American audiences get their first real look at Matt Smith as the new Doctor Saturday night during the U.S. debut of "Doctor Who" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), which follows a one-hour special that looks at the new season.
In earning the most coveted role in the UK, Smith has some big shoes to fill following the departure of David Tennant. But, I'm happy to report that as the 11th Doctor (following William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston and Tennant), Smith more than holds his own, at least in the first two episodes I've seen.
Although the youngest actor ever cast in the part, Smith easily conveys the character's 900 years and wisdom.
Unlike James Bond, where each actor who portrays the role is expected to project a lot of the same qualities as his predecessor, the various Doctors have pretty much carte blanche in everything from personality quirks to catch phrases to costumes.
Smith's debut, "The Eleventh Hour" by new showrunner Steven Moffat, is a fairly typical adventure that picks up mere moments after Tennant's Doctor regenerated into Smith's. The Doctor's time machine, th TARDIS, crashlands on Earth, where he meets a little girl with a big crack in her house. As always, there's more than meets the eye.
Smith eventually hooks up with new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillain), a spunky Scottish lass who embodies the best traits of some of the previous companions yet manages to make her character something original. Smith and Gillain click almost instantly.
Upcoming episodes this season deal with the British Empire thousands of years after Earth dies; the Daleks popping up at an unexpected point in Earth's history; and Alex Kingston reprising her role as River Song, the Doctor's future love. Also, the TARDIS gets a makeover.
The only thing I didn't care for is the new opening theme music/title sequence.
Some fans of the show are going to have a hard time accepting any other actor in the role, but the new season of "Doctor Who" shows a lot of promise. Geronimo!
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Mostly reruns tonight except for a new "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) and the NBC TV movie "Secrets of the Mountain," a family-oriented adventure that begins at 8 p.m.
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On cable, SyFy has "Stargate Universe" at 9 p.m., followed by UK import "Merlin" at 10 p.m.
On Sunday, "Treme" (HBO, 10 p.m.) is only one episode old but has been renewed for a second season. I found it interesting, but it didn't really blow me away. It follows a new installment of "The Pacific" at 9 p.m.
Showtime, meanwhile, has a new "Tudors" at 9 p.m.
On the networks, CBS airs the Country Music Awards at 8 p.m., while Fox has new episodes of "The Simpsons" at 8 p.m. and "American Dad" at 9:30 p.m., replacing the cancelled "Sons of Tucson."
There's a new "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.), while ABC has new episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters," beginning at 9 p.m.
"Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) airs the two-parter "Small Island," about Jamaicans and Londoners living together during WWII.
As always, the pick of Sunday is "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 10 p.m.)