(8:30 – 9 PM, Sept. 26, with special preview on Sept. 19 at 9:30 PM)
The competition: Dancing with the Stars (ABC), The Sing-Off (NBC), Terra Nova (Fox), Gossip Girl (The CW)
Starring: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Garrett Morris, Matthew Moy, Jonathan Kite, Brooke Lyons
Executive producers: Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings
What the network says: “A comedy about two young women waitressing at a greasy spoon diner who strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business – if only they can raise the cash. Sassy, streetwise Max Black works two jobs just to get by, one of which is waiting tables during the night shift at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. Sophisticated Caroline Channing is an uptown trust fund princess who’s having a run of bad luck that forces her to reluctantly give waitressing a shot. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers she must cover for, but she’s surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style. When Caroline discovers Max’s knack for baking amazing cupcakes, she sees a lucrative future for them, but they first need to raise the start-up money. While they save their tips, they’ll stay at the restaurant, working with Oleg, an overly flirtatious Russian cook; Earl, a 75-year-old kool-kat cashier; and Han Lee, the new, eager-to-please owner of the diner. Working together, these two broke girls living in one expensive city might just find the perfect recipe for their big break.”
What we say: What’s this? A new sitcom in CBS’s Monday night lineup that isn’t a Chuck Lorre production? Will wonders never cease! Better yet, it’s a relatively strong one, though like so many other sitcom entries this season, it’s one where the leads are strong but the ensemble surrounding them is hit or miss…and, unfortunately, that includes Garrett Morris, who deserves so much better than hackneyed one-liners. (There’s a Duke University locker room joke, for God’s sake. Uh, zing?) Dennings, however, is the sarcastic version of Zooey Deschanel, which is to say that she’s cute, funny, and she could take you down a peg without even blinking, and Beth Behr is, for lack of a more elaborate phrase, sweet and pretty. The two of them also have instant chemistry together. If a cast as strong as “Mad Love” couldn’t make it more than a season, we probably shouldn’t pin any major hopes on “2 Broke Girls,” but it’s a certainly a show that we wouldn’t mind seeing succeed.
(10 – 11 PM. Sept. 20)
The competition: Body of Proof (ABC), Parenthood (NBC)
Starring: Poppy Montgomery, Dylan Walsh, Michael Gaston, Kevin Rankin, Daya Vaidya
Executive producers: Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Ed Redlich, John Bellucci
What the network says: “A drama about an NYPD detective with a flawless memory who not only remembers her every moment and emotion, but is physically incapable of forgetting. This extraordinary ability both enhances and complicates all aspects of her life.”
What we say: If you’re a sucker for a procedural with a gimmick, look no further. Call it Marilu Henner meets “The Mentalist,” with Carrie Wells – Montgomery’s character – using her memory to solve crimes while also being tortured by a childhood event which, for reasons we will no doubt learn in the season finale cliffhanger, has been one of the few moments in her life that she can’t remember. Of course there’s a romantic past with fellow detective Al Burns (Walsh), so you know that’ll be a recurring plot line as well. Frankly, the best member of the ensemble is television stalwart Michael Gaston, who’s the only member of Burns’s team of detectives who makes any sort of impression whatsoever. Like “The Mentalist,” they’ll have to quickly make the show less about the gimmick and more about the ensemble for “Unforgettable” to come anywhere close to living up to its title.
(8:30 – 9 PM, Sept. 29)
The competition: Charlie’s Angels (ABC), Community / Parks & Recreation (NBC), The X Factor (Fox), The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
Starring: David Hornsby, Kevin Dillon, Dave Foley, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nancy Lenehan, Rhys Darby
Executive producers: David Hornsby, Adam Chase, Ted Schachter and Joe Hipps
What the network says: “A comedy about the unlikely friendship between a traditional, refined writer and an unrefined personal trainer.”
What we say: It doesn’t take much to figure out that if you blended Hornsby’s and Dillon’s characters together, you’d get some approximation of Barney Stinson, but this definitely isn’t “The Bro Code: The Series.” Ironically, “Gentleman” is the exact opposite of just about every other new sitcom to hit the airwaves this season, in that the ensemble is much more charming and funny than the leads. Actually, that’s not entirely true: the leads are fine, but Dillon in particular is stuck playing a man-brute while Hornsby has to be perpetually prim and proper, and although the latter’s not so bad, Dillon seriously needs to dial it down a few notches. But Foley’s as hilarious as usual in the role of Hornsby’s boss, who’s feeling his age and is trying desperately to make himself look young and seem relevant, and although Rajskub doesn’t get to do much more than act bitchy, there’s a lot of potential with the casting of Rhys Darby as her husband, who’s laugh-out-loud funny every time he opens his mouth. As it stands, though, we’re still a long, long way from inspiring me to switch my allegiance from “Parks & Recreation.”
(9 – 10 PM, Sept. 22)
The competition: Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), The Office / Whitney (NBC), Bones (Fox), The Secret Circle (The CW)
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman
Executive producers: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Jonathan Nolan, David Semel and Greg Plageman
What the network says: “A crime thriller about a former-CIA agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes using their own brand of vigilante justice.”
What we say: Be honest: you know the mere fact that J.J. Abrams’ name is in the credits was enough to inspire a raising of the eyebrows and an immediate curiosity about the series. Then, however, you may have suddenly flashed back to last season’s “Undercovers” and sighed a bit. Fortunately, this is much closer to “Alias,” but with the added bonus of Michael Emerson, who’s got just as much creepy charisma here as he did when he was playing Benjamin Linus on “Lost.” Caviezel’s playing a strong but silent type who throws out the occasional witty one-liner, but the action’s what keeps things going, plus a bit of the fear of the information age that drove such films as “Enemy of the State” and “Eagle Eye.” I’m inevitably way more intrigued by Emerson’s character than I am Caviezel’s, but the latter sure plays the bad-ass well in the pilot. I’m just curious to see if CBS’s audience can accept a bad-ass on a weekly basis. For the moment, though, they’ve got me sold.
(8 – 9 PM, Sept. 23)
The competition: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC), Chuck (NBC), Kitchen Nightmares (Fox), Nikita (The CW)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale, Pablo Schreiber
Executive producers: Neal Baer, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman and Susannah Grant
What the network says: “A drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the ‘hereafter.’”
What we say: Okay, seriously, what is it about CBS Friday nights and series about people who can talk (or at least whisper) to ghosts? Beats me, but you can’t blame the powers that be for playing it safe and sticking with what’s worked for them in the past. There’s schmaltz, as you’d expect from a series where a guy’s talking to the spirit of the late love of his life, but Wilson plays it well, and with Margo Martindale in the mix, you can count on a certain amount of snippy dialogue. For my part, I’d watch this thing every week if we could keep Jonathan Demme in the director’s chair, as he is for the first episode – call me crazy, but I’d rank this right up there with “Reaper” as a perfectly delivered pilot – but somehow I suspect that’s not likely to happen. Still, if future episodes can match the tone that he’s set and keep the proceedings from wallowing in sentimentality, I’d be willing to revisit the series on a regular basis.
Tags: 2 Broke Girls, 2011 Fall TV Preview, A Gifted Man, Adam Chase, Beth Behrs, Brooke Lyons, Bryan Burk, Carl Beverly, Dave Foley, David Hornsby, David Semel, Daya Vaidya, Dylan Walsh, Ed Redlich, Garrett Morris, Greg Plageman, How to Be a Gentleman, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Ehle, Jim Caviezel, Joe Hipps, John Bellucci, Jonathan Kite, Jonathan Nolan, Kat Dennings, Kevin Chapman, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Rankin, Margo Martindale, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matthew Moy, Michael Emerson, Michael Gaston, Michael Patrick King, Nancy Lenehan, Neal Baer, Pablo Schreiber, Patrick Wilson, Person of Interest, Poppy Montgomery, Rhys Darby, Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant, Taraji P. Henson, Ted Schachter, Unforgettable, Whitney Cummings