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Maybe NBC is onto something.


A new NBC drama, Bionic Woman, isn’t so new—it’s a remake of the `70s series that starred Lindsay Wagner.


And maybe what’s given that show staying power—besides the prospect of seeing an attractive woman run really fast—is the idea behind the series: What would happen if you re-engineered a person to take advantage of the best available technology? What if you assembled the ideal human by putting together the best available body parts? Would the result be Frankenstein or an unstoppable fighting machine?


Several fall shows have great ideas behind them—but not even Bionic Woman has the complete package. What if we put the best of several promising fall shows together? Would it result in the perfect program or a horrible botch? Hey, our results can’t be any worse than the headache-inducing hybrids that the networks often come up with.


The heart of Aliens in America


You might expect a half-hour comedy about a Muslim exchange student to rudely push buttons and engage in not-so-subtle forms of culture-bashing. But this promising CW comedy had a better idea: What if the student and his nerdy American host—both of whom are outcasts in their Wisconsin high school—became good friends? Even pointed jokes about cultural differences are easy to take when they’re rooted in affection, not stereotypes.


The brains of Dirty Sexy Money


There is a lot of brainpower in this handsome family saga: Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) plays a lawyer who thinks he’s smart enough to avoid damaging entanglements with the mega-rich Darling clan, for whom he works; Donald Sutherland’s eyes gleam with glittery cunning as he engineers the continued dominance of his multibillion dollar empire; and one wishes more network dramas had the probing depth of this ABC show, which questions every cliche about materialism while not so quietly reveling in the lushness of the Darlings’ richly appointed lives.


The charisma (and fighting skills) of Bionic Woman‘s villain


“You’re going to have to do a little better than that,” Sarah Corvus says to a nearly vanquished Jaime Sommers in the pilot for Bionic Woman, and Corvus isn’t kidding. This NBC remake may be one of fall’s most eagerly awaited programs, but so far the main reason to tune in is not Sommers, who is played by the low-key Brit Michelle Ryan. No, the draw here is the baddie Corvus, another bionically enhanced woman, who’s played by Battlestar Galactica veteran Katee Sackhoff. Sackhoff all but walks off with the pilot and gives a few lessons in “How to Play a Villain”—with style, wit and relish. And, of course, a few well-timed kicks to her opponent’s head.


The humor of Reaper


Director Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Clerks) told fans at Comic-Con that he couldn’t get over one thing about the pilot script for Reaper, a promising CW show. It wasn’t that the script told the tale of a young man forced to work as the Devil’s bounty hunter—it was the fact that the story of a slackerish, video game-loving underachiever was written by two young women. The wit in Michele Fazekas’ and Tara Butters’ script is just one of its pleasures (Smith’s brisk direction of the pilot is another), but that smart yet sometimes madcap humor is what will attract many viewers—and if the quality of the storytelling holds up, Reaper should keep `em.


The daring of Pushing Daisies


ABC’s Pushing Daisies resembles nothing else on television. This highly stylized show, all candy colors and arch dialogue, has a unique core concept. Lonely piemaker Ned can bring dead people back to life with one touch (the catch: a second touch kills them again). A wispy, wistful confection full of aggressively eccentric characters, clever conceits and (probably) doomed romance, Pushing Daisies is one of a kind. And in a mostly pallid roster of new fall shows, that’s worth something.


The dexterity of Back to You


The sitcom is dead, we’re told. The multicamera, traditional sitcom is even more dead, allegedly. Yet one of this fall’s most promising shows is Fox’s Back to You, a traditional, multicamera sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. The newsroom comedy breaks no new ground and pushes no boundaries. Yet it’s funny—now there’s a concept for a comedy. And it proves, once again, that certain actors’ innate talents elevate whatever they’re in (it’s worth noting that Back to You‘s supporting cast is also top-notch). Nobody’s better in the sitcom format than Heaton and Grammer, and they work this material like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers worked a dance floor back in the day.

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