Matt Roush

Just Rewards Emmy Nods Reflect Freshman Class Acts

Was it something we said? After years of critics griping about the Emmy Awards process — the same TV shows and stars getting nominated year after year, leaving little room for deserving up-and-comers — this season the academy woke up and realized what any discerning viewer already knew: It has been a great year for new work.

With HBO's The Sopranos ineligible because it sat out the season, the best (Fox's 24) and trendiest (HBO's Six Feet Under) of first-year dramas made the cut, along with CBS's sophomore phenom, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, forcing out stale perennials like ER and The Practice. Such breakthrough actors as read more

Watching A New Detective The quirky Monk makes crime time fun

Anyone seeking a little offbeat humor in a crime-scene investigation should look no further than the brilliant but bumbling Adrian Monk.

As impressively intuitive as Sherlock Holmes yet as anxiously agitated as a classic Don Knotts character in his obsessive-compulsive quirks and phobias, Monk may be, as one observer puts it, a "defective detective." He's also an original, and Tony Shalhoub (Wings, Big Night) evokes both wild hilarity and deep pathos in his intense portrayal of this damaged-goods gumshoe.

If Monk (USA Network, Fridays, 10 P.M./ET) is something short of a great murder-mystery series, it's still a terrifically entertaining character study, more fun than most of the new shows the networks have on tap for the fall season.

"This isn't police work. This is vaudeville," says his former boss (Ted Levine) as Monk absorbs evidence, eyes gleaming, a display that's invariably f read more

Roush Riff

HBO's Sex and the City (Sundays, 9 P.M./ET) is off to a promising start, asking if romance is still possible in the urban jungle its disappointed sirens call home. If the first two episodes weren't especially funny, chalk it up to maturity. Who would have ever thought this season's first glimpse of an exposed nipple would be a shot of Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) trying desperately to breast-feed her baby? And it's good to see the show opening the door to some new funny ladies, most notably Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon and Strangers With Candy's irrepressible Amy Sedaris as Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) publishers.

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Judgment Daze Search Is On: For A Star And For A Mole

I'm not so sure about the group of wailing (so-called) singers vying for fame this summer. But there's no question a TV star has been born in the caustic Simon Cowell, who refuses to patronize either the players or the watchers of the unexpectedly addictive American Idol: The Search for a Superstar (Fox, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, check TV Guide listings).

Look out, Judge Judy. This guy delivers the truth with blunt-force trauma. In an age of coddled celebrities, how refreshing to see someone attempt to torpedo this new wave of wannabe Britney/Christina/Whitney/boy-band clones. I also share Cowell's contempt for the idiot-dude hosts, especially the giddy Ryan Seacrest.

Talent contests have long been a TV staple, but Idol breaks new ground by defusing the glittery rah-rah and letting viewers vote read more

Roush Riff

When the Emmy nominations are announced early on July 18, what a beautiful morning it will be if it turns out to be a wake-up call for the likes of ER, Law &#038 Order, The Practice, Frasier and Will &#038 Grace — oft-nominated shows that had subpar seasons and that deserve to sit out the competition this year. Fat chance, given the TV industry's habit of playing it safe while ignoring worthy newcomers. Dynamic first-year shows, including 24, Alias, The Bernie Mac Show and Scrubs, deserve to break through. read more

Headline Snooze Breaking News Earns Less Than a Bravo

This just in (though hardly a bulletin): People who watch TV don't necessarily want to watch shows about TV. And the more self-important the show is, the less inclined we are to swallow it.

The world of TV provides the backdrop for four new shows this fall, mostly tiresome comedies. Before then, there's Breaking News, an earnest ensemble drama about I 24, a struggling all-news network.

TNT ordered 13 episodes a year ago but chose not to air them, most likely more for financial reasons than creative. Enter Bravo, which rescued the series (airing Wednesdays, 8 pm/ET). It's a mixed blessing — especially considering it's being paired with Deadline, a horrible newspaper drama yanked by NBC in fall 2000 after five weeks.

Breaking News means well but strains credibility whenever the reporters are turned into crusading detectives or rescue workers. Worse yet is the pompous anchor (The West Wing' read more

Roush Rant

Ruh-roh! A resounding Scooby "Boo" to the annoying live-action film version of Scooby-Doo, which corrupts the tone of the original silly cartoon-many a boomer's first remembered guilty pleasure-by transforming it into an overproduced, underwritten, vulgar bore. The audience of mostly preteens at the showing I attended only perked up during a belching and flatulence contest between the (poorly) computer-generated Scooby and Matthew Lillard's Shaggy, who's twice as animated as the dog. Sarah Michelle Gellar looks the part of diva Daphne, but she's much better off with her Buffy "Scooby gang" on TV. read more

Sex, Death & Suds Queer and Six Feet: Soaps Under the Skin

"It may look like a comic book, but it says something important about gay people." Dream on.

In the season finale of Showtime's Queer as Folk, professor Ben (Robert Gant) praises a gay superhero comic cowritten by boyfriend Michael (Hal Sparks), in the process revealing the show's greatest flaw. Queer thinks it's important, but it's now just a laughable sex cartoon, the worst kind of soap opera.

Once, the series at least pretended to exist in a real world. But that was before Ted (Scott Lowell) left accounting to run a porn Web site, turning his best pal, Emmett (Peter Paige), into an unlikely superstar.

Emmett caught the fancy of an elderly pickle magnate, who left him a fortune after expiring while they made whoopee in an airplane bathroom. Emmett, however, gave up the money rather than deny their relationship. When the show isn't being trashy, it's preposterousl read more

Lawyers and Docs When Crime, Medical Shows Get Real

This summer, the line between network and cable TV is getting fuzzier than usual, thanks to the latest off-season boom in "reality" programming. Are you watching NBC or Court TV? ABC or TLC? Fox or E!? Who knows or (I suppose) cares?

You can't blame the major networks for scheduling something other than wall-to-wall reruns, which often send viewers scrambling to cable.

But I'm left queasy by the new trend of repackaging real-life courtroom cases and medical traumas into quasidocumentary entertainment, reflecting the cheesier aspects of the ubiquitous newsmagazine.

The slickest of these series, Crime & Punishment (NBC, Sundays, 10 P.M./ET), adapts Dick Wolf's now-classic Law & Order formula-complete with those "chink-chink" scene setters-into a glossy valentine to the San Diego district attorney's office. We watch young prosecutors debate strat read more

Roush Riff

Given how competitive Tuesday nights were last season, you'd think the networks would give us a chance over the summer to catch up on programs that some of us might have only heard about — especially with a sleeper like Fox's 24 but also with unexpectedly resurgent series like ABC's NYPD Blue. Because so many dramas repeat poorly, particularly those with serialized stories, the networks have shelved them for now (not even cable's FX, which aired a second run of 24 during the season, plans to rebroadcast the show). But isn't it worse for these shows to lose momentum by disappearing for three or four months? read more

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