(Brief reviews of new fall shows, usually based on only the first episode, which may or may not be a fair way to judge a show. Deal with it.)
“Prison Break,” Mondays (Fox). All right, I’m in for the long haul on this one. It’s a preposterous story — a man commits a crime just so he can go to prison, just so he can break himself and his already-incarcerated brother out — but it’s told with the attention to cliffhangers and plot twists that has made “24” so addictive. He only has a month to get his brother out before he’s scheduled for execution! Gotta move fast! So outrageous, but so fun.
“Reunion,” Thursdays (Fox). Me, I don’t care much for prime-time soap operas. They get old fast. To keep them lively, there’s gotta be a supernatural or crime-solving twist. So I’m intrigued by “Reunion,” about a sextet of friends, one of whom is going to be murdered by another one. The gimmick is that each episode covers one year, starting in 1986, with the 20th (and final episode) being in the present. Who gets murdered? We don’t know yet. (I hear we find out in episode 5.) Who’s the killer? We probably won’t know until the finale. In the meantime, it’s soapy melodrama, one year at a time, with year-appropriate pop songs on the soundtrack. The pilot episode suggests a strong reliance on dialogue that is either expository (“He’s my best friend!”) or a verbal expression of the character’s inner monologue (“I’m feeling very confused right now!”). So the question is whether the mystery-solving element will be enough to get me through the more terrible aspects. I’ll be week-to-week on this one.
“The War at Home,” Sundays (Fox). This crapfest gets the prime spot between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”? A schande! This live-action sitcom is your basic “Married … with Children” variation, with a husband and wife who love/hate each other, and their three kids, whom they also love/hate. The show wants to be “edgy,” apparently thinking that will automatically make it funny, too, but it doesn’t work that way. Dad fears teenage son might be gay. Teenage daughter wants to date a black guy. Fodder for comedy, perhaps, but the show has no idea how to deal with these issues. It thinks all it has to do is bring them up and hilarity will automatically ensue. “I’m not letting her go out with him!” Dad says. “I’d rather drink my own urine!” And that’s as clever or insightful as it gets. May it never befoul my TiVo again.
“Bones,” Tuesdays (Fox). David Boreanaz plays an FBI agent, Emily Deschanel plays a forensics expert called in to help identify bodies and stuff. The dynamic is that she’s no good at dealing with people outside the lab, while he’s a great crime-fighter, works well with others, understands human nature, and so forth. The pilot episode mentioned this difference about 1,000 times. (“My most fulfilling relationships are with people who are dead!” she says.) It’s pretty standard “C.S.I.” stuff — identify the body, then solve the crime — and I predicted who the killer was early in the episode. But the dialogue is snappy and the two leads have some good Mulder-Scully chemistry together. I probably won’t watch it every week, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers.