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September 11, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | September 11, 2007 |

Welcome back to my annual introduction to the upcoming fall season. As in years past, I won’t be covering the ins-and-outs of every aspect of the fall schedule since there are plenty of places where you can find this information (The Futon Critic has a handy grid of what each night will look like schedule-wise; you can find a chronological list of shows, by premiere date, over at TV Squad or the TV Addict; and Salon’s dreamy Heather Havrilesky has a handy-dandy “clip ‘n’ save guide to the season’s new dramas”). Instead, I’ll be taking you through my personal schedule, telling you about the shows I’m planning to check out this fall. And, more importantly, I’ll be giving you some guidance in the ever-complicated art of show juggling, figuring out what shows should get cherished TiVo (or generic DVR) priority.

It’s worth noting that things are a little complicated in talking about the schedule this year because there are a bunch of reality shows making fairly short runs, leading to changes in the schedule as the fall season progresses — we’ll see shows premiering all the way through December. Plus, we should remember that the schedules will have to make some quick adjustments when shows like (motherfucking) “Cavemen” are unceremoniously yanked off the air quicker than you can say “Kelly Clarkson!” Another thing — I’m generally sticking with network TV here, although I may mention a cable show now and again, primarily because the cable shows get rerun enough that you can catch them several times throughout the week. And lastly, as I mentioned, premiere dates are stretched in a much longer and more staggered pattern than in years past. While the season truly begins the week of September 23, a few shows sneak up early and many shows won’t show up until early-to-mid October (and we’re not just talking about Fox shows — in fact, Fox is actually premiering many of its shows in September, even “The Simpsons”). So check out one of those links above to make sure you know when the shows you want to watch start their runs.

Now, let’s get to it!

Sundays. As always, Sunday nights are all about the football for me so, much though I loathe John Madden, NBC has my peepers all night long and everything else worth watching gets relegated to the TiVos. At 8 p.m., I’ll have one TiVo set to CBS for “Viva Laughlin,” and you should too. My expectations for this show are quite low (and not helped any by the fact that the showrunner was let go last month and that the show’s musical numbers are falling flat), and that’s actually the main impetus behind my curiosity about this Americanization of a popular BBC show — this thing might be a trainwreck. And trainwreck television is Must See TV. Meanwhile, I’ll have another TiVo recording Fox for the perennial yellow gang, “The Simpsons” (I don’t TiVo its follow-up, “King of the Hill,” but I have no good reason for this — the show always makes me chuckle when I catch it, so maybe it’s time to once again start watching on a regular basis). As far as I’m concerned, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” can suck a nut, and the CW’s new “Life is Wild” looks like a family-friendly thing, and I don’t do “family friendly.”

At 9 p.m., my TiVos get to come up for air as there’s nothing worth recording. I know some of you swoon over Nathan Fillion, but come on ladies, stop watching “Desperate Housewives” (ABC). You’ll feel better. “Family Guy” and “American Dad” (Fox) have no business being on the air, let alone on your TV. I have never met a single person who watches “Cold Case” (CBS), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And the CW kills time with repeats of “America’s Next Top Model” and you know that I’m not watching it now when I go out of my way to avoid it the first time around.

Things aren’t much more exciting at 10 p.m., especially since Fox and the CW roll over to local programming. I will fire up one TiVo for ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters,” although it’s without much pomp and circumstance. I’ve talked about this show before — I don’t think it’s great, but there are a few good performances, and it’s perfectly acceptable background noise while I’m doing some work on a grumbly Monday (particularly since, that early in the week, I’m not usually backlogged on shows that need watching). But that’s it because CBS’ “Shark” does nothing for me (in fact, the only thing I’ll be watching is its ratings, just because I’m curious to see if its schedule swap with “Without a Trace” has any impact on its popularity).

Mondays. At 8 p.m., I’ll be getting ready for some football while watching NBC’s new “Chuck.” I’m definitely intrigued by the premise, and the badness of producer McG is countered by the goodness of producer Josh Schwartz. Meanwhile, I’ll record Fox’s “Prison Break” because, even though the show remains utterly preposterous, I still enjoy it on a base level. I think that’s largely because I love me some William Fichtner. I will not be recording “How I Met Your Mother” over on CBS, although I know many of you are fans and will be. And I’m OK with that. But do me a favor and skip its follow-up, the nightmarishly terrible-looking “The Big Bang Theory.” You’ll thank me later. And while I should be recording “Everybody Hates Chris” over on the CW, because it’s a perfectly fine little comedy, that show will sadly continue to be a casualty to the war of Too Many Shows to Watch and Not Enough Time. The new “Aliens in America” (The CW, 8:30 p.m.) won’t be such a casualty, because I think it looks like a heaping pile of cheese curd, regardless of its early buzz (seriously, from the clips I’ve seen, I feel like the “buzz” folks must be on payroll). And what about ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” you ask? …To which I respond, if you have to ask, it’s like you don’t even know me.

At 9 p.m., well, “Monday Night Football” has the day’s name right in its title. So of course I’ll be watching ESPN all night (and I’m even legitimately happy to do so now that Joe Theismann is gone, replaced with my beloved former Eagle, Ron Jaworski!). Thus, as with Sundays, any other worthy shows gotta get the TiVo treatment. Luckily, this isn’t an issue for CBS, since the 9 p.m. slot has “Two and a Half Men” and “Rules of Engagement,” followed by “CSI: Miami” at 10 p.m. (When will our national nightmare end, with folks waking up and realizing that “Two and a Half Men” is filth?) And I also won’t be worried about missing anything on Fox or the CW — Fox’s “K-Ville” looks entirely uninteresting to me, and since I’ve never watched the CW’s “Girlfriends” or “The Game,” I’m sure as heck not about to start now. But I will be recording both of NBC’s shows. The 9 p.m. slot keeps continues to house “Heroes,” and despite some complaints I had about last season’s finale, I still find it a rather entertaining piece of candy. I don’t expect quite so much entertainment from the “Quantum Leap” wannabe that follows it, “Journeyman,” but Kevin McKidd is good enough to earn a TiVo spot while I at least give the show a chance.

As for ABC, we’ve got a minor scheduling mess. At 9 p.m., the network will have the tail end of “Dancing with the Stars,” followed by extended episodes of “The Bachelor” running until 11 p.m. But in mid-October, “The Bachelor” shrinks to an hour and we’ll see the 9:30 slot going to “Samantha Who?,” the new Christina Applegate comedy about an amnesiac. I think I’ll forget to TiVo it. (Thank you — I’ll be here all weekend. Try the flank steak!)

Tuesdays. Well the 8 p.m. timeslot here is almost as barren as it can get. I know some of you like the “Bones” over on Fox, but that show lost me a long time ago and I don’t think I can get back on board. As for CBS, I guess someone must like “N.C.I.S.,” but I’ve never met this alleged person. And did you know that the upcoming run of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” will be its fourth season? I was actually a little shocked to learn this.

And then there was ABC. I will abso-freaking-lutely be watching ABC at 8 p.m., at least for one week. Of course I have no actual interest in watching these shows for their inevitably bleak and short run, but I simply can’t miss the absolute disaster that is sure to be the premiere of (twatlicking) “Cavemen” followed by “Carpoolers.” I think we could be seeing the worse one-two “comedy” punch ever, and I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was there for it. Which means the CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” will have to get TiVo’ed for later viewing (although I’ll be watching it live once I either get physically ill from watching the ABC shows or they’re yanked off the air, whichever sure-to-happen event takes place first). “Beauty” isn’t a great show, but each season manages to be just compelling enough to keep me invested.

Oh Tuesday nights at 9 p.m., oh Tuesday nights at 9 p.m., wherefore art thou “Veronica Mars?”


The only good thing about “Veronica” being gone is that I can watch CBS’ “The Unit” live — this show has quietly become one of my favorite network shows. It’s not great, but it’s always wickedly entertaining in a purely testosterone way, and I am intrigued as hell to see how last season’s finale resolves. I’ll be skipping ABC and its second-dumping of “Dancing with the Stars,” and when “Cashmere Mafia” takes over in December … well, I’ll still be skipping ABC. NBC also joins ABC in the corner, as I don’t care about the second-half of “The Biggest Loser” or “The Singing Bee.” As for Fox, I know that many of you love “House,” so you’ll surely be tuning in for that. Not me. I’ve got nothing against the show, but it’s just never been a “gotta watch it” show for me. However, I will be setting a TiVo for the CW’s “Reaper,” the freshman show taking over the timeslot that used to belong to lovely “Veronica.” The show has been getting lots of preseason buzz, and while that doesn’t always amount to a hell of beans (hey “The Nine” and “Studio 60,” how you doin?), I have a feeling this one may actually live up to at least some of the hype.

At 10 p.m., meanwhile, two of the three networks will be getting some love from me (the CW and Fox, of course, revert to local programming). ABC’s “Boston Legal” is the loser here, as I’ve just never bothered to get into it. I know Spader and the Shat are supposed to be entertaining, but I just don’t have the energy for them. Maybe I’ll get around to it on DVD one of these days. NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” meanwhile, keeps its place on my TiVo. I know some get tired of the dark violence-against-women-and-children storylines (I’ve had several discussions with Mrs. Pajiba-Hyphenate over this issue, and I fully get the point), and I don’t always find the storylines compelling. But I do continue to find Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni compelling. But they’ll be watched later in the week, because I’ll be tuning in live to CBS for “Cane,” one of freshmen shows I’m most excited about. It’s got a great cast ( (Jimmy Smits, Rita Moreno, Hector Elizondo, and Hector “Mascara” Carbonell among others), and an intriguing storyline (it’s about a family running a rum and sugar business, and what’s not to love about rum and sugar?). The fact that nobody’s been saying much about this actually feels like a good thing to me — I think it’s going to be a sleeper hit that surprises a lot of people (having the relatively popular “The Unit” as a lead-in means it should get enough initial viewers to give it a chance).

Wednesdays. Well Wednesday night is definitely the big buzz night of the week. At 8 p.m., ABC’s got “Pushing Daisies” going up against CBS’ legally-dubious “Kid Nation.” I’m not overly excited by either of these shows, but I’ll try them both out, particularly since I don’t care about any of the other shows on at this time slot (I imagine I’ll watch “Daisies” live and record “Kid Nation,” as cruddy reality shows make the best next-day background viewing). Those others shows? “America’s Next Top Model” (the CW), “Deal or No Deal” (NBC) and “Back to You” and “‘Til Death” (Fox). Actually, strike that — while my expectations for “Back to You” are low as can be, despite last week’s round-up clip of Kelsey Grammer getting his cuss on, I’ll give it an episode or two to persuade me otherwise. But it only gets backup TiVo priority.

9 p.m., meanwhile, has the show which Entertainment Weekly said is the most anticipated show of the season, the “Grey’s” spinoff “Private Practice.” Most anticipated? Really? I haven’t heard anyone, neither fan nor critic, say they’re excited about this show. And frankly, considering some of the other stuff on at this time slot, it’s going to be very low priority for me. Live viewing will go to Fox and “Kitchen Nightmares.” While I don’t expect the show to be quite as good as its British predecessor, it should still be pretty great, as long as Ramsay isn’t too “Hell’s Kitchen” over the top. Meanwhile, I’ll be recording NBC’s new “Bionic Woman,” as well as the CW’s new “Gossip Girls.” I’ve heard mixed things about “Bionic Woman,” particularly that the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. But I’m a SciFi nerd and I can’t help but try out the show that comes from one of the folks behind “Battlestar Galactica,” especially when Katee Sackhoff and Mark Sheppard are both going to be on it (and yes, it’s another show that’s had some backstage drama but, even still, I’m just going to give it a biiiig benefit of the doubt). As for “Gossip Girls,” I’m not exactly its target demo, but then again, I certainly wasn’t the target for “The O.C.” either, yet I proudly own the first season on DVD. Plus, Kristen Bell is doing voiceovers. Sure, I’d rather see her on my TV, but if I have to just listen to her, that’ll do pig. That’ll do.

As for CBS and “Criminal Minds,” I’ve previously mentioned that I’m giving up on this show. Not because it’s bad, per se, but because it just doesn’t compel me and, more times than not, it almost feels like a chore to push play on my TiVo for it. Plus, three-and-a-half shows in this timeslot is enough (that “half” being “Private Pracitce,” of course). I will likely tune in for the first episode just to see Crusty Patinkin’s exit, but I won’t be sticking around to watch CBS’ stalwart “CSI: New York” (10 p.m.) because I just don’t care for the show. Plus, I’ll be watching ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and recording NBC’s “Life.” I’m not all that excited for “Life,” about a cop who was wrongfully in the clink for a hunk of years, but I love me some Damian Lewis (he was the man in “Band of Brothers” as Major Dick Winters), so I’ll try it out for him. I am excited about “Dirty,” however, although it’s again more because of the cast (particularly Donald Sutherland and Peter Krause) rather than the storyline (a lawyer trying to help out a Hilton-esque rich NYC family with its many problems). Oh, and this timeslot will also feature “South Park” and “The Sarah Silverman Program” on Comedy Central in October, and is already home to the current ludicrous season of “The Real World” (programming note — check out my Round-Up tomorrow where, courtesy of “The Real World,” I’ll be presenting you with the single best apology in the history of apologies).

Thursdays. I find it oddly comforting that the Thursday landscape hasn’t changed all that much. At 8 p.m., I’ll still be live-watching “Survivor” over on CBS, because I just can’t help my addiction. And I’ll still be recording NBC, although now “My Name is Earl” is followed by “30 Rock.” Meanwhile, while my enthusiasm for the show has waned a little, I’ll also still be recording “Ugly Betty” over on ABC. And that’s it for eight, because you couldn’t pay me enough money to waste the hard drive storage space on Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,” and I’m simply way too out of the loop to ever think about jumping into the CW’s “Smallville” mid-ship.

At 9 p.m., I’ll be switching over to NBC, which has “The Office” and, after four hour-long episodes, “Scrubs.” I’ll continue to record “Grey’s Anatomy” over on ABC, but this is another one that I’ll only watch during the day while working, as I simply can’t justify wasting prime-time hours on what’s becoming a more grating show with every passing hour. I know some of y’all love the “Supernatural” over on the CW, but like “Smallville,” I haven’t watched before, so I ain’t about to start now. And Fox continues the trend of crap with “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.” Jesus.

10 p.m. is a wasteland as far as I’m concerned. NBC has the dinosaur that is “ER,” CBS has the timeslot-shifted “Without a Trace,” and ABC has the new “Big Shots.” Since I don’t watch the first two, I guess I’ll give “Big Shots” a chance but man alive, I am incredibly unexcited about this show. Sure, I like Michael Vartan, I can tolerate Dylan McDermott, and I love Joshua Malina. But I hate Christopher Titus, and I’m just not interested in a story about four rich and successful white men and their many problems.

Fridays. For years now, the only show I’ve bothered with on Fridays is “Num3rs.” I liked that, as it either gave me a chance to catch up on stuff from earlier in the week, or it meant I wasn’t swamped with shows to watch on the weekend if I decided to spend my Friday night out and about. The bad news now is that I’ll be adding two more shows to my Friday night lineup. The really bad news is that one of these is the best show on network TV, getting buried by the worthless NBC.

At 8 p.m., there’s still nothing worth my time. If you must watch something, best preserve your brain cells and stick with ABC and “20/20.” Because the rest of this landscape will make you stupid quicker than Charlie Gordon’s retro-retardation: “Ghost Whisperer” (CBS), “Deal or No Deal” (NBC), (more fucking) “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (Fox) and “WWE Smackdown” (the CW).

Nine o’clock meanwhile … *sigh* … is where nobody will bother watching NBC’s “Friday Night Lights.” I’ll be watching and cherishing it with clear eyes and full heart, and if you haven’t been listening to my prior pleas, seriously, get on board. I’ll also be recording CBS’ new “Moonlight.” It’s another show that I don’t have high expectations for (I do believe that’s the theme of this new fall season — low expectations), but how can I ignore some vampires being on the TV? I can’t. But I can avoid ABC and the new “Women’s Murder Club.” Not only does it feature Angie Harmon (I have nothing against her, in theory, but because she’s married to a New York Giant, I have everything against her), but it sounds bloody awful. A homicide detective, a medical examiner, a reporter and a young D.A. solve murders together in their spare time. Right? Terrible. The CW is still running “WWE Smackdown,” and if I didn’t watch it at 8, I sure as fuck am not going to watch it at 9. And Fox? “Nashville.” If you don’t know what this is, consider yourself lucky — I won’t spoil it for you.

As I mentioned before, 10 p.m. still finds me watching CBS’ “Numb3rs.” I originally came for the nerdy math, but I stayed because it’s just a darn entertaining little show. I have to admit to kinda’ liking ABC’ “Men in Trees,” in a self-loathing sort of way, but I gave up on it a while back, and I think I’m the better for it. As for NBC and “Las Vegas,” I should love a show named after such a wonderful, lovely, dirty, soul-crushing place. Yet I don’t. (And since I know there are some fans out there, I’ll point out that SciFi starts a new season of “Stargate Atlantis” in this slot later this month.)

Saturdays. Allow me to run the same paragraph I’ve run for the last two years, although the Thursday night reference isn’t quite as applicable as it was two years ago:

Which, at long last, brings us to Saturday. Uhm…yeah. This is the worst night of them all. As bad as Thursday is with it’s 8:00 gang-bang, at least them’s some shows worth watching. Saturday is actually the one day a week where there is not a single show I TiVo. Fuck Saturday!

And that, my friends, is 3,500+ words that took hours to write. Precious hours that should’ve been spent watching TV. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna’ go check out the first four episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (that’s right, bitches — I’ve got a lovely shiny DVD calling out to me) so I can hopefully get you a review before Thursday’s season premiere.

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He’s out of words at the moment.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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