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CW Network
Mary Mouser, K'Sun Ray and, yes, a lion cub are among the stars of the family drama 'Life Is Wild,' which is filmed in South Africa.
Here's what's new on the broadcast networks this fall.

Sundays

CW NOW (Sundays, 6 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is sort of a newsmagazine — one aimed directly at teens and twentysomethings who live most of their lives online.

The show, which was not previewed for critics because it's supposed to be filled with "timely elements," sets out to "create the ultimate source for everything that's hip, hot and happening right now in the world of young adults, and the place for anyone who needs to know what everyone is buzzing about today and what they'll be talking about in the week to come."

Yeah, that will be easy.

"CW Now" will focus on "the hottest fashions, the coolest music, the must-see movies and the must-have gadgets and technology. ... With young adults' insatiable appetite for all things celebrity, each episode will report on the latest news and gossip from inside the glitz and glamour of Hollywood."

It isn't easy, but I'm trying really hard not to be pre-judgmental, given that we weren't shown anything. But it REALLY isn't easy.

What's to like/what's not to like/will it work? Without anything to judge it on, it's impossible to say. (It really, REALLY isn't easy not to comment. Really.)

Debuts: Sunday, Sept. 23

ONLINE NATION (Sundays, 6:30 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is for young people who don't have Internet access, apparently — The CW promises a show that "combs the nearly infinite number of Web sites, blogs and user-generated materials on the Internet to find the best, the hottest, the funniest and sometimes the flat-out bizarre."

None of this has been made available to critics, so I can't tell you how — or how well — this will work. But not showing anything to critics is generally a bad sign.

What's to like/what's not to like/will it work? Without anything to judge it on, it's impossible to say.

Debuts: Sunday, Sept. 23

VIVA LAUGHLIN (Sundays, 7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is the latest horrifying example of how an attempt to translate a British TV show to and American network can go very, very wrong.

"Viva Blackpool" was a highly entertaining, improbable British murder mystery/drama in which the characters often broke into song and performed in production numbers. "Viva Laughlin" didn't have the courage to take that format on with full force, instead dribbling out just enough of the musical element to seem awkward and weird.

The story concerns Ripley Holden's (Lloyd Owen) attempt to open a casino in Laughlin, Nev. It's a long shot, and he's got an enemy, Nicky Fontana (guest star Hugh Jackman) standing in his way. At the same time, Ripley is dealing with a wife (Madchen Amick), two teenage children (Ellen Woglom and Carter Jenkins) and an old flame (Melanie Griffith).

Oh, and there's the little matter of the murder in which he's been implicated.

What's to like? Pretty much nothing. "Viva Laughlin" is a yawner.

What's not to like? Pretty much everything. In an apparent attempt to make this rather wild premise more palatable to American viewers, all the charm and joy has been sucked out of it. And even if you ignore the musical elements, the remaining mystery/drama is remarkably dull.

Will it work? If not for the fact that "Viva Laughlin" doesn't premiere until the second half of October, it would probably be the first show canceled this fall. There's already a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering going on — the original show-runner has been replaced — and I'm not even entirely convinced that it will get on the air, period.

Debuts: Previews on Thursday, Oct. 18; regular time-slot debut is on Sunday, Oct. 21

LIFE IS WILD (Sundays, 7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is clearly intended as a show for people who miss "7th Heaven." And it's sort of "The Brady Bunch" goes to South Africa.

Katie Clarke (Leah Pipes) is one unhappy teenager. Her veterinarian father, Danny (D.W. Moffett), got remarried to Jo (Stephanie Niznick of "Everwood") after the death of his first wife and saddled her with a step-brother, Jesse (Andrew St. John), who's not real easy to get along with.

Worse yet, Danny has decided to pack up the family — which includes Katie's 11-year-old brother, Chase (K'Sun Ray), and 7-year-old stepsister, Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser) — and move to South Africa.

Danny has the best of intentions — to bring his family closer together — but it's going to be a bit of a rough go.

"Life Is Wild" is the Americanization of the British series "Wild at Heart," and, like its predecessor, is filmed on some pretty spectacular locations in South Africa.

What's to like? There has to be room on network television for a family drama, doesn't there? And, while there isn't anything new nor groundbreaking — except, of course, for its location — this has the makings of a good show families can watch together. And all those cool African animals.

What's not to like? At least a little less predictability would be nice.

Will it work? It won't be a big hit, but it could work well enough for The CW.

Debuts: Sunday, Oct. 7

Mondays

CHUCK (Mondays, 7 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) comes to us from Josh Schwartz, the creator/executive producer of "The O.C." And its a little bit like Seth (Adam Brody) on "The O.C." suddenly becoming a super-smart spy.

Chuck Bartkowsi (Zachary Levi of "Less Than Perfect") is a nerd — literally. He works in tech-support as a member of the Nerd Herd at a Buy More Electronics store, and he's a loser at love.

His former college roommate, however, is a real-life super spy. In the first few minutes of the series, the ex-roommate sends Chuck an e-mail, which (through super-spy powers) downloads all of America's intelligence information into Chuck's brain — putting the fate of the world in his hands.

Rival agents from the National Security Agency (Adam Baldwin) and the CIA (Yvonne Strahovski) are soon protecting/battling over Chuck as he takes on terrorists and so on. All with the same sort of sly, funny attitude we've seen from Schwartz before.

What's to like? Levi is great; he and Joshua Gomez (who plays Chuck's buddy) make a great comedy team. This is a very funny show.

What's not to like? It remains to be seen home much mileage Schwartz & Co.. can get out of this premise — will it hold up in the long run?

Will it work? If "Heroes" fans will tune in to NBC an hour earlier on Monday nights, this could be at least a moderate hit.

Debuts: Monday, Sept. 24

THE BIG BANG THEORY (Mondays, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is about geeks/nerds/rocket scientists — real, literal rockets scientists — who are beside themselves when a hot girl moves into the apartment across the hall. I can't argue that it doesn't sound like a dumb idea, but it's also really funny.

And there aren't many sitcoms that can make that claim these days.

Leonard (Johnny Galecki of "Roseanne") and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) are socially inept geniuses from Cal Tech. When beautiful, sexy Penny (Kaley Cuoco of "Five Simple Rules") moves into their apartment building, Leonard is smitten. Sheldon is taken aback and misses no opportunity to express his skepticism.

Because two nerds aren't enough, we also see Leonard and Sheldon's even more socially inept pals Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar).

"Big Bang Theory" proves once again that it's not the format or the premise that makes a show funny, it's the execution. And this show is laugh-out-loud funny.

What's to like? If you're looking to laugh, there's plenty to laugh at here. And Parsons is a find — he's perfect in the role of the sardonic geek.

What's not to like? This comes to us from the producer of "Two and a Half Men," and it's not exactly family fare. The content (and quite a few of the jokes") are rather, um, adult in nature.

Will it work? Looks like it could be a great bridge between "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two and a Half Men."

Debuts: Mondays, Sept. 24

ALIENS IN AMERICA (Mondays, 7:30 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) has nothing to do with outer space, it's about the Midwest.

Justin Tolchuck (Dan Byrd) is a nice, normal, average, shy, awkward 16-year-old who feels like an alien at his Wisconsin high school. His well-meaning mother, Franny (Amy Pietz), wants desperately for him to be popular, but her efforts only make things worse. So she decides to take in a foreign-exchange student to give Justin a built-in friend.

However, instead of the Nordic god they were expecting, they get Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a 16-year-old Muslim from a small village in Pakistan.

Franny is aghast. Justin's dad Gary (Scott Patterson of "Gilmore Girls") is only worried about the monthly check they get from the exchange program.

Poor Raja is also a nice, normal kid, but he's made to feel completely alien in America. And, quite unexpectedly, he and Justin form a firm friendship.

The show recalls "Malcolm In the Middle" — and it's really funny stuff.

What's to like? Byrd and Kalyan are great; the show feels fresh; it's not afraid to have a Muslim character and be funny.

What's not to like? Some of the jokes are a bit too much (although the scene in the original pilot of the school bullies putting a (fake) gun in Justin's mouth has been edited out).

Will it work? Given that The CW hasn't been able to turn "Everybody Hates Chris" into a hit, there's little reason to think the network can make a hit out of "Aliens in America." But, given The CW's somewhat lower ratings expectations, this could do well enough to survive.

Debuts: Monday, Oct. 1

K-VILLE (Mondays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is the most pompous show of the new season — a mediocre (at best) cop show cloaking itself in a false mantle of quality because it's set and shot in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) is a NOPD veteran, a member of the Felony Action Squad who stood at his post during the flood while his partner (and a lot of other New Orleans cops) ran off. Two years after the disaster, he's obsessed with rebuilding the city and his life.

His new partner, Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser) is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. And Marlin isn't too sure about him.

The show wants to be "NYPD Blue" but comes off more like "Starsky & Hutch." It's cop-show cliche after cop-show cliche.

What's to like? It's a nice idea to do a show in New Orleans, and it's even better that it's actually being shot there.

What's not to like? At best, it's not that great a cop show. At worst, it's just downright stupid — there's a "big revelation" about one of the characters at the end of the first episode that's just ridiculous and completely erases what little credibility the show has.

Will it work? I doubt it. Once people get a look at this, they'll quickly realize it looks nothing like the show Fox has been advertising.

Debuts: Monday, Sept. 17

SAMANTHA WHO? (Mondays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) turns memory loss into comedy. Samantha "Sam" Newly (Christina Applegate) wakes up after spending eight days in a coma with retrograde amnesia — she can function in the world, but she has absolutely no memory of who she was.

And, as it turns out, Sam was a horrible person. Mean, vain, venal, unethical, deceitful, snotty, vicious — you name the adjective. Which comes as a complete surprise to her. And offers her a chance to start over with her life.

The people in her life (whom she cannot, of course, remember) include her self-centered mother (Jean Smart of "24") and disconnected father (Kevin Dunn of "Transformers"), to whom she hasn't spoken in two years. Her best friend (Jennifer Esposito) is a lot like pre-amnesia Sam — and not in a good way. Her boyfriend (Barry Watson of "7th Heaven") is a good guy who has put up with a lot.

Sam's other best friend (Melissa McCarthy of "Gilmore Girls") is not what she seems. And one of the few people she can talk to honestly is the doorman (Tim Russ of "Star Trek: Voyager") at her building.

What's to like? Applegate is underrated as a comedic actress — she's a TV star. And the rest of the cast is equally good. Plus, there's a lot of comedy to be mined from this premise.

What's not to like? All the ingredients for a really good comedy are in place on "Samantha Who?" — but they somehow don't seem to blend together. The pilot not particularly funny. And that's not a good thing for a comedy.

Will it work? Well, maybe. Airing after 90-minute episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" will help, but the episodes need to be funnier and ABC will have to be patient.

Debuts: Monday, Oct. 15

JOURNEYMAN (Mondays, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is about a guy who travels through time, although he doesn't know how or why. And audiences who tune in may wonder why they bothered.

Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd of "Rome") is a happily married reporter who lives in San Francisco. As he's going about his business, he's pulled back in time — but he has no idea how or by whom. (Neither do we.) Eventually, we learn that he's being sent back (never forward) to change people's lives, prevent disasters, etc.

Of course, it's hard for Dan to explain to his wife (Gretchen Egolf) or his cop brother (Reed Diamond) where the heck he keeps disappearing to.

And — gasp! — Dan runs into the long-lost fiancee (Moon Bloodgood) he thought had died in a plane crash ... but, gee, maybe she didn't.

The producers describe this as a procedural. There's a mystery in every episode and, when he's sent back through time, he doesn't know who he's supposed to help or how.

What's to like? Um, well, the cast is good-looking.

What's not to like? Um, well, that it's boring. To be fair, this is by no means a terrible show. It's just dull and confusing.

Will it work? Looks like a quick cancellation is in "Journeyman's" future.

Debuts: Monday, Sept. 24

Tuesdays

CAVEMEN (Tuesdays, 7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is the certainly the most ill-conceived show premiering this fall — a weekly sitcom based on the Geico commercials. And, as if that's not bizarre enough, the Neanderthals are basically a euphemism for ethnic minorities — specifically, African Americans.

Not that there's anything wrong with satire, unless it's done badly. And it's done pretty badly in "Cavemen."

The sitcom revolves around three "Cavemen" who live in San Diego. Joel (Bill English) is smart and sophisticated; his younger brother Andy (Sam Huntington) is pretty much an idiot; and Nick (Nick Kroll) is touchy and prone to turn everything into a racial ... er, uh, Cro-Magnon issue.

A dumb idea can be a funny show. But in this case, it's not.

What's to like? Well, about the best thing that can be said is that it's not as bad as you might think. (Assuming, of course, you go in expecting it to be just dreadful.) And Julie White is great, even tied to a thankless role as the Joel's future mother-in-law.

What's not to like? Well, just about everything. Sometimes terrible ideas turn into terrible shows.

Will it work? Do you really need to ask? Of course not.

Debuts: Tuesday, Oct. 1

CARPOOLERS (Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is an alleged comedy about (you guessed it!) four guys who car pool together. And it's an "alleged" comedy because it's supposed to be funny, but it's not.

Four guys who car pool to work every day come to savor their commute as the only safe time to commiserate about jobs, families — and secrets. Even though "what happens in the car pool stays in the car pool," they'll go beyond the boundaries of this fast-moving commuter confessional to get involved in each other's lives and develop friendships.

Gracen (Fred Goss of "Sons & Daughters") is sort of the leader of the group. Unbearably neurotic, he's got a great life and a great wife (Faith Ford of "Murphy Brown"), but he just can't let himself be happy.

Laird (Jerry O'Connell of "Crossing Jordan") is an abrasive, in-the-middle-of-a-divorce playboy/dentist who is Gracen's best friend and whose arrogance masks his inner pain. He delights in heckling Doug (Tim Peper of "Guiding Light"), the happily married newlywed who wants to fit in with the guys.

Rounding out the group is Aubrey (Jerry Minor of "Mr. Show"), a nice guy who's so unremittingly henpecked by his wife that driving back and forth to work is the highlight of his day.

The pilot is all about the stupidity that ensues when Gracen learns his wife makes more money than he does. He and Laird are so unlikable they act like anchors to sink the show as soon as it sets sail.

What's to like? Nothing. This is the single worst new show on any of the broadcast networks this fall.

What's not to like? Everything. It's not just unfunny, it's painfully unfunny. What passes for humor here is Gracen's twentysomething, slacker son (T.J. Miller) walking around all day wearing his tighty-whitey briefs.

Will it work?No.

Debuts: Tuesday, Oct. 2

REAPER (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is about a slacker, Sam (Bret Harrison of "The Loop"), who makes a startling discovery on his 21st birthday — his parents sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise) before he was born. (There's actually a reasonable explanation so that you don't hate them.)

Satan doesn't drag Sam down to hell, he puts him to work. In addition to his low-level job at the local Work Bench home-improvement store, Sam is now a bounty hunter, retrieving souls that escaped from hell. He gets help from his pals, including Bert "Sock" Wysocki (Tyler Labine of "Invasion") and Ben (Rick Gonzalez of "Coach Carter").

"Reaper" is a bizarre mix of off-the-wall goofiness, sly humor and supernatural action that, at least in the pilot, somehow works.

What's to like? The humor, Harrison and Wise, who's perfectly cast as the Devil.

What's not to like? As with all shows like this, the big question is whether future episodes will be anywhere near as good as the pilot. And there's a fine line between being the comedy relief and being annoying — a line Sock crosses at times.

Will it work? Scoff if you want, but I think this could work. Hey, if I told you 10 years ago that there was going to be this show about a high school cheerleader who killed vampires and it would run for seven seasons, would you have believed me?

Debuts: Tuesday, Sept. 25

CASHMERE MAFIA (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is either an attempt to make a new "Sex and the City" or the female version of "Big Shots" — and it's not entirely successful at being either one.

It's the story of four very successful businesswomen who are less successful in their private lives. Friends since business school, they form a support network for one another.

Mia Mason (Lucy Liu) is an ultracompetitive, driven executive at a publishing firm. But in the pilot, she has to compete against the man she's in love with. (You can see the trouble brewing there, right?)

Zoe Burden (Frances O'Connor) seems to have it all — a powerful job as an investment banker, a loving husband and two small children. But she's facing a threat from a younger woman.

Juliet Draper (Miranda Otto), the COO of a hotel chain, also seems to have it all. But her husband isn't faithful, and her teenage daughter is a rebellious snot.

Then there's Caitlin Dowd (Bonnie Sommerville), a market executive at a cosmetics firm. Her love life has been less than great, but then she meets a new subordinate at work — a subordinate who happens to be a woman.

There are a lot of soap opera-ish antics going on here, complete with over-the-top developments, high-drama moments and dialogue that no real person would ever say.

What's to like? Well ... um ... the cast is pretty good. And, if you're looking for a rather mindless soap, look no further..

What's not to like? At least in the pilot, nothing quite comes together. You can almost see the writers working on the script instead of seeing the characters as real people. It's neither as funny nor as dramatic as it wants to be.

Will it work? Doubtful.

Debuts: Tuesday, Nov. 27

CANE (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is sort of the Hispanic version of "Dallas" — a rich, powerful family fighting over the family business and feuding with their longtime rivals. Only, instead of oil, this is about sugar cane.

"Cane" is about a Latino family — Cuban-Americans. Which is something we don't see much on English-language American networks.

Family patriarch Pancho Duque (Hector Elizondo) immigrated to Florida and built a sugar-cane empire and successful rum business. As the series opens, his longtime rivals, the Samuels family, want to buy his hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar fields — but they've got ulterior motives.

Pancho's adopted son/son-in-law, Alex Vega (Jimmy Smits), is dead set against the sale; Pancho's biological son, Frank (Nestor Carbonell),af is for it — but he's got ulterior motives.

There are all sorts of family members and all sorts of subplots to play out — an absolute requirement for a prime-time soap.

What's to like? "Cane" has plenty of possibilities — it could end up being a very good soap opera. It's certainly nice to see an underrepresented minority get more TV exposure, but it's also nice that this could have been a show about a family of any ethnicity.

What's not to like? The pilot spends so much time explaining and setting up the plot that it doesn't spend enough time establishing the characters. There's going to have to be more character development for this to work.

Will it work? It's about 50-50 for how this will go. But don't underestimate Jimmy Smits' appeal.

Debuts: Tuesday, Sept. 25

Wednesdays

KID NATION (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is a "reality" show about 40 kids who "rebuild" a New Mexico ghost town and build their own society. They've got to organize and do all the work themselves.

Nobody is voted off, although some of the kids (who are between the ages of 8 and 15) choose to leave. Everybody gets $5,000 to participate and, in each episode, one kid is chosen by his/her peers to receive a gold star — a real gold star worth $20,000.

What's to like? The kids are appealing and the show itself is well-produced.

What's not to like? Gee, where to start? There's the fact that these kids were exploited by producers who apparently skirted child-labor laws. There's the fact that this is yet another "reality" show that apparently plays fast and loose with the concept of "reality." There's the fact that these kids were taken out of school to make a TV show. There's the fact that 8-year-olds were tossed into a situation where they'd have to deal with 15-year-olds. And using kids to attract ratings is kind of distasteful in general.

Will it work? I wouldn't be surprised if the show does fairly well in the ratings. But given all the bad press it's getting — and how difficult it might be to find somewhere to shoot another season now that New Mexico has closed gaps in its child-labor laws — I'd be somewhat surprised if there's a second season.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 19

PUSHING DAISIES (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is nothing short of magical. It's like a storybook with brightly colored pictures, a narrator and characters who feel like they just stepped out of a fairy tale.

As the story opens, young Ned discovers he has a remarkable power. He can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. It's a power that comes with complications — if he touches that person a second time, he/she dies for good. And if he doesn't touch that person again within a minute, somebody else dies.

Grown-up Ned (Lee Pace) owns a successful pie shop — he touches dead fruit and makes fabulous pies with everlasting flavor. But, given his history (the death of someone close to him when he was a kid), he's distant from everyone, including his waitress, Olive (Kristin Chenoweth), who has feelings for him.

When a private investigator named Emerson (Chi McBride) discovers Ned's power, he makes a proposal — Ned touches murder victims; asks who killed them; touches them again; Ned and Emerson collect the reward. But when he revives Chuck (Anna Friel), the girl he loved as a child, Ned can't bring himself to return her to death. And, of course, he can't touch her again.

What's to like? Yes, it's a silly concept, but it's fun and utterly charming. In addition to the other members of the cast, Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene are weird and wonderful as Chuck's aunts. And, what with all the primary colors on the screen, it's a joy just to look at.

What's not to like? The big fear here is that this is something that would have made a great movie but won't hold up week in and week out. Only time will tell.

Will it work? There's nothing I'd like to see succeed more than "Pushing Daisies," but it's going to be a function of whether the rest of the episodes are as good as the pilot. It's got a shot, but it's a bit of a long shot.

Debuts: Wednesday, Oct. 3

BACK TO YOU (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is a brand-new sitcom that already seems old and tired.

Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") stars as Chuck Darling, a one-time Pittsburgh TV news anchorman whose rise to bigger markets was halted by an on-air meltdown. He's forced to return to his old station in Pittsburgh, although he's not at all humbled by his comedown. Chuck is reteamed with the anchorwoman he left behind, Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond"), who's still harboring some major resentment.

It's a workplace comedy full of cartoonlike characters. There's the idiot sports anchor (Fred Willard); the reporter who wants Chuck's job (Ty Burrell of "Out of Practice"); the babe-a-licious, unqualified weathercaster (Montana Diaz Herrera); and the very young news director (Josh Grad), a character cribbed directly from "Murphy Brown."

What's to like? Well ... um ... I dunno. Not much.

What's not to like? This is the most disappointing new show this fall — and a perfect example of why sitcoms are out of favor with viewers. It looks like it was built out of pieces of shows we've seen a thousand times before. Grammer and Heaton have no chemistry. And it's just not funny. There's a "big surprise" that Fox doesn't want us to tell you about, so I won't — but if you can't figure it out for yourself long before the "reveal," you've never seen a sitcom before. Maybe I'm being too hard on this show because I had high expectations of not only the stars but of the writers/producers — whose credits include "Frasier" and "Don't Shoot Me." But the pilot is painfully unfunny.

Will it work? I doubt it. Maybe it will be around for a while, but it's hard to imagine it becoming a big hit. And not just because it's not good, but this show is also completely out of place on Fox. It might fit on CBS's Monday-night lineup, but a show where the combined age of the two leads is 101 is not what the Fox audience is looking for.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 19

PRIVATE PRACTICE (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) has one big advantage no other show on any network has this fall — it's a spin-off of the hugely popular "Grey's Anatomy." And the starting point is one of the best characters (and one of the best actors) from the parent show — Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh).

As "Grey's Anatomy" fans saw back in May, Addison reunites with old friends in a "Private Practice" in Los Angeles. Naomi (Audra McDonald) and Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs) are divorced but still work together.

The practice also includes Dr. Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein of "24"), a pediatrician who's always attracted to the wrong women; Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman of "Judging Amy"), who's sort of equally messed up and is barely hiding her attraction to Cooper; Dr. Pete Wilder (Tim Daly), who practices alternative method and is still mourning the death of his wife eight years ago; and William Dell Parker (Chris Lowell), the receptionist/resident young, hot guy who wants to be a midwife.

And, since that episode of "Grey's" aired, they've added Dr. Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland), the chief of staff of a nearby hospital who comes into frequent conflict with the doctors in the "Private Practice."

What's to like? It's a great cast — Kate Walsh is one of the most appealing actresses on TV. And there are moments that are sweet, touching and funny.

What's not to like? Whatever magic "Grey's Anatomy" has seems sorely lacking in "Private Practice." Granted, the season premiere has to reintroduce the characters, but it's pretty run-of-the-mill medical-show stuff. It's not bad, but it's not particularly good, either.

Will it work? Probably. There are a lot of "Grey's Anatomy" fans.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 26

BIONIC WOMAN (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is a "reimagining" of the shlocky 1970s series. It's a much darker take on the story of a woman who, after being horribly injured in an accident, is rebuilt using the latest technology.

Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is a struggling bartender who is at death's door when she and her (uninjured) boyfriend, Will (Chris Bowers), are in a terrible car accident. Fortunately for her, Will is a scientist in a secret government project, and he gives her new legs, an arm, an eye and an ear, essentially making her Superwoman.

Jaime's not so sure she's happy about this, and neither are Will's bosses, who expect Jaime to work for them.

What's to like? This "Woman" is a vast improvement over the original — it's more layered and real (odd though that may sound). Ryan is good, and so is Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar Galactica"), who plays an earlier bionic woman who's gone rogue.

What's not to like? Very, very dark. Maybe too dark to hold up week in and week out. And Sackhoff's character might turn out to be more interesting than the "Bionic Woman" in the title.

Will it work? It's an iffy proposition at best — particularly because there is behind-the-scenes turmoil on the production/writing staff.

Debuts: Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 26

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is sort of "Extreme Makeover: Restaurant Edition" — hosted by Satan.

Gordon Ramsay of "Hell's Kitchen" goes to a different failing restaurant each week and gives his kind of advice — meaning profane, rude, obnoxious and arrogant. (The first episode may have the most bleeps of any show in network-TV history.)

It's not all his fault, and he's not the only one getting bleeped — some of the restaurateurs would look right at home on "Cops."

Ramsay gets the places shaped up and drops tens of thousands of dollars worth of restaurant makeovers on them. It's weirdly entertaining, in a deafening sort of way; sort of the equivalent of a car wreck you can't help looking at as you drive by.

What's to like? I've never been a fan of "Hell's Kitchen," because Ramsay is just too obnoxious and mean to the contestants. He's not less obnoxious and mean here, but he has better reason — some of these restaurateurs are lucky they haven't food-poisoned anyone to death.

What's not to like? You have to have a high tolerance for people yelling at each other. And, quite honestly, this looks like something you'd see on any number of cable networks.

Will it work? After being somewhat surprised by the relative success of "Hell's Kitchen," I wouldn't bet against "Kitchen Nightmares."

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 19

GOSSIP GIRL (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) is another teen soap opera from the creator of "The O.C." — but this is very different in tone. There's not much in the way of humor; it's all soapy drama here.

It's about a bunch of (mostly) rich teens who attend a ritzy prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They're not just gossips, they're rather vicious gossips.

This is the plugged-in, online generation — rumors fly from cell phone to cell phone, and the never-seen "Girl" (voiced by Kristin Bell of "Veronica Mars" in voiceover narration) is must-read material for everyone.

Party girl Serena (Blake Lively of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") comes back to town after a year away, and she's got a secret. Her former best friend, Blair (Leighton Meester of "Entourage"), isn't happy to see her because she wants the spotlight all to herself. And they've both got a history with Blair's boyfriend, Nate (Chace Crawford of "The Covenant").

At the other end of the social spectrum are Dan (Penn Badgley of "John Tucker Must Die") and Jenny (Taylor Momsen), who are of more modest means. But it turns out their ex-rock-star father (Matthew Settle) has a history with Serena's social-climbing mother (Kelly Rutherford of "Melrose Place").

This is sort of a teenage "Dynasty" — everybody is rich, wears fabulous clothes, goes to fabulous places and is unhappy.

What's to like? "Girl" is pretty good soap opera — it could end up being the "Beverly Hills, 90210" for the 21st century.

What's not to like? This is the kind of show that preteens are going to want to watch because it will make them feel like they're in with the teens and twentysomethings it's aimed at — and there's a whole lot of teenage drinking, drugs, sex and other bad behavior. The show walks a fine line — and often crosses it — between portraying these things and glamorizing them.

Will it work? It should appeal to the young viewers The CW chases after — particularly young female viewers.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 19

DIRTY SEXY MONEY (Wednesdays, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is sort of "Dynasty" for the new millennium. And I say that completely as a compliment.

This is a very funny soap opera about rich, beautiful, powerful people — the Darling family of New York City — who are, nonetheless, sort of idiots in the way that only the super-rich can be because they're so out of touch with reality.

Nick George (Peter Krause of "Six Feet Under") is the son of the Darling family's longtime attorney. He's estranged from his father because dear old dad always devoted more time to the Darlings than to his own family. Nick has become a do-gooder lawyer helping the underprivileged.

But dear old dad is killed in a plane crash, and family patriarch Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland) makes Nick an offer he can't refuse. In addition to a huge salary, he promises $10 million a year to go toward Nick's charities.

So Nick finds himself trying to keep all the Darlings out of trouble. Patrick (William Baldwin) is New York's attorney general, with a secret, transgendered girlfriend. Karen (Natalie Zea) is a much-married socialite.

Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) is a nasty, vindictive Episcopal priest. Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) is a talentless aspiring actress. Youngest son Jeremy (Seth Gabel) is a wastrel.

And family matriarch Letitia (Jill Clayburgh) is hiding something.

Actually, there are a lot of secrets hiding here — including how Nick's father really died.

This isn't just good soap opera, however. It's good comedy. And it's smart enough to know how silly it is.

What's to like? Just about everything. Great cast, great script, great potential.

What's not to like? Well, it might be hard for upcoming episodes to be as good as the pilot.

Will it work? It's not an easy time slot, but — if ABC has some patience — it could develop into a success.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 26

LIFE (Wednesdays, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) is about a cop wrongly sent to prison for a murder he didn't commit. And when he's finally exonerated, he goes back to work as a cop. Specifically, as a detective.

Damian Lewis ("Band of Brothers") stars as quirky detective Charlie Crews, a very smart guy who's still somewhat suspect in the eyes of a lot of other cops. Including his skeptical partner (Sarah Shahi).

But Charlie has millions of dollars (a settlement from the government); a good buddy/former cellmate/convicted white-collar criminal (Adam Arkin) for financial advice and comic relief — and he's determined to find out who framed him.

What's to like? Lewis and Arkin. And the case Charlie tackles in the pilot is interesting enough.

What's not to like? The pilot is OK, but nothing to keep you coming back for more. And a little bit of quirky goes a looooong way. "Life" looks very much like somebody said, "Hey, that quirky guy is very successful over on 'House' — let's do that same thing with a police detective." Not such a good idea.

Will it work? Probably not. Certainly not without a whole lot better scripts for Lewis to work with. And at least somewhat less quirkiness.

Debuts: Wednesday, Sept. 26

Thursdays

BIG SHOTS (Thursdays, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is sort of, kind of, the male version of "Sex and the City." With less sex. (And fewer men, to be perfectly honest.)

This hourlong comedy/drama follows the adventures of four men who are wildly successful in business but considerably less successful in their personal lives. Brody John (Christopher Titus of "Titus") is senior vice president at Alpha Crisis Management — and he's under the thumb of his new wife. Karl Mixworthy (Joshua Malina of "The West Wing") is the CEO of a huge pharmaceutical company — and he's henpecked by both his wife and his mistress.

James Walker (Michael Vartan of "Alias") is navigating the shark-infested waters at the top of AmeriMart Industries — and his wife is fooling around with someone very close to him. And Duncan Collinsworth (Dylan McDermott of "The Practice") is the CEO of Reveal Cosmetics — he's a divorced playboy who has discovered he's in love with one of his ex-wives and is dealing with a rebellious grown daughter.

The guys are best buddies who support each other in guy ways. They're not women masquerading as men, they're men trying to deal with life.

What's to like? How about a great cast with great chemistry, smart writing and great production? If that's not enough, there's a lot of genuine humor in "Big Shots" and story lines that look like they could carry the show a long way.

What's not to like? Well, Vartan's character is a bit morose in the pilot. But that's nitpicking.

Will it work? Looks like a hit.

Debuts: Thursday, Sept. 27

Fridays

THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN BAND (Fridays, 7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is "American Idol" for groups. (It's even from the producers of that show.)

You've got three judges — John Rzenznki of the Goo Goo Dolls, Sheila E. and Australian TV personality Ian "Dicko" Dickson. You've got a host — Dominic Bowden — no one has ever heard of before. You're got a bunch of hopefuls, auditions, viewer voting and so on and so on.

You've got "American Idol" for groups.

What's to like/what's not to like? Not available for preview.

Will it work? It's impossible to say without having seen anything, but remember — Fox tried an "American Idol" for kids a couple of years ago and it failed miserably.

Debuts: Friday, Oct. 19

MOONLIGHT (Fridays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) is the latest in a surprisingly long list of TV shows about vampires who are also detectives. (A list that includes "Forever Knight," "Angel" and "Blood Ties.")

It's also a show that's already been through three sets of show-running producers, including, for a few weeks — until he quit — one of the creators/executive producers of "Angel." And a show that, two weeks before it's supposed to premiere, still hasn't been shown to critics.

We do know that Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) is "a captivating, charming and immortal private investigator from Los Angeles who defies the traditional blood-sucking norms of his vampire tendencies by using his wit and powerful supernatural abilities to help the living."

The cast includes Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), the wife who turned Mick into a vampire 60 years ago; Mick's vampire friend Josef (Jason Dohring), a mischievous hedge-fund trader; and Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), a beautiful, ambitious Internet investigative reporter.

What's to like/what's not to like/will it work? Impossible to say. But the fact that CBS picked this show up without a pilot, all the behind-the-scenes changes to the writing and producing staff and the replacement of all the cast except for O'Loughlin makes this a very, very iffy proposition.

Debuts: Friday, Sept. 28

WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB (Fridays, 8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) is a very traditional TV crime/mystery drama — not that there's anything wrong with that.

Based on James Patterson's series of novels, the "Club" is four female friends who solve murders. At the center of the action is San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon of "Law & Order"). She gets help from medical examiner Clair Washburn (Paula Newsome of "Little Miss Sunshine"); assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris of "24"); and newspaper reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar of "Guiding Light").

It's sort of an updated "Murder, She Wrote" with four women — any two of whose ages add up to Angela Lansbury's age, more or less.

The crimes are pretty grisly — sort of "CSI" territory — but the mysteries are pretty good.

What's to like? Again, not every show has to break new ground. There's absolutely nothing wrong with refitting the old murder-mystery genre when it's as well done as it is here. You may find yourself sitting down in front of an episode, getting sucked in and watching from start to finish.

What's not to like? Having a newspaper reporter be a member of this club is sort of stupid. Reporters don't solve crimes, and the ethics of the character's involvement in all of this are questionable at best. But that's the sort of thing real lawyers say about TV lawyers and real doctors say about TV doctors — and this is entertainment, not documentary.

Will it work? These days, expectations are pretty low on Friday nights. And, given the relatively weak competition, this could do well enough that ABC will hang onto it.

Debuts: Friday, Oct. 12

NASHVILLE (Fridays, 8 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is "a high-stakes, high-drama docu-soap" from the producers of "Laguna Beach."

It's sort of a cross between "The Real World" and "American Idol" — a bunch of pretty young people trying to make it big in the world of country music. And, given that "Laguna Beach" played fast and loose with the truth — a lot of it wasn't real, it was scripted — it makes this phony-seeming show seem all the phonier.

What's to like? Not much. Some of the youngsters seem nice enough, but — as is the case with this kind of program — those who make an impression are whiny, self-absorbed, spoiled brats.

What's not to like? Even if you like this genre, "Nashville" is a bore. There's nothing worse to say about it.

Will it work? Well, it's only supposed to be on for a few weeks, so maybe it will last that long.

Debuts: Friday, Sept. 14