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Fall TV 2009: Friday

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Smallville
Returning Drama — 8-9 PM — The CW
Clark’s (Tom Welling) relationship with Lois (Erica Durance) provides the heart of season 9. ”Lois holds the key to Clark’s journey — and you begin to learn what it is in the last second of the premiere,” says exec producer Kelly Souders. The big bad will be Major Zod (The Tudors‘ Callum Blue), and Brian Austin Green has a stint as Metallo, a kryptonite-powered cyborg. But will the new Friday time slot prove to be Smallville‘s real kryptonite? ”Everyone is dedicated to having a season 10,” says Souders. ”We’re not going down without a huge fight.” (Sept. 25)

Brothers
New Comedy — 8-8:30PM — Fox
Former NFL star and current Fox football commentator Michael Strahan plays a now-broke retired pigskin player who moves home with his barb-tongued brother (Daryl ”Chill” Mitchell), domineering mom (CCH Pounder), and loopy dad (Carl Weathers). Exec producer Don Reo, who also oversees Brothers‘ companion ‘Til Death, says that Strahan, while still learning the acting ropes, is a genuine star. ”He’s not gonna go out and do Shakespeare,” jokes Reo, ”but the camera loves him.” Adds Strahan, ”You’re used to playing football in front of 80,000 people, but acting in front of 100 is a lot different. The first week was a little scary.” (Sept. 25)

Ghost Whisperer
Returning Drama — 8-9PM — CBS
Last season, Jim (David Conrad) died and his soul stepped into the body of Sam (also Conrad); both viewers and Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) knew that Sam was, indeed, Jim, but it took Jim a while to figure it out. (Betcha never thought you’d have a hard time following Ghost Whisperer, did you?) Season 5 goes bigger: Hewitt directs her own traumatic labor scene in the premiere. Then the action leaps forward five years to Melinda and Jim — now a doctor at a hospital that exec producer P.K. Simonds calls ”the centerpiece of the dark places we intend to go” — raising their son, Aiden (Connor Gibbs). While Melinda can communicate only with earthbound spirits, Aiden senses things on the next plane. ”His ability threatens powerful beings,” Simonds teases. ”And when things are threatened, sometimes they take action.” (Sept. 25)

Law & Order
Returning Drama — 8-9PM — NBC
The original series of the stalwart franchise will enter its 20th season this fall, tying Gunsmoke as TV’s longest-running drama. Still, seniority doesn’t mean cushy time slots, with L&O moving to no-man’s-land, a.k.a. Fridays at 8. To keep viewers tuned in, producers are prepared to get even rippier-from-the-headlines. ”My mantra for this year is sort of quoting Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction: ‘We will not be ignored,”’ explains exec producer Rene Balcer. Fans need not worry about DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) boiling bunnies, but they should be concerned for Lieut. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), who will battle cancer. This season will also see hot-button plots like the shooting of an abortion doctor, and, says Balcer, ”the first episode, we’re putting Dick Cheney and the torture clique on trial.” (Sept. 25)

Supernanny
Returning Reality — 8-9PM — ABC
As usual, nanny Jo Frost will spend much of season 6 ”putting out fires,” according to exec producer Nick Emmerson. Frost is drafted to help control a child with ADHD, and she also works with a diabetic boy endangered by his eating habits. ”It has universal resonance for viewers,” explains Emmerson. ”We have a selection of what I’d like to call ‘good old-fashioned Supernannys.”’ (Oct. 16)

‘Til Death
Returning Comedy — 8:30-9PM — Fox
The Brad Garrett sitcom isn’t exactly bringing the roof down at Fox; it’s one of the network’s least-watched shows. Fortunately, the sitcom’s new showrunner, Don Reo, has a good sense of humor about it. ”The bar’s been set pretty low,” he deadpans. Reo hopes to return the comedy — starring Garrett and Joely Fisher (Eddie and Joy Stark) as cynical old marrieds — to its first-year roots when a young, idealistic duo (remember the Woodcocks?) moved in next door. In season 4, the Starks’ daughter, Ally (Lindsey Broad), and her husband, Doug (Timm Sharp), will play Gloria and Meathead to Eddie’s Archie. (Sorry, J.B. Smoove — no room for Kenny in this latest reboot.) ”Ally and Doug are going to move into the house and restore the show’s concept,” promises Reo, who adds, ”We couldn’t do any worse. So why not roll the dice a bit?” (Oct. 2)

Medium
Returning Drama — 9-10PM — CBS
Expect one big change to Medium with its move from NBC to CBS. ”At the bottom of the screen, instead of that damn peacock, there’ll be that eye staring at you,” jokes creator Glenn Gordon Caron. Season 6 will pick up four months after June’s finale, with Allison (Patricia Arquette) out of a coma. A Halloween episode will incorporate footage from George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb will helm an episode. ”His folks reached out to us after Sundance,” explains Caron. ”I said, ‘Quick, before the drugs wear off, let’s get him in here!”’ (Sept. 25)

Southland
Returning Drama — 9-10PM — NBC
Southland‘s gritty story lines boiled over last season when Russell (Tom Everett Scott) took a bullet while off duty. ”He’ll be back,” says exec producer Christopher Chulack coyly, declining to confirm that Russell lives. His partner, Lydia (Regina King), soon finds herself teamed up with an aggressive new cop (Prison Break‘s Amaury Nolasco). Explains exec producer Ann Biderman, ”It’s threatening when someone new comes in.” Officer Dewey (guest star C. Thomas Howell) returns, and more details about the private lives of rich-boy-turned-cop Ben (Ben McKenzie) and closeted blowhard John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) will unfurl. ”They both talk about their fathers,” Chulack says, ”and that’ll help us explore what makes them tick.” (Oct. 23)

Dollhouse
Returning Drama — 9-10PM — Fox
Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) says season 2 of his sci-fi drama — starring Eliza Dushku as Echo, a programmable human employed/enslaved by a shadowy organization — will inject more character story lines into the mission-of-the-week template. And fans may get more of the Dollhouse future seen in the DVD-only episode, ”Epitaph.” Angel alum Alexis Denisof comes aboard as a senator determined to bring down the Dollhouse, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles‘ Summer Glau joins as a Dollhouse employee. Battlestar Galactica‘s Jamie Bamber guests as a client Echo (temporarily) marries. The Friday slot, meanwhile, doesn’t faze Whedon: ”There are no expectations on Friday. It’s like going to a party and finding a place to sit by yourself and have a beer. Which is what I used to do at parties — and may explain a lot about me.” (Sept. 25)

Stargate Universe
New Drama — 9-10PM — Syfy
The third Stargate incarnation follows a crew of scientists (led by The Full Monty‘s Robert Carlyle), civilians, and low-level military trapped on an ancient alien spaceship they cannot control. ”I love Battlestar Galactica, and [SGU is] along that vein of a character-driven series,” says Ming-Na (ER), who plays a civilian leader. Still, exec producer Robert Cooper wants to be clear: ”Nobody said to us, ‘Make another Battlestar Galactica.’ It’s still an adventure show.” (Oct. 2)

Numb3rs
Returning Drama — 10-11PM — CBS
How will Amita (Navi Rawat) respond to Charlie’s (David Krumholtz) proposal? Here’s all we could get from creator Cheryl Heuton: ”There is going to be an answer, but Numb3rs isn’t going to become the Amita & Charlie Show.” Season 6 stays focused on solving crimes, which is harder for Don (Rob Morrow) after being stabbed last season. ”His mental steadiness isn’t what it used to be,” says Heuton. Plus, guest star Gary Cole (Entourage) turns up as a suspected sniper — and, you know, there’ll be lots of math. (Sept. 25)

White Collar
New Drama — 10-11PM — USA
Collar‘s mismatched crime-fighting duo consists of Neal (Chuck‘s Matthew Bomer), a suave con artist, and Peter (Tell Me You Love Me‘s Tim DeKay), the FBI agent who catches him. In exchange for getting out of jail, Neal uses his criminal mind to assist Peter with nabbing crooks. And it doesn’t hurt that Peter’s wife (Tiffani Thiessen) finds Neal quite debonair. Bomer loves that White Collar shoots in New York City: ”There’s nothing like a cabdriver cursing you out [for] blocking the intersection right before they call action.” (Oct. 23)