TV Gal Lists Pilot Possibilities

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OK party people, premiere week is finally here and we have so much to discuss. So it's time to focus. Let's take a gander at three things that can happen to a new show.

The Revised Pilot: I'm voting "The Class" (premiering Monday at 8 p.m. on CBS) the pilot most likely to improve. Since I watched the show last July, David Keith joined the cast, new scenes were added and lackluster ones were edited out. And the results are, well, pretty good. It definitely took the series from awful to slightly above average. The adorable Jason Ritter stars as Ethan, a guy who reunites his third grade class in an effort to surprise his fiancee. And so "Friends" for the new millennium begins. But "Friends" worked because the characters were innately likeable and relatable. The same cannot be said for this group. Also, after watching the first three episodes, it's clear that the show seems intent on seeing how often attempted suicide can be played for laughs. (My take? Not too many.) My biggest issues are with sisters Kat (Lizzy Caplan) and Lena (Heather Goldenhersh). They've toned Goldenhersh down from the original pilot but she's still an acquired taste. The series may think Lena will be the breakout character, but I'm voting for Holly and her husband Perry (an hilarious Sam Harris) to become your favorites. Three stars.

The "Can-the-Show-Live-Up-to-the-Hype" Pilot: Let's be honest, we loved "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (premiering Monday at 10 p.m. on NBC) before we even met it. The cast is a dream -- including Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Timothy Busfield, Steven Weber, and D.L. Hughley. Plus it's about people who take television as seriously as we do. The series from Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme takes viewers behind the scenes at a "Saturday Night Live"-type show. I'm thrilled to report after watching the second episode that the pilot wasn't a fluke -- "Studio 60" remains one of the best new shows of the season. I just have a couple quibbles -- for one, it is challenging to believe Whitford as his new character Danny Tripp. The cadence of his speech and his physical mannerisms are so much like Josh Lyman that I kept expecting Donna to show up for a flirtatious exchange. Also like "The West Wing" was when it first started, the show is too idealistic and this time we're not talking about politics. I mean I live for this stuff but I have some perspective. My guess is once the show hits its rhythm all will even out. Four stars.

The Pilot We Weren't Allowed to See: "Brothers & Sisters" (premiering Sunday at 10 p.m. on ABC) received a lot of attention because TV critics didn't receive the pilot before the July press tour. Sally Field was recast as the show's matriarch and executive producer Marti Noxon left the series citing the all-inclusive "creative differences." Plus, this is the show that marks Calista Flockart's return to television and also star Rachel Griffiths and Ron Rifkin. All of this put us on high alert. What could be wrong? Is the show that bad? Will it ever make to air? Well, now I've seen the pilot and all I can say is I wish the show were as interesting as the controversy. It's not a bad show. It's simply at this point not a particularly exciting one. I have -- and this seems to be my common complaint this season -- no compelling reason to watch the show again. However, Greg Berlanti has come on board as the show runner and his episodes begin in a couple of weeks. I will not rule the show out until I've seen what the man behind "Everwood" had done with it. Until then, three stars.

So much TV this week, you must let me know what you think after you've seen these new shows.

Quotes of the Week "It was real. What we had; it was real." Michael to Sara on "Prison Break." I should say it was real. This was the first time we ever saw Michael get violent or cry, right? Thanks to Christie for the quote.

"Do you have extra batteries in your pants?" Judge Bruno to Mario Lopez on "Dancing with the Stars." Thanks to Jeff for the quote.

Where Have I Seen Them Before? After a long summer's nap, Michelle is back in the WHISTB business (and, by the way, thanks to TV Gal reader Al for coming up with the idea to use the acronym WHISTB).

Michelle recognized Tim DeKay, Earl's friend Hank on "My Name Is Earl," Jonsie on "Carnivale," and Kirsten's husband Paul on "Party of Five," was the traffic controller who held his workplace hostage on "Standoff."

Joe Spano, John's dad on "NYPD Blue," was his boss and Stacy Edwards, Dr. Lisa Catera on "Chicago Hope," was his wife. Dave was the first to recognize Sheryl Lee, Laura Palmer on "Twin Peaks" and Peyton's mom on "One Tree Hill," as the mom of the sick boy on "House."

And here's the most interesting WHISTB this week. Jonathan Penner, who played Dave on "Rude Awakening," Nick on "The Naked Truth," and guest starred on "CSI: NY" lastSeason, is a member of the Raro tribe on "Survivor: Cook Island."

Highlights of the Week Ahead

All times listed are Eastern Time for Sept. 18 to 24

Well, things are looking up over at "Prison Break" (Monday, FOX, 8 p.m.). The Abruzzi/Tweener was a good bait-and-switch last week. But what I need to talk about is Lincoln's "I'm too sexy for this jail cell" style. Is there any particular reason that Michael is running around with a fully buttoned up shirt and tie and Lincoln's shirt is undone to his navel ("Michael, before we blow up the car and fake our own death, let me unbutton one more button and spray on some self-tanner.").

Second seasons can often either make ("The Office") or break ("The O.C.") a show. Last season's charming "How I Met Your Mother" (Monday, CBS, 8:30 p.m.) picks up right where it left off last May -- Ted and Robin are in love, Marshall is heartbroken and Barney is his hilarious self -- and is off to a great sophomore season. Plus, there's a cute inside joke at the top of the episode.

Blair Underwood begins his stint as the sexy new school teacher on "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (Monday, CBS, 9:30 p.m.). This show is growing on me. Broadway star Craig Bierko joins the cast of "Boston Legal" on Tuesday (ABC at 10 p.m.) And it looks like the series is up to its usual shenanigans -- Jerry is caught with a sex doll and Michael J. Fox steals a lung in the third season premiere.

I didn't get the revised series premiere of "Smith" (Tuesday, CBS, 10 p.m.) in time for my deadline but I can tell you I liked the original pilot quite a bit. As you know I watch a slew of new shows all at once and the ones that pop are the ones I remember and "Smith" really popped. I'm giving it four stars -- check it out and let me know what you think.

The CW (sounds funny doesn't it, don't worry we'll get used to it.) begins its first night of original programming with the two hour premiere of "America's Next Top Model" Wednesday at 8 p.m.

"Kidnapped" (Wednesday, NBC, 10 p.m.), however, didn't pop at all. In fact, I don't even care if the kidnapped son is ever found and that can't be good. Two stars.

"My Name Is Earl" is big on Emmy nominee Jaime Pressly in its second-season premiere Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC. It's a Joy-heavy episode but not particularly a laugh-heavy episode. Randy has some truly hilarious moments (my personal favorite is when he uses sarcasm) but overall the episode falls a little flat.

What will happen with Jim and Pam in the season premiere of "The Office" (Thursday, NBC, 8:30 p.m.)? NBC didn't send out the premiere episode so I'm not sure, but I can't wait to find out.

Things are even more tight-lipped over at the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy" (Thursday, ABC, 9 p.m.). Who will Meredith chose? And do you still care? We think he loves her so what are we so afraid of? You all are very divided about the Grissom and Sara romance -- some of you have been waiting forever for it, other fear it will ruin the show.

We'll get more hints about their romance while John Mayer sings and Danny Bonaduce guest stars in the 7th season premiere of "CSI" (Thursday, CBS, 9 p.m.).

By the way if you watch the season premiere of "CSI" Thursday night (9 p.m. on CBS), fret not, ABC will reair Thursday night's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" ever Friday at 8 p.m. "ER" is in crisis in its 13th (can you believe it?) season premiere Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC. The good news is the same actor is still playing Sam's son Alex -- something that hasn't been true in season's pasts. Also John Stamos reprises his role and joins the cast as the cute paramedic.

"Desperate Housewives" will try to bounce back from a lackluster second season with its third season premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC. The episode picks up six months later and will feature Dougray Scott as a new love interest for Susan. And I heard from Jamie Denton himself that we will be seeing a lot more of his alter ego Mike this season. Which is a good thing because you all know how I don't prefer a Mike-free episode.

"Without a Trace" is back for a new season Sunday at 10 p.m. on CBS. Thursdays won't be the same without the show but I'll follow Jack and his gang anywhere.

That's all for today. I will be back next week to continue the TiVo Death Watch '06 (still awaiting my replacement TiVo) and the season premiere of "Gilmore Girls" (I liked it) and "7th Heaven" (with an update on twinsapoolza '06), the series premiere of "Heroes," "Runaway," "The Game" and much, much more. Have a question, seen a familiar face, have an inside scoop or want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com .

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