Pat Clark

You are feeling very sleepy ... very, very sleepy

Maybe it was the exciting summer TV schedule -- one that didn't consist of reruns and an overabundance of stupid people doing stupid things on reality shows -- that's raised expectations.

But raise them it did. So much so that the upcoming fall season looks bland.

Deeply, deeply bland.

I think I need a nap bland.

I haven't seen any of the shows promised by the Big Four networks this season, but just reading about them has vastly helped with my insomnia issues.

Yawn.

The cable networks have done a real number on broadcast television. They threw so many fabulous new shows at us this summer that viewer expectations are -- quite reasonably -- high.

After a summer of reveling in new shows like "Saving Grace," "Damages" and "Mad Men," the bar has been seriously raised.

It's too early to tell, but it looks like the folks at the Big Four are content to scuttle in way under that bar. So far under that you might need a microscope to see their spindly little legs.

They've even managed to temper my adoration for Hugh Jackman. That's pretty serious.

Sure, the broadcast channels have their returning banner shows -- "Brothers & Sisters," "House," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Office," "30 Rock," etc. But the new 2007 shows sound like a big batch of blah.

Even the one show that TV critics really like, "Pushing Daisies," sounds kind of dopey to this television fan: pie maker brings people back to life with a single touch so they can tell investigators who killed them. Sounds kind of like the mysteries get solved pretty easily, doesn't it? There must be more to it, but I'm having a hard time caring.

I'll likely give "Back to You" a shot since it stars Kelsey Grammer. But the sitcom, about a TV anchorman who ends up back at his old station paired with a former nemesis, also stars Patricia Heaton. I got so sick of her name being called every year at Emmy time for "Everybody Loves Raymond," I can barely type it.

Grammer aside, even the casting of actors I generally like isn't sparking much interest this season. I rarely miss a Jimmy Smits show, but "Cane" sounds kind of ... what was that word? ... um, bland.

Smits plays the heir to a sugar cane and rum fortune, kind of a Cuban "Dynasty" deal that sounds fairly smarmy.

And then there's "Viva Laughlin." Oh, dear.

Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.

The notes on CBS.com say the show -- produced by the aforementioned Jackman, who also has a recurring role -- "chronicles the story of Ripley Holden, a man who wrestles personally and professionally to open a casino in the desert city of Laughlin, Nevada. Against all odds, Ripley strives to support his family while pursuing his ultimate goal ... the American dream."

Oh, and there's a murder.

Now if that doesn't sound silly enough for you, I have good news: It gets worse.

It's a musical.

Not set to music. A musical.

The characters break into song, a la a Broadway show.

The thing about this one is that, since Jackman is in it (plus Melanie Don't-Look-At- Those-Knees Griffith) I'm just curious enough to tune in to see the train wreck in action.

I mean, you kind of have to look, don't you? Just so you can say you did.

Well, that applies to "Viva," anyway. That other train wreck over on ABC? The one with the cavemen? That one I'll be quite happy to let pass with nary a glance.

Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at pclark@modbee.com.

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