On THE CLASS (Mondays at 8 pm), a group of twentysomethings from the third grade reunite for the first time at a party — as if they hadn’t been stalking each other on the Internet for years. SMITH (Tuesdays at 10 pm) tries to fill the hole Alias left with Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller, and Amy Smart as a tight-knit group of criminals who take orders doled out by a mystery man with an all-too-common name. In JERICHO (Wednesdays at 8 pm), the residents of a small Kansas town spot a nuclear cloud and believe they may be the only people to have survived the fallout. On SHARK (Thursdays at 10 pm), cutthroat defense attorney James Wood switches sides and joins the LA district attorney’s crime unit. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (Mondays at 8:30 pm) and its cult-fave cast kick off their second season on September 18.
UPN and the WB have coupled off and spawned a two-headed hybrid tot: the CW. On September 20 the new station rears its angsty, hormonal head with a random combo of teen soaps and celeb-run reality shows. 7TH HEAVEN (Monday September 25 at 8 pm) has been renewed for its 11th season, and six out of eight Camden kids have gone through puberty without turning into atheists. The new RUNAWAY (Monday September 25 at 9 pm) stars Donnie Wahlberg as a fugitive on the run with his wife and kids in tow. GILMORE GIRLS (Tuesday September 26 at 8 pm) is back for what’s rumored to be its last season. Tyra Banks’s AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL (Wednesdays at 8 pm) premieres on the CW’s launch date, September 20. Adolescent snore fests ONE TREE HILL (Wednesday September 27 at 9 pm), SMALLVILLE (Thursday September 28 at 8 pm), and SUPERNATURAL (Thursday September 28 at 9 pm) ride out the rest of the CW’s week until the beginning of October, when EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (Sunday October 1 at 7 pm) and VERONICA MARS (Tuesday October 3 at 9 pm) smack everyone awake.
DEAL OR NO DEAL (Mondays at 8 pm; Thursdays at 9 pm), Howie Mandel’s dumbed-down version of modern portfolio theory, has been downgraded to two nights a week, though it premieres with a week-long “event” starting Monday September 18. The comic-book-to-film crossover jumps to television with HEROES (Monday September 25 at 9 pm), where, when a total eclipse envelops the earth, eight ordinary people discover they possess extraordinary powers. Among them: an indestructible high-school cheerleader, a heroin-addicted artist who paints the future, and an anime geek able to stop time. NBC can’t get any more self-referential than STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (Monday September 18 at 10 pm), a backstage, insider’s take on the fuss of producing a late-night sketch comedy show. Amanda Peet stars as Jordan McDeer, a newbie network exec who inherits a horrific PR scandal before her first day on the job; Matthew Perry and Danny Tripp co-star. The FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (Tuesday October 3 at 8 pm) story line, already immortalized in a book and a film, is now a prime-time drama about the same economically depressed rural Texas town that puts Olympic-level pressure on its high-school football team. TWENTY GOOD YEARS (Wednesday October 4 at 8 pm) might not be as beloved as 3rd Rock from the Sun or Arrested Development, but it has the potential to top them both with the dynamo team of John Lithgow and Jeffrey Pyne. Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey produces, writes, and stars as a head writer on the new sit-com 30 ROCK (Wednesday October 11 at 8:30 pm), which is about, well, working on a late-night sketch-comedy show. Um, yes, that is the same plot as Studio 60, which airs on the very same network. SNL cast mates Tracy Morgan and Rachel Dratch co-star along with SNL director/exec producer Lorne Michaels. But there’s nothing amusing about KIDNAPPED (Wednesday September 20 at 10 pm), in which the teenage son of a wealthy New York City family is kidnapped and everyone becomes a suspect.