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Fall TV 2012: Your guide to the new shows

By Chuck Barney, Contra Costa Times –

From country crooners and crime-fighting superheroes, to monkeys and mob doctors, television seems to have something for everyone this fall.

But before revving up your DVR and charging all gung-ho into the season, here are some bite-sized takes on the major new shows to help you get with the program:


“Call the Midwife” (8 p.m., PBS, Sept. 30): Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this drama follows the adventures of young midwives working with Anglican nuns in London’s East End during the 1950s. Bottom line: An intriguing subject and an appealing cast make for a crowd-pleasing production. PBS could have another “Downton Abbey”-sized hit on its hands.

“666 Park Avenue” (10 p.m., ABC, Sept. 30): Spooky shenanigans are going down at a historic Manhattan high-rise owned by a couple played by Terry O’ Quinn and Vanessa Williams. The earnest newlyweds (Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor) they just hired to manage the place don’t know what they’re in for. Bottom line: With a potent mix of suds and scares, the show does a good job of setting up several juicy mysteries. O’Quinn (aka Locke from “Lost”) brings the right level of creepiness to his devilish role. We’ll watch with the lights turned on.


“Partners” (8:30 p.m., CBS, Sept. 24): This twist on “Will and Grace” has two longtime best friends — one straight (David Krumholtz), one gay (Michael Urie) — adjusting to life after one of them gets engaged. It’s based on the real-life partnership of writers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick. Bottom line: Urie gets some laughs, but the potential of this premise isn’t maximized, thanks to a conventional sitcom approach and a flurry of groan-inducing stereotypes.

“The Mob Doctor” (9 p.m., Fox, Sept. 17): The title says it all — a young doctor (Jordana Spiro) finds herself at the mercy of the mob. Bottom line: The doctor is out. There’s no cure for this painfully ridiculous medical drama.

“Revolution” (10 p.m., NBC, Sept. 17): Boom, boom out go the lights. A future world unravels into lawless chaos after all forms of energy have mysteriously ceased to exist, and Giancarlo Esposito becomes another mean bad guy. Bottom line: The concept is intriguing, but the pilot didn’t light our fire. Moreover, we dread becoming tied to another dense, post-apocalyptic serial, only to have it canceled.


“Ben and Kate” (8:30 p.m., Fox, Sept. 25): Life becomes complicated when an aimless drifter (Nat Faxon) moves in with his uptight sister (Dakota Johnson) to help raise her adorable 5-year-old daughter (Maggie Jones). Bottom line: This comedy tries really hard to be cute and quirky, but too often it misses the mark. Faxon, all goofy and manic, is more annoying than amusing.

“Emily Owens, M.D.” (9 p.m., The CW, Oct. 16): A young med-school grad and former geeky girl (Mamie Gummer) discovers that life in a hospital is very much like high school — complete with a mean-girl rival, an unrequited crush and really bad flop sweat. Bottom line: Ugh. This is “Grey’s Anatomy” lite. We wanted to like this because we really like Gummer, but our DVR can only handle so much drivel.

“Go On” (9 p.m., NBC, Sept. 11): After the death of his wife, a caustic sports radio host (Matthew Perry) reluctantly joins a support group full of oddballs and is surprised to find solace, and maybe even a soul mate (Laura Benanti). Bottom line: The pilot might have been more heartbreaking than hilarious, but we appreciate the emphasis on character over lame one-liners, and we instantly found ourselves rooting for Perry. We’ll stick around to see where this one goes.

“The Mindy Project” (9:30 p.m., Fox, Sept. 25): An OB-GYN (Mindy Kaling) obsessed with chick flicks struggles to find her own Prince Charming. Bottom line: The pilot had a hit-or-miss feel to it, but Kaling has enough charm and wit to become our newest TV crush.

“The New Normal” (9:30 p.m., NBC, Sept. 11): This comedy from Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) is about a gay couple (Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha) that finds a surrogate (Georgia King) to help them start a family, much to the chagrin of her bigoted mother (Ellen Barkin). Bottom line: In typical Murphy style, the pilot is a crazy hot mess that veers all over the place. Like “Glee,” it can be irritating. But also like “Glee,” it’s bursting with heart and is way more fun than a generic, voiceless show. We’re in — for now.

“Vegas” (10 p.m., CBS, Sept. 25): A cattle rancher-turned-sheriff (Dennis Quaid) butts heads with a shrewd gangster (Michael Chiklis) in 1960s Sin City. Bottom line: We’ll roll the dice on this one. It’s a pleasure to watch two marvelous actors go at it. We also love the period details and how the show captures a scraggly desert town making the awkward transition to glitzy adult playground. Viva “Vegas.”

“Underemployed” (10 p.m., MTV, Oct. 16): Five pals in Chicago emerge from college ready to dazzle the world with their brilliance, only to find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Bottom line: Despite a great (and timely) premise, the results are disappointing, as the writing and the acting both fall flat.

“Brickleberry” (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central, Sept. 25): This crass animated series is about a group of dim-witted rangers working at a second-tier national park. Bottom line: It’s best to avoid this, unless you’re amused by fornicating animals and jokes about amputees.


“Arrow” (8 p.m., The CW, Oct. 10): Hunky Stephen Amell plays the hooded, bow-toting vigilante in this modern take on the DC Comics’ “Green Arrow” saga. Bottom line: The turbocharged pilot, with enough twists and turns to make your head spin, is among the fall’s best. Now, let’s see if “Arrow” can stay on target.

“Animal Practice” (8 p.m., NBC, Sept. 26): This workplace comedy is about a cranky, “House”-like veterinarian (Justin Kirk) who loves animals but pretty much can’t stand people. Bottom line: The main cast includes a monkey. ‘Nuff said.

“Guys With Kids” (8:30 p.m., NBC, Sept. 26): Three young friends (Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger) discover that being a baby daddy has its challenges — especially when you’ve yet to grow up yourself. Bottom line: This brutally awful sitcom carries the stench of a fully loaded diaper. Quickly cancel this play date.

“The Neighbors” (9:30 p.m., ABC, Sept. 26): Meet the new neighbors, who just happen to be aliens. An average American couple (Jami Gertz, Lenny Venito) moves into a suburban enclave populated with extraterrestrials who speak in British accents and name their children after sports stars. Bottom line: “Modern Family” has nothing to worry about.

“Chicago Fire” (10 p.m., NBC, Oct. 10): This ensemble action drama from prolific producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order”) is about the stressed-out men and women of the Chicago Fire Department. Bottom line: Rescue me. Please. Everything about this lifeless, cliche-ridden pilot felt like it was following a paint-by-numbers template.

“Nashville” (10 p.m., ABC, Oct. 10): A fading country music superstar (Connie Britton) and hot young upstart (Hayden Panettiere) collide. City politics, family issues and romantic entanglements serve as subplots. Bottom line: The soapy intrigue sucks us in, though Panettiere could take the cattiness down a notch or two.


“Last Resort” (8 p.m., ABC, Sept. 27): This series offers shades of “Crimson Tide.” Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life On the Street”) plays a commander of a nuclear submarine crew that goes rogue after the vessel is used as a pawn to provoke war with Pakistan. Bottom line: The pilot from Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) is easily the most suspenseful and exciting of the fall. We’re hoping this one makes a splash.

“Beauty and the Beast” (9 p.m., The CW, Oct. 11): Based more on the 1980s CBS series than the Disney flick, it’s a modern-day romance wedged into a crime procedural. Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”) and Jay Ryan play the title characters. Bottom line: Unfortunately, this is more beastly than beautiful. We were at least hoping for a singing teapot.

“Elementary” (10 p.m., CBS, Sept. 27): This Americanized version of the Sherlock Holmes saga transplants the iconic sleuth (Jonny Lee Miller) to New York and teams him with a female Dr. Watson (Lucy Liu). Bottom line: If you’ve seen the Brits’ much more clever and humorous “Sherlock,” you’ll quickly conclude that this show needs to get a clue.

— Friday

“Made in Jersey” (9 p.m., CBS, Sept. 28): Don’t judge a girl by her poof. Martina Garretti (British actress Janet Montgomery), a young New Jersey lawyer, uses her street smarts to compete with her more polished colleagues at an elite New York law firm. Bottom line: Montgomery is captivating, and it’s nice to see depictions of Garden State residents that aren’t all Snooki-fied. This lightweight drama won’t rack up the Emmys, but it could find a cozy niche in CBS’ Friday lineup.

“Malibu Country” (8:30 p.m., ABC, Oct. 26): A fed-up wife (Reba McEntire) leaves her cheating husband in Nashville, Tenn., and heads to Southern California with her two kids and mother (Lily Tomlin) to chase her music dreams. Bottom line: This generic fish-out-of-water sitcom might please fans of Reba. Others, however, will be turned off by the corny writing, the lazy gay and drug jokes, and the grating laugh track.

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