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TV's fall season flops

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TV’s fall season flops

Some of our favorite returning dramas have stumbled out of the starting gate this fall. We identify the problems and offer advice on how to get back on track.

Heroes

NBC, Mondays, 9 P.M.

What’s Not Working

The roller-coaster pacing has grown sluggish, the crazy-cool cliff-hangers have gone MIA, and wimpy rookies like Wonderless Twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz) have stolen way too much screen time. Plus, the amnesia for Peter (Milo Ventimiglia): so cliché. And Matt (Greg Grunberg) and Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as My Two Dads: seriously?! Worst of all, stranding Hiro (Masi Oka) in a truly unconvincing evocation of feudal Japan has been disastrous.

How to Fix It

The show needs a focused, big-picture story that gives all the characters a unifying, larger purpose. The Old Heroes murder mystery and superpowered super-virus subplot are promising — ramp them up. Questing Hiro, scheming H.R.G. (Jack Coleman), and power-collecting Sylar (Zachary Quinto) are strong story generators — activate them. And Claire (Hayden Panettiere) needs to get out of high school; grappling with mean-girl cheerleaders and a boring boyfriend is so been-there, done-that. — Jeff Jensen

Grey’s Anatomy

ABC, Thursdays, 9 P.M.

What’s Not Working

Seattle Grace is not only going through the motions — banter, operate, repeat — but is also in a character-development rut. Shrill Izzie (Katherine Heigl) is stuck in a chemistry-free affair with an increasingly whiny George (T.R. Knight); Cristina (Sandra Oh) is wallowing in bitchiness after Burke’s (Isaiah Washington) exit; and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) won’t stop using the Daddy Issue defense to screw with McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey).

How to Fix It

The tragically indulged ladies need a dose of genuine challenge from the men. What if former model Izzie fell for relentless cad Sloan (Eric Dane)? Or Cristina met another Burke who didn’t let her off the hook? Or McDreamy stopped being so McEarnest and dumped Meredith for good? We might even witness a medical miracle: the cure for Grey’s‘ chronic self-absorptionitis. — Jennifer Armstrong

Prison Break

FOX, Mondays, 8 P.M.

What’s Not Working

The third season has yet to deliver on the promise that came with having Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) back in a prison. The conspiracy that put him there — by a group that steered him to a Panamanian hellhole and coerced him into breaking out a prisoner named Whistler (Chris Vance) — is far less compelling than the one that put Lincoln behind bars in season 1. Plus, all our fave characters have been either woefully underused — think Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) stumbling about like an orphaned boy — or maddeningly disposed of — Sara’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) head ending up in a box.

How to Fix It

First off, the Whistler story line has to pay off big, which won’t happen unless he becomes more mastermind and less hapless charter-boat driver. Also, we need some interesting new prisoners on the escape team. It would be nice if some of them were actually Latin, too. —Abby West

Friday Night Lights

NBC, Fridays, 9 P.M.

What’s Not Working

Adored for its subtlety and realism, Friday Night Lights kicked off its second season with a ridiculous story line that saw teenagers Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) and Landry (Jesse Plemons) killing a stalker and then making like the Mob and dumping the body. Speaking of dumping, we sure do wish Coach’s daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) would get rid of her skeezy hipster boyfriend, the Swede (Alejandro Rose-Garcia).

How to Fix It

Since the Swede and dead-stalker story lines are what need to go, why not kill two birds with one stone and have him fingered for the crime? That way we can get back to all the stuff that is working, including Coach Taylor’s (Kyle Chandler) return to Dillon and the wonderfully complex friendship between bad boy Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) and paralyzed former player Jason Street (Scott Porter). — Dalton Ross

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