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Best New TV Show of the Fall Season? No One Can Say...
August 20, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
Traditionally, this is the time of year when TV critics, reporters and editors huddle at newspapers and magazines to organize their annual fall preview packages. But for the 2008 fall season, one crucial element will be missing. This year, anyone labeling a series in advance as the "best new show of the season," at this point, is lying.

That's because, using the writers' strike as a partial excuse and barely disguised contempt as motivation, most broadcast networks, this year, have decided not to bother sending out previews of shows. Usually, critics receive the vast majority of them in June, just after the May upfronts for advertisers. Only CBS continued that tradition this year, sending out previews of all new shows but one.

americas-toughest-jobs-aug-.jpg

But now we're nearing the end of August. The first of the new fall shows, NBC's America's Toughest Jobs, premieres Monday. It recently arrived in the mail, but most new shows have not.

A year ago, there were 29 new fall shows premiering. This year, inarguably because of the strike, the number is a much lower 21. Yet of those 21, as of this morning, I have only six. In addition to Toughest Jobs, critics have just been mailed Fox's Fringe (which was screened, but not sent out, in July), and the rest of the shows are from that business-as-usual CBS mailing: Worst Week, The Mentalist, Gary Unmarried and The Ex List.

KATH-AND-KIM-fall-NBC.jpg

If you've seen the NBC promos for Kath & Kim and My Own Worst Enemy, you've seen as much of those shows as I have. ABC's version of Life on Mars may as well be on Mars, because no one's seen it. And though the CW has a finished pilot for 90210, it's decided not to share it with critics (see yesterday's BIANCULLI'S BLOG).

Of the new shows I've seen, Fox's Fringe is the best -- but since I've been able to see and evaluate fewer than a third of the new fall crop, sweeping pronouncements don't seem possible, much less credible. Writers for magazines, which have longer lead times, get to see more stuff in advance, but even they're being denied a lot of advance looks this year.

The best new fall series of 2008? It's a phrase you shouldn't hear -- or, at least, shouldn't believe -- at this point in the networks' stingy preview rollout.

 
 
 
 
 
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