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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Networks rolling out new fall series

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Following a summer of lowrated reality shows — many returning reality programs saw their ratings slide and several newcomers were dead on arrival — broadcast-network executives will cross their fingers and hope for a better reception for their new scripted series making debuts in the weeks ahead. 

But wishful thinking may not draw viewers to a generally uninspired lineup of new shows. To be sure, there are a few series with the potential to be great, but many of the concepts are overly familiar and, by extension, tired before they even begin to air. Sitcoms make a comeback as the networks add more half-hour comedies to their schedules. Most are single-camera shows, not the kind of sitcom that’s filmed in front of a studio audience.

Serialized dramas also seem to be en vogue again, at least for the time being. Some of the new shows already have premiered; others debut during the coming weeks. Your guide to the broadcast networks’ prime-time fall schedules begins here: 

Sunday

666 Park Avenue (10 p.m., ABC): Sort of an evil Fantasy Island where Faustian contracts always come to a bad end, this supernatural drama is

set in a Manhattan apartment building owned by devilish Gavin (Terry O’Quinn, Lost) and his wife (Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty). They hire an

idealistic young couple from the Midwest (Rachael Taylor, Dave An­na­ble) to man­age the prop­erty, where bad things re­peat­edly hap­pen and ten­ants who fail to live up to their con­tracts get sucked into the build­ing’s walls. The pi­lot strikes an ee­rie, in­trigu­ing note, but also makes one won­der how the show’s sto­ries won’t be­come re­pet­i­tive. (Sept. 30)

Mon­day

Part­ners (8:30 p.m., CBS): Set­ting aside the de­gree to which this sit­com rips off a 1995-96 Fox sit­com (same ti­tle, prem­ise, char­ac­ters’ oc­cu­pa­tions), CBS’ new ver­sion about best friends who work as ar­chi­tects — one gay (Mi­chael Urie, Ugly Betty), one straight (David Krum­holtz, NUMB3RS) — has its mo­ments. The pair share a saucy La­tina sec­re­tary and each of them has a sig­nifi­cant other. Jokes that hit are squeezed be­tween gags that sug­gest writ­ers David Ko­han and Max Mutch­nick (Will & Grace) were com­pet­ing to see whether they could per­pet­u­ate more gay or more La­tina ste­reo­types. Gay wins, which is to say, loses. (de­buts Mon­day)

The Mob Doctor (9 p.m., Fox): With a ti­tle that’s too on-the-nose and a prepos­ter­ous prem­ise, this at­tempt to pro­vide a new doc­tor drama for still-in-mourn­ing House fans seems des­tined to fail. Dr. Grace Devlin (Jor­dana Spiro, My Boys) made a deal with the devil: The Chi­cago mob cleared her brother’s debts in ex­change for her serv­ing as their go-to doc. In the pi­lot, this in­volves re­mov­ing a screw­driver from a flun­kie’s head and be­ing asked to mur­der a mob­ster-turned-FBI in­for­mant while he’s on the op­er­at­ing ta­ble. Grace even gets an op­por­tu­nity to exit this loser deal at the pi­lot’s end if she’ll only leave Chi­cago — but she re­fuses. The Mob Doc­tor wants to be The So­pra­nos meets Grey’s Anat­omy, which turns out to be as silly a mix as it sounds.

Revo­lu­tion (10 p.m., NBC): There are mul­ti­ple sur­prises in the Revo­lu­tion pre­miere that mark it as one of the fall’s best new pi­lots. The show’s ba­sic prem­ise is this: One day elec­tric­ity dis­ap­peared and me­chan­i­cal de­vices stopped work­ing. Jets fell from the sky; cars sim­ply stopped on high­ways. The show de­picts this day and then jumps for­ward 15 years to show what the world has be­come: cit­ies are in ru­ins, sur­vi­vors have adopted an agrar­ian way of life, us­ing the shells of old cars (a Prius, of course) as plant­ers. Gian­carlo Es­pos­ito (Break­ing Bad) stars as the leader of a mi­li­tia who’s try­ing to track down mem­bers of the Mathe­son fam­ily on be­half of his mil­i­tary com­mander boss. This sets sev­eral Mathe­sons off on a quest to un­der­stand why the black­out hap­pened.

Tues­day

Ben and Kate (8:30 p.m., Fox): Ben (Nat Faxon) is an ir­re­spon­si­ble doofus who moves in with his sis­ter, Kate (Da­kota John­son, The So­cial Net­work). View­ers are sup­posed to love Ben be­cause he’s a dreamer, but the prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tion of Ben’s id­i­ocy is that he wrecks Kate’s life on a rou­tine ba­sis. A Ben-type char­ac­ter might work in a movie, but it seems like he will get old fast on a weekly ba­sis. (de­buts Tues­day)

Emily Owens, M.D. (9 p.m., The CW): While the com­par­i­sons of first-year in­terns to high-school cliques is a bit tor­tured, star Mamie Gum­mer evinces a fan­tas­tic bed­side man­ner. Gum­mer, who is Meryl Streep’s daugh­ter (she had a re­cur­ring role on The Good Wife), ra­di­ates warmth and in­tel­li­gence through in­se­cu­rity and gag­gingly love­sick voice­over nar­ra­tion (think: a more cloy­ing Ally McBeal) that makes Me­red­ith Grey seem like a ma­ture, emo­tion­ally sta­ble adult. Emily is in love with nerdy-cute co-worker Will (Justin Hart­ley, Smallville) and still feuds with high-school nem­e­sis Cas­san­dra (Aja Naomi King). Gum­mer de­serves bet­ter ma­terial to work with, but med­i­cal-show fans bored with Grey’s Anat­omy could do worse. (Oct. 16)

Go On (9 p.m., NBC): Mat­thew Perry plays a wid­ower who joins a sup­port group filled with odd­ball char­ac­ters in this funny pi­lot that mixes hu­mor and heart. One worry: the show seems to be set­ting up a rom-com re­la­tion­ship be­tween Perry’s char­ac­ter and the group ther­a­pist (Laura Benanti, Play­boy Club), a been-there, seen-that plot.

The Mindy Proj­ect (9:30 p.m., Fox): Mindy Kal­ing, who has played Kelly Kapoor on The Of­fice, gets her own se­ries about a self­ish, drama-ad­dicted thir­ty­s­ome­thing doc­tor who wants to fall in love rom-com style. If you can get past how ri­dic­u­lously her char­ac­ter be­haves, the pi­lot has win­ning mo­ments and shows fu­ture po­ten­tial. (de­buts Tues­day)

The New Nor­mal (9:30 p.m., NBC): Bryan (An­drew Ran­nells, Book of Mor­mon) and David (Justin Bartha, The Han­g­over), a wealthy Bev­erly Hills, Calif., gay cou­ple, de­cide to have a child us­ing a sur­ro­gate (Geor­gia King), which also brings the sur­ro­gate’s out­spo­ken Mid­west­ern mother (El­len Bar­kin) into their lives. The show plays all the aren’t-gays-shal­low? and aren’t-old-peo­ple-big­ots? ste­reo­types, but it’s also filled with bit­ing hu­mor thanks to a script by Ali Adler, who ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duces with Ryan Mur­phy (Glee). But the show’s ap­peal seems too nar­row for it to work on NBC, where ex­ec­u­tives have is­sued a man­date for their com­e­dies to have broader ap­peal.

Vegas (10 p.m., CBS): Con­sider this CSI: The First Gen­er­a­tion. Den­nis Quaid stars as Ralph Lamb, a real-life for­mer Las Vegas sher­iff whose ad­ven­tures in­spired this TV se­ries. In the pre­miere, rancher Lamb is per­suaded by the Las Vegas mayor to in­ves­ti­gate the mur­der of a worker at a ca­sino owned by Vin­cent Savion (Mi­chael Chiklis, The Shield), a gang­ster trans­plant from Chi­cago. Lamb is as­sisted by his re­spon­si­ble brother (Ja­son O’Mara, Terra Nova) and his wild son (Tay­lor Hand­ley, The O.C.). Lamb glee­fully and dis­turb­ingly vi­o­lates a de­fense at­tor­ney’s civil rights and the show evinces the idea that bik­ers should not have the right to an at­tor­ney. Un­con­sti­tu­tional civil pro­ce­dure aside, Quaid of­fers a flinty, lik­able turn in his first prime-time lead­ing role. (pre­mieres Tues­day)

Wed­nes­day

An­i­mal Prac­tice (8 p.m., NBC): Justin Kirk (Weeds) stars as vet­er­i­nar­ian George Cole­man, who gets along great with an­i­mals — in­clud­ing his scene-steal­ing side­kick, Dr. Rizzo, a Capu­chin mon­key — but butts heads with his new boss, who is also his ex-girl­friend, Doro­thy Crane (Jo­anna Gar­cia-Swisher). This sit­com ben­e­fits from the pres­ence of a daffy nurse (Betsy Sodaro), but the will-they-or-won’t-they? set-up be­tween George and Doro­thy feels aw­fully stale. The best solu­tion: Fewer hu­mans, more mon­keys. (Al­ready pre­viewed; time-slot pre­miere is Wed­nes­day)

Ar­row (8 p.m., The CW): Just as The Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man got a re­boot this sum­mer, Green Ar­row gets a sim­i­larly un­nec­es­sary TV re­launch just a year af­ter the char­ac­ter left the small screen with the end of Smallville. Ste­phen Amell’s Oliver Queen is more stub­bly man-hero and less like Justin Hart­ley’s surfer-stud Oliver in Smallville. But oth­er­wise, Ar­row feels a lot like a lat­ter-day Smallville, from a po­ten­tial love tri­an­gle to se­cret iden­ti­ties to par­ents with ques­tion­able in­ten­tions. (Oct. 10)

Guys With Kids (8:30 p.m., NBC): The prem­ise of this sit­com is a moldy oldie: Guys can’t ca­pa­bly raise chil­dren, and when they try, havoc reigns! Jimmy Fal­lon (Late Night) ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duces this wan com­edy about three friends — played by An­thony Ander­son, Jesse Brad­ford, and Zach Creg­ger — who are also fathers. The guys com­plain about be­ing tired, help each other through try­ing times, and prom­ise to put their chil­dren be­fore their own car­nal de­sires: “Sons be­fore buns.” (Al­ready pre­viewed; time-slot pre­miere is Wed­nes­day)

The Neigh­bors (8:30 p.m., ABC): A broad, whim­si­cal sat­ire about hu­mans liv­ing in a sub­di­vi­sion of aliens (from outer space), The Neigh­bors has a solid con­cept for a movie, but it’s hard to see how it will stand the test of time as a TV se­ries. Some gags in the pi­lot — how the aliens do the dishes; the names of sports leg­ends they choose to name them­selves — are en­joy­ably amus­ing, but have a shelf life: they’ll only be funny the first time. (Pre­view ep­i­sodes airs 9:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day; moves to reg­u­lar time slot Oct. 3)

Chi­cago Fire (10 p.m., NBC): It’s a show as ge­neric as its ti­tle. An en­sem­ble drama that’s closer in tone to ER than, say, Res­cue Me — Chi­cago Fire lacks any dis­cern­ible point of view — this one-hour po­lice-res­cue drama is fine but un­re­mark­able. The show does ben­e­fit from a de­cent cast, in­clud­ing Ea­monn Walker (Oz), David Ei­gen­berg (Sex and the City), Jesse Spen­cer (House), and Tay­lor Kin­ney (The Vam­pire Diaries), but they star in the bland­est show of the fall sea­son. (Oct. 10)

Nash­ville (10 p.m., ABC): Con­nie Brit­ton (Fri­day Night Lights) head­lines this in­trigu­ing soap as coun­try singer Rayna Jay­mes, whose ca­reer has hit a wall. She’s not sell­ing records or con­cert tick­ets, prompt­ing her record la­bel to sug­gest she tour with auto-tuned new­comer Juli­ette Bar­nes (Hayden Pane­ti­erre, He­roes), whose mu­sic “sounds like fe­ral cats to me,” Rayna says. At the same time, Rayna’s schem­ing father convinces her hus­band, Teddy (Eric Close, With­out a Trace), to run for mayor of Nash­ville. Brit­ton turns in the win­ning per­for­mance and the script, by Cal­lie Khouri (Thelma & Lou­ise), is sig­nifi­cantly bet­ter than many en­tries in the soap genre. (Oct. 10)

Thurs­day

Last Re­sort (8 p.m., ABC): On pa­per, this drama from ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Shawn Ryan (The Shield) sounded like fall’s best bet. In ex­e­cu­tion, it’s both in­trigu­ing and flawed. An­dre Braugher (Men of a Cer­tain Age) stars as cap­tain of a U.S. nu­clear sub that re­ceives a fire or­der through un­usual chan­nels; when he tries to con­firm the or­der’s au­then­tic­ity, his sub is fired upon. She­nan­i­gans in Wash­ing­ton may play into what’s hap­pen­ing (a con­spir­acy the­ory? yet again?) and a mil­i­tary-con­trac­tor rep (Au­tumn Reeser) has a par­tic­u­larly pain­ful-to-watch scene. But the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Braugher’s cap­tain and his XO (Scott Speed­man, Felic­ity) is nicely drawn. (de­buts Thurs­day)

Beauty and the Beast (9 p.m., The CW): A re­make of the late-1980s CBS se­ries of the same name, this new ver­sion stars Kris­tin Kreuk (Smallville) as ho­mi­cide de­tec­tive Cath­er­ine Chan­dler, who wit­nesses the mur­der of her mother and is saved by a crea­ture who turns out to be war vet Vin­cent Keller (Jay Ryan, Terra Nova). This new show di­verges from the old one in a sig­nifi­cant way: Vin­cent is more hot­tie than beastly; he has a scar on his face, but not the face of a lion, and only looks a smidge beastly when he has an adren­a­line rush. (Oct. 11)

Ele­men­tary (10 p.m., CBS): PBS al­ready has a mod­ern take on Sher­lock Hol­mes in the Mas­ter­piece Mys­tery! se­ries Sher­lock, so it’s a bit of a mys­tery why CBS would think the tim­ing is right for its own ver­sion, es­pe­cially be­cause Ele­men­tary, while not bad, is pretty or­di­nary and pales be­side the PBS ver­sion. Jonny Lee Miller stars as re­cov­er­ing ad­dict Hol­mes and Lucy Liu fol­lows him around as his “ad­dict sit­ter,” Dr. Joan Wat­son. (de­buts Thurs­day)

Fri­day

Made in Jer­sey (9 p.m., CBS): CBS builds a North­east-set Fri­day lineup this fall as le­gal drama Made in Jer­sey joins New York-set Blue Bloods and CSI: NY. Mar­tina (Janet Mont­gom­ery) leaves the Tren­ton dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice to be­come a ju­nior as­so­ci­ate at an up­scale Man­hat­tan cor­po­rate firm where ev­ery­one else looks at her like she’s an alien. A blond se­nior at­tor­ney is par­tic­u­larly scorn­ful. “I saw you down­stairs, but I didn’t want to in­ter­rupt The Real House­wives of New Jer­sey,” the blond says af­ter see­ing Mar­tina with her sis­ter. The fam­ily as­pects of the show are rem­i­nis­cent of the 2001-02 CBS Fri­day-night Jer­sey-based show That’s Life, but Made In Jer­sey comes in a CBS-pat­ented pro­ce­dural pack­age with a tough Jer­sey work­ing girl at its cen­ter. (de­buts Fri­day)

The Block News Al­liance con­sists of The Blade and the Pitts­burgh Post-Ga­zette. Rob Owen is a staff writer for the Post-Ga­zette.

Con­tact him at rowen@post-ga­zette.com.



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