TV For the Rest of Us
The majority of new shows that air on network TV every fall season are ignorable -- okay, horrendously bad. There are always the same old character types: do-good doctors, chintzy gigolos and boring Average Joes. But of the new shows the networks announced last week, the political junkies among us might check out five that throw affairs of state, high-powered women, and the wrongfully convicted into the mix.
Among the most talked-about is ABC's "Commander-in-Chief," in which Geena Davis stars as the first female president of the country. Davis, an outspoken supporter of the Democratic Party, will play a vice-president whose boss suddenly dies, leaving her in the prime position. A long, leggy ex-model taking over the Oval Office can only happen on TV, but the idea is a nod to Hillary Clinton's anticipated 2008 presidential run. Hopefully Davis will have a better run than Patty Duke, whose 1985 turn as female prez in ABC's "Hail to the Chief" lasted only a handful of episodes.
Continuing the political theme, Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI," "The Amazing Race") will exec produce an NBC drama about "the nation's ultimate fortress" -- the Pentagon. The show stars Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper, and will feature lots of tension-filled moments in which intelligence officers have to decide between protecting the homeland and protecting people. Expect a patriotic nod to the country's current quandaries, with a few "real-life inspired" plots thrown in.
Speaking of quandaries, Martha Stewart continues the high-powered women theme as she take on the role of the Donald on NBC's "The Apprentice." The format will remain the same but the "show will be tailored to Martha's personality and brand identity." Does this mean contestants darning doilies and whipping meringue? Or will they be forced to decorate a prison cell? Either way, reality shows have been the vehicles of comeback for a number of celebs, so expect a revival of the blond bob.
Rounding out the not-guilty pleasures, the wrongfully convicted get a nod in two new procedural dramas next season: ABC's "In Justice" and Fox's "Just Legal." In the first, non-profits rule as lawyers at the Justice Project fight to get the innocent out of jail. In the second, Jay Baruchel and Don Johnson become "defenders of the accused and crusaders for the unjustly wronged." The "ripped from the headlines" plots should be a nice change from NBC's "Law & Order," in which 99% of the defendants are guilty before ever even being thought of as innocent.
It remains to be seen how much these new political and legal shows will play off the current climate, and how much they'll deviate from the norm. In a season being derided for its copycat line-up (more than 10 new network shows are blatant imitations of shows already on air), viewers may end up desperate for some real change.