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The New Tv Season



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Tonight is the last night of week #1 of the new fall season, with some
major shows returning (“Desperate Housewives” most notably). So far,
the first week has brought a few pleasant surprises. “Lost” won its
Best Drama Emmy, then debuted its second season Wednesday to
deservedly massive ratings. (The mystery numbers were on the label of
the drug that Desmond injected himself with — that’s a high-def TiVo
moment.) On Thursday, the 20-year dominance of NBC officially ended,
and “Everybody Hates Chris” shocked the world by debuting on UPN and
beating NBC’s “Joey.” (I haven’t seen “EHC” but people seem to like
it.)

On Tuesday, the big story was “My Name is Earl,” a quirky
single-camera comedy starring Jason Lee as an amoral good-for-nothing
who discovers the power of karma and decides to right all the wrongs
of his life. NBC promoted the show’s premiere like a feature film,
spending something like $12 million on bus billboards and the like.
And it worked. The show received heavy sampling in its 9 PM time
slot. But will audiences return for week two, the real test of a new
show?

I watched “Earl” this morning. Jason Lee is remarkably charming and
likable. The show uses extensive voice-over narration and flashbacks
to keep the pace up and get some easy laughs. The tone of the show
will seem fresh to anyone who has never seen “Raising Arizona” or
“Bottle Rocket.” Fans of independent movies will find the show
derivative, but still more fun than your average sitcom. But the best
thing about it is a breathtaking embrace of non-PC behavior and humor.
There is smoking, drinking, homophobia (Earl literally runs when he
discovers an old schoolmate is gay), drug jokes, adultery — all the
kinds of things you usually have to go to cable for. I don’t know how
series creator Greg Garcia got away with it, but I must applaud.
Also, Greg co-created “Yes, Dear,” so he gets extra double credit for
escaping the stigma sometimes attached to writers of “traditional”
sitcoms. Like me.

And tonight brings us “Extras” on HBO, Ricky Gervais’ new show. The
only thing I know is that it will not be as good as “The Office,”
because nothing ever could be. But I am watching. Or high-def
TiVoing.



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