Monday, June 30, 2008

'Smart' Remake

With the dearth of stuff on TV during these summer days, I find myself at the movies a lot more during what has been an unusually strong summer.

"Get Smart" is the latest in the long trend of movies adapted from TV shows, and I have to say, it's one of the better ones. A friend of mine in LA saw the movie weeks before its official debut and raved about it, but when some less-than-kind reviews came out afterward, I didn't really know what to expect.

But my friends and I turned out to be very well entertained by the spy spoof, which stars Steve Carell ("The Office") and Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries"). The movie deftly updates the 1960s Don Adams series, both paying an homage to the source material while creating something more modern.

Often, TV series adapted for the screen tend to fail more than they succeed. For every decent adaptation like "The Addams Family" (which I enjoyed at least even if others didn't), you get a lot of bad ones, such as "The Avengers."

With movies so expensive to make these days, Hollywood often looks for properties that the general public already has a familiarity with. Because people have a general idea of what something like "Get Smart" is going to be about, it makes marketing the movie that much easier.

What Hollywood often fails to realize is that TV shows have whole seasons to develop characters, whereas movies have just two hours, which is often why the movie never seems as good as the original.

But, occasionally, Hollywood also gets it right and can bring a fresh take to familiar material.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.) has gotten a lot of positive buzz since it debuted a couple of weeks ago, and a new episode airs tonight.

ABC is all-new with its all-reality lineup, beginning with two hours of "The Bachelorette" and continuing with "The Mole" at 10 p.m. NBC counters with "American Gladiators" and two hours of "Nashville Star."

Finally, Showtime airs new installments of "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," beginning at 10 p.m.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Emmy Contenders

In a rather unique move, the Emmys have released the list of the final 10 comedy and drama series up for top show honors. Each list will be pared to five in the coming weeks, with the finalists in all of the categories to be announced in July.

For your perousal:

Outstanding Comedy Series Finalists
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
The Office
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock (won last year)
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty

Outstanding Drama Series Finalists
Boston Legal
Friday Night Lights
Grey’s Anatomy
Mad Men
The Tudors
The Wire

First, the comedies. I'm glad to see "Pushing Daisies" made the list and disappointed "How I Met Your Mother" didn't. I suppose "Flight of the Conchords" shows some out-of-the-box thinking by the Academy, but "Two and a Half Men" clearly doesn't. It might be most telling that four of the 10 shows are aired on pay cable, while three of the 10 are hour-long shows and not traditional sitcoms.

I already listed who I wanted to make the finals last month, so check out the May blog posts for that. Of the list, I expect the finals to come down to "Curb," "Conchords," "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Ugly Betty," but with the Emmy voters, who knows what they are thinking?

As for the dramas, that they waste a slot on "Boston Legal" is both bitterly disappointing and not surprising. I fully expected some of my picks - which included "Battlestar Galactica" and "Supernatural" - not to make it, but I was hoping "Breaking Bad" might sneak in.

With "The Wire" airing its final season and seemingly taking the slot usually reserved for last year's winner, "The Sopranos," it will be interesting to see if the voters bring this much-praised but often-overlooked series to the big dance. Another thing to look for is how "Grey's Anatomy" fares after star (and last year's Best Supporting Actress winner) Katherine Heigl pulling out of this year's race, citing the quality of her storylines as a reason why. If "Grey's" doesn't make the cut in what is a pretty tough field, Heigl may get the brunt of the criticism.

As for the finalists, I expect it to go down to "Boston Legal" (unfortunately; God, these voters are idiots), "Damages," "Mad Men," "The Tudors" and "The Wire." That may not be the case, though, because that would mean only one network show would make the cut.

Anyway, keep an eye out in this space for when the finalists are announced.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The second part of the two-part "Doctor Who" adventure, "Forest of the Dead" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) airs tonight after Sci Fi reruns the first part, "Silence in the Library" at 8 p.m. As good as the first part was, tonight's episode may be some of the best work ever done in the four seasons since the show was revived.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is new. Also, a reminder, the first-ever "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 11:30 p.m.) starring the late George Carlin is being rerun this weekend.

On Sunday, "Masterpiece: Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues with "Inspector Lewis." Also, there's a new "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Perfect TV Family?

As part of the new classics list I mentioned in yesterday's blog, Entertainment Weekly listed a number of sidebars and featurettes to go with the lists of best movies, TV shows, music, etc. of the past 25 years. (Check out the gallery of "The Office's" Rainn Wilson as various TV characters).

As part of the TV section, EW listed an all-star roster of what might make the perfect TV family:

Dad: Cliff Huxtable of "The Cosby Show"
Mom: Lorelai Gilmore of "Gilmore Girls"
Grandpa: Abe Simpson of "The Simpsons"
Grandma: Dorothy Zbornak of "The Golden Girls"
Son: Sam Weir of "Freaks & Geeks"
Daughter: Brenda Walsh of "Beverly Hills 90210"
Uncle: Buster Bluth of "Arrested Development"
Aunt: Jackie Harris of "Roseanne"
Dog: Brian Griffin of "Family Guy"

I'm not really sure what criteria EW used for their picks — who would be the best dad? The weirdest uncle? — but I think we can do a bit better.

My list:
Dad: Noah Bennet of "Heroes"; One simple rule for dating his daughter: If you date his daughter, he will have you killed.
Mom: Lois of "Malcolm In The Middle"; OK, she was a bit abrasive and scary, but trying to keep those kids in line, she had to be.
Grandpa and Grandma: I'll keep the same picks as EW, because I can't really think of anyone better.
Son: Dean Winchester, "Supernatural"; Not only does he keep the family business going, but he sold his soul to save the life of his brother.
Daughter: Buffy Summers, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"; you know, she saved the world — a lot.
Uncle: Junior Soprano, "The Sopranos"; Just to ensure no one messes with the family.
Aunts: Selma and Patty Bouvier, "The Simpsons"; Just to keep things intersting.
Dog: Digby, "Pushing Daisies"; C'mon, it's the best dog on TV.

Who are some of your favorite TV relatives?

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: ABC returns "Hopkins," a real-life "ER" that is more of a documentary than a reality show about the men and women who staff Johns Hopkins (ABC, 10 p.m.) It makes for interesting drama, but the medical stuff might prove to be a bit extreme for some folks.

Much less extreme is "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.), which still manages to find an audience. It goes opposite "Fear Itself," (NBC, 10 p.m.) which has been a bit inconsistent but is still interesting.

Finally, the TBS comedies, "The Bill Engvall Show" and "My Boys" begin at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

EW's New Classics

If you catch the current edition of "Entertainment Weekly" on newstands, you can read what their writers claim to be the 100 best movies, TV shows, books, albums, etc. over the past quarter-century.

Of course, any time you make a list of what is "the best" in a genre, you won't satisfy everyone, and such lists are there to provide the spark for an argument among the fans.

Here's EW's top 10 TV shows, all of which debuted from 1983 and after:
1. The Simpsons
2. The Sopranos
3. Seinfeld
4. The X-Files
5. Sex & The City
6. Survivor
7. The Cosby Show
8. Lost
9. Friends
10. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

You can check out the other 90 shows in the magazine or at the EW Web site.

It's really impossible to compare a show like "The Sopranos" to a show like "Sex & The City," one of the flaws of such lists, but also, the editors of EW don't really give us a set of criteria as to how they rank the shows, except for things like quality and pop culture impact.

My criteria would include longetivity, specifically, how well a show holds up years after it's off the air. For example, "The Twighlight Zone" is still a classic today; so is "M*A*S*H."

Think of it this way: How often do you pull out the DVDs of certain shows, or sit down to watch them as they play perpetually in syndication?

Shows like "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld" clearly fall into that category, not to mention the pop culture impact both shows still make today.

But "The X-Files," a show I'm a big fan of, doesn't really belong in the Top 10. Even die-hard fans were disappointed by the show's final few seasons, and it has sort of become a series that has been out of sight, out of mind (the upcoming movie sequel not withstanding).

"Survivor" was a pop culture phenomenon when it first aired, and it cleared the way for reality fare, but most people would be hard-pressed to name a cast member after the third or fourth installment aired. Even winning "Survivor" is no longer a guarantee of fame, only fortune. If the EW crew wanted a reality show in the Top 10, "American Idol" would have been a better choice.

Some of the other interesting choices: "Freaks & Geeks" at No. 13 is one. Though I absolutely loved this series, it only lasted one season on NBC, so it's hard to say it had a huge pop culture impact (even though it launched the careers of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and others). "The Daily Show" at No. 14 is another. This one deserves to be in the Top 10. It's hard to think of a show that has had a bigger pop culture impact over the past five years, and it's one of the few shows on the list that actually influences the American political scene.

Ditto for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (No. 17), again the most influential show of its kind and therefore should be higher on the list.

Meanwhile, shows like "Beverly Hills 90210" (No. 20), "Roseanne" (No. 21), and "Ally McBeal" (No. 48) seem irrelevant and dated by today's standards.

Anyway, feel free to check out the list at Which shows were ranked too high? Too low? ("Battlestar Galactica" only at No. 59? Seriously?) Which shows were left off the list, and which shows didn't deserve a ranking in the first place?

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: HBO is airing a tribute to George Carlin by airing the late comic's specials from over the years tonight and Thursday, beginning at 8 p.m. In addition, "Saturday Night Live" is airing its original Carlin episode from 1975 this Saturday at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.

Bravo tries to do for hair what it did for fashion and food with the return of "Shear Genius" (Bravo, 10 p.m.)

One of the weirdest concepts on TV airs tonight with "The Baby Borrowers" (NBC, 9 p.m.) as teens borrow babies and care for them, learning the rigors of child-rearing.

Finally, Georgia only came up nine runs short last night to clinch the College World Series. So the Dogs give it another try tonight (ESPN, 7 p.m.) in the third and final game against Fresno State.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

'Rescue Me' Returns -- Sort Of

I'm the first to admit that FX's "Rescue Me" isn't coming off its strongest season. Last year was kind of all over the place in terms of consistency.

On the other hand, "Rescue Me" at 60-70 percent quality is usually better than the bulk of the shows out there at 100 percent, so everything is relative.

The writers' strike pushed the upcoming season of "Rescue Me" back to 2009, but the good news for fans of the series is that we won't have to wait that long to see Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and the crew back in action.

FX is launching five-minute "mini-sodes" tonight beginning at 10 p.m., which will run over the next several weeks. Each one features a short scene with regular cast members that will refresh viewers' memories from last year and bridge the gap to the new season. There will be 10 in total, and FX is likely to edit them into one episode at the end of the run.

If you miss them when they air on FX, you can still catch them on

AROUND THE DIAL: Disney's "Camp Rock" didn't quite the hit the ratings stratosphere of "High School Musical," but the 16.2 million combined viewers for all the airings this weekend has ensured a "Camp Rock 2," according to The Hollywood Reporter. ... Good for NBC naming Tom Brokaw as interim host for Tim Russert on "Meet The Press." Brokaw is the logical choice and will host the show at least through the election. It will also make the transition much easier for whomever the network taps as the show's new permanent host.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: With the "Rescue Me" mini-sodes airing, "30 Days" (FX, 10:06 p.m.) will be trimmed slightly and air after "Rescue Me" does.

More game-show funness, courtesy of the networks. NBC airs "Celebrity Family Feud," (NBC, 8 p.m.), which sounds slightly excruciating, before airing a new "America's Got Talent," which IS excruciating.

On the flip side, watching the average American getting the snot knocked out of him or her has some humor value to it, which is why you may want to check out the tandem of "Wipeout" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "I Survived A Japanese Game Show" (ABC, 9 p.m.)

Two episodes of "Hell's Kitchen" air consecutively on Fox from 8-10 p.m.

Finally, not to overstate this or anything, but the most important game in the history of college baseball takes place tonight as Georgia looks to clinch the College World Series title against Fresno State (ESPN, 7 p.m.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

Just a brief update today, but I wanted to note the passing of the legendary George Carlin on Sunday.

Carlin, 71, died from heart complications. As this is a TV blog, it should be noted that his most famous bit was the "seven words you can't say on television," none of which will be repeated here, what with this being a Telegraph blog and all.

But in the age of YouTube and other similar sites, I've no doubt the best works of Carlin will live on for all time.

DAYTIME EMMY WINNERS: In case you missed it Friday, here are the winners of the Daytime Emmy Awards (No, Susan Lucci didn't win):

— Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Gina Tognoni, ‘‘Guiding Light.’’
— Talk Show — Informative: ‘‘The Tyra Banks Show.’’
— Younger Actor in a Drama Series: Tom Pelphrey, ‘‘Guiding Light.’’
— Younger Actress in a Drama Series: Jennifer Landon, ‘‘As the World Turns’’
— Talk Show Host: Ellen DeGeneres, ‘‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’’
— Drama Series Directing Team: ‘‘One Life to Live.’’
— Legal/Courtroom Program: ‘‘Cristina’s Court.’’
— Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Kristoff St. John, ‘‘The Young and the Restless.’’
— Drama Series Writing Team: ‘‘One Life to Live.’’
— Talk Show — Entertainment: ‘‘Rachael Ray.’’
— Lifetime Achievement: Regis Philbin.
— Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Jeanne Cooper, ‘‘The Young and the Restless.’’
— Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Anthony Geary, ‘‘General Hospital.’’
— Drama Series: ‘‘General Hospital.’’

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Really, there's only one thing that people should be watching tonight, as the Georgia Bulldogs face Fresno State for the national championship as Game 1 of the Best-of-3 College World Series kicks off tonight (ESPN2, 7 p.m.) I can actually say "Go Dogs!" without a hint of biasness, since Fresno State is also the Bulldogs.

If college baseball isn't your thing, you catch ABC's all-reality lineup of "The Bachelorette" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) NBC counters with "American Gladiators" at 8 p.m. and "Nashville Star" at 9 p.m.

Finally, there are new episodes of "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" beginning at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Praise Of The Grand Moff

Trying to break into the screenwriting business myself, there are certain writers who always get me jazzed when I know there names are going be in the credits.

As TV writers go, the UK's Steven Moffat is one of those guys. I'd put him in that rare category of TV's best, right up there with the likes of Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin and Shawn Ryan, to name but a few.

Moffat has made a name for himself in recent years, thanks to his phenomenal miniseries "Jekyll" that ran on BBC America last summer, and his work on "Doctor Who," contributing such classics as "Blink" and my all-time favorite, "Girl in the Fireplace."

Moffat is one of those rare writers who can blend humor, tragedy, romance and action, all within the same 42-minute span.

I bring Moffat up for two reasons. First, he was tapped by the BBC to take over the showrunning duties for "Doctor Who" from Russell T. Davies, who has shepherded the series since its relaunch in 2005. Most fans of the series have been pretty excited by the news. While Davies is a good writer (I think), Moffat is in a whole other weight class.

The second reason is that tonight's episode (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) is penned by Moffat, a two-parter called "Silence of the Library"/"Forest of the Dead." The episodes are among the best of the entire series, as Moffat deftly mixes humor and horror, creating a tale that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It also doesn't hurt that the guest cast includes Colin Salmon and Alex Kingston.

It's always nice to see a master at work.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Get a bunch of good-looking teenagers together, add a bunch of musical numbers and dance routines, and turn it into a TV movie. That's the formula Disney used to turn the "High School Musical" franchise into one of the most popular in the history of television.

We'll see if lightning strikes again as the Mouse presents "Camp Rock" (Disney, 8 p.m.), starring the Jonas Brothers as campers at a musical summer camp. If Disney can get even half the audience for "Camp" as it did for "HSM," expect to see "Camp Rock 2" by early next year.

ABC is presenting the Daytime Emmy Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.), also known as the Emmys that I don't handicap. It's followed by a rerun of the pilot of "MVP" at 10 p.m., for those of you who didn't catch it on SoapNet Thursday night.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is new as Marian has to adjust to life in the forest.

Those of you expecting to see Georgia continue its College World Series romp on Friday will have to wait until Saturday (ESPN2, 2 p.m.) thanks to rain in Omaha. The Bulldogs get set to face Stanford.

On Sunday, Alan Cumming takes over as the host for "Masterpiece: Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.), which will present the new "Inspector Lewis" series, featuring the former sidekick (Kevin Whatley) from the old "Inspector Morse" mysteries.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Double Entendre Of Scoring

Before I became America's 274th most popular TV critic, I covered hockey for seven years for The Telegraph.

That fact alone probably means I WON'T be tuning in tonight for "MVP" (SoapNet, 11 p.m.), a new soap opera drama about hockey and sex, not necessarily in that order.

SoapNet picked up the series from Canadian TV, but with all of the naughty bits edited out. Apparently, so have the hockey bits.

Anyway, the series is supposed to be in the vein of the BBC's "Footballer's Wives," so take from that what you will.

As a former pro hockey writer, I can tell you "puck bunnies" as they are called are very much a part of the lives of hockey players, though I don't know how well it translates to the small screen.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: It's gotten to a point right now that the reruns are better than the new stuff. The only bit of dramatic programming that is new is "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.), and if you are still into this show by Week 3, then perhaps "MVP" is your cup of tea as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Enjoy The Sunshine

I've got an assignment that's going to take up most of my morning today, so no posting.

On the bright side, there's really nothing on TV worth talking about, unless you are really into "Celebrity Circus" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.), so why not take a night out and enjoy something else?

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Katherine Heigl: Darling Or Diva?

In case you missed it last week, "Grey's Anatomy" star Katherine Heigl announced she wouldn't submit her work to the Emmy voters this year because she feels her work on the show didn't warrant a nomination.

It's pretty big news, since it means that Heigl, who won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama last year, won't be defending her title.

Heigl attributed her decision in part to the weak storylines her Izzie character got this year, implicitly casting blame upon the show's writers.

Reaction in the blogosphere has been mixed. Many feel Heigl is doing the honorable thing by allowing someone more worthy to earn a nomination. Others feel Heigl is forcing the writers to give her a bigger role this year and don't like her outspokeness.

I asked the Cherry Blogger, Stephanie Hartley, a "Grey's" fan, what she thought of the decision. She said Heigl didn't have much of a role this season and was stuck in the background most of the time, so it was probably a good choice on the actress' part.

On the other hand, as some critics of Heigl point out, the writers' strike severely hampered the show's creative staff. Especially with a show of the soap opera nature of something like "Grey's," losing a quarter to a third of the season is severely going to hamper storylines and character arcs, so it's hard to place the blame fully on the writers because of the way they were handcuffed.

Heigl has been the center of controversy before, when she was the most vocal opponent of former castmate Isaiah Washington, who used an anti-gay slur against co-star T.R. Knight a couple of years ago, which eventually got Washington fired. Most of the rest of the cast toed the company line and kept silent, but Heigl defended Knight. (Reportedly, so did co-star Patrick Dempsey, who got into a scuffle on the set with Washington).

Heigl certainly has the most blossoming film career of the cast, with films like "Knocked Up" and "27 Dresses" on her resume, so there is a feeling that she can move on whenever she likes and not pull a David Caruso and torpedo her own career.

My take is that Heigl is doing the honorable thing by not denying an Emmy slot to someone whose work was better this year, though the way she called out the writers and drew attention to herself might not have been the best approach to do it.

Still, Heigl's decision points out a fundamental flaw in the Emmy process, that once an actor or series becomes an Emmy favorite, they occupy a nomination slot for years even when it is undeserved. Think of all the years Candice Bergen won for "Murphy Brown," even when the show moved past its point of freshness. Or all of the nominations "Boston Legal" has nabbed each year, keeping out far more worthy nominees.

If Heigl's actions force Emmy voters to open the field up for more shows and stars, then I'm all for it.

MONDAY'S RECAP: You know, some days it's great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: You know it's the summer because another AFI list show is on. This time, it's"AFI's 10 Top 10" (CBS, 8 p.m.), which lists the top 10 shows in 10 distinct film genres, such as sci-fi, mystery and romantic comedy. I'll probably end up watching it, then telling you where they went wrong.

It's a tough call for me, because "Nova" is repeating the documentary "Secrets of the Samurai Sword," a supercool documentary about the forging of katanas in both ancient and modern Japan (PBS, 8 p.m.)

The documentary series "30 Days" (FX, 10 p.m.) is brand new tonight.

Everything else is pretty much so-called reality, including the return of "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 9 p.m.)

Oh, and the Lakers and Celtics meet in Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight (ABC, 9 p.m.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Belle De Jour

A couple of weeks ago, I criticized CBS' "Swingtown" for being too tame because it was on a network rather than cable, making its depiction of sex and drugs rather boring.

That shouldn't be a problem with the premieres of Showtime's Monday night schedule.

Fan favorite "Weeds" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) kicks off its new season with pot-growing mom Nancy (Mary Louise Parker) moving her family to a new location after torching the old one. Specifically, she's moved them to her father-in-law's (Albert Brooks) house.

Following that is the US premiere of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," as former "Doctor Who" companion Billie Piper shows a much different side (well, several sides) as Hannah, a legal secretary by day and Belle, a high-priced call girl at night.

The series is based upon the blog of a real-life anonymous call girl who masquerades with a "regular" life during her days. The real-life lady (of the evening) consulted with producers and Piper in secret to tell her story.

With Showtime giving us sex and drugs, the only thing they are missing on Mondays is Rock n' Roll. Maybe next year.

FRIDAY RECAP: No one does an ending like "Battlestar Galactica." Though they may not be the finales that the fans want to see necessarily, there's no denying that all four finales now have provided stunning twists, no more so than Friday's.




I was a little surprised at first as they seemed to bring the fleet to Earth so quickly after the long journey to find its location. And of course, seeing the moments of pure joy and relief of the last survivors of humanity as they took the final leg of their journey was great, but knowing the BSG producers, you knew it wouldn't last long.

The payoff of seeing both the humans and Cylons stunned by the destroyed and desolate Earth was fantastic, ensuring that the next seven months (at least) waiting for the resolution will be pretty interminable (in a good way).

Also great: Lee's game of chicken with D'Anna over ejecting people out of airlocks, and Adama's reaction to learning Tigh's true Cylon identity. (Also great: the way Tigh told him).

Of course, all the ending does is raise a ton of questions, such as: Who wiped out humanity? Ourselves, or another group of Cylons? Who fixed Starbuck's ship when she went to Earth the last time? What's next for the fleet and their tenuous relationship with the Cylons? What about the other group of Cylons, who are still hunting the humans?

Almost as irksome as the weight for the final half of the season (the good news, reportedly, is that we get 11 episodes when it returns instead of the planned 10) is that BSG will likely go unrecognized by the Emmy voters yet again, because Emmy voters royally suck.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of royally sucking, though I'm enjoying "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.), boy, is this the lamest group of contestants ever assembled on a reality show. As one of them pointed out last week, they may owe ABC money by the end of it. It's preceded by two episodes of "The Bachelorette."

The new kids adventure series "Middleman" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) debuts tonight, and looks as if it pays an homage to shows like "The Tick" and "The Avengers," not bad company.

Finally, Georgia, coming off its remarkable comeback victory over Miami in the opener of the College World Series, faces Stanford tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Last month I talked about some of the more out-there TV moms and then a tornado hit on Mother's Day. Maybe it's a sign that I should stick with the traditional parents.

Certainly, TV has had its share of those, such as Bill Cosby, Ozzie Nelson and Hugh Beaumont. But it's interesting that whenever TV writers show an estrangement between a parent and child, it's far more often between a father and son than a mother and daughter.

As for me, I get on great with my dad, though he's skipping the weekend visit because he's under the weather. (Feel better, Dad!)

It was my dad who instilled in me the love of all things British (OK, all things except cricket. Sorry.) So as this column delves into the best of British TV, you have my dad to thank or blame, depending on your point of view.

Some other of my favorite TV dads:

--Noah Bennet, "Heroes": You really have to love a dad who would, quite literally, kill for his daughter. He would also win a lot of "My dad can beat up your dad" arguments.

--William Adama, "Battlestar Galactica": Not just the father to Apollo, but really, the father figure to the whole remains of humanity.

--Ted Moseby, "How I Met Your Mother": You really have to love a father that tries to tell his kids a simple story about the first time he met their mother, and it takes four years to do so.

--John Winchester, "Supernatural": He may give Noah Bennet a run for his money in terms of tough-guy dads, what with the sending demons to Hell gig and teaching his sons how to survive.

--Alan Epps, "Numb3rs": Somehow, he manages to get his two wildly different sons (an FBI agent and a math genius) to work together to solve crimes. In the show's first couple of seasons, Alan often had to play referee between the two.

--Mr. Suarez, "Ugly Betty": You've got to love a dad who is such a good cook. Plus, in addition to his two daughters, he often serves as a father figure to other men on the show like Daniel or Henry.

--Coach Eric Taylor, "Friday Night Lights": Another guy who has to serve as a father to more than just his own children. His scene of trying to pull Matt out of his funk by shoving him into the shower was probably the best act of parenting on TV this year and one of the best-done scenes of the series.

--Al Bundy, "Married With Children": The polar opposite to the Ozzie Nelsons of the TV world, he always kept things interesting. And he once scored four touchdowns in a game.

Who are some of your favorite TV dads?

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: OK, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the early buzz on "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.) is that it's the best season finale cliffhanger they have done, which is saying something considering the other ones had Adama taking two slugs into the chest, finding humanity on New Caprica by jumping ahead a year, and revealing the identity of four of the final five Cylons. The bad news? "BSG" won't return to the air until early 2009 at the earliest. (Frakkin' Sci Fi!)

It follows a new "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.), in which the Doctor and Donna meet Agatha Christie.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is back with a new installment.

Also, sports-wise, the U.S. Open airs on ESPN and CBS all weekend, while Georgia faces No. 1 Miami (ESPN, 7 p.m.) in the College World Series.

On Sunday, Whoopi Goldberg hosts the Tony Awards (CBS, 9 p.m.) while another new "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.) airs.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'My Boys' Returns

When "My Boys" (TBS, 9:30 p.m.) first came out, it was hailed as a kind of "Sex & The City" for men. It revolves around PJ (Jordana Spiro), a sports writer who has a group of platonic male friends whom she relates to better as "one of the guys."

But, if anything, I think it actually has a broader appeal than "SATC." For one thing, it seems to have an equal appeal among the men and women I know.

For example, here's the female perspective, courtesy of my colleague, Jennifer Burk:

"It is very easy to relate to PJ. In many ways, she is the average young woman - confident in most facets of her life but a little unsure and timid when it comes to being with guys romantically. Her boys are like my boys: mostly sweet, at times vulgar and sometimes jerks. I think every woman sees a little bit of herself in PJ."

(It should be noted that Jennifer is the lone female among our home game of poker players, so she shares a similar perspective as to that of PJ, as well as PJ's eternal patience with male oddball behavior.)

I think the show's strength - in addition to the interplay of the cast - is that PJ's appeal to men is the same reason she can't seem to land one. She's too much like one of the guys. The irony is, a good-looking, sharp woman who enjoys sports, poker and beer would be the dream girl for many guys.

But PJ often fails at relationships because she often tries to switch to "girl mode" - and she's terrible at it. She has no interest in the "girl things" that the "SATC" women speak of ad nauseum, like fashion or fashion mags or whatever. This is often to the chagrin of her lone girlfiend, Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), who'd easily fit in with the "SATC" ladies should they ever expand their roster.

That underlying concept of PJ's dating ineptness plays into tonight's season premiere. We left her on an airplane bound for Italy for a romantic holiday with a guy. The problem is, most of the season showed PJ with three choices, and we don't know which guy she picked, until now. (I won't spoil things, except to say there's a twist).

Of course, PJ being PJ, she still doesn't know how to approach things even after the choice is made. As she tells Steph, "I'll let Italy do the work for me."

Ultimately, the strength of "My Boys" lays within the relationship of the gang, PJ's group of male friends who show her the ultimate respect by simply being themselves around her, knowing they can't possibly offend her despite their juvenile male antics.

The 'B' storyline involves the gang getting booted from their regular bar when one of them crosses the line and has a one-night stand with a waitress.

Next week's episode is a little better, with the gang all together, and collectively failing at the dating game. Plus, PJ's brother Andy (the scene-stealing Jim Gaffigan) doesn't see the downside until it's too late when he hires the world's hottest nanny.

It's ironic, but in trying to emulate "SATC," the "My Boys" producers have done a much better job of creating a comedy that everyone of either gender can relate to, since "SATC" often digressed into male-bashing and esoteric fashion quips that, for me at least, made it unwatchable.

And "My Boys" has done the viewer the service of not going to the other extreme and doing an all-male version like ABC's horried "Big Shots," which proved equally offensive to both men and women alike.

If you haven't done so yet, check out "My Boys." It's a gang you'll enjoy hanging out with.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "My Boys" follows the second season premiere of "The Bill Engvall Show" (TBS, 9 p.m.)

A new "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.) airs, following the new, updated "Password" at 8 p.m. and a "CSI" rerun at 9 p.m.

NBC gives us a 90-minute "Last Comic Standing" at 8:30 p.m., followed by a new installment of the horror anthology series "Fear Itself" at 10 p.m., with Eric Roberts as a private investigator whose past catches up with him.

If you forgot what Ang Lee did to "The Hulk" before the new movie premieres this weekend, you can check it out tonight (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.)

Finally, Game 4 of the NBA finals (ABC, 9 p.m.) tips off tonight.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Smattering Of Notes

From around the dial:

--Word across the pond is that Ian McKellan is now signed up to play No. 2 opposite Jim Caviezal's No. 6 on "The Prisoner" remake miniseries that ITV is producing. Since the miniseries is slated for six episodes, it doesn't say if that means there will be other No. 2s in addition to McKellan.

--Rocky Carroll has been added as a full-time cast member to "NCIS" as the new director. Not a big surprise, considering how things ended. Let's just hope he decides to re-hire everyone.

--Francis Capra is joining "Heroes" as a villain, joining old "Veronica Mars" castmate Kristen Bell. You know, a long time ago, they used to be friends. No word on Capra's power.

--Steven Weber will guest star on "Psych" as Shawn's (James Roday) uncle.

--"Chuck" will have several big names stop by for Season 2, including Michael Clark Duncan, Tony Hale ("Arrested Development") and John Laroquette. Rachel Bilson may also reprise her role as Chuck's would-be girlfriend next season.

--Finally, a lot of other networks (ahem, ABC) could take a lesson from Fox, which is rerunning the entire "Sarah Connor Chronicles" in August. Here's the schedule:

Sunday, Aug. 10: "Pilot"
Monday, Aug. 11: "Gnothi Seauton"
Tuesday, Aug. 12: "The Turk"
Wednesday, Aug. 13: "Heavy Metal"
Sunday, Aug. 17: "Queen’s Gambit"
Monday, Aug. 18: "Dungeons and Dragons"
Tuesday, Aug. 19: "The Demon Hand"
Wednesday, Aug. 20: "Vick’s Chip"
Sunday, Aug. 24: "What He Beheld"

What a fascinating idea - using the summer to rerun shows that drew some buzz that audiences might have missed the first time around.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: For some odd reason, no one tuned in a couple of months ago when CBS ran "Hidden Talents of the Stars." It got yanked after one episode. Why do I bring this up? Because NBC thinks it has got an even more brilliant concept, "Celebrity Circus" (NBC, 9:30 p.m.)

Meanwhile, the series finale of "Men In Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.) airs tonight.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Remembering Jim McKay

Sports journalism lost a giant over the weekend with the passing of Jim McKay at age 86.

For me, the Olympics were never the see once ABC no longer owned the broadcasting rights to the games, meaning McKay could no longer anchor them.

As a former sports writer myself, McKay brought something else to our profession - respectability. After his historic broadcast covering the Israeli hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Games, McKay changed the face of broadcast journalism forever with his handling of the situation.

With his passing, I can't help but think how far sports broadcast journalism has fallen.

With ESPN having a virtual stranglehold on the industry, it's a different era. The Wide World of Sports, which brought the unusual but interesting sports to the masses, is no longer around. Why would ESPN waste broadcasting time on such things when they can foist the likes of the X-Games upon us?

And McKay's low-key, dignified approach? A thing of the past with anchors who want to shout "Boo-yah!" every five minutes and out-do each other with catch phrases and fluff.

McKay was a true broadcast legend. Let's hope he wasn't the last of his era.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of things that were better in a bygone era, Game 3 of the NBA Finals (ABC, 9 p.m.) between the Lakers and Celtics airs tonight. It's a series of huge significance to me - 20 years ago. Now, honestly, I can give a crap but I'm sure someone out there is still watching.

If you enjoyed "Iron Man" and are eagerly anticipating "The Incredible Hulk" this weekend, you may want to check out "Comic Books Unbound" (Starz, 10 p.m.), which traces the phenomenon back to 1930s serials.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Report Cards '08, Bonus: Cable

With 6,000 networks now available, I'm not giving every one of them a grade, especially since I don't watch them all.

But here are a few highlights:

FX: "The Shield" is coming off a typically terrific season, but this is the network that also renewed the likes of "Dirt." In addition, "Rescue Me" and "It's Always Sunny..." had inconsistent years. Grade: C+

AMC: The Jay Bruce of networks, in that this was the first year AMC produced original TV programming, and had a hit every time. Both of AMC's shows, "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" should be on every critic's Top 10 list and will make noise come Emmy time. Grade: A+

USA: I've found both "Monk" and "Psych" to have become tiresome, but the network deserves points for the very clever "Burn Notice," which returns next month, and the solid "In Plain Sight." The experiment of moving "Law & Order: CI" over to USA for the first-run episodes seems to have translated well. Grade: B

Bravo: Bravo has gone from arts programming to reality heaven, but the transition has been a good one with the likes of "Top Chef" and "Project Runway," which Bravo is about to lose to Lifetime. Grade: B-

Sci-Fi: "Battlestar Galactica" is still the network's flagship (but really, guys, do we have to wait SO long between seasons?) and Mary McDonnell would have sewn up an Emmy after last week's episode if the Emmy voters ever watched. "Eureka" has turned out to be a sleeper, but "Dresden Files" fizzled despite showing some promise, as did "Painkiller Jane" and "Flash Gordon." Grade: C

BBC America: The king of the cult hits, with the likes of "Robin Hood," "Life on Mars" and "Torchwood," plus the fantastic miniseries "Jekyll," no network out there may provide more pure fun programming. Grade: A-

Lifetime: It's quietly putting together a solid roster of programming, led by "Army Wives," and grabbing "Project Runway" will be a big boost next season. Grade: B

TBS: It's starting to find a niche with "The Bill Engvall Show," "My Boys" and a few other sitcoms. Grade: B-

TNT: "The Closer" is still one of cable's highest-rated and critically acclaimed shows, but "Saving Grace" and "Heartland" didn't work out so well. Grade: C+

MTV: You know, back when I was young, this network actually played music. Now it litters the airwaves with the likes of "Tila Tequila." Grade: F

And, for Pay TV:

HBO: This is the network that once gave us the likes of "Larry Sanders" and "The Sopranos." While "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage" turned in solid years, "Tell Me You Love Me" and "John From Cincinnati" didn't pan out. But the TV movie "Recount" deserves Emmy consideration. Grade: C-

Showtime: With "The Tudors" and "Dexter," Showtime has surpassed HBO creatively, and "Weeds" and "Californication" still draw good numbers. Grade: B

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Well, "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) has produced one of the most irritating contestants in the history of reality programming after just one episode. That the woman doctor's behavior earned her immunity ultimately hopefully means her karmic payback will be that much the sweeter. It follows a new "Bachelorette."

It must be cross-promotions week: CBS airs a rerun of "Bill Engvall" at 8 p.m., teasing the season 2 premiere Thursday on TBS. Meanwhile, Lou Forrigno makes an appearance on "American Gladiators" (NBC, 8 p.m.) just before the movie premiere of "The Incredible Hulk" this weekend.

The documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" (HBO, 9 p.m.) earned a lot of kudos on the independent film circuit and may be worth checking out.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Network Report Card '08, V: ABC

Oh, ABC, ABC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

--The most imaginative slate of new shows from any network this year, including "Eli Stone," "Dirty, Sexy Money," and "Pushing Daisies."
--A schedule that satisfied people both critically and in the ratings, such as "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."
--Looking to poach the best of other networks, by grabbing "Scrubs" after NBC discarded it and nearly grabbing CBS' "Old Christine."

WHAT WAS GOOD: Just about everything. There wasn't a network that came up with more innovative stuff than ABC, ranging from the wonderful comedy/drama mix of "Eli Stone" to the perfection that was "Pushing Daisies." "Samantha Who?" was the network's most successful sitcom, both creatively and numbers-wise, in ages.

"Desperate Housewives" had a big rebound year thanks to the addition of Dana Delaney, and "Lost" hit on all cylinders, owning the public eye while everyone else was on strike. "Grey's" just finished out of the Top 10 at No. 11, and "Ugly Betty" turned in a very solid sophomore campaign.

On the reality front, ABC owned the No. 2 reality series with "Dancing With the Stars" and also got strong ratings contributions from "Extreme Makeover," "Oprah's Big Give" and "The Bachelor."

WHAT WAS BAD: ABC didn't hit on every cylinder. It also gave us the worst show of the year by far in "Big Shots." "Carpoolers" and "Cavemen" were duds that were more consistent with ABC's sitcom failures of the past. "Private Practice" failed to live up to the show it was spun off from, "Grey's Anatomy."

"Miss/Guided" had a lot of potential, but ABC buried it on the schedule and won't bring it back.

ABC also announced it has renewed the likes of "Boston Legal" and "According to Jim" for another season.

OVERALL: ABC's hits far exceeded its misses. While it didn't have a break-out-of-the-pack commercial success like it did when "Grey's," "DH" and "Lost" all came out, the best of the new shows used a combination of critical praise and timing from the strike to earn renewals. ABC may be making a mistake by not re-airing some of those series to give new viewers a chance to catch them before the new fall season begins.

GRADE: A-. Had ABC spared us "Big Shots" and "Cavemen," they might have earned an A.

COMING NEXT: Mini-report cards for cable.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Tonight's new "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) is called "The Doctor's Daugter." Yes, we do meet the Doctor's daughter Jenny (Georgia Moffett), and her existence is explained in the first minute as the Doctor, Martha and Donna land in the midst of a massive war. Fun fact No. 1: Moffett is genuinely the Doctor's daughter - her dad is Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor (and her mother is Sandra Dickinson, Trillian from the BBC's "Hitchhiker's Guide" miniseries from the 1980s.) Fun fact No. 2: Moffett originally auditioned for the role of Rose Tyler, which of course went to Billie Piper. Fun fact No. 3: Moffett is apparently dating series star David Tennant in real life, according to the UK press.

Also new is "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), which finds Vipers flying with Cylons, not against them.

The extremely popular "Meerkat Manor" (Animal Planet, 9 p.m.) kicks off a new season as well.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) finds himself fighting the Black Knights. (Hopefully, they won't try biting his kneecaps off).

CBS presents a remake of "Sybil" (CBS, 8 p.m.), with Jessica Lange playing the shrink who has a patient with multiple personality disorder.

On Sunday, Spike airs the "Deliverance"-style movie, "Backwoods" (Spike, 9 p.m.) "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (USA, 9 p.m.) kicks off its new season, followed by a new episode of "In Plain Sight" at 10 p.m.

Also kicking off its season is the popular drama "Army Wives" (Lifetime, 10 p.m.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Network Report Card '08, IV: CBS

Talk about being damned if you do and damned if you don't.

CBS scores pretty consistently in the ratings with the likes of "CSI" (times 3)/"NCIS"/"Criminal Minds"/"Without A Trace"/"Cold Case" etc. and is criticized for producing procedural dramas aimed at an older crowd.

But when they get away from the cookie-cutter form of episodic crime procedurals and try to do something different ("Viva Laughlin," anyone?), if it doesn't blow up in the network's face, it certainly fizzles out.

When the network tries to placate smaller groups of cult fans - such as "Jericho" - CBS was rewarded with lower ratings when they brought the show back. When the network axes a show based on economics, they disenfranchise even more fans ("Moonlight").

It's enough to drive a network suit bonkers.

WHAT WAS GOOD: In addition to the above procedurals, CBS established a very solid Monday night comedy lineup, with new hit "Big Bang Theory" joining "2 1/2 Men" and "How I Met Your Mother." Plus, the network decided to keep "The New Adventures of Old Christine" rather than risk losing the Emmy darling to ABC.

As for non-dramatic programming, "60 Minutes" always delivers and "Survivor" and "Amazing Race" both made it into the Top 25 in the Nielsens.

WHAT WAS BAD: CBS doesn't exactly rake in the younger demographics, although these days, ratings are ratings. CBS tried alternative programming and misfired with the likes of "Viva Laughlin" and "Kid Nation." Shows that showed some promise like "Moonlight" and "Cane" didn't survive for a second season.

The network also foisted the likes of "Welcome to the Captain" and "Secret Talents of the Stars" on an unsuspecting public.

And finally, the much-debated hiring of Katie Couric as anchor for the nightly news resulted in a big flop as the ratings continue to decline.

OVERALL: I've seen the previews of CBS' fall lineup, and it's not particularly promising, except for "Bad Week," which should fit in nicely with the Monday night sitcoms, and "Eleventh Hour," another procedural (!) based on an outstanding British series.

Honestly, I worry with too many failures like "Viva Laughlin" or disappointments like "Moonlight" that CBS is going to give up on trying to create shows that are different from its norm.

And, for all of the criticism of the procedurals, most of the shows listed above are actually pretty decent shows.

GRADE: B-. I'm awarding CBS a few extra credit points for effort.


THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, here's another reason that hurt CBS' GPA. "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.) debuts tonight with the promise of a titillating look at the 1970s as a suburban couple (Molly Parker, Jack Davenport) gets introduced to the swinging lifestyle by their neighbors (Grant Show, Lana Parilla).

On a pay cable network like HBO, "Swingtown" might have worked because the producers could have shown a lot more. As it is, the sex and drugs they do show isn't particularly shocking nor unfamiliar. The characters are drawn two-dimensionally, and the subplots involving the children of the various couples are pretty confusing. And the "square" couple (Miriam Shor, Josh Hopkins) was so irritating, I could see why Parker and Davenport were driven to sex and drugs.

A better effort is NBC's "Fear Itself," (NBC, 10 p.m.) a horror anthology that stars different casts every week, a' la "The Twilight Zone." While nowhere near the "Zone's" class, "Fear" is pretty entertaining and not too gory for the queasier viewers.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Network Report Card '08, III: The CW

How do you grade a network that would consider ultimate success to have a show crack the top 100 of the Nielsen Ratings?

Well, in my case, very carefully. You have to look at a relative set of guidelines when the CW's top-rated show is "America's Next Top Model," which tied for 127th in the final ratings.

The CW continues to aim at young viewers in the age-range that advertisers covet, and when you factor that in, the numbers improve - slightly. But the CW is giving up its Sunday nights next season, and some people think that might signal the death knell of the network.

WHAT WAS GOOD: Quality-wise, the CW found some pretty good scripts and did something with them. "Aliens In America" was the best sitcom no one watched. "Supernatural" may be TV's most underrated show. "Reaper" and "Gossip Girl" developed cult followings.

The CW's bread and butter continues to be those reality style shows like "Model" and the teen-oriented shows listed above, as well as "One Tree Hill" and "Smallville."

WHAT WAS BAD: "Aliens" didn't make it, and "Reaper" barely hung on. "Gossip Girl," which no doubt drew its inspiration from the original "Beverly Hills, 90210," had enough success to lead the network to foist a "90210" sequel upon us for next season.

The network's No. 2 rated program? "Friday Night Smackdown." Um, yeah.

OVERALL: Thank God this network can survive on cult followings, because the one-episode flop "Secret Talents of the Stars" ranked higher than any other CW show except "Model." But depending on how much patience the suits have, the CW does provide a place for the cult hits to thrive with little pressure on having to deliver big numbers. (We "Supernatural" fans are grateful).

GRADE: D+. Only the quality of a few shows managed to keep the CW from complete failure.


WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Men In Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.) winds down to its finale, pretty much owning the night as the only new dramatic show.

For the reality fans, "She's Got the Look" (TV Land, 10 p.m.), about women over 35 competing to be models, has drawn a bit of buzz. If nothing else, it should provide a contrast to "Top Model."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Network Report Cards '08, II: Fox

So, are you a glass-is-half-full type of TV viewer, or glass-is-half-empty?

Because, depending on which you are, will no doubt influence your view of Fox's year.

WHAT WAS GOOD: Fox brought us the top-rated show of the season ("American Idol") and the second-best rated drama ("House"). "House" delivered some of the best episodes of its run, including the Super Bowl night episode with Mira Sorvino and the devastating two-part season finale. As it has during the Mike Darnell era, Fox continues to dominate ratings-wise with reality fare such as "The Moment of Truth" and "Hell's Kitchen," not worrying about pesky things like good taste.

"Prison Break" inexplicably earned yet another season as well as a spinoff, and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" brought in decent numbers for its debut. And remember, Fox was handcuffed by not airing "24" this season because of the strike, which is usually a ratings-earner. Its Sunday animation block is solid if unspectacular.

WHAT WAS BAD: Well, see above. When "The Moment of Truth" is the 13th-best rated show of the season, you know something is wrong, at least with the American viewing public. The much-hyped "Back To You," with Emmy winners Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton, flopped. After its launch was pushed back to midseason, "New Amsterdam" was solid creatively but failed to find an audience. The usually dependable "Bones" was a bit of a mess creatively after the strike. "Canterbury's Law" came out flat and fizzled away quickly.

OVERALL: It's kind of tough to judge Fox without "24." It's a bit like watching the Braves play without Chipper Jones: They still might win, but they are playing without their heavy hitter. Fox seems more committed than ever to reality programming over dramatic programming, not a good sign for the TV audience but very good for the network's bottom line. On the creative front, I was pretty underwhelmed by most of Fox's dramatic shows, with the exceptions of "House" and "Terminator." It'll be interesting to see where Fox goes from here.

GRADE: C+. I may not like the programming, but it's hard to argue the numbers.


TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Well, the aforementioned "Moment of Truth" and "Hell's Kitchen" are new tonight on Fox, so I guess this is a good night if you are into the reality programming.

A much higher class of reality airs on Fox's sister network, as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock returns with "30 Days" (FX, 10 p.m.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Network Report Cards '08, I: NBC

So begins the week where I try to grade the networks on their performances from this past year. It's more difficult than last year, because I have to grade on a curve thanks to the strike, which disrupted all of the networks' seasons.

Today we start with the Peacock.

WHAT WAS GOOD: It's hard to argue with NBC's out-of-the-box approach to creativity. You won't find "CSI"-style, cookie-cutter procedurals here (except for the umpteen number of "Law & Order" spinoffs).

NBC showed quite a bit of diversity among its programs as well as quality, with shows ranging from "Life" to "Chuck" to "Friday Night Lights." It's old standards ("L&O," "ER") continue to have a loyal following, and its Thursday night lineup of sitcoms is still the best in terms of quality.

WHAT WAS BAD: NBC continues to be mired in a ratings slump. A much-ballyhooed remake of the "Bionic Woman" fell flat both creatively and in the ratings. Season 2 of "Heroes" didn't live up to the first season. NBC failed to create a breakout hit among any of its new shows, and the ones that were renewed got to be so more because of the strike than big numbers.

OVERALL: I'd hate to see NBC go the reality/game show route more than it already has ("Deal or No Deal," "American Gladiators"). Unfortunately, those shows are producing more consistent numbers than the network's dramatic programming. As a viewer, it's frustrating to see clever, well-done shows like "Journeyman" fizzle out because of lack of ratings, but unfortunately, it's a reality in this day and age.

GRADE: C-. NBC deserves props for at least trying different things, and I hope they continue to do so. Unfortunately, one also has to be realistic, and TV - more than ever - is a numbers game these days.


MONDAY'S BEST BETS: One of the more odd reality shows to come out in recent years was "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) Hosted by Anderson Cooper the first time around, it involves people doing all sorts of crazy things while one of the contestants continually sabotaged their efforts. ABC got rid of it for a couple of years, but brings it back tonight as relatively cheap summer fare, sans Cooper.