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Second Looks: ''Studio 60,'' ''Ugly Betty,'' ''The Class,'' ''Jericho,'' ''House,'' ''Nip/Tuck''

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 13, 2006

As I have said more than once, reviewing a new TV show can be tricky because you're seeing a single episode -- and not necessarily a representative episode -- to gauge how a show might be over 22 telecasts. Networks have come to realize that over time, so they'll send out additional episodes to give you a better feel for the show. ''Law & Order: Criminal Intent'' sent out something like six before its debut, and ''The Wire'' ultimately sent out its entire fourth season before that began recently. So the mail lately has included second telecasts of some shows, and here's where I stand on them now.

''The Class.'' Didn't like the pilot for this sitcom, in which third-grade classmates reconnect in adulthood. Didn't like the second episode, either, at least for the 14 minutes I could bear to watch. It pulled one laugh -- well, it was partly a surprised snort out of me, but this still is not anywhere near my must-see list. I don't even think it's on my I'll-watch-one-more list, even though CBS sent out a third episode as well.

''Jericho.'' The pilot made my list of shows worth a second look, and now I'm ready for a third. The post-apocalyptic story (with overtones of 9/11) can feel kind of bleak, but it at least tries to be more or less fair with the theme. The second episode, for example, has the townspeople preparing for a wave of radiation expected after a nuclear explosion. Some of the preparations look silly, and there's a melodramatic subplot that requires one character to act really stupidly at first. But the pace and tension are pretty well maintained, and I'll be back for a third show.

''Studio 60.'' I had a lot of reservations about Aaron Sorkin's pilot for this show about the making of a late-night variety series. And I have reservations about the second episode. (For one thing, even though you see it in fictional TV a lot, reporters do not as a rule applaud the people they're interrogating at a press conference.) That said, I know I'll be watching this for awhile. Matthew Perry, for one thing, is really good -- even better than in the pilot. D.L. Hughley, after not getting much to do in the pilot, has some moments in the second episode. There's a nice scene in the writers' room. And I was intrigued by the stories.

Still, I worry that people are going to think that this show is as factual about the TV business as Sorkin's ''West Wing'' was about politics. But ''The West Wing,'' as good as it was, remained a reassuring fantasy and this show, too, is mired in fantasies about the network game. Also, in the second episode, we see an actual sketch from the late-night show that's supposed to be great -- only it isn't.

At this point, I'm kind of where I was when arguing about the show with my colleague Alan Sepinwall. I see all these things that are wrong -- although Alan saw more things than I did -- and I still want to watch it again -- because it still contains the seeds of some great television.

''Ugly Betty,'' the comedic telenovela about a plain girl in the fashion world, had a really good tone in its pilot, albeit one that could be hard to match week after week. Fortunately, the second episode was as delightful as the first -- funny, sweet and offbeat enough to keep you guessing about how things might go. Still very much worth watching.

Fox's early-launch strategy for shows doesn't work with all viewers. I was talking to some folks earlier this week who were surprised to hear that ''Bones'' was already back, and the bride had some friends who thought ''House'' returned last night -- when it actually began new telecasts a week ago. But for those of you who have been watching ''House,'' how has it felt to have two weeks of a ''new'' Dr. House? I thought it was intriguing but was both pleased and disappointed that we're going back to the old ways. Pleased because I want to see the old House (and because I've been waiting for a planned storyline where he gets a real nemesis). Disappointed because the change was so sudden, making it all feel too much like a gimmick. Your thoughts?

Also, now that we've all seen two episodes of ''Nip/Tuck,'' I'm really interested in where that goes next. I have seen the third episode, but it still feels as if there's a lot to come, especially about Matt and Kimber and their approach to life. Anyone happy/excited/perturbed?

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