Accidentally On Purpose (Mon., Sept. 21 @ 8:30 PM, CBS)
The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) “Heroes” (NBC), “House” (Fox), “One Tree Hill” (The CW)
Starring: Jenna Elfman, Grant Show, Jon Foster, Ashley Jensen, Lennon Parham, Nicolas Wright
Producers: Gail Berman (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), Gene Stein (“Less Than Perfect”), and Claudia Lonow (“The War at Home”)
Network’s Description: Billie is a single woman who finds herself “accidentally” pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger guy, and decides to keep the baby… and the guy. A newspaper film critic, Billie is barely surviving a humiliating breakup with her charming boss, James, who’s still trying to resume their relationship. Suddenly expecting a child with her “boy toy,” Zack, Billie and Zack make an arrangement: to live together platonically. Billie’s party girl best friend Olivia, and Abby, her conventional, younger married sister, eagerly look forward to the new addition and offer their own brands of advice and encouragement. But when Zack and his freeloading friends, including Davis, start to turn her place into a frat house, Billie isn’t sure if she’s living with a boyfriend, a roommate, or if she just has another child to raise.
The Buzz: Elfman’s been trying to mount her post-“Dharma and Greg” comeback for some time now (2006’s “Courting Alex” only lasted 13 episodes), but CBS’s decision to place the comedy in the midst of its Monday night line-up – and between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men,” no less – shows their confidence in it. Or is that desperation?
Pilot Highlight: Billie’s walk of shame after what, at the time, appears to be a one-night stand.
Bottom Line: The young man / older woman dynamic obviously has potential for comedy, but this is a painfully pedestrian affair, one which feels like it never would’ve been made if Elfman hadn’t been attached.
NCIS: Los Angeles (Tues., Sept. 22 @ 9:00 PM, CBS)
The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox), “Melrose Place” (The CW)
Starring: Chris O’Donnell, Daniela Ruah, LL Cool J, Louise Lombard, Peter Cambor
Producers: Shane Brennan (“NCIS”), Tony Wharmby (“Bones”)
Network’s Description: A drama about the high stakes world of the Office of Special Projects (OSP), a division of NCIS that is charged with apprehending dangerous and elusive criminals that pose a threat to the nation’s security. By assuming false identities and utilizing the most advanced technology, this team of highly trained agents goes deep undercover, putting their lives on the line in the field to bring down their targets. Special Agent “G” Callen is a chameleon who transforms himself into whomever he needs to be to infiltrate the criminal underworld. His partner is Special Agent Sam Hanna, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who has seen action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and a surveillance expert who uses state of the art monitoring equipment to look out for those in the field and feed them crucial information. Assisting the team is Special Agent Kensi Blye, the exceptionally bright daughter of a slain Marine who lives for the adrenalin rush that comes with undercover work; Operational Psychologist Nate Getz, adept at getting into anybody’s head, profiling the target and monitoring agents’ states of mind before, during and after missions; Dominic Vail, the most recent addition to the team, is highly qualified but lacking in practical experience and Henrietta “Hetty” Lange who oversees the ‘backroom’ support staff tasked with providing everything from micro-surveillance cameras to cars for the team. Armed with the latest in high tech gear and sent regularly into life-threatening situations, this tight-knit unit relies on each other to do what is necessary to protect national interests.
The Buzz: Given that the original series has done nothing but rise through the Nielsen ranks since its debut six years ago, it’s actually a little surprising that there hasn’t been a spin-off before now, but with the combination of the fan anticipation and the high-profile names in the cast, excitement is running high. It’s an interesting tactic to put the two series back to back on the schedule rather than spread them across different nights, but talk about developing a solid programming block.
Pilot Highlight: Well, technically, the pilot was the two episodes of “NCIS” last season which introduced the majority of the “Los Angeles” characters, so you’d have to give it to the cliffhanger ending of Callen getting shot all to hell. When it comes to the first proper episode of the series, however, the highlight is any time Hetty Lange is on the screen. Even setting aside Linda Hunt’s height, anyone who’s ever seen “The Incredibles” will refuse to believe that the resemblance between Hetty and Edna Mode is coincidental. (“No capes, Callen!”)
Bottom Line: It’ll be an out-of-the-box hit without even having to be any good, but it shares enough of the look and feel of the series that spawned it to keep viewers from tuning elsewhere. Expect it to take several episodes to really find its sea legs, but given how fantastic producer Shane Brennan’s work on the original “NCIS” has been over the past few years, there’s every reason to believe that he’ll make this into another sleek, smooth-sailing procedural for CBS.
The Good Wife (Tues., Sept. 22 @ 10:00 PM, CBS)
The competition: “The Forgotten” (ABC), “The Jay Leno Show” (NBC)
Starring: Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski, Graham Phillips, Josh Charles, Julianna Margulies, Makenzie Vega, Matt Czuchry
Producers: Charles McDougall, David W. Zucker, Dee Johnson, Michelle King, Ridley Scott, Robert King, Tony Scott
Network’s Description: A drama starring about a wife and mother who must assume full responsibility for her family and re-enter the workforce after her husband’s very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail. Pushing aside the betrayal and crushing public humiliation caused by her husband Peter, Alicia Florrick starts over by pursuing her original career as a defense attorney. As a junior associate at a prestigious Chicago law firm, she joins her longtime friend, former law school classmate and firm partner Will Gardner, who is interested to see how Alicia will perform after 13 years out of the courtroom. Alicia is grateful the firm’s top litigator, Diane Lockhart, offers to mentor her but discovers the offer has conditions and realizes she’s going to need to succeed on her own merit. Alicia’s main competition among the firm’s 20-something new recruits is Cary, a recent Harvard grad who is affable on the surface, but will use any means to ensure that he, not Alicia, secures the one full-time associate position that’s available. Fortunately, Alicia finds an ally in Kalinda, the firm’s tough in-house investigator. Gaining confidence every day, Alicia transforms herself from embarrassed politician’s scorned wife to resilient career woman, especially for the sake of providing a stable home for her children, 14-year-old Zach and 13-year-old Grace. For the first time in years, Alicia trades in her identity as the “good wife” and takes charge of her own destiny.
The Buzz: I haven’t really heard any buzz for the show, oddly enough, but surely the preview footage alone is enough to prove to audiences that Margulies is playing a far different sort of attorney here than she was in the short-lived “Canterbury’s Law”…which is to say that she’s actually playing someone likable this time.
Pilot Highlight: It’s arguable that the highlight is simply watching Margulies as she takes the character of Alicia and goes from flustered to bewildered to empowered all within the course of about 45 minutes, but if we have to pick one scene, it’s watching her speechlessness when, in her first appearance in court as an attorney in 13 years, the judge – played by David Paymer – gives her client everything she could ask for…without actually asking for anything!
Bottom Line: While I’m sure no one would dare argue that we truly need another legal drama, Margulies shines in the pilot, and Noth manages to make your skin crawl simply through the knowledge of how his character has wronged Alicia. When you throw in Baranski playing it ballsy and Charles offering his usual nice-guy performance, there are a lot of reasons to root for “The Good Wife” to succeed.
Three Rivers (Sun., Oct. 4 @ 9:00 PM, CBS)
The competition: “Desperate Housewives” (ABC), “Sunday Night Football” (NBC), “Family Guy” and “American Dad” (Fox)
Starring: Alex O’Loughlin, Katherine Moennig, Daniel Henney, Christopher J. Hanke, Alfre Woodard, Justina Machado
Producers: Carol Barbee (“Swingtown”), Curtis Hanson and Carol Fenelon (“8 Mile,” “In Her Shoes,” “Lucky You”)
Network’s Description: A medical drama that goes inside the emotionally complex lives of organ donors, the recipients and the surgeons at the preeminent transplant hospital in the country, where every moment counts. However, dealing with donor families in their darkest hour and managing the fears and concerns of apprehensive recipients takes much more than just a sharp scalpel. Leading the elite team is Dr. Andy Yablonski, the highly-skilled workaholic lead organ transplant surgeon, whose good-natured personality and sarcastic wit makes him popular with his patients and colleagues. His co-workers include Dr. Miranda Foster, a surgical fellow with a rebellious streak and fiery temper who strives to live up to her deceased father’s excellent surgical reputation; Dr. David Lee, a womanizing surgical resident who’s broken as many hearts as he’s replaced; Ryan Abbott, the inexperienced new transplant coordinator who arranges the intricately choreographed process of quickly and carefully transporting organs from donor to patient; Dr. Sophia Jordon, the dedicated head of surgery who has no patience for anyone who hasn’t sacrificed as much as she has for the job; and Pam Acosta, Andy’s no-nonsense operating assistant and best friend. In this high stakes arena, in which every case is a race against the clock, these tenacious surgeons and medical professionals are the last hope for their patients.
The Buzz: A medical drama executive-produced by a well-respected film director? It’s hard not to think of Bryan Singer and “House.” But who are we kidding? This series’ greatest asset is Alex O’Loughlin. CBS loves the guy, they’ve been looking for the right vehicle for him ever since the cancelation of “Moonlight,” and they’ve surrounded him with a top-notch ensemble.
Pilot Highlight: Well, at the moment, it’s hard to say, since the pilot *I* saw isn’t going to be the pilot that you see. My version featured Julia Ormond in the cast, who has since departed for greener pastures. But given that the scene I found most gripping didn’t feature her, I’m guessing that the highlight will still be when Dr. Foster has her unfortunate real-world epiphany that you can’t save everyone. (The O’Loughlin fans, however, are already chomping at the bit to see the scene where their hero is playing rugby.)
Bottom Line: Although one can’t help but feel that focusing on the very specific field of organ transplantation has its limitations, the combination of the on-air talent (Alex!), the behind-the-scenes team, and the counter-programming Sunday night timeslot would seem to add up to a likely success for O’Loughlin and company.