Tuned In: Fall preview ... lawyers, spies and cops abound on TV this season
Hope you like lawyers.
And especially cops.
Because that's pretty much the extent of what the broadcast networks will introduce for the fall 2010 television season.
Sure, there are a few unusual drama concepts sprinkled in (most notably Fox's con man soap "Lone Star") and some funny-enough sitcoms, but overall broadcasters are choosing to play it safe with familiar genres and pre-sold brands (a new "Law & Order;" remakes of "La Femme Nikita" and "Hawaii Five-0;" the sitcom "$#• ! My Dad Says," inspired by a popular Twitter feed).
In the coming weeks viewers will be introduced to at least two spy shows (The CW's "Nikita," NBC's "Undercovers"), four legal shows (NBC's "Outlaw" and "Law & Order: Los Angeles;" ABC's "The Whole Truth;" CBS's "The Defenders") and six crime procedurals (CBS's "Blue Bloods" and "Hawaii Five-0;" ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7" and "Body of Proof;" NBC's "Chase" and "Law & Order: Los Angeles").
These overly familiar concepts will not make for a season of terrible TV; it's just not an ambitious fall TV season, particularly coming on the heels of last year's "Glee" and "Modern Family."
For what to expect from other new falls shows, turn inside for daily listings.
Below you'll find first impressions and capsule previews of new series. Premiere dates follow in parentheses.
"The Event" (9 p.m., NBC): Despite jumping through time ("7 Days Earlier," "Three Months Earlier"), this ambitious, serialized drama offers an easy-to-follow pilot episode that should pique curiosity among viewers about many details, from a hidden Alaskan prison to the background of an American president (Blair Underwood) raised in Cuba. Jason Ritter stars as Sean Walker, who is thrust into an everyman hero situation when he's caught up in some sort of conspiracy that takes a turn for the alien? Supernatural? It's hard to say based on a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat pilot episode that raises many questions and is likely to leave viewers eager to learn more. (Sept. 20)
"Lone Star" (9 p.m., Fox): Imagine "Dallas" meets "Dexter" -- the double life "Dexter," not the serial killer "Dexter" -- and you'll have the fall's most ambitious drama pilot, the story of Texan Robert/Bob Allen (Jimmy Polk, who resembles a young Kyle Chandler from "Friday Night Lights"). He was raised by his con man father (David Keith) to be a con man himself, but he also has a wistful yearning for a less complicated, more wholesome life, which makes his dad nervous. "This is a house of cards," his father says of one scam. "You don't get to live in it." There's no denying the quality of the pilot but with a show that paints its protagonist into so many corners -- he has a wife in Houston and a girlfriend in Midland -- viewers are left to wonder how the "Lone Star" writers can keep the show's house of cards from tumbling down. (Sept. 20)
"Mike & Molly" (9:30 p.m., CBS): There's sweetness among the fat jokes in this comedy about a Chicago couple who meet in an overeater's anonymous group. Mike (Swissvale native Billy Gardell) is a beat cop with a funny/charming partner ("I'd shoot you right now, but I don't have enough chalk to outline your body," Carl tells Mike). Molly (Melissa McCarthy," Gilmore Girls") is an elementary school teacher with a pothead sister (Carnegie Mellon University grad Katy Mixon) and unsympathetic mother (Swoosie Kurtz, "Pushing Daisies"). The pilot, written by Mark Roberts and produced by CBS mainstay Chuck Lorre ("Big Bang Theory," "Two and a Half Men") laughs with Mike and Molly, not at them. The pilot episode encourages viewers to laugh, too, with humorous dialogue that hits more than it misses. (Sept. 20)
"The Chase" (10 p.m., NBC): U.S. marshals in Texas -- yes, there's a hint of "Walker, Texas Ranger" in the air -- go after the bad guys. Kelli Giddish ("Past Life") stars as the lead marshal in this generic action-drama with former "Desperate Housewives" gardener Jesse Metcalf as the team's new recruit. (Sept. 20)
"Hawaii Five-0" (10 p.m., CBS): Overwrought and humorless, this remake of the classic '70s series offers some strong action sequences but generic plot and character introductions. Alex O'Loughlin stars as the new Steve McGarrett, a Navy veteran-turned-cop who returns to his home state of Hawaii after his father's murder at the hands of a terrorist. Fan alert: Mr. O'Loughlin takes his shirt off just once in the pilot (perhaps to distract from his sometimes wooden performance), and he's teamed with the more charismatic Scott Caan as Danny "Danno" Williams. Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost") co-stars as Chin Ho Kelly, and Grace Park ("Battlestar Galactica") plays Chin Ho's rookie cop cousin, Kono Kalakaua. (Sept. 20)
"No Ordinary Family" (8 p.m., ABC): Basically a live-action, poorly-paced, pretty boring version of the animated movie "The Incredibles," this light drama stars Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") and Murrysville native Julie Benz ("Dexter") as the parents of a family that gains super powers after a plane crash in a South American swamp filled with glowing orbs. Not a bad concept, but the pilot takes forever to spell out the obvious -- they have superpowers now! -- and spends so much time with the parents in therapy that it forgets to make super powers much fun. (Sept. 28)
"Raising Hope" (9 p.m., Fox): Trying to out-white trash "My Name Is Earl," the pilot for this series benefits from a charming newcomer in the lead role. Lucas Neff stars as Jimmy, who impregnates a woman and winds up raising the child with his low-rent parents (Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt) and senile Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman). The pilot has some inspired comedic moments, but with "Earl" so recent in viewers' memories, "Hope" may come across as a rehash. (Sept. 21)
"Running Wilde" (9:30 p.m., Fox): The creator of "Arrested Development" (Mitch Hurwitz) teams with one of that show's stars (Will Arnett) for this absurd comedy about an immature, scion of a wealthy family who falls in love with a do-gooder childhood friend (Keri Russell, "Felicity"). The original pilot, which is largely being re-shot, was frantic, bizarre and sometimes quite funny, but it's difficult to see how the thin plot can carry a series. Because it's the guys from "Arrested Development," there's cause to give them the benefit of the doubt. For now. (Sept. 21)
"Detroit 1-8-7" (10 p.m., ABC): Originally shot mockumentary-style (a la "The Office" and "Modern Family"), this cop show has been overhauled with the documentary concept eliminated. Michael Imperioli, who previously played a 1970s cop in "Life on Mars," plays a contemporary Detroit police officer in this drama that was not available for review at press time. (Sept. 21)
"Undercovers" (8 p.m., NBC): A cross between "Alias" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" with a touch of the "Chuck" cheekiness, this light drama about beautiful, married spies (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) doesn't break the spy caper mold, but it's fairly entertaining. JJ Abrams directed the pilot episode -- Josh Reims ("Felicity," "What About Brian") is showrunner -- and Gerald McRaney appears as a sour CIA boss. (Sept. 22)
"Better With You" (8:30 p.m., ABC): It's been too long since ABC scored with a "Dharma & Greg"-style romantic comedy, but this one might fill the void. It's told from the point of view of three couples: Mom (Debra Jo Rupp) and dad (Kurt Fuller); eldest daughter (Jennifer Finnegan) and her live-in boyfriend of many years (Josh Cooke) and younger daughter (JoAnna Garcia) and her new boyfriend (Jake Lacy). "Better With You" offers some genuinely funny moments buoyed by the studio audience laugh track that every other ABC comedy has forsaken. Much of the humor stems from the characters' differing personalities but they come off more as individuals than types, which is more than many sitcoms have to offer. (Sept. 22)
"Hellcats" (9 p.m., The CW): A mash-up of "Legally Blonde," "Bring it On" and "Glee," this drama focuses on a disdainful law student (Aly Michalka) who sneers at cheerleaders and then has to become one when she loses her scholarship. She's got mommy issues and butts heads with other female cheerleaders (Ashley Tisdale from "High School Musical" plays one of them) while the guys fall for her. (Already premiered)
"The Defenders" (10 p.m., CBS): For a formulaic legal drama -- Jim Belushi ("According to Jim") and Jerry O'Connell ("Carpoolers") star as Las Vegas defense lawyers -- "The Defenders" pilot turned out to be pretty entertaining fare. Mr. Belushi, in particular, makes a compelling legal shark, perhaps atoning for all those years of inflicting "Jim" on America. Mr. O'Connell is in slick, womanizing mode, as usual, but their law firm, with one lawyer devoted to porn star clients, offers unique legal avenues to explore. (Sept. 22)
"Law & Order: Los Angeles" (10 p.m., NBC): Nevermind that NBC dumped LA-set "Southland" a year ago, the network is still interested in law and order stories set in Southern California with this latest iteration of the long-running franchise. Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll play the cops; Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard are the prosecutors. The pilot was not available for review at press time. (Sept. 29)
"The Whole Truth" (10 p.m., ABC): One court case each week told from the points of view of a defense attorney (Rob Morrow) and a prosecutor (Maura Tierney, replacing Joely Richardson from the original pilot), "The Whole Truth" moves fast and entertains in a formatted fashion. In the pilot, the defense and prosecution are well-matched, allowing viewers to waver back and forth on the guilt of the accused. Mr. Morrow goes overboard with his scenery chewing, but give him time to settle into the role and "The Whole Truth" should become wholly watchable. (Sept. 22)
"My Generation" (8 p.m., ABC): A mock documentary film crew catches up with a group of Texas high school students 10 years after their graduation. The show feels a little like Fox's 2005 drama "Reunion" (without the murder mystery component) as characters reveal their regrets, their marital mistakes and the toll time takes on their hopes and dreams. The pilot deserves props for experimenting with structure but the characters and their situations feel too much like things we've seen many times before. (Sept. 23)
"$#• ! My Dad Says" (8:30 p.m., CBS): It's no surprise that a TV show based on a Twitter feed is a bit thin. This sitcom, based on the Twitter feed of 30-year-old Justin Halpern whose father says a lot of, ahem, stuff, is basically the second coming of "Boston Legal" as William Shatner plays a sitcom version of Denny Crane (by way of Archie Bunker). Once again he's carrying a gun and cracking wise: "If it looks like manure and smells like manure, it's either Andy Rooney or manure!" That's the best line of dialogue in the original pilot, which is undergoing tweaking and recasting of the lead character, Henry. Ryan Devlin ("Cougar Town") played the part in the pilot and seemed perfectly fine in the role, but changes are afoot. Hopefully executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan ("Will & Grace") can add more dimensions to a story that's pretty much what you'd expect from a "Grumpy Old Men" meets "The Odd Couple" pairing, set in a house that has the same floor plan as "The Golden Girls" home. (Sept. 23)
"Nikita" (9 p.m., The CW): A remake of the superior 1997-2001 USA network series "La Femme Nikita," this new take on the concept brings to mind Fox's "Dollhouse" as it features younger characters who have been recruited by Division to do assassination work. Nikita (Maggie Q) is older and on the run from Division but a new, younger agent, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), waits in the wings. Shane West ("ER") stars as Michael, the handler who protects Nikita and Alex. Xander Berkeley ("24") and Melinda Clarke ("The O.C.") play Division bosses in this fast-paced-but-hollow action series. (Already premiered)
"Outsourced" (9:30 p.m., NBC): Funnier in concept than pilot execution, this comedy follows the travails of mid-level manager Todd (Ben Rappaport), who works for an American novelty toy company (fake vomit, whoopee cushions, etc.) after he gets transferred to a call center in India (Fox Chapel native Anisha Nagarajan plays the quietest employee). Culture clashes ensue (one of this new employees has a name that sounds like "Man meat"). The series concept has potential, especially when it pokes fun at American excess, but the show needs work if it's going to hold its own alongside NBC's other Thursday night comedies. So far, it's not a worthy replacement for "Parks and Recreation," which will return at midseason. (Sept. 23)
"School Pride" (8 p.m., NBC): This feel-good reality show is essentially "Extreme Makeover: School Edition" as community members work together to rehab a local school. Not available for review. (Oct. 15)
"Body of Proof" (9 p.m., ABC): Dana Delany, who was wasted this past season on "Desperate Housewives," gets her own series, starring as a Philadelphia medical examiner who views the job as a consolation prize. She was a neurosurgeon until a car accident four years ago ended her surgical career ("You can't kill somebody if they're already dead," she surmises of her new gig). Ms. Delany's Megan Hunt also has strained relationships with her daughter and ex-husband. Megan is a pretty frosty, abrasive character who lectures impatient investigators, "The body is the evidence." And the evidence shows "Body of Proof" is basically "Crossing Jordan" with Dana Delany. Call it, "Crossing Delany" -- a standard-issue medical/crime procedural with a strong TV star as its unlikable lead character. (No premiere date announced)
"Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS): A family of New York City police officers and district attorneys bump up against one another during investigations and around the dining room table for Sunday dinner. Tom Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the chief of police. Donnie Wahlberg ("The Kill Point") plays his veteran cop son, and Will Estes ("American Dreams") is a rookie on the force. Daughter Erin (Bridget Moynahan) is an assistant district attorney. The pilot has some nice family moments and an old-school CBS feel to it: It's a workmanlike drama that's a little soapier than what's usually found on the network. (Sept. 24)
"Outlaw" (10 p.m., NBC): This has to be one of the most preposterous legal show concepts to come along in the past decade. A supposedly conservative Supreme Court justice (Jimmy Smits) quits the high court and comes to the defense of a death row inmate because, you know, that's realistic. Before he does he's picketed about the case after a night at a casino, which is, again, so true-to-life. Viewers with a legal background will cry, "Objection!" and even fans of more realistic legal dramas are likely to roll their eyes at "Outlaw's" more ridiculous plot turns. (Previews 10 p.m. Wednesday; time slot premiere Friday).
First Published September 12, 2010 12:00 am