The fall season is upon us and, as always, it’s a rather complicated time of year for my little TV whores. We’ve got to figure out where our favorite shows are, what new shows might be worth their mustard, where to point our DVRs (or VCRs for those stuck in the past), and what to watch live. Well, once again, I’m taking several hours out of my otherwise supposedly busy day to help guide you through the morass. And as in the past, keep two things in mind as we review the schedules: (i) I’m continuing to focus on the networks, since the cable shows (HBO, F/X, Sci Fi, etc.) get shown aplenty; and (ii) if I missed your favorite show ever and you can’t believe that I’m such a yutz, well, get your own column.
Sundays. Sunday night is all about football for me, meaning anything worth watching is automatically getting recorded for later views. Which is a bummer for “The Amazing Race” (CBS, 8 p.m., starting Sept. 17), since that’s the one reality show I always tried to watch live. But its inexplicable move to this new night means it’s going to have to sit in the Now Playing list until I’m done listening to Michaels and Madden ramble incessantly. “The Race” will of course be joined there by the perennial “The Simpsons” (Fox, 8 p.m., started last week), which was probably the first show to ever get a Season Pass on my very first little TiVo, o’ those many years ago.
The 9 p.m. slot is empty, except for those of you still wasting your lives with that “Desperate Housewives” crap (ABC, 9 p.m., Sept. 24). Meanwhile, there’s not much at 10 p.m. either, so I’m actually going to give newbie “Brothers and Sisters” a shot (ABC, 10 p.m., Sept. 24). It’s had a ton of behind-the-scenes drama (including an actor shuffle and a change in executive producers), which is never good for a new show, and the plot could run kind in all kinds of bad directions. But even discounting Calista Flockhart (who, truth be told, I actually don’t despise nearly as much as many others do), it’s got a great cast (Sally Field, Tom Skerritt, Rachel Griffiths, Ron Rifkin, Balthazar Getty, and Patricia Wettig, among others). So that, plus the lack of any competitive programming, suggests this may deserve a shot.
There’s one other show that you should keep an eye out for on Sunday. The CW has made the incomprehensible decision to bury “Everybody Hates Chris” on Sunday nights, and to start dumping dirt on its still-breathing body by putting it in the 7 p.m. time slot (starting on Oct. 1). I don’t get this decision at all, because it’s a quite funny and entertaining show that deserves better. If you missed it last season, try to give it a shot while it’s still around.
Mondays. Well, it should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I also spend my Monday nights watching the football (and sometimes, like this past Monday, getting the added enjoyment of coming up with a last-minute fantasy football victory against Pajiba’s very own Dustin, which crushes his soul in ways that you can’t possibly imagine). But like Sunday nights, Monday nights aren’t too cluttered, so it’s pretty easy to skate by. At 8 p.m., the only thing worth anything is “Prison Break” (Fox, already in full-steam). It ain’t a great show, and you can feel free to skip it, but if you check your brain at the door, it’s entertaining enough (and it gave my boy William Fichtner a new home.) 9:00 p.m., meanwhile, offers the new “Heroes” (NBC, Sept. 25), a show which the geeks will be flocking to and which, as I previously discussed, may turn out to be a cult classic. If you’re not interested, or you’re looking for some extra viewing material, I’ve heard rumblings that one of the CW’s only new shows, “Runaway,” may not be half bad (CW, 9 p.m., Sept. 25). Donnie Wahlberg (who I’m on board with after great turns in “Band of Brothers” and “Boomtown”) plays a guy on the run after being framed for murder. Sound like The Fugitive? Undoubtedly. But good word of mouth pulls me in every time, so I’ll probably give it a shot, especially since we’ve got an otherwise low-volume night.
The 10 p.m. slot, meanwhile, features one of the most talked about of the newbie shows, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (NBC, 10 p.m., Sept. 18). I’ve said before that I expect this to be a good show, and I still stand by that. Plus, when you consider it’s competition (“CSI: Somewhere” and the how-is-it-still-on “What About Brian”), I suspect it’ll actually get some good ratings too, meaning you can invest in the show and expect it to stick around the season, which is always nice.
Tuesdays. Now we see things starting to fill out a little more. The night starts off with what may end up being the best of any of the freshman shows, “Friday Night Lights” (NBC, 8 p.m., Oct. 3). Even if you’re not a football fan, do me a favor and give it a shot — while football certainly plays a role in the show, it’s not really what the show is about. Besides, there isn’t much else to worry about. That’s it for 8 p.m.. Nothing else to see here. Move along.
Er…uhm…ok, ok, don’t stone me. There’s also “House” over on Fox (already running) and “Gilmore Girls” over on the CW (Sept. 26). I don’t watch the Girls (too late to jump on board now — I’m sure I’ll DVD it at some point), but I know many of you do, religiously, so set your lives accordingly.
Of course, the biggest story to come out of the creation of the CW is the fact that “Gilmore Girls” now leads into my honey bunny, “Veronica Mars” (CW, 9 p.m., Oct. 3). Watch it, TiVo it, love it. But she’s not the only player on the field. CBS mounts the return of “The Unit” (9 p.m., Sept. 19). It’s a good, if slightly testosteroney show, and worthy of a recording. But if you’re looking for less of the macho and more of the ha-ha, then head over to ABC, which has the tandem of “The Knights of Prosperity” (9 p.m., Oct. 17) and “Help Me Help You” (9:30 p.m., Sept. 26). The former, about a gang of blue collar types who decide to pull a heist on Mick Jagger, sounded great from the start, and though it’s gotten mixed talk-up, things have mostly skewed towards the positive. The latter, featuring Ted Danson as a therapist who’s not without his own problems, was something that I was initially uninterested in and had no intention of watching. But much like “Runaway,” I’ve heard whispers that there might be some legs to this show (it’s supposedly funny enough, even if mainstream, and provides a reminder that Ted Danson can be funny, “Becker” evidence to the contrary). Besides, we’re already recording “Knights,” so we might as well include this one too, right? The last 9 p.m. show that’s on my radar is “Standoff,” over on Fox (already running). The pilot wasn’t great, and its season pass may not survive the month, let alone this week, but Ron Livingston is at least worth a second episode in my book.
10 p.m., meanwhile, is a laugh riot with “Law & Order: SVU” (NBC, Sept. 19), “Smith” (CBS, Sept. 19) and “Boston Legal” (ABC, Sept. 19). Okay, maybe not so much with the funny. But I’ve already told you that “Smith” has some real potential to be a heist show that finally sticks around (unlike the poor “Heist” and the fantastic “Theif”), and you should give it a shot. Meanwhile, I’m telling you guys, even though many aren’t listening — while the “Law & Order” franchise has largely gone to pot, “SVU” has actually been getting better, in no small part because of the knock-out performances of Chris Meloni and newly minted Emmy award winner Mariska Hargitay. Give it some TiVo love (it certainly doesn’t need top priority because, even if you miss some episodes, you can catch them 20 times next year on USA, Bravo, TNT, or whatever the hell stations run it all day every day). And while I don’t watch it, I still hear good things about those wacky David E. Kelley lawyers, so those of you who watch it should make some room for it as well, I suppose.
Wednesdays. Wednesdays aren’t too bad. Two conflicts at each hour, with relatively easy choices for each one, if you happen to lack any recording capability (but my readers are all dedicated little TV whores with DVRs aplenty, right?). At 8 p.m., there’s “30 Rock” (NBC, Oct. 11) for the funnies, and “Jericho” (CBS, Sept. 20) for the not-funnies. Note that “30 Rock” was originally scheduled for the 8:30 slot, but NBC switched it with the sure-to-blow “20 Good Years,” since they smartly realized that you make the strong show the lead-in. And “30 Rock” should be strong — the pilot had a lot of promise, and the changes they’ve made since then (removing an emphasis on the skits of the show-within-a-show and thereby giving us less Rachel Dratch) are an even better sign. Plus, the recent commercial with Alec Baldwin getting upset because he’s not on the Sorkin show with Amanda Peet is utterly hysterical, and the best commercial I’ve seen in quite some time. As for “Jericho,” it starts up several weeks earlier, so we’ll have plenty of time to figure out if there is any conflict at all — if it snares us in by the premiere of “30 Rock,” then we’ll all just have to prioritize accordingly.
9 p.m., meanwhile, is what it has been for the last two years — “Lost” (ABC, Oct. 4). Sure, last season of “Lost” was more miss than hit, but I’m still on board for the time being, particularly since Henry Gale and Desmond are supposed to be regulars now (aside from Mr. Eko, they were probably my two favorite performances on the show last season). I’m a big fan of the procedural “Criminal Minds” (CBS, Sept. 20), particularly because of my love for a non-singing Mandy Patinkin, so that’ll continue to get a TiVo spot as well. You might want to give it a shot, too, particularly if you like procedurals but are sick of the uber-forensic focus that’s all the trend nowadays. Finally, remember that ABC will be putting “Lost” on a hiatus starting mid-November, and running “Daybreak” (Nov. 15) in its stead. This is all in an attempt to avoid last season’s rerun retardation which drove many “Lost” fans utterly apeshit. “Daybreak” is Taye Diggs plus Groundhog Day plus more framed-for-murder — not sure if it’ll be any good, but I like Diggs and was so disappointed by his last show (“Kevin Hill”) that I’m hoping he can turn it around here, and I’ll watch at least the first episode or two.
Of all the pilots I watched over the summer, “The Nine” (ABC, 10 p.m., Oct. 4) was the one that most had me waiting for more. As I originally said, I’m not so sure it’ll do that for me on an ongoing basis, but I’m definitely giving it a shot. And with “Lost” as a lead-in, I imagine many others will as well. NBC’s “Kidnapped” (10 p.m., Sept. 20), meanwhile, looks to be a solid show as well. Not quite as gripping as “The Nine,” but definitely worth a shot, particularly because of a solid cast. Besides, as with “Jericho,” we’ve got a couple of weeks to feel it out before needing to decide whether we have to record it while watching “The Nine.”
Thursdays. Last year, Thursday’s were an utter clusterfuck. Things are a little better this year, though the 8:00 slot is still a bit too cluttered for my liking. This week’s premiere of “Survivor” (CBS, 8 p.m., Sept. 14) is sure to have monster ratings thanks to Mark Burnett’s use of the race card. Not sure if the ratings will hold, but I’ll keep watching — I’m an unabashed “Survivor” junkie and will keep tuning in as long as it’s on the air (hell, I even watch the season reruns over on OLN even though I know everything that’s going to happen). Meanwhile, NBC moves up its one-two punch of “My Name Is Earl” (8 p.m., Sept. 21) and “The Office” (8:30 p.m., Sept. 21) by an hour. “The Office” ratings will probably take a small ding from this, going up against the results-half of “Survivor,” but that’s exactly what DVRs were invented for, and have no doubt that I’ll be flipping over to my DVR for some paper sales funniness as soon as the latest tribe member is cast off. Another show that I don’t watch largely because it’s too late in the process is “Smallville” (CW, 8 p.m., Sept. 28). But for those super fans out there, this certainly complicates things for you. Which is a shame really, because the 8 p.m. slot also features newbie “Ugly Betty” (ABC, Sept. 28), a dramedy based on a Colombian telenovela and produced by one of the TV Whore’s biggest Hollywood crushes (Salma Hayek). Early word has been so positive on this one that ABC actually pulled it from its original slot in the Friday night dregs to give it a fighting chance. I’m definitely going to give it a try, but going up against “Survivor” and the NBC comedies, I’m not so sure enough other people will.
Oh, and for the record, at 8:30 p.m., Fox has “Happy Hour,” which has my money for the first show to be unceremoniously ripped out of the airwaves. The only thing viewers can possibly be happy about is that the show doesn’t actually run for an hour.
Anyone who is more than just a casual television watcher will no doubt be very curious to see what happens with the 9 p.m. slot. Personally, I hate the current king of that space, “CSI” (CBS, Sept. 21), and have no intention of watching it. Instead, I’ll be watching its new competitor, “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, Sept. 21). Last season was frustrating, but the show is just entertaining enough for me to put up with its theatrics (and the most annoying female character since Ally McBeal). ABC moved its powerhouse over here in an attempt to dethrone “CSI,” and this move caused quite the ruckus when NBC immediately dove into the foxhole and moved “Studio 60” as far away from the timeslot as it could. Fox, meanwhile, is keeping “The O.C.” (9 p.m., Nov. 2) in its home, and since its demo probably intersects with “Grey’s” a lot more than “CSI,” I expect that Ryan and the Cohens will see a bigger negative impact as a result of ABC’s move. Which means this will probably be the Orange County crew’s last season. Even still, as bad as last season was, I’m still going to let it keep a Season Pass just for those occasional moments when it still pulls a laugh out of me (and if it gives me just one scene as funny as last year’s Marissa Cooper death, it’s totally worth it).
10 p.m. has “Six Degrees” (ABC, Sept. 21). I have no idea if this freshman will be any good, but it’s exec produced by J.J. Abrams and features a solid cast (including Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, and Erika Christensen). So I’ll give it a shot, particularly since its competition is the terrible “Shark” and the tired “ER,” meaning it’s really “Six Degrees” or bust. I’ll probably keep it on a tight leash, though, and if it blows early, I’ll use this time to catch up on some of the things I’ve recorded earlier in the night.
Fridays. Last year, the only show worth watching on Fridays was “Numb3rs” (CBS, 10 p.m., Sept. 22). Same holds true for this year, unless you love “Ghost
Breasts Whisperer” (CBS, 8 p.m., Sept. 22) or the flailing “Law and Order” (NBC, 10 p.m., Sept. 22). I don’t know enough people watching “Numb3rs” — it’s got a solid cast, a good plot that’s different from all the other procedurals out there, and math! What the hell else could you possibly want?
Allow me to copy, verbatim, last year’s entry for Saturday:
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!
Ladies and gents, there’s your roadmap to the fall season. Get your season passes programmed, your recording conflicts resolved, your couch cushions fluffed and your waistbands loosened.
How Much TV Could a Woodchuck TiVo if a Woodchuck Could TiVo TV (2006 Edition)
Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He has just moved back to Boston and is currently trying to figure out how to remove the pervasive cat smell left by his apartment’s previous tenant.
TV | September 13, 2006 | Comments ()