Thursday, January 1, 2009

Anxiously awaiting The Beast, Dollhouse, Cupid

The New Year will bring many things: A new president, prospects for an economic recovery, and most importantly, the winter television premieres.
After last fall’s TV premieres fizzled, here’s hoping that the networks saved their best shows for mid-season.
Three new shows I’m looking forward to checking out are “The Beast” (premiering Jan. 15 on A&E), “Dollhouse” (Feb. 13 on Fox), and “Cupid” (March 24 on ABC).
The plot of “The Beast” sounds cliché. Patrick Swayze plays “an unorthodox but effective FBI veteran … who takes on a rookie partner,” according to A&E’s Web site. The draw here is Swayze, who looks worn and grizzled, which helps his cop-on-the-edge look. I’m rooting for Swayze, who last January was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Plus, the show was filmed in Chicago, which gives the previews a gritty, realistic feel.
Up next is Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse.” On the basis of Whedon’s previous TV work (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Angel” and “Firefly”), this one is a must-see. Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, a member of an illegal, underground group of “Actives” who have their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. They’re confined in a secret facility known as the “Dollhouse.” The Actives carry out engagements for their organization’s wealthy and powerful clients. After each assignment, their memories are erased. Or are they? Dun-dun-dun.
And finally, there’s “Cupid,” a remake of the 1998-1999 comedy-drama series, which also ran on ABC. The original series, starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall, lasted just 15 episodes. It was a great show, but wasn’t given a chance to find an audience. I wish it were out on DVD. Perhaps it was cursed by Paula Marshall, who has starred in at least seven failed TV shows.
Anyway, the show is about a psychologist who is given charge of a man named Trevor, who believes he is Cupid. Trevor, who may or may not be the Roman god of love, says he was sent down from Mt. Olympus by Zeus to connect 100 couples without his powers, as a punishment for his arrogance.
“Cupid” was created by Rob Thomas, whose last TV show was the under-appreciated “Veronica Mars.”
Last fall, I had high hopes for “Fringe,” “Life on Mars” and “The Ex-List” but none of those new shows kept my interest.
Among returning shows last fall, “Heroes” started off its third season with promise, but now I have to agree with the critics: It’s a mess.
“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” has been inconsistent. “Leverage” had a decent pilot but follow-on episodes have been just plain silly.
The most consistently entertaining shows I follow are “Supernatural” (returning Jan. 15 on the CW), “30 Rock” (Jan. 8 on NBC) and “The Sarah Silverman Program” (season over).
“The Office” (back Jan. 8 on NBC) and “House” (Jan. 19 on Fox) are still good, but are showing their age.
Good shows making their seasons premieres in upcoming weeks include “Battlestar Galactica” (back Jan. 16 on Sci Fi), "Lost" (Jan. 21 on ABC) and “Reaper” (March 17 on the CW).

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