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Fall TV Preview: Five Total Toss-ups

All summer long, I've been giving you my first impressions of the networks' new shows. Now, with fall TV upon us, it's time to tell you which shows are deserving of space on your TiVo and which ... well, aren't. Yesterday, I told you about five shows I'll be skipping this fall, and on Monday, I'll be revealing my top five picks for the season. But today, I'm focusing on the shows that could go either way, just as likely to become megahits as they are to sink like stones.

5. "Bionic Woman" — "Bionic" has seen quite a bit of upheaval since the pilot I saw was filmed. One supporting part (the bionic woman's younger sister) has been recast and reconceived, and — just within the past couple of weeks — one of the executive producers left the show. In the version of the pilot I saw, lead actress Michelle Ryan didn't seem to have the sort of fearless toughness you'd want in an action star, and the whole thing seemed surprisingly low-energy. But now, "Friday Night Lights" producer Jason Katims will be consulting on the show, and NBC has ensured a steady stream of publicity by hiring Isaiah Washington for a guest spot. I'm still not confident about this remake, but I think it has an equal chance of being a breakout hit and a flop.

4. "Carpoolers" — I'm really of two minds about "Carpoolers." On the one hand, the whole idea of inane car banter is why I try not to catch rides with casual acquaintances. On the other hand, this pilot made me laugh surprisingly hard, and I'm finding myself rooting for it. The writing may not be completely there yet, but the comic timing from funny guys like Jerry O'Connell, Jerry Minor, Fred Goss, and potential breakout star TJ Miller gives me hope — as does that Phil Collins video. I'm not sure if I see it getting more than a "Knights of Prosperity"-sized following, but if enough people give it a chance, maybe it will be a small hit.

Three more tossups — plus a brand-new clip of the first few minutes of one of them — so

3. "Moonlight" — "Moonlight" is a toss-up in the truest sense of the word because it's gone through so many changes. Virtually everyone except lead actor Alex O'Loughlin has been recast since the spring, and I haven't seen either the old or the new versions of the pilot. I generally suspect this will be a cheesy mix of vampire myth and cop drama, and its Friday night timeslot tells me CBS doesn't have a ton of confidence in it either. On the other hand, CBS has had a good sense of humor in promoting the show — witness this "Interview with a Vampire" clip and the creepy vs. sexy video — and I think there are legions of "Angel" and "Buffy" fans who might latch on to this show.

2. "Aliens in America" — Of all the pilots I watched for the fall, this one about a friendship between a small-town Wisconsin kid and his family's Pakistani exchange student, left me the most conflicted by far. On the one hand, it made me laugh harder than any other comedy pilot, and the two young actors in the lead roles are charming and perfectly cast. On the other hand, many parts of the pilot made me squirm because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be offended or amused. I have no idea where the show will go from here, and — more than that — I have no idea how people will react. Will they think it's sweetly hilarious or blatantly over the line?

1. "Private Practice" — So far, this show is nothing but a giant question mark. It's the only pilot the general public has seen, and so we've all had almost four months to rip the very special episode apart — and nobody's been shy about doing that.
Some critics who have seen the proper first episode of the series say the show has gotten itself together, while others say it's even more inane than we feared. For me, the whole point of Kate Walsh's Addison on "Grey's" was to be sassy, complicated, and tough-as-nails; on the snippets of "Private Practice" I've seen, she seems gigglier and girlier, without the backbone that made her such a gem. Creator Shonda Rhimes has said this show won't be "Grey's 2.0" — but it's too early to tell whether "Private Practice" will be able to capture any of the magic that made that show a hit. Just for good measure, here's the newest preview clip:

"Private Practice" and "Carpoolers" photos copyright 2007 ABC, Inc..
"Moonlight" picture courtesy of CBS
"Aliens in America" photo courtesy of The CW
"Bionic Woman" photo Source
"Moonlight" photo courtesy of CBS

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