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Fox/Citytv/Sept. 25/7:30 p.m.
BEN AND KATE
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Nat Faxon, Maggie Jones, Lucy Punch and Echo Kellum
A single mom with a no-nonsense attitude has her life turned upside down when her hyperactive and chronically directionless brother stops in for a visit and decides to stick around to help her raise her daughter.
Some sitcoms survive solely on the strength of the jokes; this one's success depends almost exclusively on the chemistry that stars Johnson (the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) and Faxon are able to conjure. And they're actually pretty good together.
"This character is based on my real brother whose name is Ben Fox. ... Growing up he got into so much trouble. He's a really, really smart guy who intentionally does incredibly dumb things all the time." -- series creator Dana Fox, explaining that she didn't have to look too far for the inspiration to write this show.
Goofy fun, but with a good heart. There's a lot to like about these mismatched siblings.
CTV/Sept. 18/8 p.m.
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Selma Blair, Shawnee Smith, Barry Corbin, Daniela Bobadilla, Derek Richardson and Martin Sheen
A former baseball player, whose major-league career was ended by a self-inflicted injury during a fit of rage, has reinvented himself as an anger-management counsellor. But after an encounter with his ex-wife's new boyfriend, he realizes he still has unresolved issues of his own and goes back into therapy himself.
Produced for U.S. cable's FX network under an unusual agreement that called for 10 episodes to be produced and another 90 guaranteed if the show met specific ratings targets, the series has now been picked up by FX for the full 100-episode run.
"It was sort of like a dream I couldn't wake up from, or some runaway train I couldn't get off of, but I was the conductor, you know. ... So, yeah. So my life's different now that I'm not insane anymore." -- series star Charlie Sheen, looking back on the high-profile meltdown that led to his firing from Two and a Half Men.
A pretty average sitcom that already has a long-life guarantee.
(premières Wednesday on Global)
Starring: Matthew Perry (above), Laura Benanti, Julie White, Suzy Nakamura, Khary Payton and Allison Miller
A sports-radio personality who recently lost his wife in a car accident thinks he's ready to return to work, but his boss orders him to undergo grief-counselling sessions before allowing him back on the air.
After a couple of post-Friends misfires, Perry finally seems to have found a concept that suits his comedic talents. He's both sympathetic and amusing, and the supporting cast might be the best collection of misfits since Bob Newhart's group-therapy get-togethers.
"In my efforts to have a TV show and come back, the characters have progressively gotten nicer. ... Mr. Sunshine, he was sort of down and out, and now this guy is he's a nicer, more well intended guy." -- Series star/producer Matthew Perry, on why this show has a better chance of succeeding than his last sitcom effort.
If there's any prime-time justice, Perry should do just as his new show's title suggests, for several seasons.
THE NEW NORMAL
Starring: Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Georgia King, Bebe Wood and Ellen Barkin
A gay Beverly Hills couple decides that a baby is what will make their life complete, so they enlist a down-on-her-luck midwestern single mom who's trying to re-start her life in L.A. to act as the surrogate who will carry their child.
This sitcom effort from writer/producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) may not be the best new comedy of the season, but it's certainly the most controversial -- weeks before it arrived in prime-time, it had conservative watchdog groups calling for an advertiser boycott of stations that insisted on carrying it.
"I think every person in a group has a right to protest something and not like something. But I always find it to be interesting when people take that position before they've seen it." -- series producer Ryan Murphy, reacting to lobby groups trying to pressure advertisers not to support the show.
There's nothing new about protest groups objecting to something that doesn't fit their definition of normal, but the fact of the matter is that this is a rather inoffensive sitcom effort.
Fox/Citytv/Sept. 25/8:30 p.m.
THE MINDY PROJECT
Starring: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Anna Camp, Zoe Jarman and Dana DeLorenzo
Dr. Mindy Lahiri is a gifted young OB/GYN whose career is on the right track, but her personal life -- guided mostly by her obsessive devotion to big-screen romantic comedies, is a disaster.
There was much anticipation when writer/performer Kaling (The Office) set out to create her own show; she's a major talent, but the character she gives herself in this series is reminiscent of Katherine Heigl's in 27 Dresses and Kristen Wiig's in Bridesmaids in that she's so self-destructively needy that she's kind of hard to like.
"I'm someone who loves romance. I always have loved it. Most people who grew up as nerds, as I did, surprisingly, have loved romance." -- series creator Mindy Kaling, admitting that she's a sucker for a love story.
We like the real-life Mindy, and would love to like the on-screen Mindy, too. But RLM has to give us a reason to root for OSM.
CBS/Global/Sept. 25/9 p.m.
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Jason O'Mara, Taylor Handley and Carrie-Ann Moss
During the early-'60s evolution of Las Vegas from a desert outpost into a gambling and entertainment mecca, rancher-turned-sheriff Ralph Lamb (Quaid) tries to maintain order while imported mobsters like Vincent Savino (Chiklis) try to take control of the town.
There have been several attempts at stylish Rat-Pack-era drama in recent seasons, but only AMC's Mad Men has gained a following. This one has the benefit of having two solid leads carrying its narrative conflict, and the pilot episode is one of the most engaging of the fall crop.
"I came in because a lot of exciting things are happening on television now, I think. A lot of the best writers have come to television. ...When I was offered this, it just seemed really authentic and a chance to really play a character and let him unfold over a long period of time." -- series star Dennis Quaid, on his decision to return to series TV for the first time since he appeared in the '70s cop drama Baretta.
If I was a gambler, I'd bet on Vegas to emerge as one of this fall's prime-time survivors.
Parenthood (tonight, NBC; premiered Monday on Global)
Rick Mercer Report (Sept. 18, CBC)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes (Sept. 18, CBC)
Dancing With the Stars: Results (Sept. 25, ABC/CTV)
NCIS (Sept. 25, CBS/Global)
New Girl (Sept. 25, Fox/Citytv)
NCIS: Los Angeles (Sept. 25, CBS/Global)
Criminal Minds (Sept. 25, CTV; Sept. 26 on CBS)
Private Practice (Sept. 25, ABC/Citytv)
Hart of Dixie (Oct. 2, CW)
Raising Hope (Oct. 2, Fox/Citytv)
The Big Decision (Oct. 16, CBC)
Happy Endings (Oct. 23, ABC; Oct. 21 on Citytv)
Don't Trust the B - in Apartment 23 (Oct. 23, ABC; Oct. 22 on Citytv)
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