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Last TV season, critics were grumbling that there were no break-out new series to keep an eye on, calling it a lackluster crop of new shows. Even the eye-poppingly original series, Pushing Daisies, was forecast to have an early death, supposedly unable to sustain a series out of the whimsical “Pie-lette”.

They weren’t entirely wrong about the season as a whole, long before it was derailed by the writers strike. This fall will see some shows return for their sophomore year, but for most it was more a reprieve than a whole-hearted renewal. Even Pushing Daisies, given an early second season order on the basis of its unexpectedly solid ratings, faltered in the Nielsen’s towards the end of its brief strike-truncated run.

This season, critics are grumbling that they haven’t even seen most new series, largely because the pilot season was delayed by the writers strike and networks didn’t send out many screeners for reviews. So they are handicapped in their attempts to handicap the series’ chances of success.

I’m not sure it matters. I strongly believe in the role of the professional critic, but it’s a huge stretch to say their positive or negative opinions have a corresponding effect on ratings. And their prognostications about success or failure are about as accurate as my Emmy predictions (translation: really, really not). I’m perversely happy about it, since I’d decided to bow out of doing reviews this year anyway.

The CW chose not to send preview copies of 90210, causing critic conniptions. Conniptions they wrote about, at length, along with speculation and casting news, creating big buzz for a series no one had seen, helping lead to The CW’s best ratings for a scripted series ever. (Though keep in mind “forever” in CW terms is two years.) I’m apparently old: I watched the original semi-regularly but couldn’t muster even a smidgen of excitement over the remake. I did catch a bit of the pilot, but I seemed to catch a really boring bit. Tell me they weren’t all boring bits.

Fringe has buzz, though the scary sci-fi people (TM Lisa de Moraes) tend to buzz about anything “genre.” (Don’t get me started, as a former English lit major, on how much I hate that scary sci-fi/fantasy people have taken over the word “genre” like it means a specific genre.) I’ll probably give it an extended try since I miss The X-Files, and the movie sure didn’t help relive its glory days. I thought the leaked Fringe pilot was a snooze, but they’ve tweaked it since then, and it’s not the kind of show I can necessarily judge all that well from a pilot anyway. Will it become a convoluted mess? A ponderous bore? Or spooky entertainment? Time will tell.

I don’t get Movie Central, the Canadian broadcaster for True Blood, and the leaked pilot helped me decide I’m not sad about that, though there was a lot to like. I can do without this hodgepodge though.

I do have my DVR set for Privileged, which doesn’t seem like my kind of show at all, but the promos have me sucked in; it looks like it could be fun escapism along the lines of The Nanny Diaries – the book, not the horrible movie version.

(Let me interrupt for a scary thought about those promos: network marketers may not have seen the shows they’re promoting, either.)

The pilot of Do Not Disturb was dreck. Turns out they won’t be airing the pilot first, but with writing and acting that bad, I can’t imagine it’ll make much difference and I’m not planning to find out.

I didn’t hate the leaked pilot for Life on Mars as much as most, though Jason O’Mara felt like a weak link, and he’s the only cast member to survive the retooling. I don’t have much interest in watching the drastically revised series, though. The original British series was a great concept that I had enough of after a few episodes – I Googled to find out how it all ended. I know, shameful, but it saved me a lot of time.

The Mentalist does not look like something I’ll stick with — cop shows tend to leave me cold, hence my bailing on Life on Mars — but I have to check it out just because it stars Simon Baker (The Guardian) and he seems to have developed the ability to smile. Swoon.

There’s more of course, but those are the only ones I’ve seen or intend to see. Other new series I’m hearing a lot about include Knight Rider (ugh) and sitcoms (always a hard sell for me) like Worst Week, The Ex List, Kath & Kim, and Gary Unmarried (when did Jay Mohr – Action – become so toothless? Oh yeah, way back when he did a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston).

The TV Addict has a great printable calendar with all the new and returning premiere dates: download it here.