The 2009 fall TV season is off with a bang -- or a bite -- and a bomb.
The CW network scored first with the "The Vampire Diaries," earning strong ratings and positive reviews for its bloody brand of vampire drama and teen angst, while the same network's modeling melodrama, "The Beautiful Life," landed with a thud.
"Bored to Death" caused some excitement last week on HBO and "Melrose Place" reopened for business on the CW network, while "Cougar Town" and "Modern Family" premiered Wednesday night on ABC.
So what else is on the way? We take a look ...
"FlashForward" -- "Lost" isn't long for this world, and ABC hopes its successor is this mind-bending, sci-fi drama from David S. Goyer ("The Dark Knight") and veteran "Star Trek" writer-producer Brannon Braga. The drama explores what happens after everyone on the planet simultaneously blacks out for two minutes and 17 seconds and experiences "flash-forwards," or visions of themselves several months into the future. The crackerjack cast includes Joseph Fiennes, John Cho and, for good measure, "Lost" stars Dominic Monaghan and Sonja Walger. (ABC; premiered Sept. 24)
"Brothers" -- Michael Strahan, you've won a Super Bowl and just retired, what are you going to do now? The ex-New York Giants superstar is headlining this sitcom about -- big surprise here -- a former football player who moves back home with his mother (C.C.H. Pounder), father (Carl Weathers) and brother (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell), who uses a wheelchair. Mike, of course, quickly realizes he'd much rather be back on the field facing hulking opponents. (Fox; Sept. 25)
"The Cleveland Show" -- Peter Griffin's neighbor, Cleveland Brown, relocates to his hometown of Stoolbend, Va., and comedic misadventures ensue. An animated African-American sitcom? It's about time. A "Family Guy" spin-off? Bring it on. And the strong voice cast includes Mike Henry, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan and Seth McFarlane. But, really, they had us at Stoolbend. (Fox; Sept. 27)
"Trauma" -- NBC finally removed "ER" from life support, but the network just can't seem to stay out of the medical-drama business. It has the promising, freshly premiered "Mercy," and also this ensemble piece about the pulse-pounding exploits of a group of first-responder paramedics in San Francisco. That explosive helicopter crash depicted in the relentless teasers ups the tune-in factor, as does the casting of Derek Luke (as a paramedic) and the always-reliable Jamey Sheridan as a doctor who's aloof with patients but uber-protective of his staff. (NBC; Sept. 28)
Yet Another Medical Drama for Fall
"Hank" -- Kelsey Grammer gathers no moss. Fox dropped the costly, only so-so rated "Back to You" last year after one season, but Grammer returns with this comedy that's nothing if not timely. Grammer, who also executive produces, stars as the title character, a CEO thrown for a life-altering loop when he loses his job. Oh, and his family isn't too happy about it, either. (ABC; Sept. 30)
"Stargate Universe" -- More than 300 hours of "Stargate"-centric television just weren't enough and, so, we have " Stargate Universe," a darker, moodier, grittier show than either "Stargate" or "Stargate Atlantis." Years ago, the Ancients sought to seed the galaxy with stargates, and now a multinational crew settles into one of the Ancients' ships, the Destiny, unsure of how to control it or where it's whisking them. The intriguing cast includes Robert Carlyle, Ming-Na, Lou Diamond Phillips and Alaina Huffman. And don't be shocked if some familiar old faces -- Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, and Robert Picardo, among them -- pop in to visit. (Syfy; Oct. 2)
"Three Rivers" -- How many medical dramas can TV viewers handle before seeking, well, medical attention? The answer to that question may very well determine the fate of this show, as it's debuting after both "Trauma" and "Mercy." Set in Pittsburgh -- hence the title -- "Three Rivers" examines the lives and experiences of the staff, patients and organ donors at a top transplant hospital. Alex O'Loughlin, last seen on the eye network's short-lived vampire saga, "Moonlight," stars as a preeminent surgeon with the season's best character name, Dr. Andy Yablonski. And his co-stars include the immensely talented Katherine Moennig and Alfre Woodard. (CBS; Oct. 4)
"White Collar" -- How will the game change when a con man (Matthew Bomer) and the FBI agent (Tim DeKay), who has long been chasing him, join forces to solve crimes? It's a really promising premise. Add to the mix both Tiffani Thiessen and "Sex and the City's" Willie Garson, and, well, we're a little hot under the collar to see this show. (USA; Oct. 23)
ABC's New Take on Old NBC Show for Fall Shows
"V" -- The saying goes that everything old is new again, and so ABC breathes new life into NBC's old miniseries-series about aliens that arrive on Earth with supposedly friendly intentions. The key word there, of course, is "supposedly." Genre-fave Morena Baccarin ("Firefly") stars as the aliens' comely leader, Anna, while "Lost's" formidable Elizabeth Mitchell serves the resistance and Scott Wolf is a journalist chasing a career-making interview with Anna (ABC; Nov. 3)