Pride This Fall

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW with the new fall shows ahead, and since pride goeth before the fall, I'm gonna proudly declare this fall season very promising.

Why do I say that? Well, when I was screening the series pilots, I found myself assigning them to four broad categories: Excellent, Good, So-so -- with even So-so being watchable -- and Lousy. And just two of the two dozen new shows received my Lousy grade: Twenty Good Years, an NBC comedy with Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow that offers nothing close to twenty good minutes, and another sitcom, Fox's Happy Hour, which is a half-hour that didn't even make me half-happy.

What did? Well, at the other end of the spectrum, here is my excellent list. Each of these five pilots really left me wanting more:

-- One you may have already discovered. Vanished premiered on Fox last week, and it's a doozy. A U.S. Senator's beautiful young wife disappeared in the middle of a huge, black-tie gala. Sara Collins may be the victim of a political conspiracy, a family scandal, an al-Qaeda plot. Or she may have staged the kidnapping herself. Amping up the mystery is a bit of the occult. Call this show Without a Trace meets Dynasty and The DaVinci Code. The second installment airs tonight at 9pm, and I'll be watching.

-- Another Fox drama, Justice, debuts this Wednesday at 9pm. Victor Garber plays the head of a flashy L.A. law firm that uses every available high-tech tool and shrewd technique to defend its rich, high-profile clientele. Justice portrays the legal process as expensive, carefully plotted-out theater, where the positive review they're after is a Not Guilty verdict.

My other three favorites -- and I still have trouble saying this -- are on NBC, the network whose initials the last few fall seasons could have stood for "Nothing But Crap."

-- Heroes is a brooding drama about ordinary people afflicted with extraordinary powers in a world that desperately needs their help. It's both a thriller and a sprawling meditation on the blessings and drawbacks of being different. It premieres Sept. 25.

-- Another brand of hero is celebrated on Friday Night Lights, which, based on the feature film, takes place in a Texas community where high school football is everything, and where everything is weighing on the new head coach to maintain his team's winning ways. A show you don't have to love football to love, Friday Night Lights is breathtaking in how it captures everyday life set against an overpowering cause. Sure, the series could fumble. But don't miss the pilot episode, airing October 3. It is brilliant drama.

-- And finally: 30 Rock, a twisted sitcom starring Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey. She plays the put-upon head writer of a sketch-comedy show locked in a triangle with Tracy Morgan as a wacked-out comic who stars on this show-within-a-show, and Alec Baldwin as a batty network boss who loves to interfere. 30 Rock premieres October 11, which means you're gonna really have to wait for this one.

But you won't have to wait for most of the new shows, with the bulk of them premiering in September. And you shouldn't. So dig in. This fall, the broadcast networks will be unveiling an embarrassment of riches and -- here's the proud surprise -- very few embarrassments.

This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore saying "Bravo!" as I watch television for KCRW.