CBS: SINGING THE VIRTUES -- AND VICES -- OF LAUGHLIN
'Big Bang Theory'
"Big Bang Theory" probably won't qualify as "appointment television" for untold millions of viewers (nor for told millions, either), but this chipper little goofbag of a sitcom -- about two virtually virginal nerds and their failures with the opposite sex -- should nestle comfortably into the CBS Monday-night comedy lineup. A deftly daffy cast helps: Jim Parsons as Sheldon, the skinny deadpan nerd, and Johnny Galecki (long ago the boyfriend on "Roseanne") as Leonard, the short deadpan nerd (there's not a lot of live-panning around here). That cute Kaley Cuoco plays the neighborly sexpot who moves into the next apartment and reminds the boys that life contains pleasures beyond their bouts of Klingon Boggle and their table-of-the-elements shower curtain. (Mondays at 8:30 p.m.; debuts Sept. 24).
"Cane," a Cuban American "Dynasty" that will give you that very familiar feeling of deja view all over again, is a shamelessly derivative attempt to combine elements of "The Sopranos," "The Godfather," "Dallas" and every other saga about family-run empires into one big colorful sprawler. The underlying moral? "O what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to receive [huge lump sums -- as frequently as possible, by any means available]." The web-weaving is set in motion when Jimmy Smits, as ambitious adoptee Alex, inherits leadership of the mighty Duque empire from that old ham Hector Elizondo playing papa Pancho (yes, really), who decides to retire. Alex must negotiate inter- and intra-family feuds involving such quandaries as whether to turn those acres of sugar cane into rum or ethanol; talk about a no-brainer! The real fight, obviously, is against whatever ABC and NBC have on at the same hour. CBS, put up your Duques! ( Tuesdays at 10 p.m.; debuts Sept. 25).
"Kid Nation" takes the cake -- or maybe the Hostess Twinkie -- as most controversial and potentially sued-over new series of the year. Available for preview only as a five-minute montage of moments, this new reality hour corrals 40 "pioneers" between the ages of 8 and 15 and gives them domain over Bonanza City, N.M., a musty-dusty ghost town where the snakes and the scorpions play. With no on-camera adult supervision, the young'uns will govern, supervise and provide for themselves, competing for a $20,000 gold star (made of, gosh, real gold) at the end of each episode and operating "a real, working kid economy." It remains to be seen whether Bonanza City will secede from the Union or launch an invasion of, say, Albuquerque, but already there have been charges that "Kid Nation" is child abuse in the pursuit of ratings. Imagine. (Wednesdays at 8 p.m.; debuts Wednesday).
"Moonlight," another CBS pilot that's been kept discreetly under wraps so far, stars Alex O'Loughlin as Mick St. John, your run-of-the-mill, everyday, ordinary 30-year-old vampire-next-door. There has to be more to it than that, right? And there is: St. John is a private eye who says he has "abilities that others don't -- abilities that give me an edge." Sleeping in the freezer probably helps. His "abilities" include a philosophical urge ("It's only when you live forever that you begin to understand how few things actually make life worth living") and a weakness for the obvious ("Being a vampire sucks"). Unavailable for preview, although a 2 1/2 -minute sample looked intriguing. (Fridays at 9 p.m.; debuts Sept. 28).
Yes, it's early in the season, but this preposterous CBS drama-with-music could well prove to be the howler, or the hoot, of the year. Not only does mucho-macho hero Ripley Holden (Lloyd Owen) charge around the Nevada desert promising to build a lavish casino and five-star hotel in little Laughlin, south of Las Vegas, but he also breaks into song at the drop of a poker chip. Other characters do the same, either trilling along with hit records of yesteryear (like Elvis's "Viva Las Vegas," obviously enough) or singing by themselves. An elderly Melanie Griffith and a smug Hugh Jackman play meanies who want to spoil Holden's dream; they should concentrate on just getting him to stop that infernal caterwauling. "Laughlin" is a laugh-in. (Sundays at 8 p.m.; special preview Thursday, Oct. 18 at 10).