ABC, Sept. 23, 9 p.m. ET/PT |
The fall's best new sitcom, Modern Family is so light and sure on its feet that it turns old farcical setups about kids, soccer moms and annoying in-laws into groundbreaking TV. It's like finding a big, freshly mown lawn where the only patch of green you expected was a plastic welcome mat. Modern Family brings together an older man and his young, sexy, Colombian bride (Ed O'Neill and Sofia Vergara); a gay couple (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who have adopted a baby from Vietnam; and a nuclear-plus family of three kids whose parents (Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen) look classically suburban but are fundamentally unmoored. Burrell (Back to You) is perhaps the standout in a fine ensemble: Eager to please, too undisciplined to administer discipline, he has the look of a pet afraid it'll be exiled to a shelter.
Bored to Death
HBO, Sept. 20, 9:30 p.m.
Jason Schwartzman plays a Brooklyn writer, Jonathan, who takes up detective work in the lonely hours after his girlfriend leaves him. The show is shaped to accommodate the actor's soft, unconventional sex appeal. He's like Steve Carell braised until all his edginess has melted away. It's a charming performance, but the inconsequence of everything—including the small-time cases and weak allusions to film noir—makes for a perplexing half-hour. As his friend, Zach Galifianakis brings along the zonked bluster that made him so original in The Hangover. He and Schwartzman are better than the material.
>1 EMMY AWARDS
SUN. 9/20 8 P.M.
Note to Drew Barrymore
: You should win for playing an aging eccentric in HBO's Grey Gardens.
2 THE DR. IS IN
's fave physician sets up practice with his own weekday program, The Dr. Oz Show.
3 MAD HOUSE
MON. 9/21 8 P.M.
House (Hugh Laurie) does the Cuckoo's Nest thing, rebelling in a psychiatric hospital. Season 6 debut.
4 GREY MOOD
THURS. 9/24 9 P.M.
In Grey's Anatomy's season premiere, Dr. Yang (Sandra Oh
) mourns the kaputdom of Dr. O'Malley.
5 THE MENTALIST
THURS. 9/24 10 P.M.
Season 2 begins with Patrick (Simon Baker) suffering a setback in his hunt for killer Red John.
>• The new television season explodes this week, with almost a dozen network shows premiering. Here's a rundown of some of the best—and worst—of this fall's freshman class
THE GOOD WIFE
CBS's legal drama is the most accomplished debut of the season: smart, classy, seamless. Julianna Margulies, as a woman who left her legal career to be the wife of a powerful state attorney (Chris Noth), goes back to work for a Chicago firm after he lands in jail, disgraced by his dalliances with prostitutes and charges of corruption. But will he be helping her from behind bars, dropping hints about how to win cases? The ace supporting cast includes Christine Baranski, crisply acidic, as a mentor who's also prone to backstabbing.
In ABC's ingenious puzzle-drama (with John Cho, left, and Joseph Fiennes), everyone conks out for 2 minutes, 17 seconds—and foresees their fate six months in the future. It's an unsettling fantasy, worthy of M. Night Shyamalan.
THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL
Sara Paxton (center) is fashion's new face in a CW drama about models. Everyone flounces, as if it were a flu symptom.
Ex football star Michael Strahan plays an ex football star in a flat FOX comedy. The only laughs are earned by Daryl Chill Mitchell as his bitter brother.
In this hour-long ABC comedy-drama starring Rebecca Romijn
, the famous John Updike story—about modern hot-lady witches flirting with a playboy devil—feels more like Demonic Housewives. It has a cutesy sparkle that's rather trying.
ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE
Jenna Elfman stars as a movie critic pregnant after a one-night stand with a young chef (Jon Foster, left). It's Knocked Up knocked down to a CBS sitcom. Elfman tends to overpower everyone and everything. She goes to work on a gag like a cop with an uncooperative suspect.
>Patricia Arquette's crime series has relocated to CBS for Season 6—adios, NBC!—with its mix of murder, ESP and family life intact. The Sept. 25 premiere finds her Allison Dubois, impaired by a stroke, struggling to relocate her psychic dreaming abilities. It's a good episode, anchored by Arquette's air of slow-moving, salt-of-the earth conviction.
>The 3rd Rock from the Sun actor, 64, plays a serial killer in the new season of Dexter, which begins Sept. 27 on Showtime. Lithgow says the character is "very complex," just like the men on his list of TV's all-time evildoers.
ARTHUR FROBISHER (TED DANSON, DAMAGES)
I think Ted is a terrific actor. And he was this driven, narcissistic and colossally self-destructive man who was just full of brilliant choices. The character spun out and was wildly reckless, like when he got high on cocaine and chose to have somebody murdered.
TONY SOPRANO (JAMES GANDOLFINI, THE SOPRANOS)
He was like Dexter: He does that amazing trick of making you love a horrible man. He could become so terrifying, and there were scenes where he was a total fool. He just played all those notes and was a very vivid and authentic character.
MARLO STANFIELD (JAMIE HECTOR, THE WIRE)
I just loved The Wire, and Marlo was so cold and scary to me. He was very powerful in his stillness. He didn't seem like an actor; it didn't seem acted at all. He was just part of that world. It was so authentic to me. It was a case of an actor being used so brilliantly.
NEWMAN (WAYNE KNIGHT, SEINFELD)
Newman was the total bad guy and Wayne made such a meal out of it. (Yes, he was also Officer Don on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and we became extremely good friends.) He was hilarious, and I can't imagine anyone but Wayne pulling that off. He enjoyed evil so completely.
PRESIDENT CHARLES LOGAN (GREGORY ITZIN, 24)
His year was the year I really got into 24. He was a smarmy political villain, and he and Jean Smart [as his wife] were so brilliant together, it captivated me. He was original, and at the same time he was also a throwback to Nixon. He was also kind of sympathetic. You saw him squirming.