Each fall, new TV shows vie with “Lost,” “Grey’s” and Saturday pre-games for status as most-anticipated Common Room Events. While some of you intrepid techno-whizzes may have already downloaded this season’s top prospects, most of you will probably just wait until winter to check out the shows with the most buzz. To save you the time (and missed episodes), here’s the lowdown on some of the most anticipated new shows this fall that have been leaked online.
Pushing Daisies (premieres on ABC on Oct. 3 at 8 p.m.)
“Pushing Daisies” is the most anticipated new show this fall, as it has received nearly universal acclaim from critics across the country. Created by “Heroes” ’ Bryan Fuller and brought to life by a cast of veteran Broadway actors, “Daisies” chronicles the magical life of Ned, the pie-shop owner played to perfection by Lee Pace. Ned, like most protagonists nowadays, has a secret power: He can bring dead things (fruit, dogs … and people) back to life with a single touch, and then kill them forever with another poke. If he allows the victim to live for over a minute, another person nearby dies in his or her place. The show begins as Ned’s power is discovered by a private investigator who strikes him a deal: Ned brings the dead back to life, finds out who killed them, and they split the reward.
But “Daisies” is, at heart, a love story: Ned revives his childhood crush, Chuck (played by the adorable Anna Friel) and can’t bring himself to put her down again. The pair rekindle the romance with one caveat: they can never touch each other or Chuck will die.
The question about “Daisies” isn’t its quality — it is clearly the pilot no one should miss — but rather its sustainability. With its breathtaking watercolor visuals, fanciful narration (by “Harry Potter” audiobook narrator and cult favorite Jim Dale) and a quick, clever script, “Pushing Daisies” is one of the most original and beautiful shows to hit network TV perhaps ever.
But Ned and Chuck can never even touch noses — let alone hook up — without corrupting the show’s central tenet, so where can the characters go from here? The first episode ends as Ned and Chuck try to bridge their physical gap, and promotional stills from future episodes show them kissing through cellophane. There are only so many ways that two people can pretend to touch each other, but the pilot episode should give viewers faith that Fuller has a master plan.
Bionic Woman (premieres on NBC on Sept. 26 at 9 p.m.)
“Bionic Woman” is easily the most disappointing new show this season. Its intention is clear: “Bionic” wants to be a mainstream “Alias” with a more accessible plot and the gritty/choppy look of summer hit “Bourne Ultimatum.” Its achievement is also clear: “Bionic” has the script of a bad show on the SciFi Channel, a plot with the transparency of “As the World Turns,” and the acting of a (really bad) high-school play.
The problems start with the casting of Jamie, the Bionic Woman herself. Michelle Ryan delivers a transparent imitation of Lara Croft and Sydney Bristow with little charisma or nuance. Since the show centers around Jamie’s transformation from promiscuous bartender to self-assured Bionic Woman after a car crash, the lack of an engaging Jamie is troubling. The writers fill the script with clunky dialogue (“Why are you so pissed at me?” “Because you don’t love me!”) and poorly veiled attempts at mystery and intrigue. And what was supposed to be a cool and trendy visual style mostly just insults audience intelligence — quickly spliced flashbacks force obvious connections down the viewer’s throat.
The only good news is that apparently NBC knows the show sucks, too. Since the completion of the pilot, the network fired Jamie’s annoying, rebellious deaf sister and replaced her, of course, with a young, hot hacker sister. They also asked the mastermind behind “Friday Night Lights” to serve as a consultant to try to save the show — he certainly has his work cut out for him.
Reaper (premieres on CW on Sept. 25 at 9 p.m.) and Aliens in America (premieres on CW on Oct. 1 at 8:30 p.m.)
After a lackluster first season, the CW is still strongly associated with the mediocrity expected from The WB and UPN, the component parts of the CW merger. In its first new fall lineup, the CW’s hopes rest on teen drama “Gossip Girl” (yet to be leaked online) and two half-hour comedies: “Reaper,” about a guy who learns his parents sold his soul to the devil, and “Aliens in America,” about a family that hosts a Pakistani exchange student.
Surprisingly enough, both new comedies are stellar — the strong cast of “Reaper” saves the iffy premise, and “Aliens in America” will likely be the best new comedy on TV this season.
“Aliens” centers on Justin (Dan Byrd), a nerdy, but likeable Wisconsin high-school loser who is desperate for friends. He lives with his hot sister, money-loving father and eccentric, shameless mother. His mother, who is the best character on the show, “orders” an athletic-looking exchange student from London to stay at their house and be Justin’s friend. Instead they receive Raja (Adhir Kalyan), a devout Pakistani Muslim, who doesn’t exactly fit in. The show is sharply written and impressively executed and speaks well to the future of the CW.
“Reaper” exceeds expectations, as well. Bret Harrison plays Sam, a sarcastic burn out, who learns on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul the devil. It turns out the devil, mischievously played by Ray Wise, is a suave and humorous man who asks Sam to be a bounty hunter: He must return criminals who have escaped from Hell. The show features many characteristics that often fail — a slacker best friend in the vein of Jack Black; a whiny female love interest; annoying parents — but the show somehow salvages each aspect. “Reaper” may not stay on many students’ TV schedules permanently, but it’s worth catching every once in a while in between dinner and section.