As opening nights go, last Monday's kickoff to the fall season was pretty spectacular. Now with the two Charlies laid to rest (and Sheen charred at the celebrity roast), we'll see how Two and a Half Men holds up, along with the rest of CBS' comedy lineup. Add some high-profile dinosaurs to the mix this week, and it should be another fascinating night.
First, the new shows, from Fall Preview:
My initial Take on Fox's Terra Nova (two-hour premiere at 8/7c): "Bigger isn't always better, but in this case, it may be enough. Terra Nova will win no prizes for its cardboard characters and clunky writing, but hey, it's got CGI dinosaurs! This is the fall's grandest escape and riskiest swing." To elaborate: This lavishly produced family-friendly sci-fi time-travel adventure isn't what you'd call edgy — from Steven Spielberg, it has Jurassic bark, but not much bite — and it lays on the "starting over" schmaltz a bit heavily as we follow a family through a Stargate-like portal into a settlement 85 million years in the prehistoric past on a separate time stream, giving humans a second chance to create a civilization without destroying the planet. (The dystopian prologue makes the world of Blade Runner look like a musical comedy.) If you can make it past the exposition, and the earnest family clichés — a rebellious teenage son, an awkward brainiac daughter — there's plenty of satisfying dino action. And it all looks gorgeous. Precious little on network TV feels like an "event" (not to be confused with The Event) anymore, and if this can't take a bite out of the competition, it may be a while before we see its like again.
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Not even worth a nibble is the CW's Hart of Dixie (9/8c), about which I wrote in Fall Preview: "Couldn't blame the South for threatening to secede again after sampling this patronizingly phony, city-fish-out-of-backwater lump of country-friend hokum. Our hearts go out to the appealing actors trapped in this cloying bayou of cutesy quicksand." To elaborate — do I really have to? — this asks us to believe The O.C.'s chirpy but brittle Rachel Bilson as a wannabe heart surgeon named Zoe Hart (get it?) who's transplanted against her will to the twee burg of Bluebell, Ala., where she's bequeathed a kindly country doctor's bucolic practice. This is the South by way of the Warner Bros. backlot, with a pet alligator (named Burt Reynolds) and belles in "cotillion chic" pinafores and umbrellas. The show gets a momentary lift when Zoe meets a local lawyer played by Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights' Jason Street), but doggone it, he's attached to a catty debutante named Lemon (!), whose dad is the town's rival doctor. Watching Hart of Dixie is like mainlining praline. Your mind will rot before your teeth do. Any resemblance to a charming hamlet like Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow is only in the producers' minds.
THE LAUGH TRACK: Coming off last week's blockbuster comeback, CBS' Two and a Half Men (9/8c) has another ace up its sleeve: the wonderful Judy Greer, guesting as the ex of lovelorn Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher). ... More cause for CBS celebration: the surprise Emmy win by Melissa McCarthy as best comedy actress for Mike & Molly (9:31/8:31c), which begins season two with the title couple newly engaged.
SIGNING OFF: Following a daylong marathon of the entire first season, Syfy's Alphas wraps (10/9c) with the team caught between Red Flag and the Department of Defense as the war escalates. ... On Showtime, battles are also brewing on Weeds (10/9c) and The Big C (10:30/9:30c) as their seasons end. The centerpiece of Weeds is a sibling smackdown between Nancy and sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), while on The Big C, Cathy's husband Paul takes on their insurance company, while Cathy runs a marathon in memory of Lee (Hugh Dancy).
LATE NIGHT TUNES: Comedy Central's The Colbert Report (11:30/10:30c) expands to an hour for the first time, in honor of special guest Radiohead. ... NBC's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (12:35/11:35c) honors Pink Floyd all week. Tonight's tribute features The Shins in their first TV appearance in four years, playing "Breathe" from The Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is a scheduled interview guest. On Tuesday, Roger Waters stops by, and performs "In the Flesh" with the Foo Fighters.
So what else is on? ... Can you believe PBS' Sesame Street is 42 years old? The new season starts today (check local listings), and is already creating a stir with the Muppets' inspired parody of Glee, titled (what else) G. ... ABC's All My Children was just a year away from turning 42 when it was unceremoniously canceled last week. In its place, we get a combination cooking/talk show titled The Chew (1 pm/ET), a prospect that many daytime observers are finding hard to swallow. ... In a BET News exclusive, The President Answers Black America (7:30/6:30c; airs on Centric at 8/7c), President Obama addresses the economic crisis and its impact on the African-American community in a one-on-one with journalist Emmett Miller. ... Lightning-rod contestants Chaz Bono and Nancy Grace live to dance another week on ABC's Dancing With the Stars (8/7c), this time challenged with either the Jive or the Quickstep. ... On ABC Family's The Lying Game (8/7c), Sutton finally comes face to face with her (and Emma's) mother. ... After the emotional fireworks on last week's opener of Castle (10:01/9:01c), things lighten up a bit as Castle and Beckett track down a vigilante who's conducting his killing spree in superhero guise. Sounds like a job for ...
What are you watching tonight?
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