Monday, September 18, 2006

What I'm Watching

I cleaned out my Tivo last night in preparation for the new TV season; for the first time since college, I'm planning on watching new shows from the beginning. Usually, I see which shows have good first seasons and pick them up in reruns or on DVD, but this year (with the death of Alias, really), I decided to take my chances with some new material. This season seems like an especially strong one, with lots of potentially good new shows and the continuations of a few that are already staples. I've divided my preliminary schedule into three parts, ranked by importance. Here's what I'll be tuning into, and what I recommend:

Definites (Automatic TiVo Season Pass):

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; premieres tonight, September 18, 10:00 on NBC
If this show isn't the best thing to hit network television this millennium, then something has gone terribly, tragically wrong with the American television machine in general. First, there's the writing pedigree: it was created by Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme, who made the first four seasons of The West Wing essentially flawless. And then there's the cast, which I can only imagine must have cost more than the GDP of a small country: Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield (The West Wing's Josh Lyman and Danny Concannon, respectively), Amanda Peet, Steven Weber, Evan Handler (Harry on Sex and the City), Nate Corddry...the list goes on and on. It's like a perfect storm for television awesomeness.

Gilmore Girls; premieres September 26, 8:00 on The CW
Going into the seventh and possibly final season of Gilmore Girls, I'm not sure what to expect (not that it matters that much, honestly; I'm a Gilmore girl to the end). The original writing team of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino quit at the end of last season and left the new show-runner, David Rosenthal, with a plot point that's practically impossible to salvage--Luke refusing to elope with Lorelai, and Lorelai subsequently ending up in bed with the dreaded Christopher. Aside from the process of following that plot line, there's also the question of tone: Will the Gilmores be the Gilmores without Amy S-P in their heads? All that aside, what I'd like to see this season--what the writers will do, if they know what's good for them--is a return to the roots of the show. I want to see more of Lorelai and Rory together, more of the Elder Gilmores, more obscure music, more of everything that makes Stars Hollow a good place to spend Tuesday night. Here's to hoping.

The Office; premieres September 21, 8:30 on NBC
I'm not really a sitcom kind of girl, but then, The Office isn't really a regular sitcom. I mean, it's technically a situation comedy, but there's only one camera and no laugh track, and the storytelling is pretty subtle. Also, it feeds off of despair, disappointment, heartbreak, and general malaise in a way that Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond just never did (all while being completely hilarious and just a little bit sweet, of course). The Daily Show's Ed Helms is joining the cast, and I can't even comprehend what kind of character he'll play, but it doesn't really matter--before anything else happens, I want to know what happens to Jim and Pam. And then we can move on to everybody else.

Maybes (Watch Five Episodes and See):

Six Degrees; premieres September 21, 10:00 on ABC
The only reason I'm checking this out is because of a promise I made to myself last year: having missed both Alias and Lost in real time, I swore I would watch J.J. Abrams's next new show from the beginning. This one's about a group of New Yorkers who don't know each other, but whose lives are profoundly affected by each other's actions. I'm not sure how much I care, in theory, except I totally do, because I read something about one of the characters having a deep, dark secret, and...I can't stop with the J.J., even though he always leaves us all brokenhearted in a ditch somewhere (or, to be more precise, in an alleyway in Hong Kong, J.J.) after a season or two. It's a sickness.

Brothers and Sisters; premieres September 24, 10:00 on ABC
This is perhaps the least likely to make it through the season, or maybe just to keep my attention, but I think I'm going to give it a shot anyway. After Alias wrapped up, Ken Olin moved on to this show, a drama about a group of grown siblings. Mostly I'm interested because of residual loyalty to Ken Olin (he's no J.J., but he did what he could) and because he retained half the former Alias cast (Ron Rifkin, Balthasar Getty, Patricia Wettig) and because the playwright Jon Robin Baitz is head writer, which I think is an interesting choice. This is also the triumphant (?) return of Calista Flockhart to TV, which doesn't rub me one way or the other, but it's sort of worth mentioning anyway.

Definite Maybe (Turn on the TV and See What Happens):

Veronica Mars; premieres September 26, 9:00 on The CW
I would have been perfectly able to ignore Veronica Mars if it had stayed put on the TV wasteland that was UPN, but the CW merger deal has placed it after Gilmore Girls, right where I'm bound to see the ads and get sucked in to its third season. In a way, I don't mind: Veronica Mars is an excellent, excellent show, one that deserves a great spot in the schedule, and I predict that its ratings will skyrocket once people have actually heard of it. It's also a great match for the Gilmores, in that it's a slightly more mature show with a precocious and sassy teenage heroine, as well as a plot that won't quit. On the other hand, I've previously been happy watching Veronica on DVD, and it's not really a show that's conducive to occasional watching. So I'm going to have to make a decision. I suspect that I'll turn on the Gilmores on the 26th, and see whether the ads for Veronica grab me. We'll let the promo department choose.

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