New and returning series get early start this season


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The fall TV season won't officially start until the week of Sept. 19, but new and returning series will begin raining down like cats and dogs next week.

Specifically, like "Hellcats" and "Terriers."

These two new shows join returning series "Sons of Anarchy" (10 p.m. Tuesday, FX), "America's Next Top Model" (8 p.m. Wednesday, The CW) and "Vampire Diaries" (8 p.m. Thursday, The CW) in getting an early start.

'Terriers'

FX's "Terriers" is no dog. But the new drama series, debuting at 10 p.m. Wednesday, is also lighter than what fans of FX series may be accustomed to watching. It's not as airy as, say, any of the USA Network "blue sky" programs ("White Collar," "Royal Pains," "Covert Affairs," etc.), but it does bend more in that direction than any of FX's previous one-hour series.

Donal Logue ("Grounded for Life") stars as Hank Dolworth, a former Southern California cop-turned unlicensed private investigator. He's a recovering alcoholic who teams with a reformed thief, Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James, who played evil Rene on "True Blood"), to go out on cases that range from rescuing a dog to tracking down a missing person.

Episodes are generally self-contained, but next week's premiere sets up a criminal investigation that will thread through several episodes if not the whole first season.

"Terriers" makes for an entertaining romp with stories that don't follow an expected path. The series, created by Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven") and executive produced by Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), also benefits from a fair amount of humor in the banter between Hank and Britt and an upbeat, surf music-style theme song.

Hank is a likable loser with a scoundrel's edge. He means well but often fails. As his ex-wife, Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn), complains, "Your checks always bounce. Your life bounces!" Mr. Logue makes Hank entirely sympathetic, and he brings some much-needed nuance to a character that's somewhat familiar.

Britt comes across as less plagued by demons than Hank, even though viewers will eventually learn about Britt's law-breaking past. He has a pretty solid relationship with his girlfriend, Katie (Laura Allen, "The 4400"), with whom he adopts a dog as a "gateway responsibility" to her desire to have children.

It's probably not a bad thing that FX is changing up its formula. Earlier this year the network introduced "Justified," a series with a white-hat hero that contrasts with past FX shows that had anti-hero leads.

"Terriers" feels like another step outside the network's comfort zone, albeit one that may prove a more comfortable fit with some viewers weary of dark-themed shows.

'Hellcats'

Give me an H!

Give me an E!

Give me a break!

The CW's "Hellcats" (9 p.m. Wednesday, WPCW), a drama about a pre-law student-turned cheerleader, could be worse. (See last year's "TBL: The Beautiful Life" for an example.) That it's not completely terrible is probably due to the presence of Ashley Tisdale, the blond-turned-brunet "High School Musical" star who brings much needed levity to a pilot that threatens to take itself too seriously.

The program begins with pre-law student Marti Perkins (Aly Michalka) mocking Lancer University's cheerleaders with her best friend, Dan (Matt Barr, "Harper's Island"). Karma zaps Marti because she soon loses her scholarship and has to try out for a spot on the cheerleading squad, and the scholarship that comes with it, to stay in school.

Before that happens she picks a fight with chipper cheer star Savannah (Ms. Tisdale) and later butts heads with mean girl cheerleader Alice (Heather Hemmens).

There are a few adults in "Hellcats" -- Marti's irresponsible mother (Gail O'Grady), the cheerleading squad's coach (Sharon Leal, "Legacy") -- but mostly it's about the college kids and their soapy shenanigans.

"Hellcats" feels like a lesser ABC Family show -- or maybe all the gymnastics just remind me of ABC Family's "Make It or Break It." Regardless, this CW drama is fairly predictable and familiar ("Bring It On," anyone?) with little that's worth cheering.

TV telethons

WPXI will air the 45th annual MDA Telethon this weekend beginning Sunday at 11:35 p.m.

Local segments will originate from Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer with retired WPXI weatherman Bill Cardille marking his 40th anniversary as host. Channel 11 news anchors Peggy Finnegan, David Johnson and Jennifer Abney will be among the on-air participants.

The telethon will air on WPXI from 11:35 p.m. Sunday until 2 p.m. Monday, moving to PCNC and RTV Monday afternoon for NBC's golf coverage. The final hour at 6 p.m. Monday will air on WPXI, PCNC and RTV simultaneously.

On Sept. 10 at 8 p.m., multiple television networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Bio, Discovery Health, E!, G4, HBO, Showtime and more) will air "Stand Up 2 Cancer," hosted by Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams in an effort to raise funds for "translational research to accelerate the delivery of new therapies to patients."

Celebrities expected to participate include Christina Applegate, Lance Armstrong, Fran Drescher, Elizabeth Edwards, Michael C. Hall, Robin Roberts, Maura Tierney and Ethan Zohn.

Stork patrol

WTAE meteorologist Erin Kienzle gave birth to a daughter, Alexandra Elisa, last week. That arrival follows KDKA's Kristine Sorensen giving birth to Vincent Martin Griffin on Aug. 2.

Local news notes

WTAE has released an advance schedule that shows an expanded weekend morning newscast. Starting Sept. 25, morning news on Channel 4 will begin at 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday rather than 6 a.m. Saturday and 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

Earlier this year, WPXI moved the start time of news on Sunday to 5:30 a.m., but its Saturday broadcast continues to start at 6 a.m.

On Wednesday, KDKA-TV rolled out a new music and graphics package for its newscasts. News director Anne Linaberger said the new sound and look conforms to what's on other CBS-owned stations across the country. The graphics are cleaner and more see-through, less opaque than the station's previous graphics.

And, as expected, long-MIA Channel 11 reporter Kimberly Easton is no longer a WPXI employee. News director Mike Goldrick would not comment on details of her departure.

'Scientastic!' premieres

A locally produced pilot for a children's science series debuted Thursday night on WQED. "Scientastic!" will repeat on the PBS station at 4:30 p.m. today, 12:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Duquesne University professor John Pollock created the show, which stars two kids who make a video blog about science topics.

A review of "Scientastic!" was published earlier this week in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.

Channel surfing

CNN's John King will anchor his show Monday at 7 p.m. from Pittsburgh after attending the Labor Day parade. He'll discuss upcoming local political contests. ... Pine-Richland fifth-grader Jackie Evancho will next appear on "America's Got Talent" Tuesday as one of the season's Top 10 acts. ... NBC has renewed "America's Got Talent" for a sixth season to air next summer. ... Conan O'Brien's new late-night talk show on TBS will be called "Conan." ... TLC's "Little People, Big World" will end its run after the new season that begins Monday with episodes at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ... Sherri Shepherd ("The View") will be the new host of GSN's "Newlywed Game," replacing Carnie Wilson, when the game show returns Nov. 1. ... "Huddle Up Nittany Lions Fans" will air this fall on Pennsylvania public TV stations, including at 11 a.m. Saturday on WQED's Create Channel beginning this weekend. ... Pitcairn native Don Roy King, a Gateway High School grad, was among this year's prime-time Emmy winners, taking home a trophy for directing a variety/music/comedy series for his work on "Saturday Night Live."

TV Q&A

This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about repeat Emmy winners, "Lone Star" and Nielsen Market rankings. Read it online in Tuned in Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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