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Death Watch 2000 

The fall TV season dead pool rides again!

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Now it gets serious, or at least as serious as you can get about TV. While the fall 2000 season has already kicked in on The WB and UPN (you’re forgiven for not noticing), the so-called “real” networks are finally trotting out some of their new stuff this week, and it is one mixed bag of fish—and not one damned “reality” show in sight! Not yet, anyway.

In case you hadn’t guessed, veteran readers, it’s time for the annual Tube Town fall season Death Watch™! The higher the rating, the better the chance for cancellation, yadda, yadda, yadda—we all know how the dead pool works, right?

That’s Life (CBS, Sunday Oct. 1, 7 p.m.): In the you-go-girl tradition of Providence and Judging Amy, this generically monikered hour stars Heather Paige Kent (Stark Raving Mad) as a New Jersey thirtysomething who dumps her working-stiff fiancé and heads back to college. While lacking the requisite 12-pound hairdos of Melina Kanakaredes and Amy Brenneman, Kent has all the warm brunette shades of charisma and vulnerability she needs to connect with the feel-good-empowerment antennae of women home on a Saturday night (Life’s regular timeslot, beginning Oct. 7). Death Watch Rating (out of 10): 6. Kent is good, and the supporting cast is better, but Saturday at 7 is a killer—even if Walker, Texas Ranger follows. Yes, Walker is still on.

Tucker (NBC, Monday Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m.): Tucker (Eli Marienthal) and his divorced mom move in with his surly aunt (Katey Sagal) and grandiosely stupid cousin, only to find that the girl next door is a naughty hottie who may or may not dig Tucker. Like Malcolm in the Middle, the titular 14-year-old of Tucker talks to himself and you constantly about his bizarre family and whatever else (sex, usually) is on his mind. Also like Malcolm, Tucker is a hysterically funny suburban freak show. DWR: 3. So what’s wrong with another Malcolm in the Middle?

Deadline (NBC, Monday Oct. 2, 8 p.m.): NBC didn’t have a full pilot of this Oliver Platt drama ready in time for my deadline—ha! No, really, they didn’t. But the gist is this: Platt is Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Wallace Benton, a ferocious New York newshound who recruits journalism students (his own Scooby Gang?) to help him get the goods on bad guys in high places. Conversely, at City Weekly, we just use interns to check on less-dangerous karaoke listings. Besides Platt, Deadline’s star heavy-hitters include Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers) as his editor, Hope Davis (Arlington Road) as his estranged wife, and Lili Taylor (name an indie flick) as a gossip columnist—plus, it’s produced by Law & Order’s bulletproof Dick Wolf. DWR: 0. Did I mention Dick Wolf?

Dark Angel (Fox, Tuesday Oct. 3, 8 p.m.): There’s a reason Fox is breathlessly running promos for the sci-fi future-feature Dark Angel every five minutes—two reasons, actually. It’s really that good, and they’re going to lose their ass on it regardless of whether anyone watches or not.

The two-hour pilot for director James “King of the World” Cameron’s first foray into television is so spectacular and gorgeous, the small screen oozes big bucks—as a movie by a routinely overbudget megalomaniac should. Max (Jessica Alba, virtually unrecognizable from her previous virtually unrecognized roles) is a genetically enhanced warrior on the lam from a secret military complex from whence she—and several other test subjects—escaped years ago. Now, during downtime from her bike-messenger and master-thief gigs, she (begrudgingly) helps the needy and searches for her fellow bar-coded escapees.

There’s waaay more—the plot is denser than The Pretender transcribed in Chinese HTML. Pouty-lipped Alba may look like a prissy Dawson’s Creek outcast, but she’s got that certain “it” that could make this epic Fox’s next X-Files. DWR: 7. Even Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch may not have enough money to bankroll something of this scope every week (and that’s not counting Alba’s lip-balm allowance).

Titans (NBC, Wednesday Oct. 4, 7 p.m.): Aaron Spelling’s return to the glitzy night-time soap days of Dallas and Dynasty is so bad that it reaches around to almost-good, then boomerangs back to “Are you f***ing kidding?!” While it’s great to see Yasmine Bleeth finally off Nash Bridges and playing an oft-unclothed skank, Titans rots brain cells faster than NutraSweet, Salt Lake magazine and daytime’s idiotic Passions combined. For the love of God, look away. DWR: 5. You can’t look away.

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