Don't touch that dial

Tivo-worthy: These shows are must-see

"Pushing Daisies"

ABC, 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Premieres Oct. 3

Melding the quaint eeriness of "Pleasantville" with the quirkiness of "Six Feet Under," "Pushing Daisies" is a perfectly cultivated garden of entertainment.

Central character Ned (Lee Pace) is a clean-cut, good-hearted pie maker, with the uncanny ability to touch dead things and bring them back to life. But only one touch will do - a second graze sends them back to the great beyond. Ned takes his powers on the road to solve crimes and gather rewards along with gal-pal-and-maybe-more cohort Chuck (Anna Freil) and company.

The worlds of life, death and the hazy middle ground are studied in this quick-witted comedy, which at times toes the line of a drama. From the first sentence uttered by the Dr. Seuss-like narrator, the hour-long show proves purely addictive.

- Anna Ferguson

"Bionic Woman"

NBC, 9 p.m. Wednesdays. Premieres Wednesday

Ditch any preconceived notion you have about encountering those uber-cheesy '70s sound effects in this modern take on the old "Six Million Dollar Man" spinoff.

Like NBC sibling "Journeyman," "Bionic Woman" deftly employs the "Heroes" formula - take one serving of youngish, attractive people, add a generous portion of super-powered special effects, splatter on a surprising amount of blood and film it all with movie-quality production values.

The action gets rolling from the first scene and scarcely stops to take a breath until the episode's end. Michelle Ryan is captivating as put-upon everywoman Jaime Sommers, a bartender who ends up with extraordinary abilities after an ugly accident leaves her broken body at the mercy of science.

There are a few glaring contrivances - the only doctor who can rebuild Sommers just happens to be (surprise!) her scientist boyfriend - but it's nothing a little suspension of disbelief can't fix. "Bionic Woman" is one to watch.

- Chase Mitchell


CW, 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Premieres Monday

It seems "Dead Like Me" was a few years ahead of its time. CW's new dark comedy "Reaper" is a moderate ripoff the former Showtime grim reaper series, which only lasted two seasons. "Reaper," though, has enough broad audience appeal to stick around for longer.

When slacker Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) turns 21, he learns his family's deep, dark secret: his parents sold his soul to the devil when he was a baby. And on that fateful birthday, the Devil, a polished businessman dressed in a snazzy suit, comes calling.

Instead of sending Sam to hell, he puts the boy to work. Which is difficult, since Sam has no real work ethic. Along with his hilarious team of equally lax pals, Sam's task is to catch souls that have escaped from hell and transport them back to the underworld.

If the boys from "Superbad" dropped out of college and grew up a few years, they would be Sam and his facetious and chubby wingman, Bert "Sock" Wysocki (Tyler Labine). With fluid dialogue, sarcastic characters and enough action to fill the 60-minute slot, this series has "winner" stamped all over it.

- Anna Ferguson

"Dirty Sexy Money"

ABC, 10 p.m. Wednesdays. Premieres Wednesday.

This is the show destined to become America's next guilty pleasure. It's a voyeuristic look behind the scenes of the really, really rich.

The likable Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under") plays Nick George, a pro bono lawyer whose father served as the family attorney for the Darlings, a well-off family full of eccentric characters. After Nick's father dies in a mysterious plane crash, Darling patriarch Tripp (Donald Sutherland) attempts to get Nick to take over his father's job in an attempt to protect the family's secrets.

The Darling family includes a prospective Senate candidate (William Baldwin) who's having a hush-hush affair with a transvestite hooker, a married preacher who has at least one out-of-wedlock child, an alcoholic compulsive gambler and a veritable celebutante, a la Paris Hilton.

This family is a gossip tabloid's dream, and while the quirkiness could easily become too much, especially when the family is gathered in one room, the talented cast pulls it all off beautifully.

- Shelley Mann

Room to grow: Take them or leave them


NBC, 8 p.m. Mondays. Premieres Monday

Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is on the five-year plan. Meaning, he has no idea what to do with his life, despite an Ivy League education. Instead of actually figuring this out, the lovable computer nerd works a low-paying retail job and shares a pad with his sister and her boyfriend.

Chuck's less-than-perfect life is just fine until he gets a mysterious e-mail from a former college roommate. Unbeknownst to Chuck, the plethora of seemingly random images contained in said e-mail are actually government secrets, and once Chuck sees them, the pictures are perfectly embedded in his brain. Turns out Chuck is more valuable than any CIA or NSA database, and both these agencies want him on their side.

While the comedy is canned and predictable (can you believe it - Chuck saves the day!), "Chuck" has just the right touch of real-life zeal to appeal to the desirable 18- to 30-year-old target audience.

- Anna Ferguson

"Aliens in America"

CW, 8:30 p.m. Mondays. Premieres Oct. 1

Featuring one of the most intriguing premises of the season - an all-American family takes in an exchange student from Pakistan - "Aliens in America" is a show that should, with any luck, grow into itself.

Red-head Dan Byrd plays a Wisconsin high-schooler who is relentlessly picked on at school. His parents consult his counselor, who recommends they look into hosting an exchange student to be an instant friend for Justin. The family is expecting a blond-haired European athlete and are unpleasantly surprised to meet Raja, a 16-year-old Muslim dressed in traditional garb.

The pilot doesn't delve into the "us vs. them" angle as much as it could have, but it's a thoughtful look at cross-cultural friendship.

Though the parents seem a little one-dimensional, I have a feeling Justin and Raja could become two of the most realistic characters on TV this year.

- Shelley Mann


NBC, 10 p.m. Mondays. Premieres Monday

Clutching tightly to the muscular, cape-clad shoulders of last year's network-saving hit "Heroes," NBC is flying back into the fall season with two new sci-fi dramas.

"Journeyman" takes a been-there, done-that premise (Guy time-travels to the past. Guy changes things. Hijinks ensue.) and infuses it with genuinely compelling, character-driven storytelling.

Though this show almost lost me in its first half-hour with incomprehensible editing, an odd and seemingly random mechanism for time travel and a lead actor (Kevin McKidd of HBO's "Rome") who can barely hide his Scottish accent, the pilot improves drastically as it moves along and the story gels together nicely.

Helmed by Aaron Sorkin protege (and executive producer) Alex Graves, the first episode's final scene builds to a satisfying crescendo with a twist that'll punch you right in the face with awesomeness.

- Chase Mitchell

"Back to You"

Fox, 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Premiered Wednesday

Fox is hoping TV vets Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") can save a dying breed - the sitcom. You remember sitcoms, those shows featuring a zinger every other minute, accompanied by a boisterous laugh track.

Grammer plays a TV news anchorman who is fired from his high-profile job after he has an on-air meltdown. He returns home to the smaller-market news channel where he began, causing some upheaval in the lives of current anchor - and former flame - Kelly (Heaton) and the rest of the crew, including a hilarious Fred Willard as the sportscaster.

I was surprised to find my favorite part of the show is Heaton, an actress I've never particularly liked.

I'll admit I'm pulling for the sitcom. And "Back to You" might just be the show that can pull it off.

- Shelley Mann


Fox, 9 p.m. Mondays. Premiered Monday

Fox's new prime-time cop drama takes a premise loaded with intriguing possibilities - two tough lawmen take on the lawless streets of a still-rebuilding New Orleans - and shoehorns in every cliche since Crockett and Tubbs donned pastels in South Beach.

Nevertheless, Anthony Anderson rises above a spotty, occasionally hackneyed script and delivers a pretty powerful performance. Anderson plays Marlin Boulet, an NOPD officer who resides in the Ninth Ward and bravely stuck it out through Katrina, a fact that haunts him every day.

The pilot shows flashes of brilliance, but suffers whenever it falls back on cop-show conventions like over-abundent car chases and shootouts.

- Chase Mitchell

Not so great

"Big Bang Theory"

CBS, 8:30 p.m. Mondays. Premieres Monday

Do you ever wonder about what life is like for the geniuses of the world? It's probably not much like what's depicted in "Big Bang Theory," which follows a couple of brilliant geeks who befriend their hot next-door neighbor.

Johnny Galecki, playing the complete opposite of his slacker "Roseanne" character, is Leonard, a physicist who lives with his equally intelligent roommate Sheldon (Jim Parsons). These two smart guys spend their spare time working out complicated math problems on chalk boards and playing Klingon Boggle before they meet their sexy new neighbor Penny. After Penny takes up the pair's offer to drop by for dinner, Leonard falls for her, hard.

Parsons is actually sort of appealing as the morosely nerdy Sheldon, and a few of his jokes did make me chuckle. But the show is too trapped by its own self-imposed stereotypes to be recommendable.

- Shelley Mann


CBS, 10 p.m. Tuesdays. Premieres Tuesday

I'm sorry, is this Telemundo? No, it's CBS, and the network has brought us yet another display of awful TV disguised under the name "Cane."

At its core, this pitiful excuse for a show is about the internal struggles of a posh Cuban-American family that owns a successful sugar and rum company, called Duque. (Which, absurdly enough, is pronounced "dookie." As in, what the show is.) When a long-standing competitor offers the company a solid price for their sugar cane crops, the family is split between cashing in and doing the right thing. Sadly, audiences won't care who wins.

Jimmy Smits must really be hurting for work to sign on to this project.

I get that the network is trying to reach out to Latin audiences, and agree that is commendable. But pitting a scandalous white family against a hard-working Cuban family is not the way to do it. If anything, "Cane" is an insult to both the Hispanic and white communities. CBS should be embarrassed to even air this pilot.

- Anna Ferguson