Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Year Television Ate Itself: The A.V. Club's Fall 2008 TV Preview, Part 2

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Yesterday, the first half of our fall TV preview explored Monday through Wednesday's upcoming series premières, from their familiar origins to their theoretical demises. Today, we move on to the second half of the week, which doesn't look much better.

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THURSDAY

Kath & Kim

When and where? NBC, 8:30 p.m. (premières 10/9)

What's it about? Kath and Kim are a tacky middle-class mother-daughter team played by Molly Shannon and Selma Blair. After splitting from her dim-witted young husband, Blair's bratty princess moves back in with divorcée mother Shannon, who vows not to put up with her daughter's excesses any more.

Where does it come from? NBC is unusually open about the fact that Kath & Kim originated as a hit Australian sitcom, and the network intends to do for it what it did for the BBC series The Office. Considering that Kath & Kim attracted some of the highest ratings ever on Australian TV, it's a tall order.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: By placing it smack-dab in the middle of its prime must-see comedy Thursday, NBC is showing a lot of confidence. We'd put even odds on it outlasting the original show's four-season, 32-episode run.

SNL Weekend Update Thursday

When and where: NBC, 9:30 p.m. (premières 10/9)

What's it about? Election years tend to be good for Saturday Night Live. This year's primary season certainly was, even earning a mention from Hillary Clinton in a debate. Hoping to take full advantage of the moment, SNL is starting its season on September 13 and dropping three half-hour, election-oriented Weekend Update specials into the slot normally occupied by the SNL-inspired 30 Rock. (Rest easy: 30 Rock returns October 30.)

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Where does it come from? We're pretty sure that Saturday Night Live is the main influence on this show, though it's hard not to think that SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels, having tasted the attention and influence normally enjoyed by The Daily Show, wants a bigger bite.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: It's only scheduled for a three-episode run, but if all goes well, expect more of these down the line.

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Eleventh Hour

When and where? CBS, 10 p.m. (premières 10/9)

What's it about? From producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes this series about a brilliant government biophysicist (Rufus Sewell) who gets called in to investigate various scientific crises, specifically cases in which advances have been abused. (And yes, that means 19 cloned fetuses in jars!)

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Where does it come from? It sounds like CSI meets The X-Files, but Eleventh Hour actually comes from a 2006 British series of the same name (with Patrick Stewart in the starring role), notable mainly for the episode length (90 minutes) and then-unprecedented budget. The creator also dropped out because the producers mucked with his vision, which makes it perfect for Bruckheimer.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Barring total catastrophe, it's a near-certainty that the American Eleventh Hour will outlast the British series, which was just four episodes long.

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Testees

When and where? FX, 10:30 p.m. (premières 10/9)

What's it about? Two slackers earn cash by letting pharmaceutical companies use them as test subjects; each episode follows their attempt to get through their everyday lives while dealing with the side effects of the new drugs.

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Where does it come from? Created by South Park writer (and Kenny Vs. Spenny star) Kenny Hotz, Testees might—just might—offer an original spin on the "dudes hanging out" sitcom genre.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: FX is pairing this up with the cult-comedy hit It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and if the sensibility matches up, Testees could quickly find a cult of its own.

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FRIDAY

Crusoe

When and where? NBC, 8 p.m. (premières 10/17)

What's it about? Robinson Crusoe (Philip Winchester) is a 17th-century sailor stranded on an island for 28 years with only his wits, his good friend Friday (Tongayi Chirisa), and the chance he'll be reunited with his wife to keep him going.

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Where does it come from? Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. The 13-part series promises to "combine for the first time the pace and energy of network television while remaining faithful to the author's original classic story." That poorly phrased vow seems unreasonably ambitious, especially if the creators want to include all of Defoe's detailed descriptions of Crusoe's goatkeeping.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Bad. Defoe's original is still being read nearly 300 years after it was written. Even if this series is great, it likely won't make the leap to the neural-implant entertainment systems of the 24th century.

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The Ex List

When and where? CBS, 9 p.m. (premières 10/3)

What's it about? A psychic tells a young woman (Elizabeth Reaser) that she's destined to marry someone she's already dated. Also, she only has one year to find out which one, or she'll never get married. (Crafty psychics: always putting weird, arbitrary time limits on things for maximum wackiness.) So Reaser goes back through all her past discarded boyfriends, looking for "the one."

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Where does it come from? It's based on the Israeli dramedy series Mythological X, "The romantic comedy that will get us all thinking again!" Presumably, we'll all be thinking about the last time we saw High Fidelity.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Friday is a tough night, especially considering that the target audience for this show (young women in their 20s and 30s who love shows about dating) are probably out, you know, dating on Friday nights. Then again, maybe it's been a long time since we've all seen High Fidelity?

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Crash

When and where? Starz, 10 p.m. (premières 10/17)

What's it about? The melodramatic, highly cinematic ways that people of different races interact with each other in L.A. Starring, for some reason, Dennis Hopper.

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Where does it come from? Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning L.A. race-relations big-screen melodrama, Crash. Also, presumably, the incredibly cheestastic Crash race-relations ballet of the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: The show is airing on Starz—the number-one premium cable channel that ends in a "z"—and premium channels never cancel series mid-season, so Crash has a guaranteed run. But at least it can't win another Oscar, right?

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Sanctuary

When and where? SCI FI, 10 p.m. (premières 10/3)

What's it about? Sanctuary is an innovative show in two ways: It began life as a series of short webisodes, and it's photographed almost exclusively against a green screen, with computer-generated backdrops. The new-fangled TV series brings back all the cast members, including Amanda Tapping as a 157-year-old "terrologist" (a monster-studier) who gives creatures evolved from mankind a safe haven. But not all of them want or deserve it.

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Where does it come from? The webisode-to-TV concept was also tried with Quarterlife, a series by thirtysomething creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. It garnered the worst ratings NBC had absorbed since its XFL experiment, and was pulled after one episode.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off? 100 percent. SCI FI has a 13-episode order, and enough of an online fan base to justify it.

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SATURDAY

Nothing new here, folks.

[pagebreak]

SUNDAY

Image for article titled The Year Television Ate Itself: The A.V. Club's Fall 2008 TV Preview, Part 2
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In Harm's Way

When and where? CW, 7 p.m. (premières 9/21)

What's it about? Survivor washout Hunter Ellis hosts a weekly look at the men and women who run into burning buildings, sweep for mines, or in multiple other ways risk their lives to keep the rest of our wimpy asses safe and secure.

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Where does it come from? Mix Rescue 911 with Dirty Jobs, add a dash of Queen For A Day, and voilà!

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Unless it gets relocated onto A&E;, Discovery, or some other cable channel better-suited to this kind of sensationalist docu-series, In Harm's Way will quickly be scuttled off the air, perhaps to be replaced by a show about the brave network space-fillers that allow themselves to get slaughtered in the ratings on Sunday nights.

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Surviving Suburbia

When and where? CW, 7:30 p.m. (premières 11/2)

What's it about? Bob Saget [Shudder. —ed.] stars as a typical suburban dad, with a stable 20-year marriage, three children, and a two-story home in a manicured subdivision. Only his daughter thinks she's an Indian princess, her son is smitten with the twice-pregnant teenager down the block, and Saget can't stop leering at his new neighbor's 17-year-old daughter.

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Where does it come from? From the ninth circle of sitcom hell. Or to be specific, veteran producer Kevin Abbott, who is pitching it as a male version of his hit show Roseanne.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Impossible. The CW as a network may not survive another year, and it's highly improbable that Americans will tolerate Bob Saget for nine seasons. Full House placed the Saget threshold at eight.

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Valentine

When and where? CW, 8 p.m. (premières 9/21)

What's it about? Forget about Millionaire Matchmaker: The Greek gods Aphrodite and Eros (among others) are alive in contemporary Hollywood, and they've opened a dating service. Since they have an oracle handy, they know exactly who a person's soulmate is, but getting couples together isn't easy.

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Where does it come from? Greek gods or no, any hourlong dramedy about matchmaking owes something to Cupid, the short-lived but vastly influential (and soon to be remade) series by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), that bridged genres and embraced a cinematic style that's more commonplace now than it was back in 1998.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Better than average. Cupid only lasted 14 episodes, and The CW is generally not quick with the hook. When your network is already a ratings bottom-dweller, how much lower can you go?

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Easy Money

When and where? CW, 9 p.m. (premières 9/21)

What's it about? A young man (Jeff Hephner) takes over his strange family's business: a highly successful, possibly shady, short-term payday loans outfit.

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Where does it come from? Apart from the payday-loans part, that plot could easily describe Arrested Development. But Easy Money is an hourlong dramedy instead of a half-hour comedy. Also, it takes place in New Mexico.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: The producers of Easy Money also produced Northern Exposure and The Sopranos, so they know how to do eccentrics and strange family businesses right. Also, the show's cast—namely Laurie Metcalf and Judge Reinhold—is certainly more than able to put the "edy" in "dramedy." So Easy Money at least has a chance at becoming a beloved show that's cancelled far before its time.

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True Blood

When and where? HBO, 9 p.m. (premières 9/7)

What's it about? The new series from Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball takes place in a world where synthetic blood has allowed vampires to come out of the shadows and join rather than feast on humankind. In the Louisiana town of Bon Temps, a waitress (Anna Paquin) who can hear people's thoughts embarks on a relationship with a tall, dark 173-year-old stranger.

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Where does it come from? The model for any super-hip vampire TV series will always be Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which Ball professes to have never seen. Perhaps if he had seen it, he wouldn't have lifted Paquin's special talent from "Earshot," a classic Buffy episode from season three.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Six Feet Under lasted five seasons. Buffy lasted seven. Given that inertia isn't as big a factor in HBO series as it is in network shows, True Blood probably won't go that long. Then again, given HBO's programming woes of late, success of any kind will surely lead to an endless run.

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Summer Heights High

When and where? HBO, TBD (premières 11/9)

What's it about? All the soaps, reality series, and documentaries about scandalous teenage lives get a good lampooning with this mockumentary about freaks, geeks, and rich kids at an Australian public school.

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Where does it come from? HBO is importing this one intact from Australian television, where it generated high ratings and some small measure of controversy due to its snarky take on real teen problems.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: It is what it's ripping off.

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Little Britain USA

When and where? HBO, 10:30 p.m. (premières 9/28)

What's it about? The American spin-off of the popular UK sketch comedy series promises to bring "class, culture, and dignity to America." No doubt through vast quantities of wigs, spirit gum, fat suits, and sharp characters.

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Where does it come from? Ahem. Britain.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: It's from Little Britain creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams, and it features a number of the same characters; it's essentially an extension of the original. Since it's on HBO, it won't have as wide or as mainstream of an audience as the BBC's Little Britain, but its new characters alone should position Little Britain USA for inclusion into the cult-comedy canon.

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The Life & Times Of Tim

When and where? HBO, 11 p.m. (starts 9/28)

What's it about? Tim works in an office, lives in New York, and thrives on awkwardness. He's also an animated character.

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Where does it come from? Tim's crude, rigid animation is reminiscent of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (it's like Squigglevision without the squiggles) and since it's rooted in awkwardness, a lot of the humor is too.

Odds of it outlasting what it's ripping off: Dr. Katz had very funny comedian Jonathan Katz behind it, but Life & Times Of Tim has Steve Dildarian, best known for writing Budweiser's "Lizard" campaign. Still, some of the Tim previews are worth a few laughs—and since it's on HBO, the series should get at least a season in.

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