‘Terra Nova’ has huge presence in fall TV lineup

One day, you’ll be able to gather your grandchildren in your lap, offer them each a Werther’s Original, and unspool a long, rambling yarn about how, back in your day, the beginning of the fall television season was an event — an unofficial national holiday even — during which the networks triumphantly paraded out their best and brightest.

That day may come sooner than you think.

Despite launching 13 series between them, ABC and NBC are saving their most interesting ones for midseason.

CBS isn’t breaking any new ground with its winning formula of crime procedurals.

And The CW is, well, The CW.

Thankfully, in a season sorely in need of spectacle, there’s Fox, which has never met an idea it couldn’t shower in Red Bull, strap rockets to and crank the volume up to 11.

Everything about "The X Factor," Simon Cowell’s middle finger to "American Idol," feels like it’s been shot full of human growth hormone. From the studio to the judges — welcome back, Paula Abdul! — to the $5 million grand prize, the hype has fallen just short of Bill Murray’s "Your life might just depend on it!" promos in "Scrooged."

But while most networks would be content with an 800-pound gorilla like that, Fox is going bigger — way bigger — with the dino-riffic "Terra Nova," quite possibly the most insanely ambitious series ever attempted on network television.

After untold millions and countless delays, the family action drama is set to deliver a decent approximation of "Jurassic Park," double-take-inducing giant lizards and all. On a regular basis. On television.

Whether it’s a smash and inspires other networks to take more chances next year, or flops and signals the beginning of the end of autumn risk-taking, one way or the other, the fall TV season is going the way of the dinosaur.

Here’s a look at the new fall series, all of which start this week unless otherwise noted. And, as always, times and dates are subject to change.



8 p.m., KTNV-TV, Channel 13 (starts Oct. 23)

What it is: A Boston bail bondswoman (Jennifer Morrison) finds herself in Storybrooke, Maine, where the son she gave up for adoption 10 years ago tells her the town is full of fairy tale characters who’ve lost their magic — and that she’s the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

What it’s like: "Enchanted" meets "The Wizard of Oz." As the action shifts between the characters’ fairy tale past and mundane present, the story eventually grows too precious by half. But it’s hard to knock a series that wears its heart — and its magic — so proudly on its sleeve.


8:30 p.m., KVVU-TV, Channel 5 (starts Oct. 30)

What it is: A precocious, pretentious 7-year-old (voiced by co-creator Jonah Hill) with an affinity for pinot grigio enrolls in a public elementary school in this animated comedy.

What it’s like: A preview episode wasn’t available.


10 p.m., Channel 13 (starts Sept. 25)

What it is: A flight crew (led by Christina Ricci), one of whose members moonlights as a spy, travels the globe in 1963.

What it’s like: The Roman holiday episode of "Mad Men" meets "The Love Boat." Full of hope, optimism and promise, and set in a time when flying was still glamorous and exotic, the drama feels like more of a fairy tale than "Once Upon a Time."



8 p.m., Channel 5

What it is: As Earth has become nearly unlivable in 2149, a disgraced former cop (Jason O’Mara) and his trauma surgeon wife lead their family 85 million years into the past to help resettle humanity.

What it’s like: "Jurassic Park" plus "Lost" times "Avatar" divided by "Land of the Lost." Some of the visuals are so stunning, you’ll have to remind yourself you’re watching a TV series. The storytelling is a little shaky at times, but that shouldn’t matter to the fan boys who’ve been awaiting it with something approaching pants-soiling levels of excitement.


8:30 p.m., KLAS-TV, Channel 8 (debuts at 9:30 p.m. Monday, moves to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 26)

What it is: A sarcastic diner waitress (Kat Dennings) and a socialite (Beth Behrs) whose assets were seized by the government hustle to save money to start a cupcake business.

What it’s like: An "I Love Lucy" for the Hot Topic crowd. Listening to most of the dialogue, you can almost tell the script was funnier than the finished product. And the usually reliable Dennings ("Thor") seems nearly as disinterested as viewers should be.


9 p.m., KVCW-TV, Channel 33 (starts Sept. 26)

What it is: With her dreams of becoming a cardio-thoracic surgeon put on hold because of her terrible bedside manner, a young New York doctor (Rachel Bilson) takes a job as a general practitioner in tiny Bluebell, Ala.

What it’s like: "Southern Exposure." Bluebell owes as much to Cicely, Alaska, as it does wherever "Doc Hollywood" was set. And the series feels like a sweet, old-school WB drama of the "Gilmore Girls" and "Everwood" variety. But for sheer charm, neither the town nor the show has anything on Bilson, who’s been sorely missed in prime time since the end of "The O.C."


10 p.m., KSNV-TV, Channel 3

What it is: Anything could happen in Chicago’s famed Playboy Club in the early ’60s, and a high-powered attorney (Eddie Cibrian) with ties to organized crime was at the center of it all.

What it’s like: The Playboy Club episode of "Mad Men" meets "Las Vegas." The drama has a lot on its plate: murder, the Mob, racial inequality, hot girls in bunny outfits. But it’s hard to take it seriously when it mostly feels like an elaborate costume party thrown because Cibrian decided he wanted to be Don Draper for Halloween.



8 p.m., Channel 13 (starts Oct. 11)

What it is: When his wife gets a promotion, a rugged outdoorsman (Tim Allen) must learn to be a hands-on parent to his three daughters.

What it’s like: The contents of Sarah Palin’s DVR. As proof of his masculinity, Allen’s character rails against soccer, tanning beds, fantasy football, "Glee," citrus body wash, guys who can’t change a tire and men who dance. He’s also a little homophobic. And it’ll probably be a huge hit.


8:30 p.m., Channel 13 (starts Oct. 18)

What it is: Three best friends (Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler and Christopher Moynihan) struggle with what it means to be a man.

What it’s like: Ummm … more like a short film than a potential series, the press notes describe it as being "in the vein of ‘The Hangover.’ " Which technically is true, in that they both feature a chubby guy with a beard.


9 p.m., Channel 33 (already airing)

What it is: An exotic-dancing drug addict (Sarah Michelle Gellar) witnesses a murder, flees to New York and assumes the identity of her wealthy twin sister.

What it’s like: A "Patty Duke Show" episode gone horribly awry. "Ringer" feels cold and aloof, like a poorly translated telenovela. And, so far, the main difference between the sisters seems to be their wardrobe.


9 p.m., Channel 5

What it is: After a humiliating breakup, a dorky teacher (Zooey Deschanel) moves in with three single guys she met online and begins coming out of her shell.

What it’s like: Adorkable — it’s Fox’s word, but it’s an accurate one. Deschanel’s Jess is the sort of thing Gilda Radner would have played in her prime. She’s an awkward, bumbling, inappropriately singing, "Dirty Dancing"-loving mess who’s like a mix of newborn calf and baby alien, with just a dash of Muppet. But there won’t be a lot of middle ground. Odds are you’ll either adore "New Girl" or run screaming from your TV.


10 p.m., Channel 8

What it is: A detective (Poppy Montgomery) with a rare medical condition — best known as that crazy ability Marilu Henner claims to have — remembers every detail of every moment of her life. Except, naturally, the circumstances surrounding the long-ago murder of her sister.

What it’s like: "The Mentalist’s" top prospect on Freaky mind? Check. Tragic past? Check. Helping the police while looking for closure? Check and check. Aside from the gimmicky way she walks around in her memories searching for clues, Montgomery’s Carrie Wells is basically a less playful Patrick Jane in a dress.



8 p.m., Channel 5 (results show airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays)

What it is: Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger search for a singer or group on whom to bestow a $5 million record deal.

What it’s like: NBC’s "The Voice," minus the crazy chairs. A preview episode wasn’t available.


8 p.m., Channel 33 (already airing)

What it is: Snooki-level celebrities try to win over regular folks who can’t stand them in this reality show.

What it’s like: H8D it.


8 p.m., Channel 3 (already airing)

What it is: Parents (Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) realize they’re no longer a cool, young couple when sleep deprivation and the constant demands of their newborn daughter begin to take their toll.

What it’s like: An infant — a little clumsy, fussy at times, instilled with random bursts of energy and occasionally full of crap. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a sucker for anything involving Arnett, who finally gets to play a recognizable human being. But based on the two very different versions of the pilot, he and Applegate share a fun chemistry, the writing is solid and the comedy shows real promise.


8:30 p.m., Channel 3 (already airing)

What it is: Things get awkward when a newly divorced public relations executive (Hank Azaria) sleeps with a co-worker (Kathryn Hahn) still mourning the death of her fiance.

What it’s like: A lighter version of most Showtime comedies. It’s likable — entertaining even — just not what most people would describe as "funny."


8:30 p.m., Channel 13 (starts Sept. 28)

What it is: When a single dad (Jeremy Sisto) finds condoms on his teenage daughter’s (Jane Levy) nightstand, he uproots them — much to her horror — from their apartment in New York to a house in the suburbs.

What it’s like: "Easy A," without the faux prostitution. Its boy-the-suburbs-are-wacky premise may not be original, but in a weak year for sitcoms, the genuinely clever "Suburgatory" stands out thanks to its distinctive, welcome voice.


10 p.m., Channel 13

What it is: Seventeen years after her father was framed by his wealthy and powerful neighbors and left to die in prison, a young woman (Emily VanCamp ) returns to the Hamptons to seek, well, revenge.

What it’s like: "The Countess LuAnn of Monte Cristo." The drama owes as much to the "Real Housewives" franchise as it does the Alexandre Dumas classic upon which it’s loosely — ever so loosely — based. Otherwise, it’s the sort of glossy, sudsy, shimmering thing you’d see on The CW — only with actual, verifiable adults.



8 p.m., Channel 13

What it is: Three new angels (Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh) and a buff, computer-hacking Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez) take their orders from a speakerphone in this update of the 1970s jigglethon.

What it’s like: A hot mess. I love Kelly — I’d even take a beating for her — but a car-boosting, tough-as-nails ex-con she does not make. The writing’s atrocious — these angels take time out before a time-sensitive mission to change into leather pants, knee-high boots or both — but it has the makings of some flashy, dumb fun.


8:30 p.m., Channel 8 (starts Sept. 29)

What it is: When his upscale magazine is sold and dumbed down, a refined journalist (David Hornsby) hires a boorish personal trainer (Kevin Dillon) to help him get in touch with his inner Neanderthal.

What it’s like: "The Odd Couple … of Guys Who Sometimes Hang Out." You have to admire Dillon’s gusto as he tries to make the comedy work through the sheer force of his will. But despite being blessed with a crazy-talented supporting cast — Dave Foley, "24’s" Mary Lynn Rajskub, "Flight of the Conchords’ " Rhys Darby — no one seems to have any idea what to do with them.


9 p.m., Channel 33 (already airing)

What it is: When her mother is killed, a teenager (Britt Robertson) moves to a small town where she discovers she’s a witch — and that five classmates (led by Henderson’s Thomas Dekker) have been waiting for her to complete their coven.

What it’s like: "The Vampire Diaries 2: The Witchening." The drama has the "Vampire Diaries" writers adapting a series of books from the "Vampire Diaries" author, but it’s missing that certain spark that makes its predecessor one of TV’s guiltiest pleasures.


9 p.m., Channel 8

What it is: A billionaire software designer (Michael Emerson) identifies future victims of violent crimes and recruits a presumed-dead CIA operative (Jim Caviezel) to rescue them.

What it’s like: An "Early Edition" for the Patriot Act age. Caviezel makes for a quietly detached action hero. But given its pedigree — it’s written by "The Dark Knight’s" Jonathan Nolan and executive produced by J.J. Abrams — "Person of Interest" is neither as dark nor as fantastical as you’d expect.


9:30 p.m., Channel 3

What it is: A child of multiple divorces (Whitney Cummings) is in no hurry to marry her longtime live-in boyfriend.

What it’s like: Any of the string of forgettable comedies NBC once sandwiched between "Friends" and "Seinfeld." The best thing you can say about "Whitney" is that its attractive star spends roughly half the pilot in a naughty nurse outfit. This one’s really just keeping the time slot warm until the end of Tina Fey’s maternity leave.


10 p.m., Channel 3

What it is: A tough New York homicide detective (Maria Bello) must prove herself to her resentful new squad members in this remake of the famed British crime drama.

What it’s like: Distinctly American. Don’t let its U.K. roots fool you; there’s no "Mornin’, Guvnuh, how’s yuh tea ‘n’ crumpets?" fancypantsery here. "Prime Suspect" is gritty, rough around the edges and a throwback to the glory days of NBC’s Thursday dramas.



8 p.m., Channel 8

What it is: The life of a brilliant, self-centered surgeon (Patrick Wilson) changes for the better when he begins receiving regular visits from his recently deceased wife.

What it’s like: "The Ghost Doctorer. " Wilson certainly elevates the material, which has some occasional sparks, but there’s only so much he can do. It’s still a drama about a surgeon who receives regular visits from his recently deceased wife.


9 p.m., Channel 3 (starts Oct. 21)

What it is: A Portland, Ore., homicide detective (David Giuntoli) discovers he’s the latest in a long line of heroes, dedicated to battling monsters, that can be traced back to the Brothers Grimm.

What it’s like: You can almost hear the sales pitch: This ain’t your momma’s fairy tale. Violent, scary and, at times, darkly funny, no one’s going to confuse this with "Once Upon a Time."


No new series are scheduled.

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