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Tuned In: It's time to revisit the season's new shows

Thursday, November 29, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Few critics' jobs offer the luxury of the TV beat -- the opportunity to give a TV show another look. After all, television series evolve on a weekly basis, sometimes improving, other times falling apart, so it's worth taking a second look at some of the new shows that premiered this fall.

Staying the course

"Scrubs" (9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC) has been a favorite from the start of the season, and I'm pleased to report the show remains one of TV's top-notch comedies. I worry about whether the concept -- a medical intern and his co-workers -- will quickly wear thin, but so far the series is sustaining itself through good writing and excellent performances by all the actors, with a special nod to John McGinley as callous Dr. Cox.

"Smallville" (9 p.m. Tuesdays, The WB) flies high with super character interaction and a nice performance by John Schneider as Pa Kent, but the series needs better plots than the "monster of the week" stories seen so far.

Improved

"Philly" (10 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC) isn't getting much repeat business from viewers, and judging by the show's pilot, who can blame them? But the legal drama has improved. Last week's episode showed the judges have become characters rather than the caricatures they were in the pilot. Kim Delaney still cries too much, and Tom Everett Scott is looking more and more like Kirk Cameron as the weeks go by.

Underwhelmed

"Alias" (9 p.m. Sundays, ABC) was ABC's best hope for a hit drama this season, but the show swings too much between spy drama and angst-ridden college melodrama. And those episode-ending cliffhangers are just annoying.

Still hate it

"Crossing Jordan" (10 p.m. Mondays, NBC) is just awful. It's so formulaic, each new episode feels like a rerun. And when Jordan (Jill Hennessy) plays victim and killer with her father (Ken Howard), the show becomes both laughable and disturbing all at once.

Biggest, best surprise

"Enterprise" (8 p.m. Wednesdays) looked like it would be another "Star Trek" from the same people who ruined "Voyager," but so far it's holding up as an excellent series. A few too-similar plot points keep cropping up (shuttlecraft crashing through the surface when the earth gives way; hidden underground lairs), but the characters are (mostly) growing and developing. Kudos to the decision to add a surprise twist three-quarters of the way through each episode.

Never clicked

"Wolf Lake" (canceled) had an interesting original concept, but CBS mucked up the show by retooling it into something far more confusing and uninvolving.

Deserve to do better

"The Amazing Race" (9 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS) is the best cast, most enjoyable reality show on TV these days. Too bad few are seeing it regularly, myself included. "The Amazing Race" airs opposite one of the tube's best dramas: "The West Wing." The network is hoping to give the show a boost by airing its finale Dec. 13 at 9 p.m. following an original episode of "Survivor: Africa" rather than in its usual timeslot the night before.

"Maybe Its Me" (8:30 p.m. Fridays, The WB) is The WB's best comedy since last season's low-rated "Grosse Pointe." It's a more conventional concept -- the travails of a teen-age girl and her wacky family -- but better written than any other sitcom on the Frog network.

Three low-rated Fox series deserve more attention from viewers: The twisted soap opera "Pasadena" (returning in January), the outlandish superhero parody "The Tick" (8:30 p.m. Thursdays) and the nail-biting thriller "24" (9 p.m. Tuesdays). Fox took the most creative risks this fall, but they're not yet paying off in high ratings.

Best new theme songs

It's a toss up. I'm a big fan of the "Smallville" theme, "Save Me" performed by Remy Zero.

And though I know many Trekkers will disagree, I really like the "Enterprise" theme song, "Faith of the Heart" performed by Russell Watson. Yes, it sounds like a cheesy '80s pop ballad, but the lyrics fit the images so perfectly in the well-designed opening credits sequence, I'm willing to sit through it every week, something I rarely do.

Worst new theme song

"Ed" (8 p.m. Wednesdays, NBC) isn't a new show, but its theme song is. The winning and thematically appropriate Foo Fighters' "Next Year" was replaced by the funeral dirge-like "Moment in the Sun" by Clem Snide. It's downbeat sound is so completely the opposite of upbeat "Ed," I fear it could harm the show's reputation and watchability.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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