As has been previously entered into evidence, I watch TV like it's my job.
So if I have trouble keeping all the new fall shows straight, what will become of the average viewer? This new fall season is like the Noah's Ark of TV. There's two of everything. And I'm not just talking about the two shows on NBC about what happens behind-the-scenes at a sketch comedy show.
Looking for someone who has been kidnapped? Try "Vanished" on FOX or "Kidnapped" on NBC. Craving a show that will unfold a mystery over an entire season? Watch "The Nine" on ABC or "Runaway" on The CW or the aforementioned "Vanished" and "Kidnapped." There's even a comedic spin on that concept with ABC's "Big Day." Craving unconventional lawyers who will do anything to win their case? Take a look at "Justice" on FOX or "Shark" on CBS. Interested to see what happens when one town survives the end of the world? Check out "Jericho" on CBS or ABC Family's "Three Moons Over Milford." I could go on and on.
And let me tell you CBS isn't helping matters. Who approved having three one-word titled shows? "Shark" stars James Wood and Jeri Ryan and its pilot is so far unmemorable. TV seems determined to make a star out of Skeet Ulrich who stars in "Jericho." But at the end of the hour I wouldn't have cared if the small Kansas town joined the rest of the world and disappeared. CBS's best bet is the compelling "Smith," which is like a TV version of "Ocean's 11." Liotta, Simon Baker (who we've missed since "The Guardian"), Amy Smart and Franky G pull off sophisticated robberies. Liotta's not-so-innocent wife (the always fabulous Virginia Madsen) waits for him at home. Trust me -- the series is so much more interesting that the title "Smith" makes it sound. I wish there was paperwork to file where I could formally request a name change. Who will take my business on this issue?
I don't know what to say about "The Class," a comedy about a group of 20-somethings who met in third grade. Right now the lame comedy is kind of horrifically awful and wasting the charming Jason Ritter (who we all loved in "Joan of Arcadia). I think David Crane is trying to capture his "Friends" magic, but so far not so much. To paraphrase one of our favorite Friends -- Could "The Class" be any lamer?
FOX continues to be kind of split-personality network. Remember this is the network that aired "24" and "Killer Instinct" in one season. I really liked "Justice," a series starring Victor Garber and Kerr Smith. The one-hour drama has one of the new season's most nifty devices. After Garber, Smith and co-stars Rebecca Mader and Eamonn Walker (loved him on "ER" this season) try their case and the verdict is delivered, the episode ends by showing what really happened when the crime was committed. And I have to tell you, as a long time viewer of David Kelley's legal dramas, I thought I knew what had happened and I was wrong. Color me surprised.
I didn't love "Vanished" (starring Gale Harold, Ming Na, and Rebecca Gayheart) and "Standoff" (starring Ron Livingston and Gina Torres) as much. They both were, at this point, instantly unremarkable. I didn't much care if the guy from "Queer as Folk" and the doctor from "ER" could find the missing Senators wife.
And after giving us "Arrested Development," "Malcolm in the Middle," and last season's "The Loop," FOX seems back to its old sitcom ways - four cameras, grating laugh track, humor that belongs on the fourth grade playground. Brad Garrett returns to TV in "'Til Death" about young newlyweds (Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster) who move next door to a long married couple (Garrett and Joely Fisher). But "'Til Death" is hilarious when compared to "Happy Hour," a sitcom about a group of, that's right, friends who live in the same building. Alas FOX's most promising sitcom "The Winner" doesn't premiere until midseason.
So that wraps up my initial thoughts on the new falls shows. I'll be in LA by the time your read this for the Television Critics Association Press Tour where I'll be tracking down all the gossip I possibly can on new shows and returning shows.
Where Have I Seen Them Before?
David Newsom plays Frankie's no-good father on "Windfall." You know him as the father on "The Days" (and good times you can see the mother on "The Days" on "Kyle XY").
Jonathan LaPaglia is Peter's shady business partner and neighbor on "Windfall." La Paglia was Lt. Frank Parker on "Seven Days" but the fun fact here is that he's the brother of Anthony LaPaglia (Jack on "Without a Trace").
Daniel Roebuck was the sleazy attorney brokering babies on "The Closer." We all remember Roebuck as the doomed Arzt on "Lost." We saw him last season on "Desperate Housewives," "Boston Legal," and "CSI." And, of course, he played Jay Leno in "The Late Shift."
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Time for July 17 to 23
You know I fall a little more in love with "The Closer" (Monday, TNT, 9 p.m.) each time I watch the show. This week, Brenda gets jealous when Fritz starts spending time with a FBI colleague. And you-know-who takes advantage of that situation.
I've had more time to think about "Rescue Me" (Tuesday, FX, 10 p.m.) and I still think one of the main problems this season is that the female characters are so hard to watch. Why would Janet cheat on Johnny? Why can't Sheila move on? Why is every single female character so into Tommy? But enough of my complaining, let's talk about what's right this season. I love how Tommy continues to be haunted by Connor's death. Too often in TV shows, characters recover quickly from a horrific tragedy. Tommy's spontaneous crying jags and hallucinations demonstrate how the devastation from losing a loved one lingers.
This is also the episode that found Duncan ostensibly leaving "Veronica Mars" (Tuesday, UPN, 8 p.m.). But we knew he would be back and we were right.
Did you miss when Malcolm David Kelley, Walt on "Lost," was on "Law & Order: SVU" (Wednesday, NBC, 10 p.m.)? Don't miss him in this week's repeat.
Bravo's new series "Work Out," premieres Wednesday at 11 p.m. The series follows Jackie Warner, the owner of Sky Sport and Spa in Beverly Hills. My guess is that it hopes to do for gyms what "Blow Out" did for salons. But can anyone rival Jonathan's ego? I'm still waiting for Bravo to make a show about all of us. They could call it "Watch Out."
It is time to officially declare "Windfall" to be so bad it's good. All the ingredients are there -- sloppy, choppy editing, cliched writing and stunted acting. All we need now is for Heather Locklear to show up and announce that she's buying the factory. It's hard to decide which storyline is the most preposterous. But my pick would have to be Sean having an affair with his dead girlfriend's sister. Such campy times. In this week's episode of how the lottery winners turns (Thursday, NBC, 10 p.m.), Cameron and Nina continue their illicit affair. And this is apropos of nothing, but I really would like Lana Parrilla to get a new hairstyle.
You know, I don't ask for utter realism in a television series, but I wouldn't even investigate what's underneath my couch in high heels. So why does FBI agent Angela Henson (Abigail Spencer) chase the bad guy in four-inch heels in the new Lifetime series "Angela's Eyes" (Sunday, 10 p.m.)? And how long does it take her to do her hair and makeup in the morning? It's hard to believe this series is from the network that gave us the fabulous "Any Day Now" only a few years ago.
That's all for today. I won't have a column next Monday. I'll be in LA gathering all the gossip that is fit to print about the new fall season. But I will return on Monday July 31 to give you a full report because remember when I know, you know. Have a question, seen a familiar face, have an inside scoop or want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at email@example.com .