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Tuned In: Prognosis for 'Scrubs': Another great season

Thursday, October 02, 2003

By Rob Owen

The best is back. The best comedy on TV, that is. NBC's "Scrubs" returns for its third season tonight at 8:30 and instantly proves why it deserves to be the true successor to "Friends," not the heartless sexcom "Coupling."

For whatever reason, not enough viewers keep watching NBC after "Friends," and "Scrubs" doesn't retain as much of its lead-in audience as NBC execs would like. It's a shame that almost a decade of throwaway sitcoms airing after "Friends" inured the audience to using the 8:30 half-hour to walk the dog, do the dishes or prepare a tax return.

But "Scrubs" is superior television, a rich mix of comedy and character moments both silly and heartfelt. Tonight's episode, written and directed by series creator Bill Lawrence, finds J.D. (Zack Braff) commenting on how not a lot has changed now that he, Turk (Donald Faison) and Elliott (Sarah Chalke) are third-year residents.

But things do change a little. Acerbic Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) is now a father, but continues to torture evil Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) and poke fun at no-longer-newbie J.D., who continues to seek his counsel.

"You're a third year now," Cox rages, "this whole Dr. Cox riding to the rescue part of the show is over."

In addition to the core cast, "Scrubs" benefits from an all-important bench of supporting players, limp-willed lawyer Ted (Sam Lloyd) and sharp-tongued Nurse Roberts (Aloma Wright). And no show on NBC has better music.

So do yourself a favor. Scrub in.

New season ratings

Although one week does not a hit or flop make, here's what we know so far: CBS's "Joan of Arcadia" and "Cold Case" garnered a crowd. ABC's "Hope & Faith" did well in its first outing. NBC's "Coupling" did not, failing to deliver as big an audience as the premiere episode of "Good Morning, Miami" a year ago.

The WB's "One Tree Hill," which seemed like a surer bet than original time slot occupant "Fearless," dropped the ratings ball. "Two and a Half Men" got off to a strong start, and NBC's "The Lyon's Den" had mixed results -- ratings dropped through the hour, while competing reconstituted legal drama "The Practice" on ABC gained viewers.

ABC's "Threat Matrix" and Fox's "Luis" were dead on arrival and NBC's "Whoopi" and "Happy Family" continue to fade.

Late night on WQED

Taking a page from cable television's habit of repeating programs throughout the week, yesterday WQED/WQEX began airing its primetime lineup in late night a day later.

Sunday shows air a little more than 24 hours later, at 1 a.m. Tuesday, Monday shows air early Wednesday, etc. After midnight Saturday, WQED will air fund-raising programs. The broadcast day Sunday will still end at 1 a.m. Monday.

WQED Multimedia President George Miles said new technology -- a digital master control -- and a new contract with engineers that allows the station to go without an engineer overnight made broadcasting into the wee hours economically viable.

WQED Program Director Chris Fennimore said the majority of phone calls the station gets are from viewers who want to know when a program they missed will air again.

"Now we can direct them to a point in the future," he said.

"Stargazer," a weekly five-minute astronomy program that had aired nightly, will now be broadcast between 11:20 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday and at sign-off early Monday.

In addition, WQED has started rerunning "Charlie Rose" from the night before weekdays at 1 p.m., following a rebroadcast of "On Q." It replaces painting and sewing programs to give the station "a nice topical footprint in the middle of the day," said station manager B.J. Leber. If successful, Leber said "Rose" might eventually move from late night to the afternoon time slot.

Kid newscasters

This weekend, KDKA-TV will premiere the new syndicated show "Eyewitness Kids" (7 a.m. Sunday), a news program anchored by children from Weekly Reader and Al Primo, creator of the old "Eyewitness News" concept.

WTAE's Sunday pre-emptions

Because it will pick up Sunday's Steelers game from ESPN, Channel 4 will pre-empt ABC's prime-time lineup. The second episode of new cop drama "10-8" will air at 6:30 p.m., followed by "Steelers Primetime" at 7:30 p.m.

The times for ABC's other shows, airing in late night, are approximate, based on when the game ends. Give yourself a lot of latitude if you plan to record them.

"Alias" is scheduled for 12:05 a.m. after the late news. "The Practice" will air at 1:05 a.m., with "Ebert & Roeper" at 2:05 a.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos" will not be shown.

PCNC programs

"FBTV," a new weekly series featuring comedians and entertainers and sponsored by the Funny Bone Comedy Club, premieres tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. on PCNC.

The weekly lifestyle show "Your Life with Dr. Anna Marie" returns for a new season Saturday at 4 p.m.

"Talkback," which aired weeknights at 6:30 p.m. and allowed viewers to call in and discuss news of the day, has morphed into "Decision 2003 Special Report," a live show featuring local political candidates. It will air in this form through the November general election. After that, it may or may not return as "Talkback."

Fox schedule shake-up

With a successful summer run under its belt, Fox's "The O.C." earned itself a better time slot when it returns this month. Originally scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday, the teen soap will now air at 9 p.m. Wednesday beginning Oct. 29.

To make way for "The O.C.," Fox will displace "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" (the show had already been canceled; Fox planned to burn off six leftovers from last season) and move "The Bernie Mac Show" to 8:30 p.m. Sunday beginning Nov. 9.

That in turn bumps new comedy-talk show hybrid "The Ortegas," which may or may not air at a later date. (I've seen "The Ortegas." Consider yourself lucky if you don't ever see it and it becomes this year's announced-but-never-seen Fox series.)

Repeats of new drama "Skin" will air at 9 p.m. Thursday beginning Oct. 30.

'SNL' returns

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" returns at 11:35 p.m. Saturday with guest host Jack Black and musical guest John Mayer.

Justin Timberlake is both host and musical guest on Oct. 11 and Halle Berry hosts Oct. 18 with Britney Spears as musical guest.

A new set, modeled after New York's Grand Central Station, will be unveiled Saturday and two new performers join the cast: Kenan Thompson (Nickelodeon's "All That") and Finesse Mitchell (BET's "Comic View").

Reality show renewals

CBS has given a green light to new editions of "The Amazing Race" and "Big Brother." Both are expected to air next year, with "Big Brother" already slated for another summer run. Applications to appear on either show are being accepted at www.cbs.com.

Daily Variety reports that NBC has placed an order for another installment of "The Restaurant."


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette-.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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