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Fall TV 2009: Wednesday

”The Beautiful Life” and ”Mercy” join returning shows ”Criminal Minds,” ”Friday Night Lights,” and others on Wednesday night

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America’s Next Top Model

Returning Reality — 8-9PM — The CW

For the 13th season of Top Model, Tyra decided to give back to the little people — specifically, wannabe models 5’7” and under. ”[Smaller girls] were coming up to Tyra and myself and saying, ‘I wish I could participate in the show,”’ says exec producer Ken Mok. So short models like Marisa Miller and Chanel Iman — as well as celebrity designers like Lauren Conrad — will serve as guest judges this season, since ex-judge Paulina Porizkova was cut for budgetary reasons. Cycle 13 might be smaller, but audiences can still expect big drama — after all, this season has already made news for the infamous stampede during the New York City auditions. (Premiered Sept. 9)

The New Adventures Of Old Christine

Returning Comedy — 8-8:30PM — CBS

Richard (Clark Gregg) was left at the altar in the season 4 finale, while Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Matthew (Hamish Linklater) were jilted by their respective lovers, so ”we have a lot of loose ends to tie up,” says exec producer Kari Lizer. Among them: getting Barb (Wanda Sykes) back into the country after a sexy INS agent had her deported to the Bahamas when he discovered that she was in a sham marriage with Christine. ”She’ll have to find another person to marry,” explains Lizer. ”Since Richard is free and his life seems to be over, Barb decides to marry him.” That’s great news for Sykes’ fans, who may have wondered whether her new Saturday-night talk show on Fox would keep her away from Christine. ”She’s going to be working her ass off,” admits Lizer. ”We’ll do everything we can to not send her to the loony bin.” Well, that’d be funny too. (Sept. 23)


New Drama — 8-9PM — NBC

The Year of the Nurse Show continues with Mercy, a drama about a short-tempered Iraq-war vet (newcomer Taylor Schilling) and her fellow nurses (Jaime Lee Kirchner and Michelle Trachtenberg) in a Jersey City hospital. ”Mercy is nothing like Nurse Jackie or HawthoRNe,” says Schilling. ”It’s a story about friendship and what happens when you return from war.” Especially when your hunky fling from said war (Men in Trees‘ James Tupper) shows up as the new doctor in your hospital. ”James was the first guy to read for the part, and as soon as he left the room, every woman went, ‘Aaaawwww!”’ says exec producer Liz Heldens. ”It’s a great problem to have to think of how many seasons in we’d want them to be together,” she adds. ”But for now, we have other stories to tell. We’re going to put as many obstacles in front of them as possible.” Hmmm, it may be nothing like Nurse Jackie, but it sure sounds a lot like Grey’s Anatomy. (Sept. 23)

Gary Unmarried

Returning Comedy — 8:30-9PM — CBS

Surprise: Gary (Jay Mohr) is still unmarried in season 2. ”Even though he’s a blue-collar guy, Gary’s trying to be the modern dad, and the modern single guy,” says exec producer Ira Ungerleider. ”But what makes the show is the things that get thrown into Gary’s path.” Namely, a rich beau (Rob Huebel) for his ex-wife Allison (Paula Marshall). Also new to the mix this season are love interest Sasha (Drop Dead Diva‘s Brooke D’Orsay) and old friend Curtis (MADtv‘s Keegan-Michael Key), who both work at the radio station that Gary will be painting. (Sept. 23)

The Beautiful Life

New Drama — 9-10PM — The CW

The CW has paired singing strippers (that horrible Pussycat Dolls show) and fashion-magazine assistants (Stylista) with America’s Next Top Model — without much luck. But with The Beautiful Life, the network is surrendering Wednesday night to moving mannequins. Sara Paxton, Elle Macpherson, and Mischa Barton — who was hospitalized prior to starting production but is now ”great and looks fantastic,” according to producers — bring this fictional runway world to life. ”We’re trying to make this as close to the real deal as possible,” says Paxton, who stars as an up-and-coming diva. Adding to Life‘s cred are exec producer Ashton Kutcher (a former model himself) and guest stars including Zac Posen and Nina Garcia. And what about Ms. Top Model? ”The call was made to Tyra,” says exec producer Karey Burke. ”But we’re going to have to get creative because Gossip Girl nabbed her first.” (Sept. 16)

Criminal Minds

Returning Drama — 9-10PM — CBS

Season 5 will pick up where the show left off in May: It’s the morning after Hotch (Thomas Gibson) has returned home from his Canadian mission, only to be greeted — and seemingly shot — by his old nemesis, the Reaper (C. Thomas Howell). ”In the premiere, we’re going to answer what happened in that room,” says exec producer Chris Mundy. Gavin Rossdale will play a Goth rock star who may be moonlighting as a serial killer, and Mundy is also planning an episode inspired by Austrian criminal Josef Fritzl, who was convicted of keeping his daughter in a basement for 24 years. There’ll be a music-themed episode, too — but hopefully not during the same hour. (Sept. 23)

Law & Order: SVU

Returning Drama — 9-10PM — NBC

”This is the year of intensity,” says SVU exec producer Neal Baer, who could also be referring to this summer’s heated salary negotiations between NBC and stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni. (The pair have signed on for two more seasons of SVU as Detectives Benson and Stabler, respectively.) ”The cops deal with cases this year that force them to make tough decisions.” Benson and Stabler will also be joined by several patented SVU high-profile guest stars, such as Christine Lahti, who shows up for four episodes as ”a new executive ADA who’s there to kick ass.” Other guests include Prison Break‘s Wentworth Miller as a cop who faces off with the SVU duo, and Stephen Rea as a prisoner sentenced to solitary confinement. Says Baer, ”We raise the question, Is it torture?” Well, he said it was a year of intensity. (Sept. 23)

Friday Night Lights

Returning Drama — 9-10PM — DIRECTV

Season 4 features a Dillon divided, as Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) tackles the job at the reopened East Dillon. ”It’s turned from him being in a situation where there was so much expectation, to the opposite situation, where there is none,” says exec producer Jason Katims. Among East Dillon’s new faces: Vince (Michael B. Jordan), a troubled star athlete who clashes with unhappy West Dillon transfer Luke (Matt Lauria), and the Lolita-esque Becky (Madison Burge), who befriends Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) after he beds her mom. Meanwhile, Tami (Connie Britton) gets entangled in what Katims calls a ”major controversy that could cost her her career,” and Saracen (Zach Gilford) struggles with his choice to remain in Dillon before leaving later this season. (Oct. 28)


Returning Drama — 10-11PM — FX

With its final season already set to air in 2011, Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy says this penultimate set of episodes will begin to tie up loose plot threads. The economic crisis will affect business at McNamara/Troy, but also look for a shift in focus to anesthesiologist Liz (Roma Maffia). ”Christian [Julian McMahon] and Liz are gonna go through the mother of all divorces,” says Murphy. Fans can also expect the return of Julia’s mother (Vanessa Redgrave, playing opposite her real-life daughter Joely Richardson), who shows up with a much younger husband, Gilles Marini of Dancing With the Stars fame. Of course, it isn’t Nip/Tuck without outrageous story lines, best exemplified by Matt (John Hensley) becoming a mime bandit. Yes, you read that right: a mime bandit. (Oct. 14)


Returning Drama — 10-11PM — CBS

As Mac (Gary Sinise) and Stella (Melina Kanakaredes) mourned the death of Detective Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier) at a bar in the season finale, shots rang out. So, who got whacked? ”As we come back for [season 6], everyone is alive,” says exec producer Pam Veasey. ”But there is a life-changing result.” Before anyone gets used to the sitch, the team faces a new nemesis: the Compass Killer. This sicko’s crimes take viewers all over NYC, while making extra work for Haylen (Sarah Carter), the new tech who cleans up crime scenes — a rough job even in this economy. (Sept. 23)


New Drama — 10-11PM — ABC

Like the John Updike novel and the 1987 movie, Eastwick focuses on three women in a New England town who discover their supernatural powers. But unlike the old versions, Roxanne (Rebecca Romijn), Kat (Jaime Ray Newman), and Joanna (Lindsay Price) won’t always spend their bewitching hours popping cherries with the hot — and possibly evil — Darryl (Paul Gross). ”Initially, Darryl tries to seduce these women, but that can’t sustain the series,” says exec producer Maggie Friedman. Another difference: They won’t openly wield their wands. ”Over the course of the series, you’ll watch these women discover their powers in an organic way,” says Price. Sounds Charmed-ing. (Sept. 23)