The Flaming Nose 2010 Fall TV Preview is here! With a few exceptions, the week of September 20th is premiere week, with most networks rolling out their new series and their new line-ups right about now. As we venture into a new season, we think this is the major question: Are the Broadcast Networks tired of Cable getting all the buzz? Probably, but there are at least some returning favorites that we can all get excited about, plus perhaps a new series or two that could cut through the pack. (We're old-fashioned so we always start our TV week on Sunday). Let's take a look:
Sunday is a traditional night, with only four of the nets in competition and nobody taking any chances. ABC remains the same, as does Fox with their successful animation line-up and NBC with their Football Night in America which will be replaced in March. CBS continues its mid-season reality entry Undercover Boss, and moves CSI: Miami in from Mondays.
Monday night is full of new shows, new schedules and new hopes for some new hits. ABC, with Dancing with the Stars and Castle, and the teen-centric CW both stick to their current line-ups, while Fox debuts a new series at 9pm. CBS has moved a new show into the 9:30p post-Two and a Half Men comedy block slot and are using ever more popular The Big Bang Theory later in the week to seed a new night.
The new entry is Mike & Molly, starring stand-up comic and actor Billy Gardell as Mike, a kindly Chicago cop, and Melissa McCarthy as Molly, a 4th-grade teacher. They meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and it's instant attraction. Mike & Molly is from Chuck Lorre, who has done so much for CBS and comedy and is poised to do it again. Co-star Billy Gardell has been a familiar face on series like My Name is Earl, Yes, Dear and many others; McCarthy is well-known to viewers of Gilmore Girls and more recently Samantha Who?, and is a cousin of actress/comedienne Jenny McCarthy. Also starring in Mike & Molly are show-biz veteran Swoozie Kurtz as Molly's mother, Katy Mixon (Eastbound and Down) as Molly's sister, and actor Reno Wilson (I liked him so much in Sci Fi's short-lived but charming monster comedy The Chronicle several years ago) as Mike's police partner. Can Chuck Lorre do for regular chubby working class Americans what he did for egghead physicists, that is, make them hilarious and lovable (and sexually-active, because that's the direction the show has gone in)? CBS certainly hopes so.
CBS also has big hopes for its update of one of the network's signature series from the 1960s and '70s, the iconic Hawaii 5-O, made even more iconic by one of the coolest theme songs ever, which is being retained but updated for this retread. The network continues to believe in the star potential of Alec O'Loughlin, so much so that they've kept trying to find a hit for him, first with the vampire actioner Moonlight from 2007 (missed the vampire craze by that much, Chief!), and last year's Three Rivers medical drama that also failed to thrive. Can he step confidently into tight-lipped and helmet-coiffed Jack Lord's territory? Hmmm...
Lost's Daniel Dae Kim co-stars as Chin Ho, along with Grace Park as a lady cop, Scott Cann (Entourage) as Danny, as in "Book 'em, Dano", and Jean Smart as the lady governor. Early word is not as universally positive as one might think. The show seems to have all the requisite ingredients starting with its pre-sold title, but might be leaning more on pyrotechnics (certainly in the pilot) and beautiful bods in bikinis instead of the kind of solid and well-crafted police tales that were the hallmark of the original. Also the buzz out there is that co-star Scott Caan may be more charismatic than star O'Loughlin, which is probably okay if it still makes the show work. Hard to tell how this will go; since viewers are so less likely to stay tuned to one channel these days than in the old days, the comedy block halo may not be enough to guarantee a hit here for Hawaii 5-O.
NBC brings in two new series, The Event at 9pm and Chase at 10pm. The Event, coming from the Lost and 24 camp, features big action moments liberally doused with mystery and intrigue, with some possibly supernatural notes thrown in. It's got everything -- Blair Underwood as the President, Jason Ritter (The Class, Joan of Arcadia) as a guy caught up in a global cover-up, Zeljko Ivanek (True Blood, Damages, Big Love, Heroes) as a cagey White House advisor, Laura Innes (ER) as a lady with a secret, and Ian Anthony Dale (Daybreak, Surface) as a guy who knows something about the secret. The Event has detainees, hair-raising airplane sequences, attempted assassinations, and reportedly a big white flash of light at the end of the pilot episode, signifying something major. Everybody's wondering if audiences have had enough of series with a big "???" and its own mythology at the center -- like Lost and last season's ultimately unsuccessful FlashForward or Fringe -- or intricately serialized -- like 24 -- which went out with more of a whimper than a big bang. The preview for The Event looks top-notch and snazzy, we'll say that!
NBC's Monday 10pm show is The Chase, starring Kelli Gidish (All My Children, Past Life, The Burg) as Annie Frost, a U.S. Marshal fugitive hunter from Texas, along with co-stars Cole Hauser (K-Ville, Pitch Black), Amaury Noscalo (Prison Break), Rose Rollins (The L Word, M:I III) and Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives). Produced from Jerry Bruckheimer's group, The Chase looks like something that belongs on USA Network, which is not a knock at all, only USA has a better handle on the successful integration of action and banter than network TV does anymore. The Chase feels a little light coming out of the potentous The Event, but viewers needing somewhere to go after Fox signs off -- or who don't like the hula or Nathan Fillion's charm -- might need what The Chase can deliver.
Over at Fox at 9pm, coming out from a House lead-in, the network debuts Lone Star, a sort of Dallas-meets-The Grifters, starring newcomer James Wolk as a skilled con man who's embroiled in a double life in Houston and Midland, Texas. In one incarnation he's a family man secretly dealing in fraudulent investments, and in the other he's married into a big Texas oil concern, with the ultimate aim of taking it down and getting away with the profits. His sexy swindles find him juggling him two wives, played by Adrianna Palicki (Friday Night Lights, South Beach) and Eloise Mumford (Crash), two brothers-in-law -- one suspicious (Mark Deklin, The Ex-List), and one not (Bryce Johnson, Popular) -- one rich and powerful father-in-law, played by veteran actor Jon Voight, and his actual scheming-mastermind father, played by David Keith, another terrific actor. The buzz on Lone Star is good so far; perhaps the intricacies of The Event may just be too much for most viewers and they may opt for the sexy, soapy, swindle-y Texas delights of Lone Star instead.
Tuesday brings several new series to the front. ABC leads off at 8pm with the fanciful hour-long superhero family dramedy No Ordinary Family, with an impressive cast headed by Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), and Julie Benz (Dexter, Desperate Housewives). Their son is played by Jimmie Bennett (young James Kirk in Star Trek) and their daughter by Kay Panabaker (C.S.I., Summerland). One the one hand a family drama, and on the other the fantastic story of people who mysteriously acquire superhero-like powers, No Ordinary Family promises action and emotion (and some laughs) and could be a great 8pm show if it weren't for Fox's returning fan fave Glee which will siphon off youngish potential viewers who might have liked the show. Is NOF destined to fizzle like Heroes? Other 8pm competition is NCIS on CBS, two hours of The Biggest Loser on NBC, and the teen drama One Tree Hill on CW.
At 9pm, only Fox introduces a new series, the baby-on-board-a-beater-car comedy Raising Hope, where a good-hearted young fellow finds himself raising his infant daughter (from a one night stand) while the mother is on death row. The baby is personable, and the cast -- comedy vet Cloris Leachman as the crazy great grandma, child star turned Broadway actress Martha Plimpton (The Goonies) as the grandma (I forgot she was Keith Carradine's daughter!), Garrett Dillahunt (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Deadwood, No Country for Old Men) and Lucas Neff as the baby daddy -- is good. Whether or not you like babies used the way they often use animals in movies -- as the butts of jokes and rather roughly -- might decide whether or not you find this funny, but if you've dug My Name is Earl (same producer) you might really love this. Already dividing opinions -- best? worst? -- so we'll see how it plays out.
Advance word is not kind to Fox's 9:30pm show Running Wilde, starring Will Arnette (Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation), Keri Russell (Felicity, the terrific movie Waitress) and young Stefania Owen (The Lovely Bones). Arnette isn't the only Arrested Development connection here -- the shows share a creator in Mitchell Hurwitz -- but the premise here, of a spoiled rich guy who's trying to woo his free-spirit childhood sweetheart, seems not to be hitting the right buttons, or getting enough laughs. Tinkering might have revved up the chances for this show; we'll see in the coming weeks. Running against these two newbies at 9pm are ABC's Dancing With The Stars, the back end of America's Biggest Loser two-hour, NCIS: Los Angeles, and CW's life and love after adoption drama Life Unexpected.
ABC does an about-face at 10pm with new cop drama Detroit 1-8-7, starring Michael Imperiolo (The Sopranos), theater actor Jon Michael Hill, Aisha Hinds (TrueBlood, Hawthorne, Dollhouse), Erin Cummings (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and Canadian actor/comic Shaun Majumber (24, many Canuck series). Originally planned to use a documentary filming gimmick, that's evidently been dropped in favor of a more conventional but still action-packed premise. Detroit 1-8-7 is certainly the toughest 10pm offering, going against The Good Wife (starring Emmy-robbed Julianna Margulies) and Parenthood, but advance word hasn't exactly been kind.
Wednesday brings the most new series. CBS opens the night with the still-powerhouse Survivor, transplanted from Thursday. New for NBC at 8pm is the snazzy husband 'n wife spy caper Undercovers (from J.J. Abrams). This is clearly where the beautiful continental people live this season, with gorgeous stars Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food, Second Time Around) from Germany and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Doctor Who, MI-5) from Britain playing the ex-CIA spicy spouses who are pressed into service once again. TV vet Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon, Major Dad, Promised Land) co-stars as their boss, with Mekia Cox as Gugu's sister and Carter McIntyre (American Heiress) as their missing colleague.
ABC continues its comedy strategy, changing out one series at 8:30p to bring in Better With You, revolving around three couples and their various romantic conundrums. Young love, contented love, and mature love are on parade here, played by a cast including Josh Cooke (Big Day, Four Kings), Jennifer Finnigan (The Bold and the Beautiful, Close to Home), Kurt Fuller (Supernatural, Psych), Joanna Garcia (Gossip Girl, Privileged, Reba), Jake Lacey and Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show and many others). Not exactly going to break any new ground, but mostly importantly can it hold viewers through to Modern Family at 9pm? Even if it doesn't it probably won't matter for Modern Family, but it's always better to get a little boost where you can.
At 9pm only the CW brings in the new, with its Memphis-set Hellcats which premiered earlier this month. Revolving around the world of college cheerleading, a special place which never seems to lose its weird and utterly trivial pop culture mystique, it's a typical CW offering, and that's no diss. It stars beautiful young people facing tremendous hardships -- romantic, academic, flyaway pompoms -- and does it with the style that perfectly captivates its audience. The cast includes singer-actress Aly Michalka (Phil of the Future, Super Sweet 16: The Movie), Ashley Tisdale (Phineas and Ferb, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), Robbie Jones (One Tree Hill), Matt Barr (One Tree Hill, Harper's Island), Heather Hemmens, Sharon Leal (Boston Public, Dreamgirls, Why Did I Get Married?), Gail O'Grady (NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives, American Dreams) and D.B. Woodside (24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
It's a three network cage match at 10pm -- three new dramas, one with heritage, two brand new concepts (but is anything brand new anymore?). ABC comes in with The Whole Truth, a Jerry Bruckheimer courtroom drama starring the always excellent Maura Tierney (E.R., NewsRadio, Rescue Me, Baby Mama, and who dropped out of NBC's Parenthood due to her recent cancer treatment), and Rob Morrow (Numb3rs, Northern Exposure), along with Christine Adams (Pushing Daisies, NY-LON, Batman Begins), Anthony Ruivivar (Third Watch, Traveler), Eamonn Walker (Kings, Oz, Justice) and Sean Wing (Beautiful People). The twist in The Whole Truth? We see the case from the prosecution -- Tierney --and the defense -- Morrow -- sides, and viewers will be guessing about the accused's guilt or innocence until the last moment. As if being on opposite ends of the law isn't enough, our two lead characters used to be romantically linked, so there's that's tension to be resolved, too. Sounds like a respectable network offering with high-class provenance and a good chance.
CBS brings in another law series, this one with a slightly comic overtone, with The Defenders (no relation to the groundbreaking series of the 1960s with E.G. Marshall), starring TV series survivor Jerry Connelly (Crossing Jordan, Do Not Disturb, Carpoolers, Las Vegas, My Secret Identity, Sliders) and James Belushi (According to Jim). They're Las Vegas defense attorneys working for the underdogs, crazy guys in a crazy city, doing a crazy job. Do you like your attorneys serious or wisecracking? You've got your pick between ABC and CBS.
NBC goes for the reliable with Law & Order: Los Angeles, possibly a last burst of cream from Dick Wolf's cash cow, whose head has been cut off but body continues to thrive. This one's got a great cast -- Terence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Crash, Iron Man), Alfred Molina (Frida, Prick Up Your Ears, Not Without My Daughter), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho, Miracles, Ride with the Devil), Regina Hall (Scary Movie), Corey Stoll (Lucky Number Slevin), and Megan Boone (My Bloody Valentine) -- and will doubtless deliver exactly what Law & Order fans crave, and perhaps a bit more. Tough choices at 10pm, all three series worthy; ABC would seem to have the toughest job, NBC possibly the easiest with the flow out of L&O: SVU.
Thursday is also in upheaval. CBS moved Survivor and seeded a new comedy night, shifting The Big Bang Theory to anchor 8pm and compete directly against NBC's fan favorite The Community. Will TBBT bring its own base over to a much earlier timeslot and different night? CBS follows with its new William Shatner comedy $#*! My Days Says, the Twitter-inspired series which sounded like so much fun when it was first announced but which has received nothing but razzies from nearly all sources since then. Obviously conceived as the perfect nerd match -- the avid Trekkies of The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in to Captain Kirk himself starring in his own sitcom! -- but the problem seems to be that they haven't made a funny series for Shatner, who could be terrific with the right material. Will Sasso (MADTV), Jonathan Sadowski (American Dreams, Friday the 13th) and Nicole Sullivan (MADTV, Rita Rocks, The King of Queens) co-star in SH*! My Days Says and the premise is Shatner as a cranky old bastard with three ex-wives who moves back in with his younger son. Why isn't it funny? Maybe it will be, as there has been some reworking and cast alterations. But then again, maybe it won't be, leaving room for NBC's not-quite-as-much-now critical darling (and Flaming Nose Favorite) 30 Rock to surge ahead at the much-too-early-for-it 8:30p time period.
ABC premieres a new drama My Generation at 8pm, about a bunch of Texas high school grads who've been followed by a documentary crew for the past ten years to see how life has been treating them. The big multicultural cast includes Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield, The Black Donnellys), Jaime King (Gary Unmarried, The Class, Kitchen Confidential), Keir O'Donnell (Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Daniella Alonso (Friday Night Lights, One Tree Hill), Julian Morris (ER, 24), Kelli Garner (Lars and the Real Girl, The Aviator), Sebastian Sozzi (Six Degrees), Mehcad Brooks (The Deep End, TrueBlood [as Eggs], Desperate Housewives, The Game), and Anne Son. This has ended up on some "Worst" lists already; could be pretentious but not in the right way.
The CW at 9pm early preems the new action drama Nikita, based on the successful La Femme Nikita series from more than a dozen years ago, which was itself based on the original 1990 French film directed by Luc Besson and which also spawned a U.S. remake Point of No Return in 1993. This is seemingly a premise that can't miss -- bad girl is given a chance to go straight by being a kick-ass spy -- and with the alluring Hong-Kong-action-movie-trained Maggie Q (Balls of Fury, Mission: Impossible III, Live Free or Die Hard) as Nikita, this one has potential. In terms of appeal, unfortunately Fox's Fringe is looking for the same adventurous audience, but this might be one to DVR. Co-stars are Shane West (ER, Once and Again), Lynday Fonseca (Hot Tub Time Machine, How I Met Your Mother, Big Love, Desperate Housewives), Aaron Stanford (Traveler, Tadpole, The Hills Have Eyes), Melinda Clarke (The O.C., The Vampire Diaries, CSI), Tiffany Hines (Beyond the Break, Bones, 10 Things I Hate About You), and the you've-seen-him-everywhere Xander Berkeley (CSI, 24, Shanghai Noon).
NBC at 9:30p introduces Outsourced, a new sitcom about what happens when an American novelty company's very green manager is sent to India to set up yheir new call center operation. It's getting some bad buzz, mainly because of the expected "Oh, look at the Indian people with their funny accent" jokes, and maybe that's all there is, but maybe there could be more here than just a one-joke premise. Indian characters have been popping up with much more frequency lately, often used for comedy spice in sitcoms just as the sassy black women and fey gay guys have always been, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong or not funny. Starring in Outsourced are stage actor Ben Rappaport, comedy vet Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, Office Space, Meet the Spartans, The Beverly Hillbillies), Australian actress Pippa Black, Parvesh Cheena (Help Me Help You), Sacha Dhawan (The Deep, The Last Train, The History Boys), Rebecca Hazlewood (Bad Girls, ER), Riswan Manji (FlashForward, 24, Better Off Ted, Privileged), and Broadway actress Anisha Nagarajan. NBC either expects a lot from Outsourced, giving it The Office as lead-in, or else they just hope it won't kill The Apprentice at 10pm.
Friday, somewhat surprisingly, has a slew of new shows, too. Everybody's programming pretty strong on this night, going a bit older but there's plenty to watch or DVR. ABC goes with two hours of new shows, starting with Secret Millionaire, a premise that sounds a bit like a Republican commercial for keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Each week a mega-millionaire goes undercover to do volunteer work and ultimately give $100,000 of their own money to someone deserving. This is looking to push the same buttons as Extreme Makeover, and though I'm all for millionaires getting rid of some of their excess money, I'd really rather they just pay more taxes, you know? Obviously the intended audience isn't millionaires, but rather regular folks who might get too rosy a picture of the ultra-rich with all that philanthropy on display. Secret Millionaire sounds too much like propaganda to me, and just the kind that we don't need these days in a country where we already somehow think the rich are the "good guys".
Beginning 10/15, NBC also goes reality for School Pride, a makeover show about communities "coming together to renovate their aging and broken public schools" according to the official show description. Pretty sad that in America we have to rely on TV to fix our broken educational infrastructure -- see why I think those multi-millionaires should be paying more taxes? -- but this is a show with an extremely good heart. Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines is one of the exec producers of School Pride, and the team of regulars motivating the various schools includes a police SWAT officer, a journalist, a comedian/teacher, and an interior designer. Neighborhoods to be highlighted include coast-to-coast locales like Compton, Nashville, Detroit, and Baton Rouge, and I'm sure these schools need all the help they can get. Maybe School Pride can get some younger viewers to watch, though they are probably either out on dates or watching CW's Smallville.
At 9pm, ABC debuts Body of Proof, the story of a contentious surgeon who can't operate anymore and becomes a medical examiner who's really good at solving crimes. This Philadelphia-set drama stars Dana Delaney (China Beach, Desperate Housewives, Kidnapped) as the cranky distaff version of Quincy, M.E., along with Geoffrey Arend (Trust Me), Australian Nic Bishop (Past Life, Home and Away), Jeri Ryan (Boston Legal, Star Trek: Voyager), prolific character actor John Carroll Lynch (K-Ville, Close to Home, Carnivale, The Drew Carey Show), Windell Middlebrooks (The Suite Life on Deck, Scrubs), and Sonja Sohn (The Wire, Brothers & Sisters, Cold Case). It's already being likened to the police verison of House, but maybe the viewers looking for that kind of action already getting it from CSI: NY, which incidentally is getting a big cast change with Melina Kanakaredes leaving and Sela Ward (another House connection!) coming in to replace her. We'll see if the shows can duke it out and co-exist somehow.
Both CBS and NBC are throwing in two new series in the Friday 10pm hour. CBS gives TV stalwart Tom Selleck his own series again with Blue Bloods, co-starring Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown, Runaway, Band of Brothers), Bridget Moynahan (Six Degrees, I, Robot, The Sum of All Fears, Sex and the City), Will Estes (Reunion, American Dreams, Seventh Heaven), and Len Cariou (he was the original Broadway Sweeney Todd, Damages, Brotherhood, Murder, She Wrote, A Little Night Music). Selleck plays the chief of the NYC police department, and his son (Wahlberg) is following in his footsteps. Blue Bloods sounds like a solid, old-fashioned police/family life show, but with a terrific cast and a compatible lead-in with CSI: NY. Can the network's bright shining light of 30 years ago when he played Magnum P.I. do it again for the Eye? I wouldn't bet against it.
NBC at 10pm brings in what has even this early earned the howler award from most critics, Outlaw starring Jimmy Smits as a sexy Supreme Court justice who gives up the highest court to defend the poor in private practice. Good motive, really silly premise. Smits being Smits, his sex-appeal and charisma is undeniable onscreen but it comes off more ridiculous than realistic and this one might -- unless slackers or somebody else start watching it ironically -- get a swift kick off. Maybe Outlaw is a straight-faced parody of self-important lawyer shows? Probably not intentionally. A really good cast backs up Smits: David Ramsay (Anton on Dexter, The Wire, Ghost Whisperer), Ellen Woglom (Californication, Crash), Carly Pope (24, Dirt, Popular), and Jesse Bradford (The West Wing, Flags of Our Fathers). We've also heard that the subsequent episodes are better than the pilot, which might give us hope.
Saturday is business as usual, meaning football and lots of encores, which seems like a great way to play it. Put some of those 10pm shows earlier for those of us who can't manage to stay up late and even forget to set the DVR.
So that's the new season. What do we personally like? We've got to try The Event, especially if it's some crazy sci-fi threat thing or the end of the world. We love people in panic mode on a cataclysmic scale. Maybe CBS's The Defenders? Sounds like lawyer-y fun. However, I wonder at this point if we shouldn't just watch USA's great selection of light action shows like White Collar or Burn Notice instead of thinking the Broadcast Networks can get the lead out and put something zippy up there in the genre? I can't imagine it will be anything new or perhaps even interesting, but the cast of Blue Bloods is good and this might be the time for a little Selleck strength. I also can't imagine actually sitting down and watching it but I will send it good thoughts.