ABC: What’s New for Fall 2009

V (Tues., Nov. 3 @ 8:00 PM, ABC)

The competition: “NCIS” (CBS) “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox), “90210” (The CW)

Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Lourdes Benedicto, Logan Huffman, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf
Producers: Scott Peters (“The 4400,” “The Outer Limits”), Jeffrey Bell (“Day Break,” “Alias”), Steve Pearlman (“Reunion,” “Related”), and Jace Hall (“The Jace Hall Show”)
Network’s Description: A re-imagining of the 1980’s miniseries about the world’s first encounter with an alien race. Simultaneously appearing over every major city in the world, the Visitors (or V’s) promote a message of peace. Through their generous offer to share advanced technology, the V’s build a following that may actually hide a more malevolent agenda, one that twists a very deep component of human nature: devotion. While the world quickly becomes fascinated with the V’s and their link to wonders just beyond the reach of human understanding, FBI Counter Terrorist Agent Erica Evans discovers a secret hidden beneath the skin of every V – a secret that may threaten the lives of everyone close to her. Yet for her teenage son, Tyler, the V’s are his ticket to something big and hopeful — a new chance for mankind to unite in common goals. To Chad Decker, a career-hungry news anchor, his exclusive interview with Anna, the leader of the V’s, is crucial to his dominating the airwaves. Also unsure about the Visitors is Father Jack, a priest questioning his faith in the wake of the Visitors’ arrival. Seeking answers outside the church, Father Jack discovers there are other dissidents who believe the Visitors are not who they say they are, including Ryan Nichols, who is faced with his own life-altering decision when the V’s show up. Never has there been more at stake — it truly is the dawning of a new day.
The Buzz: Like “Eastwick,” there’s a certain instinct to ask, “Why do we need to revisit a 20-year-old property?” In the case of “V,” though, most of those who remember the show fondly will probably nod their heads and consider that, yes, special effects technology has evolved to a point where a concept like this one deserves to reap the benefits. And although the purists will no doubt grimace and claim that it won’t be the same without original creator Kenneth Johnson working behind the scenes, they need look no farther than “Battlestar Galactica” to have a good reason to consider the possibilities for a new “V.”
Pilot Highlight: Personally, I dug the showdown between Anna and Chad when he refuses to offer an interview consisting solely of softball questions and she informs him that either it’ll be all queries that paint the Visitors in a positive light or the interview will be canceled, but the episode’s tie-ins to terrorism were damned intriguing.
Bottom Line: There’ll clearly be a “we’ve seen this” reaction from the generation who grew up with “Independence Day,” but it’s already clear that this is not your parents’ “V.” It may not prove to have any more legs than ABC’s last stab at alien infiltration (“Invasion”), but it’s going to come down to whether or not the viewers who come in for the curiosity factor, thinking, “Hey, I liked the old show, I wonder how the new one will be,” are going to given enough to sell them right off the bat.

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CBS: What’s New for Fall 2009

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.

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NBC: What’s New for Fall 2009

The Jay Leno Show (Mon., Sept. 14 @ 10:00 PM, NBC)

The competition:
Monday: “Castle” (ABC), “CSI: Miami” (CBS)
Tuesday: “The Forgotten” (ABC), “The Good Wife” (CBS)
Wednesday: “Eastwick” (ABC), “CSI: New York” (CBS)
Thursday: “Private Practice” (ABC), “The Mentalist” (CBS)
Friday: “20/20” (ABC), “Numb3rs” (CBS)

Starring: Jay Leno
Producers: Debbie Vickers, Larry Goitia, Jay Leno, Jack Coen, Stephanie Ross (“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”)
Network’s Description: Marking a new era in television, Jay Leno, recently named America’s Favorite TV Personality by the 2009 Harris Poll, moves from late night to primetime on September 14 when his series becomes the first-ever entertainment program to be stripped across primetime on broadcast network television. The series promises more comedy in the 10 o’clock hour and will showcase many of the features that have made Leno America’s late-night leader for more than a dozen years.
The Buzz: About as mixed as buzz can be. This is the most controversial maneuver in the past several decades of television history, a Hail Mary by the people at the Peacock. It’s highly possible that the people who’ve abandoned “The Tonight Show” since the tall, skinny Irish kid took over have just decided to go to bed early for a change and are fully prepared to start watching their old buddy, Jay, in his new locale. Then again, maybe they won’t. It’s a crazy crap shoot, this series, and all that us critics can do is sit back and see what the viewers decide to do.
Pilot Highlight: None, obviously, due to the live nature of the show.
Bottom Line: If you like Jay Leno, you’ll like the show. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s really as simple as that. But will you watch the show? Leno has the right attitude by acknowledging outright that he doesn’t expect to beat original programming, only anticipating that they’ll probably start to take home the ratings gold once the reruns start. I like Leno as much as the next guy, but I like scripted dramatic programming better. For that alone, I’m not exactly rooting for him to succeed. But with that said, I’m mostly just curious to see what’s going to happen.

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Fox: What’s New for Fall 2009

Glee (Wed., Sept. 9 @ 9:00 PM, Fox)

The competition: “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” (ABC), “Criminal Minds” (CBS), “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC), “The Beautiful Life” (The CW)

Starring: Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Corey Monteith, Lea Michele, Dianna Agron, Matthew Morrison, Jessalyn Gilsig, Chris Colfer, Patrick Gallagher, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Amber Riley, Mark Salling
Producers: Bradley Buecker, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck”), Zachary Woodlee (“Eli Stone”)
Network’s Description: A one-hour musical comedy that follows an optimistic high school teacher as he tries to transform the school’s Glee Club and inspire a group of ragtag performers to make it to the biggest competition of them all: Nationals. McKinley High School’s Glee Club used to be at the top of the show choir world, but years later, a series of scandals have turned it into a haven for misfits and social outcasts. Will Schuester, a young optimistic teacher, has offered to take on the Herculean task of restoring McKinley’s Glee Club to its former glory with the help of fellow teacher Emma Pillsbury. It’s a tall order when the brightest stars of the pitch-imperfect club include Kurt, a nerdy soprano with a flair for the dramatic; Mercedes, a dynamic diva-in-training who refuses to sing back-up; Artie, a geeky guitarist who spends more time avoiding bullies than chasing girls; and Tina, an awkward girl who needs to suppress her stutter before she can take center stage. Will’s only hope lies with two true talents: Rachel Berry, a perfectionist firecracker who is convinced that show choir is her ticket to stardom; and Finn Hudson, the popular high school quarterback with movie star looks and a Motown voice who must protect his reputation with his holier-than-thou girlfriend, Quinn, and his arrogant teammate, Puck. Driven by his secret past, Will is determined to do whatever it takes to make Glee great again, even though everyone around him thinks he’s nuts. He’s out to prove them all wrong – from his tough-as-nails wife Terri Schuester to McKinley’s cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester to an über-hip world that thinks jazz hands and sequined tuxedos litter the road to infamy rather than pave the way to Hollywood dreams.
The Buzz: Crazy insane. (Insane? Crazy?) Fox’s decision to air the pilot for the show back in May and let it simmer for the summer was one of the strongest marketing moves in recent television history, as evidenced by the ridiculous amount of iTunes downloads of the songs from the show, and while having the cast turn up at Comic-Con might’ve seemed out of place at first, given how close the lines for “glee club members” and “comic book and sci-fi aficionados” lie on the geek flowchart, it shouldn’t have. And now they’re preparing to tour the malls of America…? The buzz buzz buzz you’re hearing in the drum of your ear is the sound of “Glee.”
Pilot Highlight: If you didn’t want to leap to your feet and applaud at the end of their performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” you are dead inside. Dead, I say.
Bottom Line: It’s going to be like having a new volume of “High School Musical” airing every single week, except with sensibilities falling closer to “Freaks and Geeks.” If it isn’t a huge hit, and if the soundtrack to the show isn’t one of the biggest selling albums of the holiday season, I will be shocked…and crestfallen, too, as I’m totally in the “Glee” club as well.

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The CW: What’s New for Fall 2009

Melrose Place (Tues., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)

Starring: Laura Leighton, Shaun Sipos, Thomas Calabro, Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz
Producers: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (“Smallville”)
Network’s Description: In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck. Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini. Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms, once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick. After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung, a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller, an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond, a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster, has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.
The Buzz: There hasn’t been nearly as much excitement about this reboot as there was for “90210.” After watching the pilot, there appears to be good reason for that.
Pilot Highlight: The temptation is to say either the discovery of the body or the discovery of who David’s father is, but by the time the show premieres, it’s a fair bet that both pieces of information won’t be nearly as much of a surprise for you as they were for me. As such, let’s go with the closing moment, when we’re handed a shot which implies that we’re looking at the murderer.
Bottom Line: The characters and scenarios feel clichéd, and as it stands right now, the connections to the original series seem tenuous at best. You can appreciate The CW’s desire to have lightning strike twice, but this just couldn’t feel more rushed…or unnecessary.

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