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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
US TV pins hopes on new shows
By Kevin Young
BBC News entertainment reporter

Actor Calista Flockhart in the TV show Brothers and Sisters
Long-held family secrets emerge in Calista Flockhart's new drama
The main US television networks have unveiled their autumn schedules, offering several brand new dramas and comedies which they hope will attract millions of viewers domestically and sell well around the world.

In particular NBC - one of the "big four" broadcasters along with ABC, CBS and Fox - must fill the gaps left by sitcom Will and Grace and presidential drama The West Wing.

These have ended, with great fanfare, after eight and seven years respectively.

So what can audiences look forward to switching on to over the next six months?

Actors Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry
Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry star in a comedy on office politics
When it comes to drama, no fewer than four new programmes deal with hostage-taking and kidnapping.

Standoff focuses on a group of negotiators, two of whom are romantically involved and trying to hide this from their colleagues.

Hostages themselves are the subject of The Nine, which tells of nine people who were held captive during a 52-hour bank robbery.

The twist is that it focuses on the aftermath of the siege and its effect on their lives, rather than the hold-up itself.

It also uses flashbacks similar to those seen in castaway drama Lost to reveal more about the events which brought everybody together.

WHO IS SHOWING WHAT?
ABC: Big Day, Brothers and Sisters, Help Me Help You, Let's Rob..., Six Degrees, The Nine
CBS: Shark
Fox: Justice, Standoff, 'Til Death, Vanished
NBC: Heroes, Kidnapped, Raines, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 20 Good Years

In Kidnapped, Leo, the 15-year-old son of the wealthy Cain family in New York, goes missing. The producers promise "the ransom is only just the beginning".

And there are conspiracy theories aplenty when a senator's wife disappears in Vanished, co-produced by Josh Berman, who worked on forensic drama CSI.

The man who masterminded CSI is Jerry Bruckheimer, also the executive producer of crime series Cold Case and Without a Trace.

Fans of his work will eagerly anticipate Justice, which features four lawyers who take on cases which are controversial and newsworthy - usually because they involve celebrities.

Meanwhile, Heroes brings together a cast of attractive young people from a variety of backgrounds who discover they have extraordinary psychic powers - although perhaps the voices inside their heads are telling them that.

The cast of TV show Standoff (image copyright Fox)
Two of the hostage negotiators in Standoff have a secret affair
There are also some big names among the networks' autumn drama line-ups.

Jurassic Park's Jeff Goldblum plays an eccentric detective who finds ways to communicate with the dead victims of crimes he is investigating in Raines.

The lead role in Shark goes to Hollywood veteran James Woods, whose character swaps his job as a celebrity defence lawyer to become a prosecutor instead.

Moving away from crime but sticking with major stars, Calista Flockhart from Ally McBeal and Rachel Griffiths, most recently known for Six Feet Under, appear in Brothers and Sisters.

It brings several members of the same family together for a birthday celebration, at which many secrets and conflicts emerge.

STARS TO WATCH
Actor Jeffrey Tambor
Calista Flockhart: Brothers and Sisters
Jeff Goldblum: Raines
Rachel Griffiths: Brothers and Sisters
Mick Jagger: Let's Rob...
Matthew Perry: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Jeri Ryan: Shark
Jeffrey Tambor (above): 20 Good Years
Bradley Whitford: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
James Woods: Shark

And JJ Abrams, the creator of Lost and Alias, is behind Six Degrees, which weaves together the intersecting lives of six strangers in New York.

If all of these dramas feel a little heavy-going, how about some of the new comedy on offer?

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip should appeal to fans of Friends and The West Wing as it stars Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford, who played Chandler and Josh respectively in those series.

It has echoes of 1990s cult hit The Larry Sanders Show because both focus on the office politics among a TV programme's production team.

Jeffrey Tambor - who played Hank on the Sanders programme - co-stars in 20 Good Years, in which two middle-aged men realise their lives are flashing by and decide to treat every day as if it is their last.

It looks as though Brad Garrett's character in new comedy 'Til Death will be just as miserable as Robert, the man he played in Everybody Loves Raymond.

Garrett starts off as a happy newlywed, but the jaded older couple next door have much to burden him with after their 20 years of marriage.
Actors Jeri Ryan and James Woods in a scene from TV show Shark
James Woods stars alongside Jeri Ryan in the new drama Shark

There is also a marital theme in Big Day, which employs the "real-time" approach of 24 to cover the joy and mishaps of a couple's wedding day - but perhaps with fewer explosions than Kiefer Sutherland's drama.

Finally, a group of misfits plan to burgle Mick Jagger's home in Let's Rob..., and it is to the Rolling Stones' singer's credit that he went along with the idea and also agreed to appear on the show as himself.

Add to all these new programmes season three of Lost and Desperate Housewives, the sixth series of 24 and the end of The Sopranos, and it appears viewers will be spoilt for choice for a long time yet.


SEE ALSO:
Will and Grace bid farewell
19 May 06 |  Entertainment
Friends TV spin-off Joey scrapped
16 May 06 |  Entertainment
West Wing ends seven-year TV run
15 May 06 |  Entertainment
Sutherland reveals 24 movie plans
05 May 06 |  Entertainment
CSI 'helps criminals to escape'
04 Apr 06 |  Entertainment
Sopranos gear up for final series
10 Mar 06 |  Entertainment


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