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The 10 Most Promising New TV Shows of Fall 2010

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CHICAGO – The broadcast network rookie class of 2009 was one of the best of all time with “Community,” “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “The Good Wife,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “The Middle,” and “Cougar Town” finding loyal fans.

Even relative (and mostly canceled) missteps like “FlashForward,” “V,” “Mercy,” and “Melrose Place” were interesting disasters. Will the upcoming season continue the pattern or drop the broadcast nets back into the misery of being unable to find a new hit?

Don’t get your hopes up. Having seen at least rough cuts of all of the new programs except for the still-in-production “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” we can say without a doubt that this upcoming freshmen class will not produce the same number of all-stars as last year. Even the majority of the ten shows below are going to require some tinkering to stand out. It should be noted that most of what we’ve seen were rough cuts that could see major changes before debut. Just because a show is NOT on the list, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be altered enough to make it a quality program by the time we review the finished pilot and we suppose it’s possible that what works about some of these could be mangled before airing but that seems unlikely. Expect to see full-length reviews of every new show at HollywoodChicago.com in the month of September.

As for general trends, the new broadcast lineups feel remarkably safe. The departures of “24” and “Lost” have not left vacuums that the creative departments of the big five are looking to fill with similar programming. It feels like the relative failure of high concept shows like “FlashForward” and “V” may have turned off a few programmers and so they’re sticking with pretty simple formulas and leaving the complex stuff to the cable channels. There are a few ambitious programs and they’re near the top of the list below and a few of the attempts at popcorn entertainment succeed but the new freshman class is a remarkably safe one. We’ve seen most of it before and with the incredible success of unique programs like “Modern Family” and “Glee,” it’s disappointing to see so much generic new programming.

It also feels like the wave of comedy success has crashed. After an amazing year for sitcoms last year, only three make the list below and most of what we’ve seen is pretty horrible. CBS only has two and one, “$#*! My Dad Says” with William Shatner is being completely overhauled before release (and, based on what we’ve seen, it needs it). ABC only has one to fill in the gap on Wednesday nights and the version we’ve seen of “Better With You” is a complete mess. More on that when we see the final version. The CW — zero. And the remaining three are on the list although, as you’ll see, not that high.

Let’s get to it. Mark your calendars. Figure out your season pass conflicts. Here are the ten most promising shows of the new season:

10. “Lone Star”
Network: FOX
Premieres: Monday, September 20th, 8pm CST

Bryce Johnson, Jon Voight, Mark Deklin, Adrianne Palicki, James Wolk, Eloise Mumford and David Keith.
Bryce Johnson, Jon Voight, Mark Deklin, Adrianne Palicki, James Wolk, Eloise Mumford and David Keith.
Photo credit: Patrick Ecclesine/FOX

“Lone Star” has echoes of ’80s soaps like “Dallas” but with a modern spin. With an expertly-directed pilot courtesy of Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer,” the announced “Spider-Man” reboot), “Lone Star” tells the story of Robert Allen (James Wolk), a charismatic con man who has worked his way into a double life. When the time comes to cut and run after it looks like his cover will be blown, Robert makes the dangerous decision to try and keep his dual existence in play. In one life, he is married to the stunning daughter (Adrianne Palicki) of a notorious oil magnate (a perfectly-cast Jon Voight) and is climbing the corporate ladder. In another, he has a more blue-collar existence with the lovely Lindsay (Eloise Mumford). Keeping one con going is tough enough. Can he keep up two? The cast of “Lone Star” is strong but the premiere is a bit too soapy for my tastes. Having said that, the intriguing premise and above-average ensemble means that all it would take for “Lone Star” to rise up a list of freshman faves is a bit of work on the screenwriting. The premiere may be just okay, but this could be brilliant by the end of October. We’ll have to wait and see.

9. “Raising Hope”
Network: FOX
Premieres: Tuesday, September 21st, 8pm CST

Garret Dillahunt, Martha Plimpton, Lucas Neff, Shannon Woodward and Cloris Leachman.
Garret Dillahunt, Martha Plimpton, Lucas Neff, Shannon Woodward and Cloris Leachman.
Photo credit: Matthias Clamer/FOX

The very talented Greg Garcia (“My Name is Earl”) brings his unique world view to FOX with the hit-and-miss “Raising Hope,” another comedy about societal outcasts proving that family is a term with multiple definitions. The not-so-nuclear clan of “Raising Hope” features the wide-eyed Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff), who finds his life turned upside down when he sleeps with a murderer (Bijou Phillips) and then gets forced to raise their offspring alone after she’s given the electric chair. Of course, the child’s name is Hope. Neff is going to take some practice to become believable in this straight-man role but the supporting cast of “Raising Hope” is very strong with the wonderfully cast Garret Dillahunt (“Deadwood,” “Last House on the Left”), Martha Plimpton (“The Goonies”) and Cloris Leachman rounding out the Chance family. Like some episodes of “My Name is Earl,” the premiere of “Raising Hope” sometimes feels a bit desperate in its need to please but this is the kind of fast-paced sitcom writing where if one joke falls flat, a great one is just around the corner.

8. “The Whole Truth”
Network: ABC
Premieres: Wednesday, September 22nd, 9pm CST

Rob Morrow, Christine Adams, Anthony Ruivivar, Rick Kelly.
Rob Morrow, Christine Adams, Anthony Ruivivar, Rick Kelly.
Photo credit: Adam Taylor/ABC

Very few shows will be as radically revised from the version I saw as ABC’s legal drama “The Whole Truth.” The two leads of this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced series were originally played by Joely Richardson (“Nip/Tuck”) and Rob Morrow (“Numbers”). Rob’s still going to be there when it premieres, but the tough-as-nails prosecutor played by Richardson will be replaced by Maura Tierney (“ER”). I’ll miss what Richardson brought to the show but Tierney is easily her equal and the promise of the show is all about premise and production. “The Whole Truth” is a roller coaster legal series that attempts to present both sides of a case. So, we see both prosecution and defense teams dealing with new evidence, planning for cross-examination, and generally playing mind games with each other. The actual case in the premiere could have used a rewrite as well but there’s something addictive about the pace of the show. It’s got that same Bruckheimer sheen that he’s brought to crime-solving with the “C.S.I.” juggernaut but in a courtroom setting. Sure, it may be ridiculous, but it’s also probably going to be a lot of fun.

7. “Outsourced”
Network: NBC
Premieres: Thursday, September 23rd, 8:30pm CST

Anisha Nagarajan as Madhuri, Rizwan Manji as Rajiv, Rebecca Hazelwood as Asha, Parvesh Cheena as Gupta, Sacha Dhawan as Manmeet, Ben Rappaport as Todd.
Anisha Nagarajan as Madhuri, Rizwan Manji as Rajiv, Rebecca Hazelwood as Asha, Parvesh Cheena as Gupta, Sacha Dhawan as Manmeet, Ben Rappaport as Todd.
Photo credit: Harper Smith/NBC

Will NBC ever find a complete Thursday night comedy lineup? They’re sure trying and they’ve given their lone new fall comedic offering the prime slot between “The Office” and the return of “The Apprentice.” The workplace connection between the three shows is a clever one if viewers don’t get too fatigued by two hours of reminders about how much they loathe their jobs. Ben Rappaport is the charming lead of the show, a manager at Mid America Novelties asked to move to India and manage a call center. Yes, some of the fish-out-of-water jokes could be a bit culturally insensitive and on-the-nose but the writing in the premiere of “Outsourced” is consistently clever and the cast is extremely likable. Thursday nights on NBC have become a critical darling that’s rarely matched by big ratings. The lowered expectations have allowed excellent shows like “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” to be given the time to develop despite sometimes-anemic numbers. If “Outsourced” is given the same time to gel, it’s not hard to see this talented cast and writing team fitting in perfectly with its beloved network-and-nightmates.

TheWatchr's picture

The 10 Most Promising New TV Shows of Fall 2010

Lone Star already canceled after just TWO episodes…how promising was that? lol

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