Fall's TV lineup brings a few promising premises - and a few duds
I can feel it in the air. The cool breezes of fresh, fall programming are wafting our way, ready to push away the oppressive and stifling reruns and reality programs of summer.
OK, the new programs are not all fresh. There's the usual stale collection of doctors, lawyers, cops and Matthew Perry. But many of these series at least attempt to add interesting twists to the formula. There are a handful of new, gay characters in prime time, a few slumming big-screen stars (and stars' daughters) and the ongoing quest to find the new "Lost."
Like last year, the more inventive shows will turn up midseason. I'll be back to tell you about those in January. In the meantime, here's the skinny on your new favorite programs.
"666 Park Avenue," ABC (Sept. 30, 9 p.m.) — When your landlord is Satan, I'll bet you have to keep bugging and bugging him about the air conditioning. "Lost's" Terry O'Quinn plays the deal-making owner of a posh New York City building. The deals he makes, though, are of the "Twilight Zone" variety and come with horrible and ironic consequences.
"The Mob Doctor," Fox (Sept. 17, 8 p.m.) — "My Boys" star Jordana Spiro gets to flex her dramatic chops as a gifted but morally conflicted surgeon who protects her family by stitching up mafia thugs. The premise is intriguing and the performances are good, but the script could use a scalpel.
"Revolution," NBC (Sept. 17, 9 p.m.) — Where were you when the lights went out? If you answered "in the dark," then you know where you'll be when the first hour of this too-familiar conspiracy yarn wraps up. It's 15 years after all electrical power vanishes from the planet, and a rag-tag group of renegades tries to stay alive and solve the mystery of how to get it back. This show looks like "Terra Nova," feels like "Flash Forward" and will probably make as much sense as "Lost" (right down to a single glowing, green-lettered, jury-rigged computer terminal). Should I go on? It's basically "Jericho," so if you were upset when that show got canceled, rejoice!
"Partners," CBS (Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.) — Think "Will & Grace," if Grace were a straight guy. But David Krumholtz ("Numbers") is no Debra Messing and nobody in this hackneyed and offensively overacted sitcom is a scene-stealing Megan Mullally, though it's not for lack of trying.
"Go On," NBC (Sept. 11, 8 p.m.) — Matthew Perry ("Friends") plays a sportscaster and a recent widower who is ordered into therapy to — oh, forget it. He plays Chandler. There, I said it. He plays Chandler, just like he played Chandler in "Mr. Sunshine." Do you like Chandler Bing? Would he be more appealing if he were mourning Monica's demise? Could you BE any more of a Chandler fan? This is your show.
"The New Normal," NBC (Sept. 11, 8:30 p.m.) — Surprise! I'm not sure how long Ryan Murphy's highly stylized study of gay adoption, surrogacy and envelope-pushing political incorrectness can last, but Ellen Barkin gives "American Horror Story's" Jessica Lange a run for best "Hey, look — it's that aging movie star! She's doing TV and she's really good!" At least one network affiliate has already refused to run this show, so it'll be on my DVR for sure.
"Ben and Kate," Fox (Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.) — I was predisposed to dislike this sitcom because it contains yet another idiot man-child and yet another mixed-up, post "New Girl" woman-child. It's still not great, but the performances are so winning, especially Oscar-winning screenwriter Nat Faxon's turn as freewheeling Ben and 8-year-old Maggie Jones' take on Kate's daughter, Maddie, that I can't help but root for it.
"The Mindy Project," Fox (Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m.) — Having watched the pilot, I'm still not sure exactly what this terribly named, messy sitcom is about. Mindy Kaling plays a gynecologist who sleeps around, parties too much and seems to end up in jail a lot. None of it is particularly clever or funny, but if Kaling's departure had anything to do with this being the last season of "The Office," well, we all owe her new show a look just for that.
"Vegas," CBS (Sept. 25, 9 p.m.) — Big names appear in this stylish, '60s-set genre-buster that bets everything on red — blood red. Dennis Quaid plays a rough, gruff, horse-riding sheriff at odds with Michael Chiklis as a thuggish casino owner. Cowboys, the mafia and "Mad Men" glamour make for a turbulent adolescence — in this case, Sin City's.
"Emily Owens, M.D.," the CW (Oct. 16, 8 p.m.) — A first-year doctor (Mamie Gummer) looks forward to adulthood, but finds that her new job is a lot like high school, complete with one of the actual mean girls who used to torment her. This light drama could be perfect for The CW's audience.
"Animal Practice," NBC (Sept. 26, 7 p.m.) — I can't decide if this sitcom starring Justin Kirk ("Weeds") as a wacky but well-intentioned veterinarian is a dog or for the birds. This might help you decide if it's your cup of kibble: a monkey steals the show.
"Guys with Kids," NBC (Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.) — The only good thing I can say about this awful tale of a trio of inept fathers is that in a few weeks, we'll be referring to it as "Actors without Jobs." Maybe I'm wrong — the laugh track seemed to love it.
"The Neighbors," ABC (Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m.) — Remember "3rd Rock From the Sun"? Some idiot programming executive over at Fox does. This show is like "3rd Rock" in reverse — a family discovers that all the other residents of their new subdivision are aliens. The premise might be interstellar, but that's the only time you'll see the word "stellar" associated with "The Neighbors."
"Arrow," the CW (Oct. 10, 7 p.m.) — The CW tries, with mixed results, to give DC Comics hero The Green Arrow the kind of treatment that director Christopher Nolan brought to the big-screen Batman reboot.
"Chicago Fire," NBC (Oct. 10, 9 p.m.) — If you always thought that "Grey's Anatomy" would be better in a firehouse, slide down a pole and pull up a couch.
"Nashville," ABC (Oct. 10, 9 p.m.) — This show is so far outside of my wheelhouse that I ought to hate it. I blame "Friday Night Lights" star Connie Britton for making me feel otherwise. She is fierce, vulnerable and thoroughly believable as Rayna James, an aging country diva facing obscurity and competition from a trampy young rising star played by Hayden Panettiere. There's a political storyline here, too, which is boring and a bit hard to follow, but whenever the guitars start twangin', there's tons of potential for good, soapy, "All 'Bout Eve"-type fun.
"Last Resort," ABC (Sept. 27, 7 p.m.) — I predict strong sea legs for this stylish and well-acted tale of a rogue submarine crew that ignores orders to fire nuclear weapons and, instead, takes up residence on an island, declaring themselves an independent nation. It's how I imagine "Gilligan's Island" would have been if the Professor had been J. Robert Oppenheimer.
"Elementary," CBS (Sept. 27, 9 p.m.) — Sherlock Holmes in modern-day New York City with a female Watson? A female Watson played by Lucy Liu? Despite the initial "Monk"-like feel, it works. It's not as good as the best of the BBC's own Holmes update, but the setup here is clever and fans frustrated by the Beeb's lack of episodes (and long gaps between seasons) should give this series a shot.
"Beauty and the Beast," The CW (Oct. 11, 8 p.m.) — The beast in this reboot is a post-9/11 genetic experiment who, apparently, only gets ugly when he gets mad, like a flesh-colored Hulk. Bonus: No singing tableware!
"Made in Jersey," CBS (Sept. 28, 8 p.m.) — Think "The Real Housewives" meets "The Good Wife." Janet Montgomery ("Entourage") plays a street-smart law prodigy with the most annoying voice since "The Nanny," an uncanny knack for crime-solving and a penchant for shouting half of her lines. But I guess that's OK since she comes from such a stereotypical Italian TV family. TV Italians shout a lot.
"Malibu Country," ABC (Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.) — It's like "Reba" meets "Hannah Montana" with a bit of "Nip/Tuck" thrown in for not-so-good measure. Country star Reba McEntire looks like she's had a ton of facial work, but this corny, starting-over sitcom is still waiting for a script doctor.
Contact Dale Roe at 912-5923 Twitter: @djroe
Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, plays Kate in "Ben & Kate," while Meryl Streep's daughter, Mamie Gummer, is the titular "Emily Owens, M.D."
"Chicago Fire," "Mob Doctor" and "Revolution" are all set in the city of big shoulders. It's a hoot to see "Revolution's" future Wrigley Field completely overgrown with dense greenery where there's now ivy covering the outfield walls. These shows join "Boss," "The Forgotten," "The Good Wife," "Happy Endings," "The League," "Mike and Molly," "Shameless" and "Whitney" in their Windy City settings. Last year's Chicago-set "Against the Wall," "The Chicago Code," "The Playboy Club," "Terra Nova" and "Traffic Light" were all canceled.
‘How to Be a Gentleman'
‘A Gifted Man'
‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'
‘Cougar Town' (now on TBS)
‘The Playboy Club'
‘Best Friends Forever'
‘Are You There Chelsea?'
‘The Marriage Ref'
‘Minute to Win It'
‘Who Do You Think You Are?'
‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
‘One Tree Hill'
‘The Secret Circle'