Surface
Maybe it's because I'm originally a prairie girl from the great landlocked state of Oklahoma, but come on, sea monsters? Not that scary. Just don't go in the water. I guess that's easier said than done if you're a SoCal marine biologist (Lake Bell), a Gulf Coast fisherman (Jay R. Ferguson) or an Outer Banks beach-bum-in-training (Carter Jenkins). These three haven't met yet (see also, why pilots suck), but something tells me they're about to team up and take on the government to discover just what's lurking beneath the waves. The premiere finds our heroes in their respective corners of the U.S., each going toe-to-fin with a big, bad underwater beastie. Or, in young Miles' case, the cute little spawn of said beastie. (Seriously, kid, can we not put our fingers in the sea-goo? That can't be sanitary.) Blah blah science talk, blah blah fisherman talk, we've never seen a creature like this before, blah blah. Exposition 2, Action 0.

OK, here's what it is. You know how these days when you go to a theme park and wait in line for one of those "experience" rides, you have to watch those little backstory featurettes where the characters set up why we're all in peril and therefore must board the roller coaster/log flume/flight simulator in order to save the world? That's Surface. And I'm gonna sweat the line, dang it, 'cause I think there's a chance the ride might be cool if we could just get on already.   Chana Shwadlenak

Arrested Development
Hey, Fox execs, this is what you were waiting for: I am one of those silly fools who, for no logical reason whatsoever, never watched this show until about a month ago, when I FauxVo'd a marathon of Season 2 episodes. I was instantly hooked and mad at myself for not having caught on sooner. Let's hope I'm not alone. And now forgive me for the gaps in my AD history knowledge.

There's a lot to take in for one little half hour, for the characters and viewers: Michael learns that Oscar's in prison while George is in Blue Man Group (two cameos in a row for these guys after last night's Emmys); Gob's got a long-lost son, who happens to be Maeby's old crush, theater-loving "Steve Holt!" from Season 1 (thanks, Netflix!); Lucille learns that going off postpartum-depression meds is harder than that "scientist" Tom Cruise thinks; Barry learns that prostitution is as good a living as being the Bluths' attorney (so long, Henry Winkler!); and Lindsey learns that, um, at least Kitty's out of the picture. But Michael's still blissfully ignorant of George Michael's big little secret. Maybe they'll have time for that father-son chat while they're being kidnapped by George.

My favorite throwaway lines of the evening:
1) "That's not a Volvo."
2) "Make the biggest little mistake of your life in Reno."

Damn, there were about 100 others I didn't get a chance to copy down, but far be it from me to complain about a TV comedy actually having quick wit.   Sabrina Rojas Weiss

How I Met Your Mother
I think the more relevant "how" is: How exactly are the producers going to keep this premise going for two, three, four or more seasons? Well, obviously they have a plan, and it couldn't be any more complicated than the one those so-clever-it-makes-you-sick producers have for Lost. So Ted (Josh Radnor) is a 27-year-old Manhattan architect who, 25 years now, will sit his surly kids down to tell them how he met their mom. The story starts in 2005 because this is when his buddy, Marshall (Jason Segel), proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Lily, who's played by Alyson Hannigan. Dear, sweet Alyson Hannigan. After seven seasons on Buffy and the American Pie trilogy, she has a nearly fanatical following. Why? Because she's pretty/cute but she seems down to earth and, most important, has a massive geek appeal that makes dudes think, "Yeah, I could totally get her if we could just hang out for a little while." Plus guys love flutes.

But back to the story. Nice twist at the end. So Robin (Cobie Smulders) is actually their "aunt"? Well, that's just weird. After all, who doesn't love to hear a tale about your dad hooking up with your aunt? Bleh. Then again, I noticed that "Ted" (voice of Bob Saget in the 2030 scenes) referred to his friends as "Uncle Marshall" and "Uncle Barney." So maybe it's not the sister. Maybe it's some other girl we'll meet later who is also cool about the phrase "Smurf penis." Suit up!  Danny Spiegel

Kitchen Confidential
I have new respect for Bradley Cooper as an actor. He was superannoying as Will on Alias, and then this summer he was a total jackass in Wedding Crashers. So the fact that he doesn't drive me crazy on this show, based on Anthony Bourdain's book of the same name, is a significant accomplishment. Cooper plays Jack (Bourdain), a chef who's given a chance to redeem himself after hitting rock bottom. In a very short time he has to put together a reputable kitchen staff for a new, trendy restaurant. And you know what that means, dontcha? Yeah, cue the Ocean's 11 music!

Weird coincidence of the night: This show has Nicholas Brendon from Buffy and John Francis Daley from Freaks and Geeks; meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother has Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel, who are here it comes from Buffy and Freaks and Geeks, respectively. Did you just get chills? No? Oh. Well, how about now? Still no? Whatever.

Almost forgot: So is this show any good? The short answer is yes, but a few more laughs wouldn't kill anybody. That scene with Daley trying to make himself throw up in the alley? I felt bad, and yet I did laugh (not hysterically, but enough). I'm not advocating more vomiting humor, but you get the idea.   DS