ABC (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

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The game. They say a person either has what it takes to play or they don't." It sounds like something you'd hear on ESPN, but this is the opening line of ABC's new doctor show. Throughout the March 27 premiere, people speak of a Seattle hospital's surgical residency program as if it were a combination sports event and boot camp. "You'll be pushed to the breaking point," the rookies are warned, and after an hour I'd nearly reached my limit.

The pilot begins with brand-new intern Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo from Moonlight Mile) giving the brush-off to a dreamy stranger with whom she hooked up the night before. A few hours later she discovers that what's-his-name is none other than Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), one of her hospital bosses. Meredith is surprised; viewers won't be.

While Derek makes a gentlemanly but persistent effort to take their relationship beyond the professional, Meredith faces the challenges of internship along with hypercompetitive Cristina Yang (Sideways' Sandra Oh), well-meaning George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) and Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (ex-Roswell alien Katherine Heigl), a onetime model whose basic message is, Don't diss me because I'm beautiful. In a future plot-line that plays like a sick joke, Izzie's provocative image in a lingerie ad unnerves a prostate-cancer patient.

There are bright spots here, including Pompeo's skillful performance and the surprisingly touching relationship between Meredith and her mother, a renowned surgeon. But to be worthy of study, Grey's Anatomy needs more of a brain.

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

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ABC is throwing it into the lions' den against Law & Order and CSI: NY, but this private-eye series may be able to survive by its wits.

The March 30 premiere defines Eyes as just the sort of tricky, wheels-within-wheels show that should appeal to fans of its lead-in, Alias. Harlan Judd (smoothly played by former Wings star Tim Daly), head of Judd Risk Management, fends off a hostile takeover and a lawsuit by a disgruntled ex-employee while orchestrating his firm's effort to recover $100 million embezzled from a major corporation. Meanwhile, investigator Chris (Rick Worthy) tries to protect a hate-crime witness who used to be his lover, and colleagues Jeff (Eric Mabius) and Trish (Natalie Zea) have an affair right under the nose of her spouse, coworker Danny (Reg Rogers). To add to the sex quotient, Harlan seems to have eyes for his lawyer, Leslie (Laura Leighton), and top investigator Nora (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, late of NYPD Blue) heats up the office just by walking through.

A major revelation at the end of the pilot gets only a brief, unconvincing follow-up in the second episode. But Eyes is entertaining, even when it slacks off a little.

CBS (Sun., March 27, 9 p.m. ET)


This adaptation of James Patterson's soapy novel offers real-life spouses Christina Applegate and Johnathon Schaech in a veritable flashback festival. A moody writer (Schaech) walks out on his girlfriend (Kathleen Rose Perkins)—not knowing she's pregnant—but leaves her with a diary written by his previous love (Applegate). As Perkins weeps over Applegate's words, the film looks back at both women's relationships with Schaech. The storytelling is so manipulative that you'll feel cheated out of your tears.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, March 27, 8 p.m. ET) Governator or Renovator? Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the unveiling when a home is transformed in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, March 28, 9 p.m. ET) It's not just any rerun. It's the all-time most popular episode as determined by a viewers' poll.

Invation Iowa (Spike TV, March 29-April 1, 9 p.m. ET) William Shatner blows into a small town and pretends to shoot a low-budget movie in this reality miniseries.

Showdog Moms & Dads (Bravo, March 30, 10 p.m. ET) In a follow-up to last year's Showbiz Moms & Dads, this new reality series looks at human owners obsessed with canine competition.

Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi Channel, April 1, 10 p.m. ET) Adama demands the President's resignation in the season finale.

The Amazing Race's Rob Mariano

Say what you will about his made-for-TV swagger and his impenetrable Hah-vahd Yahd accent, but give Rob Mariano this: He is one of the savviest and most entertaining competitors ever to seize the reality-TV stage. It was one thing to watch him take over as the twisted puppet master of Survivor: All Stars, casually manipulating seasoned contestants on his way to a second-place finish (really a shared first place with his partner-in-prime time Amber Brkich). But seeing him bend, twist and tear the rules on The Amazing Race this season is to witness sheer television genius.

On the March 15 episode, rather than complete a stomach-turning challenge (eat 4 lbs. of barbecued cow and pig parts), Rob instead skipped the task and took a four-hour penalty, an unheard-of tactic in the gung ho, do-what-it-takes world of Race, To cap off this canny strategy, he then convinced another team to follow suit. Since their penalty clocks began running after his, Rob was thus guaranteed of not coming in last. "I don't know why I'm laughing so much," said the usually taciturn host Phil Keoghan as Rob and Amber stepped onto the finish mat. "How did you do that?" Responded a grinning Rob: "Sometimes I wonder myself."

  • Contributors:
  • Terry Kelleher,
  • Albert Kim.