CBS dares to be different this fall, but not too different


CBS announced its fall prime-time lineup today, picking up four new dramas, one comedy and one really interesting reality series (more about that further down). They also canceled Jericho, the drama about a Kansas town after nuclear war devastates the U.S., which kind of annoys me because even though I never watched it live, I did watch it online, and the season ended on a cliffhanger! Now what happens? We'll never know, I guess. (CBS also canceled The Class and Close to Home, and I never watched those, not even online.)

"We approached our development this year with a specific goal in mind — to be daring and different," said Nina Tassler, CBS' entertainment president in a press release. And the shows that they chose to complement their solid lineup of police procedurals certainly are different.

One of the new shows I'm looking forward to is Cane, "an epic drama about the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family running an immensely successful rum and sugar business in South Florida." It stars Jimmy Smits (The West Wing), Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries), Nestor Carbonell (the mysterious Richard on Lost), Colombian actress Paola Turbay and the legendary Rita Moreno (West Side Story).

(Pictured right to left: Smits, Turbay, Elizondo and Moreno.)

Here's more about Cane from the CBS press release:

When the family patriarch, Pancho (Hector Elizondo, "Chicago Hope"), is offered a lucrative but questionable deal by his bitter adversary, the Samuels, to purchase thousands of acres of sugar fields, he's faced with a tough choice: Should he cash out of the sugar business and focus solely on rum, which would please his impulsive natural son, Frank (Nestor Carbonell, "Lost"), or protect the family legacy that he built from the ground up by not selling, and side with his adopted son, Alex (Smits), who mistrusts the Samuels and still sees value in sugar.

I never would've thought that a drama about Cuban businessmen would interest me, but I realized something: I love a family drama about any family who isn't white. I have never been able to get into Brothers & Sisters, and ABC's upcoming Dirty Sexy Money doesn't appeal to me at all, either. But a Cuban family with a sugar empire! Now that's something. I guess I did really enjoy Sidney Mintz's Sweetness and Power in grad school, too. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)

Another new drama I'm curious about is Swingtown, a series from the director of HBO's Big Love and Rome, set to debut midseason. The series "peeks into the shag-carpeted suburban homes of the 1970s to find couples reveling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced open marriages, women's liberation and challenged many conventional wisdoms." In other words, when a more traditional family moves into a new neighborhood, they soon discover their neighbors are swingers. Done right, this show could really be fascinating; done wrong, it could be a series of tawdry sweeps lesbian moments. I'll try to reserve judgment.

The other dramas CBS picked up don't appeal to me as much, but they're definitely in the "daring" and "different" category for this network. One is Viva Laughlin, a drama executive produced by Hugh Jackman about a guy whose dream is to open a casino in Laughlin, Nev. "Occasionally using upbeat contemporary songs to accentuate the drama and humor and advance the story, the series is based on the hit BBC show Viva Blackpool." A musical show about gambling? Hmm.

And then there's Moonlight, CBS' new vampire drama about Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin), who was bitten by his bride, Coraline, 60 years ago (that's means he comes from the 1950s, and that just seems odd to me for a vampire). "Immortal and eternally as young, handsome and charismatic as he was then, Mick is sickened by Coraline and other vampires who view humans only as a source of nourishment," the press release states in an excellent approximation of a romance novel cover. I anticipate some same-sex vampiric seduction around November, if the series lasts that long.

Lastly on the scripted front, CBS has picked up The Big Bang Theory, a half-hour comedy about two nerdy best friends who understand quantum physics but don't understand girls. And then, of course, a single hottie moves in next door. I'm tired of comedies in which attractive women are stuck with unattractive men. Moving on.

CBS' new reality series, Kid Nation, is one of the cooler ideas I've heard of in a long time. In the series, 40 kids, ages 8-15, will have 40 days to construct their own civilization among the ruins of Bonanza City, N.M., a 19th-century ghost town.

More info:

They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses – including the old town saloon (root beer only). They'll also create a real government – four kid leaders who will guide the group through their adventure, pass laws and set bedtimes. … At the end of each episode, all 40 kids will gather at an old fashioned Town Hall meeting where they will debate the issues facing Bonanza City. … There are no eliminations on KID NATION – you only go home if you want to. And in every Town Hall meeting, kids may raise their hands and leave. Will they stick it out? … And just as importantly, will they come together as a cohesive unit, or will they abandon all responsibility and succumb to the childhood temptations that lead to round-the-clock chaos?

It's 1900 House meets Lord of the Flies! I'm so there.

So there you have it: CBS' very slightly lesbianish fall lineup. Yeah, it could definitely be better, but let's not forget about CBS' long-standing procedural dramas, from CSI to Without a Trace to Cold Case, all of which have their requisite gay story lines every once in awhile, not to mention The Amazing Race (which returns midseason) and the mother of all reality shows, Survivor. Oh yeah, and then there's Alyson Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother:

I feel a little better now.

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