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Burning questions for the new TV season

By Chuck Barney, Contra Costa Times –

Every new television season brings with it a new set of issues and concerns. Here are some of our burning questions:

—Can Britney Spears handle “The X Factor”?

Simon Cowell’s glitzy talent competition struggled to find its voice in Season 1. Cue the reboot, with Spears coming aboard as a judge (Demi Lovato will join her).

Spears, reportedly making $15 million, brings star power, but we’re skeptical that the highly controlled pop diva can be an engaging TV personality. When “The X Factor” came through Oakland, Calif., for summer auditions, she projected little charisma and wasn’t exactly a fount of insightful or witty commentary.

Still, there’s hope. We can hardly wait for a Britney meltdown when some contestant butchers one of her songs.

—Is America ready to laugh?

The broadcast networks certainly are counting on it. After nearly leaving the sitcom for dead just a few years ago, they’ve slathered 32 across their schedules, including nine new ones, with more arriving at midseason.

The bad news: Most of them are lousy. Among the worst are “Guys With Kids,” a limp three-men-and-their-babies story from NBC, and “The Neighbors,” a goofy tale of space aliens living in suburban New Jersey. With offerings such as these, it might not be long before the sitcom once again becomes an endangered species.

—Will all-stars boost “Dancing With the Stars”?

It’s no coincidence that “DWTS” has picked this season to hold a class reunion. The show, though still formidable, suffered a significant ratings dip this past spring.

Now, executive producer Conrad Green is counting on returning favorites such as Kirstie Alley, Emmitt Smith and Apolo Anton Ohno to get people talking and bring the sheen back to the ballroom.

“This is our version of ‘The Avengers,’” he says. “These are the superheroes of their particular seasons.”

—Should we order in on Friday nights?

For years now, Friday has been a prime-time wasteland, reserved mainly for low-rated reality shows, rejects and reruns.

But this season, Friday won’t be a complete downer. Every network is airing fresh scripted programming, and some of it actually will be worthwhile, including the new CBS drama “Made in Jersey.” In addition, NBC’s critically acclaimed sitcom “Community,” Fox’s intriguing Kiefer Sutherland drama “Touch,” and ABC’s “Last Man Standing” with Tim Allen, are making the move to Fridays.

—What’s with the crazy time-slot moves?

For years, “Two and Half Men” was a popular mainstay in the CBS Monday-night lineup, but — surprise — you’ll find it on Thursdays this fall.

Other shifts that might catch you off guard: “Revenge” now airs Sundays, where ABC hopes it will fill the hole left by “Desperate Housewives”; The CW’s “Supernatural” moves to Wednesdays and Fox’s “Glee” will air Thursdays.

Confusing? Yes, but that’s why God invented the DVR.

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