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JOEY (Thursdays, 8:00-9:00 pm, ET/PT) Matt LeBlanc doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. Joey Tribbiani is funny and stupid and sweet, and LeBlanc long ago found a way into this guy to make him endearing. If you’ve seen the promos for Joey, perfect little vignettes, some of which offer Joey’s take on Hollywood – learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, a tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame where all the dead stars are buried – you’ll laugh. You should also laugh when you watch the show, once the writers hit their stride. Le Blanc transplants Joey’s idiocy to the Left Coast, and you buy it. You see the possibilities. What I would like to see less of is “Sopranos” Drea de Matteo as Joey’s sister. Here’s hoping she finds her rhythm. What LeBlanc does effortlessly, she forces, but it’s not her fault that she has to deliver too many fake boob jokes. For some inexplicable reason, these lazy gags take up half the premiere. What surprised me most? I may not miss the rest of the friends as much as I thought I would, and it’s all due to LeBlanc. WORTH IT

LAX (Mondays, 10:00-11:00 pm, ET/PT) This is a throwback show, and I know a lot of critics mean that in a slightly less charitable way than I do when describing it. It harkens back to those big soapy dramas like “Hotel” and “Falcon Crest” and “Dallas”, except this one is a behind-the-scenes look at Los Angeles International Airport. If it were a book instead of a TV show, it would be a Jackie Collins or Harold Robbins beach read. Somewhat surprisingly, the city of Los Angeles is letting the show shoot at the actual airport. TV superstar Heather Locklear (gorgeous) and Blair Underwood (also gorgeous) star as rival airport bosses, with a lot of other appealing actors doing in supporting roles. I had a great time watching it even though it was more than a little silly – in the pilot, we’ve got drunk Serbian pilots, a lost moppet of a dog, a love story between an immigration officer and a mail-order bride, a terrorist threat, and the cute Australian actor from "As the World Turns" named Paul Leyden. If you’ve ever tuned in to "Airline!", the reality show about Southwest, you might not find any of the kitchen-sink scenarios all that ridiculous. This is a put-your-feet-up, turn-off-the-brain kind of show. If you don’t expect anything more than that, it’s a fun alternative at 10 pm on Mondays. GUILTY PLEASURE

FATHER OF THE PRIDE (Tuesdays, 9:00 -9:30pm, ET/PT) This show should come with a warning! Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s for kids. The sad thing is, if the creators had 86ed the vulgar for the funny stuff - and there are very funny panda moments – this would have been a truly original half-hour comedy. Considering that this will be seen at 8 pm in much of the country, there are too many leaden sex jokes, including one inter-species crack that makes the Siegfried & Roy part of the cartoon weird… I mean, weirder. Once you’ve seen “Shrek,” you get fussy about your animation, and this is not as good as that – or as charming. John Goodman, Cheryl Hines, Orlando Jones and Carl Reiner supply the voices. It will probably get a huge sampling when it is broadcast with no commercial interruptions after the Olympics, but the second broadcast will be the indicator. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THE CONTENDER (Tuesdays, 8:00-9:00 pm, ET/PT)is an unscripted reality show that follows 16 aspiring boxers as they come to training camp to follow their dream of becoming champions. "Survivor/Apprentice"’s Mark Burnett and Sylvester Stallone executive produce, with Sugar Ray Leonard as host and mentor to the boxers. NOT AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW

HAWAII (Wednesdays, 8:00-9:00pm, ET/PT) “This guy was dead when he hit the lava.” So says the coroner to the hip and happening detectives of Honolulu’s Metro Police Department investigating the discovery of a corpse at a volcano. That’s our first clue that even though it is shooting in Hawaii, this show is not going to be pretty. I am partial to Ivan Sergei (am I the only one who loved “Jack & Jill”, which also starred Amanda Peet? I thought so) but not enough to watch this. Truth is, I know what the creators and the network were thinking. “Cop show in Hawaii. Cool.” No evidence of much thinking beyond that. Michael Biehn, Cary-Hiroyuki Takagawa and Sharif Atkins from “ER” also star. NOT WORTH IT

MEDICAL INVESTIGATION (Fridays 10:00-11:00 pm, ET/PT) Neil McDonough, so remarkable in the cancelled “Boomtown” and “Band of Brothers”, is Gil Grissom (except crankier) and Kelli Williams is Catherine Willows (as smart but less cleavage) in this medical version of CSI. McDonough and Williams play mobile investigators for the National Institute of Health who are summoned to scope out and solve medical mysteries. In the pilot, people are turning blue and dropping dead, which is pretty cool as a story. But it’s the clunky dialogue (I kept waiting for someone to scream “Stat!”), lugubrious tone and superfluous personal stuff for the characters that dragged the story down. Having said that, the show does have its moments. I wanted to know what was causing the blueness, and Christopher Gorham, late of the very clever “Jake 2.0”, has just the right touch as the newbie – yeah, think “CSI”’s geeky Greg Sanders. It’s a by-the-numbers procedural drama, and that was the most disappointing thing about a one-hour with such an original premise. MAYBE / Issue 40 - September 9471
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