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What's new on the networks

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What's new on the networks photo illustration by Pat Shaw
a fall 2012 TV preview

Being a television executive is much like being a professional gambler: It's a business built around taking huge risks. Sometimes, those risks pay off hugely. More often, they don't. So it is with new network television shows. For every breakout hit, there are half a dozen flops. And that doesn't even count the scores of filmed pilots that ultimately fail to find a home.

Still, hope springs eternal, even in the entertainment business. The network dial is riddled with new offerings this fall. Any one of them could conceivably capture the public's imagination and become a mainstay for the next five years. Of course, that just means the rest of them will be boring, bland and ultimately forgettable assuming they aren't epically terrible. We can probably count on at least one of those as well.

Here's a look at some of what the autumn has to offer:

Comedy

GoOn'Go On' (NBC; Tuesday, Sept. 11, 9 p.m.)

This show which already had its pilot aired as part of NBC's Olympic coverage marks Matthew Perry's return to television. However, any resemblance to Chandler Bing is purely incidental. In 'Go On,' Perry plays Ryan King, a blowhard sports talk radio host who is forced to attend a support group as he tries to deal with the loss of his wife in a car accident.

If the pilot is any indication, we can expect this show to mix over-the-top slapstick with a healthy dose of emotion and sentimentality. If the premise holds up, this one has some real promise. It'll be interesting to see if audiences can accept Perry in a non-'Friends' capacity (they haven't yet) and the unusual blend of humor and pathos.

NewNormal'The New Normal' (NBC; Tuesday Sept. 11, 9:30 p.m.)

NBC has been promoting this new show to within an inch of its life; so much so that audiences might be sick of hearing about it before it even airs. It's an ensemble comedy centered on Bryan and David, a successful couple who want nothing more than a baby. They meet Goldie, a young single mother from the Midwest who agrees to be their surrogate. Goldie's mother Jane (played by Ellen Barkin) is also and apparently offensively in the picture.

With its multi-generational family, ensemble style and featured gay characters, the comparisons to 'Modern Family' are inevitable. Whether audiences view this show as a progressive step forward or a cynical rip-off is difficult to say; I would lean toward the latter. Still, if it works, it could be quite good.

MindyProjeect'The Mindy Project' (FOX; Tuesday, Sept. 25, 9:30 p.m.)

Can Mindy Kaling who is undeniably a comedic talent carry a show on her own? FOX is betting that she can, making 'The Mindy Project' their primary new comedy offering of the fall. Kaling stars as Mindy Lahiri, a single physician making her way through the world, trying to deal with the pressures of her job and find love through a voracious appetite for romantic comedies and self-help books.

I've enjoyed Kaling in a number of supporting roles, but I'm not sold on her as a leading lady. If she's going to make the whole 'quirky single woman' thing work, she's going to have to bring something new to the table; that lode has been mined pretty thoroughly in recent years. She's funny, but I remain skeptical.

The-Neighbors2'The Neighbors' (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m.)

This one is ABC's highest-profile new sitcom offering, set to settle in on Wednesdays alongside such stalwarts as 'Modern Family' and 'The Middle.' The premise is an intriguing one: aliens walk among us. As in, literally among us they could be right next door. A normal family moves into a New Jersey housing development that is apparently almost exclusively populated by aliens disguised in human form; they've been trapped here for a decade, awaiting a signal from home.

The alien angle on the whole fish-out-of-water thing has already been done (and wonderfully so) by '3rd Rock from the Sun,' but it might be an idea ripe for revisiting. This is classic boom-or-bust stuff; if 'The Neighbors' can find an audience fast enough, we could be looking at ABC's newest mainstay sitcom.

AnimalPracticew'Animal Practice' (NBC; Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m.)

This is the other sitcom that NBC tried to jumpstart with a post-Olympic coverage sneak peek. It stars Justin Kirk as Dr. George Coleman, the best damned veterinarian in the city. However, his world is about to be upended when his old flame Dorothy shows up and takes over control of the hospital from her father. There's also a monkey. Who's apparently a doctor? Or something?

As someone with a taste for the absurd, I should be the target for a show like 'Animal Practice.' Unfortunately, it appears to be little more than formulaic laziness, a clich-ridden bore that relies far too heavily on the 'Hey! Look at the monkey wearing a coat and doing non-monkey stuff' tactic. It's a flimsy premise that will likely be put down before the new year.

Dramas

MobDoctor'The Mob Doctor' (FOX; Monday, Sept. 17, 9 p.m.)

If the deluge of ads is any indication, this show is the clubhouse leader for 'Most Ludicrous Premise' of this fall's new programming. The show stars Jordana Spiro as Dr. Grace Devlin, a noted Chicago surgeon who is forced to lead a double life due to a massive mob debt incurred by her shiftless brother. Devlin has to find a way to balance the rigors of her already pressure-laden career with the constant, ever-shifting demands of the sinister crime boss Alexander Constantine.

This is what's going to replace 'House'? While I'll concede that the kernel of a decent show might and I stress might be found in this premise, there's a very real danger of a quick and unalterable turn toward an almost-laughable hokiness. I can't say that 'The Mob Doctor' won't be good, but I can say that until I hear otherwise, I'll be unlikely to see for myself.

Revolution-Screen-Grab-4'Revolution' (NBC; Monday, Sept. 17, 10 p.m.)

This show has a serious pedigree. Show creator Eric Kripke also created the popular series 'Supernatural.' One of the executive producers is 'Lost' wunderkind J.J. Abrams. Jon Favreau even directed the pilot. 'Revolution' takes place in a dystopian future, set 15 years after an unknown event caused all advanced technology to stop working. The world is forced to adapt, with the requisite breakdown of social order leading to a fracturing of society. One family holds the key to discovering not only what happened, but how to fix it.

Personally, I love a dystopia, but I'm curious as to how well such a world will play on network television. The relative darkness of the storyline might turn off some viewers. However, with the heavy hitters involved in the production, it's a safe bet that 'Revolution' will get a long leash at the very least.

Vegas'Vegas' (CBS; Tuesday, Sept. 25, 10 p.m.)

What? You thought you were getting out of here without a period drama set in the 1960s? 'Vegas' comes from longtime Hollywood Mafia-phile Nicholas Pileggi, the screenwriter behind 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino,' among others. This show is set in the wild and wooly Las Vegas of the '60s and stars Dennis Quaid as rancher-turned-sheriff Ralph Lamb. Lamb finds himself at odds with notorious Chicago gangster Vincent Savino (played by Michael Chiklis), who has moved west to set up his own criminal organization.

It looks like the pieces are all here. No one Hollywoods up organized crime quite like Pileggi can. Quaid is perfect as a rugged leading man, while the always-awesome Chiklis gets to be a TV bad boy again. This is a period piece that doesn't seem to use its timeframe as a crutch; I wouldn't be surprised if this one is a hit.

LastResort'Last Resort' (ABC; Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m.)

This thriller is the latest television offering from producer Shawn Ryan, best known as the creator of 'The Shield.' It stars Andre Braugher as Marcus Chaplin, captain of the nuclear submarine USS Colorado. Chaplin defies orders to launch missiles at Pakistan, leading to a surprise attack from US forces. The submarine and crew survive, leading Chaplin and his crew to take refuge on the fictional island of Sainte Marina and declare themselves a sovereign nation, all the while trying to prove their innocence and root out their betrayer.

Ryan never fails to make compelling television, and the basic premise of this show is fantastic; it might be the show I personally most eagerly anticipate. If the actors and writers can live up to what looks to be a dynamite beginning, 'Last Resort' has a chance to be one of the best offerings of the fall.

Elementary'Elementary' (CBS; Thursday, Sept. 27, 10 p.m.)

Oh look! It's Sherlock Holmes! Arthur Conan Doyle's detective has been reimagined for the umpteenth time. In this modern-day incarnation, Jonny Lee Miller plays the man himself, a former consultant to Scotland Yard who travels to New York to enter a rehab facility. It is there he meets his companion Watson only this time, John Watson becomes Joan as played by Lucy Liu. Holmes remains in Brooklyn with Watson; one assumes he'll be solving some crimes.

This is a nice chance for CBS to expand their primetime dramatic offerings without venturing too far from their precious procedurals. However, they're at a bit of a disadvantage when compared to the BBC's brilliant 'Sherlock' also a modern-day reimagining of the character. We'll have to wait and see if there's room for two master detectives in the present day.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 11:29

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