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The new TV shows you need to know

The most intriguing new TV shows of fall 2004 will bring Taye Diggs, Heather Locklear, Gary Sinise, and other stars to the small screen

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Matt LeBlanc, Joey, ...
Joey: Warner Bros.

Matt LeBlanc, Joey, ...
Image credit: Joey: Warner Bros.

Joey

NBC Thursdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 9

Why you need to know about ”Joey”

THE DEAL Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc’s character from ”Friends”) heads to Hollywood to pursue his acting career, reuniting with his feisty sister (”Sopranos” star Drea de Matteo, pictured with LeBlanc).

WHAT IT’S LIKE ”Friends,” minus five characters

FUN FACT A superstitious LeBlanc kept the toilet seat from his old dressing room for his new one.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT Whether it’s a spin-off on par with ”Frasier” or with ”After M*A*S*H,” you can bet people will be talking about it.

WILL WE WATCH? If we can’t be reunited with all the ”Friends,” we’ll take what we can get.

Matt Long, Logan Lerman
Image credit: Jack and Bobby: The WB

Jack & Bobby

WB Sundays, 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 12

Why you need to know about ”Jack & Bobby”

THE DEAL Brothers Jack (Matt Long, right) and Bobby (Logan Lerman, left) are two present-day teenagers destined for a great future in politics — one of them will become President. But for now, they’re just trying to survive high school and their demanding professor mom (”Chicago Hope” star Christine Lahti).

WHAT IT’S LIKE ”Smallville” with a futuristic political edge

FUN FACT In real life, Matt Long is perfect presidential material — the newbie actor was a dedicated Boy Scout. Really.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT Following in the footsteps of other smart, original WB shows like ”Buffy” and ”Everwood,” ”Jack & Bobby” could be a favorite with both teens and grown-ups.

WILL WE WATCH? The real-life election is months away, but this fresh-sounding drama already seems worthy of our vote.

LAX, Blair Underwood, ...
Image credit: LAX: Chris Haston

LAX

NBC Mondays, 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 13

Why you need to know about ”LAX”

THE DEAL Airfield chief Harley (Heather Locklear, left) and terminal manager Roger (Blair Underwood, right) keep things running smoothly in the skies over Los Angeles while fighting their mutual attraction.

WHAT IT’S LIKE ”Las Vegas” with less gambling, more planes

FUN FACT The show is shot at the Ontario, Calif., airport instead of the much busier LAX.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT Heather Locklear has been a series lifesaver (”Melrose Place,” ”Spin City”), but can she launch her own show?

WILL WE WATCH? Yes, but we’ll keep an eye on the exit row.

Image credit: Lost: Mario Perez

Lost

ABC Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 22

Why you need to know about ”Lost”

THE DEAL Mastermind J.J. Abrams (”Alias,” ”Felicity”) is back with a high-concept drama: A plane crashes on a mysterious desert island, leaving 14 passengers (including ”Party of Five” star Matthew Fox, left, as a handsome doctor) to fend for themselves.

WHAT IT’S LIKE ”Lord of the Flies” with grown-ups

FUN FACT The island has a bad hobbit: Dominic Monaghan (the ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy) plays a drug-addicted former rock star.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT This show outdoes all of the hellish island challenges of ”Survivor,” and it might be the most impressively multicultural show on TV. The cast includes a non-English-speaking Korean couple, an African American dad (”Oz” star Harold Perrineau), and a Middle Eastern communications expert.

WILL WE WATCH? Given Abrams’ track record, we can’t wait. Just as long as he spares us any cannibalism plot lines.

Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars
Image credit: Veronica Mars: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Veronica Mars

UPN Wednesdays, 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 22

Why you need to know about ”Veronica Mars”

THE DEAL The titular teenager (Kristen Bell, pictured with Enrico Colantoni, who plays her father) hunts down cheating husbands for her dad’s detective agency.

WHAT IT’S LIKE ”Karen Sisco: The Early Years”

FUN FACT Show creator Rob Thomas should be able to get an invite to the set of HBO’s ”Entourage.” He dreamt up the short-lived Jeremy Piven series ”Cupid” and wrote the 1999 Adam Grenier teen movie ”Drive Me Crazy.”

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT Even if the show doesn’t have the rock ’em, sock ’em action to hook male viewers or the soft edges needed to lure teen girls, adorable newcomer Bell is a keeper.

WILL WE WATCH? Almost definitely, especially if the WB’s time-slot competition, ”One Tree Hill,” is a rerun that week

Gary Sinise, CSI: NY, ...
Image credit: CSI: NY: Eric Liebowitz/CBS

CSI: NY

CBS Wednesdays, 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 22

Why you need to know about ”CSI: NY”

THE DEAL Forensic detectives Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise, right) and Stella Bonasera (”Providence” star Melina Kanakaredes, left) dig for DNA and other evidence in the Big Rotten Apple.

WHAT IT’S LIKE Um, ”CSI.” And ”CSI: Miami.” Except in New York. That’s it.

BACK STORY One early episode takes place at a naked sushi restaurant, in which the meals are served on unclothed models. Talk about raw food.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT The first two versions are smash hits. Why should this one be any different?

WILL WE WATCH? With a star like Sinise and plenty of putrefying gore, this is must-”CSI” TV.

Taye Diggs, Kevin Hill
Image credit: Kevin Hill: Monty Brinton/CBS

Kevin Hill

UPN Wednesdays, 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 29

Why you need to know about ”Kevin Hill”

THE DEAL Taye Diggs, who played a smokin’-hot lawyer on Fox’s ”Ally McBeal,” is back in his legal briefs as a slick attorney who finds his career and love life derailed after getting awarded custody of his deceased cousin’s baby girl.

WHAT IT’S LIKE Think ”McBeal,” but this time the dancing baby is real.

FUN FACT Producers originally wanted to cast a white actor, but Diggs’ manager insisted on a meeting, and the charming actor easily won the role.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT UPN is known for urban comedies (”Eve,” ”Girlfriends”) and outlandish reality TV (”Amish in the City”), but this might be the network’s first chance to score with a drama that doesn’t feature Klingons.

WILL WE WATCH? Diggs has the talent — and the heart-stopping grin — to keep our fingers off the remote.

Wife Swap
Image credit: Wife Swap: Donna Svennevik/ABC

Wife Swap

ABC Wednesdays, 10 p.m. Premieres Sept. 29

Why you need to know about ”Wife Swap”

THE DEAL Two families from very different backgrounds trade mothers. Culture shock (and presumably gratitude for good ol’ Mom) ensues.

WHAT IT’S LIKE The concept is the same as on Fox competitor ”Trading Spouses,” but this show is more emotionally resonant and easier to follow.

FUN FACT ABC is already planning two spin-offs, ”Husband Swap” and ”Boss Swap.”

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT If you’re amused by ”Trading Spouses” but have a slightly icky feeling after watching it, this could offer the quality adjustment you need.

WILL WE WATCH? With a title like ”Wife Swap,” it’s gotta be worth a glance at the first episode. And maybe the second or the third.

Image credit: Desperate Housewives: Peter “Hopper” Stone/ABC

Desperate Housewives

ABC Sundays, 9 p.m. Premieres Oct. 3

Why you need to know about ”Desperate Housewives”

THE DEAL After seemingly happy housewife Mary Alice (Brenda Strong) kills herself, her neighborhood pals, including divorced mom Susan (Teri Hatcher, right, with Nicolette Sheridan), Martha Stewart-esque Bree (Marcia Cross), and frustrated career girl turned stay-at-home mother Lynette (Felicity Huffman), watch their own lives start to unravel.

WHAT IT’S LIKE Think ”Melrose Place” with a dollop of ”Six Feet Under.” Sorta soapy, sorta funny, and plenty twisted.

BACK STORY Writer Marc Cherry (”The Golden Girls”) got the idea for the series from watching the trial of Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her five children.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW IT This strange hybrid of humor and drama has a standout cast and is just offbeat enough to become a cult hit.

WILL WE WATCH? Even if this is plenty darker than ”Melrose,” the world needs a new juicy nighttime soap. Throw in a catfight, and we’ll be hooked.

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