Ellen Gray: Three shows making their debut

Posted: September 23, 2010

BROADCAST PREMIERE week continues tonight with the debuts of three new series, several season premieres and the move of one popular show to a new night.

What to watch? What to record? What to skip altogether?

8-9 p.m.

What's new: ABC's "My Generation" (8 p.m., Channel 6) and CBS' "$#*! My Dad Says" (8:30 p.m., Channel 3), along with the Thursday premiere of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., Channel 3) and the relocation of NBC's "30 Rock" (8:30 p.m., Channel 10).

Things to consider: Thursdays haven't exactly been simple since the days when NBC had such a grip on the evening that "must-see TV" felt like an order, but the Peacock's sinking fortunes did open up opportunities: If you can't find something to watch tonight, you might as well leave your TV out on the curb tomorrow.

CBS' "Survivor" is no longer a Thursday fixture, but with the excellent "Big Bang Theory" moving into the time slot as a lead-in to William Shatner's typographically challenging new sitcom, I'm worried about NBC's "Community," which will be fighting CBS for viewers who like their sitcoms smart and funny.

Of the three returning sitcoms, I've seen only the "Community" premiere, but it's great.

It doesn't help that Fox's "Bones," that romantic comedy with corpses, is also in the mix. (Tonight's episode is one of those typical season openers where the writers have to undo most of what happened in the previous season's finale, but "Bones" fans won't want to miss it.) And I wouldn't count out the CW's "Vampire Diaries."

If "$#*! My Dad Says" isn't on the same level as "30 Rock," it at least represents a choice for viewers. Though based on a Twitter feed, it's far more of an old-fashioned sitcom than Tina Fey's weekly 22 minutes of whimsy, and Shatner is occasionally quite funny as a curmudgeonly retired doctor whose relationship with his son (Jonathan Sadowski) never quite developed.

The problem is that neither has the show, which at its best plays like a series of one-liners - essentially what those who followed Justin Halpern's more graphically titled Twitter feed got, but in Shatner's voice - and at its worst, tries, maybe a little too hard, to make us feel something for the guy delivering them.

But at least it's not "My Generation," ABC's excruciatingly cliched mockumentary about a group of people who were filmed about the time they were graduating from high school and are being filmed again, "7 Up" style, 10 years later.

The result? A scripted version of TV Land's cheesy "High School Reunion" that should particularly irk fans of the canceled "FlashForward," which, whatever its faults, only knocked its characters unconscious, not its viewers.

What I'd watch: "Community," "30 Rock."

What I'd record: "The Big Bang Theory," "Bones."

9-10 p.m.

What's new: NBC's "Outsourced" (9:30 p.m., Channel 10).

Things to consider: Just about anything and everything else. I can't tell you how to vote in the longstanding battle between CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" - where Justin Bieber's guest-starring - and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." You already know where you stand, Justin aside.

But I have to put in a good word for Fox's excellent "Fringe," which returns with a strong episode tonight that helps demonstrate why Anna Torv was cast in the first place.

And there is still, of course, "The Office."

Complicating things further, at least at my house, is the continuation into fall of Lifetime's "Project Runway," whose now 90-minute episodes don't get repeated immediately (if you're setting a DVR, your next window appears to be 11 p.m. Saturday).

Given the choices already available, a new contender would have to be a lot better than "Outsourced," a fish-out-of-water comedy about Todd, a young manager (Ben Rappaport) whose department is "rightsized" and its work outsourced to India.

Along with Todd.

Call me culturally insensitive, but I wasn't nearly as offended by the stereotyping in "Outsourced" - which is based on a movie of the same name that I've never seen - as I was by the fact that most of the resulting jokes were so lame.

There's a germ of a good show somewhere in the absurdity of an economic system that requires well-educated people half a world away to pretend to be anywhere but where they are in order to make a living talking to Americans on the phone.

If only NBC hadn't sprayed for germs.

What I'd watch: "Fringe."

What I'd record: "Project Runway" and "The Office."

What I might catch later on ABC.com: "Grey's Anatomy."

10-11 p.m.

What's new: Nothing but the season premieres of CBS' "The Mentalist" and ABC's "Private Practice."

Things to consider: In the not exactly fair fight involving "The Mentalist," ABC's dreary soap and NBC's I-can't-believe-anyone-still-watches-this "The Apprentice," my money and my eyes are going to remain on Simon Baker.

What I'd watch: CBS' "The Mentalist."

What I'd record: The last 30 minutes of "Project Runway," and FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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