Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fall TV preview, part 5a and 5b

Rather than devote all of my time today to UPN, I will try to cover both UPN and the WB in this post.

Too daunting, you say? I might be . . . if either of these networks were able to put up anything resembling a full schedule. But, they are what they are--and it's my self-appointed duty to tell you, the curious reader, what they (in fact) are.

So . . . UPN. What is it? Well, it used to be the network created to carry the next Star Trek vehicle ("ST: Voyager"). But "Voyager" never really caught on very much with viewers, so UPN had to find another reason to exist. Currently, that reason seem to be mainly to program for the African American viewer.

Now this is certainly not news to anyone who has watched TV in recent years or has even a passing acquaintance with TV media news. But it is definitely the case again this season on UPN.

The Monday night lineup, usually devoted to comedy, remains largely intact. One of its stalwarts, "The Parkers," ended its run last year and it has been replaced with "Second Time Around." The idea is that a couple that married young and then split it off (amicably, I suppose) meet up again and sparks fly enough that they decide to give it another try. Will they find love again?
The interesting thing about this show is that the actors are ACTUALLY involved--like right now! And we ALL know that celebrity relationships are some of the most reliable things in this world. So, stay tuned.

The new show for Tuesday nights is an hour-long drama called "Veronica Mars." The show centers around the title character, a 17-year old girl living in Neptune, Florida. Apparently her high school is a hot bed of corruption or something and she is determined to find out what is behind all of her town's little mysteries. It seems a bit like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with some Nancy Drew (and they are calling it a modern-day Nancy Drew). So, maybe? Two things that make this show stand out on UPN? Well, the crass and obvious difference is the largely caucasian cast and the more subtle thing is the character named Weevil. Remember how I said it seemed like "BtVS?" Weevil . . . Willow? Do you get it? Even IF Weevil is a guy?

"America's Next Top Model" was UPN's best performing show the last few years, so it anchors Wednesday night at 8, along with a rerun on Friday night. So, get ready for more cruel kindness from Tyra and lots of extremely odd outfits on emaciated, 6'5" women.

If that's not your thing, then maybe WWE: Smackdown will make you smile? No? That cultural moment died in the aftermath of 9/11 you say? (We can only pray that it true.) But, if you're a big fan of Triple H or if you are wondering whatever happened to the Grave Digger or something, tune in pretty much all night long on Thursday.

The other big show on UPN this year--the one getting a lot of press mentions is "Kevin Hill." It is on Wednesday night at 9 and stars Taye Diggs. Its a real attempt by UPN to create a fully functioning drama program with honest-to-goodness acting and stuff. I say good luck to it.

Of course, I've got to mention "ST: Enterprise. Last season, the show struggled through its third season and its goal was wiping out al-Qaeda . . . oops! I meant the Xindi. So anyway, they had to search for a big Weapon of Earth Destruction and prevent it from getting made and destroying Earth in the past while traveling to the future. Sound about right? Well, in the end, Archer and crew succeeded and as a reward, UPN has moved the show to Friday night at 8. A death knell you say? Well, the original "Star Trek" was once on Friday night . . . but it got cancelled. But then it later returned. And the rest is history. So watch, okay?

Really the best reason to watch "ST: Enterprise" is to see how badly they can butcher all Vulcan mythology. I wonder if Jolene Blalock (who plays the female Vulcan T'Paul gets death threats from incensed ST fans. I am sure she gets lots of indecent messages as well, but there are some strange things happening with the writers on this show.

Well, that's UPN. Now on to the WB.

If you can believe it, the WB seems to have even less in the way of programming than UPN. But that won't stop them from being edgy.

How about "Commando Nanny?" Doesn't that sound awesome . . . and edgy? And doesn't it sweeten the deal if I say that Gerald McRaney is involved? Don't you think he is tired of being all angelic and nice and is ready to start kicking some TV butt? Well, I do. That's what we need in this post 9/11 world--more angry McRaney.

Wait . . . McRaney isn't the commando? The show is based on early experiences of "Survivor" uber-producer Mark Burnett, who tried to get hired as a nanny when he was a 22-year old, fresh out of commando training? Aw crap!

Well then, what else we got? The old favorites are still around--7th Heaven (who will go crazy and lose their virginity this season?), Gilmore Girls (will they all talk even more crazily now that the daughter has lost HER virginity?).

One intriguing new offereing is "Drew Carey's Green Screen." It has a lot of improv elements that were used on "Whose Line is it Anyway" but apparently it will all take place in front of a . . . green screen. Will it turn out better than George Lucas' efforts in the last few Star Wars movies? Let's all hope so.

There is another new show out there called "Jack and Bobby," It's described as:

"two bright young brothers growing up under the watchful eye of their eccentric
single mother (Academy Award, Emmy, and Golden Globe winner Christine Lahti). Her personality is a force of nature destined to shape both of these young men's
lives and secure one a place in the history books - as future President of the
United States. Set in present day, with flash-forward interviews of future-President McCallister's White House staffers and first lady, it's a snapshot of a young man being molded to beat the odds and become the mid-century's greatest presidential leader. "

Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, we'll see.

FINALLY, there is the show that I (and The Shirtless Wonder) have been waiting all summer to see . . . Smallville. The best show ever that devotes itself to the adolescent trials of the world's greatest superhero defender.

Last season was (to put it charitably) uneven. There were days when Lana Lang and her Pink army threatened to derail everything. But there were some bright moments. I happen to think that the unevenness was due to the producers Miller and Gough devoting much of their time last year helping write the most excellent story for Spiderman 2, and if that is the case, then ALL IS FORGIVEN.

But, that was then and this is now. Smallville ended with an incredible episode in which Chloe died (or appeared to die), Lex seemingly got poisoned, Lana (PLEASE!!!) left for France--Kerry lover!--and Clark got trapped in the Neutral Zone of Jor-Elitude. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the Magnificent Bastard (Lionel) getting his hair shaved off while in prison. Still don't know what I'm talking about? Then WATCH! You won't be sorry, I promise.

So, that's it. The Fall has been previewed--sometimes in detail and sometimes otherwise.

All in all, I think that "Smallville" is my new favorite returning show this season. "Alias" gets docked to second only because it doesnt' start until January. As cute as Alison Mack may be, she's no Jennifer Garner. "Arrested Development" was my favorite surprise of last year and I expect great things again.I am hopeful that "Enterprise" can survive on Friday night.

The new shows that intrigue are hard to say at this point. I guess "CSI: New York" has a very good shot as success. So much of the new stuff is reality programming that I grow less interested in each year.

Anyway, that's all I can muster for tonight on this topic. Back to randomness . . .

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