New Fall Shows

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Trading One Zoo For Another

Life Is Wild

Sundays at 8 p.m. on CW

Basic story: New York veterinarian Danny Clarke (D.W. Moffett), a widower who recently remarried, trades his practice treating the pampered pets of elite New Yorkers for a life tending livestock and wildlife in South Africa. His spouse (Stephanie Niznik) agrees to the move, even though they'll be living in a lodge owned by Danny's late wife's father (David Butler). Their blended brood -- Katie (Leah Pipes, who narrates) and siblings (played by Andrew St. John, K'Sun Ray and Mary Matilyn Mouser) -- hates the idea. But when faced with living in a place where cellphone service is spottier than a local giraffe, they gradually find themselves responding to the beauty of the bush country and the creatures that call it home.

What it faces: The NFL on NBC; "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC; "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" on Fox, various dramas on CBS.

What you'll like: The show, inspired by a British series, boasts impressive scenery and eye-catching animals -- even if the story lines are somewhat predictable. An injured lioness and her wayward cub take the spotlight in the pilot, with a reunion that could have been cloying but instead feels real.

What you won't: Narration from a whiny teen is not an original device, and Katie's singular take on everything -- yes, isn't it always just all about you? -- could seem tiresome after a while.

Bottom line: With its fresh premise, the show could be a welcome oasis to viewers who are weary of animation, reality or even football.

-- Kathy Blumenstock

Four Gal Pals On the Case

Women's Murder Club

Fridays at 9 p.m. on ABC

Basic story: What would happen if the ladies from "Sex and the City" solved crimes and fashion crises? And what if they dissected evidence while discussing their love lives? A homicide inspector (Angie Harmon), a medical examiner (Paula Newsome), an assistant district attorney (Laura Harris) and a crime reporter (Aubrey Dollar) get the bad guys and look fabulous while doing it in this series based on novels by James Patterson.

What it faces: The episodic drama is up against NBC's critically beloved but ratings-challenged "Friday Night Lights," CBS's new drama "Moonlight" and various offerings on Fox, including baseball this week and the debut of "The Next Great American Band" on Oct. 19.

What you'll like: "Women's Murder Club" has an old-fashioned feel. Don't expect any of the high-tech special effects found in "CSI" or "Bones." Instead, think "Columbo" or "Kojak." The men, including Rob Estes as the ex-husband of Harmon's character and Kyle Secor as an office nemesis for the assistant district attorney, are solidly secondary characters. TV is definitely the place for actresses this season.

What you won't: Women talking cute while discussing dead bodies is a little hokey. ("Did I mention he smells the same?" the homicide inspector says dreamily of her ex-husband.) And do we really need another crime drama?

Bottom line: Those wanting to wind down after a long workweek may enjoy this easy-to-follow drama. Here's looking at you, ladies.

-- Amy Amatangelo

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