After all we've been through since the beginning of last fall's TV season was interrupted by unscheduled events, perhaps it's not surprising that the fall 2002 prime-time season promises to be more comforting -- or at least more familiar -- than ever. Some of last year's best and most innovative new shows, such as "The Tick," "Greg the Bunny," "The Job" and "Undeclared," won't be coming back. Then again, neither will some of the worst ("The American Embassy," "Bob Patterson," "The Chair," "The Chamber," "Emeril," "First Monday," "Leap of Faith" and "Wolf Lake") nor some of the most exhausted ("Ally McBeal," "Dark Angel," "Dharma & Greg," "Felicity," "Spin City," "The Weakest Link," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "The X-Files.") Next season, the focus is on franchises, remakes, spinoffs, recycled footage and clones. You know, stuff that everybody likes.
CBS is adding four new cop dramas; evidently we can't get enough law and order in these troubled times. "CSI: Miami" promises to be like "CSI," only in Miami. Acronyms are big this year, but "RHD/LA" does not stand for Rural Home Delivery and it's not about a postman outside Los Angeles who delivers the mail through rain, sleet, snow and gang-related violence. RHD stands for Robbery and Homicide Division. The show features cops chasing robbers, and probably some murderous pedophiles, in Los Angeles. "Hack" follows a rogue cop who gets kicked off the force and becomes a freelance crime-fighting cab driver and "Without a Trace" looks into what happens when people disappear without a trace and other people try to find them. CBS is also adding a doctor show, as excruciating pain is always entertaining in others. On "Presidio Med," people will become ill, or perhaps get shot, maimed by machinery or hit by trucks. Luckily, a cast of five female doctors will be on hand to try to save them while occasionally setting time aside to grapple with their own demons. Also, babies will be born.
CBS will also add two new comedies: "Still Standing," a marriage sitcom starring an ugly guy and beautiful girl (to run on the same night as "The King of Queens") and "Bram and Alice," in which a female novelist is reunited with the lecherous, alcoholic novelist dad she's never known and he apparently makes a pass at her. Hilarious!
Because no one gets enough office at the office, ABC is adding an office comedy called "Less Than Perfect." The Alphabet Network, the low-ratings king, is also hosting the triumphant and long-awaited return of John Ritter in "Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." Then there's "Life with Bonnie," starring Bonnie Hunt as a talk-show host/mom. Fifty bucks says she'll be really busy! On the dramatic front, the most promising-sounding newcomer is the Ben Affleck-produced "Push, Nevada," which bills itself as an "interactive mystery." There are clues, there's a puzzle and the winner gets cash prizes. Now that is a concept after a viewer's own heart. "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf has created a new version of "Dragnet," because crime pays if you're Dick Wolf. "Miracles" takes over for "The X-Files" on the paranormal front, and "That Was Then" follows a 30-year-old loser who gets a second chance to redirect his life when flukish time travel sends him back to high school. Jimmy Kimmel gets Bill Maher's old late-night spot. And "The Bachelor" returns!
Speaking of destructive patterns, NBC takes top honors for its fresh take on the stalest possible subject, "The Rerun Show," in which actors will perform scenes from old sitcom scripts. Fun! Intent on using every part of the buffalo, the network will also unveil "American Dreams," set in the early '60s, which will largely consist of old "American Bandstand" footage and recycled news shows. It will also add "Boomtown," another cop show set in L.A., plus some comedies like "Good Morning Miami," which promises to be like other shows about shows, only in Miami. Also "The In-Laws," which promises to be like "Meet the Parents," only on TV.
The WB adds "That's What I Like About You," a "Gilmore Girls"-ish comedy about a teenage girl who moves in with her 20-ish sister, along with "Greetings From Tucson," about a Latino family. Did you miss "Family Affair"? No? Well, there's a remake starring Tim Curry. (Did you miss Tim Curry? No?) Finally, the WB will offer another version of that new ABC time-travel show with "Do Over," only this time, it's a 34-year-old man who goes back in time to relive high school. Totally different animal. A new drama, "Everwood," in which a successful doctor loses his wife and moves with his kids to a Colorado small town, goes boldly where only "Providence," "Ed," "The Ellen Show" and probably a whole bunch of other shows I can't remember have gone before. "Birds of Prey" is a "Batman" spinoff.
On Fox, David E. Kelley brings us "Girls Club," which features three young female lawyers who in no way resemble Ally McBeal because they live in San Francisco. Then there's "Firefly," Joss Whedon's new show, described as a science-fiction western; "Oliver Beene," a comedy about a young boy who is probably nothing like the kid from "The Wonder Years," even though he happens to live in 1962; "The Grubbs," a comedy about a dysfunctional family; a comedy-variety show hosted by Cedric the Entertainer; and "Fastlane," a cop show in which Tiffani Thiessen apparently plays the boss (a concept which, according to rumor, inspired an unintended burst of hilarity among critics and advertisers).
Finally, UPN adds three new shows: a remake of "The Twilight Zone" (an idea that has gotten around more than Julia Roberts); "Haunted," which delightfully combines a paranormal-phenomena show with a cop show (where'd they get that idea?); and "Half and Half," which kind of sounds like "The Parent Trap," only grown-up and urban and ... You know what? Forget it.
Actually, there is one other drama on Fox, "John Doe," about a man who wakes up on an island and realizes, in what sounds like the worst feeling of déjà-vu ever, that he knows, like, everything in the world but has no idea who he is -- which I believe is how many of us will feel when we tune in next fall.