We continue our Fall TV Preview with a look at the best shows that Thursday night has to offer…
Burn Notice (USA) Airs Thursdays 10/9c, Premieres September 11th
The second season of “Burn Notice” is already in full swing. Jeffrey Donovan plays a likable, compelling character named Michael Westen. Westen was a spy before getting a “burn notice,” which is a super secret document informing the intelligence community that he is no longer a reliable asset. Cut off from his funds and hounded by the FBI, Michael lands in Miami, where he takes on odd jobs to maintain himself while seeking the identity of the person or group who had him burned. At the end of last season Michael was on the verge of discovering the identity of the person who got him burned. On the premier episode of season two, we met Carla as played by Tricia Helfer (who also portrays the sexiest Cylon on “Battlestar Galactica”). Carla has now set herself up as Michael’s new handler, threatening his family and friends if he refuses to do her bidding. Each episode so far in the second season has juggled a trio of storylines: Michael receives an assignment from his new handler, he attempts to discover more about this agency that has him doing its errands, and he meets some regular person in dire need of the kind of assistance only a master tactician like himself can handle. The show features a cast of appealing characters and is always entertaining, even when it feels a little formulaic. So far, the second season has not been quite as good as the first, but I’m still on board. Every week you’ll receive instructions on how to build some sort of cool safe tracking/wiretapping/booby-trapping device from various cell phone parts. The show also features cult movie and fanboy geek icon Bruce Campbell as an alcoholic, womanizing former special forces operative who who is handy with a sniper rifle.
Recommendation: This is a highly entertaining show with broad appeal. Watch it. - Mister Hand
Smallville (CW) Airs Thursday 8/7c, Premieres September 18
The seventh season finale of Smallville gave Superman fans what they’ve been waiting for, the beginnings of the bitter rivalry between the son of Krypton and Lex Luthor. Lex turned on Clark, weakening him and destroying the Fortress of Solitude. The premiere of the eighth season brings the Justice League and the Green Arrow into the picture as they try to find a now powerless Clark. The eighth season will offer a new CEO of Luthorcorp, the enigmatic Tess Mercer, who takes over while Lex is on hiatus. (By the way, if Smallville wants any chance of future success it HAS to get Michael Rosenbaum under contract.) Chloe has her own issues, coming to terms with a group who wants to exploit her newfound meteor powers, and will have to make a decision about her relationship with Jimmy Olsen. Clark and Lois will be forced upon each other (maybe literally?) as they have to team up at the Daily Bugle. Most exciting will be the introduction of Doomsday, the adversary who killed Superman in the comics. Season 8 will take Clark Kent off the farm, into Metropolis, and on the cusp of realizing his destiny as the Man of Steel.
Recommendation: Hum the John Williams theme song as you watch the show Brian Singer should have based a new Superman film off of. - Adam Sweeney
The Office (NBC) Airs Thursdays 9/8c, Premieres September 25th
After each season finale of “The Office” I expect to hear that the show has been canceled. Not due to anything negative mind you, but because lead Steve Carell is now a movie star, and when TV stars get big enough to open a film they usually kiss the boob tube goodbye and never look back… Ted Danson and David Caruso for example. We’re heading into the fifth season this month, and the show’s still going incredibly strong thanks to sharp writing and the best ensemble cast on TV. ‘The Office’ also managed to survive Jim and Pam’s “will they won’t they” friendship changing into a romantic relationship, which has been a death knell for other great shows. Last season did end on a downer with the departure of Toby (Paul Lieberstein) whose understated and subtle comedic genius will be sorely missed, but after four solid seasons I’m no longer doubting that the quality and character of ‘The Office’ will continue.
Recommendation: Tune in now because I think this may be the final season. - Rob Hunter
My Name is Earl (NBC) Airs Thursday 8/7c, Premieres September 25
Jason Lee may be hit or miss when it comes to choosing movie roles (one day it’s Mallrats, the next day it’s Stealing Harvard), but he owns the role of the karmically challenged Earl. Sadly, season 3 often strayed from the feel good humor that came from a reformed criminal making amends in favor of showing a more vengeful main character. Season 4 will look to right the ship as Earl is done with psychotic wife, Billie, and back in love with the list. Seth Green will guest-star as a former Make-a-Wish kid who had his dreams of being an action film hero crushed by Earl. Jenna Elfman will also guest star, perhaps in an attempt to change her own karma by forcing Dharma & Greg on us) as a facially scarred leader of a cheer camp. As long as the show sticks to the original formula and gives us more of the hilariously trashy Jaime Pressley and Crabman, you can bet that “Earl” will turn bad to good.
Recommendation: Put off plans until the weekend and enjoy a show that kicks off the funniest two hours on television. - Adam Sweeney
Kath and Kim (NBC) Airs Thursday 8:30/7:30c, Premieres October 9th
All due respect to the late Bernie Mac, but NBC is the original king of comedy. The network is also superb when it comes to adapting comedy shows that gained popularity overseas, “The Office” proved that. So chances are good that this comedy taken from Australia will bring the goods. “SNL” alum Molly Shannon and Hellboy’s Selma Blair, who we have a soft spot for, star in a story about Kath, a mother who lets her spoiled divorcée daughter, Kim, move back home and into a whole new world of dysfunction. Shannon’s comedic capabilities are unquestioned, but I think Blair will stand out in her part. She can play a ditz. Watch Cruel Intentions if you need a refresher. Sorry guys and gals, no kiss with Sarah Michelle Gellar on this show. And while Shannon and Blair will get the spotlight, it will be fun to watch John Michael Higgins play Phil, the diva husband of Kath. Anyone who has seen him in Best in Show or A Mighty Wind knows his talent level.
Recommendation: Give the new kid on the NBC Thursday lineup block a chance. It wasn’t that long ago that “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” were in its’ shoes. - Adam Sweeney
30 Rock (NBC) Airs Thursday 9:30/8:30c, Premieres October 30th
There’s only one question to ask when it comes to the Emmy Award winning comedy. Why the hell aren’t you watching it? The show is the funniest and most random show on television, thanks in large part to show creator and star, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and the highly underrated Tracey Morgan. Season 2 ended with Liz (Fey) ready to adopt a child after a false pregnancy. Jack (Baldwin) returns from his horrendous government job after coming up with plans for a “gay bomb”, and the rest of the ensemble continued to live out their lifelong dreams, whether is was Tracey Jordan making Benjamins off a porn video game, or pageboy Kenneth ending up with Asian beauties at the Beijing Olympics. The third season will bring stars galore with “Friends” and John Mayer alum Jennifer Aniston stopping by. Aniston will play a stalker who grows lose to Jack. The biggest ratings boost for “30 Rock” might be coming, however, with a guest spot by media mogul and creator of the largest female cult following since Tampax, Oprah Winfrey. Seriously, this woman could tell ladies everywhere to shave their heads because it helps cool them down, and the next day America would be filled with Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta clones. Hell, whatever it takes to keep this brilliant show on the air, I am up for. I’ll just have to buy wigs for all the female viewers.
Recommendation: Guitar Hero and “Rock of Love” can piss off. This is the real source of pop culture to rock to. - Adam Sweeney
Ugly Betty (ABC) Airs Thursdays 8/7c, Premieres September 25th
The question on everyone’s mind as we come back to Betty this fall is “where was that plane headed?”. At the end of the last season we witnessed Betty leaving her family home, frazzled from getting a marriage proposal from the ex-love-of-her-life, Henry, and romantic getaway plans with her new flame, Gio, thrown at you at the same time. The only question is, where did she go? To the arms of her true love (Henry), to her new spicy connection (Gio) or to find her place in the world without defining herself by her man? The way this show goes, it’s more than likely door number 3. Last season as a whole suffered not only from the writer’s strike cutting it short, but also from a generally weak story arc. With season 1, we had the mystery of Alex/Alexis, the car crash that nearly killed Bradford Meade and the ever present shadow of Faye Summers. Unless the third season kicks off to a strong start (a real battle between Daniel and Wilhelmina for the job of Editor in Chief would be nice, rather than him slinking off quietly), the show will rapidly drop from beloved to boring.
Recommendation: Now is not the time to come to the party, but if you’re already hooked, don’t miss the big reveal of Betty’s decision. - Michelle Graham
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) Airs Thursdays 9/8c, Premieres September 25th (2 hour premiere)
The will-they-won’t-they portion of Grey’s Anatomy has finally ended! At least, that’s what we all hope. Grey’s suffered a lot from the “Ross and Rachel” syndrome last season, with the back and forth between McDreamy and Meredith (M & M) being stretched to an all-time low. Even worse, there was a boring character brought in to reinforce it! However, though the M & M plot was shakey, others fought to make up for it. Lexie Grey, a character whose appearance at the end of season 3 surprised and worried a few, rapidly became a great addition to the show, bringing some spark to even the drabbest of Meredith scenes. Relationships (almost) came out of left field, old characters came back and dropped bombshells and we learned more about some established characters than we really wanted to know. Perhaps with the dawn of a new cheerful McDreamy era in Meredith’s life, the show can move out of that relationship’s shadow and keep the focus on the more entertaining ensemble.
Recommendation: You know you’re already hooked. Stick with it, and as long as M & M stay together the good times should start rolling on again. - Michelle Graham
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX) Airs Thursdays 10/9c, Premieres September 18th
Prostitution. Dumpster babies. Mental and physical disabilities. Abortion. These are just a few of the less-controversial topics dealt with in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The breakout show that may have cost as little as $85 to get off the ground has become an institution for those bored with conventional television. Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Sweet Dee, and Frank are hands down the worst people in sitcom history, doing and saying things that would leave Archie Bunker slackjawed and making the sign of the cross. They’ve exploited a faux-religious miracle, pretended to be pro-life in order to score chicks and developed a hilarious crack addiction. Hilarious. Crack. Addiction. Basically, it’s not so much pushing the envelope as it is shoving it to the ground, pissing on it, and then making love to its mother in front of it. And we’ll be laughing the entire time.
Recommendation: Tune in or be ostracized by friends and family. - Cole Abaius
For more, check out our 2008 Fall TV Preview page.