The next must-see?

Thursday, September 20, 2007
In this 2007 photo provided by NBC Universal, actor Zachary Levi as Chuck Batowski appears in an episode of the network's new series "Chuck," about a computer geek with spy secrets embedded in his brain. The show is among several that can be previewed via downloading from the internet. (AP Photo/ NBC, Michael Yarish)

"Chuck"

What: A computer geek learns too much for his own good when he accidentally downloads the government's most sensitive secrets straight into his brain.

Where: NBC

When: Mondays at 7 p.m.

Who: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Adam Baldwin, Sarah Lancaster.

Why: An ordinary guy who has heroism forced upon him can be fun (and exciting) to watch -- especially when a sexy blond spy takes part in the forcing.

How: Chuck Bartowski (Levi) is a pocket-protector-sporting tech-support guy who's happily employed at a discount department store. Then he opens up a mysterious e-mail. "There's something wrong with me," he worries when the download finally concludes hours later. "I'm remembering things I shouldn't know!" Soon after that, he's thrust into cloak-and-dagger hijinks alongside a pair of government agents (Baldwin and the dishy Strahovski). Their challenge is to safeguard Chuck and what he knows (there's no way to back up the data he's packing) while they persuade him to assist them in their perilous secret-agent tasks. Created by Josh Schwartz ("The O.C.") and McG ("Charlie's Angels"), "Chuck" has a breathless pace and a flashy, comic-violence style, all of which keeps Chuck's head spinning. The viewer's, too. Whether future stories can keep up the pace remains to be seen. Here's hoping there are no bugs in the program.

This undated photo, supplied by CBS, shows the cast of the new CBS television drama headed by Jimmy Smits,center. The rest of the cast shown, from left, are: Michael Trevino, Lina Esco, Nestor Carbonell, Smits, Paola Turbay, Eddie Matos, Rita Moreno, and Hector Elizondro . The broadcast networks are trying hard to get your attention for a season that kicks off on Sept. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Roberto D'Este,CBS)

"Cane"

What: Epic, sprawling drama about a Cuban-American family and its 170,000 acres of sugar cane in South Florida.

Where: CBS

When: Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Who: Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, Rita Moreno, Polly Walker, Paola Turbay, Eddie Matos, Michael Trevino, Lina Esco.

Why: To explore the age-old question: Sugar or rum?

How: Here's a series that has it all. Glamour, money, fierce cultural pride. Big business and sinister rivals. Lavish production values. A large, impressive cast headed up by the always-watchable Smits as the boss of the family empire. And a family at odds with itself. Yes, "Cane" has it all -- and it's all undermined by a byzantine premise that asks the audience to really care about the sugar-cane game. Should the Duque family's crop be sold for sugar or rum? Or maybe even ethanol: "Sugar is the new oil," declares Alex Vegas (Smits), the Duques' adopted son who butts heads with resentful brother Frank Duque (Carbonell). And on it goes. Despite its high ambitions and rich veneer, "Cane" plods along like an Agricultural Subcommittee meeting.

In this publicity photo provided by The CW, Ray Wise, left, plays The Devil and Bret Harrison is Sam in "Reaper," a news series for fall 2007 on The CW. (AP Photo/The CW, Michael Courtney)

"Private Practice"

What: A brand extension of hospital hit "Grey's Anatomy," with surgeon Addison Montgomery leaving rainy Seattle for sunny L.A.

Where: ABC

When: Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Who: Kate Walsh, Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Audra McDonald, Paul Adelstein, KaDee Strickland, Chris Lowell.

Why: With millions of viewers watching the original, why not treat them to a second weekly hour of this piffle?

How: "Private Practice," freed from the necessary green of TV-Seattle, enjoys a refreshing full palette of colors. Otherwise, the spectrum is no broader than on "Grey's." Dr. Montgomery may think she's making a big change, but as she joins the team of practitioners at thriving Oceanside Wellness Center, she picks up pretty much where she left things up the coast. The well-practiced formula prescribes bickering, tear-jerking, romancing and, of course, saving lives. Even the new faces of "Practice" are comfortably familiar: great-looking faces like Brenneman ("Judging Amy"), Diggs ("Day Break," "Kevin Hill"), and Daly ("The Nine," "Eyes"). "Practice" hardly makes perfect, but it sticks to standard protocols as a "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff.

In this publicity photo, provided by CBS, Alex O'Loughlin stars as Mick St. John, an immortal private investigator from Los Angeles who defies the traditional blood-sucking norms of his vampire tendencies in the new series "Moonlight," scheduled to premiere in fall 2007. (AP Photo/CBS, Monty Brinton) 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

"Moonlight"

What: A noble vampire devotes himself to defending humanity against those evil vampires.

Where: CBS

When: Fridays at 8 p.m.

Who: Alex O'Loughlin, Sophia Myles, Jason Dohring, Shannyn Sossamon.

Why: To explore what it's like to be humane, even when you're not human.

How: Mick St. John (O'Loughlin) is a handsome, forever-young L.A. private eye who's doing what he can to right vampire wrongs. Meanwhile on this supernatural drama (which was unavailable for review), Mick wrestles with romantic longings: He's gaga over Beth Turner (Myles), a beautiful mortal. But he worries that if she knew his dark secrets, she might find him to be bloody appalling.

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