Welcome to Thursday night, also known as the biggest mystery of the fall, because the networks have allowed reporters to see three...two...one...no, none of these new shows! Oh well, it's OK, I'm sure that's not a bad sign...Um, right?
Click in to get the goods on what we do know about the three new series premiering on Thursday night: ABC's Life of Mars (about which I remain genuinely hopeful), along with NBC's Kath & Kim (which NBC president Ben Silverman contends will be the funniest show on television) and CBS' Eleventh Hour (which our odds expert, Benjamin Eckstein of America's Line, predicts to be the number-one new hit series of the fall).
KATH & KIM (NBC)
Premiere: Oct. 9, 9:30 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: CSI, Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, Kitchen Nightmares
Cast: Molly Shannon, Selma Blair, John Michael Higgins, Mikey Day
Status: No one has seen it
Who doesn't love Selma Blair? As much as I'm wary of a wacky sitcom about a mother and daughter pair of loopy ditzes, I can't help but think Selma knows what she's doing. Come on! She's Liz Sherman in the Hellboy movies! Molly Shannon and John Michael Higgins (of Best in Show and Christopher Guest movie fame) are hardly chopped liver either, and NBC chief Ben Silverman insists this show might even be funnier than his baby, The Office. Sources who've seen it say it's "not bad" but "not everyone's cup of tea." So bottom line: No way of knowing until you take the first sip.
Vegas Odds on Survival: 30 to 1
My Verdict: Wait until the screener and reviews are out, or hit up the Australian version on YouTube for reference.
LIFE ON MARS (ABC)
Premiere: Oct. 9, 10 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: ER, Eleventh Hour
Cast: Jason O'Mara, Michael Imperioli, Harvey Keitel, Gretchen Mol
Status: No one's seen it; the U.K. version is a contemporary classic, but the original U.S. pilot with a different cast didn't live up to that standard
In the 2006 U.K. version of Life on Mars, the credits voiceover says, "My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad? In a coma? Or back in time? Whatever's happened, it's like I've landed on a different planet. Now maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home." And there you have the series, the title of which references the classic David Bowie song from, yes, 1973.
In the U.S. version, the yummy Jason O'Mara (most recently on Grey's and The Closer) is Sam, Harvey Keitel is his old-school boss in 1973, Gretchen Mol is the police assistant who sympathizes with his plight and Michael Imperioli is part of the NYC detective squad that welcomes "transfer" Sam.
The tough part about this show is that it's got an inherently weird premise that could be easily bungled. On the other hand, the raw material is fab, and based on what I've heard, exec producers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg know what they're doing.
"What's great about this show and the British version," Appelbaum told me, "is that it's a real genre-bending show. If you like police stories, we got it. If you like sci-fi, we got it. There's romance. There's really something for everyone in this. I know that everyone always says that, but it's true in this case."
Not to mention, the casting on this version is pretty awesome. (Michael Imperioli! Harvey Keitel!)
"Sam's already been thrown 35 years back in time," said Applebaum. "What would be more intimidating then also having to face Harvey Keitel? And we can't believe we got him."
And so I remain optimistic about Mars. And so does our Vegas oddsmaker...
Vegas Odds on Survival: 3 to 1
My Verdict: Watch it
ELEVENTH HOUR (CBS)
Premiere: Oct. 9, 10 p.m. CBS
Time-Slot Competition: ER, Life on Mars
Cast: Rufus Sewell, Marley Shelton, Marc Blucas, Michael O'Keefe
Status: No one's seen it
From Jerry Bruckheimer—that guy who brought you every other drama on CBS—comes Eleventh Hour, a science-fact series about a biophysicist (Rufus Sewell) who is on call for the FBI when they need help solving scientifically complex mysteries. (Oh, think of the exposition!) Marley Shelton is the agent who watches his back and provides any federal intimidation necessary to coax information out of witnesses and suspects. As Rufus said of his character, Dr. Jacob Hood, "He's not some square-jawed hero—he has no sense of when he's about to get hit on the head."
Visually dark without necessarily being noir, scientifically edgy without treading into the territory of the imaginary, Eleventh Hour remains a bit of mystery itself. I'm not hopeful, but I'll keep an open mind until I see it.
And based on the premise, the cast, the time slot (after CSI) and Bruckheimer's track record, our Vegas oddsmaker Benjamin Eckstein gives Eleventh Hour the best odds of any new fall series this season.
Vegas Odds on Survival: 2 to 1
My Verdict: Wait and see