Okay people, here it is. Fall premiere week. Are you ready? I think the key to making it through all the TV happening this week is to stay hydrated, don’t make any evening plans (this is so not the week to be social), and get rest when you can. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s get started.
My picks for the three best new shows of the season premiere this week:
“The Good Wife” (premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. on CBS): My favorite thing about this show is that gives viewers insight into the story we’ve always wanted to know. Over the years we’ve had many stories of politicians who have had affairs and watched their inevitable apologetic press conference and wondered “How can his wife even stand up there with him?” Julianna Margulies is perfectly cast as Alicia Florrik, a woman whose husband Peter (Chris Noth) has not only cheated on her but is also in jail due to his political scandal. Now Alicia must return to work as a lawyer. Margulies makes the viewer feel sympathy for her but never sorry for her. She comes across as a strong woman — who is now trying to do right by her children and herself. It helps that Margulies is surrounded by a top-notch cast. There’s no one better to play a cad who is ashamed of himself than Noth. No one does bitchy colleague like Christine Baranski and Matt Czuchry (Logan on “Gilmore Girls”) is pitch-perfect as the young whippersnapper after Alicia’s job. But I’m most excited about Josh Charles, who I’ve missed as a weekly network TV presence since “Sports Night” went off the air. “The Good Wife” is a solid drama with the right mix of weekly legal cases and overall story line. Four stars.
“FlashForward” (Thursday, ABC, 8 p.m.): This series definitely has the most intriguing premise of the season. Everyone in the world simultaneously blacks out for two minutes, 17 seconds and gets a glimpse of themselves six months in the future. Some people see good things. Some people see bad things. And some people don’t see anything at all (which means they might not be with us in six months). Joseph Fiennes stars as FBI agent Mark Benford. He’s married to Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger, Penny on “Lost”). The pilot is thrilling with big action sequences, bizarre occurrences (keep an eye out for the kangaroo) and lots of heavy drama. The series poses the question – can we control our own destiny or, if we see our future, are we doomed to create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Can the show live up to our expectations? I have no idea. All the right ingredients are there but it’s also a show that could quickly go off the rails and get lost (so to speak) in its own mythology. But it’s a heck of the pilot and I’m looking forward to seeing what the show does next. Four stars.
“Modern Family” (Wednesday, ABC, 9 p.m.): There’s a moment in the pilot that is so funny that right now I’m laughing just thinking about it. And that’s the number one best thing about “Modern Family” – it’s a new comedy that is actually laugh-out-loud funny. It’s nothing like “Arrested Development” but I had that same feeling watching the pilot of “Modern Family” that I did when I watch the pilot of “Arrested Development” – the sense that I had, with absolutely no expectations going in, happened upon a truly funny, original show. Ed O’Neill stars as Jay, a man who is married to a much younger woman (SofÃa Vergara,who is due for a hit comedy after “Knights of Prosperity” and “Hot Properties”). Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) have three children and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, finally in a comedy worthy of his talent) and his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have just adopted a daughter. I already fear that I have oversold the show and it won’t live up to they my own hype so I won’t say much more. But promise to at least give the show a try this Wednesday. We need to support the good comedies when they come along. Four and a half stars
Are you excited for “The Good Wife,” “FlashForward,” or “Modern Family?” Talk about it below.
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for September 21-27
Of all the shows, I miss the characters of “How I Met Your Mother” (Monday, CBS, 8 p.m.) the most over the summer. When I watched the premiere, I was just so happy to see them. The premiere gives us both an update on where Barney and Robin’s romance stands and how close Ted is to finding the mother of his children. The episode is funny and also proves that the show is going to be able to successfully navigate putting Robin and Barney together as a couple, much the same way “Friends” pulled off the Monica and Chandler coupling all those years ago. As a total side note, after last night’s Emmy Awards, how much do we love Neil Patrick Harris?
With so much good TV happening this week, it seems silly to spend any time on “Accidentally on Purpose,” premiering Monday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS. Maybe it’s not the worst new show but it is my most loathed new show of the fall. I should confess that I’m not a fan of Jenna Elfman’s particular brand of humor – her cute, cloying, ditzy delivery has never been my favorite. But this show actually makes her more annoying that usual. In the pilot, Billie (Elfman) has a one night stand with the much younger Zack (Jon Foster, who so deserves a better show) and ends up pregnant. One out of five star. (I was going to give it zero stars but I’m trying not to be too negative as we kick off the new season).
I actually thought the season finale of “Heroes” showed promise but I’m kind of dreading having to sit through the two-hour fourth season premiere Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC. (Cue the whiny voice, “Mom do I have to watch “Heroes?”) The series has become a little bit like the TV show that cried wolf. How many times can they tell us that they are new and improved and have learned from past mistakes? I’m intrigued that Robert Knepper (T-Bag on “Prison Break”) is joining the cast but I still can’t muster up that much enthusiasm for tonight’s premiere, how about you?
I talked about the two-hour season premiere of “House” (Monday, FOX, 8 p.m.) in Friday’s column but definitely let me know what you think after you watch. My guess is that some of you will love it and some of you will hate it. There’s one particular plot point that, while I think served its purpose, pushed the boundaries of logic. We’ll talk more about “House” once everyone has seen the premiere.
LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell star in the “NCIS” spin-off “NCIS: Los Angeles,” premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBS. While I like both the leads, the premiere is a little too gimmicky, convoluted and predictable. Three stars.
Christian Slater stars in the new series “The Forgotten,” premiering at 10 p.m. on ABC. His Alex Donovan heads up a ragtag team of novice investigators who identify long “forgotten” victims and solve their murders. If that sounds a little like “Cold Case” meets “CSI,” it may be because this series is also from mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The show was mildly entertaining and I think Slater could make a compelling TV lead (I was definitely a fan of last season’s “My Own Worst Enemy”) but the whole series feels a little too familiar. Two and a half stars.
Courteney Cox stars as Jules, a 40-year-old woman navigating the dating world post-divorce in the ABC comedy “Cougar Town,” premiering Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC. First of all, don’t be put off by the title. It’s totally tongue-in-cheek a la “Desperate Housewives.” We know from “Friends” that Cox can pull off being slightly shrill and still be likeable. Dan Byrd (who we all loved in “Aliens in America”) is great as Jules’s teenage son. I’m most worried about Christa Miller, who plays Jules’s best friend Ellie. She seems to be playing the same character she played on “Scrubs,” which was fine in small doses but I don’t think will work as a series regular. But all in all, I think the show has lots of potential and it did make me laugh, which is more than you can say about many of the new comedies this fall. Three and a half stars.
“Mercy” (Wednesday, NBC, 8 p.m.) is another show I just can’t get behind. Newcomer Taylor Schilling stars as Veronica Callahan, a nurse who has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Schilling is actually really good and if she were on another series, I think she might have become this season’s breakout star. But the script is so trite starting with James Tupper as the doctor Veronica had a fling with in Iraq and who has now followed her home. I think the show is trying to make him McDreamyesque but in the pilot, at least, it doesn’t work. And as I said a few weeks back, if you want to make your show different from all the other dramas then don’t have them do the same thing characters do on a very popular show. Namely, don’t have your two leads make out in a supply room closet. And you know I’m a fan of Michelle Trachtenberg (who also pops up on “Gossip Girl” this week) but the role of an ingenue nurse is so not for her. Perhaps I’m spoiled by Merritt Wever as Zoey on “Nurse Jackie,” but I didn’t take to Michelle Trachtenberg’s character. At all. Two and a half stars.
There’s lots going on in this week’s episode of “Glee” (Wednesday, FOX, 9 p.m.) and I’m not a fan of all of it but I do love Kurt’s story line. The final scene is particularly poignant.
I don’t want to spend too much time on “Eastwick” (premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC) except to say that it’s woefully miscast (especially Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne) and the pilot is so boring. Lindsay Price, Rebecca Romijin and Sara Rue all deserve a more entertaining project. Two stars.
I know I may be in the minority, but I’m very happy that Jorja Fox is returning to “CSI” this Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBS.
I’ve received complaints from several of you that Charlie becoming Faux Charlie on “Fringe” (Thursday, FOX, 9 p.m.) is too similar to Francie becoming Faux Francie on “Alias.” But this didn’t bother me at all. An imposter posing as a familiar face is a science fiction staple and one that I think will add some extra oomph to “Fringe.” I’m confident the storylines will play out in very different ways. What do you guys think?
That’s all for today. I’m back on Friday to discuss the season premieres of “Dollhouse,” “Medium,” and “Brothers & Sisters” and talk about what’s happening on “Mad Men.” Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week or a topic for discussion? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter. Have a great week. Talk to you on Friday.
Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal