So many dramas, too little DVR space

Criminal masterminds! Superhero freaks! Matthew Perry! A clip-and-save guide to the new TV season's new dramas.

Published August 21, 2006 12:00PM (EDT)

ABC's "Daybreak" Taye Diggs Our hero is framed for murder, has to repeat the same day over and over until he can figure out how to clear his name. Lost in time! "Groundhog Day" meets "The Fugitive." Diggs has a nice torso. Repetitive. Only Bill Murray can make us want to repeat the same day again and again.
CW's "Runaway" Donnie Wahlberg, Leslie Hope Our hero is framed for murder, has to take his family and run from the law until he can figure out how to clear his name. Lost in America! "One Tree Hill" meets "The Fugitive." Donnie Wahlberg's brother Mark used to have a nice torso. Running from the law is exhausting. Plus, if they keep skipping towns, how will the teenagers ever fall in love or join the cheerleading squad?
Fox's "Vanished" Gale Harold, Ming-Na, John Allen Nelson, Rebecca Gayheart The wife of a politician is kidnapped, and a devil-may-care FBI agent is determined to get her back. Lost my wife! Conspiracies abound, plus lots of twists and tricks pump up the suspense. Between a possibly shady politician and a possibly cheating wife, it's tough to care about anyone here.
NBC's "Kidnapped" Jeremy Sisto, Dana Delany, Timothy Hutton The son of a rich man is kidnapped, and a professional renegade is hired to get him back. Lost my kid! A professional renegade is always fun, particularly when it's Billy from "Six Feet Under." How many crime-based serial dramas are we supposed to watch this season, anyway?
"The Nine"
Scott Wolf, Kim Raver, Tim Daly Hostages of a bank robbery are bonded by their shared experience. Lost in post-traumatic stress syndrome! We're left uncertain what happened during the robbery, want to find out. Also, this premise might just hold our attention. "Lost" does the flashback-based drama proud. Can anyone else really compare?
CBS's "Smith" Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Amy Smart, Shoreh Aghdashloo A gaggle of criminal masterminds collaborate on sophisticated heists. Will they pull off the big score? Like AMC's "Hustle," except you can understand what people are saying. More heisty criminal masterminds in action? Really?
NBC'S "Heroes" Milo Ventimiglia, Leonard Roberts Assorted freaks discover their true calling as superheroes. It's not easy to be-hee meeee! If you love "The X-Men" you might like it. Melodramatic. If you think "The X-Men" is overrated, you'll hate it.
Fox's "Justice" Victor Garber, Kerr Smith Law office takes on high-profile, media-heavy court cases. Bruckheimer takes on the law! All of the dizzying camera work and flashy effects of "CSI" focused on splashy, O.J.-like cases. If you love "CSI" you'll like it. Too fast-paced and melodramatic; tons of pointless CGI tricks. If you hate "CSI" you'll hate it.
ABC's "Six Degrees" Erika Christensen, Bridget Moynahan, Dorian Missick Six strangers, linked by fate, picked to... do something, we're not sure what. Will we find out which one of them was in a film with Kevin Bacon soon? Unique premise, but how will they keep things interesting? A character-driven drama in which the characters aren't all that compelling.
NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, Steven Weber Aaron Sorkin revisits "Sports Night," except this time it's about a comedy show and there's a bigger cast. "The West Wing" of West Hollywood! If you love Sorkin, you'll love this show; Perry and Whitford are great at pulling off Sorkin's dialogue. Same old walking-and-talking routine. A few of the actors are not so great at making Sorkin's dialogue believable.
CBS's "Jericho" Skeet Ulrich, Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed America is attacked by nuclear bombs, and the people of Jericho, Kansas, have to work together to stay alive. Lost in Kansas! Nuclear bombs in the distance! Eerie last calls from dead parents in the big city! Bonus: The mayor is Hearst from "Deadwood"! What's not to love? It's like watching those scenes on "24" where everyone starts panicking, but with a little "Everwood" thrown in.
ABC's "Men in Trees" Anne Heche, John Amos A relationship advice expert's life and livelihood fall apart when she discovers her fiancé is cheating, so she decides to move to Alaska. Sex in... a very small town in Alaska! "Northern Exposure" meets "Sex and the City." Charming, quirky, sweet little storylines by SATC writer Jenny Bicks. Can Anne Heche really compete with John Corbett as the small-town Alaska radio personality?
CBS's "Shark" James Woods, Jeri Ryan Sleazy, high-priced defense attorney gets a conscience, takes a job prosecuting crimes in the district attorney's office. Idealistic yet brutal lawyer learns important life lessons! Replacing the usual sanctimonious lawyers with a ruthless hard-ass played by James Woods? Sounds good to me. Will every single episode end with a teary courtroom confession?
Fox's "Standoff" Ron Livingston, Rosemarie DeWitt FBI negotiators... in love! Idealistic yet brutal negotiators learn important love lessons! Livingston and DeWitt will hold your attention; kind of like "Moonlighting" with higher stakes. How many times can we see the nutty guy hold a gun to some poor kid's head while the SWAT team moves in?
ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" Rachel Griffiths, Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Balthazar Getty Large family sorts out its many issues. Daddy never understood me! Rachel Griffiths Calista Flockhart
NBC's "Friday Night Lights" Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton New high school football coach is under major pressure to take his kids to the championship. Don't mess with football in Texas! Original, well-produced, smartly written. Combine suspenseful games, great music, and almost Altman-like realism, and you've got a shinier, more compelling "OC." If you hate football, Texans, Christian rhetoric and hot teenagers, this show probably isn't for you.
Showtime's "Dexter" Michael C. Hall Ultra-creepy forensics expert murders people who've committed crimes and gotten away with it. What's he going to do with that hand saw? Extremely original: It's as if David of "Six Feet Under" went nuts and turned into that creepy guy who tortured him. A hero who delights in torturing and murdering people? Thrillingly perverse, but who has the stomach for it?

By Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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