It dawns on me that the new Fall TV season is in full swing as of this week, and I haven't taken the time to tell you what I think you should and should not be watching because, let's face it, my wife says I spend my entire life in front of the TV set as it is, so who better to listen to? So here, in no particular order, are my opinions of the new Fall series to date.
BACK TO YOU: Completely professional. Completely serviceable. Completely unoriginal. Leads Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and the always-wonderful Fred Willard do what they do best, but I can't escape the feeling that I've somehow seen it all before.
THE BIG BANG THEORY: Easily my favorite new sitcom of the season. I've liked pretty much everything creator Chuck Lorre has touched, and this is no exception. I saw the first version of the pilot last season, and the second version earlier this year. Strangely enough, the opening scene that aired as part of the first episode is the third version of that scene I've seen, and I think it works the best. The only change they made from the first pilot to the second that I really disagreed with was the exclusion of a female nerd character who I thought was a perfect mix with the other three leads, played by Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, and now Kaley Cuoco. I've read that Sara Gilbert will be joining the show in essentially that role and I have to admit I'm pleased. Besides, how can I hate any show where one of the lead characters is clearly a DC Comics fan? I'll be watching every week.
KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of chef Gordon Ramsey's other series, Hell's Kitchen, so I was already inclined to root for him here. While I've enjoyed the first two episodes aired so far, I'm afraid that this series will quickly start to become repetitive. Whether they can find enough different kinds of nightmare restaurants to hold my interest remains to be seen.
REAPER: Is a hoot-and-a-half. The basic premise of a young slacker discovering on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was even conceived is great fun, and Ray Wise (whom I've loved ever since he played Dr. Alec Holland in the original Swamp Thing movie) plays a Devil who is both charming and suitably unctuous, and incredibly entertaining to watch. Tyler Labine makes a great loopy sidekick to our reluctant demon-hunting hero played by a wonderfully woebegone Bret Harrison. I hope the show is a hit.
CHUCK: Does to the world of espionage what Reaper does to the supernatural. Slacker Nerd Herder Chuck Bartowski, wonderfully played by Less Than Perfect's Zachery Levi, suddenly finds that he has all of the NSA's greatest secrets downloaded into his brain and both the NSA and CIA want that information. The writing is crisp, funny, and kind of touching, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes. Right now, Chuck is appointment TV for me.
LIFE: Okay, so LA detective Charlie Crews, played by Londoner Damien Lewis, is framed for a multiple murder and spends 12 years behind bars getting brutalized, until his attorney finally proves his innocence and gets Crews released from prison, where he receives a multi-million dollar settlement and his old job back as an apology. Now Crews is sort of a cross between Adrian Monk and Doctor Gregory House, using what he learned in the slammer to help him solve crimes, even as he constantly munches on the exotic fruit he was clearly denied while in stir. The show hasn't hooked me yet, but I'm willing to give it a few more episodes before I bail.
BIONIC WOMAN: Boy, has there been a new series more hyped this season? I think not. And, frankly, I think it needs all the help it can get. Yes, I know the show is a reimagining of the old '70's series, told with the same sort of dark and gritty style of the similarly-revamped Battlestar: Galactica, but does it have to be so relentlessly grim? Lighten up, people. Despite the fact that this show costars my old friend Miguel Ferrer, I'm not sure I'll be sticking with it much longer if it doesn't give me somebody to root for.
K-VILLE: Oh, please. Basically, policeman Anthony Anderson stays in New Orleans when all about him leave town because of the flooding. Now Anderson is teamed with a new cop transferred in from another city and played by Cole Hauser. Problem is, Hauser turns out to actually be an escaped con who was accidentally freed by and had his life turned around by Hurricane Katrina. Sure. That sort of thing happens all the time.It's unfortunate they chose the Big Easy as the location for this series, since the basic plot just doesn't hold water.
DIRTY SEXY MONEY: Truth to tell, I liked this one a whole lot more than I expected I would. It's one of those huge over-the-top black comedy Dallas-type soap operas with a really terrific cast, led by Peter Krause (of Sports Night and Six Feet Under fame), the always-exceptional Donald Sutherland, and Oscar-winner Jill Clayburgh. It may start to wear on me after a while, but for now I'll tune in every week to enjoy the ride.
KID NATION: Okay, I may be the only person in America who actually likes this show, but in fact I like it a lot. I'm a sucker for shows about inspiring kids, and this show is full of them. 14-year-old Michael, who always knows what to say to rally the other kids, 10-year-old Emilie, who barricades herself in with the chickens to protect them from dinnertime slaughter; tiny little 9-year-old Taylor, caught between overwhelming homesickness and the need to be one of the town's leaders. I just love this stuff and these kids' attitudes and look forward to seeing if they can actually make the ghost town they now call home work.
Okay, that's it for the new season so far. More reviews and my humble opinions next week.