A look at Wednesday night TV.
By ERIC DEGGANS
Published September 10, 2006
* 30 Rock
8 p.m., NBC, debuts Oct. 11.
Showbiz shorthand: Imagine a half-hour long Saturday Night Live-style sketch about a Saturday Night Live-style variety show.
My take: Hard to believe NBC bought two series satirizing the behind-the-scenes goings on at a TV variety show. But the good news is that former SNL head writer Tina Fey's sitcom is almost as good as Aaron Sorkin's sharp Studio 60. Alec Baldwin shines as an executive who thinks building the perfect convection oven has prepared him to build the perfect TV show, and Fey is an alluring everygirl trying to keep the network from fixing something that's hardly broken. The bad news: they chose sexy over funny, forcing out former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch in favor of blond bombshell Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal) as the variety show's star.
Will it survive? Any show that can make Tracy Morgan look funny - here, he's a pale parody of Martin Lawrence, right down to having a mental breakdown yelling at drivers on the freeway - has a shot.
* The Nine
10 p.m., ABC, debuts Oct. 4.
Showbiz shorthand: Inside Man from the hostages' point of view.
My take: ABC flips the script on the traditional hostage drama by showing viewers the circumstances leading up to the crime - nine people taken hostage by two bank robbers - and the aftermath following a chaotic rescue. Reliable TV guy Tim Daly is appealing as a damaged FBI agent stuck inside during the standoff, 24's Kim Raver plays the love interest yet again, and ex-Party of Five star Scott Wolf shows up hoping for the kind of career bounce former cast mate Matthew Fox got from Lost.
Will it survive? It's a quandary: take too long to show what happened during the stand off and viewers will get impatient; but after audiences see what happened, will they still care?
10 p.m., NBC, debuts Sept. 20.
Showbiz shorthand: Ransom meets 24.
My take: Yes, this series is so derivative of Ron Howard's abducted-rich-kid movie Ransom, they even hired the guy who played the movie's FBI agent to play the TV show's FBI agent (Get Shorty's Delroy Lindo). Amazingly, the pilot episode remains compelling, with Tim Hutton and Dana Delany as mysterious, wealthy parents who see their kid taken by nameless abductors for unknown reasons.
Will it survive? It's got a sterling cast, including Mykelti Williamson, Jeremy Sisto and Ricky Jay. But it's also up against one of the best new shows on the schedule, ABC's The Nine. Survival remains an even-money bet.
* Twenty Good Years
8:30 p.m., NBC, debuts Oct. 11.
Showbiz shorthand: Grumpy Old Men having a mid-life crisis.
My take: There's a special circle of H-E-double-hockey-sticks reserved for the suit who stuck talents like John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor in such a humorless mess. The premise, thin as it is, involves Lithgow's egotistical surgeon and Tambor's overly cautious judge becoming roommates and living life to the hilt.
Will it survive? When footage of 60-somethings Lithgow and Tambor in Speedo swimsuits is the pilot's biggest gag - and we do mean gag! - you can only go downhill from there.
8 p.m., CBS, debuts Sept. 20.
Showbiz shorthand: The Day After meets Lord of the Flies.
My take: Skeet Ulrich is a mysterious screw-up making a quick visit to his tiny hometown when a mysterious explosion in nearby Denver leaves residents wondering if theirs is the last city left in a post-nuclear attack America. Panic and dissent ensues, quelled by the town mayor, Major Dad alum Gerald McRaney, who also happens to be Ulrich's tough-as-nails father.
Will it survive? Despite Ulrich's and McRaney's awful recent TV track records - yes, that was McRaney in Commando Nanny - there's enough mystery here to stretch over a season.
9 p.m., Fox, debuted Aug. 30.
Showbiz shorthand: Boston Legal without the funny.
My take: Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley always knew you needed to make high-powered defense attorneys look a little silly to get audiences to love them. Here, viewers are given a team of slick, very accomplished defense attorneys who are so aware of how good they are, you're almost rooting for them to lose.
Will it survive? Against Lost and Big Loser, it's doubtful.
[Last modified September 7, 2006, 13:10:01]
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