by Kathy M. Newman
The only thing better than waiting for your favorite TV shows to come back is checking out all the new shows. The new season includes kickboxing CIA agents, drama from the villain's point of view and Richard Dreyfuss on the small screen. And that's just on Sunday night.
ABC. Alias. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 30.
Graduate students, who are usually represented as pathetic losers or crazed killers, get a slightly better rap in this dubiously plotted show: the beautiful Syndey Barstow (played by Jennifer Garner) is a graduate student by day and a kickboxing CIA agent by night. With Garner's shocking pink hair, and Alias's generally high production values, this might be the most aesthetically pleasing new show in the fall lineup. But will she every finish her PhD?
NBC. Law & amp; Order: Criminal Intent. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 23.
How much Law and Order is too much? See for yourself with NBC's third installment of the most popular crime formula on television. In Criminal Intent, crimes will be viewed from the point of view of the criminal, and then solved by an elite unit of New York police detectives called the Major Case Squad. Recognizable faces include Vincent D'Onofrio (The Cell, Full Metal Jacket) and Courtney Vance (The Tuskegee Airmen and The Preacher's Wife).
NBC. UC: Undercover. 10 pm. Premieres Sept. 23.
Earlier this summer,Undercover promised the return of Melrose Place hunk Grant Show. But when Show was replaced by Oded Fehr as the head of an "elite Justice Department crime fighting unit," I lost interest. Show producers are bragging that one of the show's writers was a contributor to the film Armageddon. Yeah, whatever.
CBS.The Education of Max Bickford. 8 pm. Premieres Sept. 23.
Richard Dreyfuss says he can relate to the midlife crisis, which his middling, angsting character, Max Bickford, is experiencing. Bickford is surrounded by women, including a former student who lands his dream job, his teenage daughter, the college president (an African-American woman) and his best friend (a woman who used to be a man). In my top five.
WB. Men, Women and Dogs. 8:30 pm. Premieres Oct. 7.
Some are calling this Sex in the City only with men in Los Angeles. Stars Bill Bellemy (former host of MTV Jams) as the top dog. Warning: putting dog in the title might make the show vulnerable to punny TV critic pans.
WB. Off Centre. 9:30 pm. Premieres Oct. 7.
Part of the latest British invasion, this series pairs an ugly American with a charming Brit as roommates on the loose in New York. It's already been recast since the pilot, which is never a good sign.
NBC. Crossing Jordan.
10 pm. Premieres Sept. 17.
I like a show that makes a hard-headed, smart-as-a-whip professional woman (a medical examiner played by former Law and Order prosecutor Jill Hennessey) into the star. Also, Crossing Jordan features one of the all-time great actors, Miguel Ferrer (Traffic, Robocop) and an African-American actor with a very long name: Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.
ABC. Bob Patterson.
9 pm. Premieres Sept. 25.
Producers say that the character of motivational speaker Bob Patterson, played by Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, was "created from the ashes of George Costanza." But the buzz is that Bob Patterson is no phoenix. Will Alexander (like Michael Richards before him) be cursed by Seinfeld?
ABC. Philly. 10 pm. Premieres Sept. 18.
A lawyer show like all the others, except it's NOT set in New York, L.A. or Boston. It stars another thirtysomething babe, former NYPD Blue detective Kim Delaney. Plus it's by Steven Bochco, who pretty much initiated the second golden age of television. So who knows.
NBC. Emeril. 8 pm. Premieres Sept. 18.
Superchef Emeril has comic timing and star persona, but I'm not sure his big personality is ready for the rules of the sit-com. My guess it that he will be mugging, and that it won't be pretty. Bam!
NBC. Scrubs. 9:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 18.
NBC, which is only premiering six new shows, is trying to breathe new life into the medical genre with this half-hour comedy featuring a rag-tag bunch of med-students. I give it two months to live.
CBS.The Guardian. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 18.
This is a lawyer show set in Pittsburgh (don't confuse it with Philly!) but with a twist. Nick Fallen is a young lawyer with promise who gets nabbed doing drugs. It's nice to see a drug-addiction plot that's not relegated to the ghetto, but beware the schmaltz when Nick is sent to do community service in a Legal Aid Services to atone for his drug conviction.
FOX. Undeclared. 8:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 18.
This show was written by Judd Apatow, creator of the best show you never watched, Freaks and Geeks. Apatow promises that this will not be Freaks and Geeks Go to College, but the pilot features a high school geek trying to shed his pocket protector image for freshman year. At least there's no laugh track.
FOX. Love Cruise. 9 pm. Premiered Sept. 11.
While Temptation Island was about breaking beautiful couples apart, Love Cruise is a reality show dedicated to bringing beautiful couples together. I still prefer the original: The Love Boat (currently re-running on TVLand).
FOX. 24. 9 pm. Premieres Oct. 30.
A high-concept vehicle for Kiefer Sutherland, who stars as a CIA agent trying to prevent the assassination of an African-American president in 24 hours. Each episode will take place in "real time," or, in other words, one hour (minus 16 minutes for commercials). This is going to be good.
WB. Smallville. 9 pm. Premieres Oct. 16.
The WB is bringing Superman to the small screen for the third time in TV history. More like the original Superman series, this features Clark Kent as a youthful farm boy figuring out what it means to be a superhero -- who also happens to be gorgeous. I've entered the online contest to see the outdoor screening of the premiere in L.A.!
ABC. According to Jim. 8:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 26.
Courtney Thorne-Smith, of Melrose Place and Ally McBeal infamy, is back in this family comedy, which also stars Jim Belushi. He drinks beer, watches football and has three kids. Doh!
CBS. The Amazing Race. 9 pm. Premiered Sept. 5.
Eleven pairs of contestants. Thirty days. Eleven cities. Plane, trains, automobiles, meager resources, domestic squabbling. At the end, only one team will remain to win the $1,000,000 prize. Also at stake is a ratings race, as CBS and NBC pit their reality shows against each other. So far, CBS is winning.
CBS. Wolf Lake. 10 pm. Premiered Sept. 12.
Despite big stars like the Native American Graham Greene, Lou Diamond Phillips, Scott Bairstow (last seen on FOX's short-lived Harsh Realm), the buzz on this show is more of a howl. Filmed in Canada, but set in Seattle, Phillips plays a Seattle cop who goes in search of his missing girlfriend and finds a pack of supernatural, shape-shifting wolves.
FOX. Bernie Mac. 9:30 pm. Premieres Nov. 7.
Bernie Mac, one of the men behind the successful film, Kings of Comedy, stars as a married man who agrees to take care of his sister's children when she checks into drug rehab. From Larry Wilmore, the creator of the short-lived black comedy The PJs, Bernie Mac promises to "keep it real."
NBC. Inside Schwartz. 8:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 20.
A single guy has visions of football referees who blow the whistle on his dates. Could be funny, could suck. We may have seen the best jokes already in the promotional trailers.
CBS. The Agency. 10 pm.
Premieres Sept. 20.
Yes, another show about the CIA. Why the sudden boom of CIA shows? Is it because our current Prez is the son of a man who once directed this dastardly federal department? Hmmmmm.....
CBS. Survivor Africa. 8 pm.
Premieres Oct. 11.
As reality television becomes increasingly colonial in its grasp of the globe, advance press suggests that Survivor Africa has been pissing off the Kenyan government and the local wildlife. But only the pregnant Rachel on Friends will have any chance against this grand-pappy of reality TV shows.
FOX. The Tick. 8:30 pm. Premieres Nov. 1.
Starring Patrick Warburton (Elaine's ne'er-do-well boyfriend on Seinfeld) as the Tick, this show promises to be camp, glam and retro-as-hell. The bad news is it's no match for the superhuman Survivor, against which it's scheduled.
WB. Elimidate Deluxe. 8:30 pm.
Premieres Oct. 11.
A single of one sex will be paired with four members of the opposite sex for a daylong group dream date. Only one suitor will survive. Exotic locales will not likely save this one from the trash heap.
ABC. Thieves. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 21.
I grew up with a big crush on John Stamos, who played the teen "Blackie" on General Hospital. But he's all grown up now, and burglars are cool again (thanks to the downturn in the economy). His costar is Australian and very, very pretty. May steal Friday night.
CBS. The Ellen Show. 8 pm. Special premiere night Monday, Sept. 17, 9:30 pm.
Ellen promises more laughs and less gay politics. But Will and Grace manages to do both, so what gives?
CBS. Danny. 8:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 21.
We watched Daniel Stern have a mid-life crisis as the grocery clerk in City Slickers. We can now watch him go through a similar crisis on this half-hour comedy. Stern is a good bet, and single dads are back in vogue this season, but it's still a longshot.
FOX. Pasadena. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 21.
I love night time soap operas. The buzz is that this one is better, and creepier, then last season's crushed Titans. Yeah!
WB. Maybe It's Me. 8:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 14.
Set in Providence, R.I., this family comedy is about a teenage girl with two older brothers and two younger sisters (twins) who make her fantasize that she was adopted.
WB. Reba. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 14.
Reba's legitimate acting talents might be wasted in this new series in which she plays a southern lady whose husband is cheating on her with his dental hygienist, and whose daughter is pregnant. Sounds like a country song.
WB. Raising Dad. 9:30 pm. Premieres Sept. 14.
I wouldn't watch Bob Saget (of Funniest Home Videos fame) if he was the last man on the last TV show on earth.
CBS. Citizen Baines. 9 pm. Premieres Sept. 22.
A prominent senator loses his campaign for a fourth term. He returns to his three adult daughters and an uncertain future in Seattle. From John Wells, who produces ER and The West Wing. Might work well as a kind of West Wing of the West. And no interns, please.