Saturday, April 07, 2007

The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.

Everyone here at SDD wishes you a tremendously happy Easter Sunday and Monday, particularly those of you who are Christians and therefore actually, y'know, celebrate the day.

Here's hoping your eggs are easy to find, your costumed Easter Bunnies aren't too creepy and your candy is tasty as tasty can be.

And if you're looking for some holiday-appropriate reading, you can't do much worse than David Sedaris and his French class classmates trying to explain the crucifixion, the resurrection and the Easter Bunny to a Muslim woman in a language they're not familiar with. The whole essay is right here. Or, you can listen to him read it out loud to an audience in the last segment here.

And if you're in the mood for social interaction and just want to hang out with the people who come up with this crazy site, please visit us at our brand new Facebook group, located here.

I'll toss up a couple of reviews tomorrow (no rest for the weary), but please enjoy the day in church or with your family or eating Cadbury's creme eggs or devouring a ham or whatever it is you do.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Just like Sydney Bristow on Alias, I'll use my sexuality as a weapon. To the wig shop!": 30 Rock

(Gotta get to bed early tonight, so I'll get to Scrubs and Prison Break tomorrow night. Hope that's OK with you. But. . .shorter versions of both: Prison Break: Gladiator prison? What the hell?! Scrubs: Hey! Maybe the best of the season, if still a little forced!)

As happy as I am to have The Office back, I'm probably even happier to have 30 Rock back and among us. It may not have the strong emotional core that drives The Office or How I Met Your Mother, but damned if it isn't the funniest thing on the air right now, able to send me into fits of laughter more than any show since Arrested Development (or maybe even Newsradio). Tonight, Will Arnett, Arrested's Gob Bluth, showed up, bridging the gap between what was once the funniest show on TV to what is now the funniest show on TV. Moment for moment, 30 Rock is the only show that comes close to the sheer density of jokes on Arrested. Arnett made a very good foil for Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy, and his over-the-top gay executive also made an amusing pseudo-paramour for the eternally naive Kenneth the Page.

But that wasn't the only thing in this overstuffed episode -- Jenna, putatively one of the show's most important supporting characters, didn't even show up in this episode, and I didn't even notice, so hopping were the other characters with storylines (heck, Twofer got a runner about how his ancestor wasn't a black general in the Union army, as he thought, but in the Confederate army -- and he was a terror to boot).

The showdown between the executives over who would best impress the big boss men with their assorted proposals (and using the Arnett character to spoof everything from cell phone content to Webisodes was inspired, especially the 10-minute Web sitcom), and I loved the title of "The Rockefeller Center Salute to Fireworks" (even if the final joke about it was too much like all of the other big shows that have failed to close episodes this season).

But I think I ultimately preferred Liz chasing her prospective boyfriend all over New York and pretending to be an alcoholic for him (after she was worried he was the kind of guy who went to church every day) before delivering a completely disarming, completely great monologue about how screwed up she was. Tina Fey's work in this episode was probably her best in the series so far, and it really showed just how comfortable she is now to just be herself on screen and admit to embarrassing things like pooping her pants in college (really, it was charming when she did it). Entertainment Weekly and the NBC promos department are both encouraging all of us to think of Liz Lemon as the new Mary Richards, and I daresay that I just might start making that heretofore unthinkable connection (though I'll probably resist it just because it was suggested to me by commercials).

Possibly the funniest subplot was Tracy finding out that one of his ancestors was Thomas Jefferson, complete with a genius throwaway gag taking place at the Maury Povich show and featuring Alec Baldwin as Jefferson himself (getting booed by the audience for saying that he invented America and then flipping them off, no less). The scene even tied in Tracy's insistence from earlier in the season that he was half-Jedi with a Star Wars shoutout from Jefferson.

And then everyone else (except Jenna) had stuff to do too! Pete was living with Liz and accidentally dressing like her! Kenneth was dancing awkwardly for Will Arnett! And Judah Friedlander wore a succession of funny hats!

Really, 30 Rock has just turned into a cracklingly funny show, and it's well worth a look. If you were worried about jumping in because the show might not get a second season, there's no reason to worry about that now. So dive on in. And share your favorite quotes in the comments!

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"Usher Jennifer Hudson Kapoor": The Office

The Office returned from a something-like-six-week break with an oddly plot-ful episode. While there was a lot of funny stuff in the episode, some of it felt a bit forced, particularly the incident that incited the other events that set off the episode. Still, having The Office back, even if for an episode that wasn't wholly successful, was great, and I look forward to the episodes that close out the season.

The best stuff in the episode was the comedy. The workplace situation feels like it should be so mined for laughs by now that they'd have to go wackier and wackier to make us laugh, but they keep finding new ways to stretch believability but only just enough. Michael buying a woman's suit? I'll buy it, especially when the rest of the office finds out and mocks him for it (I loved the shot of the pants without pockets and Michael reading off the suit's brand). Michael's negotiation tactics and Wikipedia use were also funny.

Another favorite plot was Toby's growing frustration at having to sit by Ryan and Kelly, who have one of the more tempestuous relationships (completely played in the background!) on television. Their argument over what Ryan would have done in a life-threatening situation was great (particularly how he laughed when the kid on the Ferris wheel dropped a milkshake on her). And Angela's growing, giddy passion over Dwight's act of heroism was perfectly played by all involved. It also provided a great way for Jim to pay back Dwight. And, of course, Creed's long story (completely inaccurate) about the attack was hysterical.

And, of course, Andy returned from anger management but Dwight got him with the pepper spray.

What didn't work as well for me were the odd dramatic elements of the episode. The initial attack by Roy on Jim just felt like something out of a telenovela. The fallout from the attack was played pretty well, but it felt forced in many ways, especially as it seemed designed to force a wedge between Jim and Karen and push Pam and Jim together (seriously? Roy would tell Pam to go for it with Jim?). We're reaching the point in the will-they/won't-they cycle where we begin to see the endgame in involved getting the two regulars get together. Still, the scene with Roy and Pam in the diner wasn't bad, all things considered, until it went to Roy encouraging Pam to pursue Jim. His sense of loss was palpable, and David Denman has always shown us the sheer unexamined quality of Roy's life and how things can completely blindside him because of that. I hope this isn't his last episode on the show.

But, because I like to save good things for the end, I loved the way that Michael tried to get Jan to give him a bigger raise by bringing up personal details (and then how she finally gave in and gave him a bigger raise than she thought she should, mostly because she found out how bad his day had been). Their fight and gradual reconciliation at the negotiation table was well-done, and I'm starting to enjoy the Michael and Jan pairing more than many of the other pairings.

Still, this episode pushed the plot wheel further up the hill, and I hope they crank out some truly hilarious episodes for the final run.

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"Things are looking up for old Liz Lemon": 30 Rock gets a second season pickup

It happens so rarely in television, but sometimes, a network picks up a show with low ratings just because they seem to really, really like it. Even when the critical consensus on 30 Rock was that it was all right but no great shakes, NBC seemed to really believe in it. Now you can be cynical and suggest that this is entirely because the show gives General Electric a good platform to promote it self or entirely because Tina Fey is an NBC girl going way back, but I don't care what the rationale is -- 30 Rock is getting a second season, and it will probably air after The Office, which is probably the best possible companion it could get.

Now let the debate rage as to whether this show is the next Arrested Development -- coming back for a second season only to boast disappointing ratings -- or the next Office -- coming back for a second season to find that its audience is growing. I'll hope for the second, but I fear for the first.

Never mind! We get another year of Jack Donaghy and Kenneth the page. That's more than enough for me.

Look! Press release!

NBC will renew its critically acclaimed comedy "30 Rock" (returning to the network's lineup on Thursday, April 5, with a special supersized episode at 8:40 p.m. - 9:20 p.m. ET for the 2007-08 season, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment. The series will settle into its new time period of 9:00 - 9:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 12 for the remaining episodes.

"From the beginning, '30 Rock' has proven to be the kind of quality comedy that doesn't come around very often, and we are very pleased to have this show back for a second season," said Reilly. "We expect it to continue to build its increasingly loyal audience and become another of NBC's classic comedy series."

The freshman comedy has earned critical plaudits since its premiere last October while Alec Baldwin, one of the series stars, won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his spot-on performance as Jack Donaghy, a brash network executive. In addition, "30 Rock" has received extensive praise from the nation's television critics - including magazines such as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly and People, that have included the comedy on many of their "Top 10" lists of favorite series for 2006-07.


Check out the rest o' that here. And don't forget to watch an all new 30 Rock tonight!

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"You, sir Hugo, are rotund.": Lost

So, hey, a monster-licious hour. Nothing wrong with that!

Lost seems to be wrapping up The Others' storyline, even if it seems to be taking its own sweet time doing so. Fortunately, the show has sent one of the exactly two fascinating Others back to the beach with Jack and company to divulge information to Sayid (seemingly the only Lostie eager to get to the bottom of the mysteries of the island). Yes, Juliet now appears to live on the beach, after the Others pulled out to go off. . .somewhere (word is we won't know for weeks and weeks, which is frustrating, since they have Locke and Ben Linus with them). In the meantime, we get to wonder if the Others have turned Jack or Sayid, and we get to wonder who, exactly, Juliet is playing for. Lost always does paranoia well, and if we're going to spend much of the season wondering if one of these three is going to snap and pull a Michael, that'll be a fascinating way to close out the home stretch of year three.

Most of the hour was devoted to Kate and Juliet alone in the jungle of doom, handcuffed together and getting in catfights. There's a possibly apocryphal story about how when Charlie's Angels was at the height of its popularity, an episode advertised in TV Guide featuring the Angels handcuffed together and wandering through a swamp brought in the show's biggest ratings to date. And when they aired a rerun with the same promotional campaign, the episode matched the first run. I don't know if this was Lost's attempt at pulling in that audience (the show certainly promoted the wet T-shirt catfight heavily), but the scenes with the monster stalking the two women had some tension to them, particularly when we found out that the Others' sound fences stop Ol' Smokey. It was a bit tiring to find out that Juliet had been playing Kate all along (since I'm tired of the show's characters pulling con games on each other), but it was a nice touch to find that the Others really had abandoned her.

Kate's flashback, which featured Joanie Stubbs as Sawyer's con-lady love, now hanging out with Kate and attempting to get her an audience with her mom, was nothing new, but it was also mercifully brief. If the flashbacks must stay, I'd rather they do it this way -- with fleeting glimpses of a pre-island life. While Evangeline Lilly's acting still can't match, say, Elizabeth Mitchell's, she's really gotten better over the course of the series, to the point where her emotional investment in her flashback stories seems directly disproportionate to how interesting they are. I can only hope that Kim Dickens and Nathan Fillion will both appear in one of her flashbacks -- it could be the most boring flashback ever, and I'd probably love it anyway, just to see Joanie Stubbs and Captain Mal Reynolds comparing notes.

Meanwhile, the beach B-story continued to follow the wacky pairing of Sawyer and Hurley and Hurley's weird attempts to get Sawyer to step up and be a leader. This was typical Lost "I'm going to deceive this person to get them to do what I want" hullabaloo, but the actors played it well, and Sawyer's growing social conscience over the course of the hour was well-done, as was his realization that people really do look to him for leadership. The growth of his character this season has been one of the few impeccable things from this year, and I look forward to seeing him continue down this path.

Random interesting tidbit: The Others don't know how to control Smokey? Hmmmmm. . .

Next week's episode looks pretty answer-licious (isn't it the Juliet flashback?). I know that the Lost fan community is hard on the show (and it deserves some of the whipping it gets), but it's been a pretty consistently entertaining action-adventure hour this season. You can beg to differ with me on that (and I'm sure many of you do), but I still find its blend of frights and thrills to be engaging, and I still think it plays the serial game as well as anybody on television.

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"Nothing quite like athletes doing comedy.": Friday Night Lights

Brian Krakow lives!

There were a lot of great things about tonight's Friday Night Lights, but chief among them for me was Jason Katims (the show's head writer) resurrecting the cliffhanger from My So-Called Life -- maybe we'll get to see how it ends this time! Nerd-ish Landry all but professed his love for Tyra (who understood what he was going for), while Jordan Catalano redux (and this is the first time I've gotten that) Tim Riggins moseyed back into the picture after being rejected by the single mother next door (and thank God that's the end of that storyline, which was always a little too TV-y for this show). Tyra and Tim started the series together, and the two of them have both grown so substantially separately that it might be interesting to see how they do back together, but the impulse of this onetime (okay, STILL) nerd is to see Tyra fall for Landry. But I also hope that doesn't happen -- as it would only happen on TV (unless you're a super sexy nerd like me).

But, of course, as always with this show, there was a lot of great stuff going on, particularly at the roast and in the build-up to it. Many shows would have had the coach's wife or Saracen reveal that Coach Taylor had taken the college job in Austin at the mic, but, instead, we got to see a truly heartfelt speech from Tami right after she and her husband had had a fight -- a speech that obviously inspired second thoughts in him, even as she was steadfast in her desire to stay in Dillon to let Julie finish out her high school career there. The scenes between Coach and Tami were pretty stunning in this episode, especially his giddy joy at just how great the TMU job would be for him and Tami's sadness at hearing that he had taken it (expressed entirely through Connie Britton's eyes). I also quite liked the scene where she proposed that they split long enough for Julie to finish high school, all nerves and energy, and his flat rejection felt both like a jerk-ish thing to do and the most logical thing to do.

Meanwhile, Tyra tried to deal with the aftermath of the attempted rape, going to the police only after Landry told Tami who came to Tyra and forced her to go. Her sadness and rage at what happened were completely believable and highlighted how good of an actress Adrienne Palicki (someone I wrote off in the pilot) has become. Her scenes with both Tim and Landry were heartbreaking in very different ways, and when she called Landry a smelly geek, it burned deep down (not that I'm smelly or anything).

Oh what else. . .

Lyla is sometimes the show's weak link, but Minka Kelly pouts well, and the fact that her parents' marriage failed and her engagement ended in the same episode could have felt forced, but she somehow sold it. I wasn't quite as sure why Suzy would be in Dillon that early in the morning (or why an assistant football coach would need to drop off paperwork at city hall), but Suzy and Street have such a natural chemistry (and a surprisingly sexual one, considering they haven't had sex) that I forgave the contrivance.

Every episode of Friday Night Lights balances so many storylines that it's impossible to hit on all of them, so I won't even try. While a second season is no sure thing, it seems likely. But even if it doesn't happen, we've had one great, perfect season to enjoy.

Here's to a great season finale!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"She sang very much in tune ... which is rare these days.": American Idol

I would complain again, but what's the use? And honestly, my reviews are just as rehashed as every episode of this show so, I'm really left without a leg to stand on. And were this Dancing With the Stars, I'd have a great transition.


Tonight was an episode that I was actually anticipating, as I figured that the source material would automatically be better, seeing as it was songs performed by Tony Bennett, however, as Todd pointed out, that leaves most contestants with a catalog to choose from that's even larger than "artists that inspired Gwen Stefani." Joy. Consider my bubble burst. Though, perhaps it was better to lower my expectations from the get go.

Let me just take a moment and do a little fashion critique for this episode: I was unaware that Tony Bennett had gotten second place at the Masters, as I imagine that's where one gets a yellow blazer along the lines of this. When Phil was working with the master, I couldn't help but fantasize about him taking Bennett's jacket and making the transformation complete. *sighs* In other events, Paula had a serious Hamburglar vibe going on, while Simon continued to tease Ryan by sporting a Fabio-esque, exposed chest shirt thing. *shudders* Weird.

1. Blake Lewis - "Mack the Knife": Blah. Lately, when Blake starts singing I find other things to do. I generally end up wandering out of the room and cleaning things, or going online and looking things up on Wikipedia. This is sad for me, since he's one of my favorites and yet, anymore, I'd just rather be doing something else. AND THIS IS DURING ONE OF MY FAVORITES. Not good. That said, his song was fine, it was a good choice, but man, could this have BEEN any more lackluster?

2. Phil Stacey - "Night and Day": Uhhh ... yeah, I've heard funeral dirges that were more upbeat than this. If that was Todd singing that to me, I'd hire a food tester. Seriously, has anyone* turned in consistently creepier performances than Phil Stacey? I thought not.

3. Melinda Doolittle - "I've Got Rhythm": I swear to God, I'm going to stop reviewing Melinda and Sanjaya for as long as they're in the competition. Doolittle was great. Not her best, not her worst.

4. Chris Richardson - "Don't Get Around Much Anymore":
I've been really tough on Richardson the last few weeks, but he was much better this week. I've always been most impressed with Richardson when he sings upbeat songs, because I think that if he has a future in music it'll be as a "performer" and not as a singer, and his Justin Timberlake impressions are much more palatable when he's moving around and DOING things as opposed to just looking soulfully into the camera.

5. Jordin Sparks - "On a Clear Day": Meh. This song was kinda sucky and Sparks did a fine enough job, but it was at this point that the show really started to feel like the Idol kids decided to clean out the barn and put on a show at the old folks home! Plus, for the first time, I got what Simon says about Sparks being almost over-the-top saccharine.

6. Gina Glocksen - "Smile": This was fine, but yet again showcased the point I made last week: Glocksen doesn't have the stuff to last. Unfortunate, but true.

7. Sanjaya Malakar - "Cheek to Cheek": As horrifying as last week was, Sanjaya actually was able to make it worse by showing up like a horrible Bee-Gee's/Miami Vice lovechild. Weird. That said, I actually kind of respect how he's stopped trying to impress the judges. The ultimate showman, Malakar has figured out that it's Grandmas and Gidgets that make or break this show, and the kid has both in his corner. (In five years, we'll all either be working for him, or dead by his hand. -- ed.)

8. Haley Scarnato - "Ain't Misbehavin": I think what I hate most about Haley Scarnato is that she makes me feel like a prude. I mean, I'm all for women using their sexuality to get ahead. And obviously this show is all about letting people wear what they want ... but every time I see her on screen I scream, "WHORE!" and throw things at big TV. Todd is violently against hurting Big TV in any way and suggests just watching her muted, but this suggestion leads me to throw things at HIM, so the matter is dropped. Ultimately, Scarnato is convinced that as long as she can avoid wearing a bra, she will be allowed to stay. It would be nice if SOMEONE could disprove this theory in short order. Also, she cannot sing. I want to make her wear a big scarlet A for Awful.

9. LaKisha Jones - "Stormy Weather": This was wonderful, despite the fact that she completely and blatently ignored the advice of Tony Bennett. To that extent, why even HAVE mentors? No one ever listens to them ... though honestly, what could Tony Bennett or Gwen Stefani teach these experts about becoming recording artists? Obviously nothing.

Great. Another mediocre hour of my life spent.

Tonight's winner: LaKisha
Tonight's loser: Haley
Tomorrow's loser: *fingers crossed* Haley

*Sanjaya is automatically disqualified from all 'most extreme' catagories, as, well, come on ...

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"I just remembered I forgot to TiVo Alien.": House

So I'll bet that it seemed like a really good idea in the House writers room to do the abortion episode, don't you think? The one where we'd see Cuddy briefly become House because of her strong feelings about the topic and where everyone would debate if a fetus was a human being and the double whammy of a fetus grabbing his finger and Chase and Cameron's dalliance would give House such deep and overwhelming sadness that he would tear up tickets for his vacation and sit alone in his apartment while sad music played on the soundtrack?

Well, it didn't quite work as well as everyone hoped it would, even though everybody gave it their damnedest. I think the central problem for me is that I didn't buy that any doctor at this level of medicine -- especially Cuddy -- would be so dedicated to a pro-life position and saving a baby that she would put the mother's health at risk like that. Making exceptions for the health of the mother is something that even the most ardent pro-life ADVOCATES think should be law (the South Dakota abortion bill that made it to that state's ballot last year actually had that as the only exception). When it comes to the existence of the fetus vs. the life of the mother, virtually everyone agrees that the life of the mother comes first.

Except Cuddy, apparently.

Look, I can go with the idea that she wants to exhaust every possible option to save the baby -- sort of a pre-natal House, if you will -- but once the mother's life started to slip away from her, I think she would have reversed course and terminated the pregnancy to save the life of the mother (the fact that the baby couldn't survive on its own yet meant the show didn't get a chance to do its very own Love's Labor Lost). The whole thing seemed to be stilted in such a way to get a nice debate going on who's a person and who's not. House usually does these sorts of moral dilemmas pretty well, but it fell down on this part tonight. In particular, the scene where House has the fetus grab his finger seemed like something out of an anti-abortion tract.

I think that there's room for conservatives on television. I think there should be characters who are fervently anti-abortion. But when you twist a character to make them so, to the point that it seems like that's all you're trying to do, it gives the argument less credence, as if you had to read a whole bunch of position papers on the topic and shove them into the mouth of one of your actors.

Now, I've fallen behind on House this year, and I only watched this one to help out David, so maybe this was part of an arc that I missed seeing. It is nice to have a show like this that can be easily dived into at a moment's notice -- the only major plot development since I dropped out sometime last year was that Chase and Cameron had hooked up (and the characters talked about that plot point endlessly, so it wasn't like I didn't catch on). House has some great character work, but it's still a procedural at heart, and it's nice to have one or two shows like that on the schedule that are actually enjoyable.

But I'm not a House-head like so many of you, so maybe you have further thoughts on the episode. Me? I just forgot how nice it was to hear House's wisecracks, even if they seem a little labored at times.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

T.V. on TV: The Shield

(David would normally cover this show -- and will begin doing so in two weeks' time -- but I'll try and do a write-up on it next week. In the meantime, my larger review of season six's first half will have to suffice for tonight. -- TV)

The first six episodes of The Shield’s sixth season build to a scene that we’ve seen coming from the very beginning. It’s well photographed (the cameras capture the inimitable late-night glow of L.A.), beautifully and subtly written, and the actors underplay it nicely. Thanks to the gradual accretion of time, the scene plays out with the sort of intensity you can only find in the best serialized television. But it takes a lot of heavy-lifting to get there. When The Shield is firing on all cylinders, it’s like nothing else in television, the cop show reimagined as a violent testosterone opera. Yet it's never quite as good as it could be; it often lacks subtlety, and it’s a little too impressed with its sense of daring.

The Shield has been telling the story of Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team. In the pilot episode, Mackey’s murder of a new strike team member (Reed Diamond) set most of the series' events in motion; the question of whether the crime would ever be discovered has hung over the series ever since. In many ways, Mackey is worse than even Tony Soprano. While Tony has been indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents, the murders he handles directly are those of people who all have blood on their hands. Mackey has killed (and will, so it is implied, kill again) just to better his own station in life, and that gives the show’s attitudes towards him a problematic strain.
_____________________________________________
There's more where that came from.

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"She's hot. I feel nothing.": Brothers and Sisters

David's out for two weeks (the bastard), so a variety of the rest of us are going to try and cover his shows. I actually don't know if his brother is on vacation with him, so maybe I'll be doing Prison Break and others too (for starters: who else enjoyed gladiator prison?!). But, mostly, we'll try to cover David's bigger shows.

Which starts with this one. Honestly, this was the first time since the pilot that I've paid really close attention to this show. It's usually running in the background while I do something else and Libby watches it while folding laundry or something. Now, I was curious about the show just because it added Emily VanCamp as a regular (and we could all do with a regular dose of VanCamp), but I hadn't planned to make it a regular addition to the old plate. I'm not the world's biggest fan of shows where yuppies stare wistfully at the camera and complain about their earth-shattering problems. But this show has a heck of a cast and a fine, fine showrunner in Greg Berlanti, so I thought I'd take it on this week (Libby swears she'll do it next week).

Anyway, I was surprised by how much I liked the episode in question. It'll never be one of my top ten favorite shows on television, and I don't think it quite approaches Berlanti's previous show, the late, lamented Everwood (and if Rina Mimoun, the other mastermind behind that show, gets her pilot on ABC, I will love the network forever), but it's comfort food television, like sitting back on the couch in your sweats and eating fried chicken. (I should note that the show was created by Jon Robert Baitz, and I'd compare it to his prior work if I had seen any of his plays. But I haven't.)

The style of Brothers and Sisters seems to have shifted over the course of the season, going from a show where a bunch of random plotlines were only connected incidentally because of the fact that the characters were all in a family together. The show seems to have shifted to doing a few short scenes that set up the characters' dramas, then shifting to a few acts set at a central event where all of the family members come together and their stories intersect. Then, they break apart again to deal with the aftermath of the event and see how their situation has been affected by the event. It could feel strained, but it doesn't so far, and it's an interesting way to do a soap with a big, sprawling cast.

The event in question was a dinner with newly discovered half-sister Rebecca (the lurvely VanCamp), which was the first occasion for many of the characters to meet her. Only Kitty did not attend, as she was having her own awkward family situation, meeting the children of her senator boyfriend for the first time. The scenes at the Rebecca dinner were pretty great, all messy emotions and inside jokes and weird attempts to make Rebecca feel welcome. The scenes with Kitty and the senator weren't, really, as the kids rejecting the father's new girlfriend subplot isn't a new one and wasn't deployed in an original fashion here either. Still, Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart have pretty good chemistry (though it's nothing compared to the chemistry she had with Robert Downey Jr. back on Ally McBeal), so that made the subplot not a complete waste.

I wasn't as sold on the scenes between the individual siblings. I dug how Nora's writing wasn't very good at first and still wasn't very good at the end, but I wasn't as invested in Infertile Brother's quest to find out which brother is the father of his child. And I admire the honesty with which they portray the relationship of Gay Brother, but his boyfriend is a pretty awful actor (am I alone on this?). Youngest Soldier Brother's weird attempts to ingratiate himself with Rebecca were also pretty good, though Rebecca's bitterness at her mother over never being able to know her siblings before was kind of. . .odd, all things considered.

Still, my biggest impression of the hour was that the show, which started out as a deeply drab and self-serious hour, had somehow morphed into an almost farcical comedy with some truly funny lines. Like I said, it's not the best show on television, but it's surprisingly entertaining, both for its genre and its premise.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

"Starting with you wasn't racist; it was common sense.": 24

If you're just looking for the NBC TV preview, it's immediately below!

In the long list of stupid things 24 has ever done, Wayne Palmer, hyped up on the drugs and ready to bomb some poor country further into the Stone Age, may be the dumbest. I mean, yeah, cougar, but at least the cougar was a placeholder. Wayne deciding to go ahead with the nuclear strike is a pretty dumb twist because it goes against everything we know about the character (hence the drugs) and because it means all of the drama of whether or not he was competent to hold office was fake drama -- just a way to make the nuclear exchange the cliffhanger for yet another week.

It was a fancy version of an up-and-back, in other words.

In TV writer parlance, an up-and-back is when a show makes a major change or brings about a story point, then completely reverses it to get back to the status quo as quickly as possible. Now, obviously, 24 has nothing quite like a status quo, but the fact that the episode ended roughly where the last one ended was pretty disheartening, especially on a show where the story prides itself on moving relentlessly ever forward.

Look, I wanted 24 to blow up the world, but not like THIS, okay?

In other news, the presidential politics storyline was an eye-roller. There was a time when 24 would have gone to the Supreme Court and stripped Palmer of his presidency. It might have even made up an arc of a few episodes, and it would have taken some amount of arm-twisting to expose the malfeasance of Vice President Daniels. Instead, we got the lamest of 24 deus ex machinas -- a bug on a lamp fixture -- and Tom Lennox threatening Daniels into stepping down from his threat.

Jack Bauer did some Jack Bauer-y things, wandering through Santa Monica to find some terrorists with the help of CTU (who continue to feel completely incidental to the storyline beyond giving me my pull quote). Instead, the terrorist was taken down by a bunch of patrons in a bar after Gredenko alerted them to his presence. It wasn't the worst plot point ever, but as a show of the common man rising up against his foes, it wasn't bad.

OK, I'm grasping at straws. There was Ricky Schroeder defending racial profiling and the weird romance of Nadia and Milo and. . .I could go on.

But the whole season, really, can be summed up by Palmer launching the strike -- it's one, big attempt to create false drama.

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Super TV Preview: NBC


(Over the last few days, SDD has been offering up its thoughts on what the networks may do with their lineups next fall as they enter the time period when they consider what to cancel and what to pick up. This is only based on unverified gossip and a little guesswork based on what networks have done in the past. We'll go alphabetically by network. Check out our predictions for ABC, CBS, The CW and Fox. And here's last year's NBC prediction. Don't consider any of this official news. It's just our predictions.)

by Todd and Jon

NBC has fallen hard and fallen fast. Its descent from first to fourth, based almost entirely on their loss of ONE SHOW (Friends) happened insanely rapidly (over the course of a few months, actually), and the network has been clawing tooth and nail to get back even to third place. As Jeff Zucker moved on up within the NBC-Universal corporation, he had to cede power of the NBC schedule (which many claim he messed up by prolonging Friends but not using it to develop new hits and by trying all sorts of wacky scheduling tricks), and that brought in Kevin Reilly, who is currently in charge of the NBC schedule -- somewhat (NBC's revised schedule -- dropped last summer after ABC surprised everyone by moving Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays, endangering Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- had Zucker written all over it).

Reilly has made some good moves. Last year's development slate was full of good series -- and Twenty Good Years. Now, only Heroes really took off, and Studio 60 and Kidnapped both turned into duds, but 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights earned critical hosannas and a surprising amount of faith from their networks, even though their ratings probably didn't merit that faith. Fortunately, NBC is still so far down that it can take chances on some solid series catching on in season two.

But, thanks to Heroes, things look rosier over at NBC. The show was an out-of-the-box hit, unexpectedly, and its success has given the network some breathing room. Law and Order: SVU continues to perform well, even if it's down slightly. Deal or No Deal is solid almost wherever you put it. 1 Vs. 100 isn't quite Deal or No Deal, but it does well enough on Friday. And My Name Is Earl and The Office hold their own in a tough, tough timeslot. Indeed, NBC has already given 2007-08 seasons to Heroes, The Office, My Name Is Earl, Las Vegas and SVU. Based on these building blocks and Sunday Night Football (which wasn't as big of a hit as NBC had hoped but did well enough to pull the network up slightly overall), NBC can concentrate on zeroing in on its goal of putting quality shows in most of its slots and propping them up with Deal or No Deal. It's not the best mission statement in the world (CBS' "We've got crime!" and ABC's "We like women!" are both more consistent, but NBC is at least more consistent than Fox or The CW), but it's something you can build on, and if you get serious TV fans convinced that your network is the one for quality, you can draw them in in bulk.

But the problem with THIS theory is that serious TV fans are abandoning the network model -- they watch on TiVos or wait for the DVD or check stuff out online. Now, all of these methods are revenue streams of one form or another, but they're not the optimum revenue stream for a TV network. NBC has to somehow convince everyone else that they're the quality network -- but not intimidatingly so -- plus survive the inevitable Heroes backlash (reports that the second season will focus on the ancestors and descendants of the Heroes have me worried -- will people complain about not getting to see their favorite characters as much?) that will come in that show's second or third season. But, hey, the network did this in the 1980s, so there's nothing saying it can't do it again. That's one of the nice things about being one of the big three networks -- you're never so far down that you can't get back up again.

None of this should diminish that NBC is a network with serious problems. The expensive pilots from last year (most notably Studio 60) have led to cost-cutting measures throughout the company, and while Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock are both awesome, they're both also very, VERY low-rated. There's nothing here to say that there's any way these shows turn into another Office (a real rarity in that it had an abysmal first season but grew into a minor hit) instead of another Veronica Mars or Arrested Development -- critically acclaimed shows a larger audience decides it's not interested in. In short, there are a lot of holes on this schedule -- more than on any other network not named The CW -- and it will take a concentrated effort to fix them.

But let's take a look at those holes, night by night.

Sunday: In the fall, football performed well enough to boost the network as a whole here. The game was never as big as Monday Night Football was in the past, but it did well enough, especially in the weeks when NBC got to choose which game it wanted to broadcast (coming in the latter third of the season). Winter and spring's reality showcase, featuring, among other things, the latest season of the quickly fading Apprentice (once seen as the network's savior!) and Grease: You're the One That I Want, hasn't done nearly as well, but it's a pretty cheap way to keep a shingle up on the night.

Monday: Heroes changed this night for the network. It doesn't appear it'll ever ascend to the heights Lost did in early season two, but it's going to stay a pretty consistent, 15 million viewer sized hit for a while to come at least (though, as Lost has shown this year, a serial can drop further and faster than anything else). Deal or No Deal does a good job of leading off the night. But Studio 60 and The Black Donnellys have both flopped at 10, and The Real Wedding Crashers is more Band-Aid than serious solution.

Tuesday: Dateline continues to do what it does. Friday Night Lights once opened this night, but it couldn't ever establish any traction. The two-punch of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and SVU isn't quite working either. This night might need some new shows.

Wednesday: Friday Night Lights couldn't find any traction on this night either. It's kind of a precious little show, and it needs protection, something NBC doesn't have a lot of. 30 Rock and Twenty Good Years started out here, and both did poorly, as did Kidnapped, which was an instant flop (somewhat surprisingly, given the amount of hype). Crossing Jordan and Medium are doing all right, but I don't expect both to survive to next year. The Biggest Loser had troubles here as well, but may be back.

Thursday: As a long term strategy, re-establishing the Thursday night comedy bloc is a good one for NBC. As a short-term strategy, it's not as strong as Deal or No Deal at 9 was at the start of the year. Indeed, the Scrubs/30 Rock pairing at 9 has led to lower ratings for ER, though that's not a huge tragedy. Earl and Office do pretty well at 8 and border on doing quite well from time to time. By shuffling the shows around, perhaps NBC can make this night flow a little better. A wild card here is Andy Barker: PI. It probably won't get a pick-up, but you never know. I wouldn't bet on it.

Friday: Raines has done all right, but probably not well enough for another season. Las Vegas has already gotten a pickup, and I wouldn't be surprised by a similar pickup for 1 Vs. 100 very soon. Law & Order is on its last legs, though it doesn't do horribly here.

Saturday: Mostly repeats, but the network experimented with burning off the rest of Kidnapped here. That failed.

So, hey, what about the lineup for next year? Check out the NBC pilots here.

Sunday:

Fall:
7 p.m. -- Football Night in America
8 p.m. -- Sunday Night Football

Midseason:
7 p.m. -- Dateline NBC
8 p.m. -- Deal or No Deal
9 p.m. -- Age of Love (new series)
10 p.m. -- Lipstick Jungle (new series)

Like NBC would change football! (Well, contractually, it can't.) And Dateline and Deal will continue to hold down the fort, though Age of Love sounds like a low-cost alternative to Desperate Housewives. Lipstick Jungle would be a blatant attempt to get those ladies to change the channel. Would they? NBC might be willing to find out.

(Note: NBC has technically ordered a new season of The Apprentice, but they may go out of their way to back out of that order. If not, it could easily go at 10 or 9.)

Monday:

8 p.m. -- Deal or No Deal
9 p.m. -- Heroes
10 p.m. -- The Bionic Woman (new series)

Who better to figure out what to put after Heroes than one of the producers of Battlestar Galactica? We're betting that hot chicks who fight crime (or somesuch) will do pretty well after superheroes who battle evil. And Deal or No Deal is a good leadoff hitter.

Tuesday:

8 p.m. -- 1 Vs. 100 (new night)
9 p.m. -- Fort Pit (new series)
10 p.m. -- Law and Order: SVU

Game shows are working well enough for NBC on other nights, so why not here? Perhaps the network will go with Dateline here again, but Fort Pit, sure to be the prestige project in NBC's lineup (from Denis Leary, after all), will require a hefty leadin. And Law and Order: SVU closes out the night in winning style, as always.

Wednesday:

8 p.m. -- Deal or No Deal (new night)
9 p.m. -- Friday Night Lights (new time)
10 p.m. -- Law & Order (new night)

Jon seems frustrated with NBC's lack of running Deal or No Deal into the ground, so I'm putting it here to placate him more than anything. I'm not sure they'll do this (they may go with 1 Vs. 100 instead), but it would fit with their desire to put cheaper programming on at 8. Friday Night Lights would work better at 9, and Deal or No Deal, with its family audience, may be the ideal lead-in. And NBC should announce this as the last season of Law & Order and promote it thusly. They may get some viewers back. Expect Medium back at midseason.

Thursday:

8 p.m. -- The Office (new time)
8:30 p.m. -- 30 Rock (new time)
9 p.m. -- My Name Is Earl (new time)
9:30 p.m. -- Lipshitz Saves the World (new series)
10 p.m. -- ER

Jon proposed this schedule (though he went with Kath and Kim at 9:30), and I rather like it. It gets 30 Rock out of the way of the 9 p.m. car wreck and puts it after a show that more logically leads in to it. Earl has a loyal audience that should follow it to 9, and Lipshitz is a similarly high concept comedy. NBC should also introduce next season as the last for ER, which may boost that show too. And expect Scrubs to return at midseason.

Friday:

8 p.m. -- 1 Vs. 100 (or Identity)
9 p.m. -- Las Vegas
10 p.m. -- Journeyman (new series)

Game shows and Vegas escapism lead off the night, then lead into the high-concept drama, Journeyman (which seems like Quantum Leap Redux). I don't know how this night flows at all, but they'll need to put something in the 10 p.m. hour, and this supposedly has a good script.

Saturday:

8 p.m. -- reruns

And there you go.

What's odd about this is that I think I've had NBC picking up the fewest new series of any network, even though they probably need the most. Blame that on game show multiplication. If Deal or No Deal starts to flop, look out, NBC!

For midseason, there are a lot of options, but we don't think they'll pick up everything. Area 57 sounds just odd enough, as does Wildlife. And M.O.N.Y. seems like a good bet on the drama side. And the Web site for the group has me intrigued by Improv Everywhere (though NBC seems to be oddly interested in improv and sketch comedy this season, so they may go even further).

NBC is in dire straits, make no mistake, but by aiming at picking up quality projects and bolstering them with cheap game shows, they may find a way to claw their way further up the network ladder.

That's all for this year's Super TV Preview. We hope you enjoyed it and keep checking out the other great content here at SDD.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Super TV Preview: Fox


(Over the course of a few days, SDD will be offering up its thoughts on what the networks may do with their lineups next fall as they enter the time period when they consider what to cancel and what to pick up. This is only based on unverified gossip and a little guesswork based on what networks have done in the past. We'll go alphabetically by network. Check out our predictions for ABC, CBS and The CW. And here's last year's Fox prediction. Don't consider any of this official news. It's just our predictions.)

by Todd and Jon


When you're Fox, it's OK that you take the fall off year after year to show baseball. Indeed, baseball fans should feel lucky that the network that airs the playoffs (which interrupt the flow of the fall premiere season) can afford to air them even when they're low-rated, since that same network turns into the one that rules the world in the winter, when American Idol, the biggest show on television, returns to dominate two (and sometimes three) nights a week.

There was a time when Fox would air a lot of interesting and different programs but didn't have any sort of consistency. The famous Simpsons Spinoff Showcase showed this most memorably, when Troy McClure unveiled a schedule for the network that had exactly three slots safe (in reality, at the time, Fox also had King of the Hill and Beverly Hills 90210 to go along with Simpsons, X-Files and Melrose Place). With the arrival of Idol, though, Fox tends to do pretty well on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 24 keeps it hopping on Monday (as does Prison Break to a degree). House is the one bona fide hit the network has without Idol, and it's not as big as it is in the fall as it is in the spring when Idol comes back. But the network has a lot of bright spots that perform well enough, from its Sunday comedies to Bones to Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader.

The problem if you're Fox is that House is the only show that continues to grow. American Idol has finally reached the end of its growth cycle, as its performance hours have all been down this season (though it bears mentioning that they're all higher than any season but the immediately previous one). The audition episodes did very well, but since Hollywood week, the show has straggled behind its fifth season. This is natural for a show in its sixth season, but as the attrition continues, other networks are going to get bold and put big hits up against the show to see if they can knock it off (as ABC did by putting Grey's Anatomy against CSI). As Idol slumps, so goes the rest of the network.

Similarly, 24 has found itself with smaller ratings this season, largely from facing off against Heroes, which commands a similar audience. The battle between it, Dancing with the Stars (in the first half-hour), Heroes and Two-and-a-Half Men should be fascinating to watch in May sweeps. 24 is nowhere near danger of cancellation, but it may be time for Fox to start planning a graceful end for the show in its eighth season or so (the show is currently in season six).

Fortunately, House and Bones have proved themselves to be good utility players, filling in holes around the schedule when needed. Prison Break was up from its first season this year, but Dancing was devastating to it, and the show's growing preposterousness can only entrance its audience so long.

Fox also couldn't launch a show to save its life this season. Only Til Death received a full-season order, and its poor retention out of the Idol results show may have sealed its fate. Standoff received an order that almost made up for a full season, but that order seemed inexplicable, and, indeed, the show will be burned off in the summer. Vanished, Justice and Happy Hour all failed as well, even though they received smart time slots. The network has yet to launch Drive, but it's another serial in a season that has indicated audiences were tired of serials (that weren't Heroes, at least). The prospects don't look good, in short.

Fox is also in severe trouble on Thursdays and Fridays, though Fifth-Grader has helped patch up the former. There are persistent rumors that Fox will move House to Thursdays, but there have been rumors that Fox would move Idol there, too, and that never happened. As such, we're skeptical that Fox will do much beyond put Fifth-Grader in a permanent time slot there (though it competes with Ugly Betty for an audience, and if its gimmick grows old, it could lose out to that show again).

So Fox needs to launch some new hits. But who doesn't? Let's take a look at what the network's doing, night-by-night before predicting the network's schedule with and without Idol.

Sunday: The comedy bloc is starting to show signs of wear-and-tear, but it does really well with 18-34-year-olds, so it should stay mostly intact. The weak link is The War at Home, though American Dad could perform better with its Family Guy lead-in. King of the Hill keeps getting last-minute reprieves, stretching out its run past when it was supposed to go off the air. If CBS cancels How I Met Your Mother, Fox should strongly consider plugging it in to this lineup between Simpsons and Family Guy.

Monday: Vanished was a flop, but Prison Break is doing well for itself. 24 is slowing down, as mentioned, and it remains to be seen if Drive can replicate the success of the similarly ludicrous Prison Break. Drive, which takes the whole serialized genre less seriously than just about any other serial, may be the antidote audiences were looking for to the self-serious genre, or it may be summarily rejected.

Tuesday: Idol, paired with House, takes this night off into a new stratosphere. House on its own does well enough, but it couldn't boost Standoff like it did Bones the year before. When Idol's on, it's maybe one of the best-programmed nights on television, though it seems as though that happened almost by accident (who knew that the perfect companion for a talent show was a medical procedural?).

Wednesday: Idol's results show has never launched a hit like its performance show does, so the results show is expanding to an hour later this month. We wouldn't be surprised if it stayed that way next season. Bones has quietly turned into a consistent performer, while Justice and Til Death have both disappointed on the night.

Thursday: Fifth-Grader has made a world of difference on this night, where The O.C. slowly dwindled down to nothing and Til Death and Happy Hour both failed to compete against NBC's comedies. Comedy repeats are currently occupying the 9 p.m. hour, and something will have to happen here relatively soon.

Friday: Nothing has worked here for Fox since the network moved The X-Files off the night to Sunday, where it became a big hit. This season, the network has tried reality shows (Nanny 911 and Trading Spouses) and the David E. Kelley drama The Wedding Bells. None of these have worked.

Saturday: America's Most Wanted and Cops have been holding down the fort here for decades. This probably won't change any time soon.

So let's make some pre- and post-Idol predictions, shall we? Check out the Fox pilots here. (And, as you look, notice how many are comedy pilots. Fox, perhaps more than any other network, thinks America just wants to laugh again.)

Sunday:

Fall:
7 p.m. -- football overrun/comedy reruns
8 p.m. -- The Simpsons
8:30 p.m. -- Animals (new series)
9 p.m. -- Family Guy
9:30 p.m. -- American Dad

Midseason:
7 p.m. -- comedy repeat
7:30 p.m. -- King of the Hill (new time)
8 p.m. -- The Simpsons
8:30 p.m. -- Animals
9 p.m. -- Family Guy
9:30 p.m. -- American Dad

While I don't have it on the schedule, I don't think a return for The Winner would be entirely surprising, as it did well enough with 18-34-year-old males. The rest of the schedule is pretty much the same, adding an Adam Sandler-produced animated show about talking animals to the schedule. Should Fox not go with that, it has other animated options or The Hot Years, which they could add should they just want to chase the audience of oglers.

Monday:

Fall:
8 p.m. -- Prison Break
9 p.m. -- The Sarah Conner Chronicles (new series)

Midseason:
8 p.m. -- Prison Break/Sarah Conner
9 p.m. -- 24

It would be a risky move to put the Terminator-inspired series up against the genre-happy Heroes, but Prison Break is the show on the Fox schedule that most naturally flows into Sarah Conner (said to have quite a good script). 24 returns at midseason for its seventh year, and there's no reason it would leave its time slot, though there are rumors it might.

Tuesday:

Fall:
8 p.m. -- Canterbury's Law (new series)
9 p.m. -- House

Midseason:
8 p.m. -- American Idol
9 p.m. -- House

We're not buying the House rumors. If it moves, it'll be a surprise to us. When it comes to these sorts of schedule shifts, Fox tends to make more noise than it actually follows through with. In the fall, Canterbury's Law, about a cranky lawyer, may blend well with House, about a cranky doctor. And Idol returns in the winter.

Wednesday:

Fall:
8 p.m. -- Action News (new series)
8:30 p.m. -- The Return of Jezebel James (new series)
9 p.m. -- Til Death (new time)
9:30 p.m. -- The Beast (new series)

Midseason:
8 p.m. -- Action News
8:30 p.m. -- The Return of Jezebel James
9 p.m. -- American Idol (results)

There are persistent rumors that Fox wants to break out another night of comedy somewhere, and Wednesday seems to be the place to do it. With the heavily hyped Action News and Jezebel James, they just might pull it off too. If they're encouraged by the fall numbers, Idol could go back to a half hour at midseason. The proposed Wednesday lineup would also be the only multi-camera exclusive bloc on television (CBS' Mondays has the actually-often-single-camera How I Met Your Mother). Will this happen? Probably not. But Fox seems comedy happy, and this would be the place to do it.

Thursday:

8 p.m. -- Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?
9 p.m. -- K-Ville (new series)

Fifth-Grader has performed admirably for the network, while K-Ville, about cops in post-Katrina New Orleans, could get some buzz for the network. Still, anything put in that slot will have a tough time.

Friday:

8 p.m. -- Bones (new night)
9 p.m. -- Them (new series)

Fox threatened to move Bones there at midseason this year, and they've experimented with the show in repeats in this very timeslot. If it fails, it can always move back to one of the safer days in the middle of the week, replaced by Nanny 911 or Trading Spouses. Them is serious science fiction, which has often done well on this night, so it might be worth a shot.

Saturday:

8 p.m. -- America's Most Wanted
9 p.m. -- Cops
9:30 p.m. -- Cops

Like this will change.

At midseason, it's anybody's guess as to what the network will pick up. The Apostles seems like it might be a safe bet, as do the Untitled Victor Fresco Project and The Minister of Divine. Fox's development slate seems to be no longer trying to be CBS-lite, and the fact that the network has done some crazy things in the past means that it very well could do so again. (As for personal choices, I'm hoping Fox picks up the truly bizarre-sounding Me and Lee.)

American Idol gives Fox the security to try things. While they probably won't be too daring, their window for creating enough new hits to help the network out when Idol inevitably declines is shrinking. This year would be as good as any.

Tomorrow: The Super TV Preview concludes with NBC renewing a bunch of marginally rated stuff and making us happy in the course of doing so.

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Super TV preview: The CW


(Over the course of a few days, SDD will be offering up its thoughts on what the networks may do with their lineups next fall as they enter the time period when they consider what to cancel and what to pick up. This is only based on unverified gossip and a little guesswork based on what networks have done in the past. We'll go alphabetically by network, and if you want to see what we predicted for ABC, go here, and our CBS prediction is here. And here's last year's CW prediction. Don't consider any of this official news. It's just our predictions.)

by Todd and Jon

When it comes to inauspicious debuts, The CW pretty much takes the cake. A weird chimera pieced together from the pieces of two dying networks, it purported to be chasing 18-34 year olds (especially women), but its schedule wandered all over the map and didn't manage to attract anyone, outside of America's Next Top Model. But one show can't keep a whole network afloat. Two WB mainstays brought over to the network, 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls, to goose ratings saw slight ratings decline and couldn't spread their hit status to other shows. In the case of Heaven, resurrected at the last minute after an episode advertised as the show's last, this was particularly disappointing, as the show had been The WB's biggest for years and years. Both new shows picked up -- Runaway and The Game -- disappointed as well, as did three marginal shows brought over to pair with shows seen as more compatible (Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill and Supernatural, which, to be fair, has to go up against two of the biggest shows on television). Curiously for a network trying to attract younger demographics, it took forever for The CW to get its shows up on iTunes or on its Web site. They're finally there, but The CW was the last of the five major networks to not offer some sort of online viewing.

All of this, paired with the fact that Heaven and Gilmore will likely both end their runs this year (Gilmore could see an 11th hour resurrection) and what looks like a poor pilot development season, means that shows that would be ending their runs under any logical system may get another chance, including all three of the shows listed above. Everybody Hates Chris, a fine family sitcom with mediocre ratings, has already been picked up for a third season, perhaps indicating just how desperate The CW is to find hits wherever they can.

If The CW has two knights in shining armor, they're Model, a reality series that seems to perform better and better with every season and has placed third in its timeslot for its target demographic for a few weeks this season, and Gossip Girl, which looks to be one of the most buzzed-about pilots for next year, seeing as it's based on a popular series of books aimed at teenage girls. The old WB, low-rated as it technically was, always saw plenty of buzz from its shows aimed at teens, and this could be a return to that tradition. Indeed, both One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars do better with teens than anybody else, and the possible renewals of both may have more to do with the success in that demographic than anything else. By pairing Model with Gossip Girl and sending One Tree Hill to a night with few teen options, The CW could create a beachhead with that audience (though One Tree Hill's characters will all be out of college next year, which may turn off portions of that audience).

The CW can take more relief in Smallville, which continues to perform well with young men, and Friday Night Smackdown, which does the same. Smallville is getting old, though, and Smackdown's contract is up at the end of next season. If the network wants both to keep airing, it's going to get more and more expensive (just as Gilmore's return would probably require the proverbial dump truck of money). So, as you can see, outside of Model and the great white hope of Gossip Girl, The CW is in a hard place.

For now, we're going to operate from the idea that both Gilmore and Heaven will end and all three beleaguered shows will be back (Veronica re-tooled to be more of a procedural and take place in the world of the FBI). This may not be the case, but The CW can't just cancel everything and will need all the familiar faces it can find. If the network makes a deal with Gilmore, presume that Veronica will be canceled. If it makes a deal with Gilmore and Heaven, anything can happen.

Let's take a look at the current schedule, night by night.

Sunday: One Tree Hill has started airing here (inexplicably, I might add), but for most of the season, 7th Heaven held down the fort, getting ratings smaller than what it was used to and being surrounded by repeats, especially of Model and its midseason replacement, Beauty and the Geek, and the last season of Reba. The CW tried to throw its African-American-centered sitcoms on this night for one week in the fall, but it was a disaster of an experiment. This night will likely need a complete retool.

Monday: The CW brought over three of UPN's African-American-centered sitcoms and paired them with new show The Game. The original plan was to put 7th Heaven here (where it's been for years) with Runaway, but, again, that bombed. The comedies do all right, but nowhere near as well as many of the same comedies used to do on UPN, particularly Chris and Girlfriends. All of Us will probably be gone to open up space for a new comedy, as will The Game.

Tuesday: Gilmore Girls plugs along, though it has been fallible this season, with new showrunner David Rosenthal trying to dig out of the hole left for him by Amy Sherman-Palladino. The show was expected to give its usual halo effect to the perennially low-rated Veronica Mars, but it simply didn't happen outside of a few weeks when Veronica had better promotion than it usually does (the ads have made the show look like a soap, which it isn't). Currently, The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll is airing on this night and doing well enough, but how many seasons can that premise be stretched out?

Wednesday: America's Next Top Model airs here. Some weeks, it beats NBC's Friday Night Lights and whatever ABC puts in the time slot in the key demographics. The show won't grow forever, but The CW has showed restraint by not exploiting it too much. One Tree Hill used to air here, as did Beauty and the Geek (between Model cycles). Right now, Pussycat Dolls repeats are airing post-Model, and they do better than the original airings some weeks.

Thursday: The CW has a tough row to hoe here, going up against much more popular shows on the Big Three, but Smallville continues to carve out its own niche with the geeks and the action fans. Supernatural, which has had a fine second season, simply can't compete with the CSI and Grey's Anatomy monoliths, though it holds quite a bit of the Smallville audience most weeks. Regardless, it will probably move to another night.

Friday: Wrestling does about as well as anything else would do, and it's relatively cheap to produce in seasons when the contract doesn't need to be renewed.

Saturday: The CW doesn't program Saturdays.

Keeping all of that in mind, let's take a look at what might be The CW's best option for next season. Check out what the network has ordered to pilot here.

Sunday:
7 p.m. -- CW Now (new series)
7:30 p.m. -- Dash 4 Cash (new series)
8 p.m. -- Supernatural (new night and time)
9 p.m. -- Veronica Mars (new night)

The CW will probably ultimately schedule a reality repeat somewhere on this night, but putting an entertainment news magazine and a game show in the 7 p.m. hour would be a low-cost way to try something new. And changing the rest of the night to a genre/cult night would certainly set the network apart from the other networks. If Veronica is canceled, look for The World According to Barnes to take its place here.

Monday:
8 p.m. -- Everybody Hates Chris
8:30 p.m. -- Aliens in America (new series)
9 p.m. -- Girlfriends
9:30 p.m. -- Eight Days a Week (new series)

Chris and Aliens seem made for each other (seeing as both series are about an outsider's perspective on white American society). Girlfriends will likely see its last season next year, and the promotion for the series stating that fact should draw viewers who left back to see how it wraps up. Finally, it may just be our desire to see The Chlum every week, but Eight Days a Week sounds like it would mesh well with Girlfriends.

Tuesday:
8 p.m. -- One Tree Hill (new night and time)
9 p.m. -- Viewsers (new series)
9:30 p.m. -- Hell on Earth (new series)

One Tree Hill may do well enough with teens in this slot to survive the return of American Idol (which is actually less popular with teens this season, suggesting a decline is on its way). Viewsers is another cheap series, and its YouTube-esque format would be popular with One Tree's younger viewers. And Hell on Earth is mostly here because it's a comedy about a young person and I'm not sure if Viewsers is a half hour or not. If it's an hour, obviously, Hell on Earth doesn't make the schedule. Expect to see the One Tree season split in two to make room for the return of Pussycat Dolls at midseason.

Wednesday:
8 p.m. -- America's Next Top Model
9 p.m. -- Gossip Girl (new series)

As discussed above, this might be a night that could save the whole network, presuming Gossip Girl is any good (and early word is positive). Beauty and the Geek would spell Model at midseason.

Thursday:
8 p.m. -- Smallville
9 p.m. -- Reaper (new series)

Smallville holds down the fort, and Reaper sounds a bit like Ghost Rider and other popular comics. Its harder edged characters and situations (which involve Satan himself) certainly won't be mistaken with CSI or Grey's.

Friday:
8 p.m. -- Friday Night Smackdown

No reason to mess with this.

Saturday:
8 p.m. -- Local affiliates' programming

Or this.

At midseason, expect Gravity or The World According to Barnes to step in. In addition, I would expect a random reality show or two to pop up, simply because that seems to be The CW's way. There may be a comedy or two as well, but I wouldn't dare speculate. Two promising projects, MILF and Cookies and Diane Ruggiero's pilot, have reportedly slipped to next season, making things even more confusing. Wild at Heart, shot in South Africa, and I'm Paige Armstrong, from Commander-in-Chief's Rod Lurie, probably have shots as well.

The CW is a network in grave danger. The network TV model is becoming outmoded, and as ratings continue to decline, there may not be room for a netlet. The network's best bet is to mix
whatever remaining shows it has with high-octane pilots. And it remains uncertain that that will happen.

In short, your guess is as good as ours.

Tomorrow: Fox can do whatever it wants. Every episode of American Idol makes them $15 million!

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