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Fall TV Blasts Off

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This begins my Fall 2005 TV Preview. Last year I predicted the success of Lost, Desperate Housewives and House though erred in selecting Jack & Bobby and Joey as potential draws. Thanks to Lost, there is a strong supernatural thread this year. Surely I cannot tell the difference between Threshold and Surface, which I think was once named Fathom or is that still another show? Shaun (American Gothic) Cassidy’s Invasion, about a race of body snatchers that transform people in the wake of a hurricane may be in trouble because of Hurricane Katrina. Also on the spooky side though more in the vein of procedurals like CSI are Bones, The Night Stalker, Killer Instinct and Ghost Whisperer. There are lots of people seeing dead people this year apparently.

One genre that is not dead, contrary to many reports, is Comedies. Arrested Development, The Office, FX’s new comedies and Curb Your Enthusiasm show how smart, edgy and un-formulaic laughers can work for modern audiences. NBC takes their cue with My Name is Earl, while many of the other new comedies seem like relics of another age. Including the Friends-with-high-concept attempt How I Met Your Mother.

For the new season, here is the hot/not-hot list. Since I have not been privy to any previews, the picks are based on buzz, instinct and personal preference. Like, it’s not hard to tell a sitcom starring Freddie Prinze Jr. will suck.

Definitely Watch
Prison Break
My Name is Earl
Night Stalker
Everybody Hates Chris

Wild Cards:May/May Not Suck
Commander in Chief
Killer Instinct

The Losers
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart
Head Cases
Hot Properties

The Premieres
Several new shows are launching this week, which is just in time for the major networks who have seen the cable universe swallow viewers all summer with Monk, The Closer, Entourage and Rescue Me. HBO’s Rome premiered last week and in late September Curb Your Enthusiasm is back along with Ricky Gervais’ (BBC’s The Office) Extras. To get an early start on hooking viewers, Fox begins before the baseball playoffs. Over the next two weeks most of the major premieres belong to them.Last Monday Prison Break was unleashed and this week will bring Reunion, which follows the kickoff to The O.C.’s new season. The Simpsons will return next Sunday instead of their usual November start to begin a week of premieres including Bones, Head Cases and returning favorite House.

Premiere Schedule
(from Zap2it)

Monday, Aug. 29
8 p.m. “Prison Break” (FOX, two hours; moves to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5)

Thursday, Sept. 8
8 p.m. “The O.C.” (FOX)
9 p.m. “Reunion”

Saturday, Sept. 10
8 p.m. “Cops” (FOX)
9 p.m. “America’s Most Wanted” (FOX)

Sunday, Sept. 11
8 p.m. “The Simpsons” (FOX)
8:30 p.m. “The War at Home” (FOX)
9 p.m. “Family Guy” (FOX)
9:30 p.m. “American Dad” (FOX)

Monday, Sept. 12
8 p.m. “Wife Swap” (ABC, new timeslot)

Tuesday, Sept. 13
8 p.m. “Bones” (FOX)
8 p.m. “The Biggest Loser” (NBC)
8 p.m. “Gilmore Girls” (The WB)
9 p.m. “House” (FOX)
9 p.m. “Supernatural” (The WB)

Wednesday, Sept. 14
9 p.m. “Head Cases” (FOX)

Read more of me on my site, Culture Drift

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About Chip Ross

  • Wondered what’s going on with Scrubs?
    It turns out that the story about Zach Braff making movies, delaying the show’s premiere, was just so much network BS. Here goes:

    From the Chicago Tribune

    “At a press event for television critics over the summer, NBC execs floated the story that “Scrubs” would not be on the network’s fall schedule because star Zach Braff was off making a movie, which allegedly would have delayed the start of the show’s shooting schedule.

    That’s horse manure, according to “Scrubs” creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence (in truth, Lawrence used a different but even more colorful phrase to describe the network’s excuse).

    “Zach finished his movie. I could have episodes ready already,” Lawrence said from the show’s California set, where he was directing an episode. “That was just network spin.” NBC’s failure to give “Scrubs” a firm start date looked even more dopey when the hospital comedy got four Emmy nominations in July, including first-time nods for best comedy and best comedy actor for Braff.


    “On the positive side, I couldn’t get too angry [about the fall schedule] because it’s not as if they’re making us come in at mid-season,” Lawrence continued. “It’s not like `24,’; they can’t wait until January to start running episodes. They’d have to air two episodes a week” given the number of “Scrubs” episodes that would have piled up by then.

    Lawrence predicts “Scrubs” fans will have to wait only until October before the show pops up on NBC’s schedule, and when the show does return, Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) will be working at a different hospital – for a while, anyway.”

    And here’s my take on it:

    First, “Scrubs” is the best show the network has and had respectable ratings last year. It didn’t deserve to be left off the fall schedule for a month, especially with the spin about Zach Braff filming movies.

    Secondly, the show will basically be replacing whichever of the two NBC Tuesday comedies fails more or fastest, “My Name is Earl” or “The Office.” Both look promising (especially “The Office” after last spring’s critically acclaimed 6-episode run), but it’ll basically be network survival of the fittest between those two shows since there just isn’t anywhere else on the lineup to put a 30-minute comedy. Thursday’s not an option anymore because as bad as “Joey’s” ratings are, the network has a commitment through this year and won’t cancel it outright. Plus, you now have the “Apprentice”/”ER” block after “Will & Grace,” which while clearly limping into its last season creatively and ratings-wise, still pulls decent numbers. NBC won’t mess with one of its former peak comedies in its last season and risk angering its fans. NBC will undoubtedly cancel some of its weak new dramas, but the reality is that they won’t have another 30-minute comedy to pair with whichever of the two Tuesday comedies loses out and is replaced by “Scrubs.”

    “My Name is Earl” looks promising, but I’m rooting for “The Office,” which is nearly as good as show as “Scrubs” and one of the three best comedies on network TV (the other being “Arrested Development”). The odds are clearly against it based on last season’s ratings and the network’s apparent lack of faith in the show when it was barely renewed, but I think Steve Carrell’s box office success in “40 Year old Virgin” may give the show new viewers and the boost it needs to stick around as a critical smash with respectable ratings, if not a big hit, as “Scrubs” has managed to do.

    NBC has some shows that look like real duds, so it’s possible they may slot their comedies in new places as the ratings dictate, although it seems that it’s harder for them to slot a 30-minute comedy into a space formerly occupied by a cancelled hour-long drama rather than a reality show or Dateline NBC. It’s very likely that any one of the three comedies in question could pop up as a mid-season replacement in non-sweeps periods for the other two. An outside possibility would be that if both “The Office” and “My Name is Earl” were really successful out of the gate, that “Scrubs” would be pushed back past October. I certainly don’t want that to happen, but NBC’s choices have me almost rooting against “My Name is Earl,” even though it looks like a quirky, off-beat, promising comedy with some good leads. “Scrubs” deserves way better than to have to wait to see where it fits in with the network’s lineup plans.

    That is all.