Fall TV check-up
Now that we're halfway through November sweeps, it's time to see what shows in the 2006 TV freshman class have got what it takes, and which ones have but a few more short weeks to live.
The Alphabet net scored minor hits with Thursday's Americanized telenovela, Ugly Betty, and the Sunday family drama Brothers & Sisters. (Whoever cast Sally Field opposite CalistaFlockhart deserves a raise; their prickly but sweet mother/daughter chemistry keeps the show afloat). Hostage drama The Nine has struggled on Wednesday, but looks like it could make it to Season 2. The quirky Anne Heche vehicle Men in Trees has found a modest audience in the Friday night wasteland, and thus is being rewarded with the cushy post-Grey's Anatomy Thursday timeslot in the next couple weeks. Should it perform even reasonably well it's probably curtains for Six Degrees, J.J. Abrams' newest show, this one about New Yorkers who are connected in unseen ways. But where he succeeded with Felicity, Alias, and Lost, Abrams failed with this one, as Degrees essentially cobbles together rejected plots from those series, but with a less likable cast. Well, we can't all be winners, can we?
CBS thought it was all tough shit, launching only four new shows this fall. One of them, Ray Liotta's robber showSmith, was one of the first official casualties of the season, pulled after a mere three episodes. Like, ouch. Fellow over-the-hill film star James Woods' Shark has faired better, even if it's yet another lawyer show and is saddled with the awful Jeri Ryan. Post-apocalyptic serial Jerichohas been largely derided by critics but has earned a steady following, making it a fairly safe bet for renewal. And lone new comedy The Class keeps plugging along as the weakest link on CBS' Monday night comedy line-up.
Poor Fox. We knew it was bad, but...this bad? Virtually every new show launched this fall has tanked. While only a couple have been officially cancelled (Happy Hour --- big surprise), the rest are pretty much circling the drain. Monday's Vanished offed its lead actor (Gale Harold) and Fox PR reps had to literally lead a wholly uninterested press through the hidden conspiracy clues they had embedded in the promo material. Justice is on its, like, third time slot already, and still nobody cares. Standoff lived up to its potential as one of the worst ideas in recent TV history (they're hostage negotiators! Engaged in a not-so-secret affair! And they get in public lovers spats while trying to talk down crazed gunmen!). And even seeming sure-thing 'Til Death, with its fairly high-profile cast, is pulling in some anemic numbers.American Idol can't come fast enough, can it guys?
The Peacock needed to take a lot of gambles this year, and at least a couple paid off. Heroes isthe hot new show of the fall, racking up viewers, buzz, and critical praise. Friday Night Lights has gotten plenty of the latter, but desperately needs more of the former --- I think having it on Tuesdays really does confuse some people. Kidnapped got sacked a few weeks back, and sitcom Twenty Good Years looks soon to follow. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin's profoundly sucky30 Rock will get a reprieve by being slotted into the reborn Thursday comedy block later this month, along with The Office, My Name is Earl and the returning Scrubs. Let's hope being around such distinguished company will allow it to absorb quality via osmosis. As for that other Saturday Night Live-based show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, there's no question that Aaron Sorkin's newest has failed to live up to the admittedly lofty expectations. However, NBC has put in an order for a full season, which is mighty generous of them considering how indifferent the public has been, and how expensive the show is to produce. We'll see how long that goodwill endures.
The merged UPN and WB is reportedly pulling in lower numbers than its predecessors with some of its shows, so that isn't good. Neither is the fact that one of the two new shows, Runaway, was yanked after just a couple episodes. Will The Game follow suit? Who cares; more Top Model, please!