Television Rings In Midseason Swaps
Reality And Scripted Shows Renew Rivalry, With Many Familiar Names, Faces
December 29, 2004
By ROGER CATLIN, Courant TV Critic
Didn't get what you wanted in the fall TV schedules? Networks are ready with a raft of replacement shows.
New midseason schedules offer nearly a dozen new shows. Half are reality series, but half are scripted dramas (and one comedy) that have undergone the rigors of corporate development.
January TV will also be enlivened by the return of a number of favorite shows for new seasons, from "24" and "Alias" to "American Idol" and "The Simple Life."
And with Kelly Perdew barely moved into his new desk from his recent win, a third run of "The Apprentice" will attempt to find another new employee for Donald Trump.
Here's a rundown:
New Scripted Series
"Medium" (NBC, starts Monday). Patricia Arquette is coolly convincing as a housewife and law student who uses her psychic skills to solve crimes. Based on a real-life story, the drama is from the creator of "Moonlighting."
"Committed" (NBC, Tuesday). The couple central to this romantic sitcom have their quirks. But they hardly add up. It's another wan offer that certainly won't save network comedy from its lull.
"Jonny Zero" (Fox, Jan. 14) stars Franky G as an ex-con trying to go legit on the tough streets of New York City, but he's surrounded by enough trouble to suck him back in - and provide some drama for the series. From John Wells ("The West Wing", "ER").
"Point Pleasant" (Fox, Jan. 19). Set in a New Jersey beach town, the drama centers on the mysterious Christina Nickson (Elisabeth Harnois) who learns soon enough that her dad was the devil with a capital D.
"Numb3rs" (CBS, Jan. 23, regular day Fridays). Rob Morrow of "Northern Exposure" returns to TV as an FBI agent who recruits his math-whiz brother (David Krumholtz) to help him solve crimes in L.A. From Ridley Scott and Tony Scott.
New Reality Shows
"Who's Your Daddy?" (Fox, Monday) isn't really a series, but a one-shot, 90-minute show (for now), in which a woman given up for adoption has to pick her biological father from among eight men. If she chooses correctly, she wins $1 million; if she chooses an imposter, he wins the cash. (The woman will get to meet the correct dad at the end no matter what, producers say.) Can it be any more obnoxious? Yes: Finola Hughes hosts.
"The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott" (UPN, Jan. 5) recruits the rap star and producer into picking new talent. She does it while on tour; the candidates tag along on a shabby bus and learn to get along.
"Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search" (NBC, Jan. 5). Looks like a copy of "America's Next Top Model" losing the high couture for extended bikini time. Among the candidates is Adora Akubilo, 20, a Central Connecticut State University student from Windsor.
"Wickedly Perfect" (CBS, Jan. 6) has the distinction of being the first reality show shot entirely in Connecticut. A Fairfield county estate is the site where Martha Stewart wannabes compete, in a format not unlike the short-lived ABC series "The Great Domestic Showdown" in July.
"The Will" (CBS, Jan.
is the long-delayed reality show in which a wealthy patriarch offers his fortune to those among his family and friends who win enough physical and mental challenges to avoid elimination.
"Supernanny" (ABC, Jan. 17) looks to be to Fox's "Nanny 911" what Fox's "Trading Spouses" was to ABC's "Wife Swap" - that is to say: a complete steal. In this case it's a single nanny, Jo Frost, whose skills have already made her a TV star in England, straightening out bratty kids and indulgent parents.
Returning To Network
"Alias" (ABC, Jan. 5). The third season of the stylish spy saga loses its Sunday night slot (to the hit "Desperate Housewives"), but stands to benefit from its pairing with the network's other hit, "Lost," created by "Alias" mastermind J.J. Abrams.
"24" (Fox, Jan. 9, regular night Mondays) returns for its fourth long day for Jack Bauer, who is no longer employed by the Counter Terrorism Unit, where he was both a star and something of a problem (he shot the former director, for one thing). Now he's working for the defense secretary (William Devane) and secretly romancing his daughter (who happens to be married).
"The Bachelorette" (ABC, Jan. 10). Jen Scheff was the final choice for "Bachelor" Andrew Firestone, but things apparently didn't work out. So she gets to choose from among her own 25 men for her second chance. Some girls have all the luck.
"Bernie Mac" (Fox, Jan. 14). It was exhaustion that bumped the late fourth-season premiere of the comedy to the new year.
"American Idol" (Fox, Jan. 18). The biggest hit for Fox and one of the highest-rated programs of the past few seasons begins its latest search for a singing star, with a slight amendment to the rules - those from 16 to 28 are eligible. Twenty-four was the top age the past three seasons.
"The Apprentice" (NBC, Jan. 20) puts a third pool of applicants through the ringer for a chance to work for Donald Trump. Teams are divided into college grads and those with just high school diplomas.
"The Simple Life: Interns" (Fox, Jan. 26) moves Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie into various jobs in the corporate world, where they will likely fail miserably and giggle a lot.
New On Cable
"Unscripted" (HBO, Jan. 9) is from Steve Soderbergh and George Clooney's production company, who last brought us "K Street." The new show looks at the life of actors in Hollywood through a documentary-style series that uses real sets of real TV shows and the real names of the actors, but is actually fictional, at least when it comes to Frank Langella, perfectly playing an abusive, demanding acting teacher, Goddard Fulton.
"Strange Love" (VH1, Jan. 9). Because the romance of Brigitte Nielsen and rapper Flavor Flav on the last season of "the Surreal World" was so weird, so cinematic, it begged another series.
"Celebrity Fit Club" (VH1, Jan. 9). Just as "The Biggest Loser" (which ends Jan. 11) copied a Discovery Health channel show, so does this one, which gathers foul-mouthed "celebs" - comic Ralphie May, Daniel Baldwin, Wendy Kaufman (The Snapple Lady) and rapper Biz Markie - to shed flab and weigh in weekly.
"Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" (Bravo, Jan. 12). The cult series clones itself, creating a second peppy, wise-cracking squad (which includes one lesbian among the gay men) and targets straight women for extensive remakes.
"Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, Jan. 14). The '70s space series that got revived in a miniseries last year returns as a full-fledged new series, with Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell.
Returning To Cable
"Carnivāle" (HBO, Jan. 9) The entire first season of the stylish Dust Bowl drama that mixed faith healing with the exoticism of a European-style traveling circus ended without its two main characters ever meeting. We suppose they will in this second season.
"The Surreal World" (VH1, Jan. 9). Roommates this time are "Top Model" winner Adrianne Curry, Brady Bunch brother Christopher Knight, Joanie Laurer (the former wrestler known as Chyna), Verne Troyer (Mini Me) Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, Da Brat and model Marcus Schenkenberg.
"Zoey 101" (Nickelodeon, Jan. 9). Ready for a new Spears in pop culture? Britney's little sister Jamie Lynn Spears, 13, stars in new comedy aimed at her peers.
"Caesar's 24/7" (A&E, Jan. 10). Here's another try at getting a reality show out of the round-the-clock world of Vegas.
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (Bravo, Jan. 11) continues its quest for universal fabulousness, one cutting quip at a time. Are we getting tiresome yet?
"Tilt" (ESPN, Jan. 13) the second scripted series may have better luck than the first ("Playmakers" ended after NFL complaints). Here, high-stakes poker takes the spotlight in a series featuring Michael Madsen, Eddie Cibrian and Chris Bauer.
"Monk" (USA, Jan. 21). Golden Globe winner Tony Shalhoub returns for the third season about the incisive detective with obsessive compulsive disorder. His main adjustment this year will be adjusting to a new assistant. Bitty Schram's character, Sharona Fleming, has quit for goodhttp://www.ctnow.com/entertainment/tv/hc-midseason.artdec29,1,2619565.story?coll=hc-ent-headlines-breaking