2009 Fall TV pilot previews: Seven new shows to watch (or not)

After a long summer of not much to watch on TV, there are several new shows starting this week and next on American TV. Add this to all the great returning shows, and you’ve got a DVR dilemma!

To aid you in your scheduling decisions, I’ve created this short rundown of seven new shows, with suggestions of why you might like the show, why you might not, and my opinion on whether it’s worth watching. (Just keep in mind, some of the details may have changed from the pilot episode I saw, to the final version that airs.) The shows are listed in order of start date; click on the show’s name to go to the official site and learn more about it.

If you’ve seen any of these pilots, feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.

The Good Wife (CBS) — Sep. 22

What it is: A drama about the wife of a politician who has to go back to work as a lawyer when her husband is caught in a sex scandal.

Why you might like it: The premise of the series is very timely, the show is well-written and paced just right, and it stars Julianna Margulies (ER, What’s Cooking), Archie Panjabi (Bend It Like Beckham), and Christine Baranski (Cybill), all in strong roles.

Although it’s technically a legal drama, it’s really more of a personal drama about Margulies’s character Alicia as she attempts to re-enter the work force after years of being a full-time mother and politician’s wife for years. When she’s not competing against a much younger attorney (play by Gilmore Girl‘s Logan), Alicia has to figure out whether to leave her now-imprisoned husband (played by Chris Noth); and try to protect her kids from their father’s actions and the resulting scandal (in one poignant scene, Alicia’s young teenage daughter asks her whether it’s true that Dad slept with a prostitute her age).

Why you might not: It’s still partly a legal drama, and that may not be your thing.

Recommendation: Watch it.

Cougar Town (ABC) — Sep. 23

What it is: A comedy about an older woman who begins dating younger men.

Why you might like it: It stars Courteney Cox (Friends) and Busy Philips (Dawson’s Creek).

Why you might not: Where do I start? It’s an over-the-top comedy with uneven writing that includes every predictable stereotype about women and aging, and generally presents older women as desperate and neurotic. The conversations between Cox’s character and her teenage son are more creepy than funny, and the humor is mostly of the stupid and predictable variety, with pratfalls and lines like "you are hot as balls!"

Recommendation: Skip it, unless you like to watch train wrecks.

Mercy (NBC) — Sep. 23

What it is: A drama about three female nurses, played by Jamie Lee Kirchner (Just Legal), Michelle Trachtenberg (Gossip Girl), and Taylor Schilling (Dark Matter).

Why you might like it: The lead, Iraq war vet Veronica (Schilling), turns out to be more interesting than she seems to be initially, and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager) will be joining the cast soon as Veronica’s mother.

Why you might not: Michelle Trachtenberg’s character is insufferably earnest and naive, and the show’s vilification of doctors is silly. When they’re not nursing, all three women are on the hunt for hot men, and not in a subtle way.

Recommendation: Watch if you like HawthoRNe, but only if there’s nothing better on. Don’t watch it if you like Nurse Jackie; it’s pretty much the exact opposite of that show.

Flashforward (ABC) — Sep. 24

What it is: A Heroes-meets-Fringe type drama in which a group of people come together to understand why everyone on Earth temporarily blacked out and glimpsed the future at the same time — and what exactly they saw.

Why you might like it: It’s well-written and suspenseful, with a mix of new and familiar faces and an interesting premise.

Why you might not: It’s a solid drama, but there’s nothing spectacular about it, at least not so far, and none of the characters really seem to stand out (maybe that will change after the first episode). Although the premise of Flashforward is unique, it feels like something we’ve seen before.

Recommendation: Watch it, if for no other reason than it’s likely to be a show everyone is talking about.

Eastwick (ABC) — Sep. 24

What it is: A TV version of the 1987 movie The Witches of Eastwick about three modern-day witches — played here by Rebecca Romjin (Femme Fatale), Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle), and Jamie Ray Newman (Stargate: Atlantis) — who discover their powers with the help of a mysterious man.

Why you might like it: Who doesn’t like witty women with magical powers? The characters are likeable, once you get past the stereotypes they embody, and there’s a good mix of drama and comedy. Plus there’s that whole female-empowerment theme.

Why you might not: There’s a lot of un-witty dialogue, too, plus a contrived premise, some over-acting by Romjin, and aside from the fact that they’re witches, these are characters you’ve seen a million times before. The writers are also trying too hard to communicate that this is A Show About Women by having the characters use words like "slut," "boobs," and "vibrators" multiple times in the first ten minutes.

Recommendation: Not must-see TV, but record it if you have room on your DVR.

Trauma (NBC) — Sep. 28

What it is: A medical drama about paramedics.

Why you might like it: Iraq war vet Marisa (Aimee Garcia), who pilots the helicopter, is an intriguing character.

Why you might not: It’s another medical drama, and a testosterone-fueled one at that, with an unlikable lead (played by Cliff Curtis). The show’s only female paramedic (Anastasia Griffith) is in her underwear when we first meet her, having sex with another paramedic; to say the pilot is rife with gender stereotypes is an understatement (although both Griffith’s and Curtis’s character become more complicated and interesting by the end of the episode).

Recommendation: Skip it unless you really like medical dramas.

Three Rivers (CBS) — Oct. 4

What it is: A medical drama about an organ transplant team.

Why you might like it: It stars Kate Moennig (The L Word), Alfre Woodard, and that guy from Moonlight, Alex O’Laughlin (I miss Moonlight!) It’s a mix of medical and personal drama, but it’s tone is definitely more like ER than Grey’s Anatomy. Kate’s character has an interesting back story.

Why you might not: It’s another medical drama, and not a particularly memorable one at that.

Recommendation: Watch it to see Kate and Alfre playing doctors (and of course, to see Kate’s new hair), then decide whether to keep watching.

Do any of these pique your interest so far?

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