Posted by: Gregg | September 5, 2008

Watch the Pilots with Aaron!

Aaron Barnhart is the television critic for the Kansas City Star, and every year for the past three years he’s held a viewing of the first episodes of the best new shows of the season at the Screenland Theaters. Since I’m a tv freak and one can buy beer at the Screenland, I’ve attended every year. This year was a bit odd, since last year’s writer’s strike halted the production of new shows, so the pickings were fairly slim. Also, ABC has refused to send out any early previews of their shows, because they hate me, so I’ll have to sit at home and wait with the rest of you to see how the reboot of “Cupid” will turn out.

Anyway. What we saw, with thoughts, with some mild spoilers:

“Chuck”: One of my favorite shows from last season, “Chuck” looks strong again, kicking things off with the blend of charm, humor, and action that it had last year. This season’s premise is set up nicely: the CIA and NSA have nearly completed the new version of the intersect that’s in Chuck’s head, meaning he’ll become expendable very quickly. It looks great – can’t wait for this one.

“Heroes”: The ten minutes featuring Masi Oka’s character, Hiro, was fine, however watching the clip I couldn’t shake the feeling that “Heroes” will have another down season, just like last year. Put me in the ‘wait and see’ camp.

The Mentalist“: Take the ‘con man who uses his skills to solve crimes’ shtick from USA’s “Psych”, remove the humor, and you’ve got the new CBS offering starring Australian actor Simon Baker. I wasn’t all that impressed with it, because what primetime tv certainly does not need is yet another cop/detective show. This one does looks good if you’re into that sort of thing – well-written, slickly produced, professionally made – but it’ll be off my TiVo list. (My parents, however, will love it.)

“Life” – Remember what I just said about the overabundance of cop/detective shows? This is the exception. A holdover from last year’s shortened season, this show about a Zen-spouting detective trying to put his life back together after being in jail for a crime he didn’t commit was a pleasant surprise and quickly became one of my favorite shows, filled with wit, likable characters, and nuanced acting. (Unusual for a cop show, I know.) This season contains some changes which I’m not too thrilled about – the maybe-evil captain has been replaced by funny schlub and noted showkiller Donal Logue. It seems an odd fit, and I may have to adopt the “wait and see” approach I have with “Heroes”, but if there’s one show that’s earned a fair shot, it’s this one.

“Boston Legal”: I hate this show with the heat of a thousand suns, and therefore was too busy trying to strangle myself with a Twizzler wrapper to pay much attention.

Fringe“: Hey, always good to see Pacey from “Dawson’s Creek” picking up a paycheck. This show about a small FBI cell using fringe science to solve mysteries comes from the mind of J.J. Abrams and looks slick as hell, but I wasn’t enraptured with the clip that I saw. Probably one of those things where you need to watch the entire show to see it in context, but since J.J. was behind one of my all-time favorite shows, “Alias”, I’ll absolutely be tuning in.

“Dollhouse”: You had me at Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon, so before episode one I’m already this show’s bitch. We only got to see a preview trailer, not a clip, but it looks good.

“Worst Week”: For those who think that a television show cannot be good and family-friendly at the same time, this show’s for you. Wickedly funny slapstick about a guy trying to impress his girlfriend’s parents, “Worst Week” is like a cleaner and less cringe-worthy version of Meet the Parents, except funny. Worth checking out.

Brilliant But Canceled Watch: Every year I fall in love with new television shows; every year at least one of them gets shamelessly canceled. This year will be no different. The early money’s on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” getting the axe because of his disasterous history with the Fox network. I think that the show will get a fair shot because of that history – they know good and well that there’ll be about ten thousand committed Whedonites ready to firebomb the Fox studio lot if “Dollhouse” gets a quick hook. No, I’m going with the quirky police procedural “Life“, which barely survived last year’s half-season because of the chaos caused by the strike. NBC had no idea how to market it, and I doubt they’ve given it much thought this year around. Expect “Life” to get shuffled around the schedule and a mercy killing in midseason, replaced by a lame rip-off of a Japanese reality show.

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