'The Middle,' 'The Good Wife' and Other Favorite New Faces of the 2009-2010 TV season

charliemcdermott_themiddle_290_001.jpgWith each TV season, we discover new characters and stars to fall in love with. Remember there was a time when no one knew who Simon Baker or Eva Longoria Parker were.

Here are my favorite new faces of the TV season:

Charlie McDermott as Axl on "The Middle" (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC): Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn may be the big names on this show but it's the kids who make this comedy a must-see series. And yes Brick is adorable (whisper: adorable) and Sue's unbridle enthusiasm is hilarious but it's definitely Axl who makes me laugh out loud the most. From his exasperated sighs to his penchant to never wearing a shirt, he perfectly captures an adolescent ennui. McDermott is so good at morphing into his roles that I just now realized he was also Melissa Leo's son in the movie "Frozen River."

Brian Van Holt as Bobby on "Cougar Town" (Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC): You guys will understand what I mean by this - Van Holt's performance reminds me of Chris Pratt's Bright on "Everwood" or Taylor Kitsch's Tim Riggins on "Friday Night Lights." Like Pratt and Kitsch, Van Holt has taken what could have been a totally clichéd character and given him an unexpected depth. Bobby is definitely funny and often gets the show's best one-liners and visual guffaws (the sangria hat) but I also totally believe his more dramatic moments (when he realized he was never going to get back together with Jules). It's the rare actor that can pull off both emotions in the same 22 minutes.

Archie Panjabi as Kalinda on "The Good Wife" (Tuesday at 10 p.m. on CBS): First of all if I was ever going anywhere dangerous, I would want Kalinda with me. And I definitely would never want to be on her bad side. Which is what makes her character so interesting. It's more than halfway through the season and I'm still not clear on whose side Kalinda is on. I would like to think she has loyalty to Alicia, but we don't know that for sure. She's mysterious but not in an affected way. Panjabi exudes a calm confidence - I may want to hang out with Kalinda but, honestly, I'm not sure I'm cool enough. We'll get more insight about what Kalinda is up to this week when she testifies at Peter's trial. I can't wait.

Brittany Robertson as Lux on "Life Unexpected" (Monday at 9 p.m. on the CW): This is totally one of those shows where if we didn't believe the characters we wouldn't make it past the first 15 minutes. And, in many ways, the show hinges on Robertson's performance. Thankfully, she's up to the challenge. Robertson is charming without being pretentious. I'm rooting for her to succeed and get the family she deserves.

Eric Stonestreet as Cameron on "Modern Family" (Wednesday at 9 p.m. on ABC): Stonestreet simultaneously manages to embrace and defy the stereotype. The cheerful Cam is definitely the life in the "Modern Family" party - I smile every time he comes on the screen. But like Bobby on "Cougar Town," he's not one-dimensional. I believe in his relationship with Mitchell and like how he often plays the peacemaker between Mitchell and his dad. Everyone on "Modern Family" is pretty fantastic, but it's Stonestreet who, to me, has been the real revelation.

Those are some of my favorite new characters this season. Who are yours? Talk about it below.

Highlights of the Week Ahead

All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for February 8 - 14.

If you didn't get enough of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms last night, the duo chat up Barney's dating life on "How I Met Your Mother" Monday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

So we all agree that "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (Monday, ABC Family, 8 p.m.) is off its rocker. That's probably not even worth discussing anymore. But can anyone tell me why the show is dressing Ashley in these incredibly low-cut tops? It makes no sense. I mean I know the whole show makes no sense, but this really makes no sense. I welcome all theories. This week Ricky offers to help Amy with her kissing techniques because that's an excellent idea.

I kind of like that the adults are getting story lines on "Make It or Break It" (Monday, ABC Family, 9 p.m.). You know that I always think teen shows are stronger when viewers can get invested in what's going on with the parents too. The show is having a strong half to its first season - the Payson storyline is being handled particularly well. My only complaint? Razor and Damon look waaaay too much alike. I'm not even sure how Emily tells them apart.

All the finalists arrive in Hollywood on "American Idol" (Tuesday, FOX, 8 p.m.) which means that Ellen DeGeneres joins Randy, Kara, and Simon on the judges' table. I have to say I'm not believing the hype that Simon and Ellen are already "fighting." They could be fighting the way Paula and Simon used to fight or this could just be something that producers are leaking to drum up our interest in Ellen's first appearance. What has surprised me the most about the season so far is that I haven't missed Paula yet and I really thought I would. I don't necessarily think the guest judges brought a lot to the table so maybe that's why I haven't missed Paula - the guest judges have not tried to fill Paula's shoes. Ellen will attempt to do that this week. I've always liked Ellen and have particularly enjoyed her sense of humor. But I'm not convinced she'll be the right fit for "Idol." We'll begin to find that out this week.

Immediately after "Idol," FOX premieres its new series "Past Life" (Tuesday, FOX, 9 p.m.). This is one of those series that falls into the interesting premise/bad execution category. I mean sure I can believe a show about detectives who investigate, like the title would suggest, past lives. In the pilot, Dr. Kate McGinn (Kelli Giddish) and Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop) help a teen who remembers being kidnapped in a previous life. Sure it's out there but creators have based TV shows on crazier things. The problem with "Past Life" is that it's really boring and it's hard to muster up much interest in what's going on since the two leads only seem mildly curious. If you want to give the show a second chance, it moves to its regular time slot Thursday at 9 p.m. Two and a half out of five stars.

So I think I'm on board with the final season of "Lost" following two parallel realities - are you? It seems so obvious now that this is what the show would do, but it didn't even occur to me. I'm much more interested/invested in the reality that has them all landing safely in LAX. I want to see what would have become of the characters had the plane never crashed and to see how their lives would have connected even if they all hadn't spent some quality time on a mysterious island. I'm thinking Juliet can show up in this reality because hey Desmond was on the plane and he was supposed to be on the island long before the plane crashed. Many of you have written me that Juliet didn't die twice since we didn't have proof that she died in the final seconds of last season. True - I assumed she died because, you know, a nuclear bomb went off right beside her. But it did kill me to see Juliet and Sawyer say final goodbyes to each other AGAIN. I had barely recovered from last season's heartbreaking scene. This week's episode is called "What Kate Does," you may remember the second season episode entitled "What Kate Did." That was when we learned Kate had killed her mother's husband by blowing up the house while he was in it.

I will not make a cougar joke. I will not make a cougar joke. I will not make a cougar joke. Elisha Cuthbert joins the cast of "the forgotten" this Tuesday at 10 p.m. on ABC.

"The Jay Leno Show" comes to an end Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBC (he'll be back hosting "The Tonight Show" on March 1) and that means Wednesday at 10 p.m. NBC airs a repeat of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

I haven't watched "Survivor" in quite a few seasons but I'll be tuning in to "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains," premiering Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS. Why, you ask? Because Boston Rob is back, baby. He is by far my most favorite reality show character ever. I can't wait to hear him talk about Amba and the baby and how he thinks he can win this game.

Even though it's February sweeps, many of your favorite shows will soon go into repeats because the Olympics begin with the Opening Ceremony this Friday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with my final column before my maternity leave. So I thought why not review "Parenthood" even though it doesn't premiere until March? I'll also talk about some other TV event that will occur in my absence and I'll have this week's quotes and familiar faces. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week or a topic for discussion? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com or follow me on Twitter. Have a great week. Talk to you on Friday.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal

 

 

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