MALCOLM in the Middle
Fox, 7-7:30 p.m. Debuts TBA
CONCEPT Genius-smart kid (newcomer Frankie Muniz) stuck in the genial morass of a raucously idiosyncratic family.
THE SCOOP ”There’ll be a lot of showing just how strange and quirky this family is,” says creator and exec producer Linwood Boomer. ”We have an episode where the father shares the greatest thing in his life — stock-car racing. He’s got one stock-car-racer idol that to him symbolizes dedication and perseverance and sportsmanship, and the kids are just sitting out in the hot sun bored to tears.”
BOTTOM LINE Totally beguiling: funny, sharp-witted, and featuring a performance by Muniz that instantly makes him one of TV’s most charming young actors. Kudos to director Todd Holland (The Larry Sanders Show) for balancing comedy and pathos in more than one scene, and comedy and grossness (Malcolm’s mom shaves his dad’s back!) in others.
NBC, 8-9 p.m. Debuts Sept. 23 at 10 p.m.
CONCEPT Paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, all being frantically heroic, courtesy of ER exec producer John Wells.
THE SCOOP The title refers to a 3-11 p.m. shift for these public servants, including Michael Beach (Jeanie Boulet’s cute HIV-positive ex-husband from ER) as a paramedic. Wells’ Irish family drama, Trinity, died a quick death last season. What’d he learn from that? ”A lot. All the Trinity characters were in very different jobs, and it was hard to craft stories in which they interacted. On this show, you have paramedics, cops and firefighters, but they all work in the same neighborhood, and their lives are interwoven. That makes the storytelling easier and more compelling.”
BOTTOM LINE Featuring two Trinity actors (Bobby Cannavale and Kim Raver) and much of its crew, Watch has a running start at quality but a tough slot opposite Touched by an Angel and The Simpsons.
JACK & Jill
The WB, 9-10 p.m. Debuts Sept. 26
CONCEPT He’s nicknamed Jill; she’s nicknamed Jack — together, they’re googly-eyed lovebirds!
THE SCOOP Former Columbia TriStar Motion Picture chairman Mark Canton has turned TV producer, saying he was drawn to creator Randi Singer’s funny and romantic show ”about people in their 20s who are too old to be teenagers and too young to quite be adults.” That, and the fact that Jack (Amanda Peet) and Jill (Ivan Sergei) talk to each other via hand puppets in the pilot. Oh, and late-breaking news: Victoria Principal’s signed on to be Peet’s mom; hope her name’s not, I dunno, William or something.
BOTTOM LINE During a season in which a lack of racial diversity is a prime topic, it especially smacks of tokenism to have a black a cappella group serve as a Greek chorus in this goofy, charming, and otherwise entirely white show.