Just when you thought the networks were done dishing out new fall fare, they've added a few late treats -- including a crime drama from a seasoned vet (Jerry Bruckheimer) and a loosely autobiographical offering from a young newcomer to the production circuit (Freddie Prinze Jr.). And the legacy of "Sex and the City" lives on beyond reruns: Two new shows each channel the lives and loves of a quartet of alluring urban women.
"Close to Home"
Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS
The tagline you'll never see: Close to "Cold Case."
The basics: Prosecutor Annabeth Chase (Jennifer Finnigan) is back on the job in Indiana after a three-month maternity leave. She returns to discover that her promotion went to her single co-worker Maureen (Kimberly Elise), and her boss (John Carroll Lynch) doesn't understand why she needs her own refrigerator for breast milk. Her supportive and perfect husband (Christian Kane) is left to care for the baby and look sexy. For Chase, getting a conviction is just as important as getting the baby to sleep through the night. Her first case upon returning to work involves a mom who set her house on fire with her two children trapped inside. But any fan of Jerry Bruckheimer's dramas knows that things aren't always as they seem.
The lowdown: The network has replaced "Judging Amy" with another show about a working lawyer mom trying to do right by the world and by her family. But this time it's from hit-maker Bruckheimer -- who works every possible ounce of melodrama into the pilot. Cue the slow-motion montages and poignant songs. And, in a welcome change of pace, the violence against the woman in the pilot episode is more implied than graphically depicted.
Reality check: Chase confronts the juggling act facing many working moms, and it's kind of nice to see this familiar conundrum played out on the small screen. Things would be a lot better still if Chase didn't say things such as "I want to be a mommy and I want to work" -- and if her boss refrained from doling out pithy wisdom such as "You can't have it both ways." We get it. The characters don't need to spell out the whole thing for viewers.
-- Amy Amatangelo
Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC
The tagline you'll never see: Maybe I shouldn't have named the show after myself.
The basics: Hotshot chef Freddie Moreno (Freddie Prinze Jr., "Scooby-Doo") is a ladies' man -- as in, he's surrounded by women. His sister Sofia (Jacqueline Obradors, "NYPD Blue") and his niece Zoey (Chloe Suazo) moved in with him after Sofia's divorce. His sister-in-law Allison (Madchen Amick) dropped by and never left after the death of Freddie's brother. And Grandma (Jenny Gago) roams around spewing putdowns and criticisms -- but only in Spanish. Thankfully Freddie's best buddy Chris (Brian Green, "Beverly Hills, 90210") is there to provide ill-advised dating advice and a respite from all of the girl talk. There's a lot of arguing and reconciling because family comes first. We're sensing a pattern here.
The lowdown: Zoinks! Prinze is a sweet guy who loosely based this comedy on his childhood growing up in a predominantly female home. At 29, he clearly takes very seriously his role of being the youngest executive producer in ABC history. Too bad some of his innate charm didn't translate to this hapless, strained sitcom. Only the friendship between Chris and Freddie -- inspired by Prinze's real-life friendships with co-creator Conrad Jackson and actor Chris Klein -- is amusing. Green, a former resident of television's most famous Zip code, has a natural knack for comedy. Though the lead-in to mega-hit "Lost," "Freddie" faces competition from "One Tree Hill," "America's Next Top Model," and "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart."
Reality check: Dios mio! Having every line of Gago's dialogue translated to English subtitles is a sight gag that provides few giggles. "Freddie" seems to have forgotten that the lines actually have to be funny in the first place. And the series also appears to be desperately trying to make Allison into a cross between Karen on "Will & Grace" and Samantha on "Sex and the City." Oh honey, really, that's so not working.
-- Amy Amatangelo
Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on WB
The tagline you'll never see: It's "Little Women" in the city.
The basics: Oh, those Sorelli sisters! They're beautiful, witty, care about one another, and alternately share personal information and, oops!, spill secrets.
Ginnie (Jennifer Esposito), is the eldest, a workaholic lawyer; second-born Ann (Kiele Sanchez) is a therapist who specializes in counseling transvestites; next is Marjee (Lizzy Caplan), who plans events with celebrity clients; and Rose (Laura Breckenridge), the baby of the family, is a college student. The death of their mother 15 years ago played a big part in their lives and how they grew up -- and now they're worried about their father (Tom Irwin) and his ever-cheerful girlfriend (Christine Ebersol).
They live in New York, range in age from 19 to 31 and face numerous challenges and life-changing events. In the pilot alone: One sister learns she's pregnant, another is dealing with the end of a longtime relationship, a third is evicted from her apartment, and a fourth is changing college majors from premed to experimental theater. ("Experimental theater? Is that mime? Am I spending $40,000 a year on mime?" asks Dad.) Callum Blue, as Ginnie's husband, seems rather bemused by all of the family intrigue.
The lowdown: Marta Kauffman, co-creator of "Friends," and Liz Tuccillo, a writer for "Sex and the City," have teamed up for this comic drama about relationships. "Related" is in a tough time slot against ABC's huge hit "Lost," but Kauffman said she's thrilled to be there and has great faith that the series will pull in a female audience.
Reality check: "Related" got off to a slow start because one of the sisters was recast and the pilot was almost completely re-shot, but the resulting ensemble plays well together. The dialogue is often clever and fast-moving and, with the ages and interests of the sisters, the show can explore a broad range of topics. Its biggest challenge is to avoid getting "Lost" in its time slot.
-- Judith S. Gillies
Fridays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC
The tagline you'll never see: May draw a high interest rate.
The basics: Meet the gals of the Hot Properties real estate firm. Ava (Gail O'Grady) runs the place and is married to a 25-year-old who thinks Ava is 33. (She's actually forty-something). Chloe (Nicole Sullivan) is the desperate housewife of the bunch, although she's no housewife. Just desperate. Sultry Lola (Sofia Vergara) just left her husband of 10 years after finding out he's gay. And Emerson (Christina Moore) is a rich preppy who recently joined the firm after dumping her less-than-faithful fiance. It's some work and a lot of play for this alluring quartet who, in between wooing potential buyers, wash down cocktails as they dish the dirt about their personal lives.
The lowdown: Remember the family friendly haven that was once ABC's "TGIF" Friday night lineup? Sexy, sassy and just a little naughty, "Properties" proves that ABC has come a long way since those days of innocence. The sitcom follows another female-dominated comedy, "Hope & Faith," which -- bad news for "Properties" -- isn't exactly a ratings draw. "Properties" stands in strong contrast to two thrillers that share its block -- CBS's "Threshold" and Fox's "Killer Instinct," but it will have to fight for a similar demographic with NBC's dreams-do-come-true reality series "Three Wishes."
Reality check: Clearly inspired by both "Sex and the City" and "Designing Women," "Properties" racks up enough laughs if you're looking for some brain drain on a Friday night. Each of the lead characters brings something to the table, and O'Grady, who first made a splash on "NYPD Blue," is always a delight to see on the small screen. But it's the characters of Chloe and Lola who make the most impact. Stay tuned for a future episode in which Chloe confronts a judgmental mother and Lola grieves over a deceased pet chicken. Silly, but satisfying.
-- John Maynard
Your Take on Fall Fare
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