Continuing a weeklong series of new-season analysis and previews, here's my take on how I see the new Tuesday lineups playing out.
Tuesday in a Nutshell: The no-brainer: CBS will continue to rule with its NCIS-NCIS: LA combo, and the new procedural-with-a-twist Unforgettable should fit right in, possibly putting a dent in ABC's midseason surprise Body of Proof, which roughly targets the same audience for female-driven crime dramas. Fox should make significant inroads with the younger demos, especially if Glee gets back its groove in this transitional graduation season (for some characters, anyway). The delightful New Girl deserves to break out, and may bolster the fortunes of my favorite comedy from last season, Raising Hope. On NBC, The Biggest Loser provides stability if not much excitement, while Parenthood hopes to hold on to its small but devoted following. (It may be forced to move, depending on how soon and where NBC chooses to launch its high-profile Rock Center newsmagazine.) ABC reaches into its starry past with the Tim Allen vehicle Last Man Standing (premiering mid-October), which at the very least could satisfy the neglected According to Jim audience, but pairing it with the too-similar (and dreadful) Man Up is not going to help matters. On the CW, 90210 and the serialized thriller Ringer will take whatever's left — and it will be interesting to see if the core CW viewer sticks with the relatively "mature" intrigues of Ringer.
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On to the new shows, starting with the best:
Here's my Fall Preview take on Fox's New Girl (9/8c): "What's not to love in the season's freshest comedy? It Girl Zooey Deschanel, a giddy bundle of zany vulnerability, is ridiculously adorable — or is that adorably ridiculous? Everything about New Girl, from her goofy costars to the distinctively quirky writing, is irresistible." To elaborate, if that's even necessary: Zooey brings to life the fall's most instantly endearing new character in Jess, a newly dumped and crestfallen waif who moves in with three funky guys who act as her life coach/cheerleaders, anything to get her off the couch, where she wallows in endless replays of Dirty Dancing. It's a bit of a stretch to believe someone as fetching as Jess would need help in the dating marketplace, but her gamine awkwardness is awfully funny. And watching these guys, including Max Greenfield's hilariously douchey wannabe ladies' man, rally to her cause is undeniably sweet. It's a shame that Damon Wayans Jr., a scream as "Coach" as he tries to yell sense into Jess, had to be replaced, trapped in a much less amusing role on ABC's Happy Endings. (His sub, Lamorne Morris, arrives on the scene next week). I enjoyed this pilot so much that every time a promo appears, I want to watch it all over again.
And here's how I responded to CBS' Unforgettable (10/9c) in our Fall Preview: "Poppy Montgomery is a proven network star, and her out-of-body total-recall act is visually arresting. But as memorable storytelling ... um, what show are we talking about again?" To elaborate, let's see what I remember of this one: Conventional crime-stopping with a visual flourish is CBS' bread and butter, and the gimmick this time involves the special gift (which, yes, is also a curse) possessed by Montgomery's scrappy character: a perfect memory, allowing her to recall everything she's ever seen or heard. The upside: She's uncannily perceptive at crime scenes, and we often see her step outside her body to replay events from her mind's eye. The downside: She can't forget or seemingly forgive anyone's faults, which cost her a relationship with her ex-partner (Dylan Walsh), who conveniently re-enters her life as the series begins. Her memory's blind spot: the murder of her sister when they were kids, which becomes the Red John of Unforgettable. I wish I could say there were surprises in this formula, but by the time she confronts the case-of-the-week's killer on her own, my own collective memory kicked in of having sat through this kind of show too many times before. Still, it may be just ordinary enough to work.
A Returning Favorite: Of tonight's many season openers, only Fox's Raising Hope (9:30/8:30c) was available for preview, and it's a treat for anyone who loves a good call-back to classic sitcoms. The opening gag, set at wacky Shelley's doggie/baby/elderly day-care center, is an homage to a sitcom legend, prompting Shelley to sing a recap of the series to date, culminating in the observation that "Everyone loves our little Hope." And that much is true. The baby is older this season, but no less adorable. The rest of the episode deals with young-dad Jimmy's dismayed disbelief upon learning that at 13, he was a musical prodigy. What happened? (As usual, his parents are to blame.) And can a time-honored sitcom convention restore Jimmy's gifts? Not if you listen to the doctor who tells our bumbling heroes, "It's dangerous to get medical advice from a TV comedy. They tend to make up whatever medical stuff they want as long as it makes the story work." So there. All that and a priceless Betty White joke from Cloris Leachman's deranged Maw Maw. If you're looking for a good belly laugh, this is your place.
So what else is on? ... NCIS (CBS, 8/7c) opens its ninth hit season with Tony still on special assignment. Scott Wolf guests as an FBI agent. ... NCIS: LA (CBS, 9/8c) picks up season three with the team seeking a wounded Hetty in Romania. Get better soon, little lady. You're the main reason I watch. ... A new school year begins on Glee (Fox, 8/7c), while Sue kicks off her congressional campaign. ... Tennis star Anna Kournikova joins the ranks of trainers on the premiere of NBC's The Biggest Loser (8/7c), with this season's theme presenting a "Battle of the Ages." ... Kathy Griffin: Pants On (Bravo, 9/8c) brings the outspoken comic to Costa Mesa, where she regales an audience with caustic observations on regular targets like the Kardashians and the Real Housewives, while spilling on the evening she spent at Anderson Cooper's country home. ... On Parenthood (NBC, 10/9c), Max's mainstreaming into public school causes Kristina more than the usual agita. ... Comedy Central's Tosh.0 (10/9c) returns with Daniel doing his thing on the Arizona State University campus. ... MTV airs a 90-minute season finale of Teen Mom (10/9c), but you didn't think the exploitation would stop there, did you? The cast will reconvene with Dr. Drew the next two Tuesdays in front of a live studio audience. ... A better bet: Stick around for Awkward (11:30/10:30c), when Matty finally asks Jenna on a for-real first date.