Tuned In: Fall preview

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Following a summer of low-rated reality shows, broadcast network executives will hope for a better reception for their new scripted series.

But wishful thinking may not draw viewers to an uninspired lineup. A few series have potential, but many of the concepts are familiar and tired.

Sitcoms do make a comeback and serialized dramas seem to be in vogue again.

Here is, your guide to the broadcast networks' prime-time fall schedules:

Sunday

"666 Park Avenue" (10 p.m., ABC): Sort of an evil "Fantasy Island," this supernatural drama is set in a Manhattan apartment building owned by devilish Gavin (Terry O'Quinn, "Lost") and his wife (Vanessa Williams, "Ugly Betty"). They hire an idealistic young couple from the Midwest (Rachael Taylor, Dave Annable) to manage the property, where bad things repeatedly happen and tenants who fail to live up to their contracts get sucked into walls. The pilot strikes an eerie, intriguing note but also makes one wonder how the stories won't get repetitive. (Sept. 30)

Monday

"Partners" (8:30 p.m., CBS): Setting aside the degree to which this sitcom rips off a 1995-96 Fox sitcom (same title, premise, characters' occupations), CBS's new version about best friends who work as architects -- one gay (Michael Urie, "Ugly Betty"), one straight (David Krumholtz, "NUMB3RS") -- has its moments. The pair share a saucy Latina secretary. and each has a significant other. Jokes that hit are squeezed between gags that suggest writers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick ("Will & Grace") were competing for the most gay or more Latina stereotypes. Gay wins, which is to say, loses. (Sept. 24)

"The Mob Doctor" (9 p.m., Fox): With a title that's too on-the-nose and a preposterous premise, this offering for fans mourning "House" looks destined to fail. Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro, "My Boys") makes a deal with the devil: The Chicago mob clears her brother's debts in exchange for her services as their go-to doc. In the pilot, this involves removing a screwdriver from a flunkie's head and being asked to murder a mobster-turned-informant while he's on the operating table. "The Mob Doctor" wants to be "The Sopranos" meets "Grey's Anatomy;" as silly a mix as it sounds. (Sept. 17)

"Revolution" (10 p.m., NBC): There are multiple surprises that mark this as one of the fall's best new pilots. The premise is this: One day electricity disappears and machines stops working. Jets fall from the sky; cars simply stop on highways. The show depicts this day and then jumps to 15 years later: Cities are in ruins, survivors follow an agrarian way of life, using the shells of old cars (a Prius, of course) as planters. Giancarlo Esposito ("Breaking Bad") stars as a militia leader trying to track down members of the Matheson family for his military commander boss. This sets several Mathesons off on a quest to understand why the blackout happened. (Sept. 17)

Tuesday

"Ben and Kate" (8:30 p.m., Fox): Ben (Nat Faxon) is an irresponsible doofus who moves in with his sister, Kate (Dakota Johnson, "The Social Network"). We're supposed to love Ben because he's a dreamer, but the practical implication of his idiocy is that he routinely wrecks Kate's life. A Ben-type character might work in a movie, but he will get old fast on a weekly basis. (Sept. 25)

"Emily Owens, M.D." (9 p.m., The CW): Comparing first-year interns to high school cliques is a bit tortured, but Mamie Gummer nevertheless has a fantastic bedside manner. Ms. Gummer, who is Meryl Streep's daughter, radiates warmth and intelligence through insecurity and gaggingly lovesick voice-over narration (think a more cloying "Ally McBeal"). Emily is in love with nerdy-cute co-worker Will (Justin Hartley, "Smallville") and still feuds with high school nemesis Cassandra (Aja Naomi King). Ms. Gummer deserves better material, but bored "Grey's Anatomy" fans could do worse. (Oct. 16)

"Go On" (9 p.m., NBC): Matthew Perry plays a widower who joins a support group filled with oddball characters in this funny pilot that mixes humor and heart. But the show seems to be setting up a romcom relationship between Mr. Perry's character and the group therapist (Laura Benanti, "Playboy Club"), a been-there, seen-that plot. (Already previewed, time slot premiere Tuesday)

"The Mindy Project" (9:30 p.m., Fox): Mindy Kaling, who has played Kelly Kapoor on "The Office," gets her own series about a selfish, drama-addicted 30-something doctor who wants to fall in love romcom style. If you can get past her ridiculous behavior, the "Project" pilot has winning moments and shows potential. (Sept. 25)

"The New Normal" (9:30 p.m., NBC): Bryan (Andrew Rannells, Broadway's "The Book of Mormon") and David (Justin Bartha, "The Hangover"), a wealthy Beverly Hills gay couple, decide to have a child using a surrogate (Georgia King), who has an outspoken Midwestern mother (Ellen Barkin). The show plays all the aren't-gays-shallow? and aren't-old-people-bigots? stereotypes, but it's also filled with biting humor thanks to a script by Ali Adler, executive producer with Ryan Murphy ("Glee"). The premise seems too narrow for it to work on NBC, where executives want comedies with broader appeal. (Tuesday)

"Vegas" (10 p.m., CBS): Consider this "CSI: The First Generation." Dennis Quaid stars as Ralph Lamb, a former Las Vegas sheriff whose adventures inspired this series. In the premiere, the mayor persuades rancher Lamb to investigate the murder of a worker at a casino owned by Vincent Savion (Michael Chiklis, "The Shield"), a gangster from Chicago. Lamb is assisted by his responsible brother (Jason O'Mara, "Terra Nova") and his wild son (Taylor Handley, "The O.C."). Lamb gleefully and disturbingly violates a defense attorney's civil rights, and there's a suggestion that bikers shouldn't have the right to an attorney. Unconstitutional civil procedure aside, Quaid offers a flinty, likable turn in his first prime-time leading role. (Sept. 25)

Wednesday

"Animal Practice" (8 p.m., NBC): Justin Kirk ("Weeds") stars as veterinarian George Coleman, who gets along great with animals -- including his scene-stealing sidekick, Dr. Rizzo, a Capuchin monkey -- but not with his new boss and ex-girlfriend, Dorothy Crane (Joanna Garcia-Swisher). This sitcom benefits from the presence of a daffy nurse (Betsy Sodaro), but the will-they-or-won't-they set-up between George and Dorothy is stale. Solution: Fewer humans, more monkeys. (Already previewed; time slot premiere Sept. 26)

"Arrow" (8 p.m., The CW): Just as "The Amazing Spider-Man" got a reboot this summer, Green Arrow gets a similarly unnecessary relaunch just a year after the character left the small screen with the end of "Smallville." Stephen Amell's Oliver Queen is a more stubbly man-hero and less like Justin Hartley's surfer stud Oliver in "Smallville." Otherwise, "Arrow" feels a lot like latter-day "Smallville," from a potential love triangle, to secret identities, to parents with questionable intentions. The story begins with Queen's rescue from an island in the North China Sea where he was shipwrecked five years earlier. His time away has made him more compassionate and willing to clean up Starling City by taking out evildoers while clad in a green hood. (Oct. 10)

"Guys With Kids" (8:30 p.m., NBC): Moldy premise alert: Guys can't capably raise children, and when they try, havoc reigns! Jimmy Fallon ("Late Night") executive produces this wan comedy about three friends -- played by Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Zach Cregger -- who are also fathers. The guys complain they're tired, help each other through trying times, and promise to put their children before their own carnal desires: "Sons before buns." (Previews 10 p.m. Wednesday; time slot premiere Sept. 26)

"The Neighbors" (8:30 p.m., ABC): A broad, whimsical satire about humans living in a subdivision of aliens (from outer space), "The Neighbors" has a solid concept for a movie, but it's hard to see how it will stand as a series. Some gags in the pilot -- how the aliens do the dishes; the names of sports legends they choose to name themselves after -- are amusing but have a shelf life: They'll only be funny the first time. (Preview episodes air 9:30 p.m. Sept. 26; moves to regular time slot Oct. 3.)

"Chicago Fire" (10 p.m., NBC): as generic as its title. An ensemble drama closer in tone to "ER" than, say, "Rescue Me" -- "Chicago Fire" lacks a discernible point of view. The decent cast includes Eamonn Walker ("Oz"), David Eigenberg ("Sex and the City"), Jesse Spencer ("House") and Taylor Kinney ("The Vampire Diaries"), but they star in the blandest show of the season. (Oct. 10)

"Nashville" (10 p.m., ABC): Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights") headlines this intriguing soap as country singer Rayna Jaymes, whose career has hit a wall. She's not selling records or concert tickets, prompting her label to suggest a tour with auto-tuned newcomer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettierre, "Heroes"). At the same time, Rayna's scheming father convinces her husband, Teddy (Eric Close, "Without a Trace"), to run for mayor of Nashville. Ms. Britton turns in the winning performance "FNL" fans expect and the script, by Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise"), is significantly better than many entries in the soap genre. (Oct. 10)

Thursday

"Last Resort" (8 p.m., ABC): On paper, this drama from executive producer Shawn Ryan ("The Shield") sounded like fall's best bet. In execution, it's intriguing and flawed. Andre Braugher ("Men of a Certain Age") stars as captain of a U.S. nuclear sub that receives a fire order through unusual channels; when he tries to confirm the order's authenticity, his sub is fired upon. Shenanigans in Washington may play into what's happening (a conspiracy theory? yet again?), and a military contractor rep (Autumn Reeser) has a particularly painful-to-watch scene. But the relationship between Braugher's captain and his XO (Scott Speedman, "Felicity") is nicely drawn. (Sept. 27)

"Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., The CW): A remake of the late 1980s CBS series, this new version stars Kristin Kreuk ("Smallville") as homicide detective Catherine Chandler, who witnesses her mother's murder and is saved by a creature who turns out to be war vet Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, "Terra Nova"). This new show diverges from the old one in a significant way: Vincent is more hottie than beastly; he has a scar on his face but not the face of a lion; and looks only barely beastly when he has an adrenaline rush. (Oct. 11)

"Elementary" (10 p.m., CBS): PBS already has a modern take on Sherlock Holmes in the "Masterpiece Mystery!" series "Sherlock." So it's a mystery why CBS would think the timing is right for its own version, especially because "Elementary" is pretty ordinary and pales beside the PBS version. Jonny Lee Miller stars as recovering addict Holmes and Lucy Liu follows him around as his "addict sitter," Dr. Joan Watson. (Sept. 27)

Friday

"Made in Jersey" (9 p.m., CBS): CBS builds a Northeast-set Friday lineup this fall as legal drama "Made in Jersey" joins New York-set "Blue Bloods" and "CSI: NY." Martina (Janet Montgomery) leaves the Trenton district attorney's office to become a junior associate at an upscale Manhattan firm where everyone else looks at her like she's an alien. A blonde senior attorney is particularly scornful. "I saw you downstairs but I didn't want to interrupt 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey,' " she says after seeing Martina with her sister. The family aspects of the show are reminiscent of the 2001-02 CBS Friday night Jersey-based show "That's Life," but "Made In Jersey" comes in a CBS-patented procedural package with a tough Jersey working girl at its center. (Sept. 28)

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Rob Owen writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. -- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer -- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer First Published September 9, 2012 4:00 AM


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