Tuesday Night Showdown: Network Calcification

Although the fall development season was truncated by the writers’ strike, leading to fewer new shows this fall than in previous years, the networks in their infinite wisdom have decided to put three of their shiny new offerings up against one another. Interestingly, each of these new shows is a pretty good representation of the parent network:

Fox seems to have three modes: Sunday night animation, cheap (in all meanings of the word) reality programming, and action-packed dramas that are swamped under by increasingly convoluted mythologies. Joining its Monday night siblings (Prison Break and The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Fringe has unfathomable consipiracies and dark corners. If that sounds like your gig, Fox is home for you.

CBS cranks out traditional middlebrow comedies and interchangable procedurals. The Mentalist slots right into that lineup, using a team of mildly quirky but definitely pretty people to hunt down increasingly baroque murderers. While the fake psychic schtick has been done with more zest elsewhere (if you find star Simon Baker even remotely appealing, your mileage may vary on that point), The Mentalist is the kind of disposable, unchallenging detective show that makes up the bulk of CBS’s considerable bread and butter. If you want to come home, put on some slippers, be mildly distracted from the real world for a couple of hours, and then shuffle off to bed with nothing on your mind, the CBS lineup is for you.

The CW, on the other hand, targets a demographic more interested in stilettos than slippers, focusing on the very young, very attractive, and very rich. They have not one but two reality shows set in the fashion world, and not one but three shows about super-wealthy teenagers. The best of these is Privileged, which we have subtitled Rory Gilmore Faces Her Future. Imagine a world where Rory can’t make it in journalism and is shoehorned into a job tutoring twin granddaughters of a society matron. Now imagine that one of the twins in Paris and one is Lane (both with fancier clothes). Privileged is what it is–it’s on the CW for a reason–but it’s sharply executed and manages to carve endearing characters out of a slab of cliche, which is more than you can say for the competition. If you’re looking for escapist fantasy where everyone wears amazing clothes and always has a witty retort, the CW has just the show for you. Of the three, this is the one we’ll tune to.

Of course, you could always turn to ABC and NBC’s chestnuts, Dancing with the Stars and The Biggest Loser. Just don’t tell us if you do.

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2 thoughts on “Tuesday Night Showdown: Network Calcification

  1. I can’t see Simon Baker in anything without thinking of his role as that sad little actor in LA Confidential who sold his booty to the mayor only to be offed by gangsters in a sleazy motel room. Also, I have no interest in another CBS procedural, since I don’t watch any of the others…

    I guess that means there is nothing on Tuesday nights that interests me. I tried Fringe but I kept falling asleep and dreaming happy thoughts of Mulder and Scully. Wasn’t Reaper on Tuesdays last year? Where did it go?

  2. CBS cranks out traditional middlebrow comedies and interchangable procedurals

    I’ve actually become quite fond of The Big Bang Theory, and not just because it helps to pay the rent! Jim Parsons really is quite brilliant as Sheldon.

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