Commander-In-Chief

We're still two months away from the new TV season, but TV research chief Steve Sternberg of the ad-buying firm MAGNA Global has already issued his picks for the fall. Why should we listen to him? Last year he touted Desperate Housewives and Lost, the two ABC megahits.

He's a bit more cautious this year. In fact, he dispensed with his annual list of hits and misses for his report on the 2005-06 fall season. "In today's TV world of low-rated renewals and increased network ownership of programming, it is more difficult than ever to try to figure out which new shows will last the full season," he says. Besides, he adds, "our hits and misses labels were more relevant to the press than our clients, anyway." Thanks, Steve.

But Sternberg's report does list what new shows he likes most. Here they are, along with his take on how they'll fare.

Commander-In-Chief: ABC's White House drama, starring Geena Davis as president of the United States, gets an endorsement, but not without reservations about ABC's weaker comedy lead-ins on Tuesday and the show's left-leaning politics. "Will it play in the red states?" Sternberg asks.

Criminal Minds: The crime drama with Mandy Patinkin was Sternberg's personal pick from CBS. But he points out that it will have an uphill climb on Wednesdays at 9 against ABC's Lost and E-Ring, the new military drama from producer Jerry Bruckheimer (see below).

E-Ring: Sternberg's take is "lousy name, good cast." Even coming off a bland pilot, he

believes NBC's drama can succeed if subsequent episodes improve.

Prison Break: Sternberg likes the new Fox serial drama, which starts in late August. He thinks it can hold on to the heavily male audience for 24 on Mondays at 9 until that show returns in January. He also praised the lawyer/buddy show Head Cases. "We were surprised how much we liked the pilot," he says. But it will also be in that tough Wednesday 9 pm time period.

Everybody Hates Chris: Like everybody else, he likes Chris Rock's UPN sitcom, although the full pilot didn't stand up compared to the clips that blew away an audience of advertisers in May. How big will it be? "A 3 share makes it a miss, a 4 share makes it average and a 5 share makes it a hit," he says. (A share is the percentage of the TV audience tuned in to a show.) "It can do any of those."

Supernatural: Sternberg gave the thumbs-up here to WB's hunk-filled horror hour. "Smallville worked following Gilmore Girls, so maybe this will, too," he says.

For an early look at the fall schedule, visit the ShowGuide grid.