Picks and Pans Main: TV

updated 09/13/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/2010 01:00AM

Hellcats

CW, Sept. 8, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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DRAMA

I had such hopes when I saw the first clips for this new series. It looked like Showgirls with college cheerleaders. But the end product should be called Hellkittens-not bad, but its tiny claws neither grip nor rip. Aly Michalka plays Marti, a pre-law student who reluctantly joins the sis-boom-bah squad to win a scholarship. Michalka, who's miscast, is the problem: With her head helmeted by what look like solid-gold waves of hair, she's blazingly untouchable and remote. When Marti stuns the other girls with her gyrations, it's like a fembot trying out for So You Think You Can Dance. Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) steals the show as squad captain Savannah, a girl with a revolting amount of team spirit but an underlying decency. Go, Sharpay, go!

America's Next Top Model

CW, Sept. 8, 8 p.m. ET/PT |

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REALITY

Tyra Banks tilts her modeling competition upscale for its new season: The winner will be featured in Italian Vogue. The girls, who keep breathlessly repeating the phrase "high fashion" as if it were a mantra, nonetheless behave as they always do, which is most of the fun. They are Snookis on stilts.

Terriers

FX, Sept. 8, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

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CRIME

Here's one of the most offbeat new shows of the new season. Also one of the best. Co-executive-produced by Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Terriers is a contemporary, character-driven noir about two scruffy detectives: ex-cop Hank Dolworth (Life's Donal Logue) and reformed petty crook Britt Pollack (True Blood's Michael Raymond-James). They operate mostly by the seat of their pants and out of a used pickup. The stories have a loping, slacker humor to them but with an undercurrent of bruised sadness. Logue is especially good as Hank. A reformed alcoholic with a failed marriage, he's a joker and he's desperate.

Weeds

Showtime, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET |

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COMEDY

Mary-Louise Parker, who stars as Nancy Botwin, drug-pushing mother of three, recently said she didn't like the show's previous season. Well, that's just crazy. Season 5 was an unpredictable joyride that ended with murder by croquet mallet. Unfortunately, that blow left the show wobbling: Season 6 staggers from incident to incident as Nancy and family run from their enemies-and the authorities. Parker's performance hasn't lost its shimmery darkness, even when Nancy is forced to work as a hotel maid, but I miss Elizabeth Perkins as her florid frenemy Celia.

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