Fox’s Fall 2008 shows

What's going to be cancelled in three episodes

Dollhouse

We’ve looked at ABC’s new Fall drama, Life on Mars, and we’ve had a look through CBS‘s as well, so now it’s time to give Fox’s Fall 2008 output a looksie.

On the schedule, we have a new Joss Whedon sci-fi spy show starring Eliza Dushka, Dollhouse; a new animated comedy from Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane, The Cleveland Show; an X-Files for the noughties from Alias/Lost creator JJ Abrams, Fringe; a covert remake of Angela’s Eyes in the form of Lie to Me; not so covert remakes of Australian show Sit Down, Shut Up and British shows Secret Millionaire and Outnumbered; Alfred Molina playing Judge House; and something that makes Hotel Babylon seem like art.

Fox is a bit better organised than CBS this year, so I can just copy and paste whole press releases for the plots. Yey! Less work for me!

Dollhouse

Joss Whedon, creator of groundbreaking cult favorites “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” returns to television and reunites with fellow “Buffy” alumna Eliza Dushku for a thrilling new drama, DOLLHOUSE.

ECHO (Dushku) is an “Active,” a member of a highly illegal and underground group who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Confined to a secret facility known as the “Dollhouse,” Echo and the other Actives including SIERRA (Dichen Lachman, “Neighbours”) and VICTOR (Enver Gjokaj, “The Unit”) carry out engagements assigned by ADELLE (Olivia Williams, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Rushmore”), one of the Dollhouse leaders. The engagements cater to the wealthy, powerful and connected, and require the Actives to immerse themselves in all manner of scenarios – romantic, criminal, uplifting, dangerous, comical and the occasional “pro bono” good deed.

After each scenario, Echo, always under the watchful eye of her handler BOYD (Harry Lennix, “Commander in Chief,” 24), returns to the mysterious Dollhouse where her thoughts, feelings and experiences are erased by TOPHER (Fran Kranz, “Welcome to the Captain”), the Dollhouse’s genius programmer. Echo enters the next scenario with no memory of before. Or does she?

As the series progresses, FBI Agent PAUL SMITH (Tahmoh Penikett, “Battlestar Galactica”) pieces together clues that lead him closer to the Dollhouse, while Echo stops forgetting, her memories begin to return and she slowly pieces together her mysterious past.

Produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Mutant Enemy Inc., DOLLHOUSE revolves around Echo’s blossoming self-awareness and her desire to discover her true identity. But with each new engagement, comes a new memory and increased danger inside and outside the Dollhouse.

I have to say, I’m not getting a great vibe off the trailers, despite the pedigree of everyone involved. Acting’s too wooden and I’m not sure the premise is really grabbing me that much. But I live in hope and at the very least, it’ll give Tahmoh Penikett a job after BSG. Here’s the YouTube trailer fun.

The Cleveland Show

Many years ago, CLEVELAND BROWN (voiced by Mike Henry) was a high school student madly in love with a beautiful girl named DONNA. Much to his dismay, his love went unrequited, and Donna wound up marrying another man. Cleveland once told Donna he would always love her, and if this man ever done her wrong, he’d be there when she called.

Well, this man done her wrong.

Donna’s husband skipped town with another woman, leaving Donna with a daughter and a baby. Now she’s come to Cleveland and offered him another chance at love. Unattached after the Loretta-Quagmire debacle and true to his word, Cleveland joyously accepts and he and CLEVELAND JR. move to Stoolbend, VA, to join their new family.

Once in Stoolbend, Cleveland has a few surprises in store for him, including a flirtatious new stepdaughter, a 5-year-old stepson who loves the ladies, as well as a collection of neighbors that includes a loudmouth redneck couple, a British family seemingly stuck in the Victorian era and a family of bears living at the end of the block.

FAMILY GUY was only the beginning. Get ready for THE CLEVELAND SHOW (working title)!

The series is written and executive-produced by Seth MacFarlane (FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD), Rich Appel (THE SIMPSONS, KING OF THE HILL) and Mike Henry (FAMILY GUY).

Again, good pedigree but I’m sure the law of diminishing returns will mean that Seth MacFarlane can’t have this many shows on TV this long and still have them all being funny. No proper trailer to judge from, although this is a sort of a title sequence. But that doesn’t look too promising, even though the set-up sounds quite fun. Again, living in hope here.

Fringe

From J.J. Abrams (“Lost”), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the team behind “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III” and “Alias,” comes a new drama that will thrill, terrify and explore the blurring line between science fiction and reality.

When an international flight lands at Boston’s Logan Airport and the passengers and crew have all died grisly deaths, FBI Special Agent OLIVIA DUNHAM (newcomer Anna Torv) is called in to investigate. After her partner, Special Agent JOHN SCOTT (Mark Valley, “Boston Legal”), is nearly killed during the investigation, a desperate Olivia searches frantically for someone to help, leading her to DR. WALTER BISHOP (John Noble, “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”), our generation’s Einstein. There’s only one catch: he’s been institutionalized for the last 20 years, and the only way to question him requires pulling his estranged son PETER (Joshua Jackson, “Dawson’s Creek”) in to help.

When Olivia’s investigation leads her to manipulative corporate executive NINA SHARP (Blair Brown, “Altered States”), our unlikely trio along with fellow FBI Agents PHILLIP BROYLES (Lance Reddick, “The Wire”), CHARLIE FRANCIS (Kirk Acevedo, “Oz”) and ASTRID FARNSWORTH (Jasika Nicole, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) will discover that what happened on Flight 627 is only a small piece of a larger, more shocking truth.

FRINGE is directed by Emmy Award-winning Alex Graves (“The West Wing”) and produced by Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot Productions.

This one does look pretty good. Very sci-fi mind, and I expect there’ll be a bit of a “spot the difference” competition running between this and CBS’s The Eleventh Hour. But it might be good and anything with Lance Reddick in it has to be good.

Lots of YouTube trailers for this one and amazingly, there’s already a fan site for the show before it’s even started. Can anyone say “astro turf”?

Sit Down, Shut Up

“From Emmy Award-winning writer Mitchell Hurwitz (”Arrested Development“) and Eric and Kim Tannenbaum (”Two and a Half Men“) comes SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, an animated comedy that focuses on the lives of eight staff members at a high school in a small northeastern fishing town (Go Baiters!) who never lose sight of the fact that the children must ALWAYS come second. We watch them grapple with their own egos, needs and personal agendas, their petty insecurities and prejudices, unrequited loves, and ruthless battles for power – and that’s just at the staff meeting.

”SUE SEZNO (Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”), a woman who frequently says “no,” is the acting principal of the school (the actual principal is recovering from a series of unfortunate accidents that might be seen as escape attempts). Then there’s Vice Principal STUART PROZACKIAN (Will Forte, “Saturday Night Live”) who has a terrifically positive and upbeat attitude…possibly from the performance-enhancing medication he’s been secretly put on by the other teachers.

“There is one educator who feels the focus should be on academics, but despite the old adage, at this school, those who can teach, teach gym – and that’s where LARRY SLIMP (Jason Bateman, ”Juno,“ ”Arrested Development“) has been exiled to. Immensely frustrated, Larry nurses a crush on science teacher MIRACLE GROHE (Maria Bamford, ”Stuart Little 2“), a woman whose superficial grasp on science is balanced by her superficial grasp on spirituality.

”Rounding out the staff is the aging German teacher WILLARD DEUTSCHEBOG (Henry Winkler, “Arrested Development,” “Happy Days”), a deeply defeated man whose yearbook quotation reads “If I believed in reincarnation, I’d kill myself tonight.” Uptight HELEN KLENCH (Cheri Oteri, “Saturday Night Live”), a librarian whose life’s work in research and archiving can now be surpassed by the average Google search from the average cell phone. Proud ANDREW SAPIEN (Nick Kroll, “Best Week Ever,” “Cavemen”) is the flamboyant drama teacher. And finally there’s HAPPY (Tom Kenny, “SpongeBob SquarePants”), the plotting secretive custodian who’s assumed to be Hispanic despite the fact that his real name is Muhannad Sabeeh Fa’ach Nuaba.

“With a distinctive new look – a combination of animation against a live-action backdrop – SIT DOWN, SHUT UP is a series for the young and old at heart. It lampoons modern society while exposing the dreams, flaws and struggling humanity of our first and most formative authority figures: teachers.

”Based on the hit live-action Australian series, SIT DOWN, SHUT UP is written and executive-produced by Mitchell Hurwitz and executive-produced by Eric and Kim Tannenbaum and Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein (THE SIMPSONS, “Futurama”).“

You can tell there’s been a management change at Fox, can’t you? Now we have another show with a good pedigree behind it and a good cast. It’s a remake of an Australian show, so it’s sort of proven.

I just didn’t laugh once at the trailers. Oh dear. All the same, it might be all right. Maybe. Okay. I don’t think it will be.

Do Not Disturb

DO NOT DISTURB (working title) is a hilarious workplace comedy set at one of New York City’s hottest and hippest hotels: The Inn. Named one of the Big Apple’s ”10 Best Places to Stay,“ The Inn is just that – the ”in“ place to be, with its chic decor, stylish staff and celebrity clientele. Behind the scenes, however, the upstairs/downstairs dynamic tells quite a different story.

The hotel’s top-notch reputation and sophisticated look is due in large part to NEAL (Jerry O’Connell, ”Crossing Jordan“) – at least in his opinion. Although The Inn’s charismatic owner R.J. (guest star Robert Wagner) takes all the credit, Neal is the egotistical, hyper-stylish, detail-oriented general manager who will do whatever it takes to keep the hotel and its employees up to his standards.

RHONDA (Niecy Nash, ”Reno 911!“) is the head of Human Resources who also keeps Neal’s demands in check. She’s brash, fabulous and brutally honest and runs the HR department from her bullpen downstairs with a set of rules that are all her own. Rhonda does her best to keep the back of the house in line and the front of the house out of trouble.

At the front desk handling check-in while wearing 6-inch Manolos is NICOLE (Molly Stanton, ”Twins“), an aging model who is svelte, cynical and slightly starving. Fresh from Nebraska is JASON (Brando Eaton, ”Zoey 101“), the naive bellman who would prefer to work behind-the-scenes but was hired to show off his chiseled face and perfect pecs at the front of the hotel.

The downstairs staff includes MOLLY (Jolene Purdy, ”Donnie Darko“), a reservations clerk who dreams of pop-singer stardom as much as she craves to be part of the action upstairs; and LARRY (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, ”The Class“), the head of housekeeping who spends more time on the phone cleaning up his messes at home, than he does cleaning up after the guests upstairs.

DO NOT DISTURB, a 20th Century Fox Television production in association with Reveille, LLC and Principato-Young Productions, is written by Abraham Higginbotham (”Arrested Development“) and executive-produced by Howard Owens (”30 Days,“ ”Nashville Star“), Carolyn Bernstein, Paul Young (”Reno 911!“), Peter Principato (”Reno 911!“) and Brian Dobbins (”Adopted“). Jason Bateman serves as director of the pilot.

Do not watch. The most Foxian and therefore most dire of all the comedies herein.

Secret Millionaire

Not going to bother with a précis of this since I reviewed the original British show this is based upon: episode 1; series review. Basically, millionaires go under to look for deserving people to give money to, before revealing their true identities at the end. Like Fox’s other reality remake, Kitchen Nightmares, it’s been jazzed up and not for the better. Here’s a couple of trailers for you. Could be heartwarming, could be exploitative. I think it just steers clear of exploitative and like the British show, could be one of the few opportunities on TV for poor people to be allowed a look in.

After this, no more trailers, so I can’t really pass too much of a verdict on them.

Lie to Me

From writer Samuel Baum (”The Evidence“) and the executive producers of 24 and ”Arrested Development“ comes LIE TO ME, a drama series inspired by a true story about a deception expert who can read the human face, body and voice to expose the truth in criminal cases and investigations.

When you itch your chin, wring your hands, scratch your nose or increase your swallowing, DR. CAL LEIGHTMAN knows you’re lying. And he doesn’t just think so – he knows so. Whether it be family, friends or complete strangers – he knows when they’re holding something back. More accurate than any polygraph test, he is a human lie detector.

Dr. Cal Leightman heads up a private agency contracted by the FBI, local police, law firms, corporations and private individuals when they’ve hit a roadblock on their searches for the truth. Joining him are the foremost experts in the field of behavioral psychology: DR. GILLIAN FOSTER is the doctor’s professional partner and intellectual counterpart, a master of deception equally comfortable with lying and concealing her emotions; the other is Dr. Leightman’s lead researcher WILL LOKER who says everything on his mind and seemingly lacks the ability to lie.

RIA TORRES (Monica Raymund), the newest member of the team, uses her natural and uncanny ability to read body language to catch the clues that her professional partners miss.

Brian Grazer, David Nevins and Samuel Baum serve as executive producers in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Television on this intriguing series based on the science developed by pioneering behavioral psychologists. In its cases and in its character relationships, this unique procedural and character drama is not simply a search for a criminal, but a search for human truth.

LIE TO ME probes the very heart of human nature and explores the idea that there’s nothing more revealing than when we choose to tell the truth and when we decide to lie.

Isn’t this just Angela’s Eyes in disguise? Could come a cropper if The Mentalist takes off on CBS, too.

Outnumbered

OUTNUMBERED takes a fresh and hilarious approach to the staid family sitcom. The show offers ”Curb Your Enthusiasm“-style improvised dialogue with a ”Malcolm in the Middle“-like premise about the triumphs and travails of parenting. The adult actors are scripted, while the children’s dialogue is improvised and off-the-cuff.

No one ever said parenting was easy. You make the rules up as you go, and some days dealing with your bundles of joy leaves you at your wits’ end. For GREG (Ken Marino, ”Veronica Mars“) and JENNA EMBRY (Brooke Bloom, ”CSI: Miami“), whose 6-year-old LILY (Alina Foley, ”Days of Our Lives“) has the diva act down pat, 7-year-old JACK (Aidan Potter, ”Opposite Day“) lies with the dexterity of a con-artist and pre-teen KYLE (Ridge Canipe, ”Walk The Line“) is…well, a pre-teen, it’s three against two and they’re OUTNUMBERED. Rounding out the madness in Greg and Jenna’s lives are TANYA (Beth Dover, ”Criminal Minds“), Jenna’s slightly off-balance spiritual-healing sister, and EDDIE (Bill English, ”Cavemen“), Greg’s wheeling-and-dealing, fast-talking salesman brother. These two end up being more of a liability than an asset to the family.

Based on the hit British series, OUTNUMBERED is written and executive-produced by Larry Levin (”Dr. Doolittle“).

There is a video for this, but I can’t watch it because I’m in the UK. Let me know if it’s good. I didn’t watch the UK version but it has Hugh Dennis and Samantha Bond in it so it can’t be all bad, I guess. Here are some clips from that show instead, which looks moderately amusing, so maybe all will be good with the US version.

Courtroom K

From executive producer Paul Attanasio (HOUSE, ”Homicide: Life on the Street“) comes COURTROOM K, a darkly comedic look at the life of a courthouse in a Midwestern city.

An American courtroom is the last bastion of absolute feudal power, and upon this throne sits dictatorial JUDGE HAROLD ROBAR (Alfred Molina, ”Spider-Man 2,“ ”The Da Vinci Code“), a former trial lawyer who is completely convinced he can do both the prosecutor’s and the defense lawyer’s jobs better than either can do it themselves. Gruff, sarcastic and lovable JUDGE ROBAR does not suffer fools gladly, but he will gladly make fools suffer.

COURTROOM K centers on a group of public servants who cope daily with the basic fact that no one gets in legal trouble for a smart reason. This cast of characters includes District Attorney KENT PUCKER (Michael Landes, ”Final Destination 2“), a self-deluded Midwestern booster with a joyful disregard for his own insensitivity; Public Defender MARIJANE DIEHL (Megan Dodds, ”Not Going Out“), whose grace under pressure is tested by the insanity of the system; and Diehl’s boss, DANIEL JUNE (Jonathan Sadowski, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES), a clever, boyish bureaucrat 10 years younger than her. Filling out this family are court reporter ROSE MARIE CHEEKS (Noureen DeWulf, ”Ocean’s Thirteen“) and ORTHA SCHUNK (Diana Maria Riva, ”Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip“), Judge Robar’s court clerk who knows him so well, she could be considered his ”work wife.“

From 20th Century Fox Television and Heel & Toe Films, COURTROOM K is executive-produced by Paul Attanasio and Joe and Anthony Russo (”Arrested Development“).

It’s got Alfred Molina in it, and Paul Attanasio running it, so this could be brilliant. Or not.

So that’s that. All in all, more promising than CBS’s line-up, except in the comedy department. But knowing Fox, everything will be cancelled after three episodes. Don’t get your hopes up too much on anything.