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October 3rd, 2007 Daniel Carlson | DVD & TV
 

TV Roulette

Rooting for the winners and nailing the losers of TV’s fall lineup.

     
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There are nearly 30 new shows debuting on television this fall. Maybe a half dozen or so will stick around, and maybe one of those won’t suck. Maybe . I say this not as a bitter man, nor as someone who hates TV. But the success or failure of a given show is rarely related to its quality or lack thereof; if you tried to plot it on a chart, you would kill yourself messily before coming up with a remotely workable solution. However, being a sadist, I just can’t help but try and call the game before it starts. With that in mind, here’s a brief rundown of a few new fall series and what it will take for them to survive. Time and space constraints being what they are, I can’t cover every new show, only the few that I randomly selected by throwing darts at my computer screen (which was ill-advised). So, deal.

CHUCK (NBC, Mondays, 8 pm)

Chuck was created by Josh Schwartz, who also gifted/inflicted The O.C. upon America’s youth, and the action-comedy pilot was directed by McG, who still hasn’t apologized for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle . The story of a computer geek whose brain becomes the hard drive for America’s state secrets, Chuck stars a cast of mostly unknowns—as well as Adam Baldwin as a prickly federal agent, which is where the show loses ground. Baldwin, a talented actor, brings the Firefly curse with him, tainting all projects he touches (Day Break , we barely knew ye). Chuck is silly and cute enough to have probably lasted a year, but with Baldwin in tow, the odds drop dramatically. Odds of survival: 1 in 5

PUSHING DAISIES (ABC, Wednesdays, 8 pm)

This oddball black comedy, which follows Ned, a private investigator who can bring people back from the dead with the flick of a finger, comes from the mind of Bryan Fuller, who also created Dead Like Me and co-created Wonderfalls . And this is where the paradox comes into play: Such fantastic credits all but guarantee this show’s inevitable demise. It’s impossible for series that strive for quirky creativity to become smashes; the American TV hall of fame is packed with shows that played broad enough to win the largest possible audience. But Fuller is famous for making shows that, well, don’t, whether they’re about a girl who winds up collecting the souls of the dead or another girl who hears the voice of the Almighty from a plastic toy lion. Unable to view the pilot episode by press time, I can only base my forecast on the history of other high-concept shows and the American public’s general unwillingness to bother with things that take too much effort. In other words, I’m worried that the show might be doomed from the start. Odds of survival: 1 in 10

 

BACK TO YOU (Fox, Wednesdays, 9 pm)

This TV news send-up, complete with tangled on-air/off-air relationships, is incredibly stupid—which is kinda the whole point. Arrested Development and the successful Americanization of The Office have made single-camera comedies the norm for smart sitcoms. The only people interested in three-camera shows right now are making really, really bad ones that still manage to find a horribly long shelf life (e.g.,Two and a Half Men ). Back to You is a pretty terrible three-camera show, but it’s also on Fox, a network that, although devoted to promoting the inane (American Idol ), is also merciless enough to pull the plug on shows after one or two episodes if the ratings aren’t up to snuff, as happened with last year’s two-and-out Head Cases . But hey, America, it stars Frasier and that lady from Raymond ! Tune in! Odds of survival: 1 in 3 (unless Fox starts feeling squirrely, then really, who the hell knows)

 

BIONIC WOMAN (NBC, Wednesdays, 9 pm)

David Eick has some definite credit in my book for writing and producing on Sci Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica , but this ’70s reboot about a woman who becomes a half-robotic superwoman after a horrific car accident lacks BSG ’s political and social complexity and compelling human drama. Plus, the dialogue sucks bigtime. The pilot also was reworked before airing, changing Bionic Woman ’s kid sister from an ordinary-looking deaf girl to a hotter girl who can hear; NBC is apparently less than keen on character diversity. I will, however, watch this show simply for the appearances by Beaverton’s own Katee Sackhoff (better known as BSG ’s Starbuck), though even that built-in guarantee of a geek audience won’t help the show in the long run. It’s not good enough to last, and not bad enough to last. Odds of survival: 1 in 4

 

PRIVATE PRACTICE (ABC, Wednesdays, 9 pm)

The success of ABC’s doctor drama Grey’s Anatomy is both baffling (it’s a bad soap opera) and predictable (it’s a bad soap opera with shirtless people). And, of course, the entire existence of Private Practice is a lie; when Kate Walsh’s Dr. Addison McBallbreaker announces she’s leaving for L.A. because she wants a change, you know it’s actually because ABC wanted a spinoff hour that would bring as many viewers to advertisers as Grey’s does. And as a spinoff, Private Practice is everything you could want in an ABC drama: lots of closeups, narrow depth of field, and an emotional denouement always set to indie rock. It is by no means a good show, but it’s great at what it is: A tensionless drama where vaguely wacky medical crises take a back seat to dudes with nice abs and the occasional slice of comforting cheesecake. In other words, I’ve got a sinking feeling that Private Practice could be hanging its shingle for a while. (See what I did there?) Odds of survival: 3 in 4

 

DIRTY SEXY MONEY (ABC, Wednesdays, 10 pm)

Armed with a crazy stupid title, Dirty Sexy Money is one of the dumbest shows I’ve ever seen. After tuning into the pilot episode out of nothing more than goodwill for Peter Krause (Six Feet Under ), I wanted to throw a boot at the TV after 10 minutes of the sniveling, pointless bickering between the disparate members of a super-wealthy New York family. The terrible dialogue serves as a distraction from the fact that this isn’t a series, but an idea of one about rich people and the man who is paid to deal with all their problems, with paper-thin characters and no reason to get involved. Even for ABC, where series are allowed to live improbably long lives (George Lopez ), this one will hopefully be yanked once viewers wise up. Good luck, Peter Krause. Odds of survival: 1 in 6

 
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