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New shows this fall

Nutty roommates, fairy tales, crusty doctors and dysfunctional families are on the slate.

September 11, 2011|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Christina Ricci stars in "Pan Am."
Christina Ricci stars in "Pan Am." (Patrick Harbron, ABC )

So many new series! It's like one of those years when half the Congress is voted out to be replaced by ... more Congress. Still, there are trends and changes to descry: to the usual surprising degree, great minds are thinking alike, small ones running in the same gutter. There are three new shows with the word "man" in the title (four if we allow "gentleman") and beyond them much discussion of the meaning of maleness, in and out of relationships. (Conversely, I am hearing the word "vagina" a lot — it seems to be this year's "penis," joke-wise.) There are a lot of shows in which people move in with strangers, two in which fairy tale characters inhabit the mortal world, a pair of post-feminist pre-feminist period pieces whose creators would undoubtedly deny having been influenced by "Mad Men," two about doctors with a poor bedside manner. And it's a big year for sitcoms, which makes the new season, genitally explicit humor notwithstanding, something like those of my youth.

Here's a fairly thorough though unavoidably incomplete guide to what's coming:

Sundays

Pan Am (ABC, Sept. 25). A creamy re-creation of the days when air travel was more treat than torture, travelers dressed to fly, and flight attendants were stewardesses. Christina Ricci is the bohemian stew, Karine Vanasse the French one, Kelli Garner the one getting into some business I won't reveal here, and Margot Robbie the runaway bride. But the prettiest sight: No security lines.

Once Upon a Time (ABC, Oct. 23). Cursed fairy tale characters are condemned to live, unconscious of their former selves, in a small town in Maine. Jennifer Morrison is a skiptracer who may be the lost daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). Intersects the old "Wonderful World of Disney" time slot, perhaps not coincidentally.

Allen Gregory (Fox, Oct. 30). Jonah Hill (of "Superbad" and other popular youth-coms) co-created and stars in this animated series about a sophisticated 7-year-old brainiac packed off to an ordinary elementary school. French Stewart plays his father, Leslie Mann his teacher, Will Forte the school superintendent.

Hell on Wheels (AMC, Nov. 6). Issue-oriented western finds embittered ex-Confederate soldier Anson Mount working on the railroad as it goes transcontinental. Features the rapper-actor known as Common.

Homeland (Showtime, Oct. 2). Claire Danes is a CIA agent and Damian Lewis a formerly missing soldier who may or not be an instrument of terrorism. But all you really need to know is: Claire Danes. Damian Lewis.

Mondays

2 Broke Girls (CBS, Sept. 19). Whitney Cummings, who has her own show this fall, co-created this "Odd Couple"/"Cheers" riff in which ruined trust-fund blond Beth Behrs finds refuge waitressing at a Brooklyn diner under the skeptical tutelage of street-smartened Kat Dennings. Garrett Morris as the cashier.

Two and a Half Men (Kutcher edition) (CBS, Sept. 19). L'affaire Charlie ends with this major reboot/sign of relief, as Ashton Kutcher, preserving the titular math, moves into a Sheen-shaped hole as a lovelorn Internet billionaire.

Hart of Dixie (CW, Sept. 26). Scarcely a believable moment interrupts this "Northern Exposure" legatee. New doctor Rachel Bilson is a city snob who'll have to learn to listen to the crickets when she inherits a practice in an Alabama small town where the girls party like it's 1849 and the mayor (Cress Williams) is a black former-football star.

Terra Nova (Fox, Sept. 26). A 22nd century family moves to a new neighborhood 85 million years in the past in this Steven Spielberg-branded prehistoric pioneer drama. Ex-cop Jason O'Mara, doctor wife Shelley Conn and their three kids (rebel, nerd, little one full of wonder) escape from "Blade Runner" into "Jurassic Park" to breathe clean air, eat fruit, make life hell for the dinosaurs.

The Playboy Club (NBC, Sept. 19). Sixties-set melodrama flogs objectification-as-empowerment to crowds too young to separate the cool from the corn. Amber Heard is the new bunny who accidentally kills a crime lord, Eddie Cibrian a knight in tarnished armor, Laura Benanti an "old" girl moving up. As the manager in the middle, David Krumholtz brings a lone Chicago accent.

Enlightened (HBO, Mon. 10/10). Laura Dern, in a series she co-created with Mike White ("The Good Girl"), plays a downgraded corporate executive who blows up, goes away and comes back as a determined ray of sunshine. Luke Wilson is her ex, who has bad habits; Dern's mother, Diane Ladd, plays her mother, who is bemused. Hard to pin down, good to look at.

Angry Boys (HBO Dec. 5). Clever chameleon Chris Lilley ("Summer Heights High") plays multiple characters to ponder the meaning of maleness, Australian style.

Tuesdays

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