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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Fewer laughs as fall TV season kicks off

By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service

ABC's new comedy, "Help Me Help You," stars from left, Suzy Nakamura, Jim Rash, Ted Danson, Charlie Finn, Darlene Hunt and Jere Burns. Danson plays a therapist trying to help his even-more-confused patients.

CRAIG SJODIN | ABC

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Just how do you draw an audience for half-hour comedies?

The networks used to introduce 20 or more new comedies each fall. This year, they scheduled 10 then delayed two until midseason.

They also wavered on style. Only half the 10 will be multicamera shows, taped in front of a studio audience; the others will be one-camera shows, in the style used by movies or HBO.

Here are the comedies, ranked from best to worst, with the pilot films rated on a 0-10 basis. Also included is the starting date, which is subject to change:

'THE CLASS' (10)

David Crane, the co-creator of "Friends," has scored again. With Jeffrey Klarik, he's crafted the freshest comedy in years. Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter) plays a wide-eyed guy, reassembling his third-grade classmates. They're a hilariously dysfunctional bunch, with great work from Heather Goldenhersh, Lizzy Caplan, Jason Tyler Ferguson and more. (Studio show, 7 p.m. Mondays, CBS; premieres Sept. 18)

'HELP ME HELP YOU' (9)

Wobbling through his own later-life crises, a therapist (Ted Danson) tries to help his patients. They're even more confused than he is. (One-camera show, 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC; Sept. 26)

'BIG DAY' (8)

Here's the "24" of comedy, a single day spread over the season. It's a wedding day when the bride (Marla Sokoloff) just wants to have fun and the mom (Wendie Malick) wants perfection. Guests add to the chaos, drawing big laughs. (One-camera, ABC, may air on Tuesdays or Wednesdays after "Dancing With the Stars" concludes.)

' 'TIL DEATH' (7)

Newlyweds (Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster) are filled with optimism. The long-married couple next door (Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher) try to cure them of this. That sounds trite, but Garrett and Fisher often make cynicism seem fresh and funny. (Studio, 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fox; debuts tomorrow)

'30 ROCK' (5)

Fresh from being head writer and news anchor on "Saturday Night Live," Tina Fey tries to do it all. She's producer, writer and star, playing the head of a show a lot like "SNL." There are some great moments especially from Alec Baldwin as her new boss but it's inconsistent. (One-camera, 7 p.m. Wednesdays, NBC; Oct. 11)

'HAPPY HOUR' (4)

After his girlfriend throws him out, a hapless guy rooms with someone who sees life as a perpetual party. The result is loud and often overwrought, but it is sometimes saved by Beth Lacke's great work as the party guy's troubled friend. (Studio, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fox; debuts tomorrow)

'THE KNIGHTS OF PROSPERITY' (4)

A regular, working chap decides the way to remake his life is to organize a heist, with Mick Jagger's apartment as the target. The opener has some great little scenes with Jagger, but there's no guarantee there will be more of those. (One-camera, 8 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC; Oct. 17)

'NOTES FROM THE UNDERBELLY' (4)

A young couple confronts all the views of pregnancy, from giddy joy to deep foreboding. There are some funny moments here, but they are inconsistent. (One-camera, ABC; may air Tuesdays or Wednesdays after "Dancing With the Stars" concludes.)

'TWENTY GOOD YEARS' (3)

Two great actors, John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor, are trapped in a comedy that is often wildly overdone. They play wealthy guys in their early 60s, trying to turn the next few decades into an adventure. (Studio, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, NBC; Oct. 11)