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September 3, 2008 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | September 3, 2008 |

It’s that time of year again when we take a look at the new fall TV schedule so we can figure out what to watch and what to skip. As always, I’m not going to give you a fancy-schmancy grid — there are plenty of places you can find that (here’s a handy one from The Futon Critic that even covers a bunch of cable channels for you, and includes lots of other handy links). In years past, I’ve focused solely on the over-the-air networks, but I’m going to loosen that a touch this year — although I won’t hit every cable show, I’ll cover the big ones on the radar screen. And if I miss one you’re excited about? Well that’s what the comments are for, good sir.

Before getting into it, it’s worth mentioning that because of the writer’s strike last year, there aren’t as many new shows as usual. Instead, a bunch of sophomore shows are getting second season reboots. As a result, I’ve found that for my personal viewing schedule, things are a bit lighter this year than usual. That’s because a good number of new shows generally fall into my “at least give it a shot” category, but there just aren’t that many new shows this fall (and some of them are clear “no chance in hell” shows). Plus, like many of you, I tried out most of the sophomore shows last year, so I already know which ones I’m sticking with and which ones I’m not. So as far as network TV goes, I’ve generally only got about four shows a night to watch, and never more than two shows on at the same time. Which is great from the standpoint of having a life and trying to do something, but which is terrible for my moniker. Could the TV Whore be moving toward monogamy?

Sundays. Are you ready for some football? Yes. Please. That’s NBC, all night. Of course, those of us on the west side of the country get our Sunday Night Football earlier, so NBC will have reruns instead, and our schedules will be free and clear to watch what else is on. And at 8 p.m., you best believe I’ll be watching some “The Amazing Race” on CBS. It’s good more times than it’s not (with the only truly bad season being the disasterbacle that was the family edition version), and hopefully this will be an excellent run (and remember to pad your DVR recordings, since football often causes the Sunday night CBS shows to run late). At least it’s gotta be better than ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” right? I mean, the schmaltz of that show, alone, could put you in a diabetic coma. Over at Fox, it’s business as usual with the stalwart “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill” — I still record the prior regularly, but the latter, not so much. No good reason for that — as I’ve said before, “King” is a good show, it’s just not in my regular rotation. As you may recall, the CW shopped out its Sunday night lineup to independent producers, and the 8 p.m. slot wound up going to “Valentine,” a show that I’m almost mildly intrigued with — it’s about a family of living-in-hiding Greek Gods who try to make folks fall in love (so it’s like the family edition of “Cupid?”). It comes from Kevin Murphy (who previously wrote/produced for “Ed,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Reaper”), and an OK cast. I don’t think it’ll be great, and it probably won’t even be good, so I’m entirely undecided if I’ll try it out. But if you’re into the romantic comedy thing, you might want to give it a looksee, as long as you temper the hell out of your expectations.

Nine p.m. looks about the same as years past, and I’m uninterested in all of it — ABC has “Desperate Housewives” (sorry Nathan Fillion, I just can’t do it), CBS has “Cold Case,” Fox has the formerly good “Family Guy” and the never remotely good “American Dad,” and the CW has “Easy Money” (a show about a family that runs a loan business and which, more importantly, stars Judge Reinhold!). At ten, NBC’s got “Brothers & Sisters” and I still say the same thing I’ve said about that show from about Day One — not a good show, but just decent enough to be watched on Monday afternoon while working, primarily since my DVR is not yet backlogged for the week. And CBS, meanwhile, has pulled a schedule switcheroo, with “The Unit” now in the Sunday night 10 p.m. slot. It’s one of the best shows on TV, people, and this could be the last season, given its ratings problems, so get on board!

But for those us with the cable, that ain’t all she wrote for Sunday night. HBO’s got “True Blood” at 9 p.m. (I’ll have a review up tomorrow, which is basically many words that boil down to “eh”), followed by the latest season of “Entourage” (which is hopefully going to return a little to form and not be like last season, i.e., suck) and the Americanization of “Little Britain.” But the real gusto is over at Showtime, where 9 p.m. is Season Three of “Dexter” (!) followed by the second season of sex addict David Duchoveny’s “Californication.” Not to mention the fact that “Mad Men” is still running on AMC at 10 p.m. In fact, I do believe that Sunday night has become my new favorite night of TV between the football, “The Amazing Race,” “The Unit,” and the shows mentioned in this paragraph. Thursday nights, welcome to second place.

Mondays. The first hour-and-a-half of ABC’s schedule is dead to me as the Alphabet and its “Dancing with the Stars” can jump right the fuck up my ass. Instead, I’ll be flipping between “Chuck” on NBC and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on Fox — neither are great shows, but both have their moments and the potential to be pretty decent (moreso for “Chuck,” particularly since it has Adam “I’ll be in my bunk” Baldwin). I’ve heard that “Big Bang Theory” on CBS is mildly decent, but I just can’t make myself try it, and while “How I Met Your Mother” is cute, I’m sorry folks, but it’s highly overrated and I will continue not watching it (and the flames for my bad comedy taste begin … now).

“OMG, TV Whore, you like totally forgot about ‘Gossip Girl’ over on the CW.” …Uhm, no I didn’t.

At 9 p.m., it’s all about the popcorn, with “Prison Break” over at Fox and “Heroes” on NBC. Lookit folks — “Heroes” isn’t “good.” I mean, it’s good like “Prison Break,” in that it’s total fluff. But the dialogue is light and at least half of the acting blows. Yes, when it’s at the top of its game (Season One), it’s entertaining enough, but it’s not like “Lost” at its best, so stop trying to claim it’s a great show. It’s decent fluff.

Meanwhile, I still can’t tell you what the CW’s “One Tree Hill” is about. I know it’s been on forever, and commentors have tried to tell me what it’s about, but they always wind up going in one eye and out the other. And I wish I didn’t know a damn thing about the blight on modern sitcoms that is CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” which will be followed by “Worst Week,” a show that may actually be kinda’ ok, but which I just don’t care about. At the same time, 9:30, on ABC, one finds “Samantha Who?” and, uhm, I’m going to leave my incredibly tasteless joke about this in the gutter, right alongside CBS’ “CSI: Miami” and ABC’s “Boston Legal,” which both air at 10. I will be trying out NBC’s new “My Own Worst Enemy,” the Christian Slater vehicle where he’s a Jekyll/Hyde type spy. I doubt it will be good and am primarily hoping it just doesn’t suck.

Nothing on cable, meanwhile, unless you like-ah the football (ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”) and don’t live out West. In which case, you should be recording everything else and getting ready for some football.

Tuesdays. Tuesdays are pretty thin, folks. There is nothing good on at 8 p.m. unless you’re a “House” fan (I know lots of folks love it, and I’m sure I’d dig it, it’s just one of those shows that I never bothered with for no good reason). Of course, I tuned in for the CW’s “90210” reboot last night hoping for a trainwreck and, well … it wasn’t. It weren’t good, per se, but it just wasn’t terrible. A big pile of meh with Jessica Walter being fantastic. I could see the show’s intended audience maybe digging it if they don’t mind a tamer version of “Gossip Girl,” but I’m too old for this shit. Even still, I’d wager the show offers less brain rot than “The Biggest Loser” (NBC) and “Opportunity Knocks” (ABC), but probably not less than “NCIS” (CBS). Whatever — I ain’t watching any of ‘em. At 9 p.m., I have to bend over not just to get some blood back to my brain but so that ABC can once again jump up my ass with its “Dancing with the Stars” results show. Right behind it is the CW’s new “Privileged,” a show about a Yale woman who becomes the live-in tutor for two rich-bitch 16-year-old Palm Beach girls. Sounds like a decent companion show for “90210,” but sounds like a better companion show to hang out in my ass with “Dancing” (oh yes, there’s plenty of room in my ass for the crappy shows).

There are two more new shows at 9 p.m. which I am going to check out, however. I’m cautiously optimistic about Fox’s “Fringe,” the new J.J. Abrams show that seems to be one part “Lost,” one part “The X-Files” and one part Joshua Jackson (RIP). Probably won’t be great, but could be decent. Until we realize that the show’s mythology isn’t going anywhere and is going to give us televised blue balls. Meanwhile, CBS’ “The Mentalist,” stars Simon Baker as a detective and consultant who uses his skills of observation to solve crimes (and he’s “The Mentalist” because he’s a former semi-well-known psychic who has since admitted to being a fraud). I don’t expect this to be good, and procedurals rarely get my blood going, but I’ll give it a week or two to see if something sticks.

At the 10-slot, I don’t care one lick about ABC’s “Eli Stone,” and I care even less about CBS’ “Without a Trace.” I will continue watching NBC’s “Law & Order:SVU,” however, because it’s one of the few procedurals that does get my blood going. The storylines may not be all that great, but the acting continues to be top notch. And that Chris Meloni … well … the alternate universe gay TV Whore could easily spend the rest of his days swimming in Meloni’s eyes.

Cable’s got nothing, unless you’re saying goodbye with FX to the final season of “The Shield” at 10 p.m. (I swear that one of these days I will get around to those DVDs).

Wednesdays. If Tuesdays were thin, Wednesdays are downright anorexic. The CW, with “America’s Next Top Model” and “Stylista” (some fashion magazine reality show), couldn’t pay me to feign interest (although I am accepting offers). Ditto for the entirety of CBS’ lineup, from “The New Adventures of Old Christine” straight through to “CSI: New York” (in between those are Jay Mohr’s new terrible-looking “comedy,”Gary Unmarried,” and “Criminal Minds”).

NBC’s schedule sucks too. “Knight Rider.” Pass. “Deal or No Deal.” No deal. “Lipstick Jungle.” Fuuuuuuck you.

So it’s just ABC, which is rebooting all three of last year’s Wednesday night freshmen. I’ll be tuning back into “Pushing Daisies” and at 8 p.m. and the greatly campy “Dirty Sexy Money” at 10 p.m., but will be passing on “Private Practice” (kinda shocked they even brought this one back — was anyone actually watching it?). I think I’ll spend that hour licking my walls.

Cable? Well there’s “South Park” on Comedy Central, natch. I’ll try out FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” Ron Perlman’s motorcycle gang/club show. Although the poor show has the unfortunate luck to be on at 10 p.m., which means it’s going up against only what’s the best motherfucking show on television, MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge.” Yeah, bitches, feel the trash erode your soul. Welcome it with open arms. This. Show. Fucking. Rules. Last season was amazing, and this one looks like it could be even better. I can’t even call this show a guilty pleasure anymore, because I have moved well beyond feeling guilty about my unnatural love for this show. It’s the bomb.

Thursdays. Thursday carries the proud distinction of being the only night where I’m officially dropping a show. I stuck with “Ugly Betty” from the beginning, and really enjoyed the first season. But as last year’s shortened season carried on, I found myself less and less interested, and the show was fading more into the background as my attention would fall to paying my bills, cutting my nails, etc. So I’m cutting my losses. Besides, 8 p.m. is “Survivor” time, baby. As long as that show is on the air, I’ll watch it. The first half of most seasons suck, and the second half of some seasons suck; but when those second halves get good, I still love me some “Survivor.” And for a week or two, I’ll also be watching “Hole in the Wall” over on Fox. Because human tetris rules. Seriously. As for “Smallville,” it doesn’t seem as if the last season is the time to start watching. And since I’ll be watching “Survivor” live, I’ll be taping “My Name is Earl.” I will not, however, be recording its follow-up, the new “Kath & Kim.” That’s that terrible fucking show with Selma Blair and Molly Shannon which you saw commercials for all during the Olympics. Yeah, that one. I know, right?

At nine p.m., Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” can take a hike. As happens time and time again, the network has gone and bastardized an excellent British show. In fact, you’re better off recording the same show at 8 p.m. on BBC America, as that’s the excellent original. Of course, the greatest exception to the general rule that Americanized shows suck is “The Office,” and although the show has been fading a little for me, particularly when compared to its “30 Rock” follow-up, it’s still must-watch TV for me at this point (and a reminder — “30 Rock” won’t actually be taking that 9:30 slot until the end of October, because NBC will be running Weekend Update “Saturday Night Live” specials). And although I fucking hate the show — hate it — I just can’t help myself, so I’ll still likely be recording “Grey’s Anatomy.” Seriously, I don’t know why, but I just can’t quit that show. Can’t say I’ll be watching “CSI,” however, even with Laurence Fishburne on board. That show has never done it for me.

Things aren’t particularly good at 10 p.m. NBC has the last season of “ER” and while it still gets good ratings, I don’t understand why (although I never understood the appeal of that show in the first place — folks should’ve been watching the vastly superior “Chicago Hope” back in the day if they wanted good hospital TV). ABC, meanwhile, brings the Americanized “Life on Mars,” rebooted from David Kelley’s apparently disastrous pilot. And while I’m hearing decent things about the new pilot, I still can’t get excited. Nor can I get excited for CBS’ “Eleventh Hour,” the new Bruckheimer show starring Rufus Sewell. Those two names are enough for me to be glad that it’s finally the weekend as we move on to Fridays.

Fridays. Whoops — almost fucking forgot. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on FX at 10 p.m Hell. Yes.

Fridays. Eight p.m. is full of, mostly, utter crap. “Wife Swap.” “Ghost Whisperer.” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Crap. Crap. Crap. The CW, meanwhile, has buried one of its few good shows, “Everybody Hates Chris,” here, along with whatever the hell “The Game” is. The only show that remotely interests me is NBC’s new “Crusoe” (which premieres in late October, after a run of “America’s Toughest Jobs”), which is a retelling of Daniel Defoe’s book. Really don’t know much of anything about the show beyond the whole “man gets stranded on an island” bit, but what the hell, I’m game to try it.

The story for 9 p.m. is strikingly the same — I don’t care about anything except for the one new show on the docket. So NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” ABC’s “Supernanny,” Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and CW’s reruns of “Top Model” can all take a leap. However, I’m definitely going to check out CBS’ “The Ex List.” It stars Elizabeth Reaser (she was one of the only things I enjoyed on “Grey’s Anatomy” last season) who goes to a psychic and learns that her “true love” is one of her exes, and she has to find him in the next year or remain alone forever. Yes, this sounds cheesy as hell. But it comes from Diane Ruggiero, who earns much love from her “Veronica Mars” days, and early word is that the show is surprisingly cute and decent. So, again, what the hell, I’m game to try it.

And of course I’ll stick with CBS at 10 for “Numbers,” my other favorite procedural. Didn’t dig NBC’s “Life” last year, and I’ve never been a “20/20” fan, so that’s really all she wrote. And since there’s nothing of note on the cable channels, thus ends our Friday night.

Saturdays. Saturday. Oy vey. For the past three years, I’ve said (with a small edit for the sake of not needing to explain an old reference):

Which, at long last, brings us to Saturday. Uhm…yeah. This is the worst night of them all. Saturday is actually the one day a week where there is not a single show I TiVo. Fuck Saturday!

Same as it ever was. Go out to the movies, go to a bar and get drunk, watch some college football. But on Saturday nights, the networks, they got bupkis for ya.

…And that, ladies and gents, is the fall of 2008. I dunno about you, but for me, 2009 can’t get here quick enough so I can get me some “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. One of these years, he’s going to have to change the title of these Fall Guides, as TiVo has lost so much ground to the more generic “DVR” cable boxes. But he ain’t changing it this year.

How Much TiVo Could a Woodchuck TiVo if a Woodchuck Could TiVo TV -- Fall 2008 Edition

The 2008 Fall Season / The TV Whore
Sept. 3, 2008

TV | September 3, 2008 |

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

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