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Big Shots - ABC - 10 p.m.
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Thursday and Friday are healthy, stable TV nights this year, a dramatic shift from last year’s Thursday ratings wars and Friday’s former status as a dead zone.


Both are loaded with well-known, audience-drawing shows. Thursday, in fact, has room for only one new show—ABC’s boys’ club dramedy Big Shots. The 9 p.m. time slot will be a TiVo nightmare, though, again pitting ratings winners Grey’s Anatomy and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation against each other, then tossing in Supernatural on The CW and the second half of NBC’s comedy block, including The Office and Scrubs.


While Men in Trees and Friday Night Lights bounced around time slots last year, both are anchored on Fridays now. Men in Trees even gets a tough-girl lead-in from Women’s Murder Club.


With these kinds of lineups, it might be worth staying home.


THURSDAY: NEW SHOWS

ABC: Big Shots, 10 p.m.; premieres Sept. 27


What: Alpha males with important jobs and scandalous personal lives help one another in and out of crisis after crisis.


Who: Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Joshua Malina, Nia Long, Paige Turco, Peyton List, Jessica Collins, Amy Sloan.


Why: To make a comparably sexy follow-up to Grey’s Anatomy that might actually interest dudes.


How: A CEO dies in a tragic golf cart accident, leading us into the comically messy personal lives of wealthy, high-powered and stressed-out playboys. Consider James (Vartan), who might lose his job and his wife; or Duncan (McDermott), who has an ex-wife (Turco) he sleeps with, a daughter (List) who hates him, a dodgy reporter hounding him, and a transsexual prostitute selling him out; or Karl (Malina), whose wife (Sloan) and mistress (Collins) recently became BFFs. It’s entertaining, if cliched, to watch a bunch of wealthy white cads assist in their own downfalls. The jokes are predictable and the drama more like melodrama—“I may be leaving, but I’m not the one who walked out”—but it might be a blowout success thanks to its Grey’s Anatomy lead-in. This is the same audience that made the decidedly cliched and melodramatic October Road a hit. As a plus, at least this melodrama features an all-star eye-candy cast of leading men and some interesting kick-butt ladies, especially Long, who plays James’ friend and colleague.


THURSDAY: SELECT RETURNING SHOWS

Grey’s Anatomy, 9 p.m.; premieres Sept. 27, ABC: So many questions left to be answered. What happens now that Burke and Cristina have split? Now that Mer/Der are on the rocks? Now that Callie and George might be preggers? Now that Izzie and George are really and truly in love? And what the heck is going on with the chief? Thank you, season premiere.


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 9 p.m. Sept. 27, CBS: A creepy season finale filled with serial killers and dead dolls revealed Grissom loves Sara. Because none of the CSIers can be too happy, that means Sara is in danger, trapped under a car in the desert, and the only person who knows how to find her is a hallucinating murderer.


The Office, 9 p.m. Sept. 27, NBC: A shake-up at Dunder-Mifflin in the season finale means jobs are a-changin’ this season. But the big change is that Jim asked Pam out. Like, on a date. Let the Office romance begin.


THURSDAY: VIEWING STRATEGY

Suggestions for how to plan your night of couch potato-ing:


Watch: Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Without a Trace.


Record: My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, Scrubs, Big Shots.


Forget: Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Don’t Forget the Lyrics.


FRIDAY:NEW SHOWS

ABC: Women’s Murder Club, 9 p.m.; premieres Oct. 12


What: It’s a coffee klatch of crime solvers, including a police officer, prosecutor, reporter and medical examiner.


Who: Angie Harmon, Paula Newsome, Aubrey Dollar, Tyrees Allen, Laura Harris, Rob Benedict.


Why: The series of books by James Patterson is intensely popular, and this will make a nice lead-in for Men in Trees.


How: Lt. Lindsay Boxer (Harmon), prosecutor Jill Bernhardt (Harris), medical examiner Claire Washburn (Newsome) and reporter Cindy Thomas (Dollar) are gal pals who help one another through break-ups and dog-sitting, but also through the stress of their daily jobs by sharing clues and information on some of San Francisco’s most brutal crimes. You can try to hate it, but it’s quite entertaining. It’s the perfect lead-in for Men in Trees, another show you can try to hate but end up loving.


CBS: Moonlight, 9 p.m., Sept. 28


What: Vampire with a heart of gold solves crimes and helps the human race.


Who: Alex O’Loughlin, Sophia Myles, Shannyn Sossamon, Jason Dohring.


Why: Regular-looking folks with supernatural abilities and crime-solving tendencies are all the rage right now, thanks to Heroes and Dexter.


How: Mick St. John (O’Loughlin) is a good vampire. He tries to help people instead of relying on them for blood. (That’s why we have blood banks, thanks.) But Mick is immortal, perpetually 30 years old, which makes it tough to form a real bond with women. And that’s not even considering the blood-drinking part. When he reconnects with a woman he saved years ago, Beth Turner (Myles), who has grown into a lovely young reporter, he must decide how much he can expose to her and how close he can get.


Previews of Moonlight weren’t available in time for this publication, but a short look at the show sent by CBS shows a heavy drama with a lot of mystery, romance and dark humor.


FOX: American Band, 8 p.m., Oct. 19


What: An American Idol-style search for the next big thing—a band.


Who: Judges and contestants haven’t been announced.


Why: Idol‘s ratings might have shrunk a little, but the show is still a powerhouse. Now imagine Idol with instruments.


How: Preview episodes weren’t available, but Fox says the show will pit hip-hop artists against country crooners against rock stars to find the next big band. Judges will narrow the bands to 10 semifinalists, which will perform original works or covers before a live audience. Viewers will vote to see which bands remain for the next week’s competition.


FOX: Nashville, 9 p.m., Sept. 14


What: Laguna Beach goes country.


Who: Jeff Allen, Rachel Bradshaw, Sarah Gunsolus, Lindsey Hager, Matt Jenkins, Jamey Johnson, Clint Moseley, Monty Powell, Chuck Wicks.


Why: Laguna Beach was a bonanza for MTV, so the creators are reworking it for a more generalized audience, the kind that likes middle America and country music.


How: This docu-drama—don’t ask me how real it is, I haven’t seen it—follows dreamers and dream-makers in Music City USA. Not surprisingly, they are beautiful and mostly talented.


FRIDAY: SELECT RETURNING SHOWS

Friday Night Lights, 9 p.m.; premieres Oct. 5, NBC: This little-watched but much-beloved show ended on a high note—a win at the state championship for the Dillon Panthers and a pregnancy for the coach’s wife. But the question now is whether the coach will take the job in Austin or come back to his family in the little Texas town. And how will the team do without him?


Men in Trees, 10 p.m. Oct. 12, ABC: Jack and Marin are split, for the moment. Jack and Lynn are having a baby. Patrick and Annie are getting married, if Patrick can handle her family. It’s just a big, Alaskan romantic debacle in this sweet show. After much schedule bouncing, its settling back in on Friday nights, hopefully to stay.


Numb3rs, 10 p.m. Sept. 28, CBS: The brotherly crime-solving duo faced a big change at season’s end, when they discovered that a member of their team was a longtime double agent. With trust shaken but a new perspective on the work each does—one very FBI-ish, one very mathish—they’re on track for a new season in the same time slot.


FRIDAY: VIEWING STRATEGY

Suggestions for how to plan your night of couch potato-ing:


Watch: Ghost Whisperer, Friday Night Lights, Men in Trees.


Record: American Band, Women’s Murder Club, Numb3rs.


Forget: Deal or No Deal, Nashville, Las Vegas.

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