Welcome to E! Online's Fall TV Preview 2009! All this week we'll be posting reviews of the new fall shows on the major broadcast networks, along with our recommendations about what to watch, what to DVR and what to skip completely.
MELROSE PLACE (CW)
Premiere: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 9-10 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: Big Brother, NCIS: Los Angeles, Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser
Cast: Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Jessica Lucas, Michael Rady, Shaun Sipos, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Laura Leighton, Thomas Calabro
Status: We've seen the first two episodes.
Should you watch the new Melrose Place?
Whee! It's here! The CW's delicious, prime-time drama remake of Melrose Place premieres tonight, and we'll go so far as to say that it's already better than the original. The first Melrose Place always seemed like a wobbly drunk—it weaved in and out of melodrama and generally seemed like the tipsy victim of its own excesses. The new series, on the other hand, is sharply written, stocked with hot and talented young things and generally looks fantastic—the whole package hangs together fabulously and instantly sucks you into the soapy goodness. Watch the pilot straight through, and we promise that after that hour you will want to know more about what happens to these people.
Now, what do you need to know about the new show? Well, for one thing, Melrose Place is Katie Cassidy's apartment complex, the rest of us just live in it, or at least drop by for the drama. Cassidy's hyperambitious publicist Ella is one of those force-of-nature characters you can't take your eyes off of and can't help but like, bitchy attitude notwithstanding. Consider Ella the Place's queen bee until further notice. Other standouts include Michael Rady as struggling auteur and supersweet fella Jonah, Stephanie Jacobsen as an earnest med student turned hooker and Colin Egglesfield as broody chef Auggie. Jessica Lucas is given the thankless part of good-girl schoolteacher Riley (most of her scenes in the first two eps consist of henpecking fiancé Jonah or glaring at Jonah-crushing Ella). Shaun Sipos seems a little shaky at first in his gig as David Breck, illegitimate son of Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro), but frankly the guy's still adorable, and we want to know more.
Unfortunately, the weakest link is Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, who plays newbie Violet Foster. She has an intriguing secret that you'll learn in episode two, and Simpson-Wentz seems to be working with a difficult (i.e. crazycakes) character, but Violet is so damn twitchy and weird it's almost hard to watch. The producers clearly know what they're doing, so Violet no doubt breaks out of her kooky little shell by November sweeps. For now, Violet is more than a little off-putting, but maybe that just means she's the latest in Melrose Place's long line of wild and wonderful young women.
THE FORGOTTEN (ABC)
Premiere: Tuesday, Sept. 22, 10-11 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: The Jay Leno Show, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy
Cast: Christian Slater, Michelle Borth, Heather Stephens, Bob Stephenson, Anthony Carrigan, Rochelle Aytes
Status: We've seen 10 minutes of the reworked pilot.
What's The Forgotten all about? Should you watch? Read on...
Everyone wants to give the Boy in the Box a name and/or identify the hundreds of mysterious people in coroners' unidentified persons databases (link NSFW or for anyone without a gut of steel), but just the same, ABC's new drama The Forgotten, about a group of amateurs devoted to identifying John and Jane Does, seems like one of the weaker crime-procedural premises in recent years. (Well, that's assuming we don't count Past Life, Fox's midseason series about crime solving via past-life regression. Oy.) Don't get us wrong, we love procedurals, and we'll watch almost any half-baked crime show on TV, but this is getting ridiculous.
Separate from a potentially flimsy premise, The Forgotten is clearly in flux: ABC has not released a full pilot for review, and Christian Slater was added in to the cast at the 11th hour.
It's hard to say if this latest Jerry Bruckheimer-produced show will be a paragon of excellence, just tolerable or downright terrible, but for the time being, we're being cagey about committing to an hour a week with The Forgotten.
The show creators insist the series is not depressing, and executive producer Lukas Reiter says, "There's a real opportunity for the group [of volunteer detectives] to be giving meaning to the lives of people who are nameless, by telling their story. It really validates their existence." We'll see.
Premiere: Tuesday, Nov. 3, 8-9 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: NCIS, 90210, So You Think You Can Dance, The Biggest Loser
Cast: Elizabeth Mitchell, Scott Wolf, Morena Baccarin, Joel Gretsch
Status: We've seen the pilot.
What's V all about? Should you watch? Read on...
You won't see any shoulder pads or big '80s hair in this revamp of the sci-fi cult classic—and this series wastes no time revealing the true nature of the Visitors. Still there will be plenty of surprises—especially the conclusion to the first episode. Save your snacks for later, because you will scream.
The Vs—as the populace quickly abbreviates them—cause some mild damage and major hysteria when they descend on Earth and position their spaceships above major cities throughout the globe. But humans just love getting presents (including peace, harmony and cool techno-gadgets), especially when delivered by a beautiful alien leader, Anna, who comes in smokin'-hot wrapping. So as far as the Earthlings are concerned, everything is copacetic with the Vs.
But count on the cynicism of a few grouchy New Yorkers—including FBI agent Erica Evans (Lost's Mitchell), a priest (Gretsch) and an ambitious news anchor (Wolf)—to stir up questions about the invaders' true intentions.
Unfortunately, Evans' teenage son is not so cynical. In fact, as soon as he meets the Vs, he's a lost cause. His single mom is going to have a tough time separating him from his Peace Ambassador uniform, wicked space-shuttle flights and a seductive blond alien recruiter. (Kids today!)
It won't be easy for others in the resistance movement either. Father Jack's faith in God and religion is challenged, while reporter Ryan Seacrest Chad Decker is forced to choose between integrity...and phenomenal success.
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
Premiere: Tuesday, Sept. 22, 9-10 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: Melrose Place, Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J, Linda Hunt, Peter Cambor, Adam Jamal Craig, Daniela Ruah
Status: We've seen the two NCIS crossover episodes and the first episode of the season.
What's NCIS: Los Angeles all about? Should you watch? Read on...
LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell together on an NCIS pilot is like pineapple on pizza: It doesn't sound good on paper, but it's surprisingly delish in actuality. This former tights-wearing Robin and gold-chain-adorned hip-hopper somehow make for a compelling, convincing and charming pair.
Here's the gist of it: NCIS: Los Angeles is set in Los Angeles' Office of Special Projects, a division of NCIS that apprehends criminals who pose a threat to national security, and the show shines a spotlight on the life of deep undercover agents. Chris plays Special Agent G. Callen, a former CIA, FBI and DEA agent who's a bit of a loose cannon. LL plays his partner, Special Agent Sam Hanna, a former Navy SEAL who is wiser, more experienced and looks out for Callen in a brotherly way.
What do we love about it other than the badass buddy team of Chris and LL? The tricked-out ops center and high-tech surveillance gadgets are exciting and edgy. ("There's all this Lockheed Martin technology in there. It's really, really cool," says Mr. Cool himself.) Being graced with Oscar-winner Linda Hunt's presence (as office manager Hetty) every Tuesday night is truly one of the best TV treats of the season. And though NCIS' goofy, comedic moments are part of its appeal, we're happy that Los Angeles has a slightly cooler and sexier tone.
[Alternate point of view, by Jennifer Godwin: The season premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles is unremarkable and verging on junky. The action is derivative, the plotlines are dull and overall Los Angeles looks and feels like a cheap, uninspired knockoff. Linda Hunt's a badass, and LL Cool J is cool, duh, but the only other intriguing character was Dominic, a Spencer Reid-esque background nerd who talks too much. CBS will no doubt grant NCIS: L.A. time to grow into itself and gain its, er, sea legs, but for now, blah. Pass.]
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)
Premiere: Tuesday, Sept. 22, 10-11 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: The Jay Leno Show, Sons of Anarchy, The Forgotten
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Christine Baranksi, Josh Charles, Archie Panjabi, Matt Czuchry
Status: We've seen the pilot.
What's The Good Wife all about? Should you watch? Read on...
Fall TV Preview Graphic
We've seen it countless times. The politician is caught with his pants down, and his supportive wife stands stoically by his side as he makes his apology or resignation speech. The two walk hand-in-hand from the podium, and you just can't help but wonder: What happens next? How could she be all Tammy Wynette like that and stand by her man considering what he did? What's really behind that stoic face of spousal support?
These are the questions that The Good Wife attempts to answer. Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, the betrayed wife to Chris Noth's cheating state's attorney Peter Florrick. "I loved how complicated she is," says Julianna. "This is a woman who's thought her life was going one way for many, many years and who trusted that life and that world that she lived in. And then everything crumbles. We're going to be able to peel her like an onion for years to come, because how do you react? I was so quick to judge all those women that I saw standing up and standing by their man. In my head I kept thinking, 'Well, why are you standing there?' "
But before you think Alicia isn't a strong female character because she chose to stand by her man, think again. The show runners say it's yet to be determined just how good of a wife she really is. "We always meant good ironically," says Robert King, executive producer and creator.
This is not just a show about a family torn apart. It's also a sharp courtroom drama with a twist. After a 13-year absence from her career as a lawyer, Alicia is forced back to work as a junior associate who isn't exactly welcomed with open arms by fellow young lawyers at the firm.
ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE (CBS)
Premiere: Monday, Sept. 21, 8:30-9 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: Dancing With the Stars, House, Heroes, One Tree Hill
Cast: Jenna Elfman, Ashley Jensen, Jon Foster, Grant Show, Lennon Parham, Nicolas Wright
Status: We've seen the pilot.
What's Accidentally all about? Should you watch? Read on...
We didn't realize we how much we missed Jenna Elfman on the small screen until this hilarious rom-com lovefest came across our desks. From the opening scene where Billie's (Elfman) hilarious BFF Olivia (Ashley Jensen of Ugly Betty fame) suggests she perk up her nipples before seeing ex-boyfriend and boss James (Grant Show) to the Skittles line that's LOL funny even after repeated viewings, Accidentally on Purpose doesn't skimp on the girlie good times.
Here's the scenario: Billie is a 37-year-old San Francisco film critic who dumped James for not popping the question on their third anniversary. When she decides she wants him back, he's unavailable, so she does what any heartbroken cougar would do—have a one-night-stand with a twentysomething hottie. Enter chef Zack (Jon Foster). By the end of the pilot episode, she's knocked up with the kid's kid and makes some very complicated life choices that are pregnant (yes, we went there) with hilarious storyline possibilities.
The exchange that keeps us giggling is this: When asked what sex with a young stud was like, Billie jokes, "Like eating candy." What kind of candy? "Young candy. I'm not kidding—he smelled like a Skittle. I feel like I tasted the rainbow." OK, maybe it sounds better from Jenna's charming mouth, but you get the point.
"What excited me was I thought this character was so refreshing. I loved her wit," says Jenna. "And the subject matter I thought was timely, and it was actually funny."
Premiere: Monday, Sept. 28, 9-10 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: Dancing With the Stars, Gossip Girl, Two and a Half Men, Lie To Me
Cast: Aimee Garcia, Cliff Curtis, Anastasia Griffith, Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin, Taylor Kinney
Status: We've seen the pilot.
What's Trauma all about? Should you watch? Read on...
Executive producer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) sure knows how to blow stuff up.
There are two major accidents, two big budget explosions and lots of heart-pounding, high-octane, edge-of-your-seat thrills to keep you entertained in the pilot episode of Trauma, a new drama about first-responder paramedics in San Francisco. But can that level of excitement, action and production value be sustained for a whole season? "I think we can," says Jeffrey Reiner, executive producer. "We've already done major-league kind of stunts. But we're very concerned that it just doesn't become 'the pileup of the week.' "
So the potential problem with the show is this: Will we care enough to watch once stuff ceases to get blown up? Judging by the personal storylines in the pilot, we're not quite sure yet. It'll take a few episodes to find out if there's enough reason to care about these characters to make us want to watch week after week. Still, Trauma's helicopter crashes and oil-tanker explosions make for good drama and the show has enough sizzle to surprise us.