If you like forensics, murder-mystery or law shows, you're in luck. This fall, the six networks will unveil roughly 2,537 series wherein the odds are very good that you'll hear the phrase "crime scene" or "DNA sample" before the opening credits.
If you like other types of shows, well, it takes a print-dusting, blacklight-wielding sleuth like "CSI's" Gil Grissom to find them (argh ... even when mocking forensics shows, I can't avoid going there for the analogy).
Here's a crop of new shows that look fresh (fresher than the "CSI" corpses, at least). Disclaimer: I haven't actually seen any of them (I'm based out of Brainerd, not Hollywood), and some series on this list may turn out to be terrible. But maybe one will be brilliant. Such are the joys and frustrations of the fall TV season.
"Surface" (7 p.m. Mondays, NBC), "Invasion" (9 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC) and "Threshold" (8 p.m. Fridays, CBS) -- Jeez, one alien-invasion show probably would've been enough. But the TV gods have given us three this fall, so the question becomes: Which will be the best?
What new fall shows are you most looking forward to? You can vote and discuss the upcoming TV season in the Dispatch Interactive thread at brainerddispatch.com.
"Threshold" gets points for showcasing Carla Gugino (much missed since "Karen Sisco") and it has the most immediate hook: An extra-terrestrial craft lands in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Surface" could be "Threshold's" sequel: Mysterious ocean creatures begin popping up all over the world. It's from the creators of "G vs. E," and might be the most stylish of the three, but it has the least noteworthy cast.
"Invasion" is the early front-runner: It was created by Shaun Cassidy ("American Gothic") and Thomas Schlamme ("Jack & Bobby") and stars familiar film face William Fichtner. It also boasts the most mysterious premise: In Florida, unexplained weird stuff starts to happen. If "Lost" is any indicator, "unexplained weird stuff" is fun for about a half-season, but eventually, we'll want answers.
"Prison Break" (8 p.m. Mondays, Fox) -- Two brothers, one wrongly imprisoned and the other purposely imprisoned, plan to break out of prison over the course of the season. It wants to be the most "24"-ish show since "24," and therefore gets points for ambition, if nothing else.
"My Name is Earl" (8 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC) -- One strike against it: It's from the producer of "Yes, Dear." But two strikes in its favor: It stars Jason Lee ("Mallrats") and it has a heckuva hook. A petty criminal wins the lottery and attempts to right the wrongs of his past. Don't worry, it's intended to be a comedy.
"Everybody Hates Chris" (7 p.m. Thursdays, UPN) -- Producer Chris Rock tells the tales of his formative years. And that's likely where we'll gain insight into his edgy and often hilarious stand-up comedy material.
"The Night Stalker" (8 p.m. Thursdays, ABC) -- Since this list was supposed to be free of crime-solving shows, this entry needs some explanation. It might very well be that reporter Carl Kolchak (Stuart Townsend) will investigate a paranormal event every episode (and for the ongoing arc, he's trying to solve his wife's murder). But this is a remake of the 1970s series that Chris Carter cited as his primary influence for "The X-files," and it's produced by two "X-files" veterans. So, yeah, I'm all over this one for the sake of historical curiosity and a weekly fix of noir chills.
As a side note, "Supernatural" (8 p.m. Tuesdays, WB) appears to be in the same vein. But even though it stars two solid actors -- Jared Padelecki of "Gilmore Girls" and Jensen Ackles of "Dark Angel" -- it doesn't appear to have quite as much depth as "Night Stalker."
"Reunion" (8 p.m. Thursdays, Fox) -- "24" was likely an influence behind this show, but not for the action; rather, for the emphasis on the clock. Instead of each episode marking one hour, each episode will mark one year (compressed into an hour, of course). Yeah, it has a murder-mystery (you just can't escape those, I guess), but the real innovation is we get to see the development of six high school buds over a 20-year period. And we get to reunite with a few old TV friends: Will Estes from "American Dreams," Sean Faris from "life as we know it" and Alexa Davalos from "Angel."
"Love, Inc." (8:30 p.m. Thursdays, UPN) -- This appears to be a direct rip-off of "Miss Match" -- a professional matchmaker struggles to find love herself -- and Busy Philipps is no Alicia Silverstone. However, "Miss Match" was getting close to uncovering some interesting ideas about the nature of relationships by the time it was canceled, and I have a shred of hope that this series will stumble onto that magic. But the fact that it's a half-hour comedy makes me wonder how lofty its aims are.
"What About Brian" (9 p.m. Mondays, midseason, ABC), "Free Birds" (midseason, Fox) and "Modern Men" (midseason, WB) -- For whatever reason, the TV gods have deemed that midseason will feature a battle of confused-single-guy shows.
"What About Brian," from producer J.J. Abrams ("Lost," of course, but in this case "Felicity" is the more appropriate credit to cite), follows Barry Watson as the last single guy in his group of friends and his forays into the non-single lifestyle.
In "Free Birds," a college grad (Josh Dean) moves back in with his parents, puts growing up on hold and hooks up with an ex.
The "Modern Men" get points for being proactive: Instead of stumbling along and complaining about women, they hire a female life coach (Jane Seymour) to assist them. It's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has so many series on the air right now that it borders on greediness. But to the show's credit, the cast includes Marla Sokoloff, last seen as the naked nanny on "Desperate Housewives."
"The Bedford Diaries" (midseason, WB) -- The fall show I was most looking forward to was "1/4life," a twentysomething drama from genius producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. But alas, ABC didn't put it on its fall schedule. "The Bedford Diaries" looks to be the closest substitute, as it features a classroom of college students (among them, Milo Ventimiglia of "Gilmore Girls") on the cusp of entering the real world. Tom Fontana ("Homicide") is among the producers, and he doesn't generally make bad shows.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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