There's a strange trend on TV this season. Men in Trees, Smith, Studio 60 are three new shows which have featured lead characters as smokers. Smoking became a TV taboo a few years ago after the tobacco companies lost their lawsuits and cigarette ads became a thing of the past on tv and on billboards. The feeling was that it was important not to reinforce smoking as cool, especially on TV, where any kid could watch and be influenced. And yet, here are three shows which show some of the lead characters smoking.

Each uses the cigarette smoking to say something about their characters -- smoking is a bad habit for each -- and yet I couldn't help feeling how much I noticed that they smoked, when it has been so long since characters freely lit up on the small screen. I don't know if this is a good trend or not. Certainly there is a place for illustrating the dangers of smoking, but so far these shows haven't highlighted them. On the other hand, I don't want to be a miss priss who asks that network tv be clear of adult activities such as smoking or drinking. I'm honestly conflicted. The good news -- I so far haven't felt the need to buy a pack of camels, especially when I saw how much they cost from a vending machine ($6.75 a pack? Are you people nuts??)

Speaking of Men in Trees, I find myself liking this show in spite of my usual anti-chick show stance. It has some of the quirkiness which made Northern Exposure so loveable (and yes, I realize that everyone has invoked that show when discussing Men in Trees -- it's understandable). I have never been an Anne Heche fan, but she's really endearing and -- dare I say -- likeable as brokenhearted relationship guru Marin Frist. At the very least, it is light, fun Friday night entertainment -- perfect for someone like me who spends more time with Ben & Jerry than any other men. Yes, I realize how very cliche' that last image is, but you know what they say, if the shoe fits...

Also potentially addicting is Jericho, which still has a long way to go to match Lost with the 'people in a bubble' concept, but still manages to be interesting enough to keep me watching for week #3. My biggest issue with the pilot was the lead character, played by Skeet Ulrich. His lumpy face vexes me. I'm working on getting over the face issues, as I also work on ignoring Milo Ventimiglia's side-speaking. Anyway, Jericho works best when it focuses on dealing with the crisis at hand. The aspects of the larger mystery so far play out very weakly, but I expect that once the worst of the after effects of a nuclear holocaust are over, the mystery will start to take on more importance and hopefully become more interesting.

I also enjoyed Ugly Betty on ABC more than I expected to. Apparently I was not the only one, as the Nielsens proved to be (bad columnist pun alert) "anything but ugly" (we are so clever in the TV biz). The show is arch and cynical yet also sweet and funny. It takes a lot to hit all of those marks at once, but I am looking forward to the second episode to see if this show maintains its unique voice.

Now for the bad news -- Kidnapped bored me to death. I wanted to like it. Dana Delaney has been one of my favorite actresses since her days on 'China Beach', and Delroy Lindo is cool. But I found myself wanting to skip through more than the commercials on the DVR. Never a good sign. One more week, but I fear this one may be off the DVR soon.

Another show I won't be bothering to record any longer is 6 Degrees. Talk about characters who are insufferable and self-involved! The two things I noticed: Hope Davis is playing the same character she always plays, and Campbell Scott got old. It depressed me, and I didn't want to feel depressed. I love J.J. Abrams, but this show for me is a snoozer.

You can read my review of Friday Night Lights, which premieres Tuesday October 3rd (I liked it) here on Movieweb.

As the Fox shows go on hiatus for baseball, and most of the shows of the five networks have premiered, it's time to see what's working and what isn't. We'll analyze the performance of all of the new shows as well as some of the returning ones next week. We'll take a look at how the CW is faring, and we'll talk about the Lost, The Nine, and Battlestar Galactica premieres.

What else do you want to see in this column? Join me on the boards this week and provide your feedback in the TV forum. I will have a topic devoted to this column, what's good, what's bad and what you want to read about. What shows should I cover? What kind of information do you want? Talk to me people!

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