August 29, 2008

Networks Get Jump on Fall TV

By Rick Kushman

With the Olympics finished, a lot of people will be feeling flush with free time. Or at least free TV time, and now is when you should catch up with those recordings or DVDs you've been holding, because things will get busy soon.

Or you could go outside and enjoy the warm evenings, but this is a TV column, and we don't advocate that sort of nonsense.

This is a pretty slow week, but starting Labor Day, the leading edge of the new fall season will begin rolling out.

The season doesn't officially start until Sept. 22, but there are a handful of early September premieres, including Fox's "Prison Break," TNT's new legal drama "Raising the Bar," and CW's "Gossip Girl" and "One Tree Hill" on Sept. 1; FX's "The Shield," which returns for its last season on Sept. 2; and Fox's "Bones," CW's "America's Next Top Model" and FX's "Sons of Anarchy" -- a new drama that's sort of "The Sopranos" meets a motorcycle gang -- all on Sept. 3.

The CW has sent a clear message that "90210" is so bad, we might as well blast it now.

The new drama/soap is a sequel to "Beverly Hills 90210," which ran through the 1990s, and if you listen to CW, it was the best and most important TV series ever. Fine. They're allowed to hype their shows.

But CW said last week the network "made the strategic marketing decision" not to screen the show for anyone and to ride "the curiosity and anticipation" until the show premieres.

"We're not hiding anything," the press statement said.

It sounds like CW made the same strategic decision movie studios make when they have a serious clunker they don't want reviewed.

As for the "anticipation," I haven't noticed much beyond what CW has advertised on its own, unless you count the stories about the behind-the-camera problems and Tori Spelling publicly dropping out after committing to a guest role.

CW's people know all this. They know there's only a little buzz about the show, that critics are skeptical and that critics will write precisely what I'm writing if they hold the show back from reviewers. And still, they're keeping it to themselves. Doesn't leave much hope the show's any good, does it?

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