Favorite autumn augurs: colorful foliage, college football and the resurgence of all-new primetime TV. And what a welcome resurgence that will be.
With the exception of Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, this summer television has been bleak and barren landscape, littered with mean-spirited reality programs like The Weakest Link, Fear Factor and Spy TV. As one of the medium's most passionate viewers, I've been waiting for the new fall season ever since Mark Green refused to revive that nasty serial killer in the elevator of ER last May.
In giddy anticipation of the new season, the Current has previewed nine of the network's new shows for fall. - JS
The Education of Max Bickford
CBS, Sundays, 8 p.m.
Created by Keith Addis; starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marcia Gay Harden, Helen Shaver, Regina Taylor, Katee Sackhoff and Eric Ian Goldberg
Last year it seemed like every washed up movie star (Geena Davis, Bette Midler, and Gabriel Byrne just to name a few) was searching for small screen success. This year, however, there are just two. In The Education of Max Bickford the Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss stars as Max Bickford, an American Studies college professor. Dreyfuss is joined on screen by fellow Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, who plays a pop-culture professor and Max's nemesis.
Needless to say, the series promises to be replete with an abundance of erudite squabbles.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
NBC, Sundays, 9 p.m.
Created by Dick Wolf; starring Vincent D'Onofrio, Kathryn Erbe, Courtney B. Vance and Jamey Sheridan
As if Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims' Unit (not to mention Bravo's thrice daily syndication of the original series) didn't provide audiences with enough detective work and judicial procedure to last a long and disease-free lifetime, Dick Wolf is at it again. In his latest series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Wolf integrates a psychological component into his already-successful dialectic.
Vincent D'Onofrio leads the cast as Det. Robert Goren, a perspicacious policeman with a knack for penetrating the minds of his criminal quarries. Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) is his free spirited partner and Ron Carver (Courtney B. Vance) plays the humorless district attorney.
According to advanced reviews, if you like Law & Order, there's no reason to assume you won't enjoy the occasional episode of Criminal Intent. If you've grown weary of formula ... well ... keep on reading. There are plenty of other new shows.
NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m.
Created by Tim Kring; starring Jill Hennessy, Miguel Ferrer, Ken Howard and Ravi Kapoor
Speaking of Law & Order, the sassy alumnus Jill Hennessy returns to the small screen as Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh in Crossing Jordan, an edgy drama about a Boston medical examiner with an attitude. The series begins when Jordan returns from Los Angeles and reunites with her father (Ken Howard, from The White Shadow-fame), who is still haunted by the unsolved murder of his wife, Jordan's mother.
Needless to say, her mother's murder helps explain Jordan's knack for understanding her victims. With the help of her co-workers, Jordan channels her inner anger to solve murder mysteries more tangled than a 10-year-old tomboy's tresses.
NBC, Tuesdays, 8 p.m.
Created by Linda Bloodworth and Harry Thomason; starring Emeril Lagasse, Robert Urich, Lisa Ann Walter, Sherri Shepherd, Carrie Preston, Tricia O'Kelly and James Lafferty
Hollywood's favorite husband and wife team Linda Bloodworth and Harry Thomason - who are not only known for their acclaimed sitcom Designing Women, but also because they are FFOB&H (Famous Friends of Bill & Hillary) - are at it again. This time they have enlisted Emeril Lagasse, of Emeril Let's-kick-it-up-a-notch- BAM! Live-fame. The culinary artist plays himself, an affable chef struggling to meet the shifting demands of his popular cable TV cooking series, as well as all of the other responsibilities associated with being America's top culinary expert.
Emeril is joined by Lisa Ann Walter as his brassy producer and Sherri Shepherd as his outspoken stage manager. He will also share the small screen with Robert Urich as his agent, James Nafferty as his teenage son, and Mary Page Keller as his neglected wife.
And beyond being witness to the wacky antics of a wacky chef, the series is also almost interactive. Viewers can access recipes used by Emeril during the course of an episode by simply logging on to the www.nbc.com website.
Fox, Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Created by Judd Apatow; starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jay Baruchel, Carla Gallo, Monica Keena, Christina Payano, Seth Rogen and Timm Sharp
Those of us who are still mourning the loss of that misunderstood miracle, Freaks and Geeks, can't wait for the series' executive producer Judd Apatow's next creation, Undeclared. Undeclared, which has been described as Freaks and Geeks Goes to College, stars Jay Barushel as Steven Karp, an awkward freshman at University of North Eastern California. Apatow says that because the series is based on his own awkward experiences as an undergraduate, Geek Goes to College would be a more appropriate name.
NBC, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m.
Created by Bill Lawrence; starring Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes and Ken Jenkins
As NBC's former fresh-faced medical student, ER's Dr. Carter, campaigns for the job of chief resident at Chicago's Cook County Hospital, on Tuesday night the Must See TV network will introduce us to a new medical student - one without a drug problem or a crush on the weathered nurse with the manic-depressive mother and Croatian boyfriend.
In Scrubs, Zach Braff stars as John "J.D." Dorian, an even fresher-faced medical intern about to embark on a restorative career at surreal hospital overflowing with characters wackier than the cast of Fellini film.
Joining J.D. are his college buddy Chris Turk (Donald Faison) and the lovely and diligent Elliott Reid (Sarah Chalke). Supervising the students are the avuncular chief of medicine, Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins); the abrasive, cosmopolitan doctor, Perry Cox (John McGinley); and Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes) as the warm yet world-weary nurse.
ABC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.
Created by Jason Alexander, Ira Steven Behr, and Peter Tilden; starring Jason Alexander, Jennifer Aspen
Robert Klein, Chandra Wilson and Phil Buckman
If ABC execs have anything to say about it, next week Jason Alexander will no longer be thought of simply as George. Instead, he will become Bob Patterson, celebrity self-help guru and author of the best-selling book, I Know More Than You, and its sequel, I Still Know More Than You.
Unfortunately, Bob's motto - "The only thing standing between you and your goals is you ... and your goals" - belies the reality of his own situation. You see, despite his successful career, like George, Bob is a bit of a loser. The series will chronicle how a hefty, unsettled man struggles to inspire others.
ABC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m.
Created by Steven Bochco; starring Kim Delaney and Tom Everett Scott
Kim Delaney just wasn't the same after Jimmy Smits expired early from some sort of rare congestive heart disease. Not even a vital, strapping Rick Schroeder could cheer her up. That is, until Steven Bochco offered her her own series.
In Philly - which not only stole NYPD Blue's leading lady, but also its coveted Tuesday night at 10 p.m. time slot - Delaney stars at Kathleen Maguire, a single mom and criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. When her law partner is shipped off to the looney bin, Kathleen joins forces with Will Friedman (Tom Everett Scott), a popular young attorney who desperately wants out of the public defender's office.
At this early date, one can only wonder if the two of them will eventually hook up?
NBC, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m.
Created by Stephen Engel; starring Beckin Meyer, Miriam Shor, Bryan Callan, Richard Kline, Jennifer Irwin, Maggie Lawson and Dondre Whitfield.
Sandwiched between Friends and Will & Grace is NBC's next great hope with a gimmick: Inside Schwartz. The sitcom stars Breckin Meyer as Adam Schwartz, a sportscaster whose inner thoughts are revealed through the personal conversations he has with sports figures.
The series will focus on Schwartz "as he struggles to come to terms with both his love of sports - where there are definite rules and official referees - and his personal life - where there are no designated foul lines," according to NBC's literature.
What, you ask, about those plebeian viewers who don't know the difference between a jump shot and a jump rope. Stephen Engel, the series' creator and executive producer, swears that you don't need to be a sports fan to appreciate Inside Schwartz. In a press release he states, "You don't need to know a thing about sports to enjoy this show." Still, it's hard to imagine that people who have never heard of Barry Bonds will tune in to a show dedicated to sports. Remember Sports Night? Well, a season and a half isn't bad.