My favorite holiday of the year isn't Christmas, or my birthday or Super Bowl Sunday. It's the day Entertainment Weekly's Fall TV Preview lands in my mailbox. It's a day when we can set aside the negatives about network TV -- the fact that most new shows will be bad and all the good ones will be canceled -- and imagine that every new show will be wonderful and embraced by advertisers and the public.
It's a day when I can explain my excitement about the Alicia Silverstone matchmaker drama "Miss Match" with "It looks really good!" rather than "With all the bland sit-coms and cop shows filling the airwaves, I'll try anything that looks remotely original."
So I gleefully open my mailbag of made-up questions to get us all prepared for another season on the couch. I'm focusing on the positives (mostly). Because in a few months, after "Joan of Arcadia" and "Arrested Development" are canned, I'll probably need a different kind of couch.
In this "Firefly"-less, "Andy Richter"-less, "Buffy"-less, "Futurama"-less season, what is the best show on TV?
Thanks for asking. We all know the real answer is "The Simpsons" (7 p.m. Sundays, Fox). But since it's an annual tradition to take "The Simpsons" for granted, I'll give my vote to "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m. Tuesdays, WB). Laughs have never been a problem for Amy Sherman-Palladino's show, and with "Buffy" veteran Jane Espenson joining the writing staff, the drama hopefully will be punched up a notch as Rory (Alexis Bledel) heads off to Yale.
Speaking of "Gilmore Girls," what happened to Tristan (Chad Michael Murray), Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), David (Adam Brody), Dean (Jared Padalecki) and Christopher (David Sutcliffe)?
Murray is on The WB's "One Tree Hill" (8 p.m. Tuesdays, WB); Ventimiglia will have a stint on "Boston Public" (8 p.m. Fridays, Fox); Brody is already making a splash on "The O.C." (8 p.m. Thursdays, Fox); and Padalecki was slated to be the new "MacGyver," but plans for that remake fell through. As for Sutcliffe, he's on "I'm With Her" (7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC), which airs at the same time as "Gilmore Girls." Don't fret, ABC, I wasn't going to watch it anyway.
What show will be this year's "Undeclared" or "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" -- the innovative comedy that Fox cancels?
I'm going with "Arrested Development" (8:30 p.m. Sundays). Don't be confused by the title: The show chronicles a dysfunctional family, not Fox boardroom executives. "A Minute with Stan Hooper" (7:30 p.m. Wednesdays) is also worth a look because Norm Macdonald is in it.
What show will be this year's "Dark Angel" or "Lone Gunmen" or "Firefly" -- the innovative sci-fi/fantasy show that Fox cancels?
The obvious answer would be "Tru Calling" (7 p.m. Thursdays), starring "Buffy's" Eliza Dushku. But it's not all that innovative. The going-back-in-time-to-save-someone's-life idea riffs on about 20 series from the last five years. And "Angel" fans want Eliza to do guests spots as Faith. They aren't going to shed any tears when "Tru" bites the dust.
Any other cool new fantasy shows?
The Cool Show With a Hot Chick that really interests me is "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m. Fridays, CBS) starring Amber Tamblyn as a girl who gets regular, confusing visits from God. It looks like "Miracles" with a sense of humor; I'm willing to forgive the fact that Joan's dad (Joe Mantegna) is (groan) the town's police chief. The mildly-intriguing superhero spy drama "Jake 2.0" (8 p.m. Wednesdays, UPN) has David Greenwalt as a producer, but it won't have an audience: Fantasy fans will be watching Greenwalt's former show, "Angel" (8 p.m. Wednesdays, WB).
Speaking of "Angel," it's neat that Spike (James Marsters) is going to be a regular this season, but how are they going to resurrect him after his death on "Buffy?"
Short of ripping off the Angel resurrection storyline (the Powers That Be bring him back), I have no idea. That's what makes Joss Whedon shows great -- we can't predict anything. But I will say this: The inevitable episode where Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) pays a visit to Spike and Angel (David Boreanaz) is going to be awesome.
Are there any great shows you don't watch?
Yes, "Alias" (8 p.m. Sundays, ABC). Two years ago, I watched the first four episodes, found the characters a little thin and then switched back to "The X-Files." I also can't get myself to care about "CSI" (8 p.m. Thursdays, CBS), "Without a Trace" (9 p.m. Thursdays, CBS) or "Boomtown" (9 p.m. Fridays, NBC), even though they are fine examples of the crime-solving genre. "Skin" (8 p.m. Mondays, Fox), which blends pornography, courtrooms and star-crossed lovers, could be this year's Quality Show That Bores Me.
Are there any bad shows you regularly watch?
"American Dreams" (7 p.m. Sundays, NBC) is by no stretch a good show, but I keep hoping it suddenly will be brilliant. Brittany Snow is wonderful as the nave 1960s teenager and the "American Bandstand" segments, wherein modern musicians stand in for the legends, are a nice conceit. The show is relentlessly predictable, but at least none of the characters are cops.
Also, I am tempted to tune into David E. Kelley's atrocious "Boston Public" because Milo Ventimiglia and Dennis Miller will have guest arcs and "Roswell's" Jason Katims is on board as an executive producer.
Are there any shows that have jumped the shark that are poised for a reverse shark-jump?
Another Kelley show, "The Practice" (9 p.m. Sundays, ABC) is poised to pull off that rare feat. As with Robert Patrick invigorating the stale "X-Files" in 2000, talented film actor James Spader will spice up this floundering law drama. I love the fact that Kelley dispatched the annoying characters (Bobby, Lindsay and Helen) and kept the cool ones (Eugene, Eleanor and Jimmy). It almost makes me forgive him for "Boston Public." Almost.
What is the best TV night of the week?
Even with the loss of "Buffy" and "Andy Richter," Tuesday still reigns with the 1-2-3 punch of "Gilmore Girls," "24" (8 p.m., Fox) and "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).
What's the weakest night of TV?
As always, Saturday. But Monday is surprisingly dull, as well. I suppose I'll have to give John Madden and Al Michaels another chance.
If VCRs didn't exist, what would be the toughest decision on the primetime grid?
"Joan of Arcadia" and "Miss Match" look to be the best new dramas of the season other than "The O.C.," and they go head-to-head at 7 p.m. Fridays. Thankfully, VCRs do exist, and I have nothing better to do on Friday nights.
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