Fall TV Critic’s Picks: ‘Heroes,’ ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Dirty Sexy Money,’ ‘30 Rock’

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Join HollywoodChicago.com television critic Evan O’Donnell for
what’s hot and what’s not across ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC television.

CHICAGO – Once again, it’s that magical time of year when kids return to school, leaves start to change and we’re obliged to cease all human communications and glue ourselves in front of the tube for eight months to enjoy other people doing things.

Yes, it’s time for the new television season to start, but with so many choices on what to watch, how will you ever know what’s worth watching and what’s worth TiVoing (and forgetting about a week later)? Let’s take this day by day. Off we go.

Sunday

The big battle on this night will be between NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”. In 2006, NBC pulled in a 6.4 rating and a 16 share with its gridiron coverage.

Editor’s note: The rating is the percentage of all people within a given universe that are watching a show. For example, if a show has a 6.4 rating, that means 6 percent of all the people in the 18 to 49 demographic are watching that show.

The share is the percentage of people who are watching TV at that time and watching that show. If a show has a 20 share, that means 20 percent of all the people in a demographic who are watching TV are watching that show.

ABC pulled in almost identical but slightly higher numbers with “Desperate Housewives”.

The bread of the housewives sandwich, however, lagged behind football considerably. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Brothers & Sisters” only pulled in a 4.9 and 4.3 rating respectively.

FOX is countering with its two-hour block of animation that was popular 10 years ago.

While “The Simpsons” (4.1 rating), “King of the Hill” (2.6), “Family Guy” (4.1) and “American Dad” (3.5) all have a loyal audience, they won’t be able to make up the viewers to compete with ABC or NBC.

CBS is the only network that has a new show on Sunday: “Viva Laughlin”. Though other Sunday shows from CBS are consistent performers, they will still be battling for third behind ABC and NBC.

Desperate Housewives

Can’t Miss: “Desperate Housewives”
Even though the show has gone downhill over the past few seasons, the ladies of Wisteria Lane (especially Felicity Huffman) still make you want to hate yourself for loving it.

Can’t Hit: “King of the Hill”
It seems the only reason this show is back is because FOX has a compulsion to only airing cartoons during prime time on Sundays. Like “The Simpsons,” this show stopped being funny five years ago. Unlike “The Simpsons,” it doesn’t have the cult following.

Monday

CBS is trying to turn the clock back to the days before reality television by showing a two-hour block of sitcoms. “How I Met Your Mother” (3.2), “Two and a Half Men” (4.7) and “Rules of Engagement” (4.5) are all steady performers.

New CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” is scheduled between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” in an attempt to exploit some momentum and build a following.

NBC is trying out two new shows on Mondays with “Chuck” and “Journeyman” as the bookends for “Heroes” (6.4). The peacock is hoping the same demographic that made “Heroes” a hit will buy into the storylines of the new hour-long serials.

The big winner of the night will be ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (5.8 rating). This was the No. 2 show in 2006 and it doesn’t look like it will let up at all this time around.

Heroes

Can’t Miss: “Heroes”
This show is simply gripping and will continue to gain fans as it matures.

Can’t Hit: “Two and a Half Men”
When describing this show, I use this old line: “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”

Tuesday

With “American Idol” not yet in play, this day is a free for all for all four major networks. ABC has what might be the most talked-about new show with “Cavemen” but has also the most mocked new show with “Cavemen”.

I see this show as having huge numbers the first week (there is no such thing as bad publicity) but falling off sharply when people realize you can’t make a 30-second commercial into a 22-minute sitcom.

The alphabet network’s other new show, “Carpoolers,” will suffer the same slow and painful death. However, they do have the “Dancing With the Stars” result show to pull themselves up.

CBS is still playing the “people older than 60 love our shows” card and it is evident on Tuesdays.

NCIS” (3.5) and “The Unit” (3.2) will pull in respectable numbers for the network as they try for a younger audience with their new show “Cane”. Starring Jimmy Smits, this show focuses on a South Florida family and its rum and sugar business.

Even though they don’t have a new “American Idol” to start the season, don’t start shedding tears for FOX quite yet. While “Bones” (3.2) pulls in respectable numbers, “House M.D.” pulls in a breathtaking 19.4 million viewers.

This is the highest-rated show on FOX that’s not called “American Idol”.

Boston Legal

Can’t Miss: “Boston Legal”
This show has a smart cast, funny dialogue and Bill Shatner. There are all good things here.

Can’t Hit: “The Biggest Loser”
If I wanted to watch people lose weight, I would watch “Celebrity Fit Club” on VH1. At least then I would be able to see Screech.

Wednesday

Like all networks, ABC has completely revamped its lineup for Wednesday night.

The alphabet network is debuting three new shows including “Private Practice,” which is the new “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff. “Dirty Sexy Money,” which is the new drama starring Peter Krauss, will try to recapture a feeling that hasn’t been around since “Dynasty”.

CBS is countering with the most-hyped new reality show of the season: “Kid Nation”.

The show debuted last week to mediocre ratings and doesn’t look to be the breakout success that the Columbian Broadcast System hoped. They still have, however, “Criminal Minds” (3.9) and “CSI: NY” (4.3) to make CBS a contender on Wednesdays.

FOX’s only attempt at the traditional sitcom comes on Wednesday nights with the “Everybody Loves Raymond”-inspired hour of the new Patricia Heaton vehicle “Back to You” and the painful return of Brad Garret’s “’Til Death” (2.9).

Their only hope on Wednesday is the Gordon Ramsey kitchen reality show “Kitchen Nightmares”.

NBC is placing all its hopes on the new “Bionic Woman” and the new drama “Life”. The good news for the peacock is that Americans are still eager enough to sit mindlessly through “Deal or No Deal”. There’s nothing quite like cashing in on the lowest-common denominator.

Dirty Sexy Money

Can’t Miss: “Dirty Sexy Money”
Peter Krauss has the charm. The plotlines have the trash to make this another compelling show that makes us feel like we have to shower afterward.

Can’t Hit: “Deal or No Deal”
Come on, people. Pre-screened “contestants” are randomly picking numbered briefcases. We can do better than this.

Thursday

All the networks are sticking to their guns on Thursday with only ABC trotting out a new show called “Big Shots”. This is the story of entitled people who have entitled problems.

ABC is trying to corner the “dramedy” market with the show premiering after the ratings cows of “Ugly Betty” (3.7) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (8.1).

CBS has the venerable “Survivor” kicking off its Thursday night.

The rest of the CBS lineup consists of “CSI” (6.6) (or what I like to call “Law & Order: CBS”) and finishes off the night with “Without a Trace” (4.1). Though the lineup is nothing new or sexy, it will still make the eye network competitive.

NBC is in the odd position of having the best shows and the fewest viewers. The two-hour sitcom block consists of “My Name is Earl” (3.8), “30 Rock” (2.7), “The Office” (4.1) and “Scrubs” (3.2).

The peacock is hoping the buzz around these legitimately funny shows will continue to grow and will soon bring the audience the talent deserves.

30 Rock

Can’t Miss: “30 Rock”
This is an uproarious show. It will be a shame if it goes the way of “Arrested Development” or “Sports Night”.

Can’t Hit: “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”
This is a show that’s only slightly more tolerable than “Deal or No Deal” and that isn’t saying much.

The Verdict

While every network is unveiling some exciting programming, there really doesn’t seem to be a breakout show that will compete with the established forces in prime-time network TV.

ABC looks like it will hold the top network spot, but if people start to tune into NBC on Thursday like they should, there is no stopping them.

After all is said and done, you should cancel all your appointments, lose all your friends and sit yourself down in front of the glorious light box for next eight months.

By Evan O’Donnell
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com

© 2007 Evan O’Donnell, HollywoodChicago.com

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