“SAMANTHA WHO?” ABC 8:30 P.M. OCT. 15
What: A woman wakes from a coma with no memory of her past — including that she’s a snotty alcoholic who cheats on her boyfriend and hates her mother.
Who: Christina Applegate (pictured), Jean Smart, Jennifer Esposito, Kevin Dunn, Barry Watson, Melissa McCarthy, Tim Russ. Why: It’s a comedic burst with familiar faces scheduled between two reality shows. How: Samantha (Applegate) wakes up from an eight-day coma with no memory of her past. It doesn’t take long, though, to discover that she was a lying, cheating, cold-hearted witch. Now she must decide what true friendship, love, devotion and values are. Applegate is a card, Smart and Dunn are pretty great as her parents, and Watson is instantly likable as the boyfriend.
“THE BIG BANG THEORY” CBS
7:30 P.M. SEPT. 24
What: Hard-core nerds with marginal social skills try to woo their blond, perky neighbor. Who: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar. Why: CBS needs a comedy to fill the space between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men.” How: When Penny (Cuoco) moves into the building, physicist Leonard (Galecki) is immediately taken by the blond beauty who waitresses at The Cheesecake Factory and aspires to act. Sheldon (Parsons), his equally brilliant physicist roomie, is less swept by the idea — he’d rather watch “Battlestar Galactica.” The nerds are torn between loathing her and trying to impress her; she’s just content to hang out with guys who will retrieve her TV from her meathead ex. There’s a lot of time spent showing the intellectual and physical distances between beauty and the geek, but Penny will have to surprise us with some smarts and Leonard with some social prowess if this is going to be anything more than a stereotype comedy.
“ALIENS IN AMERICA” CW
7:30 P.M. OCT. 1
What: An exchange student from Pakistan comes to Wisconsin, finally giving the dorkiest guy in school a friend. Who: Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan (pictured), Scott Patterson, Amy Pietz, Lindsey Shaw. Why: Occasionally, serious, realworld issues make for great comedy. How: This was supposed to be Justin Tolchuk’s year. He (Byrd) got his braces off. Girls talked to him. Bullies ignored him. And then he showed up eighth on the list of Most Bangable Girl at his high school in Medora, Wis. His mom (Pietz) brought an exchange student to town, thinking a handsome boy from London might give her son a friend and make him cool. Instead, they got Raja (Kalyan), a Pakistani Muslim who seems even more awkward than her son. Justin has found his kindred soul. This show is hilarious. “Cavemen” on ABC tries to be a commentary on race and stereotypes in the United States, but this show actually succeeds. It’s almost as if the staff of The Onion were in on the writing; it’s funny because it’s true.
8 P.M. MONDAY
What: Cops try to rebuild and stay sane in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Who: Anthony Anderson (pictured), Cole Hauser, Maximiliano Hernandez, Blake Shields, Tawny Cypress, John Carroll Lynch.
Why: Crime procedurals are big this year, and this one offers a sense of place and time everyone recognizes from the news.
How: Marlin Boulet (Anderson), a police officer from the Upper Ninth Ward, has to reconcile with a partner who went AWOL during the hurricane, a family that fled to Atlanta and a city that nobody else seems to want to save. His new partner (Hauser) has his own demons to wrestle. The show is a curious mix of typical police actionshow shots and commentary on New Orleans’ struggles. In addition to all the cop-show stuff, there’s a serious look at the power of local culture and how the city’s social and economic differences have affected it. It’ll be interesting to see what residents of New Orleans have to say about the show.
7 P.M. SEPT. 24
What: A “big-box” computer store nerd becomes a secret agent after downloading a server’s worth of government data into his brain.
Who: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Adam Baldwin.
Why: It’s about time we had an action-comedy instead of an actiondrama. Imagine if Sydney Bristow dated a Yaris-driving store clerk who wears Converse high-tops.
How: Chuck’s brilliant gymnast roomie got him kicked out of Stanford and stole his girlfriend five years ago. Chuck (Levi) is still not over it; in fact, he manages the Nerd Herd at Buy More, and that’s all. But when his old roomie, now a CIA agent, delivers sensitive data to Chuck as his dying act, the nerd becomes a supernerd with a giant head filled with government secrets. Now, he has to try to get over the past while being a secret agent. This is what a regular guy would look like when suddenly given a special power. Funny, funny stuff.
9 P.M. SEPT. 24
What: A San Francisco newspaper reporter travels through time and changes people’s lives but still has to handle his own job and family.
Who: Kevin McKidd, Brian Howe, Gretchen Egolf, Moon Bloodgood, Reed Diamond.
Why: ”Quantum Leap” was a while ago; we could use another sci-fi life-changer.
How: One day, Dan Vasser (McKidd) fell asleep in a cab and got out of another one — several years in the past. It keeps happening and seems like it could ruin his life. He leaps from year to year, changing people’s lives, messing with his own. Cues from music, magazines and fashion let us know when he leaps, but he has to find the person he’s supposed to protect. McKidd is solid in the role, and the pilot is intriguing. It’s worth it to keep watching, especially while it’s up against a “CSI” franchise.
“CAVEMEN” ABC 7 P.M. OCT. 2
What: Cavemen — the sensitive, underappreciated Neanderthals from the Geico commercials — get their own show.
Who: Bill English, Nick Kroll, Sam Huntington, Kaitlin Doubleday, Stephanie Lemelin, Julie White.
Why: I just can’t explain this one.
How: Cavemen, yes, the guys from the commercials, try to exist in the modern world as a population oppressed for 750,000 years. They wear cardigans and own iPods and go to country clubs with their fiances. But they’re still fuzzy and flat-faced and fighting the negative stereotype that comes with being a caveman. Western-themed barbecues and golfing? Not so great for them, when everyone around them is looking for a scapegoat or a reason to blame them for their troubles. It’s a weird commentary on racism, stereotypes and cultural differences. Possibly too weird. Even more weird than having a show based on characters from a commercial. (In the pilot, there was no obvious hawking of insurance.) And unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem that funny.
“CARPOOLERS” ABC 7:30 P.M. OCT. 2
What: Four guys survive on the strength of their car pool.
Who: Faith Ford, Fred Goss, T.J. Miller, Jerry O’Connell, Allison Munn, Jerry Minor, Tim Peper.
Why: “Desperate Housewives” gets a lot of viewers. Let’s make it for men!
How: A new guy (Peper) enters the car pool, and his fellow road warriors aren’t so sure he fits in. He’s always talking about a partnership with his wife and seems reluctant to throw himself in front of another car pool when it’s about to steal their pool’s rightful parking space. Jeez. And the rest of the pool members have their own problems, including wives who make more money than they do, wives who are bleeding their bank accounts after divorce, and wives and children who won’t give them any peace. (Noticing a theme?) Funny moments abound, but the show needs more personality to keep propelling it forward. In the pilot, it’s just four funny guys in a car pool. Four women who live in the ’burbs seemed like relatable fantasy. This just might be too real. Why: “The Sopranos” is gone. Smits was looking for work. Why not create a new family drama and attach a big star to it?
How: Alex Vega (Smits) inherits the Duque family sugar and rum empire, and all the historic scandals, shady deals and family feuding that comes with it. In this colorful drama, there are generations trying to balance their history and heritage with their tremendous fortune and modern business. It takes place in today’s Florida, which means we can expect news out of Cuba to play a huge role in the show’s trajectory. Even in the pilot, major plot points hinge on the use of sugar in fuel production. This is one of the better dramas of the season, putting together a truly stunning cast in a story line thick with possibility. It’s also one of the more diverse casts on television, sometimes relying on subtitles for scenes spoken in Spanish. This makes it stand out in a season filled with stories of wealthy white men.
“REAPER” CW 8 P.M. SEPT. 25
What: A 21-year-old guy discovers he’s the reaper, as in the devil’s indentured servant. Rough life.
Who: Tyler Labine, left, and Bret Harrison (pictured), Ray Wise, Missy Peregrym, Rick Gonzalez, Valarie Rae Mills.
Why: It’s a delicate balance between “Supernatural” and “Veronica Mars.”
How: A long time ago, Sam’s dad was sick. So before Sam (Harrison) was born, his parents sold the soul of their firstborn to the devil, thinking they’d never have kids. Oops. Twenty-one years later, the devil (Wise) comes to collect on Sam’s parents’ debt. Sam becomes the devil’s bounty hunter, recapturing, with the help of a hyper-powered Dirt Devil hand vacuum, evil souls that escaped from hell. With the help of his overzealous friends and the surprisingly motivational dark lord, he manages to get the job done in an anti-hero kind of way. This is surprisingly funny, if a little twisted.
“CANE” CBS 9 P.M. SEPT. 25
What: A Cuban-American family of rum makers and sugar producers tries to survive with business and politics intact. Who: Jimmy Smits (pictured), Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, Rita Moreno, Paola Turbay, Eddie Matos, Michael Trevino, Lina Esco, Sam Carman, Alona Tal, Polly Walker. W E D N E S D A
“PUSHING DAISIES” ABC
7 P.M. OCT. 3
What: A pie-maker brings people back to life, including his childhood sweetheart, to solve the mysteries behind their deaths.
Who: Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Swoosie Kurtz, Ellen Greene.
Why: It’s like “Six Feet Under” sprinkled with fairy dust.
How: After his dog died, young Ned (Pace) found he can bring things back to life. But if those people (or dogs) live for longer than one minute, something else must die in their place. Grown-up Ned makes extra cash by tapping murder victims, finding out who killed them, then collecting the reward. But when the love of his life (Friel) is murdered, Ned brings her to life and keeps her that way, hoping to solve her murder. Despite his continuing love for her, they can’t touch, or she’ll go back to being dead. It gets points for originality.
“PRIVATE PRACTICE” ABC 8 P.M. SEPT. 26
What: Dr. Addison F. Montgomery moves to a new clinic with new drama.
Who: Kate Walsh, Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Audra McDonald, Paul Adelstein, KaDee Strickland, Chris Lowell.
Why: “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff.
How: We saw the beginning of the drama on “Grey’s” last season. Addison (Walsh) moves to a clinic run by med school buddies. She’ll have California sunshine, rewarding work and sexual tension with co-worker Pete (Daly). Addison also just discovered that she can’t get pregnant and that her friends’ perfect lives aren’t so sunny. This much-hyped show might be this season’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” — a quality program with nobody to watch.
“DIRTY SEXY MONEY” ABC 9 P.M. SEPT. 26
What: A lawyer follows in his father’s footsteps to become the attorney-slave to the wealthy Darling family.
Who: Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, William Baldwin, Natalie Zea, Glenn Fitzgerald, Seth Gabel, Samaire Armstrong, Zoe McLellan.
Why: America’s fascination with wealth and its owners is made real, but from the eyes of a character we like.
How: Nick George (Krause) promised himself he wouldn’t be an overworked absentee father like his own, but when his father dies, he inherits the family business: lawyering for the gold-plated Darlings. It requires constant damage control and digs out torrid secrets from both families. And what’s at the root of it all? Lots of dirty, seductive money. This is more clever than sleazy.
“GOSSIP GIRL” CW 8 P.M.
What: Kids at expensive prep schools lead debaucherous lives; so do their parents. Gossip Girl watches it all.
Who: Blake Lively, Chace Crawford, Kelly Rutherford, Leighton Meester, Taylor Momsen, Matthew Settle, Penn Badgley, Ed Westwick, Nicole Fiscella, Nan Zhang.
Why: “The O.C.” void must be filled.
How: Serena van der Woodsen (Lively) returns to Manhattan after a year at boarding school. Her best friend (Meester) decides she hates her, her best friend’s boyfriend (Crawford) decides he loves her. The parents, of course, have their own drama. The show has high production values and the weight of the Gossip Girl book series behind it.
“KID NATION” CBS 7 P.M. WEDNESDAY
What: Forty kids have 40 days to build and maintain a functioning economy and society without adults to guide them. Who: Kids ages 8 to 15. Why: It’s a twist on unscripted shows. How: Kids are left in a deserted New Mexico town to make it work. Nobody is voted off, but they can leave if they want. At the end of each episode, the town council chooses one child to receive a reward: a solidgold star worth $20,000. A 15-minute preview showed homesickness, peer pressure and meltdowns — plus leadership, teamwork and serious idea generation. Questions about the kids’ safety and working hours have come up since production ended.
“BACK TO YOU” FOX 7 P.M. WEDNESDAY
What: A big-time TV anchor returns to a Pittsburgh station after an embarrassing, YouTube-spread blow-up.
Who: Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Fred Willard, Ty Burrell, Josh Gad, Ayda Field, Laura Marano.
Why: Because Grammer is funny. Heaton is funny. And when they will be on your show, you put it on the air.
How: Chuck Darling (Grammer) worked his way up the TV news ladder to become an anchor in Los Angeles, but an on-air outburst sent him packing. The only station willing to hire him? His old home in Pittsburgh. Chuck’s co-anchor and old flame (Heaton) must deal with his ego. Despite the corny jokes and the laugh track, the two stars carry it well.
“KITCHEN NIGHTMARES” FOX 8 P.M. WEDNESDAY
What: Another unscripted series from the foul-mouthed chef. Who: Gordon Ramsay. Why: Unscripted shows are cheap. Kitchen shows are popular. How: Ramsay shapes up the staff at restaurants in crisis. Ramsay stakes his own reputation on his ability to shape up these restaurants before they close down.
“BIONIC WOMAN” NBC 8 P.M. SEPT. 26
What: A 24-year-old woman is put back together after a not-soaccidental accident. She’s saved but is changed into someone, something new.
Who: Michelle Ryan (pictured), Miguel Ferrer, Molly Price, Will Yun Lee, Chris Bowers, Lucy Kate Hale, Mark Sheppard.
Why: It’s “Alias” and “Heroes” in one, plus it has that catchy old name.
How: Jaime Sommers (Ryan) was just a bartender. She took care of her little sister (Hale) and was having a baby with her surgeonboyfriend (Bowers). When the couple were in a car crash, the boyfriend took her to his lab to make her whole again. The catch? It gave her superhuman strength. The only other person who’d gotten the same bionic treatment was made into a soldier. Now, the bartender with the sister and the boyfriend has to do her duty, and watch out for that first bionic woman. The show pits ethics against love, free will against loyalty.
“BIG SHOTS” ABC 9 P.M. SEPT. 27
What: Alpha males with important jobs and scandalous personal lives help one another in and out of crisis after crisis. Who: Joshua Malina, left, and Michael Vartan (pictured), Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, , Nia Long, Paige Turco, Peyton List, Jessica Collins, Amy Sloan. Why: To make a comparably sexy follow-up to “Grey’s Anatomy” that might actually interest dudes. How: A CEO dies in a tragic golf cart accident, leading us into the comically messy personal lives of wealthy, high-powered and stressed-out playboys. Consider James (Vartan), who might lose his job and his wife; or Duncan (McDermott), who has an ex-wife (Turco) he sleeps with, a daughter (List) who hates him, a dodgy reporter hounding him, and a transsexual prostitute selling him out; or Karl (Malina), whose wife (Sloan) and mistress (Collins) recently became friends. It’s entertaining, if cliched, to watch a bunch of wealthy white cads assist in their own downfalls. The jokes are predictable and the drama more like melodrama, but it might be a blowout success thanks to its “Grey’s Anatomy” lead-in. This is the same audience that made the cliched and melodramatic “October Road” a hit. As a plus, at least this melodrama features an all-star eye-candy cast of leading men and some interesting ladies, especially Long, who plays James’ friend and colleague.
“WOMEN’S MURDER CLUB” ABC 8 P.M. OCT. 12
What: It’s a coffee klatch of crime solvers, including a police officer, prosecutor, reporter and medical examiner. Who: Angie Harmon (pictured), Paula Newsome, Aubrey Dollar, Tyrees Allen, Laura Harris, Rob Benedict. Why: The series of books by James Patterson is intensely popular. How: Lt. Lindsay Boxer (Harmon), prosecutor Jill Bernhardt (Harris), medical examiner Claire Washburn (Newsome) and reporter Cindy Thomas (Dollar) are gal pals who help one another through breakups, but also through the stress of their daily jobs by sharing clues on some of San Francisco’s most brutal crimes. You can try to hate it, but it’s quite entertaining. It’s the perfect lead-in for “Men in Trees,” another show you can try to hate but end up loving.
“MOONLIGHT” CBS 8 P.M. SEPT. 28
What: Vampire with a heart of gold solves crimes and helps the human race. Who: Alex O’Loughlin, Sophia Myles, Shannyn Sossamon, Jason Dohring. Why: Regular-looking folks with supernatural abilities and crime-solving tendencies are all the rage right now. How: Mick St. John (O’Loughlin) is a good vampire. He tries to help people. But Mick is immortal, perpetually 30 years old, which makes it tough to form a real bond with women. And that’s not even considering the blood-drinking part. When he reconnects with a woman he saved years ago, Beth Turner (Myles), who has grown into a lovely young reporter, he must decide how close he can get. Previews of “Moonlight” weren’t available, but a short look at the show sent by CBS shows a heavy drama with a lot of mystery, romance and dark humor.
“AMERICAN BAND” FOX 8 P.M. OCT. 19
What: An “American Idol”-style search for the next big thing — a band. Who: Judges and contestants haven’t been announced. Why: “Idol’s” ratings might have shrunk a little, but the show is still a powerhouse. How: Preview episodes weren’t available, but Fox says the show will pit hip-hop artists against country crooners against rock stars. Judges will narrow the bands to 10 semifinalists, which will perform before a live audience.
“NASHVILLE” FOX 9 P.M., PREMIERED FRIDAY
What: “Laguna Beach” goes country. Who: Jeff Allen, Rachel Bradshaw, Sarah Gunsolus, Lindsey Hager, Matt Jenkins, Jamey Johnson, Clint Moseley, Monty Powell, Chuck Wicks (pictured). Why: “Laguna Beach” was a bonanza for MTV, so the creators are reworking it for a more generalized audience. How: This docudrama follows dreamers and dreammakers in Music City USA. Not surprisingly, they are beautiful and mostly talented.
“VIVA LAUGHLIN” CBS PREVIEW OCT. 18, THEN AIRS 7 P.M. OCT. 21
What: A would-be casino mogul gets a few lucky breaks in this musical-drama-murder mystery.
Who: Lloyd Owen (pictured), Hugh Jackman, Madchen Amick, Eric Winter, D.B. Woodside, Melanie Griffith.
Why: The British version of this show, “Viva Blackpool,” was quite a hit as a miniseries. Maybe the same magic will happen here, especially because it leads in to hits “Cold Case” and “Shark.”
How: Ripley Holden (Owen) has big dreams and a few investors, so he’s planning to open a casino. Assuming, that is, the investors don’t pull out and a rival casino owner doesn’t destroy him. The twist, of course, is that this is a musical. Every time a major character is introduced, a song pushes them through, whether it’s “Viva Las Vegas” or “Sympathy for the Devil.” The show trudged along in its pilot, sometimes offering moments of glitz, glamour and energy, but faltering other times, trying to add characters and themes that didn’t seem to fit.
“LIFE IS WILD” CW 7 P.M. OCT. 7
What: A veterinarian moves his family to South Africa, much to the chagrin of his children and stepchildren. Who: David Butler, left, and D.W. Moffett (pictured), Leah Pipes, Andrew St. John, Stephanie Niznik, Calvin Goldspink, Atandwa Kani. Why: A similar British series, “Wild at Heart,” was a big hit; now, there’s a U.S. version. How: Sick of New York and what it was doing to his family, Dr. Danny Clarke moved his family to South Africa. There, he could help treat an epidemic among animals, and his kids could learn more about their dead mother, who was born and raised there. Of course, he brought his new wife and her two children. The kids, the teens especially, are reeling from the social changes — life in an empty tourist lodge, school uniforms, feeding injured lions as part of their chores. The adults have their own struggles, such as bringing business back to the lodge where they live and keeping peace in the family. There’s an adolescent girly bent to the entire show, thanks to its narrator. Still, it seems like safe, interesting family viewing that doesn’t revolve around rich kids on a U.S. coast.
“ONLINE NATION” CW 6:30 P.M. SEPT. 23
What: Online video goes back in time to TV.
Who: Stevie Ryan, Joy Leslie, Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal.
Why: YouTube is a huge moneymaker using TV’s old bread and butter. Of course old media wants in on the action.
How: The show compiles the online clips that are making news on the Internet that week and plays them out on TV, “turning mouse potatoes into couch potatoes.” Internet personalities host the show, including Ryan, known as Little Loca to the YouTube community, and McLaughlin and Neal, the comedy duo of www.rhettandlink.com.