Sunday, September 14, 2003

Perhaps not great but ...

These 10 new fall shows look like they could be well worth watching

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ready for another less-than-perfect TV season?

For the second consecutive year, you won't find another break-out great new show. Not another The West Wing, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Scrubs.

But you'll see at least 10 very good shows among the 37 new series that could be still standing a year from now - just like, well, Still Standing, Everwood, CSI: Miami and Less Than Perfect.

Here's my list of 10 new shows worth watching. Maybe some will become your new favorites:

[IMAGE] Alicia Silverstone plays a divorce lawyer in Miss Match

Miss Match

For her first TV series, Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) has made a perfect match with NBC's Miss Match from Darren Star (Sex and the City). She's divorce attorney Kate Fox, who's absolutely clueless when she receives 12 phone messages for "the marriage broker," until seeing a newspaper wedding announcement crediting her as the matchmaker. Kate struggles with being a tough divorce negotiator with her father (Ryan O'Neal, whose acting hasn't improved since Love Story) and attempts to hook up lonely singles. This could be a regular Friday date for many women. (8 p.m. Sept. 26, Channels 5, 22)

I'm With Her

Don't miss this tender romantic comedy. Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) plays the Hollywood movie star who falls in love with a commoner, a high school English teacher (David Sutcliffe, Rory's father on Gilmore Girls) who has fallen down a rabbit hole into the wacky world of red carpets and movie premieres. Inspired by writer Chris Henchy's (Spin City) marriage to actress Brooke Shields, it's funny and realistic - and could be the sleeper hit between 8 Simple Rules and According to Jim. (8:30 p.m. Sept. 23, Channels 9, 2)

A Minute with Stan Hooper

Writer Barry Kemp (Newhart, Coach) has created a delightful Newhart-style comedy with a great surprise - Norm Macdonald in the Bob Newhart role. The former wise-cracking Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor keeps his mouth shut on this crazy Fox comedy, as Newhart did on his two long-running CBS shows. Macdonald's Hooper, a TV news commentator, moves from New York to Wisconsin to live with "real people," only to find some really wacky ones - a cheese mogul (Fred Willard), paranoid butler (Brian Howe), and the diner owners (Garret Dillahunt, Daniel Roebuck). You'll want to spend 30 minutes with Stan Hooper each week. (8:30 p.m. Oct. 29, Channels 19, 45)

The O.C.

More than 8 million viewers already have discovered the best new fall drama, which the sly Fox introduced Aug. 5, six weeks before TV's official premiere week. This Beverly Hills 90210 for a new generation chronicles how a poor outsider, Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), tries to fit into affluent Newport Beach and Orange County (the "O.C."). Abandoned by his parents, Ryan has been taken in by an idealistic public defender (Peter Gallagher, American Beauty) and socialite wife (Kelly Rowan), who doesn't want him there influencing their son (Adam Brody) or the teen-age American beauty (Mischa Barton) next door. (9 p.m. Tuesday, Channels 19, 45; moves to 9 p.m. Thursday on Oct. 30)

2 1/2 Men

Cute kid! Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) thinks twice about not letting his brother (Jon Cryer) and 10-year-old nephew (Angus Jones, Bringing Down the House) move into his Malibu bachelor pad after seeing how women love the boy. As Jake says: "We stopped for ice cream, because I'm a babe magnet!" The sitcom veterans make a great CBS comedy team as the single jingle-writer (Sheen, Spin City) and the anal-retentive chiropractor (Cryer, Partners, The Famous Teddy Z). The two - make that 21/2 - should be an instant comedy hit following Everybody Loves Raymond. (9:30 p.m. Sept. 22, Channels 12, 7)


Of course, Whoopi Goldberg's new NBC sitcom is called Whoopi, but the real star - and likely new breakthrough comedy character - is Nasim, the Iranian handyman and concierge. Omid Djalili (The Mummy, Spy Game) makes a great sidekick for hotel owner Mavis (Goldberg) as the fix-it man who declares that a broken TV "is more dead than Saddam's first defense minister." Goldberg saves some good lines for her retired lounge singer character. Together they could become NBC's biggest new weapons of mass amusement. (Second episode 8 p.m. Tuesday, Channels 5, 22; premiered last week.)

The Handler

Undercover cops have been part of the TV picture for decades, but we haven't seen anybody like CBS' Joe Renato (Joe Pantoliano, The Sopranos). He's an FBI agent who trains male and female officers to solve crimes by role-playing. What makes the pilot so compelling is that viewers don't know which scenarios are simulations and which are actual infiltrations. One thing is certain: Pantoliano is a real star. (10 p.m. Sept. 26, Channels 12, 7)

All of Us

UPN's aptly titled All of Us refers to a divorced dad (Duane Martin, Scream 2) trying to raise a 5-year-old son with a new wife (Elise Neal, The Hughleys) and ex-wife (Lisa-Raye, The Players Club). It also could apply to superstars Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, executive producers who created the series based on their blended family experiences. (Smith will guest star.) Martin isn't as gifted as the former Fresh Prince, but the genuine family humor would make All of Us a hit on a bigger network. (8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Channel 25).

Joan of Arcadia

Teenage Joan has seen God on CBS, and he's a hottie, a classmate she has a crush on. Later, God appears to her in school as an African-American cafeteria lady. Joan (Amber Tamblyn, General Hospital) knows she's an odd choice for the calling, being the daughter of fallen away Catholics - the police chief (Joe Mantegna) and a school secretary (Mary Steenburgen) - with two brothers: a computer geek (Michael Welch) and a depressed paraplegic (Jason Ritter, John's son). God instructs Joan to get a job, and refuses to let her ask questions. "Let's just say I need you to do some errands," he says. The biggest challenge for this modern day Joan of Arc will be finding Friday viewers opposite Miss Match and Fox's Wanda at Large. (8 p.m. Sept. 26, Channels 12, 7).

Karen Sisco

Carla Gugino, the Spy Kids mom, trades life as a secret agent for the role of Karen Sisco, the federal marshal from Out of Sight, the Jennifer Lopez-George Clooney movie. Though Lopez is a tough act to follow, Gugino pulls it off with the help of Sisco's father (Robert Forster) and boss (Bill Duke); novelist Elmore Leonard's quirky characters; and a production team including Danny DeVito (who will make a cameo). All the pieces may be in place for a long run on TV, after curiously brief stints for Gugino (Spin City, Chicago Hope) and Leonard (Maximum Bob). (10 p.m. Oct. 1, Channels 9, 2).

One day at a time


New: Eve (UPN)

Returning: The Parkers, Girlfriends, Half & Half (UPN); Antiques Roadshow (PBS); 7th Heaven, Everwood (WB); Primetime Monday (ABC)


New: All of Us, Rock Me Baby, The Mullets (UPN); The O.C. (Fox) Whoopi, Happy Family (NBC)

Returning: One on One (UPN)


New: Jake 2.0 (UPN)

Returning: Enterprise (UPN)


New: Threat Matrix (ABC); Steve Harvey's Big Time, Run of the House (WB)

Returning: Survivor (CBS); Extreme Makeover (ABC); Jamie Kennedy Experiment, What I Like About You (WB) Primetime Thursday (ABC)


New: Luis (Fox); Like Family, All About the Andersons (WB)

Returning: Wanda at Large (Fox); Reba, Grounded for Life (WB);

20/20 (ABC)


Returning: Cops, America's Most Wanted (Fox)

Sept. 21

New: 2 1/2 Men (CBS), Las Vegas (NBC)

Returning: Yes Dear, Still Standing, Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI:

Miami (CBS); Fear Factor (NBC).

Sept. 23

New: I'm with Her (ABC); Navy NCIS (CBS); One Tree Hill (WB)

Returning: Gilmore Girls (WB); The Guardian, Judging Amy (CBS);

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, According to Jim, Less Than Perfect, NYPD Blue (ABC); Frasier, Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

Sept. 24

New: The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H. (CBS)

Returning: My Wife and Kids, The Bachelor (ABC); Ed, The West Wing, Law & Order (NBC); 60 Minutes II (CBS)

Sept. 25

New: Coupling (NBC)

Returning: Friends, Will & Grace, ER (NBC); CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace (CBS)

Sept. 26

New: Joan of Arcadia, The Handler (CBS); Miss Match (NBC); Hope & Faith (ABC)

Returning: JAG (CBS); George Lopez Show, Life with Bonnie (ABC); Dateline NBC, Boomtown (NBC); UPN movie.

Sept. 27

Returning: 48 Hours Investigates, Hack, The District (CBS); Wonderful World of Disney (ABC); NBC movie.

Sept. 28

New: Cold Case (CBS); 10-8 (ABC); The Lyon's Den (NBC)

Returning: 60 Minutes, CBS movie (CBS); Alias, America's Funniest Home Videos, The Practice (ABC); American Dreams, Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Charmed (WB)

Sept. 29

Returning: Third Watch (NBC)

Sept. 30

Returning: Good Morning Miami (NBC)

Oct. 1

New: It's All Relative, Karen Sisco (ABC)

Returning: King of Queens (CBS); Smallville, Angel (WB)

Oct. 2

Returning: Scrubs (NBC)

Oct. 3

New: Married to the Kellys (ABC).

Oct. 4

Returning: LA Dragnet (ABC)

Oct. 5

New: Tarzan (WB)

Oct. 8

Returning: Becker (CBS)

Oct. 20

New: Skin (Fox)

Returning: Joe Millionaire (Fox)

Oct. 28

Returning: 24, That '70s Show (Fox)

Oct. 29

New: A Minute with Stan Hooper (Fox)

Returning: Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer (Fox)

Oct. 30

New: Tru Calling (Fox)

Nov. 2

New: Arrested Development, The Ortegas (Fox)

Returning: The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Malcolm in the Middle (Fox)

No air date: Oliver Beene (Fox)


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