Fall Preview: ABC

There was no network more scattershot with its new shows last season than ABC.

On the one hand, it gave us TV's best new sitcom, the Emmy-winning "Modern Family," and two other good sitcoms in "Cougar Town" and "The Middle" -- this from a network that hasn't produced a decent sitcom in years.

On the other hand, it had several high profile bombs, including "FlashForward" and "Swimming With Sharks." "V" only survived by the skin of its teeth.

This year's offerings seem as all over the spectrum as last year.

Generally, any series that has Maura Tierney ("ER") in it is something I'll check out, but "The Whole Truth" is far and away the best new offering the network has. Even though the pilot I saw was the version with Joely Richardson instead of Tierney in the role of a NYC prosecutor, this was one of the best legal shows I've seen in a while.

Told from the equal perspective of the prosecutor and a top defense attorney (Rob Morrow, "Numb3rs"), the viewer watches both teams of lawyers build their cases and try to overcome various setbacks. I honestly didn't know if the defendant in the pilot would be found guilty or not, and whether he actually did the crime or not. That sense of tension is often missing from other legal shows, because clearly other shows are written from either the prosecution's or defender's perspective.

"Body of Proof," starring Dana Delaney, was also pretty decent. Think of it as a female-driven version of "House," only with the cranky doc working as a medican examiner, not a physician. I always get wary of series that have people who are supposed to be working in labs out in the field doing the detective work, but Delaney sells it very well.

"Detroit 1-8-7" has already gotten a lot of buzz, but frankly came off as a pretty generic cop show, not nearly as compelling as precursors such as "NYPD Blue" or "Homicide." Michael Imperioli and James McDaniel lead the cast. It's not necessarily a bad show, but unlike "The Whole Truth," it doesn't add anything to an already familiar genre.

"Better With You" represents a giant step back from the sitcom success ABC enjoyed last year. It shows relationships from three different perspectives -- an old married couple, a couple who has lived together for a few years, and a new couple starting out. There were a few laughs, but much of it was pretty boilerplate.

"My Generation" is kind of a soap opera with a twist. It follows a mock documentary crew trailing the lives of nine Austin, TX high school seniors who graduated in 2000 and sees what they are up to 10 years later. Each of the kids represents one area of high school -- the jock, the rich kid, the nerd, etc. -- and sees how they turned out. It's not a terrible show, but there are a lot of characters to try to keep up with, and I'm not certain viewers will make the committment necessary to keep it all straight.

The rest of ABC's new shows are slated for the midseason. The network has a huge hole in its lineup after the end of "Lost," and it will be interesting to see if one of the new shows can step up to fill it.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: For the first time in three years, Donald Trump will attempt to hire a real person instead of a third-rate celebrity on "The Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) The twist this time is that the 10 candidates are all people who lost their jobs during the recession. So, no doubt, hearing "You're Fired" once again won't be painful at all. No sir.

I enjoyed "Nikita" (CW, 9 p.m.) last week. It's not the most intellectually stimulating show in the world, but it has some potential for fun. It follows a new "Vampire Diaries" at 8 p.m.

Lifetime has a new "Project Runway" at 9 p.m.

Finally, FX's hilariously offbeat duo of "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" and "The League" kick off new seasons tonight at 10 p.m., with the latter having guest star Chad Ochocinco conduct the league's fantasy draft.