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Test Pattern: Readers on new shows

‘Til Death,’ ‘Men in Trees’ draw divided reviews

Readers rate new fall shows

Yesterday I gave the , today is your chance. You've been emailing your thoughts about the new fall shows — whether they're good and bad, destined for a long run or doomed to cancellation. "Til Death," the comedy with Brad Garrett playing one-half of a gloomy married couple, and "Men in Trees," with Anne Heche as a relationship expert who decamps to Alaska, came in for most of your comments.

If your comments aren't below and you still want to share, post them in the . And thanks!

“Til Death”“Haven’t actually seen “Til Death”, but the ad seems like “Everybody Loves Raymond” without Raymond... or the love, for that matter! Ripped off his old show, and finally got to BE Raymond!”  --Linda

“I liked “Til Death”. I laughed at it. I thought it was good. But then I liked “Everybody loves Raymond the first time I saw it”. I think “Til Death” will get better once actors get to know each other better.”    --Sheryl

“I watched “Til Death” and thought it needs some work, but it was funny at times. However, I happen to love Brad.”    --Linda

“I can’t even watch the promos for “’Til Death” - why would I want to watch a show where Brad Garrett goes to the bathroom and clips his toenails? It’s disgusting.”  --Fern

“Men in Trees”“I didn’t think that Anne Heche could put me to sleep, how could they let a show that boring last that long? Let’s hope that show gets the axe in week 1.”    --Moe

“’Men in Trees’ was good, we intend to continue to watch it, as well as ‘Vanished,’ ‘Standoff’ was also good,”    --Lillian

‘Men in Trees’ was better when it was ‘Northern Exposure.’”      --Stephanie

“I loved “Men in Trees” and thought it was hilarious, but also a true version of what the real world offers especially if you come from very rural small towns like myself. The pickings are not so good believe me! Especially if you’re over 40!! Anne Heche may not be the best choice for a comedy, but the idea behind the show is great and I think it should continue.”    --Rhonda

“Anne Heche should have gotten back onto the plane to New York to men in skyscrapers so we wouldn’t have to watch her any more.”    --Barry

“Vanished”“I love ‘Vanished’ and record it every week in order to keep up with the plot. I started watching ‘Lost’ the first season, but stopped watching when it kept getting rescheduled on our local ABC station and I could not keep up with what was going on. They would run a new episode and the next week one from 3 weeks before, then the next week a current one. I wish that the stations would not do a rerun until the season has been shown, and then rerun the whole season in date order instead of skipping around. The same thing happened to me trying to watch ‘24’.”    --Anonymous

“Jericho”“Haven’t television executives learned anything from last years schedule? You can’t put intelligent programs on regular networks, because the average person will not watch them. So much for ‘Jericho.’ –Stephanie

“ ‘Jericho’ does look good and I can’t wait until it premieres. I also hope there will be some merchandising, that’s my two-year-old’s name.    --Kristal

Critics pick best, worst shows

The new TV shows continue to roll out, this week and beyond. I've given you my -- shows I think will bite the dust soon. I've also told you which .

For fun, I asked a batch of other TV critics from around the nation to give me their picks for favorite/least favorite shows out of the new fall crop. Note that this is hardly an official sampling of any kind. I only asked certain folks, and not all the critics I asked were able to get back to me in time. But it's fun to see their choices, especially if you're puzzling over what to set your TiVo for.

You're welcome to send in your own opinions of the new fall shows. I'll publish some in the Weblog, and I've also started a that can stay active all TV season.

And here's the short-and-sweet version of the info below: Shows picked as best, including my picks from earlier: "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," "The Nine," "Kidnapped," "Jericho," "Knights of Prosperity," "30 Rock," "Brothers and Sisters," "Dexter." (Honorable mentions to "Ugly Betty" and "Friday Night Lights.")

Shows picked as worst, including my picks: "Happy Hour" (the ultimate dead-pool pick, with three votes), "Til Death" (a close second), "Men in Trees," "Standoff," "Big Day," "Vanished."

And here's what the critics, class acts all, had to say:

BEST SHOWS“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”: Here I am, adding to the mountain of hype this show has already received. Bad me! By this point of the spin cycle, viewers are no doubt practically expecting the Second Coming. But it is, in a way, Sorkin Reborn: Electric Boogaloo. Matthew Perry is flat-out great, and the trademark Sorkin dialogue snaps, cracks and pops.    —Maureen Ryan, TV critic,

“Kidnapped”: What’s better than a perfectly executed thriller with a top-notch cast? Not much, in my humble opinion. This show has killer competition, in the form of the also-great “The Nine,” but I’ve got my fingers crossed that Tim Hutton sticks around.    —Maureen Ryan, TV critic,

“The Nine,” ABC. It’s a really hard call between this, “Ugly Betty” and “Friday Night Lights,” but in terms of visceral response to a pilot, this was far and away the tops. No idea if there’s a series in it, but the pilot is great.    —Alan Sepinwall, TV critic, (New Jersey)

I picked “Jericho” as my favorite new drama after seeing the second episode.  ... One reason I like “Jericho,” other than it’s set in Kansas, is that the show is going to take us down a stretch of imagination we’ve never been before. (In “The Day After,” everyone dies after the second hour — not here!)”    —Aaron Barnhart, Kansas City Star and

I picked “The Knights of Prosperity” as my favorite new comedy and screened it for a group of readers ... earlier this week.  It got a huge hand, and I got emails afterwards from attendees like this one: “Knights of Prosperity was a show I had no plans on watching, but now it will receive the Record Entire Series treatment.” Sadly, I’d have to nominate “Knights” as one of the shows most likely to get canned, not just because it’s in the brutalest time period on the sked but because it’s ABC.  Possible, though, that “Men in Trees” will follow Heather Graham in the quick-hook tradition of ABC Friday nights and beat “Knights” into the dead pool.    —Aaron Barnhart, Kansas City Star and

I wish I could name a good show,  but I haven’t seen anything that knocks my socks off yet... I think the one I’m most looking forward to is “Dexter” on Showtime because I like Michael C. Hall so much.    —Anne Hurley, former TV and pop-culture editor, Seattle Times

WORST SHOWS“Happy Hour”: Was neither. Ugh. Who knew that Fox could come up with a sitcom that makes “The War at Home” look like a Beckett play?    —Maureen Ryan, TV critic,

“Happy Hour.” I like to play the percentages, and this will have aired two episodes before any other lousy series has aired even one.    —Alan Sepinwall, TV critic, (New Jersey)

I think “Til Death” is even worse than Anne Heche [in "Men in Trees"]. Seriously, Brad Garrett is not that likable to begin with and they seem insistent on making him and  Joely [Fisher] as annoying and grating and impossible as they can — without the underlying cheekiness that made “Married...with Children” fun. By the end of the first episode I hated them, their house, their fights, their agents and whoever it is that keeps giving Brad Garrett sitcoms.    —Anne Hurley, former TV and pop-culture editor, Seattle Times

“‘Til Death”: Brad Garrett, give me that 22 minutes of my life back. Now.    —Maureen Ryan, TV critic,

Get it? Critics love ‘The Wire’

Sometimes it's as entertaining to watch TV criticism as it is to watch TV. Some days it seems as if all the critics have gone to the same indoctrination camp: Everyone loves Show A! Everyone thinks Show B should have been canceled yesterday! Everyone, march in step!

Other times, it's the opposite: One critic can write a near-love letter to a show, while another is practically foaming at the mouth, she hates it so much.

"The Wire," HBO's provocative crime drama, is the current "We all love it! It is much better than 'Cats'!" show. I've only just started getting caught up on the show myself via the first-season DVDs. And yes, it's a good show, but you know, it just hasn't brought us world peace yet, and from the reviews I've read, I expected no less.

I understand that critics are required to watch a lot of junk, and thus might tend to get, oh, a little over-excited when something really good comes along. And I understand that renewal of "The Wire" has not always been a given, and critics are forgivably antsy to express how much they like the show. But it's as if you have a mom who constantly reminds you to brush your teeth every time you turn around. After a while, you're so sick of hearing what's good for you that you just want to rebel, to eat an entire gallon of Pixy Stix. And NOT FLOSS!

Here are just some of the raves the show has accumulated so far. (Fair's fair: is on the bandwagon too, listing it in this week's Can't Miss roundup.)

"The greatest dramatic series ever produced for television.”    --Newsday

"This is TV as great modern literature, a shattering and heartbreaking urban epic."    --TV Guide

"The best series on TV, period. ... brutal and brilliant."    --Entertainment Weekly

"The best show on television."

""The Wire" is not just the best thing on TV -- it's a Homeric epic of modern America."    --Salon

“The Wire” might be the most authentic epic ever on television.”    --Washington Post

"I'm so excited for ‘The Wire’ to start, I can barely stand it. I'd cancel my own wedding if it conflicted."    --A TV Guide reader, writing in to Michael Ausiello's Ask Ausiello column

Do you get it yet? "The Wire" = BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION! Sheesh. I'm beginning to feel guilty for every second of my life I spent doing anything other than watching "The Wire."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch another episode of "Bridezillas." And eat some Pixy Stix.

Multi-link Monday

It's jolting, somehow, to type "Sept. 11" in the little dateline above. Dec. 7 doesn't even carry such memories, because, I suppose, we tend to refer to what happened on that day as "the attack on Pearl Harbor," whereas the 9/11 attacks are harder to label, so we rely on the date to express it all. I'm betting that date will always carry that ghost now, even when used in innocent mentions.

I'm off track, aren't I? How about lightening the mood with our Monday morning of random linkage? And remember that you can send in links for consideration.

• To promote the return of dark chocolate M&Ms, the candy company . They'd give 2 million of the candies (40,000 bags, at a value of $22,000) to anyone responsible for the safe return of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," famously stolen from an Oslo museum in 2004. (The connection to dark M&Ms? Um, the painting's content is dark, I guess...) Anyway, as we all know, and M&Ms has said it will honor the reward as soon as it can coordinate things with Oslo police. Hey, if that was all it took, maybe they should have offered the reward sooner?

• Have you always wanted to send (or find) a message in a bottle? Everything's online these days, and messages in bottles are, too. At , you write a message of your choosing, not knowing who will read it, and you can also pick up a message from an anonymous world citizen. It seems like such a quiet and lovely form of communication in our noisy world.

• I'm fascinated with the weird topics Wikipedia chooses to include. Have you seen the online encyclopedia's list of ? One of my favorites: "Someday, in the Event That Mankind Figures out What It Is That This World Revolves Around, Thousands of People Are Going to Be Shocked and Perplexed to Find Out That It Was Not Them. Sometimes This Includes Me."

• We've been lately, and I found this helpful: A list . Sept. 21 is a big day: Powerhouses "CSI" and "Grey's Anatomy" are both premiering, going head-to-head.

• Speaking of TV shows, children of the 1980s, remember "Solid Gold"? Remember the "Solid Gold Dancers"? The not only remembers them, it near-obsessively reports on what happened to them. Don't laugh, these people would be as idolized as "American Idol" contestants are if "Solid Gold" was on today. (Thanks to Ann in England for the link!)

Set your TiVo for these five shows

On Wednesday, I listed my top five picks for new TV shows that will get (or should get) the hook early. So I thought it only fair to look at the good side of the coin too. I’ve seen all the new fall shows, and while some of them are excruciating (ahem—“Happy Hour”—ahem), others are pretty darn good.

As TV editor, I try to stay on top of all the new shows (sometimes sitting on their necks, wrestling them to the mat), but I can’t watch them all. Still, here are the five that I’ll be setting season passes for on my TiVo. I still may not be able to keep up with all of them, but I’ll give it a shot. You should know that I’m much more a fan of dramas than comedies — well, I take that back. I may be able to find something interesting even in a mediocre drama (witness my passion for Fox’s canceled “Reunion”), but if a comedy makes me groan rather than laugh, it’s not getting a second look from me.

1) "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," NBC, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET: I never watched "The West Wing," since my interest in politics is embarrassingly low. But this show features Aaron Sorkin's witty dialogue and complex characters complete with a setting I can appreciate: A fictional "Saturday Night Live"-type TV show.

2) "The Nine," ABC, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET: OK, so it's kind of a "Lost" rip-off, only the traumatic event the nine strangers share is a hostage situation at a bank, not a plane crash. It's still intriguing, with a lot of backstory to unfold that looks promising. And I love Chi McBride (the principal in "Boston Public," he plays a gentle bank manager here).

3) "Knights of Prosperity," ABC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET: Star Donal Logue ("The Tao of Steve) has that goofy, bowling-league-buddy charm you either love or hate. It works for me, as does this sitcom about a gang of misfits who attempt to rob the glitzy Manhattan apartment of Mick Jagger. Gimme Shelter, indeed.

4) "30 Rock," NBC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET: Yes, NBC has two shows about fictional "SNL" type programs, drama "Studio 60" and this one. Real "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels, who's involved with "30 Rock," joked that the way to differentiate the two is that the show with "30" in the name is the 30 minute sitcom; the one with "60" is the 60-minute drama. Another difference: "30 Rock" doesn't feel quite as impressive as "Studio 60," though Tina Fey is funny and Alec Baldwin surprises as a goofy network boss who's prone to meddling in the affairs of Fey's show.

5) "Brothers and Sisters," ABC, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET: This show earned the rep of being the year's troubled show, thanks to constant recasts, a producer dropping out at the last minute, and a pilot that no one (except Canadian critics, randomly) was allowed to see until recently. But you know what? The result is an intriguing family drama pitting a conservative radio-show host (Calista Flockhart) against her liberal mother (Sally Field), amidst a hornet's nest of other family issues. Red state or blue state, give it a shot.

Dead pool for new fall shows

Summer has passed, and now it's time to meet the new faces. Not just in classrooms around the country, but on the TV set in your own home. Some new shows have already launched — FOX's "Vanished" among them — but most of them are trickling out between now and early October.

I attended the TV Critics Association's conference in July in Pasadena, sitting in on . And if that was my only information about the fall shows, I would easily believe that each one was going to accumulate multiple Emmys and go down in history as a legendary show. The casts: All wonderful, amazingly talented, they get along great! The writing: As if Fitzgerald and Hemingway had risen from the grave to write sitcoms and cop shows!

Now I wouldn't expect the people spending their hours working on a new show to be anything but positive about it, but really, it was kind of like the "Home on the Range" lyrics: "Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day."

Which of course, made me all the more interested in the inevitable: Which shows aren't going to make it through a full season? As of Friday, Bravo's now online-only channel, , is taking its name seriously and starting a dead pool where viewers can select the shows they think are most likely to die an early death.

I'm all over this concept, though it should be said that I'm also no snob when it comes to TV. Last year my guilty pleasure was Fox's "Reunion," the time-warping murder mystery which bit the dust before the costumer had even run through all the show's 1980s-1990s clothes. So my picking a show to get canceled early doesn't mean I myself won't be watching. And the fact that I think a show might make it doesn't mean I love the show: I can think of few things more torturous than watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" alum Brad Garrett fight with his TV wife about their tired marriage, yet I'm thinking there are enough fans of "Raymond" out there to make Garrett's show, "Til Death," a success.

My picks for five shows most likely to bite the dust early:

1) "Big Day," ABC. This sitcom follows the foibles of one couple's wedding day. Oh, horrors! Mom's vetoed Bride's precious caesar salad! I can't relate to these rich people's problems, and while there's lots of humor in weddings, not much of it came out here.

2) "Happy Hour," FOX. Really, really wants to be "Friends," but the cocktail theme feels like it was slammed together at the last minute to make a deadline for a Screenwriting 101 assignment. Also, isn't it about 10 years too late for the whole Dean Martin-tee many martoonis revival?

3) "Standoff," FOX. They're young hostage negotiators in love! Some critics raved about the chemistry between the two lead actors, but I'm still looking for that chemistry. Also, if I'm this bored by the hostage dramas, they may as well be young shoe salespeople in love.

4) "Men in Trees," ABC. If I want to see "Northern Exposure," I can pull out my parka-wrapped full seasons on DVD. And if I want to see Anne Heche in anything, I can have my head examined.

5) "Vanished," FOX. Also "Runaway" on The CW, and "Kidnapped" on NBC. Three shows about missing somebodies, and yet it's tough to want to find any of them. Stay gone, people! Stay gone!

Anchors aweigh, and who cares?

Today is Katie Couric's big day. The former "Today" Show host will take over the anchor chair at the "CBS Evening News" tonight, and to see all the time and space devoted to her job change, you'd think she had cured cancer, stopped global warming and eliminated all nuclear weapons from the planet single-handedly.

And yet, I just can't bring myself to care.

Call me a crank, say I'm out of touch, that's fine. But I don't understand why it matters who reads us our evening news. Yes, I'm from the generation that has news editors tearing their hair out because we get more of our news online than from either newspapers or television news broadcasts. But even when I didn't have that online news resource, I didn't avidly follow the comings and goings of TV news anchors.

Dan Rather's wearing a sweater! Tom Brokaw's cracking a joke! Elizabeth Vargas is pregnant! Katie Couric is switching networks! What's the frequency, Kenneth?

I suspect that this cult of anchordom is left over from the era when the entire nation received fewer than 10 channels, and when there weren't a million other news resources competing for our attention.  Depending on your region of the country, local anchors come in for a smaller dose of similar fame. I used to work for a regional magazine, and whenever we put local television anchors on the cover, newsstand sales of the magazine shot up. It made sense: In cities that aren't New York or Los Angeles, the anchors are our local celebrities — recognizable, reasonably good looking, usually eloquent.

I like to think that most broadcast journalists don't go into the business hoping they'll earn the mammoth fame of Couric and her comrades. I like to think that most of them feel it's important to deliver the news, fairly and honestly, keeping their own opinions and personalities out of it as much as possible.

But then again, I've sat through college journalism classes where certain beautiful but breathtakingly dumb students aspired to read the news on-air, yet never read a newspaper themselves. (William Hurt's character in Not all that fictional.) In a world where being on TV means fame, and fame means riches, and riches mean everything, landing an anchor position can seem like winning the lottery.

I mean to take nothing away from Couric. She didn't bring this media maelstrom on herself, and has said she just wants to do her job and ignore the hoopla. More power to her if she can manage it. But I just keep remembering one thing.

Very few of us will ever make it on the national news, unless we go on a shooting spree or win an Oscar. But when I was in high school, a small plane crashed in Reno, Nevada, and the sole survivor was an acquaintance of mine from school. Our little world, so small and so private, had somehow melted over into a larger, national scene. Our classmate's name, and the name of his school, were being tossed around (and mispronounced) by the same celebrity anchors whose names and faces we knew so well. I was only on the very periphery of this boy's circle, but it still felt as if our world had been picked up by a giant wave and was spinning out of control. Us, on the national news? Everything that was already strange felt even stranger. When I think back on that time, even more than I remember the real events, I remember sitting in a friend's living room, watching Dan Rather talk about them on the evening news.

There's a power those anchors have, even if I don't get their cult of personality. May they use it well.