Trading places: UPN is getting better but the WB is slipping

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 6 2015 2:17 p.m. MDT

Matthew Long, Christine Lahti and Logan Lehrman are the stars of the WB's best new show this fall, the ambitious drama series Matthew Long, Christine Lahti and Logan Lehrman are the stars of the WB's best new show this fall, the ambitious drama series "Jack \\& Bobby." ()
Are you sitting down?
Two of the best new shows on TV this fall are on UPN, which hasn't put two really good shows on the air in its 10-year-history.
You could knock me over with a feather.
But "Kevin Hill" and "Veronica Mars," along with a pair of ABC shows and the WB's "Jack & Bobby," are this fall's most promising pilots. Even UPN's third show, "Second Time Around," isn't bad.
On the other hand, the WB — which has, unlike UPN, built a reputation for quality programming — doesn't have much to hang its hat on this fall aside from "Jack & Bobby." The WB's new shows include a pair of stinkers and one that is still an unknown quantity at this point.
Improvisational comedy and special effects are combined in the WB's Improvisational comedy and special effects are combined in the WB's "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show." (The Production Group)
Here are the two networks' new shows:

Jack & Bobby (Sundays, 8 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) is a teen drama with a fantastic twist. It's the story of two brothers — last name McCallister, not Kennedy. One will grow up to be president; the other will not be alive to see his brother take the oath of office.
Jack (Matthew Long) is an all-American teenager who's idolized by younger brother Bobby (Logan Lerman), who's a bit of a geek. The two are the center of the world for their mother, Grace (Christine Lahti), a domineering, driven, yet vulnerable college professor who's more than a bit difficult.
This is, in many ways, yet another good teen drama from the producers of "Everwood." But the hook is that future-president thing, and the chance to see how a visionary president's character was formed. The episodes are intercut with scenes more than four decades in the future as some of the characters talk about the recently completed McCallister administration.

Taye Diggs is Taye Diggs is "Kevin Hill," a sudden single father. ()
The big question is whether succeeding episodes can be uphold the quality of the premiere.
"Jack & Bobby" premieres Sunday at 8 p.m.

Second Time Around (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., UPN/Ch. 24) features real-life couple Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Parker as a fictional pair of newlyweds. Well, sort of newly — they've just remarried several years after their divorce, which followed a brief first marriage. Various friends and family members complicate an already somewhat complicated situation, with hopes that laughs will ensue.
It's not bad. And Kodjoe and Parker make an appealing couple. But what laughs there are in the pilot episode — and there aren't many — are forced.
"Second Time Around" premieres Monday, Sept. 20.

Kristen Bell stars in UPN's promising Kristen Bell stars in UPN's promising "Veronica Mars." ()
Veronica Mars (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., UPN/Ch. 24) is sort of Nancy Drew for the 21st century — smart, attractive, intuitive and tough 17-year-old who has a particular talent for solving mysteries. By day, Veronica (Kristen Bell) is a high school student. By night, she's the brains behind her father's (Enrico Colantoni) detective agency. The cast includes a bunch of other teens — an ultra-rich in-crowd and a lower-middle class out-crowd — who inhabit a seaside town where there are secrets aplenty. Including the mystery of who killed Veronica's best friend, an ultra-rich girl whose murder remains unsolved.
This is one of the big surprises of the new season. The premise doesn't sound all that promising, but the pilot episode is excellent. Bell is excellent as Veronica, a girl you're going to want to get to know better. And then there are the mysteries to keep you involved.
"Veronica Mars" previews on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. before moving to its regular time slot on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

The Mountain (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., WB/Ch. 30) is an attempt to make a slightly older "O.C.," moving from the ocean shore to a ski resort. It doesn't work.
It's a big soap opera from the get-go. The death of the Carver family patriarch brings free-spirited David (Oliver Hudson) home for the funeral, where he learns he's been left in charge of the family resort. That doesn't sit well with his brother, Will (Anson Mount), who's been working while David was out playing. And leaves their mother (Barbara Hershey) to referee. Oh, and there's the Evil Family that wants to take over the Carver Empire.
While this is nominally from the same producers as "The O.C.," the guy who actually runs that show has nothing to do with this one. And this crowd apparently completely missed what makes "The O.C." work — humor and not taking yourself too seriously.
And why the folks at the WB think Oliver Hudson — whom they starred in the short-lived "Rock Star" and then dumped in "Dawson's Creek" — is star material is unfathomable.
"The Mountain" premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Kevin Hill (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., UPN/Ch. 24) is sort of a remake of the movie "Baby Boom," with Taye Diggs stepping into the role played by Diane Keaton. Diggs plays the title character, a supremely self-assured 28-year-old entertainment lawyer who, when he's not tearing things up on the job, is the ultimate player with the ladies. His life takes a sudden turn when he learns his cousin has died and left a 6-month-old daughter to raise. He ends up in a different firm, staffed entirely by women (including one with whom he had a one-night stand), a gay nanny and a whole new outlook on life.
Diggs is very good as Kevin in this show, which shows a lot of promise. The premise is more than a bit familiar, but it's pulled off so well that it doesn't even matter.
"Kevin Hill" premieres Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Drew Carey's Green Screen Show (Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 30, WB/Ch. 30) is basically "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with special effects. Carey and a group of improvisational comics — Brad Sherwood, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Jeff Davis, Chip Esten, Jonathan Mangum, Julie Larson, Sean Masterson and Kathy Kinney — perform various spur-of-the-moment comedy sketches suggested by audience members in front of a "green screen." After they're done taping, computer wizards add various backgrounds, animation, etc. that fit in with — and, they hope, accentuate — the comedy.
Other than a few clips, this hasn't been made available to critics. But it would appear that if you liked "Whose Line," you'll like this.
Premieres Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Commando Nanny (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 30) is sort of loosely based on the life of "Survivor" and "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett — a young ex-commando with the British Special Forces (Owain Yeoman) takes a job as a Beverly Hills nanny for a tough-minded tycoon (Gerald McRaney), his three kids and his much-younger second wife.
It's just as awful as it sounds. Conjecture is that Burnett must have promised the WB his next reality show in order to get this sickly sitcom on the air.
"Commando Nanny" has had more than its share of off-screen problems, too. Original lead Philip Winchester broke his foot and was replaced by Yeoman (who had a small role in "Troy"). And McRaney recently underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his lung. He's expected to recover within a month, but his absence has shut down production.
Because of McRaney's illness, the premiere of "Commando Nanny" has been delayed until sometime later this fall.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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