10 Fall TV Picks

Just to get an idea of what I’ll be covering on the television end in the next few months – with the fall television season about to pop, starting with Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip (NBC) tonight, then a lengthy list of other premieres this week, the following are my most anticipated kickoffs, both new and returning. Network and premiere dates listed:

10. Saturday Night Live: NBC (Sat, 9/30) Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch are off to 30 Rock, and Lorne Michaels promised that a few firings are in store before the premiere. A few names have been bandied about as on the chopping block (Horatio Sanz, Finesse Mitchell, Chris Parnell, and Kenan Thompson) though no official word has come down as of yet. What is known is that Seth Meyers will replace Fey as the new head writer, one-joke skits will be milked for all their worth, and the show will be on Saturday nights. Update: Sanz, Parnell, and Mitchell officially gone.

9. The Nine: ABC (Wed, 10/4) Serialized dramas are all the rage this year, requiring fans to invest time following long, sweeping story lines. In a year that critics are noting as especially strong for new and engaging series, the networks can only hope that there’s enough people with too much time on their hands. Fans of Lost may want to make room for this new series – in the murky aftermath of a bank robbery, clues are dropped about nine hostages and their roles as unwilling participants. Who are the nine? What happened in there?

8. Ugly Betty: ABC (Thurs, 9/28) Already adapted across the globe in locales such as India, Germany, and Mexico, Columbian soap opera Yo Soy Betty La Fea finally makes it stateside in hour-long comedy format. America Ferrara as nerdy, plain-jane Betty, falling ass-backwards into an assistant gig for a New York fashion magazine mogul. With the mixed blessing of leading into Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays, yet up against both My Name is Earl and The Office, early critical buzz has Betty pegged as one to watch. Ok. I’ll give it a test drive via the TiVo.

7. The Lost Room (miniseries): (Sci Fi Channel – December) TV work for Six Feet Under alumni is not in short supply. We’ll have Rachel Griffiths in ABC’s Sons and Daughters, Jeremy Sisto in NBC’s Kidnapped, James Cromwell in 24, and Michael C. Hall in….(keep reading). Peter Krause (aka Nate Fisher) will make a brief return to the small screen in miniseries The Lost Room. Also featuring Kevin Pollack and Julianna Margulies, Krause stars as a detective caught up in the mystery of a motel room full of seemingly ordinary objects that hold varied and unknown powers. In possession of the key to the room, and his daughter (Ellie Fanning, sister of Dakota) having vanished within, he finds himself running from both the police and criminal minded groups, while desperately seeking his lost child.

6. The Office: NBC (Thurs, 9/21) Back from the best, and most anticipated cliffhanger moment of last year’s TV season, the pacing of Jim and Pam’s evolving relationship in season 3 will be critical – to take things too far with the pairing would dissipate much of the lingering tension that makes The Office so endearing. Speculation is high, as the season premiere should take place in real time, meaning summer is over, and Pam and oafish Roy may already have tied the knot. Need a fix in the meantime? Visit OfficeTally.com, the ultimate destination for all manners of news, tidbits and spoilers.

5. 30 Rock: NBC (Wed, 10/11) If you leave SNL for a show based on SNL, where do you go from there? Tina Fey may ask herself the same question if her ship-jumping creation doesn’t pan out. Featuring Alec Baldwin, (coincidentally one of the most featured guest hosts in SNL history), as well as Tracy Morgan, whose tip of the hat to a Martin Lawrence highway freak out is well alone worth a peek on a Wednesday night.

4. Top Chef: Bravo (Wed,10/18) With a direct bloodline to Project Runway, those devoted to Bravo’s hit Wednesday night offering should welcome the wannabe culinary stars and their own brand of bitchy, opportunistic fun. Premiering immediately after the conclusion of Runway’s finale, if last season’s Top Chef was any indication, you’ll be able to transfer all your venom and snark towards the next Santino or Wendy Pepper bearing knives and frying pans.

3. The Wire: HBO (Sun, 9/10) If you missed the season four premiere of what many critics are calling the best thing on television, don’t fret. Check it out on HBO’s On Demand (in fact, they’re premiering new episodes there before the actual air dates), or if you’re new to the series, do yourself a favor and give this show a proper evaluation by renting season one. With a little patience, and the attention necessary to fully appreciate the hard look at Baltimore’s corners and corridors, seen through the eyes of all races and classes, you likely to find The Wire’s slow boil of urban drama well worth the investment.

2. Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip: NBC (Mon, 9/18) Many have posed the question, “Can two shows, using Saturday Night Live as a jumping off reference, co-exist on the same network?” Despite past indiscretions in his personal and professional history, creator/writer Sorkin is known as a purveyor of top-quality dramas, and NBC will be sure to allow him a longer leash than 30 Rock. Featuring West Wing-er Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, and a host of additional well known prime-time commodities, the pilot episode sparkles with classic Sorkinisms, save for a lack of fast chattering walk and talk sequences. Best case scenario – both Sorkin and Fey stick to their strengths and deliver the goods, viewers tune in, and everybody wins. Missed the pilot episode for Studio 60? Watch it on online for free.

1. Dexter: Showtime: (Sun, 10/1) Despite limited success in producing quality original series, Showtime offers up number one on my watchlist. Back from Six Feet Under, to a more sordid occupation, Michael C. Hall stars as a forensic scientist working the Miami beat. (3 preview videos.) Based on novelist Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, faced with grim murder scenes, and backpedding from childhood trauma, Dexter acts as judge and jury, tracking down killers and handing out his own grizzly justice. Think American Psycho – Miami. While in production, Showtime made a few tweaks to the show to turn up the dark comedy aspects, and tone down the straight slasher flick content. Plus, it’s not all late-night knife wielding for Dex, what with his girlfriend to keep happy, and sister within the police force to advise, he has to keep up appearances with the normal folk to dissuade suspicious notions. I’d imagine the premise alone is enough to turn off the squeamish, but if Six Feet was able to find the magic balance of humor, death, and drama, what’s to stop the former Emmy nominated Michael C. Hall and Dexter?

A few more I’ll be keeping an eye out for – Kidnapped (NBC 9/20), My Name is Earl (NBC 9/21), Everybody Hates Chris (CW 10/1), Weeds (Showtime – in progress) Six Feet Under reruns (Bravo 10/2). Plus, both Mr. T and Ice-T have lessons to dole out to the viewing public in I Pity the Fool (TV Land 10/11) and Ice-T’s Rap School (VH-1 10/17).

More fall TV: Networks tripping over themselves to get premieres online, serialized dramas rule fall lineups, and the definitive references: TV Tattle and The Futon Critic.

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Posted by Ted Zee on September 18th 2006 | Home Page | 4 Comments Subscribe to this site's feed

4 Responses

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  2. Dexter and Brotherhood Premieres Online » bigscreenlittlescreen.net Says:

    […] going on last season to make Dexter a staple top 10 pick of a number of television critics (and bloggers […]

  3. JLee Says:

    You got to be kidding. If these are the best we can expect, I guess I can renew my library card and just read more. NCIS is good show with developing characters and a storyline. The Top 10 that you mention I would not consider even wasting time on with the exception of the Lost Room. Please find us quality TV.

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