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What I'm Watching This Fall

Ah, autumn. With it comes the end of horrific LA heatwaves, comfy sweaters, and the advent of the fall season, with its new series and returning favorites? Is there really any better time of year?

It's with that thought that I take a look at what I'll be watching this fall. While I can't guarantee that I'll stick around for more than a few (or even one additional) episode of many of these series, below are the new and returning shows that have at least piqued my interest, based on their pilots.

And for more on my thoughts about returning series, check out the September 14th issue of USA Weekend, where I'm interviewed by E's Kristin Dos Santos about my top picks for returning series this fall.

monday

8 pm: Chuck (NBC)

As if there were any doubt in your mind, I am already salivating with anticipation for the return of action comedy Chuck to the airwaves. Season Two brings all sorts of changes for the Nerd Herd employee/reluctant spy Chuck Bartowski and a host of fantastic guest stars, the quantity of which has not been seen since, say, the days of Love Boat. Will Chuck and Sarah finally admit their feelings for one another? Will Chuck get back together with Jill? Will Casey develop a conscience? Find out this fall. (Launches September 29th)

8 pm: Gossip Girl (CW)

I'll admit that I got into the Gossip Girl thing late last season and it was only due to the constant pleading with my wife that I started to watch the teen drama and got hooked on its Dangerous Liaisons in designer clothes vibe. Season Two picks up where we left off, with the kids hanging in the Hamptons and Blair still stewing after being jilted by Chuck Bass. (For deets on the first three episodes of Gossip Girl's sophomore season, click here.) As always, there's plenty of intrigue, bed-hopping, and back-stabbing to go around. (Launches September 1st)

10 pm: My Own Worst Enemy (NBC)

One of the few pilots that I've yet to see (thanks to the fact that it was shot outside of the normal pilot production season and reshot with new cast member Madchen Amick replacing Yara Martinez), I'm at least curious to see how this translates to screen. Jason Smilovic's taut gem of a script perfectly captured the cat-and-mouse conventions of the spy world, but with a twist: the protagonist (Christian Slater) has two personalities: one a meek husband and father, the other a sadistic superspy. Will the on-screen drama trump the behind-the-scenes tension? I'm intrigued to find out. (Launches October 13th)

tuesday

8 pm: 90210 (CW)

My expectations of the new 90210 are extremely low to say the least (never a good sign when the network refuses to screen for press in advance) and I'm not thrilled with the way that they've been integrating the original series' cast members (Brenda is directing the school play? Kelly is a high school guidance counselor?), but I'll at least check out the two-hour series premiere to see if there's something worth watching here as Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs (with a little help from Rob Thomas) look to reinvent the outsiders-meet-the-mega-rich formula that made the original 90210 such a success. (Launches September 2nd)

8:40 pm: Gavin & Stacey (BBC America)

Possibly one of the few comedies to successfully fuse the sweetness of the romantic comedy with the tartness of a caustic British humor, Gavin & Stacey is sheer bliss to watch as we see Essex boy Gavin and Welsh lass Stacey meet, fall in love, and deal with their respective best mates and eccentric families. (You can read my original review here.) BBC America is thankfully airing the first and second seasons of Gavin & Stacey back-to-back so we've got thirteen episodes to look forward to. (On Air)

9 pm: Fringe (FOX)

There are few new series that I am more excited about than Fringe. (You can read my review of the original pilot episode of Fringe here.) Combining the sweeping mythology of Lost with the accessible mystery-of-the-week angle of The X-Files, Fringe is a fantastically taut science-based procedural mystery series that will definitely be the watercooler hit of the season. Blessed with a talented cast in the form of Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Blair Brown, and Lance Reddick and a creative team to drool over (J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman), Fringe will be the fall series to watch. (Launches September 9th)

wednesday

8 pm: Pushing Daisies (ABC)

The facts are these: after its first season was truncated (only nine episodes!) by the writers strike last winter, ABC's beautifully crafted forensic fairy tale finally returns to the airwaves with new installments, new challenges for Ned and Chuck, new guest stars (to numerous to name) and new revelations (Aunt Lily is Chuck's mom?!?). Cut yourself a slice of pie, pour yourself a steaming cup of joe, and settle down for one of the best hours of genre-busting television on right now. (Launches October 1st)

8 pm: The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)

I'm more of a single-camera comedy guy but there's something about Old Christine that just makes me roar with laughter. Maybe it's Julia Louis-Dreyfus' hilarious delivery, the strength of the supporting cast (including Wanda Sykes as Christine's BFF Barb and Hamish Linklater as her slacker brother), or the fact that the scripts are so darn funny. In any event, I'm still watching Christine, whether old or new. (Launches September 24th)

8 pm: America's Next Top Model (CW)

I'm kind of getting tired of the CW's sagging reality juggernaut but I'll tune in one last time to see Tyra try to tame a group of wannabe models as they are put through their paces in order to compete for a Cover Girl contract and bragging rights. With the series' first transsexual contestant, Isis, grabbing headlines, you know it will at least be a semi-interesting cycle. (Launches September 3rd)

9 pm: Project Runway (Bravo)

It's the last season of Project Runway on Bravo before the series decamps for Lifetime and, while I am not quite as glued to the telly as I was in previous seasons, I'm still rooting for my favorites and watching every week. But, yes, I miss Christian. (On Air)

10 pm: Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)

Yet another fantastic freshman drama that had its first year clipped during the WGA work stoppage. After shooting thirteen episodes last year (and airing ten), DSM will relaunch this fall with a change in tone, new cast members (hello, Lucy Liu) and a new energy. I was hooked last season and can't wait to see where creator Craig Wright's soapy drama does to the Darlings in its sophomore year. (Launches October 1st)

10 pm: Sons of Anarchy (FX)

I wasn't all that thrilled with the darkness of Sons of Anarchy's bleak pilot episode (which lacked some of the wit and scope of the script), but I'll give it at least a second shot as I am still missing my FX drama fix until Damages returns in 2009. With a cast that includes Charlie Hunnam, Katey Segal, Maggie Siff, and Ron Perlman and a Shakespearean biker vibe, it's definitely different and I'm at least interested in seeing where they're going with their wonderfully damaged characters. (Launches September 3rd)

thursday

8 pm: Ugly Betty (ABC)

I was pretty much bored to tears by Betty last season but I am hoping that the jettisoning of both Henry (Christopher Gorham) and Gio (Freddie Rodriguez) and a production move to New York City reengerizing this once-hilarious and heartfelt series. Otherwise, you're on notice, Betty Suarez. (Launches September 25th)

9 pm: The Office (NBC)

Hmmm, there seems to be a theme emerging here. I really didn't care for The Office's fourth season, save the hilarious one-hour season finale that introduced Holly Flax (Amy Ryan) and saw Paul Lieberman's Toby (possibly) sailing off into the sunset in Costa Rica. I'm hoping that the writing staff can remember what made The Office great in the first place (mundane office stuff) and stop making Michael Scott (and the OTT plots) so damn unbelievable. (Launches September 25th)

9:30 pm: 30 Rock (NBC)

Still hands down the funniest comedy on television these days. I cannot wait to catch up with Liz, Jack, Kenneth, Tracy, and the other deranged denizens of 30 Rock for another season of throwaway lines, gut-busting laughs, and deftly plotted satire. Tina Fey and Co, I've missed you terribly this summer. (Launches October 30th)

10 pm: Life on Mars (ABC)

ABC wisely tossed out the original pilot they shot for the US adaptation of one of my favorite British series, Life on Mars... and recast nearly every single member of the cast, moved production to New York, and brought in Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt. It might not stand up to the brilliance of the original (no one can compete with John Simm as Sam Tyler) but I'm at least willing to give it a second chance. (Launches October 9th)

10 pm: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

I can't believe that I'm actually going to get to watch 30 Rock and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia back-to-back on Thursdays; together, they provide the perfect combination of surreal humor, quirky characters, and bizarro plotting necessary for me to make it to the weekend intact. Will the gang at Paddy's Pub grow up and start acting like responsible members of the community? God, I hope not. (Launches September 18th)

friday & saturday

Is it too much to ask for something decent to watch on Friday or Saturday evenings? And, no, there is no way in hell that I am tuning in for NBC's Crusoe, the umpeenth airing of Deal or No Deal, or CBS's The Ex List, which I found skin-crawlingly irritating.

sunday

8 pm: The Amazing Race (CBS)

The grand-daddy of reality television series is back and I cannot wait to see these teams embark on a global adventure of road blocks, detours, and constant bickering. Host with the most Phil Keoghan returns to raise an eyebrow or two at the contestants' bizarro behavior and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Launches September 28th)

10 pm: Mad Men (AMC)

Mad Men is like a narcotic for the drama-obsessed: at times glacially slow, the drama is in the unspoken and unsaid, which hang in the air like one of Don Draper's cigarettes. I'm hooked on the goings-on at 1960s advertising agency Sterling Cooper and can't believe that the second season is already half-over, though there have been many a revelation to keep us guessing about the series' extended subplots. (On Air)

10 pm: Skins (BBC America)

While 90210 might be hogging all of the headlines (and Gossip Girl scoring mentions in the style pages), the very best teen drama out there right now is British import Skins, whose winning combination of surreal plotting, realistically cast teens, and loads of sex, drugs, and alcohol, make it must-see television week after week. (On Air)

10:30 pm: Little Britain USA (HBO)

If you know me at all, then you know of my love for David Walliams and Matt Lucas' lovingly off-kilter sketch comedy series Little Britain, which moves its focus from the deranged inhabitants of Blighty--including the only gay in the village Daffyd, ABSO Vicky Pollard, unconvincing transvestite Emily Howard, simpering PM's aide Sebastian, and trainwreck Bubbles de Vere--to the US of A, as familiar faces turn up and some new characters are created. (Launches September 28th)

And there you have it: what I'll be watching this fall. What did I leave off and what will you be watching this fall?

Comments

I'm really looking forward to seeing full (hopefully) seasons of Chuck, Pushing Daisies, and Dirty Sexy Money. All three of these shows have tons of potential and (especially now that they've had time to tweak anything that wasn't working) I can't wait to have them back on the air.
Anonymous said…
I lurve my 30 Rock and miss it so! I'm also looking forward to seeing Little Britain on US soil and can't wait for more It's Always Sunny too.

On the drama side, I think Fringe is going to be fantastic!
Anonymous said…
The Ex List is on CBS, not Fox.

And what did you hate about it? It seems like people are pretty divided on this one. Half of the critics seem to have loved it and half of them seem to have hated it with a passion. Very few in the middle.
Anonymous said…
Funny - I don't mind Brenda coming back as a drama teacher. After all, she did leave California to go study drama in London after that aborted starring role in California U's production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Yes. I am a total loser.
Unknown said…
I think NBC's "Life" is something airing on Friday that I'll watch. Though it wasn't my favorite show last season, it was at least good enough to check out in its second season.
fred said…
Well, if you want something good on Friday night why don't you watch Life (NBC, 10.00) ??

It's a whole lot more than decent, if you haven't watched the first season you should, it's really fantastic! (just make sure not to watch NBC's "rewind" version or the DVDs because those are pretty bad version with crappy/cheap music, really ruins many otherwise so excellent scenes)

But the show is excellent, just wish it got more promotion & support from the network... oh, and of course Damian Lewis is brilliant, once again!
Anonymous said…
I curious to know what you found irritating about The Ex List, too. I'd also be interested in knowing what Mrs. Televisionary thought of it. I loved it, as did my mid-50s mom and mid-20s sister-in-law.
Anonymous said…
I am positively giddy about the return of Pushing Daisies! I'm also excited about Desperate Housewives, and Brothers & Sisters.

I also am curious about what you found irritating about The Ex-List. I am looking forward to it, if only because I enjoyed Elizabeth Reaser on Grey's Anatomy, and I would like to see her play a new and different character.
Ooh, and Fringe. That looks mighty excitin'.
Vance said…
Oh man, how did I miss the info of Little Britain USA starting up? So excited! I'm not a sketch comedy guy but I SNORT laughed throughout the whole British series!

Can't wait for Pushing Daisies and 30 Rock to return and excited about Fringe too!
Anonymous said…
I'll definitely be watching Gossip Girls and i can't wait for 90210. Although like you my expectations are low for this one.

Also i'll be checking out True Blood.
Jace Lacob said…
Neena,

After watching the first two episodes of True Blood (http://www.televisionaryblog.com/2008/07/second-bite-another-look-at-hbos-true.html), I can honestly say that I am not rushing back to watch a third...
Anonymous said…
What's wrong with Crusoe? It looks very cool.

And about 90210...please. The CW's reasoning makes perfect sense to me, and I highly doubt it has anything to do with the quality.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous, are you on crack? Only one of Ben Silverman's cronies could think that Crusoe looked "cool." It looks hella lame.

And if 90210 was good you can bet that The CW would want every critic shouting it from the rooftops. Get a clue.
Anonymous said…
I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

And I think Crusoe looks quite promising. Not HBO material to be sure, but it looks interesting and fun for a Friday night show, different than other stuff on TV, and definitely visually awesome.

Although I'll have you know I'm not a Ben Silverman-as-head-of-NBC fan.

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