Ten Best: New shows on network TV

by Chris Lowrance

“Pushing Daisies” (ABC)

Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

There is an absurd number of new series debuting this fall. The most promising of the crop, and the darling of media critics everywhere, is “Pushing Daisies,” ABC’s supernatural comedy/drama about an affable loner who can raise the dead. The show has a surreal magical-realist feel that’s no surprise, given creator Bryan Fuller’s past work on cult-favorites “Dead Like Me” and “Wonderfalls” ­- note how neither of those series lasted long. While the pilot has critics swooning, last year’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” has taught them a thing or two about judging a concept by its premiere. Expect an excess of caution from ABC until “Pushing Daisies” proves its mettle.

“Aliens in America” (CW)

Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

Hey, what could be funnier than terrorism? How about small-town America’s ignorant paranoia in the face of it? “Aliens in America,” which mines a Midwest family’s accidental acceptance of a Pakistani Muslim exchange student for comedy gold, is probably the riskiest premiere this season. Played poorly, it could piss off the CW’s core white-bread audience and the Muslim community. However, the writers consulted the Muslim Public Affairs Council for support in creating a three-dimensional, sympathetic Muslim character, so at least the latter group should be pleased. The rest can go watch “24.”

“Moonlight” (CBS)

Fridays at 9 p.m.

Faithful readers know the “Best” in “Ten Best” is often ironic. So it is with this entry into CBS’ Friday night line-up, a shameless rip-off of the early-nineties cult-classic “Forever Knight.” The plot, then and now, centers on a vampire (in this case Mick, played by Alex O’Loughlin) who fights crime to atone for past sins – the blood-chugging equivalent of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Where “Forever Knight” was hilariously melodramatic, “Moonlight’ is just… dull. To make it more interesting, take a shot every time O’Loughlin stares at something with his “intense” face, or when his love interest gratuitously flashes her iPhone.

“Chuck” (NBC)

Mondays at 8 p.m.

It is the Season of the Blender, as producers continue to meld a handful of old ideas into a shiny new one. Chuck, for instance, is what happens when “The Office,” “Get Smart” and “My Name is Earl” are fed into the Mixomatic. A Geek Squad… I mean, “Nerd Herd” employee at Best Buy… oops, “Buy More,” the titular Chuck is a dateless wonder until he accidentally downloads government secrets into his brain, forcing him to go undercover with a hot spy chick. Hee-larious!

“Bionic Woman” (NBC)

Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

The 1970’s Bionic Woman, played by Lindsay Wagner, was confident, successful and super-strong. The 2007 Bionic Woman, played by Michelle Ryan, is depressed, broke and super-strong. What does this say about the state of feminism 30 years later? That’s the $6 million question. “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.”

“Journeyman” (NBC)

Mondays at 10 p.m.

Speaking of resurrections, did you miss “Quantum Leap”? No? Too bad, because it’s back as “Journeyman,” NBC’s new supernatural do-gooder adventure drama thingy. A married San Fran journalist named Dan Vasser (played by Kevin McKidd) discovers he can randomly travel back in time somehow, just in time to influence lives and make the world a better place. This being 2007, we also need a moral dilemma to get our rocks off – in this case Dan is tempted to cheat on his current wife with his former (now dead) fiancée. Which, technically, isn’t cheating. Or maybe it is. This is the problem with time travel.

“Cane” (CBS)

Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

The previews made this Jimmy Smits vehicle look like a Hispanic “Sopranos,” but from the premiere it’s more like “Dynasty” with Cuban-American rum and sugar barons (we still have those?) in place of rich Texans with big hair. It’ll do well based solely on the amount of eye candy in the cast, but anyone wanting a realistic depiction of Hispanic-Americans will have to make do with “Ugly Betty.” No, seriously.

“Cavemen” (ABC)

Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

This, my friends, is a TV show based on a series of commercials. A TV show based on a series of commercials. A GODDAMNED TELEVISION SHOW based on a SERIES OF COMMERCIALS! Still, the premise could be funny if… wait, no, it’s still a TV show based on a SERIES OF COMMERCIALS.

“Carpoolers” (ABC)

Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.

Paddling through the wake of “The Office” comes “Carpoolers,” following four office drones as they carpool to and from work, discussing their lives in the stilted, excruciatingly careful way men do. Just like “The Office,” it can be simultaneously funny and painful, detailing the minute quirks of people trapped in lives they did not want. It will also set off your mid-life crisis quicker than a pile of gray hair in the drain trap.

“Back to You “(FOX)

Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Frasier Crane and that lady who was always yelling at Ray Romano are paired off in the latest incarnation of the classic three-camera, laugh-tracked comedy. In a stretch for both actors, Kelsey Grammer plays a pompous windbag and Patricia Heaton his shrewish, exasperated partner. The two are co-anchors on a local news station, along with all the usual TV news stereotypes, including a slutty weatherwoman and a politically incorrect sportscaster. Be sure to watch it… or, you know, rent all the shows this is ripping off on DVD.