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Icky aliens invade American network fall schedule
By JOHN DOYLE

Monday, May 23, 2005 Updated at 3:13 AM EDT

The aliens are coming. Or the bogeymen. Or some kind of weird critters, anyway. Trotting behind them are the housewives, not necessarily of the desperate sort, but certainly of the suburban variety.

Also, Geena Davis is proposed as a presidential figure and people talk to ghosties, not God.

Yes, the new American network fall schedule is becoming clear.

Last week, in New York, the network execs got up on their hind legs at various venues and howled about their new shows. Some were joined onstage by the actual people who make the shows. At the ABC event, apparently, Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry put on a top hat and tails and sang the song Beautiful Girls, while a posse of good-looking chaps and the real, actual Housewives, danced around him. It sounds rather like Paul Martin's routine at his little party the other night, or so I hear.

By the end of the week, when all the howling was over and the advertisers had been plied with free booze, certain themes emerged.

First, it seems that there is good reason to believe that the great American public will buy into the notion that there is something icky out there. Possibly it's very, very icky. Un-American for sure. From somewhere else, definitely. Possibly even a scary place such as France.

ABC has a new drama called Invasion. The network is really hot for this show. The premise is that the aliens are already living in America and are responsible for the terrible weather down there. In Florida, there's yet another hurricane and, in the aftermath, a certain family discovers evidence of the alien presence. According to the synopsis, the show's pilot episode also includes a naked woman and a child who misses her mom. Among the stars of Invasion is Canadian Kari Matchett. Next week Ms. Matchett can be seen in CTV's TV movie Plague City: SARS in Toronto. We sincerely wish her a relaxing, pleasant summer.

Over at CBS, the honchos announced Threshold, which stars Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey, whose team of experts are assembled when the U.S. Navy makes a chilling discovery: An extraterrestrial craft has landed in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Dr. Molly Anne and her team work on the assumption that an alien invasion has already started.

Whatever could it mean, this suggestion that icky thingies are invading the United States?

It's notable that in both instances the premise is that the outsiders are already inside the USA, the sneaky bums. Does this symbolize a fear that the terrorists are moseying around looking like regular folks, and the Department of Homeland Security better look sharp? Or does it mean that that those liberal TV-types are speculating that the United States is in the hands of crazy critters from another planet? We'll know when the tapes arrive.

The expected Housewives-copycat phenomenon hasn't happened as empathically as expected, but there are a couple of shows that are clearly trying to coast on the popularity of the winsome ladies of Wisteria Lane.

ABC already has Desperate Housewives but it is adding Hot Properties, a drama about Ava, Lola and Chloe, who run a real-estate business with the mantra "What Would Oprah do?" Seriously. Apparently, Chloe's single, Ava is fortysomething and has "a brand new boy-toy husband." Sophia is described as "a Latina lovely who recently discovered her husband is gay." It sounds like Wisteria Lane lite.

At CBS, the possibility of a sizzling suburban drama has not gone unnoticed. It's just that the network appears to have invited Jerry Bruckheimer to kick it up a notch or two. The result is Close to Home, starring soap-opera actor Jennifer Finnegan, and it is described by CBS as "a drama that tears away the façade of suburbia to reveal that sometimes quiet and tranquil streets can hide the darkest of crimes." It sounds like Wisteria Lane with boom-boom.

In ABC's Commander in Chief, Geena Davis is the Vice-President and then the President kicks the bucket, so she becomes President. Fine and dandy, you're thinking, but the twist is that the dying President told her that he doesn't want her to take over. What is a gal to do?

Meanwhile, at CBS, the Joan-who-talked-to-God on Joan of Arcadia is being replaced by the Melinda-who-talks-to-ghosts, on Ghost Whisperer. Melinda is played by Jennifer Love Hewitt of all people. It sounds like Medium-lite.

Fox says it will have no reality-TV shows this coming fall. This is interesting but can be taken with a shrug. You can bet that if one of its numerous new dramas fails instantly, Nanny 911 or Trading Spouses will be back on the schedule faster than you can say, "Whatever happened to The Swan?"

That is just a smattering of information about the fall schedule. A total of 33 new shows were actually announced, along with 15 mid-season shows. You want a trend, apart from the icky critters? Female-centric stories are the overall trend. Throughout the genres and across the networks, there are countless shows with women as the major characters, women as the entire ensemble cast or a woman as the most powerful figure. Sounds like I can say, "I told you so."

Airing tonight: 24 (Fox, CH. 8 p.m.) ends with two hours of explosive action. Or so everybody assumes. What everybody wonders is whether there will be more excruciating torture as Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) tries to save America one more time.

Other season-finales tonight include Las Vegas (NBC, Global, 9 p.m.), Medium, (CTV, 9 p.m., NBC, 10 p.m.) and Everwood, (WB, Chum local stations, 9 p.m.).

Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check listings or visit http://www.globeandmail.com/tv jdoyle@globeandmail.ca
Tags: news
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