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May 22, 2006 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | May 22, 2006 |

Looking over their shoulders. For true TV-addicts, last week was a big one. We not only had a bunch of season/series finales to watch (and sometimes even enjoy), but all the networks were putting on lavish presentations all week as they unveiled their new fall line-ups in the annual ritual that is the upfronts. As I’ve learned from the interesting (if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at the TV networks) Desperate Networks, the networks do not explicitly announce what shows have been cancelled, instead choosing to focus on their shiny and bright futures. But, of course, many shows were cancelled. None were terribly surprising — among others, NBC axed the godawful “Four Kings” and the walking debacle that was “Joey,” ABC axed “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” after its one episode run, and CBS confirmed (by its silence) that “Threshold,” “Love Monkey,” and “Courting Alex” are kaput.

There are really only three cancelled shows that are actually worth any sort of mention. First, thanks to its recent plummet, it really wasn’t much of surprise that ABC impeached “Commander in Chief.” However, there are hints and rumblings that it may get a two-hour movie which could serve as either a last hoorah or an attempt to revive it one last time. Another non-surprise, but the one personal disappointment for me, was ABC’s cancellation of “Invasion.” It was a solid-if-not-spectacular show that actually moved its serialized plot forward and provided enough answers to its questions to keep the viewer satiated. And William Fichtner was really fantastic in it. Finally, there was one real surprise cancellation, for many people anyway, which involved the CW choosing to rid itself of “Everwood” and instead bring “7th Heaven” back for an 11th season. As I don’t watch either show, I don’t particularly care, but I know some folks were pretty peeved about this, so to those pissed off fans, I feel ya.

To infinity, and beyond. There are plenty of places all over the internets where you can find the full upcoming fall schedule for each of the networks. For example, The TV IV has a very handy little grid that perfectly serves such a purpose. So rather than going through each and every show, old and new, let’s take a day-by-day overview of the land. And as always, if I don’t mention a show you care about or I deride a show that you love, suck it.

Sundays. Sundays are all about football. That’s the rule. So that means NBC has me locked in with its much-hyped acquisition of “Sunday Night Football.” However, the TiVo will definitely be getting a little bit of work recording “The Simpsons” (still on at 8 over on Fox), much as it has for as long as I’ve owned it. Meanwhile, I’m happy that the CW kept “Everybody Hates Chris,” but I think a Sunday at 7 p.m. time slot is murderous for it (it will lose the option of capturing many viewers, myself included, due to the bleed-over from the Sunday afternoon football games). Similarly, I understand why CBS is trying to find a more family-friendly home for the still-strong “The Amazing Race,” but I’m not sure if Sunday nights at 8 is that time.

Meanwhile, ABC keeps the dead-to-me “Desperate Housewives” in the 9 p.m. slot and hopes to use the show’s dwindling-yet-still-solid draw to pull people into its new 10 p.m. drama, “Brothers & Sisters.” To me, this show sounds awful, but it does have a promising cast which includes Calista Flockhart (who, when nourished and not being led down the David E. Kelly road to wackiness, has exuded some talent), Rachel Griffiths, Ron Rifkin, and Patricia Wettig. I certainly won’t be watching, but with “Housewives” as its lead-in, this is probably a smart move as the show will likely do well with the non-football-watching female segment that still enjoys the Desperate Ones.

Mondays. Mondays aren’t really terribly exciting. CBS has nothing of interest to me. Ditto for ABC (especially the inexplicably renewed “What About Brian.” And ditto for the CW. Which means that it’s up to NBC and Fox to duke it out for placement in the TiVo queue (since I’ll pretty much always be live-watching MNF over on ESPN). In the fall, Fox throws the second season of “Prison Break” on at 8 p.m. (It’ll then get a hiatus and return in the spring, as with this season). As ludicrous as this past season was, I have to admit that I’m still mostly enjoying it and will continue to watch as the cons go on the lam (minus one hand). Meanwhile, I’ll give the 9 p.m. nod to NBC’s new “Heroes.” Unfortunately, I know that this show — about ordinary folks all around the globe who suddenly discover super powers — is likely going to blow. But that little comic-book geek that still lives inside me insists that I give it a try. And since it probably won’t be around that long, there shouldn’t be any conflict when “24” returns in January ‘07 (Fox is wisely repeating the continuous run approach to the show, delaying it until after the holidays).

Tuesdays. Lots of new shows on Tuesdays. At the 8 p.m. slot, I’m giving my viewing eyes over to NBC’s “Friday Night Lights.” As you might have figured out by now, I love me some football. Add in the facts that this was spun off from a fantastic movie and that the trailer was incredibly well-received at the upfronts, and I’m in. And since this is the only 8 p.m. show that really interests me, it makes life simple, which is a good thing, because the 9 p.m. time slot introduces the week’s first clusterfuck.

First, and most importantly, the CW has brought the love of my life “Veronica Mars” back for at least 13 episodes (they’ve given it a full-season order, but they have an option to drop down to 13 if they’re unhappy with the ratings). Meanwhile, CBS brings back “The Unit,” which I’ll admit to still enjoying, and Fox returns “House” for the crusty doctor’s many fans. Meanwhile, NBC will be airing the new serial “Kidnapped,” and early word on the show is that it’s really good, no doubt due in large part to a promising cast that includes, among others, Jeremy Sisto, Delroy Lindo, Dana Delany and Mykelti Williamson. Facing some tough drama competition, this show is going to have to be really good to draw in viewers, and I suspect that this time slot is just going to be too hard for it. But the network that will really suffer the most in this bitch of a time slot is ABC, which has opted to go the new-comedy route with Donal Logue’s “Let’s Rob…” and Ted Danson’s “Help Me Help You.” The first has a lot of potential (Logue and his misfit gang of buddies decide to rob Mick Jagger to fund their dreams) while the second sounds terrible (Dansen runs group therapy, but has issues of his own). Logue probably isn’t a big enough name to draw viewers away from all the dramas, and while Danson may be able to retain whatever viewers tune in for “Let’s Rob…,” he’s certainly not going to pull folks away from the concluding half-hour of all those dramas. So ABC is toast here.

Luckily, ABC may rebound a little at the 10 p.m. slot with “Boston Legal.” But it will still have a fight, as NBC brings back the only good Dick Wolf show, “Law and Order: SVU” and CBS presents the new “Smith,” starring Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen. While “Smith” is yet another thief/heist show, I’ll give CBS the benefit of the doubt as I have always enjoyed both of these stars (well, we’ll pretend Operation Dumbo Drop didn’t happen).

Wednesdays. Wednesdays are interesting. There’s a lot going on here, but not much that is really very exciting. For example, there’s just nothing going on at 8 p.m. When the CW runs its new season of “Beauty and the Geek,” that’s probably where I’ll principally be. I’m intrigued by CBS’ new “Jericho,” about the effects on a small town of a likely-terroristic nuke that may have left them the last men standing, but Skeet Ulrich in the lead role scares me more than being at ground zero of a nuke.

Nine p.m. is, of course, a race for second place in the fall, with ABC’s lagging-yet-still-watched “Lost” the one to gun for, and a race for third place in the spring, when Fox adds “American Idol” into the mix. In fact, the best bet for the other networks will be late in 2006, when “Lost” takes a hiatus (to avoid the rerun complaints of this season, ABC plans to air about 7 new episodes, and then take a break until January or February, allowing most of the season to then run straight through). In lieu of “Lost” reruns, ABC will be airing the new “Daybreak,” featuring Taye Diggs in some type of Groundhog Day situation, where he’s trying to avoid being framed for murder. I don’t think this is going to take off with viewers, so this will be when the other networks have a chance to climb the hill.

CBS brings back its hit “Criminal Minds,” which will probably take that hill during the non-“Lost” weeks. While the show is definitely a lower-priority TiVo show for me, its first season was pretty solid on the whole, due in part to its focus on the non-forensic side of things, and due in larger part to the fact that I love me some non-singing Mandy Patinkin. Meanwhile, NBC will try to compete with two new comedies, “20 Good Years” and “30 Rock.” “20” stars Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow as old men living each day to the fullest since they only have 20 years of good days left. And as much as I love Tambor (between “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Arrested Development,” he’s earned cred-for-life status) I can’t imagine that a season’s run of this show will provide even 20 good minutes. However, “30 Rock” shows promise. It will probably draw a fair amount of early viewers out of curiosity, if nothing else, to see the other “behind the scenes at a ‘Saturday Night Live’” show. This is the one brought to you by Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels (who is allegedly pissed off like nobody’s business that NBC also picked up “Studio 60”), starring Alec Baldwin (nothing wrong with that) and Tracy Morgan (everything wrong with that), and whose trailer actually got a lot of laughs at the upfronts. But with the weak “20” as its lead-in, and facing some stiff competition, this show is going to have to be a real force to make it (I have a survival plan, however, which you can read about in the Thursdays section).

The 10 p.m. time slot lightens up again, for me at least. I don’t care about CBS’ “CSI: NY,” and I gave up on NBC’s original “Law and Order” years ago, so while both still do solid ratings, I’ll be willing to try ABC’s new “The Nine.” This show is the network’s latest attempt at figuring out how to capitalize on the post-“Lost” timeslot. Both “Alias” and “Invasion” seemed like great fits, yet both are no more. “The Nine” also seems like a great fit, focusing on nine people who were stuck in a bank robbery/hostage situation and how that drama impacts their life. Each episode even has its own flashback, with the first act apparently set to focus on another piece of what happened during the original crisis, while the rest of the show focuses on various aftermaths. Despite a solid cast led by Tim Daly, Chi McBride and Scott Wolf, I suspect that ABC will ultimately score itself a hat-trick of post-“Lost” duds, and will be scrambling yet again to figure out what the hell to do.

Thursdays. Thursdays have always been the big one in the ratings fight, and the networks are unleashing the dogs of war this fall. At 8 p.m., CBS brings back its “Survivor” workhorse — even when the ratings are down, this show is still a stud for the network, and this fall shouldn’t be any different. NBC, meanwhile, slides “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” up an hour, to go head-to-head with Survivor. Both shows will probably take a hit in the ratings, particularly “The Office,” which will be facing the “vote-off” half of “Survivor.” But NBC should still end the hour with respectable numbers, particularly because ABC and Fox are going to get fucking smeared from 8-9 with their new comedies. At Fox, we get Brad Garrett’s “‘Til Death,” which I doubt anyone is excited about, followed by the latest “life of a single guy” comedy, “Happy Hour.” While these shows will likely tank, they should sing in the light of angels compared to the drek ABC is pitching at us. ABC’s one-two punch starts with “Big Day,” which was honestly described in ABC’s press release as follows: “If ‘24’ married Father of the Bride, their child would be ‘Big Day.’” And that’s followed by “Notes from the Underbelly,” some sort of comedy about expectant parents. I use the word “comedy” in its most liberal form. ABC should maybe consider just throwing up a test pattern for an hour, and bide its time ‘til 9 p.m., which is where the fucking battle will really rage on.

See, NBC came out last Monday and announced that it was giving its 9 p.m. time slot to the much-hyped and much-anticipated “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” ABC came out on Tuesday and announced that it was pitting network-monster “Grey’s Anatomy” against “Studio 60,” which was a real gut punch to NBC. This time slot is already tough enough, with CBS’ “CSI” and Fox’s “The O.C.” But when you add “Grey’s” into the mix, NBC is suddenly the only one with an unproven new show in the mix. And while the show is much hyped, its reception has been lukewarm so far (but fuck ‘em — I’m still excited for it), and many are already speculating that NBC is going to tuck its tail and move the show, which I think is a good idea. Why not fill this time slot with “Scrubs” (which NBC has picked up for a full season, but not given a time slot yet) and “30 Rock?” That would give NBC its best bet of truly returning to “Must See TV,” if you ask me, and it’s also probably the best bet for “Studio 60” to have a fighting chance, particularly if it continues to get a lukewarm reception.

The 10 p.m. time slot will also be a battle, although it’s more a battle for mediocrity. NBC brings us either “ER” or “The Black Donnellys,” a drama from Paul Haggis (of Crash fame) about some Irish brothers involved in criminal hoo-ha. Either one of these shows will probably fare poorly against ABC’s “Six Degrees,” which hopes to pull in and retain the “Grey’s” viewers. Brought to us by J.J. Abrams, “Six Degrees” focuses on six people who don’t realize how their lives touch each other. Despite a great cast (including Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Erika Christensen, and Bridget Moynahan), this show sounds pretty weak to me, but it will likely sit well with most of the “Grey’s” watchers. And, for those that want something meatier than “Six Degrees,” I think NBC still loses out, this time to CBS’ new “Shark.” While it’s another motherfucking lawyer show, it does have James Woods and Jeri Ryan, and that should take care of CBS.

Friday. “Numb3ers” on CBS at 10 p.m. That’s it.

Saturday. It’s good to have one night off from TV, ain’t it?

Are we there yet? OK, this column is long as hell, but before we go, I need to at least mention some of last week’s finales. “Grey’s Anatomy” really should’ve ended with Sunday’s show, instead of Monday’s. The season ended with a lackluster episode giving us a Meredith-McDreamy hook-up (I seriously couldn’t care less about that whiney bitch at this point), the ridiculous follow-up to the interns’ heinous infractions and a motherfucking prom. Right after watching Sunday’s episode, which clearly should have been the finale, I knew Monday would be a letdown, and right I was. Doesn’t mean I won’t be watching next season; I’m just saying that they still miss the mark as much as they hit it.

As for “The Amazing Race,” I just gotta give a “salud” to the Hippies.

And then there was “The O.C.” God bless it — the last 10 minutes caused me to laugh harder than almost anything else all year. From the overused “Hallelujah,” to the background explosion, to Mischa’s fantastic acting, this shit was absolutely hilarious. And you can actually enjoy it all the more if you go check out the fucking fantastic clip put together by the folks over at TVgasm.

This Week’s Wrap-Ups: And finally, just a heads up — as I’m sure you already know, there are a couple of big finales on tap for the first half of this week. Here’s your rundown which, as always, is ordered by my own personal preference:

Monday: “24” (FOX, 8-10 p.m.), “Alias” (ABC, 9-11 p.m.), “Medium” (NBC, 10-11 p.m.), “CSI: Miami” (CBS, 10-11 p.m.), and “Two and a Half Men” (CBS, 9-9:30 p.m.)

Tuesday: “American Idol” (Performance Show) (FOX, 8-9 p.m.), “House” (FOX, 9-10 p.m.)

Wednesday: “Lost” (ABC, 9-11 p.m.), “American Idol” (Bloated Results Show) (FOX, 8-10 p.m.)


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He lives in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t be happier that summer “intern season” is finally here.

The Clip Show / The TV Whore

May 22, 2006

TV | May 22, 2006 |

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

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