The new season begins heating up Wednesday and Thursday

[26 September 2007]

By Rick Kushman

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

It’s officially Day Three of the new TV season, and nothing has been canceled yet. That’ll change soon, but for now, enjoy the unbridled optimism.

There’s a bunch of new and returning shows over the next couple days, and the returnee scene is particularly big Thursday night.

That’s when CBS’ “CSI” (at 8 p.m.) will tell us if Sara lives or dies, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (at 9) will show if it can bounce back from a less-than-great second half of last season, and NBC will answer the question, are full-hour episodes of “My Name is Earl” (at 8) and “The Office” (at 9) too much?

My guesses: she lives; still needs some work; no, and can’t get enough.

Wednesday night’s got a couple big-deal returnees, too. CBS’ “Criminal Minds” (at 8) will see Joe Mantegna replace Mandy Patinkin, who suddenly announced he was leaving the series earlier this year because, actually, he didn’t say. And on CBS’ “CSI: NY” (at 9), the crew finds blood on the crown of the Statue of Liberty. The prediction here: The statue didn’t do it.

Wednesday’s also got a stack of newbies, starting with two of the season’s most high-profile rookies.

One is ABC’s “Private Practice” (at 9), the “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off that has Addison (Kate Walsh) leaving Seattle Grace Hospital for the Oceanside Wellness Center in Los Angeles, run by her best buddy (Audra McDonald). Their friendship is the only believable thing on the show.

The rest feels more like a spin-off from “Ally McBeal,” right down to Addison’s dancing naked in her apartment - you’re almost disappointed when someone sees her and there’s no record skipping sound.

Walsh is fairly charming in this, and the whole cast, which includes Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly and Taye Diggs, tries mightily. But the material is silly, and not in a fun way. To be fun, it needs one notch more of silly. Even better would be the sharp, ironic tone that makes “Grey’s” so slick. Instead, this just comes across as a lightweight medical soap that’s trying too hard to be cute.

However - if we’re staying optimistic - creator Shonda Rhimes is smart and talented. Maybe she’ll figure this out.

The other biggie is NBC’s “Bionic Woman” (at 9), and it’s kind of the opposite of “Private Practice.” The 1970s original was all light and dopey, including the epic Bigfoot battle. This time around, Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is seriously ticked off.

Her boyfriend is a professor of some sort, Jamie gets in a car crash, it turns out he works for a super-secret agency where everyone scowls, and he uses their technology to save her and implant those bionics.

So, yeah, she’s alive, but now she’s got tons of issues, a demanding super-secret agency all over her, plus there was a previous bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff) who’s gone rogue, and she’s even more ticked.

The pieces are all there for this to be a joy, including newcomer Ryan and Sackhoff (who was great in “Battlestar Galactica”). Except, it’s so dark and dire and your-word-for-too-grim here. Producers have promised it will lighten up.

Also new Wednesday is my favorite underdog of a show, NBC’s “Life” (at 10). It stars Damien Lewis (he was the magnetic lieutenant in “Band of Brothers”) as a cop returning to the force after serving a dozen years in prison for murders he didn’t commit.

Now he’s been cleared, but he’s different, part Zen-like, part hardened, and very rich from the settlement. Other cops don’t know what to make of him, and he’s not sure what to make of his returned life.

It’s all done with an energetic sense of originality. Lewis is compelling in his mix of earnestness and quirkiness, the writing is muscular and swift, and it adds up to a new twist on the old cop show.

The last new series Wednesday night, ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” (at 10), is a love-it or hate-it show, depending on your fascination with soaps, and your tolerance for jerky rich people as metaphors for human failings and corrupted principles. Me? Not too tolerant.

It’s about a massively wealthy family (led by Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh) and the good-guy lawyer (Peter Krause) whose father worked for them. Of course, he gets drawn into working for them, too, and gets tangled in their spoiled world of selfishness, petty squabbles, secrets, and, maybe, murder.

There’s one new series premiering Thursday night, too, ABC’s “Big Shots (at 10). You want to like this because of the four stars (Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Joshua Malina and Christopher Titus). They’re captains of industry, or whatever we call them now, but are having - mostly self-inflicted - problems with the women in and around their lives.

You can see the idea behind this: Buddy show with likeable guys who are winners instead of losers, bit of a loopy soap, lots of rompish behavior. Easy good time. Except, it’s not.

It’s got sluggish, obvious writing and the plot twists are thin and bland. The guys meet to whine now and then, which should be funnier. Instead, you just want to scream “Man, get up and go fix your messes!” It’s not bad advice for the producers, either.


Just a short segment of What’d They Do to My Show: AMC announced it’s renewing “Mad Men,” the smart, almost painfully droll show about advertising folk in 1960. The series has set records for AMC, and will probably be back sometime in 2008.

A reminder that a handful of popular shows aren’t starting their new runs until some point midseason, so don’t panic. The list includes CBS’ “The Amazing Race” and “Jericho,” ABC’s “Lost,” NBC’s “Law & Order,” and Fox’s regular January entries, “24” and “American Idol.”

Published at: