Mr. TV: The Early Scoop

Three weeks into the 2009-10 TV season, and there is plenty of good news to talk about. But before I get to that, if you picked CW drama The Beautiful Life as the first new-series cancellation of the season, congrats on your sage call.  

Although I was convinced it would be either CBS medical drama Three Rivers or Fox sitcom Brothers, I should have been more wary of an ensemble drama headed by The O.C. star Mischa Barton. I have not seen an actress that wooden since Ali McGraw as Lady Ashley on Dynasty. Remember that ridiculous “Moldavia” massacre?

In the positive column, let’s start with CBS on Tuesday, which is bursting at the seams care of the most-watched show currently on the air, NCIS, compatible lead-out (and spin-off) NCIS: Los Angeles and compelling legal drama The Good Wife. While I was worried about CBS moving former occupant The Mentalist to Thursday and canceling still-worthy Without a Trace, CBS is up by double digits year to year on Tuesday, and The Mentalist fits well out of CSI.

On Monday, the news of note for CBS is the continued growth in adults 18-49 for relocated The Big Bang Theory out of Two and a Half Men. And that Monday show on Fox called House with Hugh “Mr. Personality” Laurie is still going gangbusters. ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, meanwhile, is down but far from out on Monday and Tuesday. Needless to say, we have a new Osmond —Donny—who will likely be around until the finals. It’s fun though, seeing Mum and Dad Osbourne rooting for cleaned-up daughter Kelly.  She can actually kind of dance.

If you’re following the start of the season, you’re aware of new ABC comedy Modern Family, which is here to stay.  But if you really want to see a new breakout sitcom character, check out Modern Family lead-in The Middle for a glimpse of little Atticus Shaffer as Brick. This kid is the double of Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle and the most appealing TV tot since Jay North as Dennis the Menace. I also urge you to sneak a peak at Courteney Cox Arquette in Modern Family lead-out Cougar Town, the spiciest network sitcom to hit the airwaves in a long time. Sex and the City bombshell Kim Cattrall would be the perfect fit on this show. Perhaps a camisole—I mean cameo—for starters?

While we’re on ABC, the watercooler is buzzing, and rightfully so, about new drama FlashForward, which is the first regularly scheduled series to stand up to CBS’ competing Survivor since NBC’s Friends. Personally, I will never give up on Survivor, which remains fresh despite its long run. Russell is a great villain this season.

I’m not thrilled about Fox running a fall edition of So You Think You Can Dance, which is better as a summer staple and not fall filler. But what I am pleasantly surprised about on Fox is Wednesday Dance lead-out Glee, the first new series renewed for the full season. The ratings are not stellar. But the show is good, and I am willing to bet Emmy will take notice.
Also working at Fox is Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show, which is the ideal fit out of The Simpsons.

Over at NBC, the news is, well, bleak. Five nights a week of The Jay Leno Show is four too many, Heroes is a zero, relocated Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU have not benefited from the moves, and new medical dramas Trauma and Mercy are ailing. Although new Thursday comedy Community has also not set the world of ratings on fire, you should check out Chevy Chase as aging businessman Pierce. He already is a lock for an Emmy nom as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy as the ultimate arrogant TV misfit.

The CW also has its problems, including the rapid decline of signature show, America’s Next Top Model. But The Vampire Diaries has settled in well on Thursday among young women, proving that viewers are seeking something original, not an unnecessary remake of a show like Melrose Place. Heather Locklear saved the original Melrose back in 1993. But her upcoming return in November will have no impact. You’ll see.