Scattershot season

Published May 16, 2007

Let's be clear: I want to be open-minded.

I want to believe that a sitcom based on the Blackberry-using, mango salsa-eating cavemen from Geico's TV ads will produce quality laughs. I'm desperately hoping that five new dramas based on the personal problems of rich people will prove compelling.

And a spinoff of Grey's Anatomy fortified by Oprah's first prime time special? Money in the bank.

Still, ABC on Tuesday announced a whopping 12 new series for next season: seven dramas, four comedies and one reality show. The amount alone smells like desperation; when you see the actual shows, it seems more like hysteria.

There's Cavemen, the story of three modern cavemen that traps Faith Ford Murphy Brown and Jerry O'Connell (Crossing Jordan) in a TV ad come to life.

There's Lucy Liu's Cashmere Mafia, a midseason drama about four friends and career women that feels an awful lot like NBC's just-announced Sex and the City knockoff, Lipstick Jungle.

Six Feet Under's Peter Krause is a lawyer forced to work for his crazy, rich family in Dirty Sexy Money; The Practice's Dylan McDermott is one of four successful guy pals dealing with challenging women in Big Shot. Eli Stone features another successful yuppie lawyer looking for life's meaning, and Pushing Daisies features tales from the minds behind Men in Black and Heroes about a guy who can raise the dead with a touch.

Private Practice, the spinoff that Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rimes disavowed on her blog, faces bad buzz from rumors some ABC brass didn't like the two-hour Grey's episode that introduced it weeks ago.

The surest shot is Oprah's Big Give, a midseason reality-style competition from the talk goddess' Harpo Productions that gives away millions.

Taken together, it feels like a huge step back from the complex, layered, diverse dramas that filled the schedule last fall. Sure, viewers don't want to drown in a deluge of incremental, serialized programs, but does that mean we deserve knockoffs of Sex and the City, The Royal Tenenbaums and a car insurance ad?

All the new stuff means some old stuff had to go: The Knights of Prosperity, Big Day, What About Brian, George Lopez and In Case of Emergency. Lopez has already complained to the Los Angeles Times, saying "TV just became really, really white again." Inexplicably, ABC executives say they're still talking with the guys at According to Jim about continuing.

I guess when your new comedy lineup comes down to carpoolers, cavemen and Christina Applegate (playing an amnesiac in Sam I Am), keeping Jim Belushi in your back pocket might seem a wise move.

Eric Deggans can be reached at (727) 893-8521 or deggans@sptimes.com See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.

TV preview

ABC 2007-08

Here is the fall schedule the network released Tuesday. New shows are in capital letters:

Monday: 8 p.m., Dancing With the Stars; 9:30, SAM I AM; 10, The Bachelor.

Tuesday: 8 p.m., CAVEMEN; 8:30, CARPOOLERS; 9, Dancing With the Stars Results; 10, Boston Legal.


Thursday: 8 p.m., Ugly Betty; 9, Grey's Anatomy; 10, BIG SHOTS.

Friday: 8 p.m., Men in Trees; 9, WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB; 10, 20/20.

Saturday: 8 p.m., Saturday Night College Football.

Sunday: 7 p.m., America's Funniest Home Videos; 8, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; 9, Desperate Housewives; 10, Brothers and Sisters.