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THE GOOD

Everybody Hates Chris is the best new comedy of the season. Based on the Brooklyn childhood of actor/comedian Chris Rock, this show would stand out if it were about any kid named Chris growing up in the ‘80s. Does Rock’s sensibility help? Sure. But Emmy Award-winning executive producer Ali LeRoi, Rock’s long-time friend and partner, seems to get what makes a good sitcom, thank goodness. Any show that celebrates a set of parents who have rules and expect kids to follow them is a rare thing in the TV landscape. It’s got a first-rate cast, and it’s very funny, two good reasons why critics have been likening it to the dearly departed Everybody Loves Raymond. (Rock should have been able to come up with a less cutesy title, but that’s a quibble) UPN, Premieres Thursday, September 22, 8pm

Sleeper Cell is a crackling drama that looks at the inner workings of an Islamic terrorist cell through the eyes of an African American Muslim working undercover for the FBI. Michael Ealy (Barbershop, Their Eyes Were Watching God) is the agent and Oded Fehr (The Mummy) plays the leader of the cell in a complex and chilling performance. If you loved Wiseguy, you’ll love this timely update of a great premise. Premieres this Fall on Showtime.

Supernatural is one of a crop of dramas that are about things that go bump in the night, but trust me, this is the one that’s actually scary. Hot boys Jared Padelecki (Gilmore Girls) and Jensen Ackles (Smallville) play two brothers searching for their ghost-hunter dad who has mysteriously disappeared. They’ve been dealing with psychic phenomena their whole lives. Padelecki’s Sam wants a normal life, and brother Dean (Ackles) thinks it’s their destiny. If you don’t jump out of your skin at least three times (in the beginning, middle and end of the first hour), I’ll refund your money. WB, Tuesdays, 9:00pm.

Bones brings David Boreanaz (Angel) and Emily Deschanel back to the small screen in this compelling crime drama about the work of a brilliant forensic scientist who has an uncanny ability to read clues left behind in a victim's bones, and is inspired by the work of real-life anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs. Gruesome as it may sound, the inventive special effects and intelligent script make Bones must-watch TV, particularly for crime drama fans. The story begins when the FBI calls upon the feisty Dr. Temperance Brennan and her team of scientists to assist with murder investigations. She finds herself teamed with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, a former Army sniper whose mistrust of scientists leads them to clash both professionally and personally while solving the toughest cases. Fox, Tuesday, beginning September 13

Just Legal gives Don Johnson his best vehicle since Miami Vice. He’s the washed-up, unreliable cynical shyster who reluctantly partners with an 18-year-old quirky law school graduate no one else will hire. Johnson and Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby) have great chemistry, and executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer has actually toned the action down a bit so the relationship between the two is what keeps you interested. WB, Mondays, 9pm.

Bodies and Viva Blackpool…two nifty offerings, the first, a raunchy, dark medical series (The Shield goes to the doctor), and the second, a rock n’ roll murder mystery set in a faded Atlantic City-type of town, the British seaside resort of Blackpool. The actors lip synch and dance away to classic tunes…so original a concept, you really have to see it to decide if it’s your cup of tea. Bodies premieres September 29 and Viva Blackpool on October 23, both on BBC America.

Prison Break is like a boomerang-as soon as you think you couldn’t care less, it comes back and hits you in the head! Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is a desperate man in a desperate situation. His brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), is on death row in Fox River State Penitentiary and is scheduled to die in a few months for an assassination Michael is convinced Lincoln did not commit. With no other options and time winding down, Michael holds up a bank to get himself incarcerated alongside his brother. Once he’s inside, Michael – a structural engineer with the blueprints for the prison tattooed on his body – begins to execute an elaborate plan to break out Lincoln and prove him innocent of the sensational murder. P.S. This one’s not for the squeamish! Fox, Monday, 9-10

Extras is Ricky Gervais’s newest venture, a comedy about an aspiring actor who can only find work as an extra. The series will have cameos from real stars, who no doubt are honored to be anywhere around the talented Gervais, who did such a remarkable job with The Office. The guy’s just funny, OK? Premieres this Fall on HBO.

Rome is a 12-part mini-series, but HBO is calling it a “serialized drama,” about two ordinary soldiers in 52 B.C. whose story unfolds during the turbulent historical events that forged the Roman empire. It’s violent, it’s sexy, but oddly, can be a bit dreary and a bit pompous. But no one wears togas as well the excellent British and multi-national cast, and don’t you just love a big, bold epic? Premiered (with multiple repeats) August 28 on HBO.

House returns! Spectacular Season 2 Premiere opener. DO NOT MISS IT! Fox, Wednesdays, 9:00-10:00 PM

The Boondocks leaps off the pages of your newspaper with attitude intact and lands on cable in this new animated series. Cartoon creator Aaron McGruder is hands on here, with storylines and storyboards. Count on Huey, the 10-year-old suburban revolutionary, to stay determined not to give in to the siren song of suburbia. McGruder’s POV can really tick people off, but this guy is smart and funny and original and the cartoon will probably be as controversial as his syndicated strip. Premieres October on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

JUST OK

My Name is Earl…the likeable Jason Lee stars in this comedy that had the most pre-season buzz, but I have to be honest with you, I think its appeal may be a guy thing. Earl’s a big old loser who grabs at a chance to make amends after he wins the lottery, loses the ticket, gets hit by a car and discovers he may be alive because of a thing called karma. He figures now he has the chance to have a better life if he tries to correct every bad thing he’s ever done…and that’s a long list. He has dim-witted slacker friends, a moron brother and a trampy ex-wife to stall him along the way. The humor teeters back and forth between clever, sophomoric and downright vulgar...the network think it’s clever. You make the call. NBC, Tuesdays, 9pm

The E-Ring…or Jerry Bruckheimer goes JAG all over us. Benjamin Bratt is the Green Beret now assigned to the Pentagon, Dennis Hopper is his eccentric boss the Colonel, and the world needs saving. Stand out among all the red-white-and-blue, by-the-numbers dialogue is Aunjunue Ellis as the Marine who refuses to take crap from anyone, and winds up saving the guys’ bacon to boot. Film director Taylor Hackford is on board to make things look good. NBC, Wednesday, 9pm beginning Sept. 21

Criminal Minds focuses on an elite squad of FBI profilers who analyze the country’s most twisted criminal minds. Mandy Patinkin and Thomas Gibson star…yes, a Chicago Hope reunion of sorts. Nothing original about this premise, but if you love the crime drama procedurals, this one’s for you. And does anyone do driven and tortured better than Patinkin? CBS, Wednesdays, 9pm

Head Cases is about the unlikely partnership between two men who have nothing in common-except they're both lawyers with serious mental disoreders. Jason Payne (Chris O’Donnell) is the golden-boy superstar attorney at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm. But his nonstop drive toward professional advancement backfires when his wife kicks him out of the house, and to make a bad day even worse, he has a nervous breakdown. After three months at a “wellness center,” Jason finds himself with no job, no place to live and no support system. Enter Russell Shultz (Adam Goldberg), an unkempt, unpredictable sufferer of explosive disorder, assigned to be outpatient “buddies” with Jason by their mutual therapist, Dr. Robinson (Rockmond Dunbar). A low-rent lawyer who usually represents deviants and petty criminals, Shultz eagerly latches onto a very reluctant Jason, inserting himself in all aspects of Jason’s personal and professional life. I’m not giving this one a thumbs down quite yet, despite the silly pilot, in the hope that these two talented actors, and some better scripts, can turn Head Cases around. Fox, Wednesdays, 8-10

Sex, Love & Secrets…Hands down, this is the worst title ever…I know I was totally off-base last season when I suggested that LAX, the Heather Locklear potboiler, might be fun Monday night trash. Instead, it sunk like a stone, causing CSI:Miami no worries. In fact, LAX’s fleeing audience probably helped fortify CSI’s ratings. Well, this soapy drama starring Denise Richards may be a Tuesday night guilty pleasure. The ups and downs of young hipster pals in a funky section of Los Angeles called Silverlake…that could be so bad it’s good, right? Premieres Tuesday, September 27 on UPN.

Commander-in-Chief…if you like Geena Davis, you may buy her as the earnest, worthy but not quite ready for prime time leader of the free world. Sorry, West Wing gets my vote, though they tie on the sometimes ponderous and pretentious scale. Donald Sutherland also stars, and I just kinda like to stare at him and listen to that voice. ABC, Tuesdays, 9pm

How I Met Your Mother… This is a comedy about Ted and how he fell in love, told in flashbacks to his now grown children. It’s from the minds of two former David Letterman writers, which normally would bode well as far as tone is concerned…but they got a little too clever for their own good with this one, as you will see in the final moments of the pilot. The twist there will either make you love this show or not want to come back. Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan (Willow, I miss you) and Neil Patrick Harris star. CBS, Mondays, 8:30 pm

THE SCARY ONES

Surface is the one about a scary sea creature, and we ain’t talking Bruce the shark from Jaws. Lake Bell (Boston Public) plays an oceanographer who sees something she shouldn’t have. NBC, Mondays, 8 pm

The Night Stalker is a very, very bad remake of the Darren McGavin series of the 70s. The original was smart, funny, and terrifying, and McGavin was outstanding in the role of Kolchak, a newspaper reporter hot on the trail of the paranormal. Irish actor Stuart Townsend gives a one-note performance here, mumbling his way through a pilot that didn’t offer up one scare. When the creators were trying to “hip” this up, they added a stupid sub-plot about Kolchak’s dead wife and they subtracted two key ingredients: the humor that made the original original, and the fact that Kolchak character needs to have many colors. This one is all the more disappointing because it comes from one of the very accomplished producers of The X-Files. ABC, Thursdays, 9pm

Threshold is the one about the scary aliens who land in the water, but probably don’t intend to stay there...you know how they are. It stars Carla Gugino, Charles Dutton, Brent Spiner and Peter Dinklage. What I mostly want to say here is that Dinklage starred in one of the best movies ever –“The Station Agent”—so what does that tell you? CBS, Fridays, 9 pm

Invasion is the one about scary aliens who land in the water… no, really, it is. This time, they land during a hurricane which might have been staged to mask their arrival… Eddie Cibrian (Third Watch) stars. ABC, Wednesdays, 10 pm

The Ghost Whisperer...maybe you’ll buy Jennifer Love Hewitt as a psychic who talks to the dead. She’s got a cute, concerned husband (David Conrad) too, but Medium already does this, and a lot better. CBS, Fridays, 8 pm

“EHHHHH”

Freddie stars Freddie Prinze, Jr. as an adorable bachelor chef who should be living large, but he’s surrounded by a lot of crazy women who happen to be his relatives. Can’t you just hear them cooking up the premise for this one… “and the grandmother is really nuts, and then his brother dies, so his sister-in-law and niece have to move in…” Jacqueline Obradors (NYPD Blue) and Brian Green (Beverly Hills 90210) also star. ABC, Wednesdays, 8:30, starting in October

Hot Properties is a comedy about four real estate agents who must balance the demands of their high-end clients with their own personal problems. I know you’re thinking “comedy? About realtors?” This does have its moments, and it’s not just ugly blazer humor. Gail O’Grady, unrecognizable from her Donna Abbondando days on NYPD Blue, stars. I could do without Sofia Vergara’s hot Latina stereotype. C’mon, Hollywood people, its 2005, work with me here. ABC, Fridays, 9:30 pm

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 49 - September 0198
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