Espousing a family-that-flees-together-stays-together philosophy, The CW's new family-of-fugitives drama "Runaway" (9 tonight, WPCW) is passable entertainment, but viewers can be excused if they click away muttering, "For this they canceled 'Everwood'?"Timothy White/The CW
"Runaway" stars Sarah Ramos, left, Donnie Wahlberg, Leslie Hope, Dustin Milligan, and, in front, Nathan Gamble.
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Starring: Donnie Wahlberg.
Starring: Lauren Graham.
Starring: Ted Danson.
Alas, "Runaway" is no "Everwood," which featured complex characters and an exploration of social issues. "Runaway" is far more pedestrian -- "The Fugitive" with a family -- but it may not be any better of a fit with its lead-in "7th Heaven," especially considering the nature of the situation the family is trying to escape.
Paul Rader (Donnie Wahlberg) was a successful attorney, but after a young associate from his firm turns up dead, Rader is falsely accused.
Oh, and he had an affair with the deceased, which is the part that's most likely to turn off some "7th Heaven" fans.
Now Paul, wife Lily (Leslie Hope, "24") and teenage children Henry (Dustin Milligan) and Hannah (Sarah Ramos, "American Dreams") and 8-year-old Tommy (Nathan Gamble) are on the run with an FBI agent (Karen LeBlanc) in pursuit.
In tonight's premiere, the Raders settle in Bridgewater, Iowa, take on new identities and work hard to get the youngest child to remember their cover story (they're supposedly refugees from Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans).
Wahlberg, who excels at exuding concern, has to do a lot of apologizing for both the affair and the situation he's put his family in, although Lily seems to have gotten over the cheating without much effort.
Future episodes will continue to explore the family's efforts to stay one step ahead of the FBI. These moments are well done, even if one false alarm is a little predictable.
And, of course, "Runaway" also has a conspiracy element. This time the overused gimmick involves the murder Paul is accused of. Who really killed the woman? Why implicate Paul? Perhaps viewers will stick around to learn the answers, but no one could blame them if they run away from The CW and instead watch the superior "Heroes" on NBC.
For any fans worried that the departure of "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman Palladino would hurt the show, tomorrow's seventh season premiere (8 p.m., WPCW, Channel 19) should quickly put to rest such concerns.
The characters not only sound like themselves, in some cases they sound more like themselves (as established in the show's early years) than Palladino had written them in recent seasons.
As Lorelai (Lauren Graham) begins to feel guilt about sleeping with her ex following a fight with fiance Luke (Scott Patterson), she lets loose with a verbal volley as she and daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) spend almost 10 minutes discussing how they're not going to talk about their respective love woes (Rory's boyfriend, Logan, is now in London).
"Who says we always have to be talking?" Lorelai says. "We can not talk."
Not if they're the Gilmore girls, they can't.
Thankfully, other characters get a word in edgewise, truths are revealed and a plot that could have been left to dangle for weeks unresolved (and probably would have last season) moves forward by the end of tonight's episode.
Lively and dramatic (without wallowing in Lorelai's sadness about her busted relationship with Luke), "Girls" returns re-energized.
'Help Me Help You'
Thank goodness this show was filmed as a single-camera comedy without a laugh track. Otherwise, some poor schmo would be ladling on heaps of canned laughs in post-production.
"Help Me Help You" (9:30 p.m. tomorrow, ABC) stars Ted Danson as a therapist who runs group therapy sessions, and it makes "Dear John" (the late '80s sitcom about a support group) look like the gold standard of TV comedy.
There are no laughs to be found in the "Help Me" pilot. A few scenes may cause a viewer to grin, but that expression will quickly fade into a grimace. This comedy is just not funny.
Danson's Dr. Bill Hoffman is an arrogant psychotherapy expert who has plenty of problems of his own: He's separated from his wife (Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle") and he gets drunk after learning his daughter (Lindsay Sloane) is dating a man his age.
Hoffman's patients aren't much better off. Dave (Charile Finn) attempts suicide to get the attention of a girl he likes. Jonathan (Jim Rash) is in denial about his homosexuality. Inger (Suzy Nakamura) has no social skills. Darlene (Darlene Hunt) is obsessed with Dr. Hoffman. And Michael (Jere Burns, who was in the "Dear John" cast) has anger management issues.
Written by series creators Jennifer Konner and Alexandra Rushfield, there's nothing original about the "Help Me Help You" premise or its characters -- except that it's a comedy that encourages nary a chuckle. That's probably not a unique attribute its creators intended.