You want crime-drama action? You got it. You want touchy-feely family sitcoms? You got ’em. You want bold, risk-taking television as you’ve never seen it before? Liar. The Only TV Column That Matters™ wouldn’t exist without bitch-rants about Cool Stuff That Got Canceled.
The pinheads in the daily papers are parroting, “The 2002-’03 Fall TV season is upon us, and the networks are playing it safe due to the aftereffects of 9/11.” They call this “expert analysis;” Tube Town calls it “bullshit.” The nets are simply tired of taking chances and losing money, and this “kinder, gentler” atmosphere is the perfect excuse to dumb things down without risking criticism from the pinheads at daily newspapers.
HOWEVER! as TV columnist Wm. Stephen Humphrey of Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger would say, there are some mavericks (as in dissenters, not gas stations, people) in the new season’s debuts this week. See if you can pick which will be canceled first.
Do Over (The WB; Thursday, Sept 19): A 34-year-old loser is transported back to 1981 through a freak accident (fibrillation paddles to the head—try it at home, Gen-Xers) in full possession of his 2002 psyche; high-school hilarity and horrible music ensue. Good: Funnier than ABC’s near-identical That Was Then. Bad: We need two of these?
Firefly (Fox; Friday, Sept. 20): Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel creator Joss Whedon’s sci-fi epic described as everything from “an outer-space western” to “an outer-space western—huh?!” Thanks to a network-ordered action-and-humor overhaul, the pilot wasn’t available for preview. Good: A space show with no aliens—finally! Bad: It’s on Friday night, notorious black hole of cool programming.
John Doe (Fox; Friday, Sept. 20): A dazed naked guy washes ashore and discovers that he’s a bona fide Mr. Know-It-All, a living computer full of every last piece of knowledge and trivia there is—except for his own identity. Soon he’s in Seattle (home base for know-it-alls) making mad money, solving crimes and desperately searching for Who He Is. Good: Despite the Pretender similarities, one of the best new shows of the year. Bad: See “Bad” above.
What I Like About You (The WB; Friday, Sept. 20): Hyper-wacky teen (Nickelodeon graduate Amanda Bynes) moves in with older Manhattanite sis (90210 irritant Jennie Garth) and … not a hell of a lot happens, really. Good: Nothing’s supposed to happen in light ‘n’ fluffy Friday sitcoms, and Bynes is a-dor-a-ble! Bad: Garth is still Garth.
Greetings From Tucson (The WB; Friday, Sept. 20): Mexican-American (and some Irish) family moves into upscale (read: all-white) Tucson suburb; ethnic-diversity hilarity and gratuitous cactus shots ensue. Good: Funnier then ABC’s Latino-centric George Lopez. Bad: Tucson? Blech!
CSI: Miami (CBS; Monday, Sept. 23): It’s CSI with higher humidity and star-power: David Caruso (NYPD Blue), Kim Delaney (ditto), Emily Procter (The West Wing) and Khandi Alexander (ER). Since the CSI: Miami “pilot” CBS sent is actually the CSI crossover introductory episode from May, forensics business as usual must be assumed. Good: Hottie Procter’s finally out of the West Wing’s basement—whoo-hoo! Bad: Against Crossing Jordan? Oh, man …
Half & Half (UPN; Monday, Sept. 23): They’re half-sisters raised by very different moms: One’s a bohemian, the other a blue blood. They move in together and we all know what follows. Good: If you can actually name another UPN sitcom, this is for you. Bad: You can’t, can you?
In-Laws (NBC; Tuesday, Sept. 24): As if NBC hasn’t already “borrowed” enough from Meet the Parents with Meet My Folks, here’s a contrived newlyweds-move-in-with-her-surly-dad-and-loony-mom sitcom. Good: Dennis Farina (dad) rules, pal. Bad: Emeril may have stunk up this NBC timeslot forever.
Hidden Hills (NBC; Tuesday, Sept. 24): Sexaholic dad (Justin Louis) and workaholic mom (Paula Marshall) frantically/comically struggle to balance sex, work, activities and kids (every little girl on the block is named Caitlin, by the way) in frantic/comic SoCal suburbia—and then a single mother who runs her own porn website moves into the neighborhood. Family comedy has come a looong way. Good: Marshall is the sexiest mom in TV history, and the no-laugh-track show’s pace and writing are almost on par with NBC breakout hit Scrubs. Bad: Almost, but not quite.
Presidio Med (CBS; Tuesday, Sept. 24): A hospital drama set in San Francisco. It’s crap. Good: Should be effectively doc-blocked by ABC’s MDs when it moves to Wednesdays. Bad: Could resurface on Lifetime.
Haunted (UPN; Tuesday, Sept. 24): Party of Five’s Matthew Fox sees dead people who help him solve crimes with his black partner. Any similarities to USA’s Dead Zone series are purely … yeah, right. Good: Violent and scary as hell—and that’s just Fox’s haircut. Bad: No match for Too-Damn-Crammed Tuesdays.
MDs (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 25): A hospital drama set in San Francisco. It’s crap. Good: Should be effectively doc-blocked by CBS’ Presidio Med when it moves to Wednesdays. Bad: Could resurface on the Suck Channel (check local cable listings).