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Monday, October 02, 2006

 

ModFabulous: The New Fall TV Series

Because we have nothing better to do that sit around and watch bad television so you don't have to -- that's how much we care, people -- we've now seen every major premiere of the fall season. And truth is, most of it is complete crap. But there are a few gems, and we're here to give our verdicts. Here are the six worth watching:

6. Heroes (NBC), Monday 9pm
You already know the premise...it's basically X-Men: The Prequel. Ordinary human beings all over the planet discover they have superpowers. The characters vary widely in likeability; Masi Oka is a delight as an office worker in Japan who discovers time travel, but others -- especially Milo Ventimiglia as a wallflower who learns to fly -- are trapped in maudlin cliches and overemotional situations. There's something stirring and magnetic about the idea, but the execution has yet to meet expectations. We're sticking with it...for now.

5. Six Degrees (ABC), Thursday 10pm
J.J. Abrams' new series is a departure for him, neither an action drama (Alias) or a metaphysical puzzler (Lost). Instead, it's a hokey romantic drama about New Yorkers looking for love in the city that never sleeps. Which would be terrible if it weren't for a top-notch cast, including film vets Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Bridget Moynihan, Erika Christensen and Jay Hernandez. The series is shot well (and on location...New York actually looks like New York for a change!), and the near-miss cliches are mitigated by the performances. It might have what it takes for the long haul.

4. The Class (CBS), Monday 8pm
Underneath this precocious clone of Friends is a virtual battalion of talent. From Broadway shows, the producers have plucked the brilliant Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the dewy Heather Goldenhersh, the lunkheaded Jon Bernthal, and the perky Jason Ritter. Smart move. These actors know how to make good jokes into great ones, and their spunky energy creates sparks in the romantic comedy formula. Best of all, though, is the scene-stealing Julie Halston who plays Bernthal's quintessentially New York mother. Give it a few episodes, and it could fulfill the potential of its players.

3. Jericho (CBS), Wednesday 8pm
Better than it has any right to be. The idea of a possible nuclear disaster touches on post-9/11 fears, but Jericho uses them to fuel themes of family, connection, and truth...welcome responses to our collective anxiety. Back-from-the-dead Skeet Ulrich plays the deadbeat son of the mayor, with an understated grace that makes him eminently likeable. Pamela Reed and Gerald McRaney give the what-if premise a grounding in heartland ethos.

2. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC), Mondays 9pm
The return of writer-producer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Sports Night) to series television has been pumped so widely that I expect even Tibetan sheepherders know about it. The good news is that the hype is well-founded. Sorkin is simply the best writer working in television today, and were he to adapt the telephone book, we'd tune in gladly. We're unsure whether this particular premise -- the rejuvenation of a moribund sketch comedy show -- has unlimited story possibilities, but if anyone can make it work, Sorkin can.

1. Brothers and Sisters (ABC), Sundays 10pm
Created and written by acclaimed playwright Jon Robin Baitz, this family drama has everything a series needs to find greatness: brilliantly executed (and unusual) storylines, superb production values, a cast to die for, and a story worth telling. A virtual cauldron for America's culture wars, the family involves an Ann Coulter-ish daughter (Calista Flockhart), a gay brother (Matthew Rhys), an Iraq War vet (Dave Annable), and I haven't even gotten to Sally Field, Ron Rifkin, Patricia Wettig and Rachel Griffiths. Actually, Griffiths' presence is telling...the show channels the class and detail of Six Feet Under, and aspires to the same kind of dramatic family intensity. If only all shows could be this good.

SERIES TO AVOID:
Smith, Justice, Vanished, Kidnapped, Standoff, Shark
Formula, formula, formula. Whether ripping off CSI or 24 or Boston Legal, these series give off the stench of desperate copycats. James Woods makes Shark at least bearable, but the rest are ready for the trash heap.

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