Mr. Coogans Wednesday Groove Tube Update 06.09.04

Did you ever start a project and then realize it was going to be such a mammoth undertaking, it would take you at least 3 times as long to finish it than you originally thought? Checking out the synopses and clips of all these new shows the six broadcast networks are set to air is doing just that It’s a good thing I like doing this or I’d stab myself in the temple with a slightly sharpened chopstick. Too bad my girlfriend is waiting for me to finish! Just a little while longer baby!!!

Nonetheless, Part II will cover the newbies for ABC and CBS and if you’re interested, check out Part I which talked about the new offerings on NBC and the WB .

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ABC – Eight new fall shows, three mid-season additions

What looks like the best? Of this new collection of new shows, none of them seem to be ready to leave a lasting impression on the television industry, which has been ABC’s problem over the last five years (or more). However, this series is all about answering the questions I’m posing to myself, so I will say David E. Kelley’s “The Practice: Fleet Street” (Sundays at 10:00) narrowly edges out the Mark Cuban led reality series “The Benefactor” (Mondays at 8:00) as the show that looks the best out of the gate. For those unaware, “The Practice: Fleet Street” is essentially a spin off of the older ABC legal series “The Practice.” The show will primarily follow the life of Alan Shore, beautifully and meticulously played by James Spader, as he begins his career at a large, well-known, civil law firm where William Shatner is the firm’s faithful leader despite being mildly insane. Spader, for all intents and purposes, carried the struggling “The Practice” as it finished its eight year run on a slight high (both creatively and in the ratings) after schedule changes and cast firings left the show in turmoil. So, there is no doubt that Spader can carry the load. However, there are some potential issues and it starts with the tone of the show which isn’t as dark as “The Practice” but not as light as the formerly successful Fox dramedy “Ally McBeal” either. Will that confuse and therefore turn them off? Chances are, if Spader leads the charge, the show will be in good hands.

Meanwhile, “The Benefactor” looks considerably less serious than NBC’s “The Apprentice” but with a considerably less famous billionaire leading the charge. Freqeuent ESPN viewers, readers, and listeners are familiar with the wacky billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban. The show will revolve around him and a group of contestants competing in a series of tasks to win a $1 million prize that will (supposedly) come right out of Cuban’s bank account. The catch: He chooses the winner basically by picking who he likes the most. So, I’m sure the sports fans will turn out in droves to see exactly what is up his sleeve. However, what about everyone else? There are going to be a lot of people who don’t care about Mark Cuban and therefore, probably won’t be interested in the show. Then again, if it airs on the same night as “Monday Night Football” and acts as a lead in to that program, women will probably stay away from the network that night anyway.

What’s the biggest risk? Actually, I’m going with a repeat answer for the first time and go with Mark Cuban’s “The Benefactor” as the boldest move by the alphabet. Men like to watch “Monday Night Football” but I don’t know if they would want to tune into a reality show before the big game. On the other hand, women don’t know who Mark Cuban and while he is a nice guy and appears to be remarkably charming, he may not bring in the female audience when there will be other more female friendly shows to choose from at that time.

What will be the biggest flop? “Savages” (Fridays at 8:30) narrowly beats out “Rodney” (Wednesdays at 9:30) as the show most likely to be shown the gate prematurely. “Savages”, stars Keith Carradine (“Deadwood” and other assorted western themed offerings), as a single dad raising his very different children to be men that know how to do “female” chores like cook, clean, and iron, even though dad can’t do them himself. Despite the big named producers (big movie star, Mel Gibson and big, experienced sitcom writer, Mike Scully of “The Simpsons”), the show appears to be a very stereotypical family comedy and could cause a lot of eye rolling among critics and those that choose to tune in. However, Zap2It points out that Carradine isn’t “inherently funny” and that alone could be funny. Also, since Scully knows how to write dysfunctional family comedy, it could work out better than one thinks. I’ll just disagree and leave it at that.

“Rodney”, on the other hand, could do fairly well simply because of its Wednesday night companion shows. The three comedies on before “Rodney”, “My Wife and Kids” starring Damon Wayans, “George Lopez” starring George Lopez and “According to Jim starring Jim Belushi are all family comedies led by accomplished comedians/actors. “Rodney” stars Rodney Carrington as a dopey, struggling dad who, after constantly getting fired from one job to the next, decides to give it all up and start a career in stand-up comedy. By the way, the family lives in Oklahoma, not exactly the greatest scene in the world for up and coming comics. The premise seems mildly amusing but the comedy appears to be cut in the “big dolt saying and doing dumb things” mold. This might be a bad thing, but “According to Jim” has inexplicably stayed on the air for several years. Maybe people will pick up on this too Could that really happen?

What about the rest? ABC continues with the unfortunate trend that dramas and reality shows are much easier to create and gain an audience than sitcoms and will program very heavy in the drama department as the season moves forward.

**“Desperate Housewives” (Sundays at 9:00 until “Alias” returns midseason) Starring a series of accomplished television veterans including Sheryl Lee (“Twin Peaks”), Teri Hatcher (“Lois & Clark” and the Radio Shack commercials with ex-NFLer Howie Long), Marcia Cross (“Melrose Place”), and Felicity Huffman (“Sports Night” and “Frasier”), this promising family drama/soap opera is told from the distinctive perspective of a housewife who couldn’t take her life, so she decided to end it. From there, she almost acts as a commentator from Heaven as she looks on as the family and friends in her neighborhood continue to lead their dysfunctional lives. From what Zap2It has said, the structure of the show is reminiscent of American Beauty and the storytelling could evolve into the same nastiness that “Dynasty” exhibited over the years. This show could allow those waiting for “Alias” to be intrigued enough to be a little more patient

**“Life as We Know It” (Thursdays at 9:00) According to Zap2it, this show is “based on Melvin Burgess’ novel “Doing It,” three teen boys the sensitive jock, the artist and the parent-pleasing, straight-A student attempt to figure out how to become men.” To me, this reeks of the boy version of “My So Called Life.” Then again, considering the acclaim that shows still receives to this day, that may not be a bad thing. Also, several producers involved with another teen related show that was cut off before its time, “Freaks and Geeks,” are producing this show as well. And believe it or not, THE Kelly Osbourne has signed onto be one of the primary cast members despite her ridiculously limited acting experience. Combine all this together and there’s a chance something could really work here. The only drawback is the timeslot opposite “The Apprentice” and “CSI” but this show may not appeal to that audience that would watch those shows anyway.

**“Lost” (Wednesdays at 8:00) Produced by “Alias'” J.J. Abrams, this drama follows 48 people try to survive after their plane crashes near a deserted tropical island. Given the timeslot, the show really has a chance to obtain and hold a big audience (at least until “American Idol” returns in January). Apparently, the clips shown to those fortunate enough to be there, have eluded to the wide, interesting cast of characters dealing with the island’s elements. Whether that means dealing with each other, the potentially nasty weather or some supernatural forces remains unclear but it will likely sort itself out once the show begins.

**“Wife Swap” (Wednesdays at 10:00) This reality show, which appears more appropriate for the network’s much lighter family friendly counterpart, ABC Family, takes two moms as they switch families for ten days time. The first part of the show the new mom has to abide by the rules of the house and in the second part of each episode, the new mom gets to make the rules for her new family. The show appears to have a cute premise and a real opportunity to get nasty in an entertaining fashion if the “new mom” is drastically different from the “old mom” but at the same time, the idea essentially throws the women’s liberation in the garbage as the new “wife and mom” doesn’t give up her day job or have to sleep with the new husband, making her prime responsibilities cooking and cleaning .just like June Cleaver 45 years ago.

**“Blind Justice” (midseason) This Steven Bochco (“NYPD Blue”) creation follows the mold of Daredevil as a cop who loses his sight in the line of duty and returns actively and appears to help solve crimes with his senses that are heightened after the initial accident. Without that potential super hero type hook, the show could end up being a cop meandering around on duty not being able to see anything. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

**“Eyes” (midseason) Apparently ABC is becoming hip to the “good guys that do bad things” premise that “The Shield” and the last season of “The Practice” introduced to people as the network debuts this new drama. Tim Daly (“Wings”), Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon (“NYPD Blue”), and A.J. Langer (“Three Sisters,” “My So-Called Life”) star in this new thriller as detectives working for an exclusive PI agency that are willing to “bend the law” to solve the crime they’ve been hired to take care of. Zap2it says that the show is likely to be more driven by cool technology and hot bodies instead of the potentially intriguing storylines. As much as I love hot bodies, I’d rather see some interesting stories being told.

**“Grey’s Anatomy” (midseason) The brief premise description from Zap2It states: “Three female doctors navigate their surgical residencies while juggling their problematic personal lives.” Uh-oh this sounds like David E. Kelley’s high profile Fox bomb, “Girls Club” except with doctors instead of lawyers. The cast appears to be more distinguished and more likely to be involved in some good stories, but it is a bit of a risk. The timeslot is also a bit puzzling as well as it will team up with the Monday Night movie to entertain the masses devoted to ABC after “Monday Night Football” ends at the end of this year. Maybe the alphabet knows something that we don’t know?

CBS – Six new fall shows, no mid-season additions announced at this time

What looks like the best? Again, if we use the NBC template for success and define success as “most number of viewers” then the third edition of the “CSI” franchise, “CSI: New York” (Wednesdays at 10:00) will likely win that battle. Starring Oscar nominee Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes (“Providence”), “CSI: New York”, will pretty much be a mirror image of the other shows set in Las Vegas and Miami and tell the usual stories of solving crimes based on very little, if any, visible evidence. The real mystery is whether this show will hold up opposite the original “Law & Order” on NBC, a slot that the peacock has dominated for years. This will certainly be one of the more intriguing one-on-one battles once the fall comes anyway. I think “CSI: New York” will hold its own but consistently lose to old reliable, “Law & Order.” That’s unless Dennis Farina annoys the hell out of the viewership as he takes over Jerry Orbach’s slot.

If we get away from the spin-offs and ask the same question involving the new shows, “dr. vegas” (Fridays at 10:00) seems set to fit the mold as the best thing out there. Starring Rob Lowe, the show’s foundation is pretty similar to NBC’s “Las Vegas” except that Lowe plays a doctor who leaves behind his career in emergency medicine to be some sort of chief medical consultant at a hot shot Las Vegas casino. Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos” and The Fugitive), plays the boss or the “James Caan from ‘Las Vegas’ role. Apparently, the show will revolve around Lowe treating assorted casino patrons as they run into medical issues, but I’m assuming (and hoping) it doesn’t turn into “E.R” in a casino. .

What’s the biggest risk? Again, going with the repeat answer as I’ll pick “dr. vegas” as the biggest risk. The show is up against a tough time slot as it’s set to air Fridays at 10:00. I’m still not a huge fan of networks committing large sums of money to original programs on Friday and Saturday nights because the viewership will automatically be substantially lower. The potential storylines seem a bit uninteresting at face value. I assume the excitement and drama will build substantially as the show progresses, but will anyone even see it in that timeslot?

What will be the biggest flop? It seems insanely obvious to go with “Clubhouse” (Tuesdays at 9:00), the potentially hokey drama starring Jeremy Sumpter, Mare Winningham, Dean Cain, and Christopher Lloyd. In the show, Sumpter will play a 16-year-old that achieves his dream when he becomes a bat boy for his favorite New York City based professional baseball team. Even the pilot which, according to Zap2It, tackles the insanely obvious steroids angle, appears too lame for its own good. However, two words stop me from declaring this show dead before it even debuts: Aaron Spelling. He’s taken potentially foolish premises and turned them into winners in the ratings and with millions of fans in many different places. Remember, he’s behind “Beverly Hills: 90210” and the WB’s “7th Heaven” which I believe is entering its 23rd year on television (or so it seems ). If Aaron Spelling is producing a show, I won’t believe it’s canceled until I see the announcement myself.

I guess that leaves “Center of the Universe” (Wednesdays at 9:30) as the show least likely to succeed then. That’s a shame too because the cast is loaded with older sitcom veterans including John Goodman (“Roseanne”), Jean Smart (“Designing Women” and “Frasier”), Ed Asner (“Lou Grant”), and Diedrich Bader (“The Drew Carey Show”). This doesn’t even include accomplished film actress Olympia Dukakis (“Steel Magnolias,” “Moonstruck”) who has also signed on. So, the cast is certainly stacked. However, one problem that may arise is whether or not all these high profile personalities can co-exist and produce good comedic situations not dependent on these high profile personalities. The program will be a family comedy and center around Goodman and Smart as happy a husband and wife pair that also have to deal with the husband’s crazy, quirky family as well. Goodman’s probably used to that after seeing what the last couple seasons of “Roseanne” morphed into. While I’m a fan of the cast, I’m not a fan of the Wednesday at 9:30 timeslot. “King of Queens” provides a respectable lead in” but not like the one it would get on Mondays at the same time ahead of the final season of “Everybody Loves Raymond” instead. Unfortunately, the show is stuck on Wednesdays against “The West Wing” and it makes the future of the show a lot less bright.

What about the rest? Amazingly, CBS didn’t provide much more for the ad buyers, executives and journalists to talk about. Apparently, they are pretty happy with their standing as the #1 network and didn’t feel the need to tinker with their schedule too much. However, there are two other new shows being left out, though one of them isn’t exactly a real show Anyway

**“Listen Up” (Mondays at 8:30) THIS show is the one that was lucky enough to end up on Mondays with “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Two and a Half Men.” This show, led by Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (who still hasn’t done anything of note since “The Cosby Show”), is loosely based on the family life of ESPN personality/The Washington Post sports columnist Tony Kornheiser (with Alexander filling that role). Apparently, the show will feature more from the family life than what it’s like to host a successful afternoon sports talk television/pop culture show. However, Warner is there to provide the Michael Wilbon character, or the younger, hipper, co-host to go along with Kornhesier. The friendly timeslot, familiar faces, and sports themed show could allow the show to attract a fairly wide, and more importantly, fairly large audience.

**“Crimetime Saturday” (Saturdays at 8:30) This isn’t even a real show as the network will just be repeating episodes of “Cold Case,” “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “NCIS,” and “Without a Trace.” However, I thought it was fairly smart of the network to position this timeslot as something new and potentially interesting even though it will just be a series of repeats. I’m surprised NBC hasn’t just given up Saturday nights and cleverly renamed it “Take THE LAW into your own hands Saturday” and just showed nothing but various “Law & Order” repeats.

I’ve heard worse ideas

But one of them IS NOT Part III of the upfronts analysis which is set to be electronically published on Friday, June 11th. Stay tuned for that!