Cold Case
So, I figured, here's another pretty face thrown into a bloody procedure series to give it some window dressing. (Hey, it works fine for CSI — and at least Cold Case isn't trying to pull an ex-stripper explanation over on us. Not in the pilot, anyway.) But Kathryn Morris carries off tough-minded Det. Lilly Rush quite capably. I just hope the writers don't keep heading to the ripped-from-the-headlines well (Michael Skakel, anyone?) that's... OK, earning bigtime ratings for shows like CSI and Law &#038 Order and making millions upon millions for producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Dick Wolf. Yeah, right. I'll shut up now.

Y'know, these characters and plots rang truer when they were played out by Gerry Anderson's puppets. Let's see: Vaughn's a teacher, married and no longer with the CIA. Everyone thought Syd died in a fire. And all she can do is punch, choke and yell at her friends. She requires a great deal of patience from them, and this series, which is beginning to make Bobby Ewing's shower look like a downright reasonable development to swallow, requires even more from its audience. "Everything's wrong. Everything's upside-down," says Syd at one point. Yeah. Roger that.

The Lyon's Den
What do you call a lawyer falling out a window to his death? A good start. No, seriously. It got my attention and made me forget a promise to myself. After movies like St. Elmo's Fire and Oxford Blues, I swore I'd never again willingly catch Rob Lowe in anything. The West Wing made me break that vow once. And though it's not like like the legal-drama genre needs anymore exploration right now, it looks like I might as well sweep up the pieces of yet another busted pledge and resign myself to stopping by The Lyon's Den once a week.


A group of armed men are easily thwarted in their attempt to abduct women by one gunless guy.... who's mild-mannered David Morse. Later, two cold-blooded killers waiting in their victim-to-be's flophouse room are shocked when the odor of a giant stogie one of them is smoking tips the kid off to their presence before he can step in to be murdered. And then that same cigar-aficionado killer recovers from a freight hook to the head and... Aaah, why overthink this? I'm the one who sat down to watch a drama about a crime-fighting cabbie.

The District
You gotta love Craig T. In fact, I require it if you're going to be permitted to read this column. He lets the gut hang over the belt while riding the Harley. He pulls the baggy, old-man pants up to the collar bones and wanders around in the ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt. And precious few can pull off looking a colleague dead in the eye and earnestly delivering lines like "I need you there" and "I can't do this without you." Let's face it: We all know Mannion's getting his old job back, because I'm sure as heck not watching any other paunchy, middle-aged guy solve a squatter's-rights dispute in a kimono — while singing.


Joan of Arcadia
What if God was one of us? I'd have a few questions, certainly. Like why toenails don't grow at the same rate. Or what the thinking is behind having to bend my pinky and ring fingers together. And on this show, what's God gonna do once Amber Tamblyn's character starts asking for guarantees she won't share the fate of the first Joan pressed into divine service? I can't really comment on the theology or the realism of the situation. (Heck, what do I know about the grand plan?) But I can tell you that while the lunch ladies of my youth may not have been godly, they sure made a heavenly turkey tetrazzini. And the shop where Joan's get-a-job scene was shot? It's a few blocks from my apartment, standing in stark defiance of the myth that there are no good bookstores in L.A. But there aren't any serial killers lurking outside. There's only this cleanly dressed, apparently well-fed panhandler who looks like he finished his French roast at the coffee house next-door and wandered out to see if he could pull down some pocket change with the cup.

Hope and Faith
Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford go at it like any other set of siblings. So if that's all it takes then why, my parents are no doubt asking themselves, do they have their own network series while my brother and I are merely working stiffs? Key difference: When the gals throw down, they cover one another in chocolate sauce and whipped cream, then hose each other off with the dish sprayer. When my brother tossed my comic collection around my closet, I kicked in his bedroom door and ripped down his "Evel Knievel Lives" sign. You do the math, Dad.

Miss Match
The last woman lawyer to hit it big on network TV couldn't nail down love to save her life. Now this one hopes to find it for other people. And even though Ally McBeal failed in a half-hour version, this admittedly charming effort could use such a trim. But that's the worst thing I'm willing to say because it's a sweet show and, to be fair, I'm not in the target audience for this perky-yenta set-up. I hate romantic comedies. When it comes to relationship entertainment, I'm more of a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? kinda guy. And if I'm going to watch someone leave their day job to serve life's true purpose as a do-gooder, I'd rather it be Superman. That said, I'm betting when the ratings come out tomorrow, we'll see that a lot of people out there go for this sort of thing.