September 19, 2008

A Rundown of Fall’s New TV Shows

By Chuck Barney

The networks are still withholding some pilots from us (blame the strike, they say). But that doesn't mean we can't do a cursory slalom through the new shows and toss in some snap judgments along the way.

Here's a rundown to help you get with the program:


-- "Worst Week" (9:30 p.m., CBS, Sept. 22): Newcomer Kyle Bornheimer stars in this slapstick romp as a bumbling klutz whose attempts to win over his future in-laws always go horribly -- and hilariously -- awry. Our take: The endearing Bornheimer provokes big belly laughs in the pilot, which has a zany "Meet the Parents" vibe. But can the show sustain its seemingly limited premise over the long haul? We hope so.

-- "My Own Worst Enemy" (10 p.m., NBC, Oct. 13): Christian Slater comes to television in this drama that has him playing a man with a split personality. He's part mild-mannered family guy (Edward) and part kick-butt superspy. (Henry). Each alter ego is unaware of the other -- until a chip implanted in his brain goes on the fritz. Our take: Huh? You lost us at "split personality.""... But toss in some "24"-like thrills, and we might watch.


-- "Opportunity Knocks" (8 p.m., ABC, Sept. 23): A traveling game show produced by Ashton Kutcher that has its host ringing doorbells and inviting families to answer questions that reveal how much they really know about each other. Lots of cash and prizes are on the line. Our take: It might be time to rethink those "No Solicitors" signs.

-- "90210" (8 p.m., The CW, already airing): A remake of the cheesy teen classic "Beverly Hills 90210" that comes stocked with lots of fresh faces and a few familiar ones (including Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth). Our take: Tori Spelling refused to join the show and it looks like a wise choice. It appears to be improving, but so far, "90210" truly lacks some zip.

-- "Fringe" (9 p.m., Fox, already airing): A hottie FBI agent (Anna Torv), a mad scientist (John Noble) and his slacker son (Joshua Jackson) join forces to explore "fringe" science and solve freaky crimes in this weird but stylish sci-fi thriller. Our take: The show has a great pedigree in executive producer J.J. Abrams ("Lost"; "Alias"), an impressive cast and eye-popping production values. But can it live up to sky-high expectations?

-- "The Mentalist" (9 p.m., CBS, Sept. 23): A former phony TV psychic (Simon Baker) whose wife and kid were the victims of a serial killer uses his people-reading skills to aid the police -- and find the man who robbed him of his family. Our take: Think "Psych" with more edge. Baker is an appealing charmer, and the well- written pilot held our attention. CBS might have itself another popular procedural.

-- "Privileged" (9 p.m., The CW, already airing): A young Yale grad (bubbly JoAnna Garcia) becomes a live-in tutor to two ultra- wealthy and ultra-bratty teen heiresses (Ashley Newbrough and Lucy Kate Hale) in Palm Beach. Our take: The show sometimes strains to achieve quirkiness, but its lighthearted approach to rich kids is welcome in the era of "Gossip Girl."


-- "Knight Rider" (8 p.m., NBC, Sept. 24): A hunky hero (Justin Bruening) teams up with a talking car (voiced by Val Kilmer) to chase down bad guys in this revved-up remake of the campy 1980s hit. Our take: We have yet to see any actual episodes, but based on the clunky movie NBC aired last winter, we expect a real lemon.

-- "Gary Unmarried" (8:30 p.m., CBS, Sept. 24): Jay Mohr plays the divorced dad of two kids trying to get back on his feet after a rocky marriage to an abrasive wife (Paula Marshall). Our take: "Gary Unfunny" is more like it, as this generic domestic sitcom contains traces of potential, but is light on laughs.

-- "Stylista" (9 p.m., The CW, Oct. 22): Think "The Devil Wears Prada" as a reality series. Wannabe fashionistas compete for a position at Elle magazine under the cold stares of demanding editor Anne Slowey. Our take: Sounds like a blast -- if you're into tears and temper tantrums.

-- "Do Not Disturb" (9:30 p.m., Fox, already airing): Jerry O'Connell and Niecy Nash ("Reno 911!") run a chic New York hotel. Our take: It's truly disturbing to see so much talent go to waste in this crude and tiresome sex romp. Checkout time can't come soon enough.


-- "Hole in the Wall" (8 p.m., Fox, already airing): Game-show contestants, dressed in silver spandex, try to squeeze through various cutouts in a huge Styrofoam wall. Our take: We need this show like we need a hole in the head.

-- "Kath & Kim" (8:30 p.m., NBC, Oct. 9): Kath (Molly Shannon) is a frisky fortysomething divorcee who has just found love again. Kim (Selma Blair) is her self-absorbed daughter who jut moved back in. Clashes ensue. Our take: If the awful ads are any indication, let's file a restraining order against this show ASAP.

-- "Eleventh Hour" (10 p.m., CBS, Oct. 9): A drama from Jerry Bruckheimer's production company that follows a brilliant biophysicist (Rufus Sewell) who is called in to help the government solve crimes involving scientific oddities. Our take: We've only seen preview clips, but Sewell is an impressive actor and Bruckheimer's track record is rock-solid. The show sounds a little too much like "Fringe," though.

-- "Life on Mars" (10 p.m., ABC, Oct. 9): Following a car accident, a modern-day cop wakes up in the 1970s. What's up with that? Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel also star. Our take: The good news is that the show is based on a smartly crafted British hit. The bad news is there have been signs of early trouble as producers were changed, actors recast and the pilot reshot. ABC has yet to make it available for review.


-- "Crusoe" (8 p.m., NBC, Oct. 17): A drama based on Daniel Defoe's desert-isle classic with Philip Winchester in the title role. Our take: Again, we haven't seen the pilot, but a lavish period piece, if done right, might be a nice fit in prime time. Let's just hope Crusoe and his pal, Friday, don't have to deal with secret hatches and polar bears.

-- "The Ex List" (9 p.m., CBS, Oct. 3): A young single woman (Elizabeth Reaser) who craves a husband is told by a psychic that she has already met her soulmate. So she launches a quest to re- date all her old boyfriends. Our take: Reaser is a keeper, but some crotch-related humor and annoying characters left us ex-tremely perturbed.


-- "In Harm's Way" (6 and 7 p.m., The CW, Oct. 5): Yet another reality series that focuses on people with dangerous jobs. Our take: Job security should concern the producers, who are way too late to the party.

-- "Valentine" (8 p.m., The CW, Oct. 5): Greek gods, including Aphrodite and Eros, help single people in L.A. find their soul mates. Our take: Some flowers and chocolates might be a better way to win our hearts.

-- "Easy Money" (9 p.m., The CW, Oct. 5): Judge Reinhold and Laurie Metcalf star in this quirky drama about an eccentric family of loan sharks. Our take: It will have trouble pulling us away from "Desperate Housewives."

-- "Surviving Suburbia" (7:30 p.m., The CW, Nov. 2): Bob Saget tries on sitcom fatherhood again as the grouchy parent of two. Our take: Just promise us: No cameos by the Olsen twins.

Reach Chuck Barney at [email protected] Also check out his "TV Freak" blog at

Originally published by Chuck Barney, Contra Costa Times.

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