Turn! Turn! Turn!
The flirting has just begun. Yes, it's only the end of July, and yet the networks are already running promos for new shows that may not even premiere until late fall. And if you think that's early, "TV Eye" has been getting review tapes and DVDs since May, following the Up Fronts the period when networks trot out their shiny new productions to ad buyers hoping, first and foremost, to make a sale and create some buzz in the process.
Some of the buzziest shows are proving to be truly buzz-worthy. Here are a few of the series I've seen so far that are worth looking for:
My Name Is Earl (NBC): A petty thief (Jason Lee) decides to turn the course of his dead-end life around and search for Karma. He's not sure if he'll find her, but by gum he's going to die trying. Seasoned with droll, laugh-out-loud humor, Earl has just enough absurdity to give it a hint of sweetness.
Supernatural (The WB): Jared Padalecki (formerly of The Gilmore Girls) stars as one half of a pair of brothers with a strange past that has scarred them (and pretty much made me wet myself when I first saw the pilot). Yes, it's another spooky, supernatural series in the tradition of The X Files, this one aimed at the early twentysomething crowd. What makes Supernatural engaging is that it is a buddy series featuring two young men.
Prison Break (Fox): More brothers/buddies, this time played by Michael Scofield (The Human Stain) and Lincoln Burrows (Blade: Trinity). The premise sounds preposterous in ink, and it would ruin the pilot if I described it. However, the premise is so well-woven you buy into it in spite of yourself.
Kitchen Confidential (Fox): A great ensemble is led by Bradley Cooper (Alias) starring as Jack, a character based on renegade chef Anthony Bourdain's memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Cooper is decidedly Bourdain-light. What he lacks in world-weary, absinthe-soaked crustiness, he makes up with in charm.
Not seen but has strong buzz:
Everybody Hates Chris (UPN): Comedian Chris Rock's childhood growing up black in a white suburban neighborhood is fodder for this new series described as Everybody Loves Raymond meets Arrested Development. Which means it's brilliant. Which means it's doomed.
Commander-in-Chief (ABC): I must admit I start to giggle every time I see Geena Davis' apple cheeks flash across the screen as the voiceover tells us the premise of this new series (she's the nation's VP called into action when the president has a stroke). But word has it that Davis and co-star Donald Sutherland have great chemistry.
Invasion (ABC): Aliens from outer space who mean Earth and mankind harm first appeared in feature films during the Cold War. The theme returns to the small screen in this TV drama, as well as in Surface (NBC). Invasion's aliens are from outer space, while Surface's mysterious creatures (which could be from above) roam our deep and murky seas.
Speaking of buzz: CBS is hoping to create some when it rebroadcasts the first four episodes of Veronica Mars, which airs on sister network UPN. The first two episodes of the critically acclaimed series air Friday, July 29. Single episodes follow Aug. 5 and Aug. 12. Airtime is 7pm. In the meantime, UPN has moved the series to Wednesday nights and is currently rerunning its first season. Check local listings.
Beam Him Up
James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on TV's original Star Trek series, is dead. More extensive obits appear elsewhere, and little is left to say about the actor whose variations on the phrase "Captain! We haven't got enough power!" have been branded into pop-culture-speak. According to his New York Times obituary published July 21, Doohan's family is arranging to have his remains shot into space. Now, that's what I call making an exit.
As always, stay tuned.