We're just around the corner from new TV, but what are you doing reading this on your day off? Shame on you. This was the week in TV Land:
• This week sees the beginning of the fall season on some networks, with the rest catching up as the month goes along. There are far too many channels and choices to run down in this space, so I'll turn it over to Alan Sepinwall, who's got a fantastic rundown over at HitFix of when new series premiere and when old ones return. While you're there, check out his interview with Dan Harmon, creator of Community, one my most anticipated returns of the fall, which comes back with new episodes on September 23. The full list is here.
• The folks at NBC are nothing if not hopeful. Paul Lieberstein, an executive producer and writer on The Office best known for playing sad-sack H.R. rep Toby, started talking last week about some of the extremely big ideas he has for the aging comedy's future. Its upcoming season will be the last one for Steve Carell, which means the network's highest-profile comedy is losing its most recognizable face. One of the names Lieberstein is floating as a potential replacement for Carell is Harvey Keitel, though it should be mentioned that there's nothing on the table and that this is currently just wishful thinking on Lieberstein's part. The problem with bringing on Keitel is that it's going to feel like just one more stunt to try and breathe life into a series clearly ready for retirement. Carell says he's leaving because he's done all he can with Michael Scott, but the same could be said for the show in general. My wish remains that the show would come to a merciful end with Carell's departure, but after that I'm afraid we'll have another year of awkward wheel-spinning before it's put out of its misery.
• Speaking of NBC and misery (segue!), many outlets last week were eager to highlight just how badly The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is doing in the ratings. Compared with how Conan O'Brien was doing last year, Leno is down 28 percent in the coveted and all-important 18-49 demo, even though he's averaging 3.8 million viewers, which is 12 percent higher than Coco's total audience. It's a weird illustration of how it's possible for the network to lose no matter who's in the big chair: they're either tanking in total viewers or losing out on the younger ones. Depressingly, Leno is still trouncing David Letterman. In related news, Conan announced the name of his new TBS talk show: Conan. I think it's a smart move, and one that underscores that viewers watch talk shows for personalities, not network brand names.
• Speaking of low-rated shows (I know, I'm on fire with these today), Kristen Bell recently started tweeting and encouraging Veronica Mars fans to harass Warner Bros. into doing a feature film spin-off of the mystery series. The idea of a Veronica Mars movie is nothing new, and has been bouncing around the tubes in one rumor or another pretty much since the show was canceled in 2007; the show ranks with Arrested Development in the group of short-lived series whose fans continue to clamor for a movie despite there being little chance of it happening. Creator Rob Thomas pitched a series reboot when the show was drawing to a close that would skip a few years ahead and see Veronica as an FBI agent, a story line that's increasingly becoming the only viable option since the cast is now old enough to require 90210 levels of suspension-disbelief if the film were set in college (Bell just turned 30). I doubt that there are enough fans to make a theatrical release financially viable, but it'd be worth it if creator Rob Thomas were to explore a pair of TV-movies with a cable network like HBO that could go to DVD soon after. Less pressure, more freedom, and the chance to see Veronica in action again? I'd be a marshmallow.
• More SNL news: With Will Forte leaving, the series is adding some new faces to the line-up for its upcoming 36th season. Paul Brittain and Vanessa Bayer are Chicago improv veterans, while Taran Killam is probably best known for playing Jimmy the Overly Touchy Orderly on Scrubs. The show also looks set to add Jay Pharoah to the cast, fulfilling their contractual requirement to hire two black comedians per decade. (Kenan Thompson has been with the show since 2003, though that hasn't stopped Fred Armisen from donning blackface to play President Obama.) The series premiere is September 25.
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• Announcements were made last week about the rest of the cast of this season's Dancing With the Stars, ABC's competition series that mixes the worst aspects of reality TV with those pathetic fake cheer of Battle of the Network Stars. I mentioned last week that Bristol Palin and The Situation would be on the show this season, and in light of that, I've opted not to list here or even learn who will be filling out the roster. Part of the reason is that the presence of Ms. Palin and Mr. The Situation should pretty much sum up everything you could possibly want to know about the show, but I'm mainly going to ignore the news because the show is terrible and no one should watch it. It's not the worst or most toxic reality show; that honor goes to Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, which weekly redefines what it means to be evil. No, Dancing With the Stars is merely dull, cheap, ugly, boring, and devoid of even the briefest spark of real human emotion or intellect. You're better off watching a test pattern than listening to Tom Bergeron make PG-level puns about the lambada through a frozen rictus of self-loathing. It doesn't matter who will be on the show this season. It won't be worth watching.
• Coming up this week on the air: FX and the CW are starting to roll out series to get a jump on viewers before they drift over to the big three nets later in the month. For viewers who haven't seen or have apparently forgotten the existence of the Luc Besson film La Femme Nikita, the U.S. remake Point of No Return, or the late-1990s series La Femme Nikita based on the original film, Nikita debuts on the CW on Thursday. But this being the CW, I'd imagine their typical viewer is lucky just to successfully turn on their TV without assistance.
Over on FX, Sons of Anarchy returns Tuesday, while Terriers premieres Wednesday. I'm hopeful about Terriers, which stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as a pair of unlicensed detectives in San Diego. It's a promising action/buddy comedy from Shawn Ryan, who created The Shield, and Ted Griffin, who wrote Ocean's Eleven. It definitely warrants a look: