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A closer look at fall TV shows

True Blood, 9 p.m., HBO. Debuts tonight.

In short: Interview with the Vampire on the Louisiana bayou.

My take: Developed by Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, this series shows vampires coming out of hiding, after the invention of synthetic blood allows them to avoid feeding on humans. If that weren't strange enough, Anna Paquin (X-Men) is a mind-reading waitress drawn to a 173-year-old vampire in a backwoods Louisiana town.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Paquin is sexy and innocent as a wholesome girl drawn to the sordid vampire world. But Ball expects viewers to swallow a lot more than synthetic blood with all the twists and turns here. TiVo, with reservations.

Entourage, 10 p.m., HBO. Debuts tonight.

In short: A modern day Rat Pack. If only one guy was talented.

My take: Returning for a fifth season, HBO's rap on the escapades of a hot young actor and his buddies takes a turn, as star Vince lands in Hollywood's doghouse after a disastrous screening of his passion project, Medellin. He can't get work, manager/pal Eric feels responsible, and Jeremy Piven's deliciously profane agent Ari Gold just spews curse words while he waits for it all to blow over.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Because it so expertly satirizes Hollywood and young male culture, a sizzling TiVo. And that's before Tony Bennett's cameo.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 8 p.m., Fox. Debuts Monday.

In short: Like a Terminator movie where women kick the most behind.

My take: The second season kicks off with protective, good-girl terminator Cameron Phillips (Serenity's Summer Glau) hunting hero-to-be John Connor after debris from a bomb blast scrambles her programming. Good thing Beverly Hills 90210 alum Brian Austin Green is around to help out.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Despite the mannequinlike appearance of Garbage singer Shirley Manson, debuting awkwardly as a villain who is building a world-killing supercomputer, my sci-fi geek sympathies still prompt a TiVo.

Heroes, 9 p.m., NBC. Debuts Sept. 22.

In short: A living comic book for viewers who think they're too cool for comic books.

My take: Well aware of how upset fanboys (and girls) were over last year's shortened, lame-o season — thank you writers strike! — NBC's superhero tale amps up the action, with a bloody showdown between healer Claire and brain-scooping villain Sylar, the return of a bad guy everyone assumed was dead and the escape of 12 new super baddies. Now they only have to avoid screwing up this promising start. Again.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Did I mention I was a sci-fi geek? TiVo.

Worst Week, 9:30 p.m., CBS. Debuts Sept. 22.

In short: A show guaranteed to make visits with any in-laws feel less painful.

My take: You might buy that a hapless guy could accidentally urinate on his future father- in-law's birthday dinner goose, burn down his meticulously crafted portrait and mistakenly convince the family he was dead. You will not buy that CBS can turn this exercise in humiliation originally developed for British TV into a 22-episode American comedy worth watching.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Even the British had the good sense to limit their original series to two seven-episode seasons — aired daily for seven days — and a Christmas special. Still, I'm giving a hopeful TiVo.

My Own Worst Enemy, 10 p.m., NBC. Debuts Oct. 13.

In short: A Bourne Identity ripoff that doesn't admit it.

My take: Absent an online leak, critics will wait weeks more to see this show, featuring Hollow Man 2 star Christian Slater as Henry Spivey, a middle-class efficiency expert who is also a world-class spy. When the chip in his head that separates the two personalities begins to malfunction, things are supposed to get interesting.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Is the guy from Heathers really going to work this vibe better than Matt Damon? Ti-NO.

Biggest Loser: Families, 8 p.m., NBC. Debuts Sept. 16.

In short: Proof that the only thing worse than trying to lose weight fast is doing it with a spouse, adult child or parent.

My take: Once you've seen one cycle of this weight-loss competition, you've seen them all — this season, four overweight husband/wife teams compete against four pairs of overweight parent/adult child combinations. Mostly I was horrified at how closely my diet resembled the contestants' pre-show eating habits.

TiVo or Ti-NO? If you love a good transformation, definitely TiVo.

Opportunity Knocks, 8 p.m., ABC. Debuts Sept. 23.

In short: Mortifying personal secrets revealed in a family-friendly way.

My take: xxx Brought to you by the brain behind Punk'd and Demi Moore's cougar status, producer Ashton Kutcher's latest TV project is a gonzo game show in which a prize-filled trailer pulls up on a family's lawn. Host J.D. Roth jumps out to quiz lucky contestants on their front yard with embarrassing questions about their home and lives.

TiVo or Ti-NO? If the host doesn't get shot bounding up to the wrong house, this could be interesting. A curious TiVo.

90210, 8 p.m., the CW. Debuted last Tuesday.

In short: Beverly Hills 90210 rebooted with iPods, text messages and at least one black character.

My take: What is most surprising about this update of an 18-year-old franchise is how awful it isn't. Instead, the new teen drama filling West Beverly High is just predictable, already done better by The Hills and Secret Life of an American Teenager. The only difference is leaden plot lines for grownup 90210 alums Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty, playing nice to resuscitate their careers.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Ti-NO, unless you just want to tune in to see if Doherty can behave.

The Mentalist, 9 p.m., CBS. Debuts Sept. 23.

In short: Like USA's con artist comedy Psych played straight.

My take: Simon Baker's hunky, vacant vibe serves him well as a super-observant con artist who once faked psychic powers and now helps solve crimes. Like all dramas these days, there's a continuing story — a serial killer he once taunted now haunts him — and lots of impossible deductions based on improbable situations.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Up against Dancing With the Stars and Lost creator J.J. Abrams' Fringe, it hardly matters what I think. Everybody else is going to Ti-NO.

Fringe, 9 p.m., Fox. Debuts Tuesday.

In short: The X-Files if Mulder and Scully were rolled into one.

My take: You've got to love a TV producer with enough gumption to reference The X-Files, Altered States and Indiana Jones' melting face sequence in one episode. But you don't have to love the show J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) has created: a jumbled tale about a red-headed female FBI agent tracking a series of odd, world-altering experiments with Dawson's Creek's Pacey (Joshua Jackson) by her side. Sound familiar?

TiVo or Ti-NO? Because the producer in question is fanboy legend Abrams, he gets a TiVo on general principle. Now, please earn it.

Privileged, 9 p.m., the CW. Debuts Tuesday.

In short: Double Trouble meets Gossip Girl in Florida. From the nanny's point of view.

My Take: Tampa native JoAnna Garcia (Reba) is her usual, charming self as a quirky Yale grad stuck tutoring a dysfunctional pair of Paris Hiltons-in-training in Palm Beach. A little too serious for a quirky comedy but a little too funny for serious soap, this show straddles a lot of genres on a network still struggling to find itself.

TiVo or Ti-NO? The pilot is a valiant effort, but they need to ramp up the funny to make this really work. A middling TiVo for the hometown girl.

Knight Rider, 8 p.m., NBC. Debuts Sept. 24.

In short: Like the '80s kitschy hit Knight Rider, but with better effects and no Hasselhoff.

My take: Last spring, this made a particularly predictable and boneheaded TV movie. But the 21st century reboot got decent ratings, so we must suffer through a series about an artificially intelligent Mustang with the voice of Val Kilmer. And no Hasselhoff.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Did I mention it has the voice of Val Kilmer? Ti-NO.

Gary Unmarried, 8:30 p.m., CBS. Debuts Sept. 24.

In short: Like Home Improvement after Tim and Jill Taylor's inevitable divorce.

My take: Last Comic Standing co-creator Jay Mohr is surprisingly charming as a house painter three months past a divorce trying to start a new relationship with a single mom while coping with his snarky ex-wife. For some viewers, it may feel like a documentary.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Unfortunately, Mohr and snarky ex-wife Paula Marshall are super show killers by themselves. In the same cast, it's like new show kryptonite. TiVo while you can, because Mohr's kinda funny.

Do Not Disturb, 9:30 p.m., Fox. Debuts Wednesday.

In short: Fawlty Towers for the Britney Spears set.

My take: Jerry O'Connell (Crossing Jordan, Carpoolers) continues his show-killing ways, playing the shallow, persnickety manager in a hip New York hotel on a comedy that effortlessly earns the title of Worst New Sitcom This Fall.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Besides O'Connell's overacting, co-star Niecy Nash comes on like a new-school LaWanda Page as the hotel's sassy human resources manager. Ti-NO, unless you really miss Sanford and Son's Aunt Esther.

Kath & Kim, 8:30 p.m., NBC. Debuts Oct. 9.

In short: The Odd Couple with Felix and Oscar as mother and child.

My take: In Australia, this oddball comedy about a homely 50-something divorcee and her divorced, slightly less homely 20-something daughter plays like The Office meets Strangers With Candy. So of course NBC hired curvaceous Molly Shannon and sultry Selma Blair for America's version. Let's hope they don't "improve" the funny away, too.

TiVo or Ti-NO? John Michael Higgins (Best In Show) is the secret weapon here, sidesplitting as mama Kath's new boyfriend. TiVo.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 9 p.m., CBS. Debuts Oct. 9.

In short: A serious hit in serious transition.

My take: The shakeup of CBS's biggest hit starts with the first episode, an investigation into the shooting of CSI Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan). Jorja Fox's Sara Sidle returns for the action just long enough to watch Matrix star Laurence Fishburne replace longtime lead actor William Petersen eight episodes in.

TiVo or Ti-NO? If only to see whether Fishburne's new character sounds more like Morpheus or Ike Turner, you must TiVo.

Life on Mars, 10 p.m., ABC. Debuts Oct. 9.

In short: The Time Traveler's Wife meets Kojak.

My take: Ever since onetime superstar producer David E. Kelley left this remake of a British series about a modern cop thrown back to the 1970s after a car accident, it has been tagged as troubled and likely DOA. But producers have smartly shifted locales to New York City, snagging Harvey Keitel and Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli.

TiVo or Ti-NO? For a chance to see Mean Streets re-created on the small screen, TiVo.

Eleventh Hour, 10 p.m., CBS. Debuts Oct. 9.

In short: The X-Files meets Mr. Wizard.

My take: Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Patrick Stewart starred in the British version of this show, a slick adventure drama about a government-employed scientist-detective who stops those who would abuse scientific breakthroughs. Of course, the U.S. version has a pretty, blond FBI agent who serves as star Rufus Sewell's bodyguard.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Smells like another CSI-slick, Jerry Bruckheimer-created cover for predictable cops and robbers stories. Ti-NO.

The Ex List, 9 p.m., CBS. Debuts Oct. 3.

In short: An endless Dating Game episode for one really unlucky woman.

My take: Elizabeth Reaser is supposed to be quirky and charming as Bella Bloom, a florist who freaks when a psychic says she has 12 months to find her perfect mate from a list of old boyfriends, or be alone forever. Unfortunately, she mostly comes off as self-involved, superficial and ungrateful.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Would you want to spend an hour a week with somebody who is self-involved, superficial and ungrateful? Ti-NO.

A closer look at fall TV shows 09/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 5, 2008 5:09pm]
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