Written by: Ron Bricker
With pilot season in full swing, not a day goes by without hearing some kind of new deal or new casting news. Actors as varied as Jason Bateman, Rosario Dawson, Alan Tudyk, and Albert Brooks have been cast in some capacity, and we can expect new shows soon from Joss Whedon and Battlestar Galactica's Ron Moore and Michael Taylor. Meanwhile, plenty of scripted shows have just returned with new episodes after getting their stuff together post-strike. Not a bad time to be a TV fan.
In more immediate news, word just came through that Gossip Girl will not be streaming its upcoming five episodes online. (You don't have to admit that you watch it, guys. Just pretend you're reading this column for Lost updates.) The CW president Dawn Ostroff explained the decision simply by saying, "For these next five weeks the epicenter of the 'Gossip Girl' universe will be on The CW's broadcast television airwaves." So in other words, she's trying to get higher ratings. But does streaming video account for enough viewings to matter anyway? And how will anyone who doesn't read online TV columns even know?
Less immediate, but still getting the jump on the fall season, is Albert Brooks. The comedian will star on Weeds, which returns in August, in a recurring role lasting throughout the season. The part? Nancy's father-in-law, or more bluntly, her dead husband's dad.
Brooks's heyday was before my time, so I don't really know how I feel about this. In terms of their previous one-season-long guest stars, Season 2's Martin Donovan (as DEA agent Peter Scottson) was brilliant, and Season 3's Matthew Modine (as smarmy-as-hell Sullivan Groff) was a lot of fun. Then again, Mary Kate Olsen (as Season 3's Christian chick Tara Lindman) was atrocious. All bias aside, her one-note, one-facial-expression, one-style-of-line-readings performance was atrocious.
Anyway, she's gone, but it doesn't matter anyways, because as long as Mary-Louise Parker remains the star of the show and I can continually fall helplessly in love with her and her eyes, I'll still be watching.
Finally, we come to news of the fall season. The most potentially exciting is that Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler – all of Arrested Development – will lend their voices to the animated cartoon Sit Down, Shut Up from Development's Mitch Hurwitz. SNL's Will Forte and Cheri Oteri will also be heard on the show, which is based on a live-action Australian show about a group of high school teachers who are more concerned about themselves than their students. (If that sounds familiar, it's because it was also the basis for at least two other failed sitcoms: 1996's The Faculty and 2006's Teachers.)
Ron Moore and Michael Taylor of Battlestar Galactica will also be back with a sci-fi show for Fox called Virtuality. It's a two-hour backdoor pilot – meaning it could play as either a one-off TV movie or the beginning of a series – about a group of astronauts on a ten-year deep space mission who pass the time by creating and exploring virtual realities. Things get ugly when a bug is discovered in the system, potentially caused by a saboteur.
The show's at Fox because NBC, which owns Galactica's Sci-Fi Channel, passed on it, but NBC will continue its relationship with Galactica exec-producer David Eick. The two parties just signed a deal for Eick to keep developing projects at NBC Universal, although nothing in particular is set up yet. Let's hope they come up with better stuff than the seriously disappointing, now-canceled Bionic Woman.
Let's see, what else…Firefly's Alan Tudyk (he played Wash) will star in an ABC sitcom pilot about a straight guy and a gay guy who are two best friends. (Tudyk plays the gay guy.) How much do you want to bet it'll look terrible, but you'll keep convincing yourself it could be good because Tudyk is cool, and then you'll finally watch the pilot and it'll turn out it was terrible all along? That is, if it even makes it to series.
I suppose that's enough news for this week, although I did save one unverified bit for last: according to TV Guide, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be back! Turns out, in the future, I continue to ogle Summer Glau.
Virtually every new episode of scripted TV this week
Gossip Girl, 8:00, CW
Call it the downfall of civilization if you must, but I'd direct you to The Hills first. While the responsible adult part of me chides this show for telling young girls that spoiled bitchiness is cool, it's undoubtedly a slick, tightly structured show. The first new episode since January explores the fallout from Blair's dethroning at the hands of Jenny. Plus, Serena is apparently forced to live with Nate now?
Bones, 8:00, Fox
The Big Bang Theory, 8:00, CBS
How I Met Your Mother, 8:30, CBS
Two and a Half Men, 9:00, CBS
One Tree Hill, 9:00, CW
Rules of Engagement, 9:30, CBS
Samantha Who?, 9:30, ABC
CSI: Miami, 10:00, CBS
Medium, 10:00, NBC
Law & Order: SVU, 10:00, NBC
Bill Pullman! That's right, President Thomas J. Whitmore himself guest-stars on SVU playing Benson's new boyfriend. Who's also the editor of a tabloid. That's not going to end well. By the way, you think the writers will ever let Benson and Stabler sleep together, or is would that just be way too obviously jumping the shark?
According to Jim, 8:00, ABC
NCIS, 8:00, CBS
Reaper, 9:00, CW
Boston Legal, 10:00, ABC
The Riches, 10:00, FX
Law & Order, 10:00, NBC
Yeah, I'm featuring both L&Os this week, but this one's a special occasion: it's Jesse L. Martin's final episode. He's starred as Detective Ed Green since 1999 and, by IMDB's count, through 198 episodes. With four film roles coming up – including playing Marvin Gaye in a biopic – we'll certainly seem him around, but his mark on Law & Order really has been indelible. Filling his spot, by the way, is Anthony Anderson, whose Det. Kevin Bernard makes his entrance in this episode…as the leader of an internal investigation against Det. Green.
'Til Death, 8:00, Fox
Back to You, 8:30, Fox
Men in Trees, 10:00, ABC
South Park, 10:00, Comedy Central
Tyler Perry's House of Payne, 10:00, TBS
Lost, 10:00, NBC
It's back, baby! After a month-long absence, tonight is called "The Shape of Things to Come," and it features a Ben-centric flash-forward. On the island, there's a massive attack on Locke's camp (or Othersville, or Eggtown, or the Barracks, or whatever you want to call it). The writers have promised to tell us how the Oceanic Six got off the island, why Sayid is working for Ben in the future, and who's in the coffin by the end of this season. In other words: start getting pumped.
Smallville, 8:00, CW
Ugly Betty, 8:00, ABC
My Name is Earl, 8:00, NBC
30 Rock, 8:30, NBC
Supernatural, 9:00, CW
Grey's Anatomy, 9:00, ABC
CSI, 9:00, CBS
The Office, 9:00, NBC
Scrubs, 9:30, NBC
Without a Trace, 10:00, CBS
ER, 10:00, NBC
The Sarah Jane Adventures, 8:00, Sci-Fi
You'll be getting two back-to-back half-hour episodes, leading into Doctor Who, leading into Battlestar Galactica. Man, it's a good thing Sci-Fi has cool shows on Fridays. I mean, sure, Sarah Jane targets a more family-friendly audience, but all that means is, if you have young kids, now's the perfect time to shape them into sci-fi geeks like yourself.
Ghost Whisperer, 8:00, CBS
Moonlight, 9:00, CBS
Doctor Who, 9:00, Sci-Fi
Numb3rs, 10:00, CBS
Battlestar Galactica, 10:00, Sci-Fi
Robin Hood, 9:00, BBC America
As far as I could find, this is the lone new episode of scripted primetime television on Saturday night. And it's not even new, technically: it aired in the U.K. last year. But this is the first chance of us Yanks getting it, and the first season was pretty cool, actually. I'm always up for a good classic re-imagining if the hearts are in the right place. When we left off, Marian left Guy of Gisborne at the altar; in this episode, the Sheriff's equally evil sister comes to town.
Brothers and Sisters, 10:00, ABC
I suppose I have to acknowledge this show sooner or later. I've never seen it, but I'm calling it to your attention for two reasons: Steven Weber and Danny Glover. Weber's from Wings and was one of the bright spots of Studio 60, while Glover needs no introduction, unless it would be to explain what he's doing on this show, but I have no idea, so there we are. Apparently lots of melodrama-type stuff happens. With siblings. Oh, and Rob Lowe's character was running for president (yeah, of the United States), but he's not anymore.
Everybody Hates Chris, 8:00, CW
The Simpsons, 8:00, Fox
King of the Hill, 8:30, Fox
Desperate Housewives, 9:00, ABC
Cold Case, 9:00, CBS
Family Guy, 9:00, Fox
The Game, 9:00, CW
The Tudors, 9:00, Showtime
American Dad, 9:30, Fox