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New fall TV shows for Wednesdays

Undercovers, debuts at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC

Give Alias creator J.J. Abrams credit. He knew any new spy series would suffer an inevitable comparison, so he cast two people of color as the leads in his jaunty show about married spies ducking out of retirement to spice up their relationship. It works only because Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are so charismatic and sexy, they can make you forget about Sidney Bristow's snappy patter and karate kicks.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Global adventure and sex appeal on a night when Survivor's island deprivations are the biggest competition? Have to TiVo.

Better With You, debuts at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on ABC

Thanks to Modern Family, the new shape of ABC's TV comedies comes in threes, which means Tampa's JoAnna Garcia is among three couples at various relationship stages. When Garcia's free spirit gets engaged to a guy she has known for weeks, it freaks out her older sister, who has been dating the same guy for nine years, and her parents, who have been married for 35 years. If only they had found a way to ape some of Modern Family's funny, too.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Garcia's girl-next-door appeal and comic timing deserve a better spotlight. But this predictable comedy probably isn't it. Ti-NO.

Hellcats, premiered at 9 p.m. Sept. 8 on the CW

Why let ABC Family have all the shows about angsty teen girls bouncing off each other in high-stress situations? It may be centered around a college cheerleading squad, but this show's story — snarky, self-aware working-class girl forced to cheerlead for a scholarship, only to find she likes it — speaks straight to tween girls raised on the Bring It On movies.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Unless you can name at least three characters from Make It or Break It or Pretty Little Liars, better Ti-NO.

The Defenders, debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday on CBS

Usually the words Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell are enough to scare away most critics — like naming a new cruise ship the SS Titanic. But Belushi and O'Connell have a sleazy/slick chemistry as two hustling Las Vegas lawyers. All they really need is good stories to match their boisterous style.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Don't believe the hype over this show's origin (it was adapted from a failed pitch for a reality show starring two real-life lawyers). What matters is whether the writers can turn this engaging framework into a compelling series. I'll TiVo to find out.

The Whole Truth, premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday on ABC

Rob Morrow plays yet another version of his impertinent investigator from the film Quiz Show: a smart outsider who resents his place while savoring it. This time, Morrow is ace New York defense attorney Jimmy Brogan, up against an assistant district attorney played by Joely Richardson in the initial pilot, now performed by ER alum Maura Tierney. They spar over different cases in a show that feels like Reversal of Fortune: The Series.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Can Tierney's hard-edged, sad-sack vibe work for a sharp, urbane Manhattan defense attorney? By press time, we hadn't seen her in the new pilot, but I'd TiVo to see her try.

Law & Order: Los Angeles, debuts at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 on NBC

Most times, New York felt like a bigger character in Law & Order episodes than any cast member, so it's hard to understand why a fifth iteration of this graying crime franchise would skip to the West Coast. Still, I celebrated when Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard joined the cast — until I remembered how Law & Order: Criminal Intent wasted Courtney B. Vance.

TiVo or Ti-NO? By press time, critics hadn't seen the first episode. But star Skeet Ulrich has a history of being good in shows that don't last long (see: CBS's Jericho). Why don't I TiVo so you don't have to?

New fall TV shows for Wednesdays 09/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 17, 2010 6:12pm]
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