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From Seattlepi.nwsource.com


Networks try to make some lagging shows sexier to viewers

By Melanie McFarland

Friday 19 September 2003, by Webmaster


Relationships evolve. Personalities morph. Anyone involved in a long-term commitment accepts that as a given.

Knowing that doesn’t mean we have to like or accept those changes.

Courting the romantically fickle isn’t unique to J.Lo — we all get cold feet, especially when it comes to our TV shows. It’s a tricky business. And television producers have the terrible burden of always working to keep fresh, hot and heavy so we’ll stay faithful. Can’t-miss-appointment viewing can turn on a dime, or a button, with just a few slips of the plot. Once a viewership’s love grows cold, the next stop is cancellation, not Heartbreak Hotel.

All change on TV involves a tremendous amount of risk, but the following shows had to try. Some have been forced into midlife crisis mode by unforeseen circumstances, others are just trying to keep us interested. They could amount to a new lease on life. Or not.

"Alias." Returns 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, KOMO/4. This is one of those shows that ended last season with most viewers gasping, "What the faw?!?!" In case you missed it: After a battle with best friend Francie’s double in Los Angeles, Sydney (Jennifer Garner) shoots fake Francie and wakes up — in Hong Kong. Her lover, Vaughn (Michael Vartan), tells her she was presumed dead after being missing for two years, and he appears to be wearing a wedding ring.

So what happens now? Word is Sydney wasn’t hallucinating. Other than finding out what happened during her two-year blackout, what’ll really flip viewers out is that nemesis Sloane (Ron Rifkin) is now claiming to play for the good guys. But did Will (Bradley Cooper) survive the knifing?

"The Practice." Returns 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept.28, KOMO/4. "I feel like I’ve hit a wall here. And I feel like I’m gonna crash. And I just need to leave before I become wreckage." That was Bobby’s (Dylan McDermott) explanation as to why he was quitting the firm, but he might have been speaking for the show itself. Already long in the tooth after seven seasons, "The Practice" wasn’t helped when ABC pulled it off Sundays. The show nearly died in its Monday slot and was only spared at the last minute.

But the price to return for an eighth season at its normal airtime was lower license fees and the unceremonious ousting of McDermott, Lisa Gaye Hamilton, Lara Flynn Boyle and Kelli Williams.

So what happens now? Eugene (Steve Harris) is at the head of the firm. He, along with faithful Ellenor (Camryn Manheim) and Jimmy (Michael Badalucco), will be tested by new hire Alan Shore (James Spader), who’s supposed to be "ethically challenged."

"8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." Returns 8 p.m. Tuesday, KOMO/4. At the end of last season, Paul (John Ritter) learned that Cate (Katey Sagal) might be pregnant. This will be resolved within the first three episodes of this season, the last completed before Ritter’s death.

So what happens now? After a hiatus of reruns, writer will rework the show to address the Hennessy patriarch’s death. It will return far more somber, removing the laughs to deal with the family’s pain as they learn to cope with sudden loss. Segal probably will bear the weight of the series, although producers say they want it to become more of an ensemble act.

"24." Returns commercial-free at 9 p.m. Oct. 28, KCPQ/13. Just when Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) thought it was safe to sit down, President Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) was felled by evil terrorist Mandy’s (Mia Kirshner) infectious handshake. He dropped with a thud, and so did our jaws.

So what happens now? Series executive producer Joel Surnow’s keeping the tightest of tight lids on the intricacies of this season, but we do know Palmer’s alive and debating, and it’s about 2 1/2 years after Day 2. Word is, Jack will get a partner. The deliciously duplicitous Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson Jerald) and Kiss Me Kate (Sarah Wynter) may make appearances, but aren’t series regulars. In what must be a clear demonstration of nepotism, The Spawn, aka Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert), gets a job at CTU, hopefully one that’ll keep her from getting captured by mountain men.

"Enterprise." 8 p.m. Wednesdays, KSTW/11. After a season of boldly losing almost 20 percent of its viewers, the series well on its way to becoming the "Star Trek" franchise scow clocked viewers with an attack from an alien race called the Xindi that decimated a hunk of Earth. Nice guy Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) morphed into intergalactic Ahab.

So what happens now? A lot more action courtesy of Military Assault Command Operations (MACOs) going after the Xindi. More sex appeal. But executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga had better make Archer toughen up himself and the crew, and very fast. Look for temporal trip-ups to play a major role.

"The West Wing." Returns 9 p.m. Wednesday, KING/5. Shaken to the core by his daughter’s kidnapping, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) stepped aside, and the right-wing speaker of the House (John Goodman) took his place. Which is not as big a deal as the abrupt exit of series creators Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who sorely tested the network by continually delivering late scripts, among other things.

So what happens now? "ER" producer John Wells steps up, bringing in more emotional moments conveyed through silence instead of Sorkin’s signature jibber-jabber between characters as they clip-clop down the hall. Gary Cole comes on as the new VP.

"Angel." Returns 9 p.m. Oct. 1, KTWB/22. Angel Investigations got invited to take over the L.A. branch of Wolfram & Hart, their sworn enemy and the most evil of law firms. And they accepted. Angel (David Boreanaz) abandoned his son, Connor (Vincent Kartheiser), to a normal, loving family. Cordelia remained in a coma, a convenient way to get rid of series regular Charisma Carpenter. This last bit has "Angel’s" faithful in an uproar, but Carpenter’s exit may be less of a concern than the drastic veer away from the series’ original tone. No more darkness, no more fighting crime on the outskirts. Angel now has a garage full of luxury cars at his disposal, sleeping quarters with a skyline view, and a perky new assistant — "Buffy’s" Harmony (Mercedes McNab).

So what happens now? At the start of this season, Angel’s still learning what Wolfram & Hart has in store for him. He also must figure out what to do with Spike (James Marsters), who turns up suddenly at the end of the season premiere — but not entirely like he was in Sunnydale . Oh, and Gunn (J. August Richards) gets a shocking mystical upgrade.

"L.A. Dragnet." Returns 10 p.m. Sept. 27, KOMO/4. New name, but it’s still the same old "Dragnet," minus Ethan Embry.

So what happens now? If ratings don’t kill it, angry parents might. "The Wonderful World of Disney" is its lead-in, meaning someone’s going to catching Junior watching Friday crouched over a dead naked woman.

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