Katie Holmes and Jonny Lee Miller, Eli Stone
Eli Stone (Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET)
Risk factor: Moderate.This fanciful charmer about a modern-day prophet (the adorable Jonny Lee Miller) in corporate lawyer's guise was a bit of a surprise renewal.
Worth the risk? As leaps of faith go, yes. And faith — in visions both magical and musical — has everything to do with Eli Stone's divine appeal. Everyone whose life Eli touches, he inspires, including scene-stealing colleagues like Victor Garber and Loretta Devine, and the same goes for the lucky viewer. Guest stars Sigourney Weaver (as a spectral shrink) and Katie Holmes (as a klutzy fellow do-gooder) have boosted Eli's visibility. Let's hope it sticks.
My grade (on an A-B-C scale): A-
Pushing Daisies (Wednesdays at 8 pm)
Risk factor: Given the Emmy cred (12 nominations), seemingly low.
Worth the risk? Creatively, without a doubt. But where are the viewers? Easily the best and most original entertainment too few are watching, Daisies dazzles and delights with a sensory overload of perfectly surreal whimsy that juggles screwball fairy tale, romantic comedy and mystery. The enchanting bond of the forlorn pie maker Ned (Lee Pace) and Chuck (Anna Friel), the spunky childhood soul mate he brought back from the dead, has deepened this season amid capers involving killer bees, circus clowns and a truffle-snuffling pig at a nunnery. The supporting cast (Kristin Chenoweth, Chi McBride, Swoosie Kurtz) is sublime.
My grade: A+
Private Practice (Wednesdays at 9 pm)
Risk factor: Nil, if only because this spin-off has a brand-name association with the more popular and superior Grey's Anatomy.
Worth the risk? Not yet. I'm still waiting for this overqualified cast to get material that allows them to act like grown-ups as opposed to squabbling, whiny, gossipy, neurotic, sex-obsessed nimrods. The medical cases so far are a bit meatier and more poignant than I remember from last season, but Oceanside Wellness Center feels more like a schoolyard, with characters forever taking sides or getting in snits, than a professional workplace. Physicians, get thee to a script doctor. Situation critical.
My grade: C-
Dirty Sexy Money (Wednesdays at 10 pm)
Risk factor: Considerable. Relaunching a glitzy soap after a long absence is tricky, even without show runners coming and going. Not to mention the challenge of making gazillionaires look sympathetic in this economic climate.
Worth the risk? Hard to say. Glam escapism has its pleasures, and the flamboyant Darlings are good company, although using fire to cover up the accidental death of politico Patrick's boozy wife was a big ick. Watching Nick (Peter Krause), family lawyer and honorary Darling, struggle to preserve his soul while fixing the family's messes is such fun you can almost forget the show's such a gaudy anachronism.
My grade: B
Desperate Housewives (Sundays at 9 pm)
Risk factor: High. The future-shock scenario could easily have backfired.
Worth the risk? Absolutely. Moving the story ahead five years didn't so much reinvent the show as it recharged and refreshed the scintillating mix of domestic comedy and sudsy intrigue that we've always enjoyed. Eva Longoria Parker's frumpy frustration as a matronly Gaby is a hoot, the addition of a boyish Gale Harold (as Jackson, Susan's lovesick swain) and especially the smoothly sinister Neal McDonough (as Edie's mysterious and manipulative new hubby, Dave, who's squaring off against the formidable Mrs. McCluskey) make Wisteria Lane once again an irresistible place to revisit.
My grade: A