Starry, Starry Nights
NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET
There are two NBC series this season inspired by Saturday Night Live. This is the serious one. Old Friend Matthew Perry (above left) and ex-West Winger Bradley Whitford (right) play a hotshot writer-director team recruited by a brash new network exec (Amanda Peet, center) to revive Studio 60, a live comedy-sketch show from which the guys were once fired. Perry's character, Matt Albie, just ended an affair with one of Studio's stars. Now he'll be her boss. "He's a messy individual," says Perry. "But he's a grown-up and I really like that."
NBC, Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET
First, this disclaimer from Tina Fey, 30 Rock's star and co-executive producer: The Girlie Show, the fictional New York-based sketch-comedy show where Fey toils as frazzled head writer Liz Lemon, "is not meant to be SNL in any way." Okay. Never mind that Fey was SNL's head writer and Weekend Update coanchor for six years. Or that her costars include SNL veteran Tracy Morgan (right, with Fey), who plays Girlie's crazy new cast member, and frequent SNL host Alec Baldwin as a nightmare of a network boss. Two big differences: This is a sitcom. And it's taped.
FOX, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET
Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Joely Fisher (Desperate Housewives) pair up as a middle-aged couple who impart their jaded wisdom to the newlyweds next door. So what does Garrett know? "If I told you everything I knew about marriage," he joked in July, "this would be a 12-second interview." Weeks later he revealed he and Jill Diven, his real-life wife of seven years, were divorcing. Though Garrett had hinted 'Til's scripts would "mirror" aspects of his marriage, don't expect the telecouple to split. On TV, it's 'til cancellation do us part.
Brothers & Sisters
ABC, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET
Her skirts are still short, but "the character I'm playing now is so fundamentally different from Ally [McBeal]," says Calista Flockhart (seated, right) of her role as Kitty Walker, a conservative TV-news personality. Off the air, Kitty spars with four adult siblings (from left: Rachel Griffiths, Matthew Rhys, Balthazar Getty and Dave Annable) over issues ranging from substance abuse to family tragedy. So what drew Flockhart to the show? "Well, I haven't worked in five years," she says. "My son is 5. He's off to school. I miss acting a lot. It just seemed like the perfect time."
Men in Trees
ABC, Fridays, 9 p.m. ET
In this quirky dramedy, Anne Heche (Nip/Tuck) gets some Northern exposure as Marin Frist, a relationship coach and best-selling author who finds a rapt audience when she's invited to lecture in the remote town of Elmo, Alaska, where men outnumber women 10 to 1. After she learns her fiancé has cheated on her, Marin decides to stick around, research her next book and befriend the townsfolk. First, though, she has to evict a masked intruder from her hotel room: a raccoon. Jokes Heche: "Best actor I've ever worked with."
NBC, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET
When their son is abducted, a wealthy Manhattan couple (Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany) don't call 911. They hire a hostage rescue specialist (Jeremy Sisto, left), who soon butts heads with a rigid FBI agent (Delroy Lindo, right). Like 24, the case will take a season to be solved. After that, buh-bye Dana and Tim! "I knew it was going to be just a year," says Hutton. But "maybe we can come back."
ABC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET
Lost creator J.J. Abrams discovers a new island of intrigue—Manhattan—in this series about six strangers—a nanny and a public defender (Flightplan's Erika Christensen and Friday Night Lights' Jay Hernandez, above), a limo driver, a PR exec, a young widow and a photographer—whose lives intertwine in mysterious ways. Costar Dorian Missick (the driver) says he's been there. Unable to pay for a date's dinner, "I snuck out the back door," he recalls. Five years later, he went to a friend's house and discovered "my date was his wife. Needless to say, I apologized."
FOX, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET
Talk about an office romance: Sex and the City's Ron Livingston and Rescue Me's Rosemarie DeWitt play crack FBI crisis negotiators who are canoodling on the sly. When their affair is exposed, do they (A) get sacked and negotiate a TV-movie deal or (B) keep their jobs but bicker constantly? Wanna guess? "The great thing about our dynamic is that we are equals," says DeWitt, who likens the couple's relationship to "a Hepburn-Tracy romance."
CBS, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET
"Smith" is police jargon for an unidentified suspect. All the cops know about master thief Bobby Stevens (Goodfellas' Ray Liotta) is his handiwork: a string of high-risk, high-yield robberies he and his gang pull off, starting with the theft of two Old Masters from a Pittsburgh art museum. Between heists, Bobby—who gets his assignments from a fence played by 24's Shohreh Aghdashloo—goes home to his unsuspecting wife, Hope (Sideways' Virginia Madsen, left, with Liotta), and their two kids in the suburbs. A warped American Dream? Not to Liotta. As Bobby, he says, "I love my wife. I love my kids. I'm providing for them. [Bobby] just has a jones for stealing things and must make a living. People are very complicated."
CBS, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET
Just how polished a criminal defense lawyer is Sebastian Stark? The guy's built a mock courtroom in his house where he rehearses his closing arguments. He plays just as hard on offense after L.A.'s mayor persuades Stark (veteran movie tough guy James Woods, right) to become a prosecutor. Like Stark, Woods "is a larger-than-life character," jokes Jeri Ryan (left), who plays his boss. "He does have a lot of energy." Says Woods: "It's almost easier to work constantly. It's like a plane at full throttle."
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