(8 – 8:30 PM, Oct. 11)
The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Christoph Sanders, Hector Elizondo
Executive producers: JackBurditt, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina
What the network says: “You can’t get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he’s traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it’s not a man’s world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters. Today it’s a woman’s world, and this man’s man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Mike’s wife, Vanessa, recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted — much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers. Now that Vanessa’s work load has increased, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before. With things turned upside down at home, Mike’s last bastion of sanity – work – gets hit by change as well; his long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he’s grounding Mike from their catalogue’s international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company’s webpage. But while adjusting to this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman’s world. After all, men built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, and Mike Baxter is determined to do what he must to reclaim his manly place in his home and at his job.”
What we say: It’s kind of hard to criticize “Last Man Standing” for having almost exactly the same mainstream manly-man tone as “Home Improvement” when Tim Allen freely admits that it’s something he’s making a conscious effort to re-stake his old territory. You can, however, criticize the series for not being very funny. Sure, it’s funny in a Tim Allen kind of way, but…oh, this way lies madness, so let’s just cut to the chase: basically, if you like broad comedy about a guy’s guy who’s annoyed with the fact that his brand of man is a dying breed, then you’ll like this show. I laughed a couple of times, but as I am not now nor have I ever been a guy’s guy, I walked away with little or no interest in ever watching another episode…which, come to think of it, is almost exactly the way I’ve always felt about “Home Improvement.” Based on this info, you can probably make your own judgement call as to whether or not you’ll have any interest in tuning in.
(8:30 – 9 PM, Oct. 18)
The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler, Christopher Moynihan, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Henry Simmons, Jake Johnson, Charlotte Labadie
Executive producers: Christopher Moynihan, Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), and Ron West and Kelly Kulchak
What the network says: “Three modern male archetypes struggle as they search for their identities and try to prove that ‘real men’ really can use hazelnut creamer. Meet Will. Will’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Will’s evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa, married him. But he and his friends find themselves wondering… In a world of Axe ads and manscaping, what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny clamps down on his anger and asks himself, ‘What would Tobey Maguire do?,’ when his ex, Bridgette, starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, all three are faced with an opportunity to ‘man up’ and be like their forefathers.”
What we say: I swear it’s not because the lead character’s name is Will, but…I actually like this better than “Last Man Standing,” even though it’s ultimately covering a certain amount of the same ground. I think you can probably attribute that to executive producer Victor Fresco, whose presence always guarantees that the series won’t be 100% commercial. Speaking of ground that’s already been trod upon, there’s also an undeniable similarity between “Man Up” and Fox’s late, lamented mid-season series “Traffic Light.” (That’s not a bad thing for me, though, as I loved the series.) As for the cast, there are really only two matinee names: Teri Polo, of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, and Dan Fogler, who’s one of those guys who can take things so far over the top that he presents a major love-him-or-hate-him vibe. It must be said, though, that he pulls the majority of the biggest laughs in the pilot. As far as putting this alongside “Last Man Standing,” I don’t know if that’s a great move or not, since the similar premises will likely viewers to suspect that if they don’t like one, then they won’t like the other, but it’s not true: “Man Up” may not be spectacular, but it’s ten times funnier than its lead-in.
(8:30 – 9 PM, Sept. 28)
The competition: Survivor (CBS), Free Agents (NBC), The X Factor (Fox), H8R (The CW)
Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Jane Levy, Cheryl Hines, Alan Tudyk, Charly Chaikin, Allie Grant, Rex Lee
Executive producers: Emily Kapnek, Michael Fresco
What the network says: “Single father George only wants the best for his 16-year-old daughter, Tessa. So when he finds a box of condoms on her nightstand, he moves them both out of their apartment in New York City to a house in the suburbs. But all Tessa sees is the horror of over-manicured lawns and plastic Franken-moms. Being in the ‘burbs can be hell, but it also may just bring Tessa and George closer than they’ve ever been. Tessa and George have been on their own ever since Tessa’s mom pulled a ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ before Tessa was even potty trained. So far George has done a pretty good job of raising Tessa without a maternal figure in their lives, but suddenly he’s feeling a little out of his league. So it’s goodbye New York City and hello suburbs. At first Tessa is horrified by the big-haired, fake-boobed mothers and their sugar-free, Red Bull-chugging kids. But little by little, she and her dad begin finding a way to survive on the clean streets of the ‘burbs. Sure, the neighbors might smother you with love while their kids stare daggers at your back, but underneath all that plastic and caffeine, they’re really not half bad. And they do make a tasty pot roast.”
What we say: I’m a sucker for smartly-written sarcastic teens on TV, and I’m also extremely partial to redheads, so when you put the two together, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to sell me on the resulting series. I was skeptical at the idea of seeing Sisto in a sitcom, given that I’m used to seeing him in series like “Law & Order” and “Kidnapped,” but he’s surprisingly effective as a teenager’s dad…though, come to think of it, given how dramatic most teenagers are, I guess that kind of stands to reason…and Tudyk, Lee, and particularly Hines also prove strong in their respective roles. The real find, though, is Jane Levy, who – and I want you to understand that this is intended a supreme compliment – comes across as the Emma Stone of the small screen. Based strictly on the pilot, I think this is probably my favorite sitcom of the new season, and it would seem on the surface to be a perfect fit with “The Middle.” Here’s hoping ABC has finally found a new Wednesday show that viewers will embrace.
(10 – 11 PM, Sept. 21)
The competition: CSI: Criminal Scene Investigation (CBS), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)
Starring: Emily VanCamp, Madeleine Stowe, Henry Czerny, Josh Bowman, Nick Wechsler, Gabriel Mann, Ashley Madekwe, Christa B. Allen, Connor Paolo
Executive producers: Mike Kelley (“Swingtown”), Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey (“Twilight”), Phillip Noyce
What the network says: “Emily Thorne is the newest arrival in the Hamptons this summer. By all appearances, she’s a friendly and sophisticated ‘girl next door,’ whose disarming charm and generosity allow her seamless access to the restricted circles of Hamptons high society. But the affluent, exclusive world she’s immersed herself in is tied to a dark family history, and Emily Thorne is anything but what she seems. When Emily was just nine, her father was framed for a horrific crime by neighbors he trusted, and was sentenced to life in prison. Emily never saw her father again and spent her childhood consumed by rage, loss and betrayal. 17 years later, she has returned under an assumed identity with one endgame – REVENGE — every social overture a carefully planned chip at the foundation of her sworn enemies, until their lives come crashing down around them. Emily’s goal is unwavering, and her sharp mind is always five steps ahead. But when her past begins to catch up, her true heart may get caught in the crossfire.”
What we say: The first thing you’ll find yourself thinking about this series is, “How is it that this ended up on ABC rather than The CW?” Because, seriously, I don’t think it could feel more like a CW series if it tried. As a result, when attempting to offer a critical assessment, the words “guilty pleasure” immediately leap to mind…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Emily Van Camp – well remembered from her work on “Everwood” and “Brothers & Sisters” – seems to be having fun playing decidedly against type, and Madeline Stowe is clearly having a blast as the series’ resident bitch. The big question, though, is why ABC is putting it on at 10 PM, when a great deal of its demo is likely to be asleep. (It airs on a school night, you know.) The only possible explanation is that they’re taking a risk and seeing if viewers might be willing to set aside their love for wounded warhorses like “CSI” and “Law & Order: SVU” and try something new. Hey, you never know, it could pay off…
(8 – 9 PM, Sept. 22)
The competition: The Big Bang Theory / How to Be a Gentleman (CBS), Community / Parks & Recreation (NBC), The X Factor (Fox), The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
Starring: Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez
Executive producers: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (“Smallville”), Drew Barrymore (“Charlie’s Angels” movies), Leonard Goldberg (the original “Charlie’s Angels”), Nancy Juvonen (“Charlie’s Angels” movies, “How to be Single”), Marcos Siega
What the network says: “Everyone deserves a second chance — even a thief, a street racer and a cop who got in a little too deep. After all, the three women who solve cases for their elusive boss, Charlie Townsend, are no saints. They’re angels… Charlie’s Angels. There’s Abby Sampson, a Park Avenue princess who became a world-class thief. Then there’s Kate Prince, a Miami cop who fell from grace, losing both her career and her fiancé. Finally there’s Gloria, a disgraced army lieutenant who has a way with explosives. When one of the angels’ missions ends in Gloria’s tragic death, Charlie persuades them to partner with Gloria’s childhood friend, Eve, a street racer with a mysterious past. They may not know each other yet, but one thing’s for sure — Abby, Kate and Eve will always have each others’ backs. The angels are rounded out by Bosley, a hot, young computer hacker who helps them solve cases and enjoys being surrounded by powerful, beautiful women.”
What we say: When it comes to new series and their eventual fate, this is probably the hardest to predict. On one hand, it’s a familiar property remembered fondly by children of the ’70s, which worked out well with “Hawaii Five-0.” On the other hand, when they tried it with “The Bionic Woman,” look what happened there…but, then, “The Bionic Woman” wasn’t turned into a relatively successful film franchise like “Charlie’s Angels” was. Cast-wise, you’ve got a recognizable face in Minka Kelly, but her biggest claim to fame is “Friday Night Lights,” a series that was never watched by nearly as many viewers as it should have been. Y’see what I mean? It’s really hard to say how audiences are going to react, especially given that it’s going to be up against the second night of “The X Factor” and the established comedy blocks on CBS and NBC. I will say, however, that the pilot is played straight, with very little of the winking at the audience that seemed to be going on in the feature films, and if you’re a TV geek, that’s actually kind of intriguing. Plus, it’s full of action and, lest we forget, three ladies who are decidedly easy on the eyes. Worth checking out, but whether it succeeds for the long haul is too close to call.
(9 – 10 PM, Oct. 23)
The competition: The Amazing Race (CBS), Sunday Night Football (NBC), The Simpsons / Allen Gregory (Fox)
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Raphael Sbarge
Executive producers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Steven Pearlman
What the network says: “A modern fairytale with thrilling twists and hints of darkness, brimming with wonder and filled with the magic of our most beloved stories. And they lived happily ever after… or so everyone was led to believe. Emma Swan knows how to take care of herself. She’s a 28-year-old bail bondsperson who’s been on her own ever since she was abandoned as a baby. But when Henry — the son she gave up years ago — finds her, everything changes. Henry is now 10 years old and in desperate need of Emma’s help. He believes that Emma actually comes from an alternate world, and that she’s Snow White and Prince Charming’s missing daughter. According to his book of fairytales, they sent her away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse, which trapped the characters of fairytale world forever, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world.
Of course Emma doesn’t believe a word, but when she brings Henry back to Storybrooke, she finds herself drawn to this unusual boy and his strange New England town. Concerned for him, she decides to stay for a while, but she soon suspects that Storybrooke is more than it seems. It’s a place where magic has been forgotten — but is still powerfully close — where fairytale characters are alive, even though they don’t remember who they once were, and where the Evil Queen, known as Regina, is now Henry’s foster mother. In order to understand where the fairytale world’s former inhabitants came from, and what ultimately led to the Evil Queen’s wrath, you’ll need a glimpse into their previous lives to learn their origins. But it might just turn everything you’ve ever believed about these characters upside-down. Meanwhile, the epic battle for the future of all worlds is about to begin. For good to win, Emma will have to accept her destiny and fight like hell.”
What we say: You wanna talk about a series destined to break your heart? That’s what “Once Upon a Time” is. There’s usually at least one show per season that’s so creative and imaginative that it leaves you thinking, “Maybe broadcast network creativity isn’t dead after all.” And, of course, it usually takes about three episodes – sometimes less, sometimes more, but almost always immediately after the episode where you decide that you’re hooked on the show – for the network to cancel it. It’s odd that two fairytale-themed shows should turn up at the same time, but while NBC’s take on the concept (“Grimm”) is more of a police procedural, “Once Upon a Time” embraces the fantasy, turns it slightly dark, and the result is an hour of fascinating fun. Truth be told, if only one series ends up making it out of the season alive, I’d bet on “Once Upon a Time,” if only because it’s the only series of its ilk in the mix on Sunday nights. Let’s hope I’m right, because I’m really digging what I’ve seen thus far.
(ABC, 10 – 11 PM, Sept. 25)
The competition: CSI: Miami (CBS), Sunday Night Football (NBC)
Starring: Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Mike Vogel, Kelli Garner
Executive producers: Jack Orman (“ER,” “Men of a Certain Age,”), Thomas Schlamme (“The West Wing,” “Parenthood,” “Mr. Sunshine”), Nancy Hult Ganis (“Akeelah and the Bee”)
What the network says: “Welcome to the Jet Age. It’s 1963. WWII and Korea are history. A new kind of war, a Cold War, is underway. The world is poised on the brink of a cultural revolution, and everywhere change is in the air. In this modern world, air travel represents the height of luxury, and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are sleek and glamorous, the pilots are rock stars, and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. Not only are these flyboys and girls young and good looking, but to represent Pan Am they also have to be educated, cultured and refined. They’re trained to handle everything from in-air emergencies to unwanted advances – all without rumpling their pristine uniforms or mussing their hair. These pre-feminist women form a powerful sisterhood, as they enjoy the rare opportunity to travel outside the country — something most women in this age can only aspire to – and one of the few career options that offers them empowerment and respect. In their individual quests for adventure, the Pan Am crew face both opportunity and peril, as they juggle their lives, their loves, their hopes and dreams while flying around the world to glamorous international cities like Paris, Berlin, Jakarta and Monte Carlo. Welcome aboard, and fasten your seat belts… Adventure awaits!”
What we say: Once again, we find ourselves with a case of parallel evolution between ABC and NBC, and once again ABC wins the round…or, at least, that’s my feelings on the matter, anyway. It’s clear that both “Pan Am” and “The Playboy Club” are cut from the same cloth, i.e. a broadcast network attempt at reproducing the swinging ’60s, and both are directly wrapped around a specific brand name, but while “The Playboy Club” has one very specific appeal, offering beautiful women in bunny costumes, “Pan Am” provides the fantasy of sexy stewardesses while combining it with the possibility of foreign intrigue in foreign countries. Sure, it’s being set up to be just as much of a melodrama as “The Playboy Club,” but there’s more of a general appeal to “Pan Am.” I realize that, as a guy, I’m supposed to prefer “The Playboy Club” just by virtue of the empire that Hef has built, but…well, I did start out this piece by clarifying that I’ve never been accused of being a guy’s guy.
Tags: 2011 Fall TV Preview, ABC, Adam Horowitz, Alan Tudyk, Alexandra Krosney, Alfred Gough, Allie Grant, Amanda Detmer, Annie Ilonzeh, Ashley Madekwe, Becky Clements, Charlie's Angels, Charlotte Labadie, Charly Chaikin, Cheryl Hines, Christa B. Allen, Christina Ricci, Christoph Sanders, Christopher Moynihan, Connor Paolo, Dan Fogler, Drew Barrymore, Edward Kitsis, Emily Kapnek, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann, Ginnifer Goodwin, Hector Elizondo, Henry Czerny, Henry Simmons, Jack Orman, JackBurditt, Jake Johnson, Jane Levy, Jared Gilmore, Jennifer Morrison, Jeremy Sisto, Josh Bowman, Josh Dallas, Kaitlyn Dever, Karine Vanasse, Kelli Garner, Kelly Kulchak, Lana Parrilla, Last Man Standing, Leonard Goldberg, Madeleine Stowe, Man Up, Marcos Siega, Margot Robbie, Marty Adelstein, Marty Bowen, Mather Zickel, Michael Fresco, Michael Mosley, Mike Kelley, Mike Vogel, Miles Millar, Minka Kelly, Molly Ephraim, Nancy Hult Ganis, Nancy Juvonen, Nancy Travis, Nick Wechsler, Once Upon A Time, Pan Am, Phillip Noyce, Rachael Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez, Raphael Sbarge, Revenge, Rex Lee, Richard Baker, Rick Messina, Robert Carlyle, Ron West, Shawn Levy, Steven Pearlman, Suburgatory, Teri Polo, Thomas Schlamme, Tim Allen, Victor Fresco, Wyck Godfrey