Pilots, pilots everywhere and quite a few for me . . . a sneak peek at the fall

Shaunsipos_lauraleighton_melroseplace_290 Phew!

I've made my way through all the pilots for the new fall season. And I'm ready to declare the new shows I'm most excited about for the fall. (As a side note I'm most worried about NBC, I didn't like "Trauma" or "Mercy" but that's a column for another time).

It certainly feels like the industry has completely rebounded from the writer's strike. There were no shows that made me angry (remember how worked up I got about "The Ex List") or depressed ("Do Not Disturb"). I'm feeling optimistic about what's coming our way this fall. Here are the shows I'm most excited about:

Melrose Place (CW): I can still remember the utter giddiness I felt when I watched the original "Melrose Place" during its peak (Kimberly's wig! That scar! The proverbial wish that you'd never been born!). Eventually, of course, "Melrose Place" became the first show I officially broke up with but oh how I loved "Melrose" when I loved "Melrose." So I'm thrilled that the pilot not only wasn't awful, it was actually pretty good. Plus it's already confirmed that Laura Leighton, Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro and Daphne Zuniga will be on the show this fall. Leighton and Calabro are in the pilot and I can't tell you how happy I was to see Michael Mancini again. He was and is such a fun character. And yes I quickly got over the whole "Sydney was killed off. How is she alive?" conundrum.

The ABC comedies: It's been tough going for new comedies for the past few years, so how wonderful that I actually laughed, out loud, during three of ABC new comedies -- "The Middle," "Cougar Town" and "Modern Family." "Modern Family" is the best of the bunch and "Cougar Town" is the weakest but has potential.  I never bought into the hype that the half-hour comedy was dead and these three shows could put that nasty rumor to rest.

The Good Wife (CBS): Talk about a timely series. Julianna Margulies stars as Alicia, the wife of a disgraced politician (a still sexy but ashamed Chris Noth) whose criminal activities have landed him in jail. Alicia reenters the workforce where she deals with hotshot litigator Diane (Christine Baranski) and young, hungry whippersnapper Cary (Matt Czuchry). The pilot was strong as was the cast. I have high hopes.

FlashForward 9ABC): It's the only show that ABC is making available for review. You have to attend a screening of the pilot episode (which I will do when I'm at TCA in July). And yes ABC's annoying tactic is working. I'm super curious about the series which stars Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, and Sonya Walger. Is it awful? Is it amazing? I can't wait to find out. This series combined with "V" (which I thought had a very strong pilot) makes me believe there will be something of "Lost" caliber to watch on network TV once "Lost" has its series finale.

How about you? What shows are you most excited about for fall? Talk about it below.

Highlight of the Week Ahead

All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for July 20-26

I'm beginning to think that Mary McDonnell is too good at playing annoying characters. She was super irritating as the cardiac surgeon with Asperger's syndrome on "Grey's Anatomy" last season and she is equally grating Captain Sharon Raydor on "The Closer" (Monday, TNT, 9 p.m.). Captain Raydor returns (remember she's on the Force Investigation Division) to "The Closer" tonight when Brenda and her team investigates the murder to two police officers. I find McDonnell's character particularly difficult to believe. Would someone really be that narrow-minded? Well, yes perhaps in real life but I think it makes for challenging viewing. It would be better if we could empathize at least a little with Captain Raydor's point of view, but I really didn't. Otherwise, I did find the episode to be fairly strong, particularly the way the crisis brings the squad together.

So I continue to think that "Raising the Bar" (Monday, TNT, 10 p.m.) is much stronger this season. Proving my theory that as the hair goes, so goes the show. The best thing the series did this season was build up the supporting characters. And it's also been a smart move to have Jerry lose cases more often and handle it in a productive (read not whiny) way. I thought last week's episode which had Jerry's client dying because she didn't receive medical treatment for her ruptured appendix while she was in jail was particularly moving. What about you? Do you think "Raising the Bar" is better this season? Are you still watching? Tonight, Judge Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek) goes on a date set up by a matchmaker.

Alas the same can't be said for "HawthoRNe" (Tuesday, TNT, 9 p.m.). With each passing episode, they seem to be writing Christina (Jada Pinkett Smith) deeper and deeper into a corner. She can't always be in an uproar about everything or always play the hero. The show cannot center around her at the expense of everyone else. The shows seems to have an inability to build up its supporting characters. There simply has to be more they can do with Michael Vartan. Candy (Christina Moore) needs to become more than the nurse who gives "happy endings" to patients. Kelly (Vanessa Lengies) has to become more than the novice, nervous nurse. So far, I think the best character is Ray (David Julian Hirsh) because he seems to be the most fully developed character. This week, Christina fears her daughter may be doing drugs.

It's all in for the Cassidy family in the new ABC Family comedy "Ruby & the Rockits" (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.) Shaun Cassidy is the executive producer and David Cassidy stars as former rocker David Gallagher who is still reliving his glory days through a nightly gig at the local venue. His former bandmate and brother Patrick (Patrick Cassidy) has given up his rocker days and settled down into suburban life. Enter Ruby (Alexa Vega), the daughter David never knew he had. The half-hour comedy kind of reminded me of the heyday of the TGIF line-up on ABC. It's a cute, goofy show that goes for the big slapsticky laughs and has a very catchy theme song. And it is clear that David Cassidy is having a blast spoofing his own image. Three and a half stars.

As you know NBC cancelled "Medium" but CBS immediately picked up the series. The show joins the CBS line up this Tuesday at 10 p.m. It's a repeat from February that had Allison trying to solve the murder of Devalos' friend's sister. Here's hoping "Medium" becomes a huge hit for CBS just the way that "JAG" did after NBC cancelled that show.

I was surprised that so many of you were disappointed with the season premiere of "Leverage" (Wednesday, TNT, 9 p.m.) I thought it was in keeping with the series' fun, caper feel. Perhaps you'll feel better about this week's episode that finds the gang trying to get money back to people who lost their savings via a crooked investor.

I don't know about you but I'm so relieved that the second episode of "Drop Dead Diva" turned out to be a strong as the first. As we've discussed, the show is striking a distinct and tricky tone but it got it right again. And it's starting to make sense while Grayson fell in love with Deb in the first place and how it can be Deb's memories with Jane's smarts. It is a little strange to see Margaret Cho with so little to do so far. I'm hoping her character gets moved more into the forefront soon. This week Rosie O'Donnell (Sunday, Lifetime, 9 p.m.) guest stars.

That's all for today. I'm back on Wednesday with this week's familiar faces, thoughts on "Rescue Me" and more. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com. Follow me on Twitter.