It's that time of year. Trees are blossoming with hardy green shoots of spring. Balmy weather makes sitting in an office all day feel like medieval torture. And obsessive TV fans are beginning to ask: Will my favorite show survive? - Mid-April is do-or-die time for network TV's "bubble shows," those series with ratings high enough that they haven't been canned (CBS' Three Rivers, Fox's Past Life) but low enough that their futures remain uncertain. - Not that the networks are regularly calling St. Petersburg for advice, but if I were in charge - besides making Craig Ferguson king of late night and banning CSI producer Jerry Bruckheimer from making anymore shiny, empty-headed cop shows - here's what I would do in mid-May when the nets announce their new fall schedules.
Biggest question: will venerated but low-rated crime drama Law & Order get the boot from a network still struggling to wipe Jay Leno-flavored egg off its face? I suggest euthanasia for the legendary show, already losing one of its coolest characters, S. Epatha Merkerson's Lt. Van Buren. Likewise with Heroes, the comic book series that never really found a compelling storyline, and the two noisy-yet-dunderheaded freshman medical shows, Mercy and Trauma. Instead, the Parenthood remake is compelling enough for a second season and nerd-centered spy dramedy Chuck has just enough of a pointy-headed cult following to make its return appealing.
American Idol, Glee and House set a high bar that even middling series have trouble cresting (sorry Sons of Tucson and Dollhouse!). And I'm biased because St. Petersburg native Monica Raymund co-stars in one of Fox's bubble shows,Lie to Me. Still, I say Fox should renew Lie and Human Target, beefing up Target's storylines to match the charm of its stars, Mark Valley and Chi McBride. And if they need room, I wouldn't shed a tear ifAmerican Dad and The Cleveland Show flatlined on Sundays (creator Seth MacFarlane is another guy who deserves a new-show ban).
With Lost inching toward its series finale, the network has one spot for a geeky, complex serialized drama and two limping candidates: Flash Forward and its Vremake. V is a little cooler and has higher ratings, so I'd throw them the lifesaver - though it would be great if Forward's John Cho (Agent Noh) and Christine Woods (Agent Hawk) could come aboard for season two. Perhaps a few of the scribes who made Lost such a mind-blower could help mend V's meandering storylines and thrill-less action. Feels like there's an amazing sci-fi series stuck in a too-slow plot and star Elizabeth Mitchell's attempts to play a cool soccer mom/FBI agent.
Still the gold standard for network TV success, these guys have up to seven bubble shows in the hopper. Much as I dig the setting, Miami Medical is a bad Chicago Hope ripoff with a suntan; Jenna Elfman's Accidentally on Purpose is Cougar Town without the funny. End both of those, but save Medium, a supernatural series grounded by the most realistic marriage on television. Cold Case is a candidate for redemption, only if CBS doesn't have any new cop shows that are better. And if there aren't new shows any better than Ghost Whisperer, Gary Unmarried or New Adventures of Old Christine, they should get another shot, too.
Given that I haven't watched an episode of One Tree Hill since its debut in 2003, I'm hoping the network dumps it and the ill-fated Melrose Place reboot for something hipper - I hear Matthew Fox is available for a Party of Five reunion!
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You Don't Know Jack, debuts at 9 p.m. Saturday on HBO: At times, it's tough to tell whether director Barry Levinson is making a Fargo-style satire or a straight-up docudrama about former pathologist Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian. But even as stars Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and Brenda Vaccaro dim their wattage with clumsy Michigan accents, bad wigs and dowdy clothes, a compelling story about Kevorkian's advocacy for euthanasia emerges. Pacino tames his showy side playing Kevorkian, an eccentric doctor who is tight with a dollar, scared of flying and dedicated to helping terminally ill people end their own lives with his "Mercitron" machine. The film takes Kevorkian's side decisively, casting John Goodman as his close friend, Vaccaro as devoted sister Margo and Sarandon as Hemlock Society activist Janet Good. Regardless of your opinion, HBO's stark film will leave you convinced this is a discussion America should have had long ago.
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Gravity, 10:30 p.m. Friday, Starz: You can tell this new series about a support group for suicide attempt survivors is supposed to be quirky because the camera angles are skewed and everyone talks like a thirtysomething Starbucks addict. But there is little really new about this show, which hands moderately interesting roles to Ving Rhames (as the group's wheelchair bound leader) and Aussie model Rachel Hunter (as a self-absorbed former Aussie model). When the show's two lead characters - walking cliches themselves - had sex on a city street, I understood their suicidal compulsions all too well.