The Shows – CTV

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and that's mostly what

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and that’s mostly what

we’ll be seeing next season. With only a handful of exceptions,

it’s monkey see, monkey do.

Las Vegas is hot? Duplicate it and add a doctor. The C.S.I. spin-offs are hits? Let’s have yet another, not to mention a shameless twin on another network. The O.C.’s going great guns? Clone it tit for tat, but set it on the opposite coast. Orphans dumped on unsuitable relatives à la Raising Helen? Let’s order up two of those. Joan of Arcadia’s doing well by talking to God? Why not a show starring one of God’s presumptive neighbours: a dead person.

And just when it seemed that the reality genre was all tapped out for premises, along come umpteen more outlandish twists.

Isn’t there anything new? Sure there is. Look closely at what follows and you’ll find shows like Father of the Pride and Desperate Housewives, proof that smarts, savvy and audacity haven’t entirely disappeared from La-la-land, appearances to the contrary.

CTV

Athens

CTV/Fox, Mondays 8-9 p.m.

60 min., midseason debut

the story: A virtual clone of The O.C. set in upper crust New England rather than ritzy California, with an 18-year-old outsider freshman bonding with a patrician professor while changing the dynamics of a fictional college community.

the cast: TBA

the backing: Warner Bros. Television in association with Wonderland Sound and Vision, with Josh Schwartz (creator of The O.C.), Bob DeLaurentis, McG and Stephanie Savage as executive producers and Josh Schwartz as writer.

the verdict: If a powerhouse formula like The O.C. definitely ain’t broke, don’t fix it, just set it in a fresh locale. Has not just breakout potential, but could also launch a lucrative CSI-type franchise. TP

The Benefactor

CTV/ABC, Mondays 8-9 p.m.

60 min., debuts this fall

the story: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who made his billion thanks to the Internet, offers up $1 million to 16 contestants in a reality TV competition.

the cast: Mark Cuban and money-hungry competitors.

the backing: Originally slated for the summer, this series has been bumped to the fall. Exec producers are David Young (The Eleventh Hour), Clay Newbill and Todd Wagner from 12 Yard Productions and 29 29 Productions.

the verdict: Cuban is just zany enough to make this series work – it all depends on the personalities of the hopefuls. (Is there an Omarosa?) SW

CSI: New York

CTV/CBS, Wednesdays 10-11 p.m.,

60 min., debuts this fall

the story: The latest entry in the blockbuster CSI franchise is set in the Big Apple and features a pair of dedicated, driven detectives. Aiding them in their high-technology scientific sleuthing is a quirky team of experts.

the cast: Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winner Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, Truman), Melina Kanakaredes (Providence) with Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper and Vanessa Ferlito

the backing: Jerry Bruckheimer Television and CBS Productions in association with Alliance Atlantis Communications, with executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and CSI vets Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Ann Donahue, Danny Cannon and Andrew Lipsitz.

the verdict: The smart money’s always on CSI creator Jerry Bruckheimer. No wonder CSI: NY is touted as the hottest new fall show and the first serious competition venerable Law & Order has ever had. TP

Desperate Housewives

CTV/ABC, Sundays 7-8 p.m.

60 min., debuts this fall

the story: As in Twin Peaks, Sheryl Lee winds up dead before the series even launches. She returns in ghostly form, taking viewers on a guided tour of her neighbours’ lives. Each so-called desperate housewife has her own tale to tell – one is a former boardroom whiz turned bored domestic diva, another is an ex-model who opted to marry rich and fool around with the gardener.

the cast: Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks), Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark) and Marcia Cross (Melrose Place).

the backing: Touchstone Television, with executive producers Marc Cherry (The Golden Girls), Charles Pratt Jr. (Melrose Place, General Hospital), who’s also the writer, Michael Edelstein (Threat Matrix), Tom Spezialy (The District, Ed).

the verdict: A Dynasty without the shoulder pads, this primetime soap is sure to offer adultery, backstabbing and the occasional catfight – not a bad start, and it got good buzz in New York, too. SW

Dr. Vegas

CTV/CBS, Fridays 10-11 p.m.

60 min., debuts this fall

the story: Jumping from the fire into the frying pan, an unorthodox physician leaves the world of emergency medicine to become the in-house doctor at a high-end casino in Las Vegas, where the high rollers and entertainers are catered to by the wily general manager no matter what.

the cast: Emmy nominee Rob Lowe (The West Wing), Emmy winner Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos), Sarah Lancaster (Everwood, Catch Me if You Can).

the backing: CBS Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, with Jack Orman (ER), Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction), Kevin Brown (The Survivor’s Club) and Mark Sennett (Martin and Lewis) as executive producers.

the verdict: Imitating last season’s successful Las Vegas series, with plenty of frenetic action on the casino floor and in the hotel rooms, might work, even though both Rob Lowe and Joe Pantoliano flopped in new dramas last season. TP

Grey’s Anatomy

CTV/ABC, Sundays 10-11 p.m.

60 min., midseason debut

the story: Drama about young women who are doctors in a tough residency program that’s a brutal training ground. The young medicos also face challenges on the personal front, with jealous boyfriends, sick parents and one-night stands.

the cast: Patrick Dempsey (The Practice), Isaiah Washington (Out of Sight), Katherine Heigl (Roswell), Ellen Pompeo (Old School).

the backing: Touchstone Television, with Shonda Rhimes (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) as executive producer/writer and Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan), James Parriott (Threat Matrix), Betsy Beers (200 Cigarettes) as executive producers.

the verdict: On ABC, Grey’s Anatomy is in a very tough time-slot, against CSI: Miami on CBS, and LAX on NBC. With the number of medical shows already on-air, the prognosis is shaky. SW

Instant Star

CTV, time-slot TBA

13 x 30 min., debut TBA

the story: American Idol meets The O.C. in this new Canuck drama. Jude Harrison, a 15-year-old singer/songwriter, wins a singing contest and gets a guaranteed recording contract. Welcome to the rock-star life: parties and paparazzi, sleazy execs and world tours. Sounds glamorous, but it’s hard work for a simple teen girl.

the cast: Alexz Johnson (So Weird), Tim Rozon and Kristopher Turner

the backing: Epitome Pictures

the verdict: If teens buy it, it could do well – especially if it is hooked into one of the Idol franchises. But are viewers ready for a scripted version of a reality show? BC

Kevin Hill

CTV/UPN, time-slot TBA

possible midseason replacement

the story: Suddenly saddled with an orphaned baby girl, a hotshot New York entertainment lawyer with the ultimate bachelor lifestyle swaps his workaholic job for flex-time at an otherwise all-female boutique law office.

the cast: Taye Diggs (Chicago), Jon Seda (Bad Boys II), Patrick Breen (Radio), Michael Michele (ER), Christina Hendricks (Presidio Med), Kate Levering (Law & Order: SVU).

the backing: Icon Productions in association with Touchstone Television, with Bruce Davey (The Singing Detective, What Women Want) and Alex Taub (Smallville, Judging Amy) as executive producers and Jorge A. Reyes as co-executive producer.

the verdict: Will there be enough viewer interest for the orphans-left-to-unsuitable-relatives formula played out in both Summerland and Kevin Hill this season? Not too likely, but the latter could benefit from lead-in America’s Next Top Model. TP

Law & Order: Trial By Jury

CTV/NBC, time-slot TBA

60 min., midseason debut

the story: Forget about how the crimes are committed and the police investigations that follow – Trial By Jury will start and end in the courtroom. NBC promises a series that smacks of Perry Mason.

the cast: Law & Order mainstay Jerry Orbach is the only headliner announced so far, but NBC promises appearances by existing Law & Order series stars (and there are enough to go around).

the backing: The Law & Order franchise tag will help keep this show in the public’s consciousness. But the question remains: How many of these Law & Order shows will find favour with fans? Granted, they all seem to be finding their niche, but sooner or later you have to run out of niches.

the verdict: It won’t bomb, but may dilute audiences for the existing L&O shows. SW

Medium

CTV/NBC, time-slot TBA

60 min., midseason debut

the story: It’s the stuff of nightmares: What if a deceased relative could watch you doing the horizontal limbo? For Allison Dubois this is a real possibility. You see Allison sees dead people. Except instead of being terrorized by them, she helps them right any wrong that may have occurred in their lives. Allison’s husband, a rocket scientist (looks like NBC is going back to the well with this profession, see Joey) is fully supportive.

the cast: Patricia Arquette (Flirting with Disaster) and Jake Weber (U-571).

the backing: Frasier’s Kelsey Grammer is co-executive producer on this series, as is Glenn Gordon Caron, who worked on Moonlighting with Sixth Sense star Bruce Willis.

the verdict: The supernatural is always a popular bet and judging by the success of The Sixth Sense, viewers love to see dead people too. The premise actually sounds enticing, provided it doesn’t go down the syrupy Touched By An Angel route. Besides, Kelsey Grammer wouldn’t hook up with a real loser. SW

Related by Family

CTV/Fox, time-slot TBA

30 min., midseason debut

the story: Comedy concerning the lives of a blended family whose teens mostly hang out at a mall food court while eight-year-old Gus, the only child born to both the mom and dad, rules the roost at home.

the cast: Zachary Knighton (The Prince and Me), Saige Thompson (10-8: Officers on Duty), Charlie Finn (Super Troopers), Rachelle Lefevre (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Kurt Doss and, as their put-upon parents, Amy Yasbeck (The Mask and, incidentally, John Ritter’s widow) and Rich Matthew Glave (Corky Romano, The Wedding Singer).

the backing: Paramount Television, with Victor Fresco (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, The Trouble With Normal, Evening Shade) as executive producer and writer and Andy Ackerman (Come to Papa, Two and a Half Men, Andy Richter Controls the Universe) directing.

the verdict: Can’t see this one catching on with anyone but fellow mall rats. But the producing and writing credits are solid, so maybe they’ve got some fresh twists up their sleeves. TP

Robson Arms

CTV, time-slot TBA

13 x 30 min., debut TBA

the story: The Robson Arms is a hotel in Vancouver’s eccentric west end. Each week viewers will be welcomed through a different tenant’s door, with the stories weaving around what show producers dub ‘the most basic of human needs: the desire to connect.’

the cast: A Canadian who’s who, including Margot Kidder (Superman, Crime and Punishment), Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables, Law & Order), Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall, Slings and Arrows), William B. Davis (The X-Files, 100 Days in the Jungle), Tobias Mehler (Taken) and Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas) as well as John Cassini (NYPD Blue, Seven).

the backing: Van-based Omni Film Productions and Halifax-based Creative Atlantic Communications in association with CTV.

the verdict: With this cast it would be hard for viewers not to want to check it out. Question is, will they stick around to see what’s behind the next door? It will all come down to writing. BC

Veronica Mars

CTV/WB, time-slot TBA

possible midseason replacement

the story: Set in a wealthy, venomous seaside community, this drama features an apparently typical teenager negotiating high school crises by day and sleuthing at night to help her disgraced former sheriff father clear his name while he struggles as a private investigator.

the cast: Kristen Bell (The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay, Spartan), Percy Daggs III (The Guardian), Teddy Dunn (The Manchurian Candidate), Jason Dohring (Judging Amy), Francis Capra (CSI: Miami), Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me).

the backing: Stu Seagall Productions and Silver Pictures Television in association with Warner Bros. Television with creators Joel Silver (The Matrix, Die Hard) and Rob Thomas (Dawson’s Creek, Snoops, Cupid) as executive producers.

the verdict: Haven’t viewers had it up to here with tedious high school happenings and yet another seemingly harmless young woman who’s actually an accomplished investigator? Maybe so, but this combination of Boston Public and Alias might just find a following. TP

Wife Swap

CTV/ABC, Wednesdays 8-9 p.m.

60 min., debuts this fall

the story: Following in the great tradition of those swinging ’70s key parties, ABC offers up bored housewives who change husbands for 10 days and must adjust to their new families’ quirks. Based on a British reality hit.

the cast: Does it really matter? In a year from now, they’ll all be a distant memory.

the backing: This series lead most entertainment news stories covering ABC’s fall lineup. It’s from Michael Davies who created Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

the verdict: Although on ABC it is up against the likes of Law & Order and CSI:New York, buyers say they like this show. Maybe ABC should be looking at a time swap to save this franchise before they end up in divorce court. SW