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More fall TV line-up previews

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picking up where I left off last week, I have some early previews of new shows that will be airing this fall on CBS and The CW. There are a couple of interesting-looking shows in the mix this upcoming season on this pair of networks, plus another two or three that could be not-so-noble failures.

CBS: The network that is continuing to enjoy a run at the top of the Nielsen ratings has made a few scheduling moves that they hope will shore everything up, including adding new programming to Saturday nights for the first time in years. (Okay, so it's the limp sitcom "Rules of Engagement," but new is new, right?)

There's not a large amount of new programming set to join the CBS line-up, but their most interesting new show -- at least based on the short clips I saw -- looks like the extremely-high concept crime thriller "Person of Interest," which is executive-produced by J.J. Abrams, written by Jonathan Nolan (whose credits include "The Dark Knight") and stars Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson as a pair of mysterious figures who work to prevent crimes from happening. The show was an extremely hot property when it was in development, and although it has a decidedly dark hue around it, this show might have a chance. At their upfront, CBS claimed it was their highest-testing drama ever, and even a cursory glimpse of the preview scenes was a good indication as to why: the clips had a potent, big-budget movie feel to them.

New comedy "2 Broke Girls," which CBS claims is the highest-testing sitcom in the network's storied history, looked merely so-so to me; I was much more interested in "How to be a Gentleman," which stars David Hornsby as an uptight men's magazine columnist who strikes up a friendship with a former high school acquaintance, played by Kevin Dillon. Sure, it looks like a riff on "The Odd Couple," but the clips did make me laugh.

On the flip side of the equation, "Unforgettable" (which at one time was known by the far more unwieldy title, "The Rememberer" -- no kidding) looks like another standard-issue CBS crime procedural, while "A Gifted Man," a medical drama about a surgeon who has visions of his late ex-wife appears to be another trip to the helpful-spirit well from the network that brought you "The Ghost Whisperer" and the last couple seasons of "Medium" (and cancelled them both, too).

The CW: With only ten hours a week of original programming, The CW operates in a niche, aiming its shows at a younger audience than most of their competitors. They also steer away from half-hour shows; there are no sitcoms on this network's line-up. This fall, three dramas and a new reality show will make their debuts, and I think one of them has real potential to be a crossover hit.

"Ringer" stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, who returns to series TV playing identical twins in what appears to be -- at least according to the brief clips I saw -- a twisty psychological thriller. This one's an interesting story; for the longest time during pilot season, "Ringer" seemed predestined for a slot on CBS (whose studio produced it), but suddenly it found it's way onto The CW's schedule. (CBS owns half of The CW; Warner Bros. owns the other half.) The sequences I viewed had a very stylish and suspenseful quality to them -- I'll be interested in seeing if the whole pilot is as strong.

Much less interesting to me was "Hart of Dixie," with former "OC" star Rachel Bilson -- who can currently be seen in a new TV commercial walking on top of gridlocked cars to grab an ice cream bar -- playing a New York doctor who moves down south to practice medicine in a small town. The clips gave the impression of a competently made, if unspectacular, drama.

"The Secret Circle" -- another CW supernatural fantasy show, this time about witches -- was, pure and simple, not made for me; neither was "H8R," a reality show hosted by Mario Lopez where reality stars apparently confront people who ranted about them, and were lucky/dumb/drunk enough to have that rant caught on videotape. The central conceit of the show feels just the teensiest bit unsavory, like the reality TV universe has started to fold in on itself, trying every idea it can to generate new interest, while keeping the aging parts alive. The clips I saw featured Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Kim Kardashian confronting their surprised "haters." (Or is it "H8Rs?" Either way, a brief shout out to you, text messaging, for creating a shorthand that nobody really asked for, but has rather loudly set up housekeeping in the culture as a whole.) If there's one pilot this year that I really dread seeing -- besides ABC's "Work It," which I talked about last week -- it's "H8R," in a walk.

That's it for my look at the new fall network TV pilots; I'll be watching as many as I can throughout the summer and I should have a full run-down on what's good, what's bad and what's plain ugly in a couple of months.

But for now, the five pilots that I'm most looking forward to are:

1. NBC's "Up All Night," a comedy starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as first-time parents;

2. CBS's "Person of Interest," an action-thriller from J.J. Abrams;

3. ABC's "Suburgatory," a tart-looking comedy about a city girl who finds herself transplanted into a suburban landscape;

4. CW's "Ringer," Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to TV;

5. FOX's "The New Girl," with Zooey Deschanel as a woman who moves in with a trio of men while trying to get over a bad break-up.

Stay tuned...


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Jeremy Blomstedt
The Entertainment Center