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From Sptimes.com

Fox throws out The First Pitch (whedonverse actors mentions)

By Chase Squires

Tuesday 30 August 2005, by Webmaster

The network tries a new approach to an old problem: getting viewers interested before its new shows are pre-empted by the baseball postseason.

The Fox network brought itself from David Letterman-joke status as the fourth network in the 1990s to a major player with a handful of innovative shows. A lot of the turnaround came from signing high-status, high-dollar contracts with major sports leagues.

Pro football, NASCAR and baseball joined the junior network, bringing respect. But one of those deals has proved bedeviling.

Major League Baseball’s fall playoffs mean the network can’t join the festival of late September network premieres. If Fox stuck with the traditional TV season, most of its shows would air once or twice before being pre-empted for a month during baseball’s October-long run of playoffs.

Last year, Fox tried a three-season year, rolling out new shows and season premieres in the summer, in November and in January. That system confused viewers.

This year, Fox has a new game plan. It’s scaling back on summer shows and opening the fall season way before the other networks, as early as Monday with much-hyped Prison Break. That way, the network hopes viewers have enough time to get hooked on some new shows before they stand down for baseball.

"Baseball is here to stay on Fox. We have it for the next three or four years," Fox Entertainment president Peter Liguori told TV critics last month, sounding more resigned than enthusiastic. "We’ve gone through trial and error in trying to figure out how to launch shows around baseball . . . We’ve decided to give it a whirl this year where we will launch virtually all our shows before any of our competitors launch theirs."

In a business that revolves around focus groups, statistical analysis and demographic targeting, "give it a whirl" sounds distinctly like "thrown up our hands in frustration."

Baseball isn’t the only factor driving the early launch. Fox is also a master-turned-servant to Nielsen rocket American Idol, which has staked itself as a January tradition, and to 24, a serial drama that would be crippled by a monthlong baseball disruption and the holiday season hiatus.

The network hopes Prison Break will win back fans in November, and then hand its time period to 24 in January (with Prison Break moving to another time slot). And in apparent deference to reality king Idol, the network’s only fall reality show is old favorite Cops. Unusual for the network that produced bottom-feeder reality shows including Temptation Island, For Love or Money, Married by America, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, The Swan and Who’s Your Daddy?

Here’s what’s on tap at Fox:

* * * Prison Break, two-hour premiere 8 p.m. Monday (regularly 9 p.m. Mondays) Wentworth Miller (The Human Stain, Dinotopia) plays a man desperate to help his brother (Dominic Purcell of John Doe and North Shore) bust out of prison, where he is on death row for the ever-popular "crime he didn’t commit." With an execution date near, Miller robs a bank, then pleads guilty and asks that he be sent to the same prison as his brother.

Turns out Miller is a structural engineer who secretly worked on the prison design team and has tattooed the building’s schematics on his body. He learns a mob boss and famous skyjacker D.B. Cooper (under an assumed name) are being kept inside the same prison and can be tricked into helping with the escape.

Add government conspiracy, a defense attorney who used to date the condemned brother, an alienated son, and origami, and viewers are lost.

"Much like 24, Prison Break is packed with multiple plot twists," Liguori said in July.

Asked about the stupefying set of circumstances that would have to align for even the first episode to work, creator Paul Scheuring said, "I think that’s a challenge in any dramatic telling."

But there’s willing suspension of disbelief, and then there’s lunacy. The only real thing about Prison Break is the prison, an actual decommissioned Illinois facility. The show could just as easily have been set on the moon.

Reunion, 9 p.m. Thursdays, premieres Sept. 8 Reunion starts at a funeral (we don’t know whose) then fades back 20 years in the lives of six friends. Each episode spans a year, starting in 1986, so every week the characters get a little older (with the help of makeup and costume) and a little more entangled. By the end of the season, viewers will know which one of them is dead, and who was the killer.

"The goal is to have episodes in which you have self-contained elements but also reward your regular viewers with things that do pay off over the course of the episode," creator-writer Jon Harmon Feldman said in July. "You want to lay in clues in episode one that maybe can help solve the mystery in episode 22."

Reunion stars relative newcomer Dale Annable, Alexa Davalos (The Chronicles of Riddick), Will Estes (American Dreams), Sean Faris (Life As We Know It), Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie) and Amanda Righetti (North Shore).

The War At Home, 8:30 p.m. Sundays, premieres Sept. 11 For a half-hour sitcom called The War At Home, Sept. 11 seems an unfortunate premiere date.

The story is about a family headed by parents who are, surprise, struggling to deal with their teenage children.

War is at its core a routine, dumb sitcom, with crude references to sexual orientation and racial "humor."

One possible saving grace is the way War incorporates "confessionals," those small rooms where characters talk to the camera, like in reality shows. It provides some of the better lines.

The other is Kyle Sullivan, a 16-year-old TV veteran (Tuesdays with Morrie, Malcolm in the Middle) whose portrayal of teenage son Larry shines.

"He’s very fun to play," Sullivan said this summer. "Partly because there are portions of the show where he’s very broad, but at the same time he’s sort of an introvert around his parents, because that’s how kids sort of are."

Bones, 8 p.m. Tuesdays, premieres Sept. 13 A police drama that isn’t produced by Jerry Bruckheimer or Dick Wolf or Steven Bochco! Bones isn’t bad, but with so many cop shows on TV, it’s hard to stand out. Not as gross or violent as other newcomers, it offers a more cerebral approach to crime fighting as Emily Deschanel, playing Dr. Temperance Brennan, solves crimes using science.

As a "highly skilled forensic anthropologist," Dr. Brennan has an "uncanny ability to read clues left behind in the victim’s bones," Fox publicity announces.

There is lots of tension between Deschanel (Cold Mountain) and David Boreanaz, who plays FBI Homicide Investigation Unit agent Seeley Booth.

One mystery is immediately apparent: Deschanel’s airplane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and she takes a lengthy cab ride through the District of Columbia to Arlington National Cemetery, which actually is about 5 minutes up the road.

Head Cases, 9 p.m. Wednesdays, premieres Sept. 14 Fancy-pants attorney Jason Payne has a breakdown and has to go to a mental hospital. Russell Shultz is a bottom-feeder attorney with "explosive disorder" assigned to be Payne’s "outpatient buddy." Oh, what an odd couple.

Chris O’Donnell (Batman and Robin) plays Payne. Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan) is Shultz.

Kitchen Confidential, 8:30 p.m. Mondays, premieres Sept. 19 A sitcom based on chef Anthony Bourdain’s autobiography of the same name. Bradley Cooper (Alias) plays down-and-out chef Jack Bourdain trying to get sober after a meteoric rise and swift crash early in life. He gets a new job as a chef with a wacky staff. Zzzzz. Killer Instinct, 9 p.m. Fridays, premieres Sept. 23 This one-hour police drama tracks "the chilling stories behind the bizarre and deviant crimes committed by San Francisco’s most aberrant criminals," according to Fox. The first episode features rapists who paralyze women with spider bites before abducting them and keeping them in cages. "Unfortunately, in our society, most of these types of crimes are created against young women and the elderly. And I think that as writers we try as much as we can to reflect truth," creator Josh Berman told television critics in July.

Up against smarter (CBS’s Threshold) and more uplifting fare (NBC’s Three Wishes), and coming in after Fox’s withering Malcolm in the Middle sitcom, it’s hard to see where the disturbingly violent Killer Instinct will find an audience.

It stars Johnny Messner (The O.C.), Kristin Lehman (from ESPN’s Tilt) and Chi McBride (Boston Public).

Chase Squires can be reached at 727 893-8739 or squires@sptimes.com His blog is www.sptimes.com/blogs/tv

FOX TV’S 2005-06 SEASON Here are the daily prime-time schedules of new and returning Fox shows. New shows are denoted with *

Monday: 8-8:30 p.m. Arrested Development, season premiere Sept. 19

* 8:30-9 p.m. Kitchen Confidential, premieres Sept. 19

* 9-10 p.m. Prison Break, two-hour premiere at 8 p.m. Monday

Tuesday: * 8-9 p.m. Bones, premieres Sept. 13

9-10 p.m. House, season premiere Sept. 13

Wednesday: 8-8:30 p.m. That ’70s Show, season premiere November, TBA

8:30-9 p.m. Stacked, season premiere November, TBA

* 9-10 p.m. Head Cases, premieres Sept. 14

Thursday: 8-9 p.m. The O.C., season premiere Sept. 8

* 9-10 p.m. Reunion, premieres Sept. 8

Friday: 8-8:30 p.m. The Bernie Mac Show, season premiere Sept. 23

8:30-9 p.m. Malcolm in the Middle, season premiere Sept. 23

* 9-10 p.m. Killer Instinct, premieres Sept. 23

Saturday: 8-9 p.m. Cops (two half-hour episodes), season premiere Sept. 10

9-10 p.m. America’s Most Wanted, season premiere Sept. 10

Sunday: 7:30-8 p.m. King of the Hill, season premiere Sept. 18

8-8:30 p.m. The Simpsons, season premiere Sept. 11

* 8:30-9 p.m. The War at Home, premieres Sept. 11

9-9:30 p.m. Family Guy, season premiere Sept. 11

9:30-10 p.m. American Dad, season premiere Sept. 11