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.

"Surviving the Filthy Rich," a comedic drama about a tutor and her spoiled students, will probably appeal to the same fans hooked on the shenanigans of "Gossip Girl's" privileged Upper East Side teens. Like "Gossip Girl," the show is based on a series of books, Alloy Entertainment's "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls."

"Stylista," the CW's new reality offering, is being promoted as "The Devil Wears Prada" for TV. Hosted by "America's Next Top Model" maven Tyra Banks, it follows contestants competing for a job at Elle magazine.

Returning shows include: "Gossip Girl," "One Tree Hill," "Smallville," "America's Next Top Model," "Supernatural," "Reaper," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game."

Canceled shows include: "WWE's Friday Night Smackdown."

ABC

ABC's got only one new scripted show on deck for the fall: "Life on Mars," a remake of the science fiction/police drama BBC series.

On the reality front, the network will debut "Opportunity Knocks," the brainchild of "Punk'd" and "Pop Fiction" producer Ashton Kutcher. The show's premise: a TV crew shows up at a new house each week to test the family on how well they know one another.

A new animated comedy, "The Goode Family," will roll out midseason.

Returning shows include: "Grey's Anatomy," "Ugly Betty," "Desperate Housewives," "Brothers & Sisters" "Lost," "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Scrubs" (poached from NBC), "Boston Legal" and "Eli Stone."

Canceled shows include: "Women's Murder Club," "Men in Trees" and "Carpoolers."

Fox

Fox's schedule features two new scripted series for the fall. The first, "Fringe," is primed to make the biggest splash. Produced by "Lost's" J.J. Abrams and co-starring Joshua Jackson, John Noble and newcomer Anna Torv, "Fringe" is a thriller that science fiction fans will love.

A new comedy, "Do Not Disturb," stars Jerry O'Connell and Niecy Nash as the management team behind a trendy New York City hotel.

Fox will roll out another scripted series and a reality show midseason: "Dollhouse," a sci-fi drama from the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" starring Eliza Dushku, and "Secret Millionaire," a feel-good series that follows different millionaires as they go in search of a lost soul who could benefit from their money.

One of Fox's most promising offerings will come in the spring: "The Cleveland Show," a "Family Guy" spin-off starring the Griffin family's neighbors. "Sit Down, Shut Up," an animated comedy about a group of high school teachers and staffers who couldn't care less about their students, also debuts in the spring.

Returning shows include: "American Idol," "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Prison Break," "House," "Bones," "'Til Death," "The Moment of Truth," "Kitchen Nightmares," "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?," "Hell's Kitchen," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "American Dad."

Canceled shows include: "Back to You," "Canterbury's Law," "K-Ville," "Nashville," "New Amsterdam," "The Next Great American Band," "The Return of Jezebel James" and "Unhitched."

NBC

NBC announced its new fall lineup in April, ahead of the other three networks, promising a "52-week" programming schedule that includes fewer repeats. The network will play on nostalgia with remakes of "Knight Rider," "Robinson Crusoe" and Merlin. Programming chief Ben Silverman said the aim is to provide "aspirational or positive" programs, like "The Philanthropist," a new drama about a billionaire do-gooder that is scheduled for winter.

Other new shows include:

A new "Office" spin-off , which will premiere after the Super Bowl and then follow "The Office" on Thursdays in February, will feature some of the same cast members.

"My Own Worst Enemy" stars Christian Slater as a man with two identities: suburban Dad and Jason Bourne-style trained killer.

"Kath & Kim" is an adaptation of a hit Australian mother-daughter comedy that will star Molly Shannon and Selma Blair.

"Kings" is described as a modern-day David vs. Goliath starring Ian McShane from "Deadwood" fame.

Returning shows include: "Lipstick Jungle; "Law and Order," "Medium" and "Friday Night Lights" for shortened seasons; "Chuck," "Life" and, rapping up its final season, "ER."

Canceled shows include: "Bionic Woman," "Journeyman" and "Las Vegas." "Scrubs" will move to ABC next season.

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