ONCE APON A TIME, facing NBC’s ER meant certain

ONCE APON A TIME, facing NBC’s ER meant certain doom for any new series. But with the fading medical drama heading into what could be an unlucky season No. 13, and with unproven mob drama The Black Donnellys stepping in at midseason, there’s an opportunity for ABC’s Six Degrees and CBS’ Shark. Six Degrees tells the tale of six New Yorkers drawn together by a mysterious web of coincidences, while Shark is the more traditional tale of a high-profile defense attorney (James Woods) in Los Angeles who becomes a prosecutor facing a squad of inexperienced lawyers in the DA’s office. Although both dramas could certainly benefit from formidable lead-ins (Shark airs out of time-period incumbent CSI, while Six Degrees airs out of the relocated Grey’s Anatomy), Shark has three key advantages. Viewers accustomed to Without a Trace in the 10 p.m. hour are likely to be satisfied by the new series’ similar appeal. While Grey’s Anatomy is hot, CSI is established in the Thursday at 9 slot. Finally, the more formulaic Shark is a safer bet for attracting a mass audience than a potential cult favorite like Six Degrees. There’s nothing wrong with creativity, but when it comes to entertaining the audience, lazy familiarity often reigns supreme. That will give the more generic-looking Shark an edge over Six Degrees.