NBC/Virginia Sherwood

NBC: Wednesdays, 8-8:30 p.m.
Premiere: Oct. 11
Starring: Scott Adsit, Alec Baldwin, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski
Review: Staffed by Saturday Night Live alums and set behind the scenes of a fictional sketch-comedy show, 30 Rock is urbane, upbeat and hilarious. Fey is no Meryl Streep, but she emerges from behind the "Weekend Update" desk to do a creditable job as the lead, Liz Lemon. She plays well opposite a pitch-perfect Baldwin as an appealingly oblivious network executive (who tells her she has "the boldness of a much younger woman") and Morgan, who is a latecomer to the cast of the show-within-a-show, as a much cooler version of Martin Lawrence. Honestly, 30 Rock is so decent, warm and intelligent that it should restore a little of your faith in American comedy. In fact, tonight, when you say your prayers, if you love America and the world and the smiling faces of little children everywhere, you will thank God for taking good care of Tina Fey, and you will mean it. This show is that good.
Bottom Line: There's hope for TV comedy after all!

CBS: Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m.
Premiere: Sept. 20
Starring: Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Lennie James, Erik Knudsen, Gerald McRaney, Kenneth Mitchell, Pamela Reed, Ashley Scott, Skeet Ulrich
Review: How would we cope if a mushroom cloud appeared on the horizon and the force of the blast wiped out all the luxuries of 21st century life? This is the tantalizing question posed in the latest CBS drama that doesn't feel like CBS at all. This dark, eerie, sci-fi series focuses on prodigal son Ulrich, who has returned to his Kansas hometown, where he soon becomes trapped after what appears to be a nuclear disaster. Though the shows feel a bit more like a radioactive Northern Exposure than Mad Max in Anywhere, USA, Jericho's producers have enough spine-tingling twists and solid character development on the horizon to help Jericho blow up into something big.
Bottom Line: Small town. Huge potential.

NBC: Wednesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.
Premiere: Oct. 4
Starring: Heather Burns, John Lithgow, Jake Sandvig, Jeffrey Tambor
Review: Jeffrey Tambor = funny. John Lithgow = funny. When you put them together, the sum of both parts should equal funny, right? But sadly, something's off in the mathematical equation of Twenty Good Years, and all scientific calculators point to the crummy writing. The hollow jokes fall flat, and the script is so lackluster that these poor, talented souls try to overcompensate by shouting almost every line. Still, there's something so riveting about watching these two seasoned comedy vets. Their chemistry is so palpable, viewers are likely to tune in by the droves, especially given the show's charming premise: Two lifelong friends--who realize upon reaching their 60th birthdays that they only have 20 good years left to live--set out on a mission to live each day to the fullest. You should be warned: Their first attempt lands them in itty bitty Speedos, and we can only guess it will get zanier from there.
Bottom Line: Not necessarily worth 20 good minutes, but you'll probably end up watching anyway. 

ABC: Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m.
Premiere: Nov. 15
Starring: Taye Diggs, Adam Baldwin, Moon Bloodgood, Meta Golding, Victoria Pratt, Ramon Rodriguez
Review: Groundhog Day with Taye Diggs instead of Bill Murray? Well, sorta. When Detective Brett Hopper (Diggs) is framed for the murder of the state attorney, he must find a way to clear his name without endangering the lives of his loved ones. Sadly, he makes little headway that first day. Good thing he'll wake up tomorrow and start that same 24 hours over again. And he'll continue to relive it until he gets things right. The concept of Day Break is daring, and surprisingly, the follow-through is pretty entertaining. Diggs is believable in the role and the kind of hero you want to root for in a Jack Bauer sorta way. You can't help but start to care for the supporting characters as well, and as the plot thickens, you get the feeling there's a lot more going on than we realize.
Bottom Line: If Lost really must take a break for 13 weeks, we're okay with this as a consolation prize.

Fox: Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m.
Premiere: Aug. 30
Starring: Victor Garber, Rebecca Moder, Kerr Smith, Eamonn Walker
Review: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you've seen it all before. A snarky, self-centered expert in the field heads up a team of young, sexy and smart protégés who help him crack the cases no one else can crack. Only this time, his name isn't Dr. House, and this time, they're in a courtroom. Thankfully, there's enough setting Justice apart from House that you won't object or request a sidebar with the producers. Justice, starring the always fantastic Garber, focuses on a team of hard-nosed defense lawyers and their quest to win high-profile cases by using unusual methods. These guys are well-paid, well-equipped and slick—and so, the show comes across that way, too, with fancy case-cracking technology and mock juries to help iron out any kinks. But the best reason to tune in? The lovely little bonus waiting for you at the end of each episode, when, after the verdict is in, you actually get to see what happened to the victim and whether the verdict was right. Fans of crime dramas will eat it up.
Bottom Line: If there is any justice, this show will stick around.

NBC: Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m.
Premiere: Sept. 20
Starring: Dana Delany, Will Denton, Carmen Ejogo, Timothy Hutton, Delroy Lindo, Linus Roache, Jeremy Sisto, Mykelti Williamson
Review: If you like Jeremy Sisto, you'll love Kidnapped. If you're neutral or negative on Sisto, you'll have to stop and consider how many hours of your life you want to invest in the slow-motion recovery of a kidnapped teenager and some sort of nasty criminal conspiracy. The kidnapped kid belongs to hottie mom Delany and greasy businessman dad Hutton. The good guys include bodyguard Williamson, FBI agent Lindo and independent contractor Sisto, but there's much squabbling amongst themselves—so much so, that a rescue/ransom attempt in the pilot is badly muffed. Setbacks of this sort must continue if the show is to go on—but how long before audiences judge our heroes incompetent and write them off entirely? In any case, here's hoping they don't, because this is one story many of you will want to see the end of.
Bottom Line: Great cast rescues a potentially tiresome premise.

ABC: Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m.
Premiere: Oct. 4
Starring: Lourdes Benedicto, John Billingsley, Jessica Collins, Tim Daly, Dana Davis, Camille Guaty, Chi McBride, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf, Owain Yeoman
Review: Turn your ringer off, limit your fluids and warn any couch buddies to zip their lips, 'cause you will not want to take your eyes off The Nine once it gets going. As nine integral characters make their way into a bank, the sense of impending drama—and doom—will keep you riveted, and soon you'll be thrown into a world in which, in only 52 hours, life has changed forever for these victims of a bank robbery and hostage crisis. McBride, Daly, Raver and Wolf head up this stellar cast—and let's face it, you'd probably watch if they were reading the phone book—and yet they've been thrown into a truly suspenseful and riveting premise. It's a winning combo. Though the lack of revelation of what happened during the hostage situation (those are the mysteries that are left later to be told) may drive you a little batty, the chemistry between characters and intense emotion they elicit should keep you at the edge of your seat all season long.
Bottom Line: You won't want to escape this one.

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