Friday, May 21, 2010

PREVIEWING NEW SHOWS ON ABC

There’s something odd about ABC’s fall television schedule. At a glance, it seems that very little is new. And, in terms of comedy, that is especially true. One sitcom. That’s it. Finally a show to fill the “Hank” slot used for the 2009-2010 to erode the freshness of ABC’s other comedies.

The new show is called Better Together (Wednesdays, 8:30-9:00), starring that mom from That ’70s Show and two daughters who seem indistinguishable. Lack of distinction is the major problem with the preview I watched. There’s the new beau who is sitcom-cliché dimwitted, the bantering parents and three characters (the sisters and the perennial other boyfriend) who share the straight role. Three normal roles? That kind of blandness leads to stunt guest star appearances in Wacko of the Week parts. There’s nothing wrong with this show. It appears that it would provide harmless background noise while I randomly fill in my Sudoku puzzle (15, 0, 137,…) or roll pennies for my New Laptop Fund. It may even stick around for the season à la Accidentally…On Purpose, but let’s hope ABC has learned from Hank and has a midseason sitcom in development (better than that Romantically Challenged). Of course, I think picking up The New Adventures of Old Christine would make Wednesdays seamlessly funny on ABC. It’s better than Better Together.

There are other new shows on ABC, hour long fare with bland titles like Body of Proof and No Ordinary Family and, yuck, Secret Millionaire.

Detroit 1-8-7 at least has an attention-getting name. Poor Detroit. The city may be The Motor City, the home of Motown and the 11-time Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings, but as the main star of this program, its TV glory comes as the Murder Capital. If I were in the mayor’s office, I would be in a (murderous) rage. Sure, you can have crime shows in Vegas and Miami and no one is going to change their travel itinerary. Not the same for Detroit (if it was on anyone’s travel list in the first place).

I can’t get a read for the show based on the preview. To be sure, the police investigators do not stand out. There are a couple points where a suspect and an officer seem to talk to the camera. Not sure if that’s a regular part of the show, but it would make it stand out from all the other cop dramas. The show’s success will depend on the writing and whether it can hook viewers early on with compelling cases. Its spot in the ABC lineup isn’t going to help. Grittier than Monday night’s Castle, I don’t see Dancing with the Stars fans automatically staying tuned Tuesdays at 10 for a look at the back alleys of Detroit.

The preview for Body of Proof (Fridays, 9-10) has what Detroit 1-8-7 appears to lack: a clear star. Dana Delany hasn’t had a great, chew-the-scenery role since she leapt off the screen as Colleen McMurphy in China Beach. The fact she’s getting this lead role twenty years later shows that others know that Delany can be more than a crazy, underutilized Desperate neighbor. As a coroner who gets involved in solving crime, she is a commanding presence. This is not my kind of show, but I might tune in. Delany is an actress who can convey so much inner turmoil through her eyes and here she plays a hard-nosed surgeon thrust in a career/life change. I’m rooting for her. Jeri Ryan in the supporting cast may also help draw viewers, but Ryan only has one line in the preview. This is deservedly the long overdue Dana Delany Show. Too bad it’s on Fridays. It would fit better in the post DWTS spot on Tuesday nights.

No Ordinary Family (Tuesdays, 8-9) fills the Heroes void, complete with Michael Chiklis going through a series of watch-the-cheerleader-not-die stunts. Been there. Still, the show has a waiting audience (just as Heroes did early on before plot twists lost its viewers). Chiklis looks like a live-action version of the dad in “The Incredibles”, not a draw for me. I won’t be watching, but there are a lot of Lost people looking for a place to go.

Playing against the feel good School Pride on NBC is Secret Millionaire (Fridays, 8-9), a show where rich people experience life on the poorer side of the tracks and give some of their money to those most deserving. Value judgments on people in poverty. Ick. But I’m supposed to feel warm and fuzzy over this “unforgettable” show. It’s very Extreme Makeover and a near clone of whatever that other show was this season—gee, forgettable—about the bosses who pretended to be peons in their own empires. I have a feeling that this show will draw more viewers than School Pride. Both are manipulative entertainment, but if I had to root for one, I’d go with the cheerleaders who need pompoms.

There’s nothing that screams Must-See and several clear passes among ABC’s new slate. If anything, I’m hoping Dana Delany’s Body of Proof finds whatever audience is out there on Fridays. But then again, I’ve seen other ABC shows like Ugly Betty and Men in Trees rot on that cursed evening. I’ve also seen how belated moves to a new night fail to pull in viewers once the opportunity for initial buzz is lost. Here’s to history not repeating itself…and Body of Proof being as good as its promise.

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