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Dead Tree Alert: The Do-Over Season

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Chuck gets an upgrade for season 2.0. / NBC

One of many weird things about this fall is that the traditional “premiere week” begins next Monday, and yet you could argue that the biggest new fall debuts have already happened: 90210, Fringe, True Blood. What we have left is a few very minor pleasures (like CBS sitcom Worst Week), some still-unknown quantities as yet unseen (most of the NBC schedule) and, above all—last year’s fall debuts. The same writers’ strike that cut back the supply of new series this fall meant that a number of last fall’s debuts have been off the air for nine or ten months. So the networks are banking on the dubious schedule of hoping viewers will get excited about the re-premieres of a set of shows that—as measured in the ratings—they weren’t that excited about last year.

In this week’s Time, I look at the new episodes of a half-dozen of these “do overs”: Chuck, Life, Dirty Sexy Money, Private Practice, Pushing Daisies and Heroes. (That last is a slightly different case since Heroes is beginning its third season, but after the abysmal season 2 it needs a reboot worse than any show.)

You might think that a year later, my verdict would be: I like the shows I liked last year, and hate the ones I already hated. You’d be right, but only partly.

Private Practice is still a waste of bandwidth, and I’m still charmed by Pushing Daisies. But Dirty Sexy Money, which I had little use for by the end of its fall run, surprised me: judged on its own, not-too-ambitious soap terms, it’s funnier and a better time than it was when it left the air. Life remains competent but instantly forgettable. My favorite batch of new episodes: Chuck, which seems to have found a higher gear. And Heroes? Too soon to tell, because NBC only sent half the two-hour season premiere, but I’m not blown away yet.

I’m still skeptical of the do-over approach as a ratings strategy, but the shows may ironically benefit from the buzz vacuum left by the weak crop of new shows. Are the mediocre new series all part of some fiendish plan? And are you going to make an appointment to see any of these shows again?