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The new season is fast upon us. It's that time of year when networks launch their fall lineup upon unsuspecting viewers. All told, there are more than 30 new series coming our way in the weeks to come. Navigating this myriad of new shows is a daunting task. The following reviews are intended to give readers a brief glimpse into the new season. The best advice, as always, is to judge for yourself.

Show reviews written by Andrew Ryan, Henrietta Walmark, Allison Dunfield, Sue Andrew and Kevin Siu.

NR = Not rated (no screener tape was made available).


The Wonderful World of Disney

ABC, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Family fare

Premiere: Oct. 16

Stars: Everyone from Old Yeller to

Alan Thicke.

This is essentially the same WWOD that has aired since the '50s, with very little deviation from the squeaky-clean lineage. The theme appears to focus on films aimed at slightly older kids and their parents, hence the later timeslot. The films will be culled directly from the Disney archives, which will mean some old chestnuts and some wince-inducing new TV-movie originals, including Growing Pains 2: Return of the Seavers (Oct. 16). Bet you thought we were kidding about Alan Thicke. -- AR

Crimetime Saturday

CBS, CTV, 9 p.m. NR

Genre: Crime drama recycled

Premiere: Sept. 25

Stars: The various casts of CBS's

crime-drama roster

Crimetime Saturday is not a new show, it's a concept. And a pretty shrewd one at that. This is CBS's experiment to bolster an existing hit and recycle existing programming at the same time. The cheeky devils! The lead-in for Crimetime Saturday is the relocated The Amazing Race, coming off its fifth and highest-rated campaign. CBS is moving The Amazing Race to the 8 p.m. timeslot, after which the Crimetime Saturday block will run repeat episodes of CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Cold Case, Without a Trace and NCIS. It's a shameless but shrewd move; Saturday night is a dead zone of programming. Things could become considerably more dire should the NHL fail to resume play in October. More than ever before, Saturday is becoming a good night to own a DVD player. -- AR


The Greatest Canadian

CBC, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Oct. 17

Stars: Every damn Canadian from Louis Riel to Gordie Howe

The first of two reality experiments with our tax dollars this season, CBC is banking that unprecedented viewer interaction will translate into ratings for The Greatest Canadian. The network has been running promos for the show the past several months, beseeching Canadians to vote for their favourite homegrown hero. Response has reportedly been monumental. The results will be whittled down to 50 Great Canadians for the first show; viewers will narrow down that list through voting by email, phone and text message, a la Canadian Idol. The show airs Mondays and Wednesdays -- the airtime filled with recycled profiles from Life & Times -- with all the excitement building up to the Nov. 29 finale, at which time the Greatest Canadian will be announced. No preview tape, obviously, but this is just the sort of show that will click with Canadian viewers, especially on a Sunday night. But really, does anyone doubt Pierre Trudeau will win? -- AR

Jack & Bobby

New VR, 8 p.m.; WB, 9 p.m. HH

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Sept. 12

Stars: Christine Lahti, Matthew Long, Logan Lerman

Meet the McCallister boys. Jack (Long) and Bobby (Lerman) are brothers living in smalltown U.S.A. with their strong-willed mother Grace (Lahti) who teaches at the local college. In the first show it's made abundantly clear one of the lads is going to grow up to become president of the United States -- but which one? There are interviews with fictional future White House staffers and the future First Lady, who babble on about the virtues of President McCallister. Virtues no doubt instilled in his wonder-bread years, hmmm. The viewer, meanwhile, is left to wonder which brother reached the Oval Office -- each week for the first 22 episodes. Jack & Bobby's unique setup garnered substantial pre-season buzz, but the concept gets old before the pilot ends. Both Logan and Long are fine actors and nice-looking as the earnest all-American boys, but Lahti steals every scene she appears in. They should have built the entire show around her. -- AR

Desperate Housewives

CTV, 7 p.m.; ABC, 9 p.m. H

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Oct. 3

Stars: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Brenda Strong

Desperate Housewives insults so many aspects of women's progress in the past 50 years it's hard to know where to start. A promising opening scene in which one of the domestic goddesses living in a perfect suburban neighbourhood offs herself and proceeds to narrate the show from beyond the grave is quickly diminished by the escapades of her former friends. Despite a solid cast including Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman, the storylines are disturbing -- basically they all involve the women doing anything to either get, or keep, a man. Susan Mayer (Hatcher) and her fifth-grade daughter even devise a plot together to lure the hot new plumber over. At least the Stepford Wives had an excuse -- they were robots. Desperate is right. Ugh. -- AD

The Partner

Fox, Global, 9 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Nov. 7

Imagine The Apprentice with lawyers in place of young entrepreneurial types. Now imagine a world without either. No screener was available, but Fox says the legal-eagle reality-show will focus on a handful of Ivy League graduates competing against a group of savvy storefront lawyers who hail from less illustrious law schools. The format will find the two diametrically opposed groups of barristers facing off in silly mock trials, which will be presided over by a celebrity judge. Each show will also feature an impartial jury selecting that week's star lawyer, who is awarded a job at a top law firm, which in turn will garner that firm astounding publicity. Isn't the American legal system just terrific? -- AR

Boston Legal

ABC, Global, 10 p.m. HH

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Oct. 3

Stars: James Spader, William Shatner, Rhona Mitra

Fans of The Practice were introduced to this new David E. Kelley offering in the final episodes of last season. Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner) play high-priced civil litigators at a swank Boston firm on Fleet Street. Expect the usual Kelley fare of social issues, moral ambiguity, emotionally crippled professionals and an unwavering bottom line of cold, hard cash. Crane is the loose cannon of the operation and Shatner, who was nominated for an Emmy for his Practice guest appearance, is masterfully maniacal and sleazy. Spader's smarmy Alan Shore balances things nicely, bringing a bleakly comedic element to the mix. It's worth checking out, but only to see if Kelley can work his magic again. -- SA


The Benefactor

ABC, CTV, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Sept. 13

Stars: Mark Cuban

A thinly disguised remake of ratings blockbuster The Apprentice, this new reality show already has the makings of a disaster. The show is constructed around thirtysomething billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, who is in almost every scene. He's a bit of a wienie. No screener tape was available, but the rough premise displayed in the presentation tape talked of assembling 16 people who will be put through a battery of challenges in pursuit of a $1-million (U.S.) cash prize. There are no set rules to the competition; Cuban apparently is making up the rules as he goes along. "Whoever sucks up best to me could be the winner. That might be all it takes," he says. What a great lesson! The scattered approach doesn't bode well for the show. Even worse: Cuban's abrasive personality is likely to give many viewers hives. He's no Donald Trump. -- AR

Listen Up

CBS, Global, 8:30 p.m. H

Genre: Comedy

Premiere: Sept. 20

Stars: Jason Alexander, Malcolm-Jamal Warner

This comedy, starring Seinfeld's Jason Alexander as sports talk show host-turned lifestyle columnist Tony Kleinman (based on real-life sports columnist and commentator Tony Kornheiser) has its share of unbelievable elements. But the major one: Alexander as a father? He's still basically the same sorry loser he was on Seinfeld. In the pilot, he's being stomped all over by lippy teenage daughter Megan (Dana Kleinman) at her soccer practice. Try as he might, daddy just can't get it right. So, he begins writing a column about his family, a lesson is learned, apologies are said and . . . zzzzz. One bright light: Malcolm-Jamal Warner as his talk show co-host Bernie Widmer -- and he's funny! -- AD


NBC, Global, 10 p.m. H

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Sept. 13

Stars: Heather Locklear, Blair Underwood, Wendy Hoopes

The Los Angeles International airport is a hyper and hectic place -- especially behind the scenes. The entire operation is run by two take-charge types: sassy Harley (Locklear) who oversees the runway, and rigid Roger (Underwood), in charge of the terminal building. The duo seem in constant conflict, but there are more than enough hints in the pilot they have a, ahem, history together. Although both work at the very top of the airport hierarchy, they inconceivably end up meeting and interacting with the passengers that come in and out of the airport each week. There's nothing technically wrong with the show, it just seems wildly dated. LAX looks like it came straight from the 1982 fall schedule, which, oddly, is the year Locklear starred in T.J. Hooker. And she hasn't changed her hairstyle since! -- AR


OMNI.2, Monday to Friday, 10:30 p.m.; OMNI.1, Sundays, 9 p.m. HHHH

Genre: Serial drama

Premiere: Oct. 18

Stars: Barna Moricz, Yasin Sheikh, Wes Williams, Danielle Hampton, Kerry Lai Fatt

This unexpected gem is our Coronation Street. Set in downtown Toronto with a multi-ethnic cast of homegrown and mostly unknown actors, the series is pure soap and totally addictive. A club and a coffee shop provide the backdrop for the intermingling of a loose community of twentysomethings. A little bit Queer as Folk, a little bit Sex and the City, Metropia delivers a whole lot of gorgeous characters including vindictive stunner Phoenix (Kerry Lai Fatt) and the Machiavellian Yuri (Barna Moricz) making for a whole lot of hotness and plenty of juicy plot threads. Though the language can be raw and the hookups are frequent, there's also sweetness and a natural ambiance among the large ensemble cast. Watching this sudsy reflection of our very own bohemian culture is a delight even if it does qualify as a guilty pleasure. -- HW


Making the Cut

CBC, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Sept. 21

Stars: Scott Oake, Kelly Hrudey, Cassie Campbell

Let the Americans have their boxing competitions. We'll take hockey any time. This new CBC reality series arrives with great potential. Running over 13 episodes, the series is a search for this country's best hockey players who don't play for an NHL team. Hosted by Hockey Night in Canada mainstay Scott Oake, the program follows more than three dozen pre-screened finalists through a makeshift training camp operated by coaching icons Scotty Bowman and Mike Keenan. The hungry fellers are put through the same brutal fitness tests and on-ice scrimmages as NHL players. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: six invitations to the training camps of the six NHL Canadian clubs. Making the Cut is probably the only guaranteed hit on Canadian TV this season. And if the NHL goes out, it could be the only hockey we get to see this year. -- AR

The Billionaire:

Branson's Quest for the Best

Fox, Global, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Nov. 9

Stars: Richard Branson

Yet another attempt to cash in on The Apprentice, The Billionaire is a vanity vehicle for Richard Branson, the Brit tycoon who built his fortunes from the Virgin record label, an empire that includes superstores, airlines and other brand extensions. The premise finds 16 contestants loaded onto a plane with Branson (guess which airline) and flitting about to various exotic ports of call. At each location the players are required to re-enact business challenges taken from Branson's own experiences. Each week a player is ejected and the remaining players jet off to the next location. The show rests entirely on Branson's shoulders. Although he's known for being quirky -- with his hot-air balloons and yacht racing -- there's no evidence Branson is engaging enough to pull in viewers. Not all billionaires are interesting, you know. -- AR

The Contender

NBC, Global, 8 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Nov. 9

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, pugs

In this corner: This is NBC's much talked-about boxing reality series, as conceived by the fertile minds of Stallone and reality-TV kingpin Mark Burnett and produced by the DreamWorks studio. NBC was recently embroiled in a legal wrangle with the Fox Network regarding their plans for their own boxing reality series, The Next Great Champ; NBC lost that fight, and The Next Great Champ began last week. No previews of either show were available, but NBC's version will unquestionably be the tamer of the two. The show follows 16 allegedly top-rated middleweight fighters through the process leading up to a title fight. Every man stepping into the ring is a bona fide American loser type -- the single dad, the abandoned Gulf War vet, the guy with the sick wife -- and each episode will focus overwhelmingly on their hard-luck stories. Much of the on-screen time will be filled with footage of the fighters sweating it out in the gym with former heavyweight champion Leonard, and receiving vital ring advice from Stallone, who played a boxer in five Rocky movies. The violence will seem minimal compared to Fox's boxing series, but there will still be plenty of overblown faux drama, not to mention broken and bloody noses, to pull in viewers. -- AR


CBS, 9 p.m. HH

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Sept. 26

Stars: Jeremy Sumpter, Dean Cain, Mare Winningham, Christopher Lloyd

An idealistic 16-year-old (Sumpter) lands the job of his dreams when he becomes a batboy for a professional baseball team. And as young Petey works the grinding home-and-away schedule for the fictional New York Empires, he becomes a man, by golly. Clubhouse is pretty sappy fare that's more in line with Judging Amy than Field of Dreams. Sumpter is a strong young actor, but everyone else is a standard-issue stereotype: His single mom (Winningham) is strict but kind-hearted; the Empires' star third baseman (Cain) is a good ol' boy; the team's manager (Lloyd) is gruff but, gak!, lovable. The only thing missing is a crusty old character named "Pops," but it's a long season and things can change. -- AR


Fox, CH, 9 p.m. HH

Genre: Medical drama

Premiere: Nov. 16

Stars: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison

Cantankerous but brilliant Dr. Gregory House (Laurie) is put in charge of a cadre of promising young medical students (Epps, Morrison and others). The group is handed those medical cases that have everyone flummoxed. The students immediately discover that House is a terrible taskmaster, but there's always value derived from the hard lessons learned. This is one of the more unique of this fall's TV entries. The British-born Laurie, who starred in the PBS series Jeeves & Wooster, is perfectly cast as the crabby House -- one of the most complex characters to surface in primetime in years. Just when you think you're starting to like him, House does something completely wretched. The outstanding pilot is the good news; the bad news is that Fox has an atrocious track record of supporting dramas, which means House will likely be DOA by Thanksgiving. -- AR

Father of the Pride

NBC, 9 p.m.; Global, 9:30 p.m. HH

Genre: Animated adult

Premiere: Started Aug. 31

Stars: Voices of John Goodman, Carl Reiner, Cheryl Hines

It looks like it's for kids, but there's a reason why it airs at 9 p.m. Father of the Pride began a few weeks back. For those who missed the setup, big Larry (Goodman) is the lead lion in the Siegfried and Roy Vegas revue. Larry and his wife Kate (Hines) share their abode with her crabby old lion father (Reiner) and two cubs. The first few shows were pretty racy, by sitcom standards, but it's still just creepy to see animated figures in adult situations. An acquired taste, you betcha. -- AR


ABC, 9:30 p.m. H

Genre: Sitcom

Premiere: Sept. 21

Stars: Rodney Carrington, Jennifer Aspen

Didn't this used to be called According to Jim? This is a woefully feeble sitcom framed around the completely unknown Carrington. He plays an average guy, named Rodney, who works in a fiberglass plant but wants to be a standup comedian. He has a very attractive wife (Aspen) who understands him, and they have two gosh-awful cute boys. Everyone tries their best to support daddy, but Rodney isn't very funny, neither the show nor the man. Wave goodbye, Rodney. -- AR



ABC, 8 p.m. HHHH

Genre: Action

Premiere: Sept. 22

Stars: Evangeline Lilly, Dominic Monaghan, Josh Holloway

Welcome to the jungle. No, really. Here's at least one show that's different this season. Lost comes from Alias creator J.J. Abrams and has an ambitious setup: A group of 48 total strangers are fortunate enough to walk away from a plane crash in a remote region of the South Pacific. They land on a tropical island, luckily enough, and since they were thousands of miles off course when it happened, now they're really, really lost. The Lord of the Flies concept lends itself to a raft of serpentine plot twists in the pilot alone as the understandably flustered passengers -- played here by a cast of total unknowns -- begin to alternately panic and feed off each other. Mysteries surface: Why was that guy wearing handcuffs? And what are those noises coming from the jungle? And how did all the attractive female passengers tear their blouses? Lost is old-school adventure, not unlike old movie serials from the '30s. It's this season's 24. -- AR


NBC, Global, 8 p.m. H

Genre: Police drama

Premiere: Started Sept. 1

Stars: Ivan Sergei, Eric Balfour, Michael Biehn, Sharif Atkins

Here again NBC goes back in time. Hawaii is violent cops-n-robbers rot for juvenile minds, with storytelling in bad '80s action movie style. The setup, loosely: sage vice cop (Biehn) supervises a group of young cowboy types, none of whom appear to be Hawaiian, incidentally. For TV reasons, the unit seems to focus only on particularly grisly crimes in the grimiest of locales. When did Hawaii turn into a war zone? There are scenes of the lovely Hawaiian beaches and bikini babes, of course, but it does little to offset the repeated images of severed heads and, in the pilot, a volcano-charred corpse. As with LAX, this is a blast from the past and probably not a good message for Hawaiian tourism. Jack Lord is spinning in his grave. -- AR

Renovate My Family

Fox, Global, 9 p.m. H

Genre: Self-help reality

Premiere: Started Sept. 1

Stars: Dr. Phil's son.

Self-help guru Dr. Phil McGraw's pesky son Jay is the host of this bizarre affair. Need we ask how he came to the job? On each show Jay invades the home of a family allegedly in need. With the assistance of a team of designers and a construction crew, Jay helps the family achieve a rosy new outlook on life, just like his daddy does on daytime TV every day. And all it took was a little wallpaper and some chintz curtains! Heaven help us. -- AR

Kevin Hill

UPN, 9 p.m.; CTV, mid-season HHH

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Sept. 29

Stars: Taye Diggs, Michael Michele

This promising new series stars Taye Diggs as an entertainment lawyer who is smo-ooth with the ladies. Hill is living the good life, bachelor style, until his cousin dies and he's left with a yowling baby girl to raise. Suddenly his love den is scattered with toys and the women stop calling. A bit of a throwback to Three Men and a Baby, it's still somehow funny watching a man trying to calm a crying infant, though it may be politically incorrect to say so. After trying to juggle job and wee one, he ends up quitting to join an all-female firm. The various role reversals are truly a pleasure. And there will undoubtedly be fireworks between Hill and new boss Jessie Grey (Michael Michele, ER). -- AD

The Mountain

WB, 9 p.m. H

Genre: Family Drama

Premiere: Sept. 22

Stars: Oliver Hudson, Barbara Hershey

Prodigal son (Hudson) returns home to his dead grandfather's ski resort to discover he's inherited control of the whole damn hill. Responsible older brother (Anson Mount) is jealous. Mom (Hershey) is conflicted. Meanwhile, little sis (Tara Thompson) just wants to snowboard. But they have to learn to stick together if they're going to fend off a takeover by a rival family of corporate sharks. If the premise suggests Six Feet Under by way of the X-Games, subtract the gravitas and dark wit of the former and the marginal excitement of the latter, and you're halfway there. The whole ordeal would be trashier fun if Hudson (Kate's brother, incidentally) weren't so tragically bland. -- KS

Center of the Universe

CBS, CH, 9:30 p.m. HH

Genre: Sitcom

Premiere: Sept. 29

Stars: John Goodman, Jean Smart, Ed Asner

Watching Center of the Universe, starring John Goodman and Jean Smart, leaves one almost hankering for Roseanne to pick up where it left off. The opening scene of the series shows the couple of 20 years chowing down and cracking we've-been-together-too-long jokes, kinda like what used to happen on Roseanne. But the jokes are less witty and the family is we-get-it-already dysfunctional. Case in point: Goodman's sister, (Melinda McGraw) whose marriage has just disintegrated, has one too many crying jags for a half-hour show. Goodman is supposed to be the glue that holds them together, but it just ain't sticking. Olympia Dukakis and Ed Asner also star. -- AD


CBS, CTV, 10 p.m. HH

Genre: Crime drama

Premiere: Sept. 22

Stars: Gary Sinise, Melina Kanakaredes

There's very little new about this second spin off the CSI formula. This one stars film fixture Sinise as somber New York detective Mack Taylor; TV veteran Kanakaredes plays his sexy partner, Stella Bonasera. As per the CSI template, each week reveals a new stiff to be picked apart by the two experts and their crack forensics team. The only difference between this show and the other CSIs: This one takes place in New York, instead of Las Vegas or Miami, so the characters will wear coats in the cooler Big Apple weather. Still, the CSI shows remain inexplicably strong and there's no reason to think the fans won't be glued to this one. CSI: NY will be around for years. -- AR


And Go!

Citytv, 8 p.m.; New VR, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. NR

Genre: Improv comedy

Premiere: Sept. 16

Stars: Bruce Hunter

Canadian actors let loose on the streets of Toronto wrangle bystanders to join improvised sketches in this homegrown comedy series. Host Bruce Hunter (The Red Green Show, Puppets Who Kill) sets the scene for two actors and then gives the improv cue: "And go!" The results are edited into a two-and-half minute film shown at the end of each half-hour. A preview tape was unavailable, so the show is unrated but, with upcoming episodes featuring the talents of Gavin Crawford, Joe Flaherty, Peter Keleghan, Colin Mochrie, Patrick McKenna and Sandra Shamas, this comic goer could have legs. -- HW


NBC, Global, 8 p.m. HH

Genre: Sitcom

Premiere: Started Sept. 9

Stars: Matt LeBlanc, Drea de Matteo, Paulo Costanzo

Matt LeBlanc reprises his Friends' role as Joey in a spinoff that has the lovable lunk moving to Hollywood to pursue his acting career. Joey-the-actor may have moved out of New York, but NBC has kept Joey-the-show firmly ensconced in the timeslot that Friends dominated for a decade. Whether LeBlanc is a big enough solo star to carry on that tradition, well, that's as tentative as Joey's career in L.A. He gets some help from Drea de Matteo (recently bumped off on The Sopranos) as Joey's sister and Brampton native Paulo Costanzo (Road Trip) as her nave grad student son. But the show's broad strokes -- the constant attention to fake boobs and plunging necklines (and that's just on Joey's sister and his agent, not his love interests); and the, literally, rocket scientist nephew moving in with his thick thespian Uncle Joey -- are so heavy-handed that any nostalgia for an old friend collapses under the weight. -- HW

life as we know it

ABC, 9 p.m. HH

Genre: Teen drama

Premiere: Oct. 7

Stars: Sean Faris, Jon Foster, Chris Lowell

Seattle slackers Dino, Ben and Jonathan (Faris, Foster, Lowell) are high-school classmates and longtime pals bound together by their geekiness. The dudes spend a lot of their time talking about sex and what it would be like to, you know, "do it." This teen soap is aimless but well executed. It comes from the creators of the acclaimed Freaks & Geeks. All the characters are awkward, bumbling teens, which is about right. The pleasant surprise is Kelly Osbourne, who is quite good as a classmate and lust object for one of the three lads. ABC's obvious intent here is to capture the same young viewers who love The O.C., but they'd best not become too attached to life as we know it: The show is going directly against powerhouses CSI and The Apprentice. Class cancelled before Christmas. -- AR


The Complex: Malibu

Fox, Global, 8 p.m. H

Genre: Home makeover

Premiere: Started Aug. 30

Fox arrives to the home makeover party a few years late, but darned if they aren't trying. This is a direct copy of the Aussie reality-show The Block, which is apparently a ratings monster Down Under. The American version has eight drastically different couples co-habiting in a Malibu apartment complex. The couples bicker and threaten each other with power tools, naturally, but they're forced to work as a team to renovate the ratty rooms, after which they're sold on the public market. The team whose efforts earn the highest price is awarded the profits. Isn't that fascinating? The Complex: Malibu could find an audience, but the sort of people who watch these programs probably have already seen it done better on specialty networks. Why did Fox think this would work on a Friday night? -- AR


ABC, 8:30 p.m. H

Genre: Sitcom

Premiere: Sept. 24

Stars: Keith Carradine, Andrew Eiden, Shaun Sipos, Erik von Detten

There's no subtlety at all in this Mel Gibson-produced sitcom about a boisterous all-male household. Keith Carradine stars as Nick Savage, the divorced father of five teen boys who decides the family will fend for itself after their 23rd housekeeper in 10 years calls it quits. Apparently inspired by Gibson's own large clan and, following his over-the-top tendencies, the Savage family antics are played very large. The brothers alternately torment each other, then unite to thwart Dad's efforts to make them look after themselves. Ideas on how to avoid doing laundry include a tip on making one pair of boxers last four days. Eeuw. Predictable boys-will-be-boys stuff and predicted not to last. -- HW

The Next Great Champ

Fox, Global, 9 p.m. NR

Genre: Reality

Premiere: Started Sept. 7

Stars: Oscar De La Hoya

The Next Great Champ won its first slugfest before it even went on the air. NBC, claiming that Fox had ripped off its concept for a reality boxing series, tried to delay the show's premiere by taking Fox to court over unlawful bouts. Late last month, a judge ruled that The Next Great Champ could go ahead as planned. World champ Oscar De La Hoya is the ringmaster here, as 12 raw hopefuls try to knock each other out for a top prize that includes a professional contract and a World Boxing Organization title fight. No preview tape and no promo reel mean no odds on how this punch-up series will perform. -- HW

dr. vegas

CBS, CTV, 10 p.m. HH

Genre: Drama

Premiere: Sept. 24

Stars: Rob Lowe, Joey Pantoliano, Tom Sizemore

In this strange and pointless offering, Lowe stars as a suave emergency room doctor who's given up on the excitement of the ER to become an in-house doctor in a Vegas casino. "The only thing I couldn't believe was how was this not done before?" writer John Herzfeld muses in an interview that came with the first episode. Yes, indeed, one would wonder. As the casino's tyrannical boss, The Sopranos' Pantoliano outshines Lowe's Dr. Billy Grant in every scene in which the two appear. "Vegas is a character in life, and in our show," says Lowe in an interview on the pilot tape. Perhaps the only one. -- AD

Medical Investigation

NBC, CTV, 10 p.m. HH

Genre: Medical drama

Premiere: Started Sept. 9

Stars: Neal McDonough, Kelli Williams

Riding on the lab-coattails of CSI (now in three permutations with the premiere of CSI: NY), Medical Investigation takes a forensic science approach to serious health puzzles large and small. The first episode featured a life-threatening epidemic in New York City and a secondary story about a baby whose extensive injuries may not be what they seem. McDonough (Boomtown) and Williams (The Practice) play the elite docs leading a team of experts who swab and sweat their way to the answers. The show has a tough timeslot (Friday's a TV wasteland) but the ongoing fascination with forensics may give MI the jolt it'll need to survive. -- HWn