It seems like the ancient past, but one short year ago, the phrase “Desperate Housewives” was not a regular part of our vocabulary. The Kristin-Steven-LC love triangle was just starting to unfold before our eyes. We had no idea what television drama was to come.
And now we find ourselves in a similar situation, one that arises every September when new shows and old favorites vie for our attention. We could easily be on the brink of television history. We could find our time and energy wasted on new shows with no promise. All we can do is wait and see.
One show already garnering critical acclaim to compliment its premiere hype is Fox’s “Prison Break” (Mondays 9 p.m.). The story revolves around a man named Michael Scofield and his desperate attempts to help his brother, who is scheduled to be executed for a murder he may not have committed, break out of prison. The plan begins to unfold when Scofield commits a crime and gets himself placed in prison alongside his brother.
The show, which premiered on Aug. 29 at 8 p.m., was well received by critics and audiences. And like action-packed predecessor “24,” it promises to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
For comedies, NBC’s most hyped new series is “My Name is Earl,” about a guy who sets out to change his karmic destiny by making up for all the things he’s done wrong. The biggest attraction of the series is its star, Jason Lee, of “Chasing Amy” and “Mallrats” fame. The show will rely on Lee’s comedic talents to bring in viewers who have been jaded with dramas for the past few seasons. The show premieres Sept. 20 at 9 p.m.
Though not quite a cable powerhouse, sleeper network FX returns with a strong line-up this fall. The doctor drama “Nip/Tuck” is back for a third season and off-beat comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is providing solid laughs for the late-night set (airing Tuesdays at 11 p.m.).
Social commentary is also strong this season, with two new shows touching on sensitive current affairs. “Over There,” a gritty war drama dealing with the conflict in Iraq, is currently airing on FX (Wednesdays 10 p.m.) and the new ABC series “Commander In Chief,” about the first female president (Geena Davis), premieres Sept. 27 at 9 p.m.
Also returning are last year’s breakout hits “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” for their sophomore seasons. The teen drama “The OC” returns to Fox for a third season, following a year that saw alcoholism, sexual identity crises and attempted murder sneak into the plotlines. With the twists that each show served up last season, and the questions left unanswered, these premieres are certain to draw large audiences.
On the WB, which has made a name for itself with teen-oriented programming like “Dawson’s Creek,” the series “Gilmore Girls” is back for a sixth season. While the initial hype surrounding the show has died down considerably since its first season, it has secured a large fan base, and managed to stay on-air in the increasingly fickle prime-time market. The premiere airs Tuesday Sept. 13 at 8 p.m.
The WB also attempts to rekindle its horror-genre success of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” this season with “Supernatural,” a show about two brothers who investigate the mysterious disappearance of their father. The show stars Jared Padelecki (“Gilmore Girls”) and Jensen Ackles (“Days of Our Lives”) and should appeal to the adolescent teenage viewers, who idolize Padalecki from his Gilmore tenure as heartthrob Dean.
A number of mid-season additions return to revive last year’s success this September. The drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” about a group of Seattle medical school students, benefited last season from a perfect time-slot, directly following “Desperate Housewives.” Following the time-tested adage of not fixing something that ain’t broken, ABC has chosen to preserve its Sunday night line-up, with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” airing at 8 p.m., “Desperate Housewives” airing at 9 p.m., and “Grey’s Anatomy” airing at 10 p.m. On a night left wide-open by the mid-week move of “Alias,” this time-tested combination should consistently draw in viewers.
Television critics from across the nation are dismissing this season as uneventful in comparison to last season’s rash of critical and commercial hits, but only time will tell which new shows make it to a sophomore season and which hit the cutting room floor. As for the old favorites, hopefully the writers have some unique tricks to satisfy old fans. Whether or not this becomes a season to remember, we will certainly be watching.