I want to give it another chance. Especially since I'm a huge Steve Carrell fan, and I like Ed Helms, who is joining the show for 10 episodes this season.

Shark (CBS, Thursdays at 9, starting Sept. 21) - It's James Woods playing a defense attorney who has a crisis of conscience and goes to work for the prosecutor. I'm no huge fan of legal dramas in general, but the write-up in EW, not to mention the fact that it's James Woods, means I'll give it a look. The only thing running opposite that I'm even mildly interested in is Six Degrees, which has a good cast and J.J. Abrams as executive producer, but it sounds basically like a New York real-life drama, and that's not a genre I'm really interested in without some kind of twist.

Heroes (NBC, Mondays at 8, starting Sept. 25) - I saw the 72 minute version of the pilot in San Diego and thought it was really great. Saw the 52 minute (or whatever it is) that they're going to actually run on iTunes and thought it was merely good. They cut out two characters, one of whom is the great Greg Grunberg, and tightened up the story to such a degree that it feels too fast to me. A lot of the tension is gone, and I wasn't fond of the cuts made, and I think NBC would have been smarter to bite the bullet and give them a two hour or hour and a half spot for the first episode. But the other characters will show up in episode two, I'm sure, and there's still a lot to like about this well-cast, well-written and well-shot show.

Veronica Mars (CW, Tuesdays at 8, starting Oct. 3) - The series got a 13-episode pickup, and in both San Diego and print stories, there's definitely been a sense of "If we don't pick up ratings after Gilmore Girls, we're gone," but I'm hoping this will be the year the show finally catches on with a wider audience. It's smart, has a great cast and the best father/daughter relationship on television. This year it's supposed to be structured as 3 smaller mysteries, rather than one gigantic sprawling one, and that can only be a good thing. Even as a diehard fan of the show, I found some of last year's plotting a little byzantine.

Lost (ABC, Wednesdays at 8, starting Oct. 4) - The best show on television (barring The Shield, which runs off-season and thus doesn't count in this comparison) returns. I loved season two as much (if not more) than season one, can't wait to see more mysteries resolved and yet more unfold and can't wait for more great characterization, excellent writing and terrific acting.

The Nine (ABC, Wednesdays at 9, starting Oct. 4) - The buzz on this show from critics is strong, the cast is solid (including Tim Daly, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf and Chi McBride) and the premise intriguing. Basically, it takes place after a bank robbery/hostage situation, and explores nine people affected by the robbery, along with flashbacks to what happened during the situation. Interesting premise, interesting structure, good cast, critical buzz... I'm surprisingly intrigued by this one.

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