TV Fall-a-palooza!

Salt Lake City Weekly | September 23, 2004
TV Fall-a-palooza!

A fair and balanced hit-and-rundown of every new network TV show this season.


LAX (NBC, Mondays): Not all of NBC’s dramas are cop/doctor vehicles; some involve pretty people working security in the private sector—like last season’s surprise hit Las Vegas. The pretty people of LAX (original even-worse working title: Hub), of course, work security in Los Angeles International Airport—and everyone knows that airports are just as exciting to hang out in as casinos, right? Yeeaah, anyway, Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood provide the requisite hotness and we-slept-together-once-and-what-a-mistake-that-was tension, but what happens when the bomb threats and drunken pilot plots run out? “Someone’s been reading a Maxim at the magazine shop for 10 minutes! Get a team over there now!” “A man’s brandishing a spork at the Cinnabon! There’s no time to lose!”

Listen Up (CBS, Mondays): Screw the Seinfeld Curse—when will Jason Alexander realize that he should just revive the late, great, animated Duckman and keeping his live damn self off television, oh, forever? Listen Up is based on Washington Times columnist and ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser, who, like most newspaper humor and sports writers, is only remotely funny adjacent to Kute Kitty of the Week or NHL scores. Accordingly, this sitcom is as laugh-loaded as another column about sucking at golf. Your dad will love it.

Second Time Around (UPN, Mondays): There’s always one weak link in UPN’s “urban” (read: whitey-free) night, and following the always-excellent Girlfriends and the still-improving Half & Half and One on One, Second Time Around seems like so much romantic-comedy piffle. Ryan and Jackson (real-life couple Nicole Parker and Boris Kodjoe) married young, divorced and now they’ve remarried after several years apart. Snap! It is so much romantic-comedy piffle!

Renovate My Family (Fox, Mondays): Another home-remodeling show, but not just any home-remodeling show—this one features one of the obnoxious families from Fox’s Trading Spouses and is hosted by the son of Dr. Phil. Yes, what sounds like a half-assed Mad TV sketch is an actual primetime show that not only cribs the remodeling genre, but also personal-makeover shows and Dr. Phil’s “Git Real” psychobabble into one big Idiot Soufflé. If this is a trend indicator from Fox, we should expect Let’s Watch a Cat Eat Its Own Vomit by next summer.

Father of the Pride (NBC, Tuesdays): As we’ve learned from DreamWorks’ Shrek, Shrek 2 and the forthcoming Shrek 3: Suck It, Disney, kids love wisecracking, CGI-animated animals as much as their parents love wisecracking, ironic commentary on pop culture—oh, and everyone loves poop jokes. Father of the Pride, about the behind-the-scenes lives of wisecracking, CGI-animated animals working for Siegfried & Roy (no maulings nor man-love addressed here, thank you), only contains enough good one-liners and snazzy graphics to make a decent promo. It’ll come in handy when this pricey mistake winds up as Adult Swim filler on the Cartoon Network at 3 a.m.

Clubhouse (CBS, Tuesdays): As exciting as baseball is to watch on TV, just imagine an hour of watching other people watch baseball! As you’re waiting for your nipples to subside, here’s the nut of Clubhouse: A baseball-lovin’ teen (Jeremy Sumpter) becomes a batboy for the New York Empires and gets to hang out with his team idols (like Dean Cain) and their old-school equipment manager (Christopher Lloyd, back from the dead), learning Valuable Life Lessons along the way. Ten percent Wonder Years, 90 percent Wonder What’s Happening on Father of the Pride.

The Next Great Champ (Fox, Tuesdays): Or this, right now, the “controversial” (read: free publicity for everyone) new boxing-realty contest series that shares sooo many similarities with NBC’s The Contender, I won’t be watching either damned one of ‘em out of protest—or utter lack of interest, same diff. Whereas The Contender will be hosted by fake boxer Sylvester Stallone and oldster Sugar Ray Leonard, at least The Next Great Champ has Oscar De La Hoya, a fighter who’s still in the game. But, will he be singing?

Rodney (ABC, Tuesdays): The sitcom form is in trouble when there are shows designed only to keep mouthbreathing fans of According to Jim hooked in for another 30 minutes. Rodney (Rodney Carrington) quits his job at a Tulsa fiberglass plant to pursue a career in stand-up comedy—another fatal case of Post-Dat Phan Syndrome. Facing poverty and, worse, open-mic nights at The LaffHole, will his wife and kids freak? Not after these words of comfort: “Hey, people think Tony Kornheiser’s funny.”

Veronica Mars (UPN, Tuesdays): A tweener sister to Karen Sisco and Kim Possible, 17-year-old Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) solves crimes with her private-eye pop by night after dealing with the angsty drama of high school by day—oh, and she’s also searching for the killer of her best friend and the mother who abandoned her and dad. It may sound like an overachiever stretch to those acquainted with teens who can barely drag their ass from bed to couch for TRL in the afternoon, but Veronica Mars is the smartest series from UPN since Buffy the Vampire Slayer ... wait, they stole that.

Center of the Universe (CBS, Wednesdays): John Goodman and Ed Asner! Together! On a single TV screen! Barely! Father of the Pride (damn, it just keeps coming up) may be a steaming load of CGI, but at least you don’t have the visual of what a horrific mountain of cholesterol John Goodman has become; Center of the Universe has the unfortunate use of his voice and body, an ever-expanding planetoid of flannel that threatens to engulf all in its wake—hence the clever show title.

CSI: NY (CBS, Wednesdays): Not that it needs any introduction, but CSI: NY is the third and sure-as-hell-not last installment in the Crime Scene Investigation franchise, this one starring small-headed movie star Gary Sinese and big-haired Providence expat Melina Kanakaredes. What does the New York edition have that the Las Vegas and Miami expansion teams don’t? Zero surly redheads, but way more rats—a fair trade.

Hawaii (NBC, Wednesdays): A smart, slick and highly unlikely combo of Fastlane, CSI and Hawaii 5-0, Hawaii could be the best cop drama to drop in NBC’s lap since Boomtown—and we all know what happened with that. Sexy undercover cops (including Crossing Jordan’s Ivan Sergei and Six Feet Under’s Eric Balfour) driving hot cars real fast, solving too-easy crimes and pissing off the captain is nothing new, but Hawaii’s authentic eye for local detail is so dead-on, it looks like nothing else on TV—especially not Fox’s ‘ho-riffic North Shore, which may as well be shot at a Joe’s Crab Shack in Ventura.

Kevin Hill (UPN, Wednesdays): Kevin Hill (Taye Diggs, aka The Coolest Mofo on Earth) is a club-hopping bachelor and high-rolling entertainment lawyer who suddenly inherits an infant girl from his dead cousin—naturally, everything changes. Sounds like a Lifetime Movie setup for sap, but, along with Veronica Mars, Kevin Hill is one of the best new series of the season, and they’re both on UPN, fergawdsakes. More concerning, if TV shows keep depicting the new homes of displaced kiddies as waaay better than their previous digs (see The O.C.; The WB’s entire lineup), square parents are out, honey

Lost (ABC, Wednesdays): The 48 disparate survivors of a horrific plane crash struggle to stay alive on a remote Pacific island—but all agree they’re still glad to be away from LAX. Like his previous series, Alias, J.J. Abrams’ Lost mixes soap opera sap, blood ‘n’ guts action, genuine suspense and a pinch of sci-fi (the group is stalked by a scary-ass monster, believed to be either Bigfoot or Georgia senator Zell Miller) to killer effect. As one of the best new shows of the season, it should enjoy a long rerun life on the Sci-Fi Channel after ABC cancels it to make way for Extreme Makeover: Cubicle Edition.

The Mountain (The WB, Wednesdays): It’s The O.C. with snowboards! It’s Las Vegas in a ski resort! It’s Everwood with better quads! It’s One Tree Hill with more trees—and hills! It’s Summerland in winter! It’s ... not worth such taxing similes.

Wife Swap (ABC, Wednesdays): You’ve seen Fox’s Trading Spouses, where the lumpy wives of families from differing socio-economic strata switch households and the hilarity ensues. Wife Swap is the same idiotic f—king reality show, even though ABC claims they had the idea first. In related news, ABC would also like their due credit for New Coke, Gigli and Brit Hume.

Drew Carey’s Green Screen (The WB, Thursdays): Speaking of ABC, their lax treatment of The Drew Carey Show’s final season this summer was as unforgivably unceremonious as a pregnant Catholic schoolgirl’s lesbian-shaman-presided Tijuana wedding to a Mormon transvestite Democrat. Carey’s bounced back with some of his Whose Line Is It Anyway? (another show ABC let die quietly) crew in tow for Green Screen, which is essentially an improv-comedy show fueled by acid-trip background visuals. And if you’ve ever been to an improv show, you know hallucinogens are the only way to go.

Joey (NBC, Thursdays): When even snooty acquaintances who claim to never degrade themselves by watching television say, “Joey? There are far better Friends characters to spin-off into a new series than him, like Phoebe, or Chandler, even Gunther … I mean, have you read this month’s Economist? Fascinating,” you know there’s mucho riding on Joey. Matt LeBlanc has taken his piece of the Friends pop-culture juggernaut and moved Joey Tribbiani to Los Angeles, where he’ll pursue that acting career we’ve been hearing about for the last 10 years and reunite with his sister, Gina (Sopranos casualty Drea de Matteo), who we never knew existed. On the upside, Joey is funny and comfortable enough to keep Friends fans and NBC execs satisfied; a relatively de-skanked de Matteo instantly establishes a comic range beyond doing blow and getting beaten up; and, well, at least it isn’t Ross.

Life As We Know It (ABC, Thursdays): High-school boys think about sex! A lot! A teen soap going up against CSI, The Apprentice, WWE Smackdown and whatever Fox tossing into Thursday night after The O.C. (not Tru Calling, which has been bumped from Nov. 4 to a vague “maybe sometime next year—we’ll call you” second-season premiere) should have more going for it than that, but all Life As We Know It has to sweeten the deal with is the thespian talents of … Kelly Osbourne. Well, after Lost, Desperate Housewives and Boston Public, the genius juice was bound to run out sometime; at least it was on a night when nobody’s watching.

Commando Nanny (The WB, Fridays): This doom-scented sitcom has been delayed several times due to various medical emergencies with the show’s stars, if not the creeping realization at The WB that “Hey, we’re actually going to air something called Commando Nanny—are you people on dope, or just high from Drew’s Green Screen?” While it would be great to impart that Commando Nanny is about domestic servants who shun underwear, it’s actually based on uber-producer Rob Burnett’s former life as a British Special Forces soldier. Yeah, I like mine better, too.

Complete Savages (ABC, Fridays): Did Wild Bill Hickok go to hell after he was plugged full of lead on Deadwood? You make the call: Keith Carradine wound up as the divorced dad to five rambunctious teenage sons on an ABC sitcom exec-produced by Mel “Don’t Call It a Second Coming” Gibson. The Savage family (hence the clever show title) have to learn to get along after the latest housekeeper quits and dad (a firefighter who’s unfortunately saner than Denis Leary on Rescue Me) finally decides that Things Are Going to Change Around Here. Think of Complete Savages as a lowbrow cross between Married With Children and every other vanilla blink-and-it’s-gone sitcom ABC has plugged into Friday night, then view (or likely not) accordingly.

The Complex: Malibu (Fox, Fridays): Couples compete by renovating an apartment in a Malibu shoreline complex; a panel of real-estate experts evaluate the remodeling results to vote off couples; the couple whose unit nets the highest price at auction will receive the profit from all of the units … So, this is still network TV, right? Not some obscure digital-tier channel funded by Home Depot for viewers who think Trading Spaces and their ilk have “gone too Hollywood?” The Complex was ripped-off from—uh, inspired by—The Block, the highest-rated Australian show of the last 15 years and further proof that Aussies are loony drunks.

Dr. Vegas (CBS, Fridays): If you’re thinking that a featherweight drama about a playboy doctor (Rob Lowe) who runs a medical practice in his buddy’s (Joe Pantoliano) Las Vegas casino, treating a wacky array of tourists and entertainers with a wink and a smile, is the stupidest damned idea yet to slip through a non-UPN network’s quality-controlled programming practices, go with that. Sure, NBC’s hit Las Vegas also looked like a brainless goner when it debuted last season, but here’s the difference: Dr. Vegas (CBS insists the name is lowercase; we’re not playin’) is about ... A! Doctor! In! A! Casino!

Medical Investigation (NBC, Fridays): This is what NBC’s about now: Flashy, one-hour dramas centered around cops, doctors, doctor-cops, cop-doctors and the cop/doctor-related people who work with them. In a none-too-promising twist, Medical Investigation (original even-worse working title: Medical Mystery) features a core ensemble fresh off cancellations from last season—Neal McDonough (Boomtown), Kelli Williams (The Practice), Christopher Gorham (Jake 2.0), Anna Belknap (The Handler) and Troy Winbush (Soul Food)—and two of those shows died in the same fatal Friday timeslot MI will hold after its premiere. For you who still feel like getting attached, Medical Investigation is essentially CSI meets UPN’s long-forgotten Burning Zone, forensic let’s-solve-this-puzzle-together dissection of deadly disease breakouts that “must be contained before more people die, damn it!”

Boston Legal (ABC, Sundays): When last we attorneys Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner), they were hammering the final nails in The Practice’s coffin and hamming it up in an loony, epic struggle to Out! Act! one another. Boston Legal is more of the same on the comic tip, with sexier female legal counterparts (Rhona Mitra, Lake Bell and Monica Potter) and a straight-arrow babysitter from the firm’s Washington D.C. office (Keen Eddie’s Mark Valley, also quite sexy). Fun, Ally McBeal-y stuff, but why is ABC downplaying producer David E. Kelley’s involvement? Surely, everyone’s forgotten about Snoops, Girls Club and The Brotherhood of Poland NH by now … whoops.

Desperate Housewives (ABC, Sundays): Between this and Lost, you’d think ABC was actually trying to dig their way out of the ratings sub-basement with smart, quality new programming instead of cheap-o, insta-fix reality-TV filler. As delusional as that notion is, Desperate Housewives will definitely go down as a weirdly intriguing dramedy stab at cable edginess and dark humor: A perfect suburban housewife (Brenda Strong) takes herself out of her perfect suburban existence via sudden suicide, then hangs around in voice to narrate the slowly deteriorating suburban-housewife lives of her girlfriends (Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Nicollette Sheriden and Eva Longoria—experienced TV hotness all around). Amid the mysterious, bubbling subplots and soapariffic performances—particularly Hatcher as a frazzled single-mom divorcee—only one point rings naggingly untrue: C’mon, who the hell would leave Teri Hatcher?!

Jack & Bobby (The WB, Sundays): If you thought the boneheaded let’s-clone-Smallville stabs of previous seasons like Birds of Prey and Tarzan were odd fits, just let The WB’s latest high-concept Gen Y soap soak in: The coming-of-age saga of two brothers named Jack and Bobby, one of whom will become the U.S. president in 2040, according to occasional flash-forwards to the future. Instead of the shaping of a young Clark Kent/Superman, Jack & Bobby is blatantly modeled on the less-than-superheroic Kennedys, minus a problematic Teddy and plus an eccentric college professor single mom (Christine Lahti) in place of a booze-running patriarch. But, if this actually works, maybe Comedy Central will jump on George & Jeb.

The Partner (Fox, Sundays); The Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best (Fox, Tuesdays): Reality regurgitations easily summed up: Last Lawyer Standing (or America’s Next Top Litigant); The Apprentice … With Better Hair.

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