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New fall TV slate brings to the air eclectic mix of concepts
Question of the Day
Here's a fearless prediction for the new fall season: "Animal Practice" will be either a hit or a big-time miss, either a comedy game-changer for NBC or a punch line for its ratings desperation.
This sitcom about a veterinarian and his monkey sidekick already is commanding the attention of viewers. NBC has heavily hyped it, most notably by interrupting the Olympics closing ceremony to air a preview of the show and enraging viewers waiting for the Who finale.
But who cares if they're angry? For any new show, just getting noticed is half the battle. Between now and Thanksgiving, "Animal Practice" is among nearly two dozen series getting launched by the five broadcast networks, which for weeks have been feverishly hyping the new crop with everything from bus ads to Twitter feeds.
All of this is done with the certain knowledge that at least two-thirds of the new fare, no matter how relentlessly promoted, will have fallen by the wayside by this time next year.
Remember these duds from last fall: "Charlie's Angels"? "Free Agents"? "How to be a Gentleman"? Does a similar fate await "Animal Practice"? Or what about "Go On," an NBC comedy that casts Matthew Perry as a sports-talk radio host forced to attend grief counseling after the death of his wife?
Or what about NBC's "Chicago Fire," an action drama about firefighters from "Law & Order" maestro Dick Wolf?
"Chicago Fire" could be pigeonholed as a show about public safety, but bona fide cop dramas — one of TV's most enduring genres — are represented by three fanciful variations.
On "Vegas," CBS' robust new drama set in the early 1960s, Dennis Quaid plays a rancher-turned-sheriff of the budding gambling mecca, with Michael Chiklis as a mobster casino boss.
CBS' "Elementary" stars Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. They assist the New York Police Department with solving crimes.
And the CW's "Beauty and the Beast" features a lovely young homicide detective (Kristin Kreuk) who reconnects with a handsome young doctor who saved her life when a teenager. She also discovers his terrible secret: Thanks to a military experiment gone awry, when he is enraged, he becomes a terrifying beast.
Meanwhile, there's just one new lawyer show on tap: CBS' "Made in Jersey," which stars British actress Janet Montgomery as a young working-class Jerseyite from a long line of self-taught beauticians. She lands a job across the river at a prestigious Manhattan law firm where her style raises eyebrows but wins cases.
Autumn will bring three new doctor shows, each of which — like "Made in Jersey" — is headlined by a woman.
Jordana Spiro stars in Fox's "The Mob Doctor" as a Chicago surgeon whose obligations to the mafia require her to give medical treatment to a gang of hoods.
On the CW's "Emily Owens, M.D.," Mamie Gummer plays a med-school grad who's beginning a hospital internship full of hope, misgivings and romantic stumblings.
And on the Fox comedy "The Mindy Project," creator-star Mindy Kaling plays a thriving OB/GYN whose personal life is a succession of pratfalls.
It's no surprise women are riding high this season. The biggest hits from last fall — "Revenge," "2 Broke Girls," "New Girl" and "Once Upon a Time" — all have women as their leads.
Among other female-dominated series ahead is ABC's highly anticipated drama "Nashville." Connie Britton plays an almost-over-the-hill country music queen who's battling to hold her own against an upstart superstar played by Hayden Panettiere.
Also focused on the music scene, ABC sitcom "Malibu Country" finds country music star Reba McEntire ditching her Nashville home, packing up her family and heading for California for a fresh start after she discovers her husband was two-timing her.
Another five new sitcoms also dwell heavily on parenting.
On NBC's "Guys With Kids," three 30-something dads bond over the common overwhelming challenge of fatherhood.
On Fox's "Ben and Kate," a happy-go-lucky big brother moves back to town to help his single-mother sister raise her daughter.
On ABC's "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)," single mom Sarah Chalke is a boomerang offspring, returning with her daughter after her divorce to live with her freewheeling parents (Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett).
On the same network's "Family Tools," lifelong bumbler Kyle Bornheimer is mounting his latest effort to win paternal approval by taking over the Mr. Jiffy Fix repair business run by his dad (J.K. Simmons).
NBC's edgy "The New Normal" finds gay couple Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha concluding there's only one thing missing from their happy home: a child. They line up a surrogate mom (Georgia King) to carry it for them, and she and her daughter become part of their not-so-normal family.
Also trading on the gay theme is CBS' "Partners," with David Krumholtz as Joe and Michael Urie as Louis, partnered architects and best friends since high school. Louis is gay and Joe is straight, which isn't a problem until Joe decides to marry his girlfriend and Louis feels the sharp pangs of jealousy.
Besides the hybrid "Beauty and the Beast," the networks have scheduled five other series with a supernatural, sci-fi or fantasy twist.
At the start of NBC's epic new drama "Revolution," the lights abruptly go out around the world. This unexplained power outage deprives everyone of every piece of electrical technology, stranding humanity in a modern-day Dark Age.
On ABC's "Last Resort," the crew of a military submarine seeks refuge on a lost island after news that the U.S. may have been attacked. Not only are they cut off from the rest of the world, they're considered rogue enemies being pursued by their own government.
Based on a series of graphic novels, CW's "Arrow" features a dashing vigilante who aims to clean up his crime-ridden city as his alter ego Arrow in an effort to atone for misspent years as a millionaire playboy.
And on ABC's macabre thriller "666 Park Avenue," devilish Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams lord over their stately Manhattan apartment building, whose residents come seeking the fulfillment of their dreams but pay for them with their souls.
Fantasy in farcical form is also in store. Consider ABC's "The Neighbors," where the middle-class Weaver family takes a step up the social ladder by moving to a gated New Jersey community, only to find out the rest of the homes are occupied by aliens.
This high-concept sitcom proposes that contemporary life in America is no less perplexing for humans than it is for immigrants from the planet Zabvron. Everyone feels alienated at times, and all anyone wants to do is fit in.
Now will "The Neighbors" fit into Earthlings' TV-watching schedule? Or will it be a casualty of this strange tradition practiced by humans for decades called "the fall TV season"?
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