Tube Talk: TV's fall season kicks into high gear

Autumn has always been my favorite season. In late August, when others are lamenting the end of summer, I’m always looking forward to cooler weather and changing leaves. Spring is nature’s season of renewal and rebirth, but culturally, autumn signals a return to normal.

As a child, I loved lining up my new school supplies, imagining what I might draw with the fresh box of crayons or write on the blank sheets of paper. These days, I still look forward to the autumn leaves and crisp air, even if I dread turning on the heat and the huge gas bills that will follow. But I also look forward to checking out the new TV shows and catching up with old favorites.

The wait didn’t seem too long this summer, thanks to Fox kicking off its fall season in August (so viewers wouldn’t have to wait until after the World Series for their fall season). When you think about it, Prison Break fans waited four months for the second “half” of the first season, but only three months between actual seasons.

TV critics are already saying this season will be a busy one for TiVos and VCRs across the country. An influx of solid new shows is only half the equation. Scheduling changes are going to make viewing decisions difficult for some of us.

Last year, my biggest conundrum was that Lost and Veronica Mars aired opposite one another. Now that the new CW is moving Veronica to Tuesdays at 8 Central (smartly pairing it with Gilmore Girls, which airs at 7), the dilemma will be: Veronica or House? I think Veronica is the smarter show—big medical words aside—so if I’m not able to watch one and record the other, I’ll skip House. The upside is Fox actually repeats House, so I should be able to catch up without resorting to Internet downloads or streaming video.

Making Tuesday night’s viewing decision even harder is that two of ABC’s most promising new comedies, Knights of Prosperity (previously known as Let’s Rob….) and Ted Danson’s Help me Help You also share House and Veronica’s timeslot. Decisions, decisions….

I’m glad NBC re-thought putting 30 Rock—Tina Fey’s new single-camera comedy (a show I’ve been curious about since hearing a pilot was in the works)—against Lost on Wednesday nights. They’ve moved 30 Rock from 8:30 to 7:30 Central, where it will instead compete with the results portion of another one of ABC’s top performers, Dancing With the Stars.

30 Rock is just one of two “behind the scenes of a late-night comedy show” series debuting on NBC this fall. Who isn’t interested in comparing Fey’s half-hour take with Aaron Sorkin’s hour-long dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? (You’ve got to love the fact that the addresses in the titles of both shows also reflect their running time.) Can both succeed? Or will one outshine the other, and if so, which will come out on top?

30 Rock has tough competition, but Studio 60—which was originally slated to air opposite Grey’s Anatomy’s new Thursday night timeslot (itself going against aging favorite, CSI)—has a somewhat cushier 9 Central Monday night slot. Perhaps that will make a difference.

As with every year, some shows will disappear after just a couple of airings. The fun part is seeing which ones become hits.

For more information about the fall season, check out the networks’ Web sites:,,, and

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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