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.
The Defenders (Wed., Sept. 22 @ 9:00 PM, CBS)
* The competition: “The Whole Truth” (ABC), “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (NBC)
Starring: Jim Belushi, Jerry O’Connell, Jurnee Smollett, Tanya Fischer
Producers: Carol Mendelsohn (“CSI: NY”), Kevin Kennedy and Niels Mueller (“The Assassination of Richard Nixon”), Joe Gantz and Harry Gantz (“Taxicab Confessions”), Greg Walker (“Three Rivers,” “Without A Trace”)
Network’s Description: a drama about two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. Nick and Pete are the local go-to guys with an eclectic client list who are still looking to hit their own jackpot. Leading the law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek are Nick Morelli, an earnest, hard-charging attorney who represents his clients to the best of his ability, no matter how big or small the case; and his partner, Pete Kaczmarek, whose passion for the law is matched only by his love of fast cars, beautiful women and expensive clothes. Joining them in their growing law practice is new associate Lisa Tyler, an enthusiastic young attorney looking to put her exotic dancing days behind her; and their young assistant, Sophie, a spunky and sweet ingénue who is eager to please her bosses. While Lady Luck shines on their legal careers, the partners have their hands full when it comes to their personal lives. With Pete busy cruising the Vegas Strip for his latest romantic conquest, Nick is focused on repairing a fractured marriage to his estranged wife and remaining present in the life of their young son. No matter the offense, Nick and Pete aim to prove that when the stakes are high, they’re willing to bet the house on the clients they defend in Sin City.
The Buzz: Better than you might think, given Belushi’s critical street cred after eight years of “Life with Jim.” Combining the bright lights of Vegas with a we’ll-defend-anyone law firm and plugging two rather dissimilar actors into the project has, if nothing else, made critics curious about what the result might be.
Pilot Highlight: The look on Nick’s face as he strolls triumphantly away from questioning a witness. After so many years on that trifle of a sitcom, you have to wonder if we’re seeing a little bit of Belushi shining through, proudly reminding viewers that, yes, he actually is a pretty good dramatic actor.
Bottom Line: There’s a lot of potential, but with three shows involving the legal profession (or 2.5 if you don’t count the “Order” in “Law & Order: Los Angeles”), figuring out which one will win the ratings race in advance is – appropriately enough, given the setting – a total crap shoot.
$#*! My Dad Says (Thurs., Sept. 23 @ 8:30 PM, CBS)
* The competition: “My Generation” (ABC), “Community” and “30 Rock” (NBC), “Bones” (Fox), “The Vampire Diaries” (The CW)
Starring: William Shatner, Jonathan Sadowski, Nicole Sullivan, Will Sasso
Producers: David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (“Will & Grace”)
Network’s Description: based on the popular Twitter feed by Justin Halpern, Ed Goodson is a forthright and opinionated dad who relishes expressing his unsolicited and often wildly politically incorrect observations to anyone within earshot. Nobody is safe from Ed’s rants, including his sons, Henry, a struggling writer-turned-unpaid blogger; and Vince, the meek half of a husband/wife real estate duo with domineering Kathleen. When Henry finds he can no longer afford to pay rent to Sam, his pretty roommate (and secret admirer), Ed reveals a soft spot and invites Henry to move in with him. Henry agrees, knowing that the verbal assault will not abate and now there will be no escape. Describing their father/son relationship is tricky, but Ed will easily come up with a few choice words.
The Buzz: Not good. Even the presence of The Shatman couldn’t keep the critics from complaining about how unfunny the pilot was. Many theorize that it’s because the funniest moments from the original Twitter feed can’t be reproduced on broadcast television, but the supporting cast needs some serious work, too. Granted, we haven’t seen Sadowski’s work yet – he was cast after the first pilot was filmed, and we haven’t seen the new version yet – but Nicole Sullivan has got to stop playing the character of Kathleen with her shrill knob turned up to 11.
Pilot Highlight: Oddly enough, it’s when Shatner’s playing it serious, realizing that his son really needs to talk. But insofar as the comedy goes, the highlight comes when Ed goes to the DMV, which is possibly why the actor who plays the clerk at the DMV, Tim Bagley, has been signed to appear in future episodes.
Bottom Line: On paper, you don’t get a much better comedic pairing than “The Big Bang Theory” and a sitcom starring the man who once played Captain James Tiberius Kirk, but this show can’t simply coast on Shatner being Shatner. At the moment, it’s sitting the spot marked Biggest Disappointment of the Season. It’d really suck $#*! if it has to stay there.
Blue Bloods (Fri., Sept. 24 @ 10:00 PM, CBS)
* The competition: “20/20” (ABC), “Outlaw” (NBC)
Starring: Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Len Cariou
Producers: Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green (“The Sopranos,” “Southland”), Fred Keller (“24,” “House”) Linda Gase (“Standoff,” “The District”) Leonard Goldberg (“T.J. Hooker”)
Network’s Description: a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Frank Reagan is the New York Chief of Police and heads both the police force and the Reagan brood. He runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family, even when dealing with the politics that plagued his unapologetically bold father, Henry, during his stint as Chief. A source of pride and concern for Frank is his eldest son Danny, a seasoned detective, family man, and Iraqi War vet who on occasion uses dubious tactics to solve cases. The sole Reagan woman in the family, Erin, is a N.Y. Assistant D.A. and newly single parent, who also serves as the legal compass for her siblings and father. Jamie is the youngest Reagan, fresh out of Harvard Law and the family’s “golden boy;” however, unable to deny the family tradition, Jamie decided to give up a lucrative future in law and is now a newly minted cop. Jamie’s life takes an abrupt turn when he’s asked to become part of a clandestine police investigation even his father knows nothing about, and one that could impact the family’s legacy.
The Buzz: The mere fact that Tom Selleck would deign to do another series – something he refused to do unless he could also continue to do regular “Jesse Stone” telefilms at his leisure – is enough to get an older audience excited. Granted, things started looking a little sketchy when executive producer Ken Sanzel, late of “Numb3rs,” departed from the staff, reportedly due to a disagreement with Selleck over the direction of the show, but now that Keller and Gase have been added to the mix, most folks are back to being optimistic about the series.
Pilot Highlight: As you’re watching, you may think it’s going to be when Danny uses some of the aforementioned “dubious tactics” to coerce a suspect into giving up crucial information, but there’s a twist at the end of the pilot – which is hinted at in the above description – that ups the intrigue level of the series in a big way.
Bottom Line: There’s a correlation between Selleck’s most devout fans and people who’ve given up on going out on Friday nights…and that includes me…but even if I did still go out drinking with the boys on a weekly basis, you could bet I’d be setting the TiVo. I’m reserving complete judgment ’til I see how things go with the new production team line-up, but right now “Blue Bloods” is sitting right behind “Lonestar” as one of my favorite new series of the season.