What’s Cultural Learnings Watching?: The New Shows of Fall 2008

To be honest, I’m in over my head answering the question of what shows I’ll be covering this fall. Not only am I extremely busy at the moment (Hence why I’m behind on Mad Men, Burn Notice, Greek, etc.), but we know extremely little about what’s to come. With a rushed pilot season, we have less information and fewer options, a combination that has me going blind. When you bundle this with the “relaunch” phenomenon I’ll discuss later this week, you have a sense that new shows aren’t going to be dominating our television viewing schedule.

But, there’s a few that are on my radar for varying reasons, and ones that I’ll be covering in some detail – others will probably be watched once, and could join the lineup in time.

Fringe (Fox, Tuesday September 9th, 8pm)

I previewed the 90-minute pilot earlier in the summer, and I think the same of it now: this is the fall show that feels most like something I’d want to watch every week, to get wrapped up in and think about long after I’ve watched it. While I love Lost and Alias’ pilots, I find this creation to be Abrams’ most recognizably serial: the setup is less personal and more situational, which could definitely benefit its long term stability compared to Alias’ eventual departure from the rails. Abrams’ shows all seem to be about characters intertwined in something bigger than them, but this group is yet another in the long list of people who we want to see go through these trials.

90210 (The CW, Tuesday September 2nd, 8pm)

Yes, it isn’t being screened for critics, and there are certainly questions about its quality, but I can’t help but think that The CW’s great hope is something to watch this fall. Ignoring the subject matter, which I admittedly enjoy as a guilty pleasure, it stars Tristan Wilds (Michael from ‘The Wire’) and Jessica Walter (Lucille from ‘Arrested Development’); this kind of pedigree can’t go unnoticed. I’m a bit too young to have been sucked into the phenomenon on which the show is based, but there still is room for a show like this should The CW pull it off.

The Ex List (CBS, Friday October 3rd, 9pm)

After doing some really great work on Grey’s Anatomy (as trauma victim and facial reconstruction patient Eva) before her character was sent to crazy town towards the end of the fourth season, Elizabeth Reaser has earned at least some of my loyalty. Combine with Diane Ruggierio, late of Veronica Mars, and you have a potentially engaging combination for a more light-hearted romantic comedy option. The show, which follows a woman who is told that she has already met her true love and must sort through her ex-boyfriends in search of the individual, is the kind of series that could be smart enough to overcome its sappy concept. I am hoping for appeal similar to Samantha Who?, a show that is carried by its star and some strong supporting work.

Life on Mars (ABC, Thursday October 9th, 10pm)

For those following the history of this American adaptation of the hit British series, there’s like ten reasons to be concerned: David E. Kelley fights battle with studio while pilot is shot, new showrunners step in and dump most of the cast, and an entirely new cast is just recently completing a new pilot, with a whole new direction from the one ABC originally greenlit. It could work out in quite an intriguing fashion, though – while the showrunners from October Road bring little experience, they have brought a cast featuring Harvey Keitel and Michael Impirioli. For that reason, and for the potential in the story, I’m tuning in for now.

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