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ABC: Trying to Find Something to Fill That <I>Lost</I> Void

ABC's annual presentation is usually the highlight of upfront week for one reason alone: year after year, Jimmy Kimmel appears on stage and absolutely kills with a series of rapier-sharp riffs about the TV industry. This year was no exception. After dry, but typical, business speak from ABC execs, clips from several new dramas (more on them later), a dull montage of Lost cast members reflecting on their series and Matthew Fox on stage trying hard to look awake, Kimmel came out firing. Regarding NBC: "I read in The Times this morning that Jeff Zucker is building a 40-ton containment dome that they hope to lower down on to the fall schedule." Regarding Law & Order's cancellation and L&O: L.A.'s pickup: "The last time NBC took a show from New York and moved it to L.A., it ended up as the lead-in to George Lopez on TBS." On Fox's decision to give Glee the post-Super Bowl spot: "[They are trying] for a record of 40-year-old drunk guys saying, 'What the fuck is this' all at the same time." On the limited longevity of CBS's Undercover Boss: "If your new bus boy shows up and speaks English, he is probably the president of Fuddruckers." On Charlie Sheen's massive CBS deal after his Christmas incident: "Tiger Woods must feel like a real dumbass right now."

Kimmel's own network didn't escape unscathed, either: "We're looking for shows that break the mold and then [ABC's president of entertainment] introduced another medical drama from Shonda Rhimes." And then he closed with an off-hand comment that made me giggle: "I have not missed a single episode of Five since the lizard aliens landed on Earth. Oh, V?" Granted, he also had some lines about "fluxing" and how at least broadcast TV is more popular than newspapers, but I'm trying to focus on the funny, which is more can be said for ABC's new slate of comedies. Good thing the network's new batch of dramas might make up for them. Here's our first take on all nine brand-new series:

Better Together
All three of ABC's new comedies will be airing in the fall on some very confusing schedule. The first to debut in the 8:30 PM slot on Wednesdays is this laugh-tracked family sitcom that focuses on two sisters, one who's flighty and engaged (JoAnna Garcia, late of Privileged) and the other who's serious and in a long-term committed relationship, but unmarried by "choice" (Jennifer Finnigan). Their parents are the judgmental sort, played by Kurt Fuller (from basically everything, but recently Zachariah on Supernatural) and Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show). Judging by the clips we saw, the sisterly parts were terrible, but there was something vaguely amusing about the show when the parents were around... but just barely.

Mr. Sunshine
I really, really, really want to love this single-camera comedy slated for midseason. I adore Matthew Perry (who is also writing and producing on this show), have fond feelings towards Allison Janney and was a huge fan of director/producer Tommy Schlamme's ground-breaking work. These are all elements that should make a West Wing fan happy, but without Aaron Sorkin, this show falls flat -- in other words, Perry should stick to occasionally playing talented writers, not deluding himself into thinking he is one. The supporting cast is good, with James Lesure (who was the best thing about Las Vegas) and Andrea Anders (who was on the good but cancelled shows, The Class and Better Off Ted). Unfortunately, I don't see a sunny future for Mr. Sunshine.

Happy Endings
Not sure about this single-camera sitcom for midseason. It's not terrible and it has a solid cast, but it didn't have me cracking up, and honestly there are so many "single friends looking for love" shows coming out this fall that I'm still waiting for one to really wow me. Maybe years of hating Elisha Cuthbert as Kim Bauer have tainted my opinion of her, but watching her try and stay friends with her group after she ditched one of the guys at the altar isn't necessarily laugh-out-loud material to me. I do like co-stars Eliza Coupe (the only good thing to come out of the later seasons of Scrubs) and Casey Wilson (formerly of Saturday Night Live), and there were a few funny one-liners in the cut-down ABC showed us, so there's at least potential here.

Detroit 1-8-7
Moving on to ABC's new dramas, this one has Michael Imperioli is playing another cop after his stint on the network's short-lived Life on Mars. This time The Sopranos star is working in the homicide division in Detroit. It looks like another network attempt at "tough" and "gritty" that won't necessarily deliver anything close to what the cable networks can do. And the teaser basically ran over an Eminem soundtrack... because he's from Detroit, so you should probably expect a lot of that. The main hook is that these cops are being filmed by a documentary crew (one that's actually acknowledged; not an invisible one like on Modern Family). All in all, it reminded us of a more urban Southland, without any characters that popped.

The Whole Truth
Rob Morrow (of the recently axed Numb3rs) and Joely Richardson (of the recently completed Nip/Tuck) play lawyers on opposite sides of the law. Instead of seeing how just the defense or prosecution prepares for a case, this legal drama will show both sides of the story in order to reveal "the whole truth." On paper, it's an interesting concept, but the preview didn't really differentiate it from every other legal drama of recent years. And reportedly Richardson has already quit the show, so maybe she knows something we don't.

Body of Proof
In this drama, Dana Delany is a neurosurgeon who gets into a car accident and is unable to safely operate on living people, so instead she becomes a medical examiner because she "can't kill anyone if they're already dead." It looks like it could be entertaining since she's bossy and oversteps her bounds, and while it does have a bit of a Quincy/Crossing Jordan thing going on, Delany's capable enough as an actress to pull this role off convincingly and with a bit of a unique spin. As far as crime procedurals go, I think I'm more likely to watch this one than most of what's currently on TV.

Off the Map
Look, as much as I complain about Shonda Rhimes' shows when they'e terrible, when they're good, they're really good. The premiere of Grey's Anatomy didn't wow me, but six episodes in and I was hooked. And I absolutely absolutely hated the pilot for Private Practice, but then the show got substantially better. So while the midseason Off the Map looks like Private Practice in the jungle with less attractive people, I'll probably still watch it in hopes that it eventually improves. Even though I've already predicted what will happen.

My Generation
ABC considered two new dramas to be so special that they had Matthew Fox personally introduce them, on the premise that they're both out-of-the-box game-changers like Lost was six years ago. Well, we all know another Lost isn't likely to come around anytime soon, but we appreciate the effort. In the case of My Generation, however, that effort appears to have been wasted. The show's about nine kids who graduated in 2000 and are now dealing with their varied lives ten years later, filmed - you guessed it - documentary style (was that supposed to be the game-changing part?). The boring result looks like Reunion, but without the murder subplot, bad aging makeup or recognizable TV faces.

No Ordinary Family
On the other hand, this fantastic-looking new show impressed me more than anything else I've seen this week. It begins when Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Julie Benz (Dexter) force their two teenage kids to go on a family vacation, but their plane crashes into a glowing body of water. When they get home, they realize they have special powers. Chiklis is bulletproof and can leap tall buildings; Benz is super fast; their daughter is telepathic; and the son... well, it was unclear, but it seems that he's really good at math. Anyway, the show reminds us what we once loved about Heroes, mixed with the basic premise of The Incredibles and given a down-to-earth Unbreakable vibe that emphasizes character over CGI. I think I've found my first "must-DVR" show of the fall.

ABC is also offering up a "new" reality show, Secret Millionaire, which isn't actually new at all since it is essentially the same show (with the same title) that aired on Fox in 2008. In case you're in the majority that missed it then, it's about rich people who give up their cash to live with the poor for a while and then write then some big checks. Seems like the network's just trying to cash in on the success of Undercover Boss and we already know what Jimmy Kimmel has to say about that.

Check out our initial reviews of Fox's new fall and midseason shows.

Watch TWoP's editors discuss the shows that deserved to get cancelled in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop cable news channel:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/video.

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