There are quite a few interesting programs and series coming up, but overall, it's mostly the same dreck. Given the fact that many of us have over 100 channels to choose from, you'd hope something worthwhile would surface. Showing their concern for the environment, the broadcast networks continue to recycle stars, shows and premises.
NBC seems to have the best chance to score a few hits, with high hopes riding on Coupling, a sitcom based on a British program of the same name. Oddly, Friends inspired the British show. Whoopi Goldberg has her own eponymous sitcom, while Alicia Silverstone heads up Miss Match in which she plays a divorce lawyer.
Las Vegas, a one-hour drama with the always-likeable James Caan, will air Mondays at 10 p.m. It takes place at a casino (no, really). Let's hope the show lives up to its great location. Rob Lowe, late of The West Wing, sets up shop in the legal drama, The Lyons Den.
CBS's most interesting new entry, Two and a Half Men (Mondays at 9:30 p.m.), recycles the old My Two Dads. Charlie Sheen and John Cryer are brothers raising the latter's young son. Guess which is the party guy?
On the drama side CBS has The Handler with ex-Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano. He's in charge of an elite set of FBI agents who go deep undercover.
Pantoliano is so well-liked that he could successfully carry much of the load, if need be.
Kelly Ripa teams up with Faith Ford in ABC's Hope & Faith (Fridays at 9 p.m.). She plays a soap opera character, something she has been in real life, of course. Over the summer she told USA Today, "It's the hardest job there is." Sorry, Dr. Brain Surgeon.
Fox welcomes back Norm Macdonald in A Few Minutes with Stan Hooper (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.). Ex-Newhart producer Barry Kemp is running this one. It uses a "fish out of water" premise, as Stan is the big town guy looking for the simpler life in small-town America, which is, of course, steeped in oddballs.
Another nice guy who is getting a second shot is Steve Harvey in Steve Harvey's Big Time over on the WB (Thursdays 8 p.m. ... uh oh). It's sort of the all-American talent show, only with more of a "Stupid Human Tricks" bent.
The reality genre is still everywhere. Programmers are simply following the axiom to beat an idea so badly that the CSI crew would have difficulty making a positive ID. Of course, a new Survivor is upon us, and the reality bug continues to infest cable. With the proliferation of channels and the leveling off the U.S. population, it's estimated that by the year 2025, every man woman and child in this country will have been on at least one reality show.
E! sister channel, Style, rolled out Clean House at the beginning of September (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.). It purports to come to the rescue of clutter-ridden households as they set out to free themselves from decorative excess. In the space of a TV hour, the team wades through a homeowner's personal possessions to find a path out of the forest of clutter. Offending items are put on the block at a yard sale, and the profits go to finance the much needed makeover. You're likely to confuse this show with TLC's Clean Sweep (Monday- Friday at 6 p.m.). For a description please re-read the preceding sentences.
TLC also brings us a four-part special on engineering marvels starting Oct. 29 at 10 p.m. Part 1 is "The Brooklyn Bridge," focusing on John Roebling's glorious, two-towered structure that spans New York's East River. Roebling died after a freak construction accident in 1869. Before embarking on this monumental task, he designed and built our very own Suspension Bridge (which bears his name, of course).
TLC's sister station Discovery brings us We Built This City, premiering Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. This series investigates how some of the greatest cities of the world rose to prominence through architectural, engineering and scientific breakthroughs. More than simply looking back through history, the programs use innovative computer graphics to examine how each city's major structures were built.
Cartoon Network and Lucasfilm (the Star Wars folks) have combined to produce 20 animated Clone Wars serial shorts to appear on the network in 2003-2004. Each episodic short will be about three minutes long; these will air regularly during the network programming, beginning late this fall. As Clone Wars unfolds, the valiant Jedi Knights lead the Republic's Clone Army against many new and ruthless adversaries across the galaxy.
Speaking of sci-fi, the channel which carries that name has a remake, er, "re-imagining" of the late '70s classic, Battlestar Galactica, in the works, giving it a decidedly modern twist (Starbuck is a chick this time, for example). Supposedly edgier and racier than its predecessor, this epic television event stars Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber. Look for it in December.
Court TV enters new territory with a game show, Fake Out, beginning Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. Participants must figure out whether their opponents are lying or telling the truth. Rivals must use investigation and lie-detecting skills to determine if they are being deceived. The host, former FBI interrogation expert Jack Trimarco, will draw on a wide range of sources to teach the art and science of lie-detection, from Department of Defense research to the tricks of professional poker players. In the end, contestants have to use these skills to determine who is being truthful.
Worthy fare to be sure, but nothing that will easily wrestle you away from your DVD player, video games or the Internet. Happy viewing. ©