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FALL TV PREVIEW

It's an all-out serial blitz

September 17, 2006|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

WELCOME back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Except that sometimes it does.

The serial, you may have heard, is the order of the day, and, indeed, nearly every new series, drama and comedy alike is invested in the long arc. Careful viewers will have seen it creeping up for quite a while -- "Felicity" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "ER," just as examples, were all continuing stories in their way. The difference with many of the new season's shows, in the world remade by "24," is that they posit a mystery whose solution won't be revealed until late in the season. Which means, given the casualty rate in network television, that you will never know how some of these stories were supposed to end.

The pandemic known as "Lost" is also key -- its central idea of bringing together a crowd of people and cutting them off, physically or virtually, from the rest of society, is most clearly behind the post-apocalypse drama "Jericho," the post-traumatic-stress drama "The Nine" and the post-human drama "Heroes." But most of the dramas and some of the comedies employ large ensembles, and many deal specifically with the ways that people are thrown together and how they connect or don't. It's a relief from police procedurals, anyway.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 19, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
'Notes From the Underbelly': An article in Sunday's Calendar section about coming network TV series said that ABC's "Notes From the Underbelly" stars Rachel Harris and Michael Weaver as the show's protagonists, with Jennifer Westfeldt as a caustic friend. The protagonists are played by Westfeldt and Peter Cambor, with Harris as the friend.

As in years past, producers seem to be listening in on one another's lines -- many series come with a twin.

A rundown of coming series, based on the look of their pilots:

**

Monday

The Class

8 p.m., CBS

David Crane of "Friends" fame casts his net toward a new generation of urban, white twentysomethings with this fragmented ensemble comedy -- all the characters had been in the same third-grade class but meet again at a reunion whose only purpose is to get them to meet again. Some are happy, some are sad, some are confused, some are less confused. Some are funny, some not.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

10 p.m., NBC

The backstage-at-a-sketch-comedy show that isn't "30 Rock" from Aaron Sorkin, the man who brought you "Sports Night" and "The West Wing" and from whose house style this departs not at all. Big sets, fast talk and a fascination with the life of a workplace are again at the heart of things. Bradley Whitford, making the leap from "West Wing," is paired with Matthew Perry as a producer-writer team hired to adrenalize a moribund "SNL"-lookalike. Timothy Busfield, Amanda Peet and D.L. Hughley are here too, making themselves fun to watch.

**

Tuesday

Smith

10 p.m., CBS

The heist series that isn't "Knights of Prosperity." Ray Liotta stars as a master thief with a family at home that includes Virginia Madsen and a gang on the road that includes Simon Baker (who was "The Guardian"), Jonny Lee Miller (from "Trainspotting") and Amy Smart ("Crank") The money's on the screen in the impressively cinematic, suspenseful pilot -- and the question that inevitably follows is whether they can keep it up.

**

Wednesday

Jericho

8 p.m., CBS

The people of a small town in Kansas find themselves cut off from the world when a mushroom cloud appears on the horizon and the radios go out. (That Emergency Broadcast System they've been testing your whole life? Not so good, apparently.) Gerald McRaney, who was "Major Dad," is now Mayor Dad, trying to keep the citizenry from going all Lord of the Flies. Skeet Ulrich is his prodigal son now stuck at home, though with a lot of good-looking women around to keep the apocalypse interesting.

Kidnapped

10 p.m., NBC

The missing person show that isn't "Vanished" (already underway on Fox), set in something that seems closer to the real world. (While there is undoubtedly more here than meets the eye, there is certainly less "more than meets eye" than in some of the season's other mysteries.) An excellent cast, including Timothy Hutton (the rich man whose son is abducted), Dana Delaney (his socialite philanthropist wife), Delroy Lindo (federal agent) and Mykelti Williamson (bodyguard), keeps things lively. Ricky Jay also shows his face.

**

Thursday

Shark

10 p.m., CBS

James Woods is a hot-shot, self-loving defense attorney who, for his sins -- freeing the guilty -- agrees to train and head a team of special prosecutors in the fictional city of Los Angeles. (Includes Latino mayor.) One could conceivably call it a cross between "My Name Is Earl," "House" and whatever other lawyer show you'd care to name. Woods is his usual self.

Six Degrees

10 p.m., ABC

That a stranger is just a friend (or an enemy) you haven't met yet is the theme of this ode to coincidence, in which half a dozen New Yorkers -- including indie film stalwarts Campbell Scott and Hope Davis -- go around and around in the big sleepless city intersecting with Dickensian frequency. The feeling is that things happened because they were meant to happen, because they happened. Love, danger and redemption are on the menu in equal parts.

**

Sunday, Sept. 24

Brothers & Sisters

10 p.m., ABC

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