This is it. This is where I put my money on the table and allow myself to be praised or mocked depending on the outcome. Based on nothing other than my own gut instinct, I'm going to tell you which shows will live and which will die this year.
Are you ready? This is the column I'll be needing to save for the end of the season to see how well I did in my prognostication. I encourage you to play along at home.
Fox has already introduced most of their new shows. So far, they are off to a decent start, though I think it is fair to say that Vanished is starting to disappear off the buzz chart, there is little to no interest in the two new sitcoms Til Death and Happy Hour, and Justice walks a fine line. I think Standoff has a shot given its plum post-House timeslot, but I wouldn't get too used to Bones in its second season. It's numbers haven't improved over last year, even with the help of post-Idol viewership at the end of last season.
My take: Bones goes bye-bye before the end of the year. Justice makes it until at least midseason, Standoff steals what audience Bones has and runs away with it, Til Death gets moved to Sunday when The War at Home loses too much audience (both will be cancelled), and Happy Hour may be one of the first deaths of the season.
NBC really kicks things off this week. I haven't seen any of their new shows, but so far, I'm hearing good things about Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Studio 60, and 30 Rock. This may be the year NBC finally turns things around, and I think all the aforementioned shows have a real shot at going the distance for full season pickups. Kidnapped has picked up some buzz, and will at least get to midseason. 20 Good Years and The Black Donnellys seem less likely to survive.
CBS really doesn't need any of its new shows to take off, but they do have some old horses in the stable -- the CSIs are aging as is Without a Trace. If they want to keep their shows fresh, it is good to have one or two hits. Good news then! Shark will be a keeper. I haven't seen it, but I just have a good feeling about the show. It's got a good timeslot and James Woods is very watchable in the snarky role. Smith I'm less convinced about -- but my feeling is that it may not get much traction with the CBS audience. Jericho is a very non-CBS type show, but the pilot is good, so I think it's got a shot at least to make it to midseason pickup. The Class seems a good fit with its other sitcom bretheren on Monday nights, and I've not heard any horrible reviews, so I think it will get at least half season, if not the whole season pickup. CBS is in very good shape. Only worry spot: Survivor numbers aren't great, and Grey's Anatomy moving to Thursday night could errode their power position.
ABC has a lot of work ahead of them this season. The network has 9 new shows coming up, and right now it seems that the network is hoping a few of those will stick. My early bet is The Nine will stick well after Lost and make it through to the end of the year. I'm less convinced that Six Degrees will make it, even with the J.J. Abrams seal of approval in its favor. Ugly Betty has a good chance on Thursdays of infusing the net with some hip humor (ABC, hip?) but Men in Trees has a tough battle on Fridays vs. CBS power dramas. I don't think it will survive. The sitcoms are a complete blank to me, which can't be good news. I can't name a single one -- wait, that's not true -- Notes from the Underbelly -- possibly the worst titled show this year. Yeah, that will tank. As for the others, if I don't know the names without looking them up (and TV is my life), you got a problem. I was able to rattle off all of the other new shows without any guide or reminder. That's how good the other networks' marketing has been. ABC has got some work to do.
Finally, the new CW. There are really only 2 new shows for the CW -- Runaway and the Girlfriends spin-off I can't remember the name of. I don't expect any early cancellations for either. The CW needs all they can get, so these two shows will be on at least until midseason, probably full season.
Hey, did you miss some of the shows that premiered over the summer, like Psych, Eureka and Hustle? You're in luck! New reviews of these three summer shows will be available this week. I'll fill you in on what you missed and which shows are worth your time should they rerun or become available on DVD.
As always, head to the Movieweb TV Forums to discuss this column, new fall shows and a variety of other topics!
Next column I'll have my take on the new shows premiering this week and returning show premieres.