:: New fall television highlights
When the calendar turns to September it signals many things: the stretch drive in baseball, the start of schools and also the start of the fall season for television shows. Last season saw freshman shows, such as NBC’s “Heroes” and “Friday Night Lights” as well as ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters” and “Ugly Betty,” draw well with viewers and critics in only their first seasons. All the networks are hoping that their new shows will draw well with viewers.
Some successful shows don’t hit the jackpot immediately. FOX’s “House M.D.” was barely noticed until the network placed the show behind rating-smash American Idol in its first season. NBC nearly cancelled “The Office” in 2005, but Steve Carell’s anticipated summer movie sleeper hit, “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” helped convince executives to give the show a second chance.
The road to being a hit for first year shows is not always an easy path or a predictable one. NBC’s look at a sketch show, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” was expected to be an instant hit. However, the ratings didn’t show that and the show was put on hiatus in January and then brought back to finish its episode order over the summer. Then of course there is “Joey”, the Matt LeBlanc “Friends” spinoff that disappeared after two seasons.
This season’s new shows promise to have the same mix of shows that are expected to do well, some sleeper hits and then those (ABC’s Cavemen) that we wonder what a network executive was thinking when they gave the green light.
One of the most anticipated shows to debut this year is “Private Practice,” also known as the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff. (It will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting Sept. 26.) The show follows Addison Montgomery [Kate Walsh] as she leaves Seattle Grace Hospital for the sunny weather of California and her friends’ health cooperative. Addison hopes that the change in location will be just what she needs to get her life back on track. Taye Diggs [“Rent”], Amy Brenneman [“Judging Amy”] and Tim Daly [“Wings”] co-star.
Another series that has big expectations is the Fox comedy, “Back to You.” This show stars comedy veterans Kelsey Grammer [“Frasier,” “Cheers”] and Patricia Heaton [“Everybody Loves Raymond”] as a news anchor team. (It will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. starting Sept.19.) Years ago, Chuck [Grammer] and Kelly [Heaton] were the number one news team in Pittsburgh. On-screen they were great, off-screen not so much. Chuck got a chance to move up and did so but after an embarrassing video of him winds up on the Internet, he is fired. When offered the chance to go back to Pittsburgh to make his old news cast number one again with his old partner, Chuck takes it. Fred Willard co-stars in this series
One series that has been made for the teen young-adult crowd is the CW’s “Gossip Girl.” (It will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting Sept. 19.) This show is based on the books by Cecily von Ziegesar with its executive producer, Josh Schwartz, the creator of “The O.C.”
The show focuses on a group of prep school teens attending school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Centering on the rivalry between Serena [Blake Lively, “Accepted”] and Blair [Leighton Meester]. Serena was once a party girl and disappeared off to boarding school but is now back and plans to reclaim the spotlight. The usual teen backstabbing starts and it becomes your typical teen soap. Think “The O.C.” in Manhattan.
The ABC comedy “Samantha Who?” (Airing Mondays at 9:30 p.m. starting Oct. 15.) Samantha [Christina Applegate, “Anchorman”] features as the victim of a hit and run accident that puts her in a coma. When she wakes up, she has retrograde amnesia, meaning that she can function in the world but doesn’t remember anything about her own life. This leads her to start finding out about herself and the not-so-nice person she was before the accident. The shows co-stars include Jennifer Esposito [“Crash”], Barry Watson [“7th Heaven”] and Jean Smart [“24”].
Time will tell whether these shows turn into the next big hit or if they fade quietly into the night, as it usually is with every TV season.
A&E Editor: RJ Kraft - 09/05/07