Surely, hearts around the nation pulsed a little faster this weekend. On the verge of network premiere week, who wouldn't be a little excited? Well, probably the majority of the cable-consuming world, whose entertainment hungers are more than satiated by hundreds of specialty channels, HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.
But for those of us with just bunny ears on top of our TVs, this week means almost as much as the beginning of baseball or football season.
Having ground through a summer of repeats, special midweek movies, and the seemingly constant airplay of Friends on TBS, we are demoralized and jones-ing for something new. We're either too poor or too cheap to pay for cable. Living alone, and for the first time no roommates with whom to split bills, I represent a combination of both. Cable is a dirty habit. I could afford the $20 -to -$30 -a -month basic cable if I really wanted it. But I know myself and sooner or later I would have to upgrade to the array of movie and news channels that inevitably feed procrastination and create lazy human beings.
So instead, I've worn myself down to the bone, allowing myself only a few channels that actually come in clearly when the antennae are balanced and configured in just the right way. No joke, I've become an expert at adjusting the antennae. I'm like the Chip Douglas Cable Guy of the broadcast-only television world. Each channel requires a very specific arrangement of my furniture, and luckily I've mastered it just in time for premiere week.
Like I said before, the new season for broadcast television is as big as any sports season. For the past month, I've been reading up on some upcoming shows and analyzing their likelihood to be entertaining or successful. This is basically the equivalent of assessing the starting lineups for several Major League teams. It requires patience, instinct, and a tolerance for that annoying "preview guy voice." You know, the guy who talks as if he's always looking over the edge of a cliff. Few can endure months and months of this voice. But a healthy addiction to ESPN during college built me up for this task. My immunity to it came during the time ESPN kept previewing its first network movie "Season on the Brink." The "preview guy" was relentless.
Because of him, I will never forget that "Brian Dennehy is Bobby Knight."
Getting down to brass tacks, "Arrested Development" will be by far the best laugh. It probably should go into the category of "best shows of all time." But like the Atlanta Braves, they will never go far enough to get the gold. It will continue to remain critically acclaimed but unfit for the mainstream audience. Its Monday slot probably won't help it out much either. This show should have gone to HBO. My prediction - Tobias Funke (David Cross) will emerge from an efflorescence of plastic surgery and become a male model. David Cross' portrayal of this character is genius.
"My Name is Earl" is dead from the get go. I love Jason Lee, but he's not a TV actor, which he should be proud of. This is the television version of "Joe Dirt" or "Run Ronnie Run (another work from the genius mind of David Cross)." The fact that NBC is marketing this so much is a testament to the struggling network's continuing downturn. "Earl" will be worth watching for one or two episodes. But after that, I'll probably get that feeling that I get after watching more than two episodes of "Drew Carey" in one sitting.
"The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" will be gold and well-watched. I just won't be tuning in. The participants in this show will be filled with back-stabbers and cheaters. Are Martha and Donald ever going to wed?
"Close to Home" has some promise. I think this crime drama set in the suburbs would at least be interesting, if not humorous, to see how the suburbs are depicted. Will it be the evil lurking within white teenage males? Invariably, the lead character, a soccer-mom prosecutor, will be faced with the moral choice of covering up wrongdoing for the sake of the peaceful streets of suburbia or expose it for what it is, crime. Jerry Bruckheimer is responsible for this one. On the CBS Web site, he gets the title of "mega-producer." It would be pretty cool if you could achieve "mega" status with any profession. For example, a file clerk who had handled all kinds of files would be called a "mega"clerk.
Judging from its description, "Kitchen Confidential" sounds like good television. The following words make for a great tagline: "Chef Jack Bourdain was on top of the culinary world. Until he completely bottomed out," the description says. Broadcast humiliation and frustration are always fascinating to watch.
Finally, I truly am very excited by ABC's new series "Invasion." It has been so long since there has been a good extraterrestrial, conspiracy theory show on TV. I'm just worried this one will have a little too much of a "Close Encounters" feel to it. Nonetheless, I aim to pay close attention to this one.
Justin Boron is the government and politics reporter for the News Daily. His column appears Mondays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 770-478-5753 x 281.