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Kudos to the third place network, because it is inordinately clear that when you have nothing to lose, you try harder in your development season. Across the board, this network did the best job in both comedy and drama.

THE BENEFACTOR (Mondays, 8:00-9:00 pm, ET/PT) poses the question “What would you do for a million dollars?” Billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is going to take time out from heckling referees to see which ordinary guy or gal can prove to him they deserve the cash. NOT AVAILABLE FOR REVIEW

GREY’S ANATOMY (Mondays, 1:00pm, ET/PT) in January after Monday Night Football) Snappy writing and a top-notch cast makes this one–hour medical drama about struggling surgical interns a gem, and my favorite pilot of any network. Ellen Pompeo has a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her presence as Meredith, who comes to the tough Grace Hospital with one advantage over everyone else – her mother is a famous physician, which she tries to underplay. She also has a personal connection to her new boss, attending physician Dr. Shepherd, beautifully played, as usual, by Patrick Dempsey. (If you saw him as Sela Ward’s challenged brother in “Once & Again”, you know what I’m talking about. This guy can act, and George Clooney has nothing on him in the charming rogue doctor department.) Great supporting cast, including Sandra Oh as a cranky, ambitious intern and T.R. Knight as the young doctor nicknamed 007 because of his “License to Kill” rep. Yeah, we’ve seen it all before, but when it’s done right, like this one is, I can’t wait to see it again. WORTH IT

RODNEY (Tuesdays, 9:30-10:00 pm, ET/PT) Plain and simple, Rodney Carrington, the star of this eponymous comedy, is funny. Even if some of this is taken from his real life story, I don’t know if there’s much of a premise here – a family guy in Tulsa quits his unfulfilling job to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian – but it made me laugh. Out loud. A lot. The percentage of crass jokes was at least proportionate to the cleverly written ones, and I could overlook the worn-out, heavy-handed redneck lines here and there (Why necessary? Because these characters live in Tulsa?) There is some real chemistry and sweetness between Carrington and Jennifer Aspen, who plays his wife, plus the creators managed to cast believable, unaffected kids as their boys. Keep this up past the pilot, and everybody may wind up loving Rodney. WORTH IT

BLIND JUSTICE (Tuesdays, 10:00-ll:00 pm, ET/PT after NYPD Blue) Steven Bochco gets to keep his timeslot after “NYPD Blue”, sadly, signs off this season, but as competent as this new cop drama is, it’s no Blue. Ron Eldard is the blind homicide detective Jim Dunbar, who insists on eschewing the desk job he’s been offered for active duty. No one really wants to partner with him even though he’s admired for losing his sight in a heroic gun battle that killed the perp and saved his fellow officers. The intriguing Marisol Nichols as Detective Karen Bettancourt draws the short straw, and grudgingly takes Dunbar on. What his new precinct soon discovers is that Dunbar has found a way to be a better cop and a better man. I trust the storytellers here, and am curious to see if the blind cop thing will become more organic and less superhero than it is in the pilot. What Bochco and executive producer Bill Clark do best is create believable characters with sometimes fatal flaws, and though we know Dunbar was a philanderer when he could see, that’s not enough to make him real for me. MAYBE / Issue 41 - September 9558
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