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New series review: Hidden Palms (The CW)

Austin's Amber Heard doesn't have to do much to get noticed in Hidden Palms, a new CW series from the creator of Dawson's Creek.

Premiering: Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m. (central) on The CW.
Starring: Taylor Handley, Amber Heard, Sharon Lawrence, Gail O'Grady, Michael Cassidy, Ellary Porterfield, D.W. Moffett, Leslie Jordon, Tessa Thompson.
Created by: Kevin Williamson

A wealth of redheads and dirty blondes populate richly appointed Palm Springs in The CW's latest haven for hotties.

One of the young and restless cast members even goes from redhead to dirty blonde between Episodes 1 and 2. That's called character development on the part of sultry, but "enigmatic" Greta Matthews (Austin native Amber Heard).

Hidden Palms is the show and it's been on the shelf for a while. A scheduled eight-episode run finally begins Wednesday (May 30th), with new episodes of the un-killable One Tree Hill following for the next three weeks.

HP's maestro is Kevin Williams, who virtually put the now defunct WB network on the prime-time map with the January 1998 birth of Dawson's Creek. He spends a lot of time at the pool in this one, with fish-out-of-water Johnny Miller (Taylor Handley) as his sensitive Dawson Leery.

The series begins with Johnny's dad in a drunken stupor. He tells the kid to forget about "that math crap" and be more creative. Then he blows his brains out before we re-meet Johnny a year later in Palm Springs.

Traumatized into a drug and booze addiction, he's been in rehab for much of the interim. And he's none too happy about mom Karen's (Gail O'Grady) decision to marry the really rich Bob Hardy (D.W. Moffett).

"I want this to work, honey -- for both of us. I'm tired of hard, Johnny," she explains in dialogue that might prompt all sorts of mental gymnastics among impressionable viewers in CW's 18-to-34-year-old target audience.

It's not clear exactly what Bob does for a living. But no one seems to do much, leaving ample time to loll by the country club pool, throw splashy parties or wade into the deep waters of angst and mysterious computer messages. This is a lot to handle for 16-year-old Johnny, even if the actor playing him will be a ripened 23 on Friday.

It's easy to compare HP to Fox's recently canceled The O.C. when not comparing it to Dawson's Creek. In fact, three of the young leads -- Handley, Heard and Michael Cassidy -- had either recurring or guest star shots on The O.C..

Handley, although already looking too old for HP, does bring an at times appealing presence to the show's meatiest role. He's got an attitude, but a well-earned one. And like Dawson, he enjoys looking through a camera lens and ruminating in his bedroom. At the close of Wednesday's premiere, Johnny's got a hold on Pablo Neruda's 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair.

There's mystery afoot, too. An unseen Palm Springs denizen named Eddie killed himself a while back, with both Greta and Johnny's dog-kicking neighbor, Cliff Wiatt (Cassidy), trying to keep it on the down low. It keeps burbling up anyway, of course, especially when Johnny later learns that Eddie offed himself in the same bedroom where he's been reading poetry.

Creator Williamson also deploys Sharon Lawrence in her now familiar turn as an aging tart who craves both plastic surgery and younger men. And newcomer Ellary Porterfeld plays introverted chemistry whiz Liza Witter, who'd like to experiment with Johnny.

Alas, he's far more entranced for now with Greta, who runs fetchingly through golf course sprinklers, sunbathes whenever she can and snitches Johnny's camera before later telling him, "I hope you don't mind, but I got creative with your outlet."

It's all heavily buttered with a constant pop music soundtrack, as was Dawson's Creek.

In this case, though, all that recycling isn't particularly good for the prime-time environment.

Grade: C

Requiem for NBC's Reilly

NBC execs Mark Graboff, Ben Silverman and ex-exec Kevin Reilly

Re-upped in March but shot down in May. Downtrodden NBC has an interesting way of shuffling its executive decks in times of crisis.

The Peacock announced the departure of entertainment president Kevin Reilly Tuesday less than three months after signing him to a new multi-year deal. Now he's suddenly on the streets and perfectly suited to a still vacant top job at HBO that would indulge his tastes for TV programming of a higher order.

Reilly's replacements are incumbent NBC Universal executive Marc Graboff and program producer/executive Ben Silverman, whose name has been attached to series ranging from The Biggest Loser to Ugly Betty.

NBC recently ended another season in last place in both the total viewer and 18-to-49-year-old Nielsen ratings. But Reilly, who joined the network in 2004 from FX cable, was responsible for three heavily praised returnees -- Heroes, 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights. Only Heroes was a hit, though, and the fate of the latter two series may now be in jeopardy under the new regime.

Back when NBC wanted to keep him, Reilly was praised for making "outstanding progress" in the past two seasons. "We're bringing in new viewers and especially younger viewers with this season's buzzed-about, critically acclaimed lineup," Graboff said in a March 1st NBC media release. "And Kevin's superb creative instincts and development skills have played a vital role in that progress."

But Reilly's new fall schedule, with just five new series in the mix, was widely viewed as listless and unlikely to improve the Peacock's fortunes. So the rhetoric in Tuesday's announcement went like this: Reilly and NBC Universal "have mutually agreed to end their relationship," said president and CEO Jeff Zucker. "Kevin has given us some incredibly important, high-quality new series in recent years, and his legacy will be evident for many years to come in NBC's primetime schedule."

Reilly was blindsided by NBC, according to Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood Daily, who was the first to report the likely ouster over the Memorial Day weekend. Finke, a former staff reporter for The Dallas Morning News, was hardly subtle about her scoop. "TOLDJA SO!" she crowed in a blog headline Tuesday.

ABC is the only other network with a recent history of co-entertainment presidents. But those partnerships never really jelled, not even in the halcyon years of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Graboff and Silverman of course said on Tuesday that they're thrilled to be working with one another. But both are reporting to Zucker, who so far has shown an incredible ability to escape blame for NBC's recent string of misfortunes.

The network ended the 2006-'07 season with no series in prime-time's top 10. It had just one scripted series, No. 22 Heroes, in the top 30 among total viewers.

Teen Idol: Jordin Sparks takes the sixth

Jordin Sparks gets the news and then sings it loud on Idol's finale.

American Idol's long and winding road, which finally included some Beatles songs, ended Wednesday with 17-year-old Jordin Sparks alone at last.

She's easily the show's youngest winner and its second teenage champ in six competitions. Fantasia Barrino was just shy of her 20th birthday when she won in 2004. Sparks won't be 18 until Dec. 22nd.

More than 74 million votes supposedly were cast after Sparks battled fellow finalist Blake Lewis in a less than riveting Tuesday night performance show. Her performance of "This is My Now," product of a songwriting contest, sealed the deal in the eyes of truth-telling judge Simon Cowell.

"You just wiped the floor with Blake on that song," he said after they both performed it back-to-back.

This year's Idol hasn't matched last year's late-in-the game ratings, and Wednesday's finale will be very hard-pressed to get in the vicinity of the 36.4 million who watched Taylor Hicks win in spring 2006. Tuesday night's penultimate Idol drew 25.2 million viewers, beating the same night's Dancing with the Stars finale by just 2.2 million heads.

Hicks and fellow Idol victors Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Ruben Studdard all performed on a crowded stage Wednesday night. The only missing winner was Fantasia, who's starring on Broadway in The Color Purple.

The four champs all participated in a closing medley from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Idol at last had secured rights to the Beatles songbook this season, but couldn't get either Paul McCartney, Ringo Star or producer George Martin to be a "mentor" during one of the weekly competitions. They finally decided to deploy some of the songs anyway, opening the finale with Sparks and Lewis singing "I Saw Her Standing There."

One of its lyrics -- "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean" -- obviously fit Sparks perfectly.

Already too long at two hours, the show went an extra eight minutes anyway, eating into the final hour of ABC's third season finale of Lost.

(We digress for a bit to note that Lost pulled off another big surprise by flashing "back" to what turned out to be the future. Everyone apparently was off he island after Dr. Jack Shephard summoned a rescue ship by phone against the wishes of both John Locke and "Others" leader Ben Linus.

But Jack wound up bearded, drug dependent, suicidal and desperate to return. "We were not supposed to leave," he pleaded to a sympathetic but unmoved Kate Austen in the finale's closing minute.

"Yes, we were," she said.

"We have to go back, Kate!" he then exclaimed. "We have to go back!"

Damn, the show's gotten good again, even if Jack's beard and mustache sometimes looked a little too transparently glued on.)

Idol had its moments, too, good and bad.

Tony Bennett, down with the flu for an earlier scheduled performance, returned for the finale and was his usual brilliant self. And then some.

Green Day had a killer version of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero."

Gladys Knight joined Idol's six "girl" finalists for a very vigorous version of "Midnight Train to Georgia."

Melinda Doolittle, formerly a backup singer with BeBe and CeCe Winans, reunited with them and looked as though she were in heaven.

Clarkson, who seems to have mended fences with Idol, also tore through her new single, "Never Again." It's a pretty bitter screed, but she definitely didn't hold anything back during an extended version.

On the down side, Idol had the gall to tastelessly compare Sanjaya Malakar to the likes of independent-minded pathfinders John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Albert Einsten. Then he took the stage with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry to again rasp his way through "You Really Got Me."

The "Golden Idols" were awarded again, too, to some of the show's most atrocious auditioners. Crazed, loud, thoroughly awful Margaret Fowler won one of them. She spent a seeming eternity onstage with host Ryan Seacrest before finally being shooed off.

"The man with the golden ears, Mr. Clive Davis" likewise stayed too long, rhapsodizing about what a great musical force the show has become before he finally gave some sort of record sales award to Underwood.

Davis, reigning lord of music industry execs, also extolled former Idol semi-finalist Chris Daughtry for having a big hit CD. But Daughtry was conspicuous by his absence Wednesday night.

Faces in the crowd, several of them attached to Fox shows, included Michael Chiklis, Jeff Foxworthy, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Jerry Springer and David Alan Grier. No Bill Maher this time, though. At least not on-camera.

Finally, after a more than two-hour prelude, Cowell and fellow judge Randy Jackson both picked Sparks to win. And of course, Paula Abdul said, "You're both winners."

Sparks soon was singing "This is My Now" for the second time in two nights. For now she's on top of the world. We'll see how it all shakes out.

Athletes' feats: Apolo succeeds Emmitt as Dancing's sole survivor

Winning hand: Apolo's plotted palm stand tops Joey's flying leap.

The show with more momentum, energy and electricity crowned its new champ Tuesday while the night's earlier singing competition fell kinda flat.

ABC's Dancing with the Stars, choked with commercials sold at premium prices, made Olympic short-track champ Apolo Anton Ohno its fourth king of the hardwoods. His predecessor, Emmitt Smith, likewise was a world class athlete who's now cast in a different light.

"Being on this show has turned my life inside out," Emmitt said from a front row peanut gallery that also accommodated previous winners Drew Lachey and Kelly Monaco. People forget he played football, he contended. "I have become a ballroom dancer -- to America."

Perhaps that's a bit overstated, but this glitzy, full-tilt ballroom brawl does have a way of recasting images. Runnerup Joey Fatone, the former 'NSync boy band member, is now newly perceived as a lovable, witty dancing machine who gave Apolo all he could handle.

Third-place finisher Laila Ali, boxing daughter of the Greatest of all Times, took the bronze and wanted much more.

"Of course I'm pissed I didn't win," she said, laughing on the outside, boiling from within. Seriously, most of these people take this really seriously. Except for Clyde Drexler.

Ohno won in partnership with Julianne Hough, who was making her maiden appearance as a pro partner. The two of them were cuter and quicker than one-year-old kitty cats. Their closing paso doble got a perfect 30 from the judges Tuesday night. But so did the mambo by Laila and Maksim Chmerkovskiy and the tango by Joey and Kym Johnson.

"I feel amazing," Apolo said before hosting the show's tacky, but now trademark mirror ball trophy.

Emmitt earlier had stated the obvious about Dancing's symbol of victory: "If there's room for improvement on Dancing with the Stars, you must improve on that trophy."

It's probably too late for that now, and irrelevant anyway. All of the celebrity competitors are handsomely compensated with appearance fees. And the longer they last, the more they get. The trophy's value is in the sweat and genuinely hard work it takes to get within its grasp. It's become a Holy Grail of sorts, even if it looks like a beer company bar bauble.

Earlier Tuesday on Fox's lately downtrending American Idol, final twosome Jordin Sparks and Blake Edwards performed three songs apiece in a Melinda Doolittle-less void.

The thrill wasn't entirely gone, but it seemed to have lost its fastball. Instead the show changed speeds without seeming to blow away anybody.

Host Ryan Seacrest had the most memorable line of the night -- and also a very odd one -- after judge Paula Abdul recapped earlier reports that she had hurt her face tripping on her little dog, Tulip, who emerged unscathed.

"So the bitch is all right," he said. "OK, we got it."

Judge Randy Jackson changed up his wardrobe a bit, wearing a light gray military jacket that made him look like a Confederate soldier in Sgt. Pepper's court. Otherwise he spouted the same old Randy-speak.

Paula of course was no help, at one point telling Jordin, "You are in great, great vocal voice tonight."

Simon Cowell again cut to various chases while also chastizing the audience. "What a surprise I'm being booed," he cracked after judging Jordin's rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" to be "a bit shrieky in the middle."

The show ended with both contestants having to sing another syrupy ballad, this one courtesy of a songwriting competition won by two guys named Scott Krippayne and Jeff Peabody.

Their tune, titled "This Is My Now," couldn't have been a worse fit for "Beat Box" Blake, who might as well have been singing "Three Blind Mice." But it was right in torchy Jordin's wheelhouse, and she likely took it to the bank.

"You just wiped the floor with Blake on that song," said Simon.

That probably makes her a winner Wednesday night, although Simon also had tabbed Melinda as a cinch finalist.

Whatever happens, here's a prediction. Dancing with the Stars is starting to wear better than American Idol, and at some point next season will be bringing in more viewers.

Then again I could be wrong, and have been with both shows this season. Early on, I picked Melinda to win Idol in a final twosome with LaKisha Jones. Instead she finished third while LaKisha came in fourth.

And on Dancing, I had Laila besting Joey in the show's final two, with Apolo finishing third. Close, but no silver slipper. And don't worry. I wouldn't even try to guess what might happen on Wednesday's season finale of Lost.

Made-for-TV movie review: Jesse Stone: Sea Change (CBS)

Tom Selleck and Kathy Baker star in CBS' Jesse Stone: Sea Change.

Made by adults and for adults, it stars a TV icon who's never been better as an actor or a character.

CBS' Jesse Stone: Sea Change premieres on the penultimate night of the May "sweeps" in times when broadcast networks have all but dry-docked their once thriving made-for-TV movie franchises.

ABC made none this year, NBC contributed only a Christmas movie and Sea Change (8 p.m. central on Tuesday, May 22) will be just CBS's fourth. It's also the fourth go-around for Tom Selleck as quietly hard-drinking Jesse Stone, bored police chief of sleepy Paradise, Mass.

Selleck, 62, will join the cast of NBC's Las Vegas this fall. But this part fits him like a coat of many colors. Adapted from the Robert B. Parker novels, it provides Selleck with a great part to underplay but never sleep through. Stone is compassionate, gruff, searching for answers, sharp as a tack, romantic, self-destructive, inquisitive, witty and irascible.

He's also old-school without getting all ancient about it. Still plays his music on a turntable. Doesn't have a cell phone. Researches cases by fingering through old newspaper clips.

Sea Change re-introduces him at a leisurely pace. The movie is perfectly scored, beautifully atmospheric and compelling without being in a big rush about it. We never even see a dead body. But Stone is looking into a bank robbery-related homicide, circa 1992. His other choices were cold cases from 1923 and 1905.

The supporting cast also fits right in. William Devane returns as Stone's shrink, Dr. Dix. Kathy Baker plays a plucky Paradise cop and Sean Young shows she can still wear a bikini to good effect as a tarty tourist named Sybil Martin.

The murder mystery at hand is a bit complex but falls into place. The real reason to watch, though, is Selleck. He's simply letter-perfect, whether drinking too much or learning too little. This is an Emmy caliber performance, even if it's almost certain to be overlooked.

Grade: A

New series review: National Bingo Night (ABC)

Someone had the balls to win big on ABC's National Bingo Night.

Mindless entertainment sometimes can be a stroke of genius.

Gilligan's Island. WWE Smackdown! NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts.

The road to high ratings may not run through ABC's National Bingo Night. Still, don't be surprised if this super-juiced version of the venerable parlor game draws an appreciable and may even appreciative crowd. Shouting out "Bingo!" may not be the next best thing to sex. But it's right up there with pulling warm, sweet-clean apparel out of the dryer. Customer satisfaction guaranteed.

Premiering Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m. (central), Bingo is hosted by the none-too-subdued Ed Sanders from ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. There's also "NBN Commissioner" Sunil Narkaar, whose sole duty is to stand in the studio audience and cheerily say, "No Bingo."

This requires some explaining.

The show's Bingo Plex arena is dominated by a two-and-a-half story Bingo Sphere containing the conventional 75 numbered balls. Everyone in the studio audience has a Bingo card and viewers can play along at home by downloading their own game pieces at ABC.com. As of Thursday, the network says that more than three million "Bingo grids" (pages with three cards apiece) are in the hands of potential players.

"While not everyone will be a winner, thousands will cash in each week," ABC promises.

And what can we win, Bob!?

Most at-home players will be able to claim a $5 Kmart gift card (for the Red Card game) or a Rascal Flatts' Me and My Gang CD (for the White Card game). You'll also be eligible for grand prize drawings of a $10,000 Kmart gift card or a 7-night Royal Caribbean Cruise.

Sound good? You bet it does. But the climactic Blue Card game allows winners to enter grand prize drawings for a "VIP Fantasy Experience" to the 91st Indy 500, a trip to New York to visit the set of The View or a $50,000 cash jackpot.

OK, calm down. The weird thing about National Bingo Night is that the featured, onstage contestant doesn't want anyone in the studio audience to shout "Bingo!" That's because there are two opposing games going on.

As a preview DVD demonstrated, contestants are playing a "Bingo 500" game in which they have to achieve a distance of 500 miles before anyone in the Bingo Plex gets Bingo.

Let's say that the sphere spits out 0-66. That would get the contestant off to a nice, fast start. Then the contestant has to guess whether the next ball will be over or under that number. Guess correctly and that "mileage" is added on. If you're wrong you're stalled until at least the next guess. Meanwhile the studio audience Bingo players keep filling up their cards. And if anyone shouts it out, the contestant's cooked and the game's over -- both on TV and at home.

All right, maybe all of this is going to fall flatter than a souffle in an earthquake. But the sneaking suspicion here is that National Bingo Night will have a pretty strong opening against Fox's Bones repeat, Dateline NBC and a stupid Dr. Phil special on CBS.

Whatever happens, struggling KMart will greatly appreciate any increased store traffic. It'll be like a shot of vitamin B-12. Bingo!!!

The CW announces new fall lineup

Aliens in America pairs a Pakistani Muslim with a Wisconsinite.

The CW, still a lil' dude in the broadcast network firmament, will add more new series than either NBC or CBS this fall.

Its six-pack includes a teen version of The Odd Couple and a drama starring a slacker who learns that his parents sold his soul to the devil. Nice.

Scrapped are fave rave Veronica Mars, which never developed more than a miniscule following, All of Us, Reba, Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven. Also, One Tree Hill will be replanted sometime in midseason, with its characters transported four years into the future as college grads. Now that's the way to get a degree.

Here are CW's six new fall series:

***Aliens in America (comedy) -- Sixteen-year-old Justin Tolchuk (Dan Byrd) of Medora, Wisconsin is an outsider with a low cool quotient. His parents hope to help him out by importing a strapping male exchange student -- a "brilliant Nordic teen" if you will. Instead comes Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a teen Pakistani Muslim. Hello "unlikely friendship."

***Gossip Girl (drama) -- A secret identity blogger known as Gossip Girl dishes all the poop on a snooty Manhattan prep school. No one you've likely ever heard of is in the cast, including Leighton Meester as Blair. Adapted from the young adult novels by Cecily von Ziegesar.

***Reaper (drama) -- A 21-year-old dead-ender named Sam (Bret Harrison) learns the "ungodly reason" why he's so lazy. Mom and pop sold his soul to the devil and didn't even tell him. Now Beezlebub is back in town in the form of Ray Wise from Twin Peaks. He enlists Sam as his personal bounty hunter, making him hunt down evil souls who've escaped from hell.

***Life Is Wild (drama) -- A Manhattan family is uprooted by a veterinarian dad who wants to spend a year in South Africa in a broken down lodge called The Blue Antelope. Newcomer actors again abound, including Calvin Goldspink.

***Online Nation (reality) -- CW scours the Internet in search of "the best, the hottest, the unique and sometimes, the flat-out bizarre." Hey, it's all here waiting for 'em at unclebarky.com!

***CW Now (reality) -- Eighteen-to-34-year-olds are the target audience for this compendium of -- yawn -- "everything that's hip, hot and happening right now."

CW also is planning a midseason reality series called Farmer Wants a Wife. Ten big-city women will be taken to a farm stead, a la Green Acres. Then he'll decide which of them he wants to churn butter with for the rest of his life.

Here's CW's complete fall 2007 lineup (all times central):

7 p.m. -- Everybody Hates Chris
7:30 p.m. -- Aliens in America
8 p.m. -- Girlfriends
8:30 p.m. -- The Game

7 p.m. -- Beauty and the Geek
8 p.m. -- Reaper

7 p.m. -- America's Next Top Model
8 p.m. -- Gossip Girl

7 p.m. -- Smallville
8 p.m. -- Supernatural

7 p.m. -- Friday Night Smackdown!


6 p.m. -- CW Now
6:30 p.m. -- Online Nation
7 p.m. -- Life is Wild
8 p.m. -- America's Next Top Model (encore)

Fox announces new fall lineup

Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and Fred Willard triple-team Fox's Back to You, the network's only new fall comedy series.
A star-powered sitcom and a wealth of new reality series highlight Fox's latest fall schedule.

The No. 1 network among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds is adding six new series while as usual holding back American Idol and 24 until January. Fox already has committed to at least two more seasons of 24 despite an ongoing ratings falloff.

The network's biggest splash looks to be Back to You, co-starring veterans from two of the most successful comedies in TV history. Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) play bickering local news anchors at a Pittsburgh TV station, with the always welcome Fred Willard (Anchorman) chipping in as a goofy sports anchor.

Of more immediate import, however, is Fox's set-in-Texas summer reality series Anchorwoman, in which fitness model and former WWE "uber vixen" Lauren Jones is hired by Tyler's tiny KYTX-TV to help turn the station's ratings -- and heads -- around.

"Can this bombshell cut it as a serious reporter?" Fox press materials ask. "Will she save KYTX, or make it the laughingstock of the Lone Star state?"

Well, we've already established right here in Dallas-Fort Worth that it's awfully hard for a television newscast to make a further ass of itself. And are we really to believe that resident news director Dan Delgado is "fit to be tied as his beloved journalistic standards go out the window?" Hah!

Anchorwoman doesn't have an air date yet, but here's another news flash: "Lauren will struggle not only with the news team and an unfamiliar town, but also with the not-so-Hollywood news stories -- covering bake sales, cowpie-tossing contests and county fairs like they were Watergate. News anchor or dead weight? Only the ratings will tell."

OK, back to that little ol' fall lineup.

Fox will be going all reality from Thursday through Saturday, mixing three newcomers with a trio of returnees. Add holdover cartoons and the NFL post-game show on Sundays and there'll be no on-camera actors on the network for four nights running.

Cancellations, all expected, include The War at Home, Nanny 911 and Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy. But Fox reprieved Raymond alum Brad Garrett's 'Til Death and will pair it on Wednesdays with Back to You.

Here are Fox's six new fall series:

***Back to You (comedy) -- Anchors Chuck Darling and Kelly Carr (Grammer and Heaton) reunite in Pittsburgh after he sinks himself in a larger market with an on-air tirade that becomes an Internet hit. He's a womanizer and she's a know-it-all, which in the TV news world makes them perfect for one another. Supporting characters include sports anchor Marsh McGinley (Willard) and tongue-twisting field reporter Gary Crezyzewski (Ty Burrell).

***K-Ville (drama) -- New Orleans cops try to cope two years after Hurricane Katrina, with Felony Action Squad veteran Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) intent on catching pillagers by any means necessary. But his law enforcement partners all have "courage to burn and a passion to reclaim and rebuild their city."

***New Amsterdam (drama) -- Presenting another of the new season's sci-fi-ish crimefighters. New York homicide detective John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) has been ageless and immortal ever since a grateful 17th century American Indian girl cast an ancient spell on him. He can become "whole and ready for mortality" only by finding his one true love. But really, who'd want to do that when you can be forever young and always within network TV's target demographic?

***The Search For the Next Great American Band (working title, reality) -- The producers of Idol are trolling for talented and, of course, untalented combos of any age and musical discipline. Ten semi-finalists then will face America's weekly verdicts.

***Nashville (working title, reality) -- This "docu-soap" documents the music industry's "dreamers and dream-makers" while also keeping tabs on real-lifers hoping to make their marks on Nashville's big business and high society scenes. Because, as you know, "talent, power, drive, love and hope are the fuel that makes Nashville burn bright."

***Kitchen Nightmares (reality) -- Ball-busting chef Gordon Ramsay of Hell's Kitchen fame intends to show his "sensitive and nurturing side" as well during weekly jaunts to various restaurants in crises. Still, Fox's description makes him sound like the same old gila monster: "If the wine waiter's service isn't up to par, he'll be out the door before he can say 'Merlot.' If the head chef doesn't match up to Ramsay's expectations, Ramsay will hammer him into shape. And if he can't stand the heat, he may quit the kitchen." And so on.

Fox also has announced a January schedule, although historically it's hasn't been worth the paper it's downloaded on. Highlight: Julianna Margulies (ER) returns to series TV as a law-bending defense attorney in Canterbury's Law, a drama co-produced by Denis Leary.

A new comedy (The Return of Jezebel James) and a Terminator movies spinoff (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) also are being announced as January premieres.

Here's Fox's complete fall 2007 lineup (all times central):

7 p.m. -- Prison Break
8 p.m. -- K-Ville

7 p.m. -- New Amsterdam
8 p.m. House

7 p.m. -- Back to You
7:30 p.m. -- 'Til Death
8 p.m. -- Bones

7 p.m. -- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
8 p.m. Kitchen Nightmares

7 p.m. -- The Search For the Next Great American Band
8 p.m. -- Nashville

7 p.m. -- Cops
7:30 p.m. -- Cops
8 p.m. -- America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back

6 p.m. -- The OT (NFL post-game)
7 p.m. -- The Simpsons
7:30 p.m. -- King of the Hill
8 p.m. -- Family Guy
8:30 p.m. -- American Dad

CBS announces new fall lineup

Hugh Jackman gets loose in the CBS musical drama Viva Laughlin.

Billed as intentionally "daring and different," CBS' new fall lineup includes a casino-based "mystery drama with music" and a good guy vampire who takes bites out of crime.

No. 1 in total viewers and second this season among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, CBS is adding five new series while trading places with two popular returnees. Without A Trace gets its old Thursday slot back, with the freshman hit Shark moving to Sundays following Cold Case.

Canceled are Close to Home, Jericho and The Class. Benched until midseason are The Amazing Race and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

CBS maintained its longstanding Monday night comedy presence but otherwise again reserved the rest of the week for crime dramas, reality shows and news magazines. The combined new fall lineups of CBS, ABC and NBC so far have just 11 half-hour comedy series, only four of them newcomers. Fox and The CW will unveil their latest master plans on Thursday.

Here are CBS' five new fall series:

***Viva Loughlin (drama) -- Hugh Jackman executive produces and guest stars in a musical mystery tour drawn from the acclaimed BBC miniseries Viva Blackpool. Its principal star, newcomer Lloyd Owen, plays rambling, gambling Ripley Holden, whose plans for a sprawling Laughlin, Nev. casino fall through. This forces him to resort to "dashing, sarcastic, wealthy" Nicky Fontana (Jackman), owner of a rival gambling resort. Pop song interludes advance the story, which also includes a murder investigation and continued troubles on Ripley's domestic front. Madchen Amick of Twin Peaks fame plays his wife, Natalie.

***Moonlight (drama) -- "Undead" private eye Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) got bitten 60 years ago by his new bride, Coraline (Amber Valletta). Ageless ever since, he's also sickened by those who view humans as dinner. So he protects the living while also ogling a beautiful, ambitious news reporter. Would she, could she, give up a normal life to be with him? Oh the angst.

***Cane (drama) -- Jimmy Smits yet again returns to series TV, this time as the idealistic adopted son of rum and sugar business patriarch Pancho Duque (evergreen Hector Elizondo). While Alex (Smits) remains faithful to his longstanding wife, "impulsive" stepbrother Frank (Nestor Carbonell) schemes and chases the pretty ladies. Near-legendary Rita Moreno also is part of the ensemble.

***The Big Bang Theory (comedy) -- Brainy pals Leonard and Sheldon (Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons) know their scientific principles but of course are "lost in the cosmos" when it comes to everyday life. Then they meet a sexy new neighbor named Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who has the power to make their pants go crazy. Executive producer Chuck Lorre also is behind prime-time's most popular comedy, Two and a Half Men.

***Kid Nation (reality) -- Forty kids, ages eight to 15, get 40 days to build their own "new world" in an abandoned New Mexico ghost town named Bonanza City. There are no eliminations, but how many will stick it out? That's determined in weekly town hall meetings, where you can raise your hand and then run home to your mama.

CBS also will launch a new big-money game show this summer. Power of 10, hosted by Drew Carey, polls thousands of Americans on questions such as "Are you smarter than the president?" Well, that's an easy one. Then contestants must predict the results, with the money pot potentially building to $10 million.

The network has one midseason announcement, too. It's ordered the new 1970s-set Swingtown, which returns to this "heady era" of shag carpeting, sexual experimentation, open marriages and women's liberation. Former Melrose Place star Grant Show heads the cast.

Here's CBS' complete fall 2007 lineup (all times central):

7 p.m. -- How I Met Your Mother
7:30 p.m. -- The Big Bang Theory
8 p.m. -- Two and a Half Men
8:30 p.m. -- Rules of Engagement
9 p.m. -- CSI: Miami

7 p.m. -- NCIS
8 p.m. -- The Unit
9 p.m. -- Cane

7 p.m. -- Kid Nation
8 p.m. -- Criminal Minds
9 p.m. CSI: NY

7 p.m. -- Survivor
8 p.m. -- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
9 p.m. -- Without a Trace

7 p.m. -- Ghost Whisperer
8 p.m. -- Moonlight
9 p.m. -- Numb3rs

7 p.m. -- Crimetime Saturday
8 p.m. -- Crimetime Saturday
9 p.m. -- 48 Hours Mystery

6 p.m. -- 60 Minutes
7 p.m. -- Viva Laughlin
8 p.m. -- Cold Case
9 p.m. -- Shark

ABC announces new fall lineup

Yikes, ABC is building a new sitcom around Geico's cavemen. And dinosaur Dan Rather will guest-star in the premiere episode of Dirty Sexy Money, which moves into Lost's Wednesday slot this fall.

Third-place ABC will make a wealth of changes to its fall lineup, including a new sitcom drawn from Geico's "So easy a caveman can do it" car insurance commercials.

The network also is saving Lost for midseason, replacing it on an all-new Wednesday night with the provocatively titled Dirty Sexy Money.

All told, five new dramas and three freshman comedies will join ABC's fall lineup, with another four newcomers ready to step in for ratings failures. Besides Lost, the network is holding returnees Wife Swap, Supernanny, October Road and Notes From the Underbelly until later next season.

Dumped are longrunning comedies According to Jim and George Lopez. They join What About Brian, Big Day and The Knights of Prosperity, which reportedly almost received an 11th hour reprieve with Ray Romano on board as the show's would-be celebrity robbery victim.

Here are ABC's eight new fall series:

***Cavemen (comedy) -- Three "ultimate outsiders" strive to find their place in the world in this must-be-seen-to-be-believed outing. Housed in the "suburban South" are prehistoric brothers Joel, Jamie and Nick (newcomers Bill English, Dash Mihok, Nick Kroll), who yearn to be "treated like ordinary thirty-something guys." Veteran John Heard, killed this past season on Prison Break, somehow has gotten into this, too.

***Carpoolers (comedy) -- Four disparate guys whine about their everyday existences while commuting together to work. Jerry O'Connell from the canceled Crossing Jordan is one of them, and Faith Ford plays a wife.

***Sam I Am (comedy) -- Sitcom vet Christina Applegate (Married...With Children, Jesse) comes out of an eight-day coma with amnesia. Piecing together her previous life is problematic when Sam learns she was "self-involved, narcissistic and devoid of real relationships -- essentially a bitch." Jean Smart co-stars.

***Dirty Sexy Money (drama) -- Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) segues from cable back to broadcast TV as an idealistic lawyer whose father's suspicious death leads him to an alliance with New York's powerful, sinister Darling family. Donald Sutherland plays the family potentate, named Tripp, and William Baldwin is his senator son Patrick. The real-life Dan Rather dons a tux to guest-star in the pilot episode.

***Women's Murder Club (drama) -- Nice. A San Francisco detective, district attorney, medical examiner and reporter join forces to solve crimes in this adaptation of James Patterson's bestselling novels. Seasoned Angie Harmon heads a cast that also includes relative unknowns Paula Newsome, Aubrey Dollar and Tyrees Allen.

***Big Shots (drama) -- Four "competitive but dysfunctional" CEOs are splayed between boardrooms and bedrooms in this hard-living, hard-driving potboiler. Cast members include Dylan McDermott, former star of The Practice, Michael Vartan (Alias) and Christopher Titus (the Fox sitcom Titus).

***Pushing Daisies (drama) -- This "forensic fairytale" stars newcomer Lee Pace as a crime investigator with the modest ability to bring people and things back to life, whether it's a shriveled apple or a mottled corpse. Oops, it gets complicated when he resurrects his childhood sweetheart, "Chuck" (Anna Friel). The "cruel twist?" If he ever touches her, she'll return to the dead. Vets Chi McBride, Swoosie Kurtz and Kristin Chenoweth co-star, with narration from Harry Potter audio book reader Jim Dale.

***Private Practice (drama) -- Test-driven earlier this month to a lukewarm reception from many fans and critics, the Grey's Anatomy spinoff sends skitsy Addison Forbes Montgomery (Kate Walsh) to Los Angeles after failed relationships with both ex-husband "McDreamy" and ex-lover "McSteamy." Co-starring are Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Amy Brenneman and Paul Adelstein.

Earmarked for midseason berths are Oprah Winfrey's previously announced Oprah's Big Give and these three scripted series:

***Cashmere Mafia (drama) -- Lucy Liu heads another quartet of single-minded women who also are sexy. They create their own "boys club" in order to "protect each other and discuss their ups and downs as they try to have it all."

***Eli Stone (drama) -- A San Fran lawyer intent on "screwing over the little guy" has an epiphany after experiencing a series of "odd halucinations." Now he wants to do good. Newcomer Jonny Lee Miller and evergreen Victor Garber (Alias, Justice) head the cast.

***Miss/Guided (comedy) -- A young woman returns to her high school alma mater as a guidance counselor. She's got the hots for Spanish teacher Tim but is still bedeviled by former HS cheerleader and nemesis Lisa, who's now teaching English. Dallasite Brooke Burns plays bad girl Lisa, with Judy Geer (Two and a Half Men) starring as Becky Freely.

Here's ABC's complete fall 2007 lineup (all times central):

7 p.m. -- Dancing with the Stars
8:30 p.m. -- Sam I Am
9 p.m. -- The Bachelor

7 p.m. -- Cavemen
7:30 p.m. --- Carpoolers
8 p.m. -- Dancing with the Stars
9 p.m. -- Boston Legal

7 p.m. -- Pushing Daisies
8 p.m. -- Private Practice
9 p.m. -- Dirty Sexy Money

7 p.m. -- Ugly Betty
8 p.m. -- Grey's Anatomy
9 p.m. -- Big Shots

7 p.m. -- Men in Trees
8 p.m. -- Women's Murder Club
9 p.m. -- 20/20

7 p.m. -- Saturday Night College Football

6 p.m. -- America's Funniest Home Videos
7 p.m. -- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
8 p.m. -- Desperate Housewives
9 p.m. -- Brothers & Sisters

King of Queens has last laughs

More heat in the kitchen: Doug and Carrie Heffernan keep bickering.

These are very lean times for conventional laugh track-driven sitcoms, even if Kevin James still carries plenty of weight.

The beefy star of CBS'The King of Queens bellows a last time Monday (May 14) on a one-hour series finale of the show that made a name for him.

Ratings lately have been robust for the nine-season veteran, whose penultimate episode drew 13.4 million viewers last Monday to again rank in prime-time's top 20. The finale, subtitled "China Syndrome Part 1 and 2" (8 to 9 p.m. central), likely will climb into this week's elite 10.

That's not bad for a show that got both benched and bounced around in recent seasons. Its amusing, well-crafted goodbye comes on the same day that NBC announced a fall schedule that for now is without any new comedies. The Peacock's remaining foursome are all clustered on Thursday nights. It's the same story with CBS, except that all of its comedies fall on Mondays.

King of Queens, an offshoot of The Honeymooners, premiered in September 1998. Doug Heffernan (James), the oft-infantile man of the house, drove an IPS delivery van instead of a bus. Wife Carrie (Leah Remini) worked for a Manhattan law firm.

Like the Kramdens of Brooklyn they were childless and remained that way. But the finale holds out hope for the adoption of a Chinese baby girl and perhaps an extra surprise or two. TV critics are are honor-bound not to tell, which means that not much more can be said.

Let's just add that Jerry Stiller, as Carrie's cantankerous father, Arthur, again steals nearly every scene he's in. And that Doug is drunk for a good part of the episode after thinking that Carrie betrayed his trust.

Not that you're going to be deprived of a happy ending. King of Queens says goodnight after hitting some nice little high notes, even if Arthur still can't seem to get his personal life in order.

Just nine seasons ago, it arrived as a typically mainstream sitcom amid plenty of the same ilk. It ends as almost a throwback, with only a few of its kind still in business. This time it may not be "cyclical." Prime-time sitcoms filmed in front of studio audiences are leaving dinosaur tracks in their wake.

King of Queens, which endured as one of the better ones, typically gets its last kicks with a collection of clips from seasons past. Now it's going to be reruns all the way. In D-FW, they're still gainfully deployed from 6 to 7 p.m. weeknights on TXA21.

NBC announces new fall lineup

Zachary Levi and Michelle Ryan in NBC's Chuck and Bionic Woman.

Quality rich but ratings poor, NBC hopes to right its ship in the fall with more mainstream fare.

Additions are minimal, though. Just four new series will dawn in early autumn, including a ramped-up version of Bionic Woman.

Says NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly: "We've got the class and next season we're ready to add some mass with new shows that build on the creative accomplishments of last season and are as broad as they are good."

After a solid start last fall, the Peacock has drooped to fourth place in both total viewers and among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. It desperately needs a big new hit or two.

The new schedule will shift NBC's acclaimed Friday Night Lights from the first hour of prime-time on Wednesdays to the last hour on Fridays, where the made-in-Austin series initially will have to go against real-life high school football games. That doesn't sound very sporting.

The Peacock's next battle plan also is without any new half-hour comedies, although some holdovers will be "bulked up" beyond their conventional 22-24 episode orders. The Office will get 30 episodes, including a quintet of one-hour editions.

My Name Is Earl has a 25-episode order, with its namesake beginning the show's third season behind bars. Scrubs and 30 Rock also will remain on Thursdays, joining ER for its 14th season.

Another NBC evergreen, Law & Order, will return for an 18th season, but not until midseason on Sunday nights after football ends. Law & Order: Criminal Intent is moving to the NBC Universal-owned USA network, with repeats available for airing on NBC. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit remains in place on Tuesday nights.

NBC has ordered 30 combined episodes of freshman hit Heroes and Heroes: Origins, which will introduce possible new characters. Viewers then get to decide online which one becomes a regular in the show's expected third season.

As anticipated, NBC has dropped Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, its most publicized new series from last fall. Also in the cancelation corral: The Apprentice, Crossing Jordan, Thank God You're Here, Raines and Andy Barker, P.I.

Six of the seven nights will lead off with unscripted hours from 7 to 8 p.m. (central), with only Thursday nights exempt.

Here are NBC's new series:

***Bionic Woman (drama) -- Newcomer Michelle Ryan stars as super-powered Jaime Sommers, a bartender and surrogate single mom who's rebuilt after a bad car accident. TV icon Lindsay Wagner played the role until 1978, when the original series left NBC. Reruns will be repurposed on NBC Universal's Sci Fi Channel.

***Chuck (drama) -- Nerdy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) becomes the government's "most vital secret agent" after he unknowingly downloads a wealth of sensitive data into his brain. Adam Baldwin co-stars as a major assigned to protect him. Reruns will be repurposed on USA Network.

***Journeyman (drama) -- San Fran newspaper man Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd from Rome) suddenly begins to travel through time and change lives. His sudden unexplained disappearances also cause stress back home, where Vasser's wife and son wonder what the hell's goin' on.

***Life (drama) -- Offbeat detective Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) returns to crimesolving after years in the slammer. He of course wasn't guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. Robin Weigart, glorious as Calamity Jane on Deadwood, co-stars as a "hard-hitting" superior officer. And resilient Adam Arkin plays Crews' former cellmate.

***The Singing Bee (game show) -- Contestants will have to know the lyrics to popular songs -- even after the band stops playing! As part of NBC's Friday "Game Night," the show won't premiere until an eight-week run for the returning 1 vs 100.

NBC also plans to launch the new "dramedy" Lipstick Jungle on Sunday nights after the pro football season. Drawn from the novel by Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame, it's about the trials and travails of three high-powered New York career women. Brooke Shields is in the mix as movie exec Wendy and Kim Raver from 24 also gets another shot after ABC's The Nine went down earlier this season. She'll play Nico, editor of a hot fashion mag.

A new comedy, The IT Crowd, is scheduled to premiere "during the course" of next season. It's about "quirky techies" who lack people skills but know how to shape up a hard drive. Obviously fictional, it's set in the U.S. instead of India, where most of the jobs are being outsourced.

There's this, too. Jerry Seinfeld will create and star in 20 "minisodes" inspired by his experiences behind the scenes of his new animated feature film Bee Movie. They'll run whenever NBC want to plug them in. And American Idol judge Randy Jackson is co-producing World Moves, an international dance competition scheduled for a late fall premiere.

Here's NBC's complete fall 2007 lineup (all times central):

7 p.m. -- Deal or No Deal
8 p.m. -- Heroes
9 p.m. -- Journeyman

7 p.m. -- The Biggest Loser
8 p.m. Chuck
9 p.m. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

7 p.m. -- Deal or No Deal
8 p.m. -- Bionic Woman
9 p.m. Life

7 p.m. -- My Name Is Earl
7:30 p.m. -- 30 Rock
8 p.m. -- The Office
8:30 p.m. -- Scrubs
9 p.m. -- ER

7 p.m. -- 1 vs 100/The Singing Bee
8 p.m. -- Las Vegas
9 p.m. -- Friday Night Lights

7 p.m. -- Dateline NBC
8 to 10 p.m. -- Drama series repeats

6 p.m. -- Football Night in America
7 p.m. -- NBC Sunday Night Football

(After football)
6 p.m. -- Dateline NBC
7 p.m. -- Law & Order
8 p.m. -- Medium
9 p.m. -- Lipstick Jungle

7th Heaven reaches prime-time's pearly gates

Annie and Eric Camden (Catherine Hicks, Stephen Collins) prepare to christen their land-lubbing ark on Sunday night's 7th Heaven finale.

Resurrected from cancellation last season, 7th Heaven unequivocally leaves the prime-time firmament Sunday night after one of the more wholesome runs in TV history.

Birthed during the second year of The WB network, it rose from those ashes to see the dawning of The CW. Sunday night (May 13 at 7 central) marks the end, though, with the reliably virtuous Camdens of Glen Oak, CA crowding into a giant-sized RV and happily heading for parts unknown.

"Today's the first day of the rest of my life," minister Eric Camden (Stephen Collins) says before giving it the gas at finale's end.

It's been quite a ride -- 11 seasons to be exact. That makes 7th Heaven the longest-running family drama ever, outdistancing both The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie.

"The basis of all life across the globe is family. It doesn't have to mean it's sort of sappy and stupid," co-star Catherine Hicks (Annie Camden) says in a teleconference.

Both Hicks and Collins say their show has never been "primarily religious," despite its title and church setting. Nor was it Melrose Place or Beverly Hills, 90210, which the late Aaron Spelling also created during his latter years as Hollywood's most prolific TV producer.

7th Heaven is the last ongoing series to bear the Dallas native's name, and its finale is "In Memory" of him.

"He was very proud of the show, and I was thrilled when he went on record and said it was his favorite show," Collins says.

Actually, Spelling said the same about a lot of his creations, but may have had a particular soft spot for the one that ran longer than any of them. Not so The WB, which always tended to treat 7th Heaven as an interloper amid magazine cover-ready darlings such as Dawson's Creek, Felicity, Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

"We used to get so ticked off," Hicks says after unclebarky.com raises the question. "We kept the WB alive, you know, and we'd get like crappy little cupcakes at Christmas."

Collins recalls those "big, mammoth pictures of (Buffy star) Sarah Michelle Gellar" at WB parties, with 7th Heaven tucked into a corner someplace.

"On the other hand, we definitely got used to it," he says. "Richard Thomas (star of The Waltons) told me, 'Don't ever expect to get a lot of publicity from this. The media in general just never know quite what to do with a family show. They never know how to find the angle.'

"We would lead the WB in ratings," Collins adds. "And then you'd pick up something and read, 'Buffy' saves The WB.' We called it being 'Rodney Dangerfielded.' "

Hicks says she's already shopping for new roles. "It takes scrounging, and I'm in the mood to scrounge."

Collins lately is doing a guest shot on the FX comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

They'll always be Annie and Eric Camden, though, to millions of 7th Heaven stalwarts.

"I feel sorry for the audience, because they really want it," Hicks says.

"I think it's going to kind of hit me in the summer that it's over," says Collins.

It's kind of like Purgatory. But that'll pass.

New series review: Traveler (ABC)

On a roll: But can two law school grads skate a terrorist rap?

Premiering: Thursday, May 10 at 9 p.m. central (10 eastern) on ABC. Then moves to Wednesdays at 9 central on May 30th
Starring: Matthew Bomer, Logan Marshall-Green, Aaron Stanford, Pascale Hutton, Viola Davis, William Sadler, Billy Mayo
Produced by: Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, Charlie Craig

First off, the three young protagonists are all Yale law school grads, one of whom's father is one of the world's richest men.

Anyone relating yet?

It also seems to be way late for another mindbending serial drama in a season where many have tried but only Heroes hasn't failed. Still, here comes ABC's Traveler, with a sneak preview Thursday night after Grey's Anatomy. Then it won't return until Wednesday, May 30th, when the same episode will air again.

You'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better recipe for viewer confusion and/or disinterest. The onset of hot weather won't help either. Summertime hits invariably are light, breezy and easy to digest. But this is no Slurpee. Nor is Traveler terribly plausible, but we'll get to that in a bit.

We begin with three male buds ready to debark on a two-month road trip before settling into the riches that a Yale Law school degree usually yields.

Jay Burchell (Matthew Bomer), Tyler Fog (Logan Marshall-Green) and Will Traveler (Aaron Stanford) first head for Manhattan to get blasted. Then they plan to hit the road for an extended jaunt to San Francisco. Their inspiration is iconic Jack Kerouac, who'd be thoroughly bored with the bunch of 'em.

Hoping to pull off a jaunty prank before blowing the Big Apple, the boys lace on their rollerblades and see who can skate the fastest out of a stately art museum. Security guards take exception, but Jay and Tyler make it out of the building just in time to get a cell phone call from Will Traveler.

"I'm sorry I had to do this," he tells Jay.

"Do what?"

Ka-boom. The art museum partly blows up, making immediate suspected terrorists of the caught-on-tape Jay and Tyler. So did Will Traveler make them fall guys? Is he still alive? Was that his real name? Did they ever really know him after rooming together for two years? And is Certs a candy mint or a breath mint?

Whatever the answers, Jay and Tyler are on the lam after deciding against cooperating with authorities.

"If we go in now, they'll ship us straight to Guantanamo Bay," Jay tells his girlfriend, Kim (Pascale Hutton). Well, he's got that right.

Not to give away too much, but the boys initially are caught trying to get out of Dodge. Even though NYC is in virtual lockdown, these two suspected terrorists are taken away in a van otherwise occupied by just two FBI agents. There's no other escort or police presence. You'd think they'd just been busted for smoking grass rather than plotting to blow up a Manhattan landmark. Preposterous.

A mysterious bellhop also is worked in. And Tyler's imperial father, Carlton (William Sadler), appears to be at the mercy of unseen forces. So it's Prison Break meets The Fugitive meets Without A Trace -- with flashbacks. But will you have the will to go on with this?

Probably not. Press materials for Will Traveler say the series will "slowly unravel a conspiracy that involves friends and family members, and calls into question the very nature of American democracy."

But summer's nearly here, and most Americans probably aren't up for anything much more taxing than Popsicle-sucking.

Grade: C

Record-setter: Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun loved the sounds of music more than cash registers

The Atlantic has at last one big edge over the Pacific. It's also the name of a storied record company founded by the Turkey-born son of the Turkish ambassador to the U.S.

The late Ahmet Ertegun died last December at age 83 of injuries suffered after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. He lived to see American Idol, but that wasn't his way. Ertegun groomed and swooned over talent in a singular fashion that had nothing to do with cell phone or Internet voting. He judged you on his own. And if his ear responded, you were in.

Ertegun's life story as a hitmaker consumed far more by the music than its bottom line is nicely reprised in PBS' two-hour Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built. It premieres on Wednesday, May 2 (9 p.m. in Dallas on KERA-TV/Channel 13) as part of the longrunning American Masters series.

The subject is very much a participant in this tribute, which was four years in the making. Filmmakers reunited him with a number of the artists he helped bring to prominence, including Mick Jagger, Wynton Marsalis, Bette Midler, Phil Collins, Aretha Frankin, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Kid Rock and the late Ray Charles.

We learn that Ertegun didn't care at all for the relatively bland way he was portrayed in the feature film Ray. But Charles, Atlantic's first big recording star, pays his old mentor the ultimate compliment.

"You guys never ever bothered me about my music," he tells Ertegun.

Most of these latter-day reunions aren't all that revealing. There are lots of shared laughs, but not a lot of shared insight. Franklin says, "I just remember we had a rompin', stompin' good time."

Ertegun came to these shores with a profound love of black artists and a zeal to make their music available to a much larger public. In his view, it all comes down to "black American music and the white imitation thereof." But he loved the imitations, too, particularly Led Zeppelin. The band had total artistic control over its early albums. Ertegun laughs that even he was kept out of recording sessions.

Midler also serves as the film's narrator, and at best she's barely adequate. Mostly though she's dull and rote-like, at least on the review copy sent to TV critics. If ever a Take 2 was needed, this is it.

Ertegun also penned a few early songs for his label, using the name Nugetre (his surname spelled backward). He remembers sneaking off to the Plantation Club in Harlem as a seventh-grader, drinking in the music and the drinks after his parents had dropped him off at the movies. The bug had bitten him, and in 1947 Ertegun started Atlantic Records with Herb Abramson (who left in 1958).

Charles' "What'd I Say" became the company's first million selling single. He eventually jumped to ABC Records for a more lucrative contract, but hey, business is business.

Atlantic's first major white artist, Bobby Darin, struck gold with "Mack the Knife." And in-house songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller cranked out hit after hit, including "Stand By Me, Charlie Brown, Yakety Yak" and "Searchin' "

A solid collection of vintage clips further chart the considerable life and times of Ertegun, whose legacy also includes helping to create the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He never had the looks of a rock star, but sure knew how to treat the species.

Their unfettered music is his eternal hymn book. Glory be.

Grade: B