ABC (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
REALITY

The bloom is off the rose. Not only has ABC's once addictive reality romance suffered a decline in ratings this season, its watercooler worthiness is, to borrow a phrase from one of the show's tongue-twisted hopefuls, "nilch, nada." Where has the love gone? Herewith, four ways to make viewers swoon all over again:

1) Ban the bland bachelors. In the beginning, there was Alex. And then Aaron. And then Andrew. And for a while, the show's promise of a climactic proposal kept us coming back for more. But now that every Bachelor romance has fizzled, we're jaded—and the fact that pro fisherman Byron, this season's designated wife bait, is yet another Hot Boring Guy doesn't help. Women flipped for Everyman Bob Guiney simply because he showed a spark of wit. Sure, he turned out to be a tongue-thrusting horndog, but at least he was funny. Alas, the only thing humorous about Byron is the Fabio-meets-Jeff Spicoli hair.

2) Bring on the real girls. Enough already with the Bikini Brigade, whose matching taut tummies and bleached teeth make them maddeningly interchangeable. Shows like American Idol and Survivor have maintained their success by prizing charisma over looks. The Bachelor should do the same.

3) Ditch the clichés. Please, please, please nix the following: "I realize this is not going to be an easy elimination"; "I'm pretty sure that this is going to end in everything I've ever wanted"; and, of course, "The Most Dramatic...rose ceremony...ever." The latter, which once seemed like tongue-in-cheek fun, now merely conveys wishful thinking.

4) More reality, less fantasy. Yes, the sunset-by-airplane dates are entertaining, but they foster just the sort of punch-drunk romance that defies longevity. However, if after a night of babysitting and pizza Byron and one of his suitors still think they're soul-mates—well, they may actually have a shot.

In the beginning, there was Alex. And then Aaron. And then Andrew. And for a while, the show's promise of a climactic proposal kept us coming back for more. But now that every Bachelor romance has fizzled, we're jaded—and the fact that pro fisherman Byron, this season's designated wife bait, is yet another Hot Boring Guy doesn't help. Women flipped for Everyman Bob Guiney simply because he showed a spark of wit. Sure, he turned out to be a tongue-thrusting horndog, but at least he was funny. Alas, the only thing humorous about Byron is the Fabio-meets-Jeff Spicoli hair.

Enough already with the Bikini Brigade, whose matching taut tummies and bleached teeth make them maddeningly interchangeable. Shows like American Idol and Survivor have maintained their success by prizing charisma over looks. The Bachelor should do the same.

Please, please, please nix the following: "I realize this is not going to be an easy elimination"; "I'm pretty sure that this is going to end in everything I've ever wanted"; and, of course, "The Most Dramatic...rose ceremony...ever." The latter, which once seemed like tongue-in-cheek fun, now merely conveys wishful thinking.

4) More reality, less fantasy. Yes, the sunset-by-airplane dates are entertaining, but they foster just the sort of punch-drunk romance that defies longevity. However, if after a night of babysitting and pizza Byron and one of his suitors still think they're soul-mates—well, they may actually have a shot.

DRAMA

ABC (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
DRAMA

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"I've always prided myself on being, well, nuts," Alan Shore (James Spader) said in the premiere of the latest lawyer series from producer David E. Kelley. "But in this firm I find myself falling into the sane category." Is that a good thing?

Spader enlivened The Practice when he joined the cast for that Kelley creation's final season, earning an Emmy for his portrayal of an ethically flexible provocateur who shook up his more earnest colleagues. In this spinoff, however, Shore finds himself in a workplace where the craziness standard is set by Denny Crane (William Shatner), the impulsive and increasingly eccentric senior partner. Shatner has a ball playing a paragon of inappropriate behavior and lends the egocentric character a surprising touch of poignancy in his rare moments of introspection. But it's going to be tricky finding the right balance between Shore and Crane while allowing each to stay in touch with his inner devil.

The new firm provides Shore with a suitable foil in Brad Chase (Mark Valley from Keen Eddie), a fast talker who's a little too handsome. If you like Spader as a self-described "enormously unlikable person," give Legal time to make its case.

UPN (Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET)
COMEDY

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Nicole Parker and Boris Kodjoe not only portrayed lovers on the departed Showtime series Soul Food, they're engaged in real life. On this new sitcom the costars' teasing and tenderness seem like more than play-acting, and they're both great-looking to boot.

So what does Second Time Around need besides beauty and chemistry? How about more humor? Architect Jackson (Kodjoe) and artist Ryan (Parker) split up eight years ago after only six months of wedded stress. Now they're giving marriage another go, and the little conflicts are all too easily patched up. Amazing how Ryan overcame her qualms about having kids in just one cutesy episode. Most of the punch lines go to Omar (Mailon Rivera), a gay friend who's all stereotype, and snippy, status-conscious Paula (Danielle Nicolet), who plans to wed Jackson's brother Nigel (Brian White). There's a divorce waiting to happen.

You've Got a Friend (MTV, Oct. 24, 9:30 p.m. ET) In a new reality series from Ashton Kutcher and his Punk'd gang, contestants get $15,000 if they can pass off an obnoxious fake friend as their real pal.

The Brooke Ellison (A&E, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET) The late Christopher Reeve directed this TV movie about a girl who was paralyzed at 11 and went on to graduate from Harvard.

The Swan (FOX, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET) It's a two-hour season premiere for the reality show: First, last season's ducklings reminisce about their makeovers, then new transformations begin.

Radio Music Awards (NBC, Oct. 25, 9 p.m. ET) Live from Las Vegas, Janet Jackson (demurely clad, you can bet) gets the Radio Legend Award.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (ABC, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. ET) Linus is still waiting in the 1966 Halloween classic.

  • Contributors:
  • Michelle Tauber,
  • Terry Kelleher.