Today's post was going to be devoted to the return of "Battlestar Galactica" Friday night, but that will have to wait a day since Sci Fi didn't send me the screener on time. I will note that Sci Fi is running a marathon of Season 4 all day leading into the Season 4.5 premiere, so don't forget to set your recording devices if you want to catch up.
Instead of something returning, we'll talk about someone going, in this case, William L. Petersen, who marks his final appearance as Gil Grissom on "CSI" (CBS, 9 p.m.) Petersen, also a producer on the series, leaves a role that was tailored specifically for him when the show was created seven seasons ago.
Will "CSI," TV's top-rated drama, survive? It's an interesting challenge. It's not a knock on Petersen's replacement, Laurence Fishburne, a talented actor equally as capable as Petersen. Rather, any time the star of a series departs, it's a reasonable question.
Some people compare his departure to that of George Clooney and Anthony Edwards on "ER," but that series was always built as more of an ensemble. "ER," like "Law & Order," has shuffled through so many actors over the years that those series can survive the loss of a star.
Shelly Long's departure from "Cheers" might be more comparable, since that sitcom was built around the Sam-Diane romance. But the producers found a capable replacement in Kirstie Alley, so "Cheers" didn't skip a beat.
David Caruso infamously left "NYPD Blue" after one season, but even though he was the breakout actor at the time, it was Dennis Franz who was the heart of the show, and again, a top-notch replacement was found in Jimmy Smits.
I felt "Homicide" was never quite the same when the brilliant Andre Braugher left, but that show was never the ratings smash that "CSI" is, so it's difficult to make an apt comparison.
It's funny that I wrote about Matt Smith taking over the title role on "Doctor Who" last week, since that series is specifically built around keeping the lead character but recasting the lead actor every few seasons with someone who is completely different from his predecessor. Obviously, it hasn't hurt that series' popularity.
Meanwhile, changing the cast allows the "CSI" writers to keep things fresh after seven seasons. Fishburne will bring a different dynamic to the cast, which allows the writers to explore new ideas. We'll see if the ratings hold up.
R.I.P. RICARDO MONTALBAN: Man, yesterday was a bad day. First Patrick McGoohan, then Ricardo Montalban. The star of "Fantasy Island" and as "Star Trek's" Khaaaaaa-aaa-aaaan!!!! was 88. Montalban always brought a debonair charm to his characters.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: As I wrote yesterday, all times are kind of contigent on whether Pres. Bush addresses the nation tonight for the final time. No word as of this writing.
Anyway, Patrick Swayze, who has been in the news more lately because of his health problems, debuts a new cop drama on A&E tonight called "The Beast" at 10 p.m. He plays a veteran, bend-the-rules FBI agent breaking in a rookie partner (Travis Fimmel).
"Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) settles in on a new night with Bones and Booth undercover at a circus. The ringmaster? Andy Richter. It's followed by a new "Kitchen Nightmares."
Dwight and Andy square off in a duel after Andy finds about Dwight's affair with Angela on "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.), anchoring a new night of NBC sitcoms and a new "ER" at 10 p.m. Personally, although Andy has his rage, I'm betting on Dwight in this duel, since he seems like the sort of chap who duels regularly.
A new "Eleventh Hour" (CBS, 10 p.m.) follows "CSI."
"Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) is back with new episodes, picking up with Clark hooking up with the Legion Of Superheroes. Interesting point A: This episode was written by Geoff Johns, the best writer working in comics today. Interesting point B: I wrote an episode in which Clark hooked up with the Legionnaires last year, but my friend on the Warner Bros. lot is no longer there, so I never sent it to the show. Anyway, I get to see how I stack up with Geoff Johns. My guess: I have about as much chance as Andy does against Dwight. Also returning tonight is "Supernatural" at 9 p.m.
"Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) is brand-new, as is "Grey's Anatomy," which will hopefully stop firing people this year. It's followed by its spinoff, "Private Practice."