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Fall TV Preview

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Network Prime Time Rolls Out 31 Attempts To Catch The Zeitgeist And Cultivate Viewer Loyalty. New Docs. New Dads. New Geeks. And If You Think You've Seen It All In Reality Tv, Well, Get Real.

September 05, 2004|Mark Olsen and Jonathan Taylor


Desperate Housewives


Time slot: 9 to 10 p.m. Premieres Oct. 3.

Who's in it: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross ("Melrose Place"), Eva Longoria ("Dragnet"), Nicollette Sheridan.

Who made it: Marc Cherry ("The Golden Girls"), Charles Pratt Jr. ("Melrose Place").

The premise: A suburban mom with a seemingly perfect life kills herself, then narrates from the hereafter, revealing the secret lives of her neighbors as they piece together the mystery of her death.

Sounds like: "Knots Landing" with a shot of "Six Feet Under."

Up against: "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on NBC, "The Partner" on Fox, "Jack & Bobby" on the WB.

Prognosis: Strong cast and pleasantly odd sensibility are pluses, but the show may be too weird for mainstream audiences and not quite out-there enough for the HBO crowd. This one will need help from the critics.


Jack & Bobby


Time slot: 9 to 10 p.m. Premieres next Sunday.

Who's in it: Christine Lahti, Matt Long, Logan Lerman.

Who made it: Greg Berlanti ("Everwood"), Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing"), Vanessa Taylor ("Everwood"), Mickey Liddell ("Everwood").

The premise: Two contemporary boys are raised by their single mother, who has an eye on greatness for both of them. From the year 2049, former staffers and the first lady talk about one of the brothers, who's just finished his term as president.

Sounds like: A teen drama crossed with a nominating convention's biography video.

Up against: "Desperate Housewives" on ABC, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on NBC, "The Partner" on Fox.

Prognosis: In a time slot with deep competition, this might be a little too high-concept for viewers to latch on to.


The Partner


Time slot: 9 to 10 p.m. Premieres Nov. 7.

Who's in it: (unscripted)

Who made it: Chris Cowan, Jean-Michel Michenaud ("My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance").

The premise: "Book-smart" grads of Ivy League law schools go head to head with "street smart" rivals from lower-rent schools. The prize: a job with a high-powered law firm.

Sounds like: "The Practice" meets "The Apprentice."

Up against: "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" on NBC, "Desperate Housewives" on ABC, "Jack & Bobby" on the WB.

Prognosis: The thinly veiled class warfare should be fun, but it'll take some serious personalities among the contestants to make much of a mark.


Boston Legal


Time slot: 10 to 11 p.m. Premieres Oct. 3.

Who's in it: James Spader, William Shatner, Mark Valley, Rhona Mitra ("The Practice"), Lake Bell ("Miss Match"), Monica Potter ("Patch Adams").

Who made it: David E. Kelley.

The premise: Basically picking up where the last season of "The Practice" left off, "Boston Legal" follows the lives of a group of civil litigators in Boston. But you probably figured that out from the title.

Sounds like: "The Practice," obviously, but promising a bit more of Kelley's offbeat "Ally McBeal" side.

Up against: "Crossing Jordan" on NBC.

Prognosis: There's something to love about the Spader-Shatner matchup, and the kookiness that laces the show is a welcome respite from hard-edged procedurals. A comfortable sub for "The Practice" in this time slot.



Listen Up


Time slot: 8:30 to 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 20.

Who's in it: Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld"), Malcolm-Jamal Warner ("The Cosby Show").

Who made it: Jeff Martin, Lindy DeKoven.

The premise: A TV sports show host (based on sports commentator Tony Kornheiser) starts writing a column about his life. His wide-open style endears him to his fans but rankles his family.

Sounds like: Think of most any "Home Improvement"-style work-family sitcom. Then think not as funny.

Up against: "Fear Factor" on NBC, "Monday Night Football" on ABC, "7th Heaven" on the WB.

Prognosis: A solid slot before "Raymond" and "Two and a Half Men" may help, but the post-"Seinfeld" curse hovers.


Renovate My Family


Time slot: Premiered last Wednesday. Regular-time premiere 9 p.m. Monday.

Who's in it: Self-help author Jay McGraw.

Who made it: Jean-Michel Michenaud, Chris Cowan, Ray Giuliani.

The premise: Dr. Phil's son does family lifestyle makeovers, tackling everything from home decor to weight loss to emotional issues.

Sounds like: Suspiciously similar to the "Dr. Phil" show.

Up against: "Las Vegas" on NBC, "Monday Night Football" on ABC, "Everwood" on the WB.

Prognosis: McGraw will need more than Dad's daytime audience numbers to survive in the high-stakes world of prime time.


Second Time Around


Time slot: 9:30 to 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 20.

Who's in it: Nicole Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Brian White, Melissa De Sousa.

Who made it: Ralph R. Farquhar, Claude Brooks, Michelle Listenbee-Brown.

The premise: A divorced couple gives marriage to each other another try.

Sounds like: A bit of "Mad About You" with upscale, boho African Americans.

Up against: "Two and a Half Men" on CBS, "Las Vegas" on NBC

Prognosis: The CBS sitcom will provide stiff competition, particularly since UPN is otherwise trying to move away from this kind of programming.


The Benefactor


Time slot: 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 13.

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