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Notes on New-TV Wednesday

By admin Published: September 22, 2010

Tonight brings the series premieres of "The Defenders" on CBS, "Undercovers" on NBC and "Better With You" and "The Whole Truth" on ABC.

Also, the season premieres of "The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town"; "Law & Order: SVU" (two hours); "Hell's Kitchen" and "Criminal Minds."

Notes after the jump on the new series plus "The Middle" and "Cougar Town."

"Undercovers" wants to be a breezy spy comedy-drama, very Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn-ish (or, if you're too young to get that reference, very Brad-Angelina). It does have a certain lightness, as well as amiable leads (Boris Kodjoe, Guba Mbatha-Raw), which add up to some nice-and-easy viewing. I wonder if it's a little too lighthearted, in fact, but it will take a couple of more episodes for me to decide that. And I expect to try at least one more.

"The Defenders" stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell as a pair of brassy Las Vegas defense attorneys, based on real guys. Belushi has a couple of funny moments in the premiere, but there was nothing here that I want to open up DVR space for, especially considering how much space is going to be taken up on Thursday.

"Better With You"? No, it's not. The cast works very hard at making something of this three-layered comedy about love and commitment. Works too hard, that is, because the material isn't very strong.

"The Whole Truth" had me asking the question, how many legal dramas do I want to watch this season? (See also "The Defenders," above.) OK, so I will always try to make room for another good comedy or cop show, but I am not convinced "The Whole Truth" is all that good. The concept -- legal case seen from both the prosecution and defense points of view -- has been tried before, including in "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," which did not last long. This is more firmly character-based, with long-standing ties between the defense attorney (Rob Morrow, trying unsuccessfully to look grizzled) and the prosecutor (Maura Tierney). And the characters hit a production bump when Joely Richardson left the show and Tierney was brought in. (You will recall that Tierney knows about abrupt change, having had to leave "Parenthood" for cancer treatment; Lauren Graham replaced her on that show.) So maybe it will make some adjustments as it goes along and is designed more for Tierney. But I am still not sold on the concept, or the format, which goes back and forth a lot and leaves us in the dark on guilt or innocence until the very end -- and after the jury has made a decision. And I am going on and on about a show that I did not much care about, and which I don't expect to watch save for an obligatory second look, and besides, "The Good Wife" will be back next week and that will satisfy some of my legal-drama dietary needs.

Returning: I wish I had seen a "Modern Family," but it has not been available for preview. "The Middle" and "Cougar Town" were, though; "The Middle" is a perfectly solid example of what the show did last season, somewhat silly and endearing. "Cougar Town" was not a show I watched at first, and I duly note both that it evolved (it's not really what the title implies any more) and that Jennifer Aniston is reasonably amusing as a guest star tonight. And that there were a couple of nice turns in the season premiere. Which, like with "Scrubs," adds up to my not minding that I watched it but still not feeling any powerful urge to do so.

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