The shows – Strategy picks

Bedford Diaries

Bedford Diaries

Citytv/CitytvHD/WB

60 min., midseason debut

The story: Drama set in a small Manhattan college where a charismatic professor teaches sex-ed to a diverse group of a dozen students, who capture their feelings about the course on video diaries.

The cast: Matthew Modine (Birdy, Married to the Mob), Milo Ventimiglia (The Gilmore Girls), Tiffany Dupont (Cheaper By the Dozen), Penn Badgely (The Mountain), Corri English (The Dale Earnhardt Story), Ernest Waddell (As the World Turns).

the backing: Produced by Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, Jim Finnerty and Julie Martin, the team behind Homicide: Life on the Street.

The verdict: Nice mix of classic coming of age on a campus tale updated with 21st century video diaries. Movie star Modine, plus a stellar producing team, makes this one a good bet for a mix of demographics. TP

Why I like it: Paula Costello, copy chief

Compared to the other stuff I’ve seen for fall and apart from some embarrassingly clunky exposition, The Bedford Diaries is well written, with engaging characters. The pilot offered enough hints at complicated, juicy storylines that I might even stay tuned for episode two and I’m 44, well beyond the 18-34s they’re probably shooting for.

Everybody Hates Chris

Citytv/UPN, Thursdays, 8-8:30 p.m.

The story: Caustic comedian Chris Rock narrates his life story as a teenager down and out in Brooklyn in the’80s, bringing his unique spin to everyday trials and traumas.

The cast: Chris Rock (Head of State), Tichina Arnold (Big Momma’s House), Terry Crews (White Chicks), Tyler Williams, Tequan Richmond (both Ray), Imani Hakim, Vincent Martella (Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo).

The backing: Chris Rock Enterprises with Paramount

Network Television, executive producers Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi (Head of State), Howard Gewirtz (Oliver Beene), Michael Rotenberg (The Chris Rock Show), Dave Becky

(The Hughleys).

The verdict: Rock’s often race-based humour might not be everyone’s cup of cappuccino, but the pilot for this one got great buzz at the upfronts. If the writing isn’t too one-note, the series might well widen Rock’s fan base. TP

Why I like it: Lisa D’Innocenzo, editor

There will be no hating Chris here. Far from it. The show’s like a modern throwback to the beloved family sitcoms of the ’80s, although it’s more early Roseanne than Cosby. In other words, comedian Chris Rock keeps it real.

That sometimes means recounting racial incidents – like those that come with being the only black kid at a school populated by Italian-Americans. But hey, that was his life, growing up in Brooklyn during the ’80s. It’s the ability to give such discomfiting past experiences a comic twist that resonates with this TV viewer, who has been waiting for a smart-funny (as opposed to stupid-funny) sitcom for a few years now.

Rock’s recognizable voice (he narrates) can make even the most seemingly innocuous and universal problems – like when his mom forces him to wear dress shoes to school in lieu of cool white sneakers – amusing. Plus, looking back at the styles of the wacky ’80s is a bonus.

Inconceivable

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

The story: An amusing slice-of-life from inside a bustling fertility clinic co-owned by a pragmatic single mother and an over-the-top egomaniac bachelor. Oh, they have some unresolved sexual tension.

The cast: Ming-Na (ER), Jonathan Cake (Fallen), David

Norona (Mr. Sterling), Kevin Alejandro (The Young and

the Restless).

The backing: Tollin-Robbins Productions, Touchstone Television, with ubiquitous exec producers Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins (Smallville and a ton of teen series), Joe Davola (also Smallville), Oliver Goldstick (Desperate Housewives) and Marco Pennette (What I Like About You).

The verdict: It’s funny, well-written and the cast is good, but the brutal Friday night time-slot may be this show’s kiss of death.

Why I like it: Annette Bourdeau, staff writer

Unique concept, solid pilot and it’s already stirring up controversy. What’s not to like? Fertility clinics are a previously untapped comic goldmine. The pilot opens with a surrogate for a WASP-y couple giving birth to a mixed-race child, raising some, um, awkward questions and potentially sparking a lawsuit. Ming-Na, the prudent single mother, and Jonathan Cake, a narcissistic bachelor, are both great as the clinic’s co-owners.

My Name is Earl

CH/NBC, Tuesdays, 9-9:30 p.m.

The story: A decidedly unclassy crook wins the lottery and decides to right the wrongs from his past with hilarious consequences.

The cast: Jason Lee (Chasing Amy), Jamie Pressly (Death to the Supermodels), Ethan Suplee (The Butterfly Effect), Nadine Velazquez (The Bold & the Beautiful).

The backing: Fox Television.

The verdict: One of the few sitcoms that buyers laughed at in the screening room and predicted good things for. TP

Why I like it: Natalia Williams, staff writer

I didn’t expect to like it. Really, I’m a Sex and the City girl. But My Name is Earl musters up a quiet charm and a creative plot despite its hillbilly backdrop and desperately grungy Earl (played by hunky Jason Lee), who is (quite literally) struck by the power of karma.

Not sure if this one will succeed in carving out a strong following (think Arrested Development) but be sure to watch the first episode for the ‘fishing’ dance.

Oh, and there’s no laugh track, which is always a good sign

in my books.