2005 Fall TV Preview

2005 FALL TV PREVIEWCraig Russell

The 2004-05 campaign saw major shifts in the television landscape. ABC enjoyed an unprecedented resurgence, largely due to freshmen hits Lost and Desperate Housewives. Suddenly, scripted dramas were in again. NBC decline was expected – just maybe not this soon. Yet for all the changes, while maybe not as water-cooler worthy, CBS still has the numbers. 2005-06 brings thirty new programs to the table, yet as season after season has taught us, most won’t be around this time next year (only nine of thirty one survived last season). Here’s a night-by-night look at what shows just might stick around…

MONDAY

Back to the drawing board. Last season, every network but the WB debuted six new shows. And none return. So what next? Mondays look is dramatically changing with Everybody Loves Raymond’s departure, and ABC’s franchise Monday Night Football (only 60 Minutes has been around longer) moving to ESPN in 2006. In an attempt to hold on to the opening night of the work week, CBS is bringing back King of Queens to pair with Two and a Half Men for a pretty strong one-two punch. They also have a decent looking newcomer in How I Met Your Mother. In other “night moves”, Fox has Arrested Development leading off the evening instead of part of their Sunday cartoon block. And the WB decided to split up the solid pairing of 7th Heaven (entering its 10th season!) and Everwood (moving to Thursday), confusingly replacing it with the Don Johnson legal drama Just Legal. Then again, nobody does confusing programming like the WB…

Most Promising Newcomer: Prison Break (Fox)
Least Promising Newcomer: Surface (NBC)
Best Overall Lineup: CBS

TUESDAY

A busy night for change as well, with six new entries. And every network seems to have its positives and negatives. ABC has the annoying yet reliable According to Jim, and a possible keeper (at least ratings-wise) with Geena Davis’ Commander in Chief, but Rodney is a weak link. CBS hopes that Close to Home will be their next Without a Trace /Cold Trace, to go along with the rapidly building NCIS and Amazing Race. NBC’s schedule is definitely the biggest mess: The Biggest Loser teamed with smart comedies The Office and newcomer My Name is Earl, followed by the always funny L&O: SVU. Fox found a winner last season with the un-Fox like House, and looks for more of the same with the X-Files-ish (all the rage this year) Bones. And finally, the WB and UPN are praying that Supernatural and Sex, Love & Secrets (think Melrose meets Desperate Housewives) can hold most of the audience from strong lead-ins Gilmore Girls and an encore performance of America’s Next Top Model. Good luck…

Most Promising Newcomer: My Name is Earl (NBC), Bones (Fox)
Least Promising Newcomer: Commander in Chief (ABC)
Best Overall Lineup: CBS

WEDNESDAY

Make no mistake, this is Lost’s night. Invasion makes for an intriguing lead-out, unless it’s too much drama packed into two hours. And the hurricane angle doesn’t help, either. Lead-in Freddie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then again – it will probably be gone before Christmas anyway. This could be CBS’s worst group of shows, with the least appealing CSI and King of Queens heading back to Monday. Meanwhile, CBS’ cousin UPN boasts its most appealing ready-for-prime time lineup with America’s Next Top Model and the terrific Veronica Mars. NBC offers us another Apprentice (with Martha Stewart) and the 14th season of Law & Order. Fox and the WB offer us nothing, literally…

Most Promising Newcomer: Invasion (ABC)
Least Promising Newcomer: Criminal Minds (CBS), Head Cases (Fox)
Best Overall Lineup: (tie) UPN – for cohesiveness, ABC – for Lost

THURSDAY

Last year at this time, UPN was buzzing that their Taye Diggs’ drama Kevin Hill was going to finally make them a player. Things didn’t quite work out that way, so this season it’s Everybody Hates Chris (producer Chris Rock’s semi-autobiographical story about growing up in Brooklyn) that UPN is counting on to get the network to the next level. As for the rest of their schedule, it’s pretty irrelevant. The WB makes strides as well: Smallville and Everwood are certainly a major improvement from last year’s Blue Collar TV/Drew Carey’s Green Screen combo. I thought Fox might have something interesting in pairing The O.C. with the 24-ish Reunion (just replace an hour with a year). I thought wrong. ABC has a brand new Thursday lineup for the third straight season, but is Alias strong enough to carry an evening? NBC may not own Thursday anymore, but it’s probably still their best night. It’s CBS that holds all the cards, though, with Survivor/CSI/Without a Trace the strongest trio going…

Most Promising Newcomer: Everybody Hates Chris (UPN)
Least Promising Newcomer: Love, Inc. (UPN)
Best Overall Lineup: CBS

FRIDAY

Does Friday matter any more? It’s a fair question with some of the turkeys the networks have been sticking here the past couple seasons. Friday is also where tired, old shows go to die. Fox seems ready to say goodbye to Malcolm in the Middle and Bernie Mac. Too bad they couldn’t have included That 70s Show and killed three birds with one stone. The WB surprisingly returns the likable What I Like About You, followed by Twins – up for most obnoxious new series. NBC gets a nod for worst- titled new series with Inconceivable. And CBS wins, hands down, for most confusing programming decision by canceling Joan of Arcadia and replacing it with Ghost Whisperer – starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Whether Friday becomes the next Saturday remains to be seen…

Most Promising Newcomer: Threshold (CBS)
Least Promising Newcomer: Ghost Whisperer (CBS), Twins (The WB)
Best Overall Lineup: ABC (by default)

SUNDAY

Over-hyped or not, there’s no denying the inhabitants of Wisteria Lane have moved in and taken over the neighborhood. Grey’s Anatomy’s success is just icing on the cake. The rest of the networks simply concede for now (there’s only one new program). CBS is solid with franchise 60 Minutes and Cold Case. NBC moves The West Wing from Wednesday to pair with L&O: Criminal Intent. And Fox sticks with its animated comedy block, anchored by The Simpsons (of course) – adding into the mix the wince-inducing family comedy The War at Home, whose writers think a father who just doesn’t get his sixteen year-old daughter is a fresh and funny spin. The WB, after the failure of Jack & Bobby, seem a bit gunshy this time around – settling on Reba reruns and the veteran, but past it’s prime, Charmed.

Most Promising Newcomer: Nothing
Least Promising Newcomer: The War at Home (Fox)
Best Overall Lineup: ABC