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TV Squad previews CBS's new shows

by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 11th 2008 10:41AM
cbs logoOf all the networks, CBS has the most new shows on deck, including two new comedies, Worst Week and Project Gary, and two new dramas, The Ex-List and The Mentalist. Another drama is set for mid-season, Harper's Island.

We've had a chance to look over these new TV shows, and by and large, it's a fascinating bunch. Also adventurous. No procedurals. More character-driven programming it seems. CBS seems determined not to rest on their laurels.

Read what we thought about these advance screeners, bearing in mind that things are liable to change before the shows start to air.

Worst Week
Worst Week (Monday at 9:30PM ET)

Premise of the screener: After dating for two years, Sam Briggs and Melanie Clayton have decided to get married. Now they have to break the news to her uptight, well-to-do parents, including the fact that Mel is pregnant, too. Sam is determined to make a good impression on her family -- they still just refer to him as her "friend." On the night that they're going to talk to her folks, Sam has to go to an office party first, then take the train to their suburban home. Despite his best efforts, Sam is delayed. It's one mishap after another and he winds up on their doorstep half-naked, wrapped in a garbage bag. Things go from bad to worse, and every time Sam tries to fix the situation, something goes awry. Will Sam ever be able to convince the Claytons that he's not the dolt he appears to be?

Allison says: Within two minutes, I was screaming Meet the Parents, with Kyle Bornheimer in the Ben Stiller role. Actually, Kyle plays it more like Seth Rogen. The comedy is very broad, with lots of pratfalls, bathroom humor, slapstick. Some of it is funny, but the nagging thought I had while watching the pilot is how are they going to sustain this? Is Sam going to be a clod every week and in every situation? To its credit, the acting is uniformly excellent. Kurtwood Smith is perfect as Judge Clayton, completely unamused by Sam's antics. What Mel sees as charming and goofy, her parents see as crass and loutish. The bottom line is that a little of Worst Week goes a long way. The show is being given a premium spot in the Monday line-up, after Two and a Half Men and before CSI: Miami. It'll do decent ratings, but unless it improves dramatically, it won't deserve to remain in the CBS schedule.

Proj Gary
Project Gary (Wednesday at 8:30 PM ET)

Premise of the screener: Gary Barnes (Jay Mohr) has just gotten divorced, and he has to deal with entering the dating world with the baggage of his controlling ex, Allison (Paula Marshall) , a politically-oriented pre-teen daughter (Laura Marano), and shy teenage son (Ryan Malgarini). Larry Miller and Jaime King are also along for the ride, as the Barnes' ex-marriage therapist and Gary's new girlfriend, respectively.

Joel says: If you're genetically programmed to hate traditional multi-camera sitcoms, then don't even bother watching Project Gary; it's about as traditional as it gets, complete with the standard sets, cackling laugh track / audience, and over-the-top punch lines. But for the rest of us, there's enough there to make us keep watching beyond the pilot. It's mostly because of the stellar cast: Paula Marshall's always been good, even if all her shows have gotten cancelled; Jaime King is playing a little more down-to-earth than the blonde bombshells she usually plays; and Larry Miller is always funny. But the show is going to live or die on the shoulders of Mohr. Right now, he delivers his lines like he's doing a guest stint on the Opie & Anthony show. But if he just tones it down a little bit, he'll be very convincing as a confused guy who's just trying to figure out how to be single with a family and ex-wife in tow.

The Ex List
The Ex List (Friday at 9:00PM ET)

Premise of the screener: At a bachelorette party, Bella Bloom is told by a psychic that she must be married in the year ahead or she'll be alone for the rest of her life. And the fella is someone she's already dated, i.e. an ex. Bella is skeptical, but when the sardonic psychic's words start coming true, she decides to look into her past starting with Johnny Diamont, a sensitive singer she dumped in 2001 because he was too needy. Bella's personal journey is helped along the way by her close friends/roomies, her sister and an annoying ex-boyfriend with whom she shares custody of Rufus, their dog. (The preview we received was not a full episode)

Allison says: I loved this show! In many ways it reminded me of How I Met Your Mother with the comraderie of the friends, the snappy dialogue, the no-subject-is-off-limits attitude that's so prevalent in Mother. Diane Ruggerio's Veronica Mars touch is felt throughout the pilot, with lots of topical jokes and clever observations. I literally laughed out loud on a few occasions. The actors are terrific; Elizabeth Reaser will be a breakout star, kind of like Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner were. My only quibble is that the show is very female. Like Men in Trees or Veronica Mars. Will CBS give this show a chance to find an audience and cultivate a cult? Fortunately, the show is being sandwiched between Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs, a somewhat cushy spot. If Ex-List can sustain GW's lead in, it should survive and thrive.

Eleventh Hour
Eleventh Hour (Thursday at 10:00PM ET)

Premise of the preview: Rufus Sewell is Dr. Jacob Hood, a determine, brilliant scientist and special advisor to the FBI dealing in strange and unexplained crises. He's brought in at the 'eleventh hour' when there's nobody else to call. The case at hand involves dumped fetuses which Dr. Hood determines are the product of an attempt at human cloning. (The preview we received was not a full episode)

Allison says: The preview was short but very tense and exciting. If it was meant to whet my appetite, it succeeded. I want to see the entire show. Sewell looked gorgeous (hello, ladies, you know what I'm talking about) and the entire production just looked really slick and well-crafted. Jerry Bruckheimer's name on this one means quality every step of the way. It also means that CBS is going to treat it like gold. Putting it on after CSI on Thursdays is a peachy spot. It's going to take off.

The Mentalist
The Mentalist

Premise of the preview: Simon Baker is Patrick Jane, an independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation. Within the Bureau, Jane is notorious for his blatant lack of protocol and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium, whose paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned.

Jay says: If you're a huge fan of Psych your response to The Mentalist is either going to be a) to love it or b) to go on a Russian office worker style rampage. This is because the premise of the two shows is, uh, basically the same. If you can get past that, though, there's a lot to like about The Mentalist. Simon Baker pulls off the charming genius sleazebag (with a touch of melancholy) role with ease and he's joined by the always excellent Robin Tunney as his hardass boss. On top of the mystery of the week, the pilot gave us the promise of a long-arc story involving a serial killer called "Red John" who is Jane's nemesis. "Red John" did some nasty business to Jane five years back and is the reason for both his decision to join the CBI and for his Profit-like living arrangements. It was intriguing enough that I'd come back for a second episode, which is the highest compliment I can give to a pilot.

harper's island
Harper's Island

Premise of the preview: A murder mystery that unfolds as friends and family attend week-long festivities at a destination wedding on a secluded island off the coast of Seattle, infamous for a homicidal maniac's rampage seven years ago. One by one people begin to disappear. Is the killer among them? (The preview we received was not a full episode)

Keith says: This is hitting new territory for a television series, especially for CBS. Essentially this is a horror movie that unfolds in a season's worth of episodes. There is some definite gore and it has its frights, so right away I'm wondering how dumbed-down this will become before it hits everyone's TV sets. This has a very Scream or Friday the 13th vibe to it, and I'm a sucker for cornball horror flicks, so this is right up my alley. It will infuriate viewers of this show if it gets canceled mid-season, as we'd never learn the identity of the killer. I imagine if it were to be renewed it'd be like a sequel to a horror movie. Definitely one to keep an eye on, but so far more for how it breaks the mold.

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Bob Sassone

I really loved The Mentalist. It's a more serious show than Psych/Monk (though not without it's snappy one-liners and sarcasm), and Baker is really good in the role.

Also, how can you not love a show that has an opening scene like the pilot had? Caught me completely off guard, heh.

June 12 2008 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After CBS canceled Moonlight, I will never watch another new show they introduce, it's too dissapointing when they cancel it.

June 11 2008 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll wait for year 3 for any new shows before I start watching them. I'm tired of them cancelling the good shows because of the broken ratings system.

June 11 2008 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm going to watch The Mentalist just for Simon Baker. He's great to watch. (I loved the guardian!) I watched the previews on cbs.com. I liked his conversation with the "expert" and when he said, he irks me, he's irksome. This seems more drama based where psych is pretty much pure comedy, so I think I can deal with both. You mentioned profit, I bought it because it was adrian pasdar (loved mysterious ways) and because it was only like 10 bucks, but I couldn't even finish the pilot. Maybe it got better and I should give it another shot?

The Eleventh Hour preview didn't really interest me, but I might give it a shot, depends what it's up against. I knew I recognized Rufus Sewell but couldn't figure it out. IMDB to the rescue! He was on A Knight's Tale.

I didn't like Elizabeth Reaser on Grey's but I liked a movie I saw with her so I might watch this. The premise sounds like it could be good. Plus, you compare it to HIMYM, so, I'll definitely check it out.

As for the others, I might watch, might not, it'll just depend on how I feel at the time they premiere and what show I'm watching on dvd at the time.

June 11 2008 at 11:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

Uhm, what do you mean, go the way of Life? Life was renewed. Do you mean that the show will be affected by a coming actor's strike? Do you mean it will be on the cusp of cancellation and then get renewed?

June 11 2008 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joey Geraci's comment

Sorry, I meant 'Journeyman'.

June 11 2008 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My thoughts on the screeners I caught (besides Harper's Island, which I mention above already):

Worst Week -- This one was weird because as I watched it, I didn't like it, but I couldn't help but keep laughing at parts. It's going to be compared to 'Meet the Parents' immediately. Kurtwood Smith and Nancy Lenehan are perfect.

The Ex-List -- Hated it. I hate the premise, that this girl really believes this psychic so quickly and easily, then goes off on a hunt through her ex-boyfriends to find a husband. What?!

The Mentalist -- I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. Of the full-length screeners we got, this one was solid. However, it could go the way of 'Life'.

11th Hour -- We just got a quick preview video, not a full episode, but what I saw I loved. It's like a new X-Files. But will it compete too hard with another X-files-like show, 'Fringe'? Maybe there's room for them both, or maybe they'll both fail like the whole Invasion/Surface/Threshold debacle.

I didn't catch Project Gary yet...

June 10 2008 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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