The CW: What’s New for Fall 2010

WEDNESDAY

Hellcats (Wed., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

* The competition: “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” (ABC), “Criminal Minds” (CBS), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC), “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox)

Starring: Aly Michalka, Ashley Tisdale, Gail O’Grady, Heather Hemmens, Robbie Jones, Matt Barr, Sharon Leal, Jeff Hephner, D.B. Woodside, Elena Esovolova

Producers: Tom Welling (“Smallville”), Kevin Murphy (“Desperate Housewives”), Allan Arkush (“Heroes”)

Network’s Description: a pumped-up drama about a young pre-law student whose world is turned upside-down when she loses her scholarship and has to join the college’s competitive cheerleading squad. This fun, energetic series is a behind-the-scenes look at the drama, politics and pressure surrounding the football program at a Southern university.

The Buzz: This isn’t a show for critics. It’s a show for CW viewers. Rarely do these two demographics meet. Granted, the slot behind “America’s Next Top Model” has killed many a newcomer, but they’ve got a lot of spirit, these Hellcats, so you never know what stunts they might be able to pull off.

Pilot Highlight: It’s a tie between Marti’s audition for the cheering squad and – spoiler alert! – her first practice after making the squad. Both offer awesome choreography and, yes, you lechers, lots of sexy cheerleaders dancing their asses off.

Bottom Line: At the very least, there’s more to it than the average non-female viewer will probably want to admit – yes, that’s right, sir, I’m speaking to you – but your appreciation of it will depend heavily on how you approach the material. This ain’t Shakespeare, people. It’s an hourlong TV series about cheerleaders. Set your standards appropriately, and you might just enjoy it…and if you don’t, then you almost certainly know someone who will.

THURSDAY

Nikita (Thurs., Sept. 9 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

* The competition: “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC), “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (CBS), “The Office” and “Outsourced” (NBC), “Fringe” (Fox)

Starring: Maggie Q, Lyndsy Fonseca, Shane West, Aaron Stanford, Ashton Holmes, Tiffany Hines, Melinda Clarke, Xander Berkeley

Producers: Craig Silverstein (“Bones”), Danny Cannon (“CSI,” “The Forgotten,” “Dark Blue”), McG and Peter Johnson (“Human Target”)

Network’s Description: a spy and assassin for a top secret U.S. government agency rebels against the system that created her and will stop at nothing to bring their powerful operation to an end.

The Buzz: There are a lot of folks muttering about how it hasn’t been all that long since the USA Network’s “La Femme Nikita” series, but a lot of them have walked away surprisingly impressed with the action delivered by the pilot.

Pilot Highlight: The sequence where Nikita sports a very impressive red bathing suit, slips into a hot tub with her target, and takes him down.

Bottom Line: It’s not the perfect pairing for “The Vampire Diaries,” but when you consider the fact that the women who swoon over the undead might also enjoy seeing other members of their gender doing a little well-choreographed ass-kicking, it’s not the craziest match-up in the world. Given the relatively low ratings standards of The CW, the established fans of the “Nikita” franchise might manage to make it into a success for the network.

  

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NBC: What’s New for Fall 2010

MONDAY

The Event (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 9:00 PM, NBC)

* The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “Two and a Half Men” and “Mike & Molly” (CBS), “Lone Star” (Fox), “Gossip Girl” (The CW)

Starring: Jason Ritter, Sarah Roemer, Blair Underwood, Laura Innes, Scott Patterson, Ian Anthony Dale, Zeljko Ivanek

Producers: Steve Stark (“Medium”), Evan Katz (“24”), Nick Wauters (“The 4400,” “Eureka”), Jeffrey Reiner (“Friday Night Lights,” “Trauma”)

Network’s Description: an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker, an Everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, Leila, and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including: newly elected U.S. President Martinez; Sophia, who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Sean’s shadowy father-in-law. Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind.

The Buzz: NBC ain’t playing around with this one: the big question of the summer for TV fans has been, “What is ‘The Event’?” Most of those who’ve seen the pilot seem to at least be hooked enough to come back for Episode 2, though I’m sure no one is counting on finding out what ‘The Event’ is anytime soon. On a related note, there’s some very reasonable concern from folks about whether they’re going to be let down by a promising sci-fi pilot that starts strong but then either peters out early in the season or never gets properly resolved before it’s canceled. (“FlashForward,” anyone?)

Pilot Highlight: There are several moments which will have you raising your eyebrows both at what you’re seeing and what it means, particularly the final scene, but the most effective sequence begins when Sean – who’s on a cruise with Leila – returns from a solo outing to find things aren’t quite the same as he left them.

Bottom Line: The rapid-fire back and forth between past and present combined with people getting the sensation that NBC’s trying for the next “Lost” is going to make it a tough sell for some, but, damn, the first episode sure intrigued the hell out of me.

Chase (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 10:00 PM, NBC)

* The competition: “Hawaii Five-0” (CBS), “Castle” (ABC)

Starring: Kelli Giddish, Cole Hauser, Amaury Nolasco, Rose Rollins, Jesse Metcalfe

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI”), Jonathan Littman and Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case”), KristieAnne Reed (“The Forgotten,” “Miami Medical”)

Network’s Description: a fast-paced drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives. U.S. Marshal Annie Frost is a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run. The members of Frost’s elite team are Jimmy Godfrey, an East Texas kid who never grew up and is a true American cowboy; Marco Martinez, a good intelligence guy who loves to talk; and Daisy Ogbaa, a weapons/tactical specialist and a woman of few words. Rounding out the cast is Luke Watson, the fresh-faced newcomer, whose Washington, D.C., upbringing did little to prepare him for the Lone Star State.

The Buzz: It ain’t great. For one thing, Bruckerheimer was nowhere to be seen at the panel for the series (he was apparently on the set of the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, but he somehow managed to make it in for ABC’s panel for “The Whole Truth” a couple of days later), and then the panel itself was notably shorter than the ones for some of the other new entries on the NBC schedule. Maybe we shouldn’t make too much of either of these things, though. It’s more likely that it’s just a case where the show was too pedestrian to inspire much in the way of unique promotion.

Pilot Highlight: Nothing, really, and I can’t help but recall that I had this same problem with one of NBC’s pilots last year, too. (Would you please rise from the grave and take a final bow, “Mercy”?) Sometimes, a show arrives, follows its formula, and departs without leaving much of an impression. “Chase” is one of those shows.

Bottom Line: Don’t let the Bruckheimer name suck you in this time. “Chase” is the most by-the-book, formulaic cops-and-robbers drama I’ve seen in awhile, with no “hook” to make it stand out from the pack. If “Hawaii Five-0” doesn’t blow it out of the water, then I’ll have to echo Alex O’Loughlin’s sentiments and concede that I’m completely bewildered and have no idea how television works at all.

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CBS: What’s New for Fall 2010

MONDAY

Mike & Molly (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 9:30 PM, CBS)

* The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “The Event” (NBC), “Lonestar” (Fox), “Gossip Girl” (The CW)

Starring: Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy, Reno Wilson, Katy Mixon, Nyambi Nyambi, Swoosie Kurtz

Producers: Chuck Lorre and Mark Roberts (“Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory”)

Network’s Description: a comedy about a working class Chicago couple who find love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Officer Mike Biggs is a good-hearted cop who sincerely wants to lose weight. Mike’s partner, Officer Carl McMillan, is a thin, fast-talking wise-guy who, despite his teasing, encourages Mike on his road to slimness and romance. While speaking at an O.A. meeting, Mike meets Molly Flynn, an instantly likeable fourth-grade teacher with a good sense of humor about her curves. For Molly, focusing on smart choices isn’t easy while living with her sexy older sister, Victoria, and their mother, Joyce, both of whom flaunt their effortless figures while indulging their healthy appetites right in front of her. Mike also faces temptation at the diner he and Carl frequent, where they’ve become friends with a Senegalese waiter, Samuel, to whom dieting is a foreign concept. Mike and Molly found each other in the most unexpected of places. Now, they’re about to find out where their quest for companionship will take them.

The Buzz: Even the people who hate the show’s abundance of fat jokes…I’m one of them, and I’m pretty sure I’d still be one of them even if I wasn’t overweight…aren’t arguing with the odds of a Chuck Lorre show becoming a success, especially not on the night of the week that’s spawned his biggest hits.

Pilot Highlight: when Mike speaks to Molly’s class and reveals the origins of his career in law enforcement…or, really, anytime Mike and Molly are together. They’re a ridiculously cute couple.

Bottom Line: If the writers don’t put the show on a low-fat-jokes diet immediately – there are, no weight pun intended, a ton of them – in favor of embracing the great chemistry between Gardell and McCarthy, viewers’ romance with the show will be short-lived, but Lorre’s track record is such that we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll get “Mike & Molly” into shape sooner than later.

Hawaii Five-0 (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 10:00 PM, CBS)

* The competition: “Castle” (ABC), “Chase” (NBC)

Starring: Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Karyn Manning

Producers: Peter Lenkov (“24,” “CSI: NY”), Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (“Alias,” “Fringe”)

Network’s Description: a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated Naval officer-turned-cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s Governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket authority to hunt down the biggest “game” in town. Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams, a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop – a working man in paradise who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline – but who’s committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly, an ex-Honolulu Police Detective, and former protégé of McGarrett’s father, wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol. Chin’s cousin, Kono, is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department’s elite. McGarrett, repairing his relationship with his estranged sister Mary Ann, vows to bring closure to their father’s case, while the state’s brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate the seedy elements from the 50th state.

The Buzz: If it’s not the strongest of the season, it’s pretty close. CBS is waging a seriously impressive tightrope-walk of an ad campaign, playing up as many of the familiar elements as possible – you’d better believe the theme song remains the same – while also underlining that this is a modernized reboot rather than a continuation of the old show. And how about that cast, huh? Well, I suppose you’ve got to have pretty people to fit in with the gorgeous landscape…

Pilot Highlight: The opening sequence sets up the series – and McGarrett’s tortured past – in seriously kick-ass fashion, confirming that this is not your (grand)parent’s “Hawaii Five-0,” but the more sentimental viewers will giggle with glee when McGarrett finally gets to deliver his signature line, “Book him, Danno.”

Bottom Line: The combination of a familiar title, a solid ensemble, the beautiful backdrop, and O’Laughlin crossing his fingers and putting his faith in the power of the “third time’s the charm” rule should make this into a hit.

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ABC: What’s New for Fall 2010

TUESDAY

No Ordinary Family (Tues., Sept. 28 @ 8:00 PM, ABC)

* The competition: “NCIS” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “Glee” (Fox), “One Tree Hill” (The CW)

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Romany Malco, Autumn Reeser, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett, Stephen Collins

Producers: Greg Berlanti (“Eli Stone”), Jon Harmon (“Tru Calling”), David Semel (“Life”), Morgan Wandell

Network’s Description: The Powells are about to go from ordinary to extraordinary. After 16 years of marriage, Jim feels disconnected from his workaholic wife, Stephanie, and two teenage children, Daphne and JJ. To encourage family bonding time, Jim decides the family will join Stephanie on her business trip to South America. When their plane crashes into the Amazon River, they barely enjoy a moment to celebrate their survival before returning to the grind of everyday life. But they will soon realize that their lives have been forever changed. Each member of the family starts to show signs of new, unique and distinct super powers. Will their newfound abilities finally bring them together or push them further apart? For the Powells, embarking on a mission to understand their new abilities becomes the key to rebuilding their family life, as they learn what defines and unifies them. Despite the fact they can collectively lift a car, run at lightning speed, read your mind and calculate the dimensions of the Eiffel Tower — all before you say “superhero” – they are first and foremost an average family with everyday problems.

The Buzz: Decidedly strong at Comic-Con, as you’d expect, and there’s no question that ABC’s treating it as a major player in the season, given all of the intrusive pop-ups promoting the series during its current programming. The big question, though, is whether or not non-nerds (and as a nerd myself, please understand that I’m simply using this phrase as to separate us cool kids from those other people) can be sold on the show.

Pilot Highlight: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the members of the family discovering their respective abilities make for the most fun, but as for the best of that bunch, it’s a tie between Jim learning how to jump and Stephanie speeding around the track.

Bottom Line: The pilot is a heck of a lot of fun, offering a sense of humor and a sense of adventure that’s more like a live-action “Incredibles” than another “Heroes,” but given the tough competition, superhero fans had better tune in from the get-go, keep on coming back for more, and spread the good word on the show for all they’re worth if they want “No Ordinary Family” to stick around.

Detroit 1-8-7 (Tues., Sept. 21 @ 10:00 PM, ABC)

* The competition: “The Good Wife” (CBS), “Parenthood” (NBC)

Starring: Michael Imperioli, James McDaniel, Aisha Hinds, D.J. Cotrona, Jon Michael Hill, Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez, Erin Cummings

Producers: David Zabel (“ER”), Jason Richman (“Bangkok Dangerous”), Kevin Hooks (“Prison Break”), David Hoberman (“Monk”), Todd Lieberman (“The Kill Point”)

Network’s Description: What does it take to be a detective in one of America’s toughest cities? Follow one homicide unit as Detroit’s finest reveal the crisis and revelation, heartbreak and heroism that characterize these inner city cops in this series shot entirely in Detroit, Michigan. There’s the damaged but driven Detective Louis Fitch, a wily homicide vet who is the most respected — and most misunderstood — man in the division; Detective Damon Washington, Fitch’s new partner, who finds the first day on the job is a trial by fire, complicated by the imminent birth of his first child; Detective Ariana Sanchez, sexy, edgy and beautiful, who has emerged from a rough background to become a rising star in the department; narcotics undercover cop John Stone, a streetwise smooth talker, clever and quick with a smile made for the movies, who is teamed with Sanchez — a combustible pairing rife with conflict and sexual tension; Sergeant Jesse Longford, a 30-year veteran and sage of the department struggling with his impending retirement from the force and the city he loves, who, together with his partner, Detective Vikram Mahajan — a fully Americanized son of Indian immigrants — form an amusing mismatch of experience and enthusiasm, intellect and instinct, old school and new world, but whose combined skills have never encountered a case that couldn’t be cleared; and all are headed by Lieutenant Maureen Mason, a strong-willed single mom struggling to balance home and work. The unit works with the primary medical examiner, Dr. Abbey Ward, who has an unusual hobby in her off-hours-roller derby. The men and women of Detroit Homicide are as smart and tough as they come. They have to be, as they struggle with their own inner demons, using only their sharp sense of humor to keep them grounded while working the neighborhoods of the historic Motor City.

The Buzz: The show earned a few headlines when it had to deal with an impossible-to-predict change from its original faux-documentary format after a real death in Detroit during the filming of an episode of A&E’s “The First 48” led the city to ban camera crews from following cops around. The producers, of course, have put the most positive possible spin on the situation, but given that it was one of the few things that instantly helped the show stand out from its fellow police dramas, you know it had to hurt, especially since there hasn’t really been any buzz about the show.

Pilot Highlight: The conclusion to Washington’s first day as a detective. You won’t see it coming, and it wipes away many of your concerns that the show might wallow in schmaltz.

Bottom Line: The cast is strong, but the show still ends up feeling like a typical cop drama. Having both Imperioli (“Life on Mars”) and McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”) back on the beat is nice, and the last scene of the first episode will no doubt bring just about everyone who’s watching back for Episode #2, but it still may not be enough to help “Detroit 1-8-7” compete against two shows that absolutely do have buzz.

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Greetings to the New Series: “Hellcats”

As someone who grew up preferring reading to playing sports and had more success as a comic book collector and Trekkie than a ladies man, it will probably come as no surprise to you that my years in public school didn’t exactly find me traveling in the same circles as the cheerleaders. For many years, I perceived cheerleaders as goddesses who deigned to walk among us mere humans, a breed of woman who existed so far above me in the school social structure that I considered it a major end-of-the-year coup if could get any of them to sign my yearbook…and I maintained that impression right up until my little sister became a cheerleader, at which point several things happened semi-simultaneously:

1) I was put in a position where I was forced to acknowledge that if this gaggle of hot girls in short skirts had allowed my sister into their ranks, then she too must be considered hot by the masses. Not cool. Nobody likes the idea that other guys are thinking of their sister like that.

2) I was also forced to acknowledge something which I’d long suspected but hadn’t wanted to admit: that my little sister was far more popular than I was. Even less cool.

3) Less important from a social standpoint but arguably most germane to this discussion, a steady stream of cheerleading videos went into rotation on the VCR in our living room. Whether the girls are hot or not, a guy can only stand to watch so many routines in a row before losing his mind, and I hit my maximum threshold pretty quickly.

The end result of these three things was that I quickly lost my interest in watching cheerleaders in action…and the effect was long-lasting: long after high school, I found little interest in films like “Bring It On” and “Sugar and Spice” because, frankly, I’d had enough cheerleading to last me a lifetime. As such, when it was announced that The CW’s fall line-up would featuring a full-fledged cheerleading drama, I reasonably presumed that I’d still be just as uninterested as I’d ever been.

This time around, though, I had a slightly different reaction to watching the cheerleaders. Sure, as a straight male, my instinct was still to unabashedly ogle the hot girls in the short skirts…but as a 40-year-old male, I realized that my daughter is closer in age to the girls than I am, and I felt – quite appropriately – like a dirty old man.

But, c’mon, man, have you seen the star of this show?

I think even the most chaste amongst our readership can concede that Aly Michalka is, quite simply, smokin’, but as history has shown us time and time again, it takes more than a hot girl…more, even, than a squad of hot girls…to make a quality television show.

Is there more to “Hellcats” than just a bunch of pretty faces?

Well, at the very least, there’s more to it than the average non-female viewer will probably want to admit – yes, that’s right, sir, I’m speaking to you – but your appreciation of it will depend heavily on how you approach the material.

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