The Shows – FOX

Oliver Beene

Oliver Beene

FOX/CTV

Sundays 7:30-8 pm

the story: Set in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this story is told through the eyes of a grown-up Oliver Beene looking back at life during the Cold War. Oliver is 11 and must deal with an eccentric host of characters, including a grade school teacher who hates him and a dentist father whose idea of a good time is drilling his kid’s teeth.

the cast: Grant Shaud (Murphy Brown), Grant Rosenmeyer

the verdict: FOX has deep comedy development, and this could be an instance of that coming of age. It sounds like a winner by virtue of the fact that it plays off a certain irreverence towards ‘normal’ family life in America, much the same way Malcolm in the Middle does.

the backing: Will lead nicely into The Simpsons and the rest of FOX’s Sunday night programming. The network should be looking at very good ratings to end the weekend.

The Grubbs

FOX/Global

Sundays 9:30-10 pm

the story: The Grubbs live up to their name. From top to bottom they are fierce underachievers and complacent losers. Fourteen-year-old Mitch, despite having a big heart, is a poster child for mediocrity. His goal is to rise above his fate despite holding a C-minus average at school and having to deal with his family’s twisted pride in the status quo.

the cast: Randy Quaid (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Independence Day), Carol Kane (Man on the Moon)

the verdict: It seems like we’ve seen this show before somewhere. It reminds one of a man named Homer and his son Bart, and another father-son duo on Malcolm in the Middle. Both shows work very well, indeed. If the writing is there, which it should be, then similar success should come despite an obvious repetitiveness in the characters.

the backing: FOX has a pretty hard-hitting Sunday lineup and will push this in conjunction with their already winning programming.

Girl’s Club

FOX/CH

Mondays 9-10 pm

the story: The show explores the personal and professional lives of three young female attorneys determined to make their mark on the justice system. This relationship-driven series is set in San Francisco. They strive for success despite the boy’s club law firm that they work for.

the cast: Gretchen Mol (Sweet and Lowdown), Kathleen Robertson (I am Sam), Chyler Leigh (That ’80s Show)

the verdict: As Ally McBeal fades away into Boston’s Back Bay, this David E. Kelley reincarnation pops up on the left coast. Oh dear, another legal drama cum comedy from TV’s most prolific writer/producer. What is it with shows set in San Fran anyway? The place is really pretty but REALLY boring when you get right down to it – sort of like Boston as a matter of fact. Yet, I’ll take Gretchen Mol over Calista ‘stick insect’ Flockhart any day of the week.

the backing: Typically Kelley gets his way. He doesn’t miss often and in this case the scripts for the next three seasons are already written thanks to Ally and The Practice.

Cedric The Entertainer

FOX

Wednesdays 8:30-9 pm

the story: Cedric hosts a variety series that takes its cue from popular variety comedy of 1950s television. Supposed to be a fast-paced laugh-out-loud half-hour of fun and yucks.

the cast: Cedric the Entertainer (The Original Kings of Comedy)

the verdict: This Laugh-In remake should do well, pending the ensemble cast’s talent. It has been a while since this form of entertainment has seen the screen. The success of this show will depend heavily on the supporting cast. The character descriptions seem funny enough and include a cafeteria lady not to be messed with, and Raj, a golf commentator who can’t stand the heat. Fine, but this stuff always comes down to raw execution on the boards.

the backing: Fairly good to start but if Cedric fails to please quickly, he will go the way of Emeril last year – to the back burner.

Firefly

FOX/Global

Fridays 8-9 pm

the story: Science-fiction adventure set 800 years in the future, in the wake of a universal civil war. Set on board Serenity, a small transport spaceship, these galactic cowboys (and girls) must do whatever it takes to stay afloat.

the cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres

the verdict: Buck your own Roger in the 21st Century, buddy. This is cool enough that it should work. Once again, not a horribly original idea, but in the absence of solid reality fare, it is always best to turn to outer space and a very fast intergalactic ship.

the backing: This is from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – not to mention Toy Story. It will likely appeal to sci-fi fans and put FOX back in the ratings running on Wednesdays.

30 Seconds to Fame

FOX

Thursdays 8-8:30 pm

the story: Reality show where contestants have 30 seconds to demonstrate a particular or peculiar skill to the judges, and no doubt cynical studio audience. At the end of each episode one lucky participant takes home $25,000.

the cast: Tom, Dick and Harry

the verdict: Cheap idea, cheap production, cheap prize money, pure genius.

the backing: What has FOX got to lose? Nothing on this one. They’ll get the numbers to make this pay a thousand times over and laugh all the way to the bank while NBC pays millions to Cox Arquette, Schwimmer and company.

Meet the Marks

FOX

Thursdays 8:30-9 pm

the story: Hybrid of a scripted sitcom and the reality genre starring improvisational actors. The set is rigged with hidden cameras. The house they live in is a real house in the real world. Each half-hour consists of two story lines in which a real person ‘the mark’ walks in from the outside world without knowing that he or she is part of the act.

the cast: Kaitlin Olson, Patrick Cavanaugh.

the verdict: The Truman Show comes to network TV. An original, albeit risky, proposition. This one will depend highly on the various skill levels of the improv actors and on the storylines. Could wear thin after first few episodes.

the backing: This one could be too clever by half, even for FOX. Their heads are in the right place and it will test boundaries. The staying power of a show like this is dubious at best, especially as the reality fad appears in all likelihood to be over.

Septuplets

FOX

Thursdays 9-10 pm

the story: About a group of septuplets as they turn 16. They live in the family-run hotel on an idyllic beach in Southern California. The hotel serves as the backdrop to their adventures.

the cast: Seven of them and their long-suffering parents.

the verdict: It just seems like seven is a large number to manage, especially when all the characters are the same age. However, the beachfront setting suggests that the kids will all be gorgeous and the adventures all will be stimulating enough for a younger crowd.

the backing: FOX wants to shave some points from NBC on Thursday and this could help them do it if it catches a wave of younger audience who aren’t terribly interested in Will or Grace’s immature relationship rants.

John Doe

FOX, Fridays 9-10 pm

The New VR/The New VI, Mondays 8-9 pm

the story: A man rises from the primordial waters of an isolated island possessing knowledge of literally everything in the world. John Doe finds his way to Seattle (where he meets Frasier and Niles for glazed duck crepes?) and does some crime solving while trying to uncover the secrets to his past.

the cast: Dominic Purcell (Mission Impossible II)

the verdict: To the best of my knowledge God is the only one who knows literally everything. But still, this guy – despite his omniscience – has amnesia when it comes to his past? Still there is hope that this will be okay, given the fact that Doe has a special gift – he’s a know-it-all. How irritating.

the backing: Leave it to FOX to come up with this sad cousin to the X-Files. Why don’t they just stick with the great comedy they routinely produce and be done with it already.

Fastlane

FOX/CTV

Tuesdays 10-11 pm

the story: Modern day Starsky and Hutch: an updated buddy cop drama set in LA. This one has interracial spin off the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover rap.

the cast: Bill Belamy (Any Given Sunday), Tiffani Thiessen (Beverly Hills 90210)

the verdict: This will have fast-paced visual style thanks to director McG, who did Charlie’s Angels just a while back. He knows how to make a scene move. The trouble with this one is that it is going up against The West Wing. Different audience, perhaps.

the backing: Decent, though FOX has got a lot to worry about on other nights of the week and is pushing a large number of new shows. McG is a hot commodity in Hollywood after Angel’s success. That might help.