Tonight is the debut of "30 Rock" and the John Lithgow comedy, the last of the significant fall premieres. (I haven't seen advances.) Every network has already made a flurry of changes, but I'll still take a moment to give my rundown.
NEW SHOWS YOU SHOULD WATCH:
1. Friday Night Lights -- the second episode did everything I hoped for: it began at Sunday service (where a new football coach would have to appear and which made emotional sense since the local star quarterback had just been paralyzed in a terrible on-field accident). And the show ended with the kickoff of the Friday night game, meaning they're not wedded to showing the actual games. What matters are the characters and it's a great mix, from the paralyzed quarterback and his girlfriend, to the deer-in-the-headlights replacement, the drunk player, the brash talking black kid (the closest to a cliche on the show but hopefully he'll deepen), the coach who fears for his job (played by Kyle Chandler in the role of his career) and the constant din of the townsfolk who offer advice everywhere he turns. This is nuanced, gripping, emotional, subtle and wonderful stuff. And again, it's nice to see people who pray appear on TV who aren't freaks or polygamists or hypocrites. This show is in ratings trouble so the sooner you start watching the better. NBC would be foolish to dump this one.
2. Heroes -- the last thing I wanted was another serialized drama in my life (but are serialized dramas really any more of a commitment than, say, "Grey's Anatomy?"). But this one is goofy fun. Long term, I'm worried about them teasing this out or wondering if they'll have a new overall adventure each season or what. In short, I have no idea what's going on but all the characters (except the cartoonist who can paint the future) are interesting. I'd like to stop watching, but can't.
3. The Nine -- only seen one episode, but I thought the pilot was great. Lots of good characters. As long as they don't dwell in the past (what happened during that bank robbery???) this could be good.
WHEN DOES ONE PLUS ONE EQUAL .8?
That would be when you merge the WB and UPN into CW. They've just sent out a press release insisting they're doing great in their core demos of women aged 18-34. But I don't care: this network combined the biggest hits of two weblets but it seems almost to have disappeared in front of our eyes. And virtually every show (excepting Veronica Mars) is floundering creatively. I've also been disappointed in them since I discovered a big reason they renewed One Tree Hill over Everwood (both shows shaky but Everwood better creatively) was because One Tree Hill had all sorts of in-show product placements. They are probably the most eager show on TV when it comes to exploiting this. Ugh. They've already moved their night of "urban" comedies from Sunday to Monday. But neither of their two new shows has worked and everything else looks moribund except for America's Next Top Model. And if I really believed they broke up Laura and Luke, I'd be fine with it; but in fact I just know it's a stunt until they get back together or marry during May Sweeps.
Moving "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday and pairing it at the last minute with "Ugly Betty" was the programming move of the year. Paid off in spades. ABC now owns Thursday creatively, CBS is second and NBC -- which owned Thursday for literaly two decades -- is dead. I also think the obvious pairing of "Gilmore" and "Veronica" could give that second show a fourth season. Football to Sunday was huge for NBC.
Debuting "Friday Night Lights" during the first night of post-season baseball. If ever a show should mimic the Fox formula it's this one: put the show on hiatus and debut it again in January during the Super Bowl hype. Let it be a mid-season show with all new episodes a la "24." Let football fans relish it when there's no football on. Duh. And get it away from the deadly Tuesday spot. This show deserves better.
Just as dumb is the decision to show six episodes of "Lost" and then put it on hiatus until spring. (And I've seen the absurd pilot of the show that's replacing it. It'll never fly.) The numbers were quite down for the season debut and I thought the episode was ludicrous, even by "Lost" standards. Fans are going to leave it in droves during the break and may never come back.
Networks have been saying for years they want to program year-round but mostly what they mean is fill up the schedule with reruns and put on reality shows in the summer. Ain't working. FOX is the way of the future. Different shows in fall and spring. Program during the summer with miniseries and specials and reality shows and summer-type series. And stop throwing away Saturday night.
WHAT I'M WATCHING
The Wire is the best -- and most demanding -- show on TV. You've got to start at the beginning and pay attention. But boy is it worth it. A slow burner with so many great characters you don't know where to turn.
Dexter -- I've Tivo'd them but haven't watched yet. So sue me. But it has very good reviews and I feel sorry for Showtime, which is making good shows but can't seem to get traction.
I skim through Desperate Housewives sometimes and I haven't watched The Simpsons in years except to catch certain guest stars and the Halloween special. Still pretty good, but surely they should have called it a day years ago. 60 Minutes for the occasional piece and still haven't sampled Brothers & Sisters.
Everybody Hates Chris -- a sweet, funny show. Others I know got bored with it, but I find it consistently enjoyable. I'm not crushed if I miss it, but it's good.
Heroes -- good silly fun though I'm worried about it long term.
How I met Your Mother -- not every week and not a great show, but I really like the cast, especially Neil Patrick Harris. And any show that features people from Buffy AND Freaks & Geeks is a winner in my book.
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip -- still too "momentous" for me -- everything feels like the fate of the world depends on their silly sketches. And the glimpses we see of those sketches are convincing -- they seem just as tired and lame (but believeable)as the typical SNL. But it's very well-acted and written and slickly done so I'm sorry to see it collapsing so soon, even if I'll stop watching in a bit.
Prison Break -- I'm over it. Jumped the shark when that prison guard caught Scofield and instead of taking him in decided he wanted a piece of the buried treasure. I'll still dip in sometimes (and that's surprisingly easy to do for this and ALL serialized shows, actually) and Wentworth Miller is a fine, fine actor. But it should have been a season long telenovela and then called it a day. Five years of this? Crazy.
Friday Night Lights -- the best new show on TV
Gilmore Girls -- the dialogue is still solid and it's not as off-the-rails as the last two years (Paris, for one, seems like a real person again rather than a cartoon and I like Lane's pregnancy). But the central storyline is ridiculous. They will marry Lorelai and Luke. I almost wish they wouldn't at this point. But her new "romance" with her ex feels like a stalling tactic. Should have ended last season with their wedding. Three great, sterling years available on DVD -- the rest is a very mixed bag. And for God's sake, when are they going to acknowledge that Michelle and the town fussbudget are both gay? It's just creepy at this point.
Veronica Mars -- stil waiting to dive in on DVD. I know, I'm a jerk.
House -- not always, but when I watch, always fun.
Lost -- I literally got bored during the "Prisoner"-like season premiere and fast-forwarded through half the action. I knew it was in trouble when I got broed reading all the season preview stories and saw the endless lists of questions they came up with and realized I didn't care about a single one. The only reason I watched the show (the only reason anyone watches any show) is because I liked the characters. Then they betrayed who those characters were or just ignored them and added dozens more. And now they're going to show six episodes and then put it on hold for months? They lost me. (The replacement show -- Day Break -- is simply ludicrous.)
The Nine -- looking forward to episode two.
Bones -- keep meaning to watch but haven't quite done it yet. Good chemistry with the leads.
Jericho -- surprised it has maintained an audience. The biggest sleeper of the year. I thought the pilot was solid but didn't see how it could be maintained. I'll have to dip back in.
"My Name Is Earl" -- the sweetest show on TV, with the recent "Freaks" episode an excellent example of what they do best.
"The Office" -- finally, finally enought episodes have aired to let them develop their own identity and enough time has passed since the brilliant BBC series (that is literally one of the five best sitcoms of all time) so I can now appreciate this show on its own.
Grey's Anatomy -- I dip in sometimes, but I'm not faithful. Too much of a soap for me to fully embrace. It took ER six years to get this relationship-y.
Ugly Betty -- I'm not sold yet, but it's a fun cast and another show with a sweet tone.
Battlestar: Galactica -- the savviest, most fascinating and complex drama on the air. Really.
Dr. Who -- strictly for fans of the original but a lot of fun.
DeGrassi -- cause I want to know what the kids are thinking.
Rodeo -- yep, rodeo.
Letterman and Jon Stewart every night. I tape the rest when there's a particular guest or music act I want to see. Leno is unbearable, Conan will be a fine replacement and Craig Ferguson is growing on me.
And in the midseason, I'm a faithful watcher of Idol and 24. So, did I miss anything?