Spin-offs, Sci-Fi Rule Small Screen for Fall

The Hollywood writers strike may be long gone but you'll still be seeing its consequences this fall.

The major networks unveiled their plans for the fall 2008 season earlier this week and because they were without writers from November to February, all came to the table with a paltry offering of new shows.

But some series are already getting buzz and have the potential to break out as hits come September. Spin-offs look especially promising: "90210," spun-off "Beverly Hills, 90210," the to-be-named spin-off of "The Office," and "The Cleveland Show," spun-off "Family Guy."

Read on to check out what's new, what's returning and what's off-the-air this fall:

CBS

When the TV season ends next week, CBS will be officially dethroned as the No. 1 network by FOX. CBS wore the crown for five years as the most watched network, but with its series "CSI," "Survivor" and "Criminal Minds" declining this season, and without a new hit series for a few years, it has slipped in the ratings.

CBS needs a hit. Next season, it's returning to its tried-and-true formulas, with a bit of a twist, for four new dramas and a pair of sitcoms. Here are the contenders:

"The Worst Week" stars Kyle Bornheimer as a guy who tries and fails to impress his future in-laws.

"Project Gary," with Jay Mohr (from "Last Comic Standing"), is about a divorced guy who juggles dating, his ex-wife and kids.

"The Mentalist" stars Simon Baker ("The Guardian") as an intuitive who helps California investigators crack cases while tracking the killer who murdered his family.

"The Ex-List," with Elizabeth Reaser from "Grey's Anatomy," is about a woman who revisits all of her exes after being told by a psychic that she's destined to marry someone she has already met.

"Eleventh Hour" stars Rufus Sewell as an investigator of scientific oddities. It's produced by the Jerry Bruckheimer team also responsible for "CSI," "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace."

"Harper's Island," which will likely appear in mid-season, is a murder mystery set on an island near Seattle, where a group has assembled for a wedding.

"Swingtown," about swinging couples in a Chicago suburb, will be offered up this summer.

Returning shows include: "The Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," "Two and a Half Men," "The New Adventures of Old Christine," the "CSI" franchise, "Without a Trace," "Criminal Minds," "NCI," "Ghost Whisperer," "Numb3rs," "Cold Case," "The Unit," "Rules of Engagement," "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor."

Cancelled shows include: "Viva Laughlin," "Cane," "Moonlight" and "Shark."

The CW

The fledgling network raised its profile this year with "Gossip Girl," the sexy high school drama that generated tons of buzz but not enough ratings. The CW's hoping its new shows, one of which is strikingly similar to "Gossip Girl," can help solve that problem. As a nod to the network's texting and Internet savvy audience, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff billed their fall '08 schedule as "OMG TV."

"90210," the spin-off of Aaron Spelling's ultra-popular 1990s series "Beverly Hills, 90210," has the biggest chance of becoming a hit. Even before the CW greenlit the show, it was making headlines. The spinoff is expected to get a boost from original cast members like Jennie Garth, who has signed on to reprise her role as Kelly Taylor, now a guidance counselor at West Beverly High.

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