Squee! It’s…

Squee! It’s W. Earl Brown on The Mentalist and Paula Malcomson on Law and Order: Honey Barbecue (Special Victims’ Unit) tonight! Since we’ve mentioned Al Swearengen around here this week, it’s only right that Deadwood‘s lovable, violent Swearengen sidekick show up as well. You’ve also seen Brown on Psych, Angel, CSIs both Original Flavor and Extra Spicy, NYPD Blue, and The X-Files. Malcomson played Swearengen’s employee, hooker with a heart of…silver Trixie. She’s also appeared on ER, Lost, and Six Feet Under. Back-to-back Deadwooders in primetime tonight!

Bonus on each show: Michael O’Neill, The West Wing‘s Agent Butterfield, joins Brown on The Mentalist, while the legendary Martin Mull (Gene Parmesan!) joins L&O: SVU. I might even have to watch.


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.

Guide to September 2008 Series Premieres

September is nearly upon us and that can mean only one thing–the busiest month of the year for new television programming. Well, it’s not quite as busy as usual thanks to the writers strike, but we’ve still got a good number of new shows debuting in the coming weeks. So many, in fact, that’s it’s hard to keep them all straight. So to help you navigate the maze we’ve prepared a guide to all the new shows premiering this month.

Premieres: Monday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.
Time slot: Mondays at 10 p.m.
This series from Steven Bochco follows the lives and cases of young lawyers who have been friends since law school but now work on opposing sides. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue), Gloria Reuben (ER), and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) star, along with Teddy Sears (Ugly Betty), Melissa Sagemiller (Sleeper Cell), Currie Graham (Boston Legal), J. August Richards (Angel) and Jonathan Scarfe (Into the West). Created by Bochco and lawyer/writer David Feige (author of the book Indefensible).

90210 (The CW)
Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
Freaks and Geeks‘ Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah are exec producing this contemporary spin-off of the ’90s-era teen drama. The new incarnation centers on Annie Mills (Shenae Grimes, Degrassi: The Next Generation) and her adopted brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds, The Wire), who’ve moved from Kansas to attend West Beverly Hills High. Co-starring Lori Loughlin (Summerland), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), AnnaLynne McCord (Nip/Tuck), Dustin Milligan (Runaway), Michael Steger (The Winner), Jessica Stroup (Reaper), and Ryan Eggold (Dirt). 90210: Original Flavor alums Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty guest star.

Premieres: Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 10 p.m.
Time slot: Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
This darkly comedic drama from executive producer Kurt Sutter (The Shield) focuses on an outlaw motorcycle club intent on protecting their sheltered town from advancing drug dealers and local corporate developers, and equally determined to preserve their thriving illegal arms business. Starring Charlie Hunnam (Children of Men), Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos) and Maggie Siff (Mad Men).

Sunday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m.
Time slot: Thursdays at 8 p.m.
This game show is based on the popular Japanese show where two teams face various barrier walls speeding toward them with weird and wacky cut-out shapes. Team members must contort their bodies to fit through these cut-outs or they will be swept away into the pool below. Described as one of the trickiest, fastest, funniest and wettest half-hours on the planet, versions of the show have already been produced in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia and Sweden.

Premieres: Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9 p.m.
Time slot: Sundays at 9 p.m.
The latest offering from Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) is a new twist on the vampire genre based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries books. The series centers on a psychic small-town waitress (Anna Paquin, X-Men) and the mysterious gentleman vampire (Stephen Moyer, NY-LON) who catches her fancy. This comedic drama is set in an alternate-universe Louisiana in which vampires are real and have “come out of the coffin” only recently with the advent of a synthetic blood beverage–“Tru Blood”–that removes their need to feed on live humans. Or does it? Ryan Kwanten (Summerland), Nelsan Ellis (The Inside), Rutina Wesley, and Sam Trammell co-star.

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
When the passengers on an international flight turn up dead under unusual and grisly circumstances, an up-and-coming FBI agent (newcomer Anna Torv) teams up with an eccentric scientist (John Noble, The Lord of the Rings) and his estranged genius son (Joshua Jackson, Dawson’s Creek) to unravel the mystery. Mark Valley (Boston Legal), Blair Brown (Altered States), Lance Reddick (The Wire), Kirk Acevedo (Oz), and Jasika Nicole (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) costar in this thriller from executive producers J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, (Mission: Impossible III, Alias).

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m.
Based on Zoey Dean’s young adult book, How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls, this show centers on a Yale-educated young woman (JoAnna Garcia, Reba) hired to be the live-in tutor/life coach to two rich heiresses (Ashley Newbrough, The Best Years, and Lucy Kate Hale, Bionic Woman) in Palm Beach. Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction), Allan Louis (Stomp the Yard), Kristina Apgar (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Michael Cassidy (Smallville), and Brian Hallisay costar. From executive producers Rina Mimoun (Gilmore Girls, Everwood), Bob Levy (Gossip Girl) and Leslie Morgenstein (Gossip Girl, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 10 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
BET’s first original sitcom, based on the 2006 Sundance film by series star Hadjii, tells the story of Scottie, an everyday, party-hopping, church-going, African-American undergraduate student looking for a good time with his friends and a little luck with the ladies. Kaira Akita, Quante Strickland, Corey Redding, Anthony K. Hyatt, Tyler Craig, Eric L. Register, Pat Brown, and Carlos Davis round out the ensemble cast.

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 11 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, along with her husband Rodger and fashion team, Taylor and Brad, are featured in this docu-drama as they endeavor to take Zoe’s business to the next level. In the series, the perfectly styled, go-to force among “it” starlets, fashion houses, beauty firms and magazine editors will give viewers a fly on the wall look at how she juggles constant deadlines, fashion shows and celebrity clients.

Premieres: Wednesday, Sept 10 at 9:30 p.m.
Time slot: Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.
This workplace comedy from Abraham Higginbotham (Back to You) centers on the upstairs/downstairs dynamic at a hip New York City hotel. The series stars Jerry O’Connell (Carpoolers) as the hotel’s image-conscious general manager and Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) as the head of human resources who looks after the staff and tries to keep everyone out of trouble. Molly Stanton (Twins), Brando Eaton (Zoey 101), Jolene Purdy (Donnie Darko), and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (The Class) also star.

Premieres: Monday, Sept. 22 at 9:30 p.m.
Time slot: Mondays at 9:30 p.m.
A half-hour comedy about an unwed couple with a baby on the way (Kyle Bornheimer, Jericho, and Erinn Hayes, Kitchen Confidential), who must break the news to her conservative parents (Kurtwood Smith, That ’70s Show, and Nancy Lenehan, My Name is Earl). From exec producers Matt Tarses (Scrubs) and Jimmy Mulville (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), based on the BBC comedy The Worst Week of My Life.

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
A mobile game show that travels to different neighborhoods and selects a family from each to play for money and prizes. Host J.D. Roth poses trivia questions to family members based directly on their lives, each other and articles found in and around their home. Produced by Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg, Karey Burke (Beauty and the Geek), J.D. Roth and Todd A. Nelson.

Premieres: Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m.
Time slot: Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
Simon Baker (The Devil Wears Prada) stars as Patrick Jane, an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation and former charlatan TV medium, who uses his razor-sharp skills of observation to solve crimes. Co-starring Robin Tunney (Prison Break), Tim Kang (Rambo), Owain Yeoman (The Nine), and Amanda Righetti, (The O.C.). Bruno Heller (creator of Rome) is creator/executive producer, and David Nutter (Band of Brothers) is the executive producer.

Premieres: Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m.
Time slot: Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
An update of the ’80s television series, following on the heels of last year’s TV movie. The new, customized KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) is now a Ford Mustang powered by nanotechnology, with Michael Knight’s son (Justin Bruening, Cold Case) behind the wheel. Deanna Russo (NCIS), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Veronica Mars), and Bruce Davison (Kingdom Hospital, X-Men) co-star. David Bartis (Heist, The O.C.), Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) and Gary Scott Thompson (Las Vegas, The Fast and The Furious) are executive producers.

Premieres: Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Time slot: Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
Jay Mohr (Ghost Whisperer) and Paula Marshall (Nip/Tuck) star in this comedy about Gary Barnes, a recently single painting contractor, and his controlling ex-wife, Allison, who face post-divorce mayhem after 15 years of marriage as they each juggle parenthood and embark on new relationships. Jaime King (Kitchen Confidential), Ed Begley Jr. (Recount), Al Madrigal (Welcome to the Captain), Kathryn Newton, and Ryan Malgarini (How to Eat Fried Worms) co-star. From exec producers Ed Yeager (Still Standing) and Ric Swartzlander (8 Simple Rules).

Premieres: Sunday, Sept. 28 at 10:30 p.m.
Time slot: Sundays at 10:30
Matt Lucas and David Walliams, the stars of the smash-hit BBC comedy Little Britain, bring their surreal, edgy sketch comedy to the U.S., featuring an outrageous look at the quirkiest inhabitants of the country from coast to coast.

Premieres: Sunday, Sept. 28 at 11 p.m.
Time slot: Sundays a 11 p.m.
An animated show about a guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. Tim (Steve Dildarian, co-creator of the Budweiser “Lizards” TV campaign) is 25 years old and lives in New York City with his girlfriend Amy (MJ Otto), who’s patiently putting up with his antics while he gets his life in order. Rounding out the voice cast are Bob Morrow, Cheri Oteri (Saturday Night Live), Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show), Matt Johnson (Passions), and Nick Kroll (Cavemen, Best Week Ever). Created by Dildarian and executive-produced by Tom Werner (That 70s Show, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Jimmy Miller (Talladega Nights, Borat) and Mike Clements.