Body of Proof, Hawaii Five-O
We've watched the pilot episodes of all the new fall shows and made our picks for the best new comedies and dramas.
Better With You (ABC)
Premise: Sisters Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan), a high-strung attorney, and Mia (Privileged's JoAnna Garcia), a free-spirited "inventor," are fundamentally different. Maddie lives with, but has not married, Ben (Josh Cooke), her boyfriend of nine years. "It's a valid life choice," she repeats throughout the pilot. Mia, on the other hand, has just agreed to marry Casey (Jake Lacy), her boyfriend of seven-and-a-half weeks. Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp play the girls' quirky parents.
Why We Like It: The chemistry among the six leads is fantastic, and the snappy dialogue is very funny. The show was created by Shana Goldberg-Meehan, one of the big brains behind Friends.
But ... Both sisters are a little grating.
Body of Proof (ABC)
Premise: Dr. Megan Hunt (Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany) plays a feisty neurosurgeon whose career ends after a car accident. She takes a job as a medical examiner in Philadelphia, where she helps cops solve murders by "reading the body."
Why We Like It: As always, Delany raises the acting stakes. Dr. Hunt could have been just a female Dr. House rip-off. Instead, Delany imbues the non-custodial single mom with a vulnerability and sadness. It makes sense that she's so angry all the time. "You can't kill someone who's already dead," she says of her shaky work history. Nic Bishop is charming as Dr. Hunt's partner and Jeri Ryan surprises as Dr. Hunt's sympathetic boss.
But ... ABC has scheduled Body of Proof opposite CBS' Medium on Friday nights. As far as we can tell, these shows target the exact same audience. It'll be a grudge match. Plus: There is no lack of shows about medicine or forensics on the air. Will this one stand out?
Fall 2010 TV scorecard: Which shows are returning? Which aren't?
The Defenders (CBS)
Premise: Nick Morelli (Jim Belushi) and Pete Kaczmarek (Jerry O'Connell) are Las Vegas legal partners who, despite their occasional ineptitude, risk everything to protect their clients. Nick has an estranged wife, Pete's a playboy, and they've just hired a former stripper (Jurnee Smollett) as their new associate.
Why We Like It: Belushi is tailor-made for this role. Both he and O'Connell bring a lightness to the courtroom-drama genre missing since Boston Legal went off the air.
But ... After According to Jim, we feel conflicted about recommending a Jim Belushi show so fully.
Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
Premise: Based on the hit series that ran from 1968 to '80, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) returns to Hawaii after his nemesis murders his father. The governor (Jean Smart) enlists McGarrett to form an elite task force to find his father's murderer with her full support and with blanket immunity. Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan), ex-cop Chin Ho Kelly (Lost's Daniel Dae Kim) and Chin's cousin Kona (Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park) round out the team.
Why We Like It: It's an action-packed procedural. The touchstones are there ("Book 'em, Danno!") but the show also operates with post-24 testosterone.
But ... There are beaches and bikinis aplenty, but we wish the show looked more specifically Hawaiian (see: Magnum, P.I.).
Hawaii Five-O: Then and now
Premise: Likable traveling salesman Robert Allen (newcomer James Wolk) is satisfied with the quaint, small-town life he shares with girlfriend Lindsay (Eloise Mumford) in Midland, Texas. He also loves his sleek, well-connected wife, Cat (Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki), who lives in Houston, 400 miles away. Robert/Bob navigates this double life with a precision (two wallets, two cellphones) he learned from his con-man dad (the always solid David Keith), but is always worried that Cat's blustery oil magnate father (Jon Voight) will discover his secret.
Why We Like It: Wolk is charming and enigmatic, as lying protagonists must be (see: Mad Men), and his character's palpable desperation — he wants to quit the con, but keeps it going to please his father — heightens the drama. It's created by Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman (Party of Five); the pilot was directed by Mark Webb ((500) Days of Summer).
But ... How long can Bob continue undetected before the fabric of plausibility is stretched too thin?
Mike & Molly (CBS)
Premise: Chicago cop Mike (Billy Gardell) and schoolteacher Molly (Melissa McCarthy) meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group. Their attraction is instant.
Why We Like It: It's a very typical sitcom, but it's charming, thanks mostly to Gardell and McCarthy's chemistry and gifted comic timing. The construct is clever, if subversive: It's easier to laugh at the fat people when they're the ones telling the jokes.
But ... At this point, it's only fat jokes. The show will eventually have to go deeper. Also: The talented Swoozie Kurtz is given very little to do as Molly's mom.
Photo gallery: New fall shows
Premise: Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible 3) plays the titular assassin, who wants to bring down a secret government program that turns at-risk youth into killers.
Why We Like It: It's a muscular show that keeps a quick pace through well-choreographed action sequences. As the consumed heroine, Q conveys the necessary gravitas. Plus: It'll make you think differently of former teen actors Lyndsy Fonseca (Desperate Housewives) and Shane West (Once and Again, ER), who take on more ethically ambiguous roles.
But ... It reminds us a lot of Dollhouse, a show we didn't love.
Raising Hope (Fox)
Premise: The significantly named Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) becomes a single dad at 23 when a one-night stand announces she's pregnant and will be unable to care for the baby.
Why We Like It: Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) has created a rough-around-the-edges family unit that is believable and funny. Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt are great, shifting among loving, exasperated and neglectful as Jimmy's put-upon young parents. Cloris Leachman shows up as a daffy great-grandmother with a penchant with going topless.
But ... It trades in the same cornpone redneck stereotypes that we couldn't stand on Earl.
Ones to Watch
The Event (NBC): A presidential assassination attempt, a missing person and a CIA cover-up are among the events that aren't the event of this mystery thriller's title.
Outsourced (NBC): An American moves to India to run a call center for a novelty company. There, ethnic stereotypes — both Indian and American — are challenged.
Undercovers (NBC): Think Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the TV show. Married former spies gets back in the family business together in the J.J. Abrams-produced action series.