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Fall TV early market outlook: bulls, bears, bores

Watching the new fall TV schedule is like playing the stock market: It's all about expectations.

So three weeks after the launch of most freshman and returning shows, it's time to check to see how our investments -- our time investments, that is -- are doing. What goes, what stays, what is on notice?

Sure, some may say three weeks is too soon to make such a dramatic decision when it comes to our future couch time. But I say it's never too early to get an hour of your life back.

So sell high and buy low. As in sell off the high-expectation disappointments and add on the low-expectation surprises.

Let's look at the old portfolio and weigh our options.

MONDAY:

So, I never did catch "Chuck" (NBC). I don't know why, but Monday seems too early in the week to make a serious TV commitment. And while I'm still hearing good things about the computer geek/superspy action-comedy, I'm just not feeling the concept.

If I want to watch a kinda sexy, kinda techie, kinda campy espionage thriller, I'll just flip over to a James Bond marathon -- the Sean Connery years, of course.

TUESDAY:

"Bones" and "House," "House and "Bones" (Fox). Two great things that go great together. The combination of good chemistry, smart writing and likable characters (OK, in the case of House, "likable" isn't really the right word) makes this a winning one-two combination.

Not having to pick up the remote for two hours makes it that much sweeter. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch. Trust me, that's not something you hear me say every day.

WEDNESDAY:

Wow, this is going to take some time, so settle in. The programming Wednesday typifies hump day. One show is on the rise (NBC's "Life"), another show at the top (ABC's "Pushing Daisies") and a final show on the decline (NBC's "Bionic Woman"). This is also a perfect example of why expectations matter.

First, the new show I was most looking forward to, the "Bionic Woman" remake. I had hoped against hope that this would be the show to finally fill by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" void with a tough, smart, sassy heroine. Alas, what I got was a promising première, a terrible second episode and a tonally challenged third offering.

What, exactly, is wrong here? Bad writing meets underwhelming casting. Too many clunky lines, not enough great zingers and way too much clichéd action exposition.

And while British actress Michelle Ryan looks the part, she has yet to show the kind of charisma that would make her the iconic figure she should be. Also, it doesn't help that every time her bionic nemesis, Katee Sackhoff, appears, she blows Ryan off the screen, both figuratively and sometimes literally. They fight a lot.

Moving on to "Life." I had negative expectations for this oddball cop drama.

A police officer gets wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison, only to have his conviction overturned years later and upon his release rejoins the force as a detective with the secret motive of finding his framers?

See what I was saying about low expectations? But, it has turned out to be surprisingly solid and entertaining. Who'd a thunk it?

Finally, the fantastical "Pushing Daisies." This show makes me happy to own a television. It's fun and weird and romantic and unexpected and weird some more.

It's like Dr. Seuss meets Sherlock Holmes meets Tim Burton meets David Lynch. And every now and then, a character breaks into song. It's safe to say there is nothing else like it on television right now, and that is a very good thing.

THURSDAY:

My most challenging viewing day, with four shows to watch within the 8-9 p.m. hour, has proved worth the scheduling hassle.

"My Name is Earl" (NBC) is just big dopey fun, per usual. "30 Rock" (NBC) is now my favorite show on television, period. "Ugly Betty" is a tad underwhelming but should hit its stride again after the fear of the sophomore year jinx wears off. And, finally, "CSI" (CBS) didn't kill off Sara Sidle, so it's still solid in my book.

Geez, from all that, you'd think all I ever did was sit and watch TV. But I do other things, really. Sometimes I stand and watch TV.

Since Sunday's "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and Friday's "Women's Murder Club" have yet to première, those days get a pass for now. Plus, I don't watch prime time on Saturday. Shocking, I know.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

Hear great jazz by aspiring artists as the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet comes to play Modesto's Barkin' Dog Grill.

The group is made of Brubeck Fellows, students on full scholarship at the University of the Pacific Brubeck Institute. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.; cover is $10. Call 572-2341. ...

This weekend, Los Banos closes out its centennial celebration with the Henry Miller Wild West Weekend.

The Los Banos Chamber of Commerce event runs today through Sunday and features the Cowboy Fast Draw Association California State Championship, live music by Terry Brown, rope tricks from Hilda Machado and other family activities.

The cowboy-themed weekend also will have a costume contest, re-enactments and souvenir and food booths. Admission is $2 per person, $5 per family. Call 509-6399. ...

Get your Chuckles, Chow and Chocolate on Saturday at a benefit for the Alzheimer's Aid Society of Northern California.

The event will feature wine and chocolate appetizers, followed by lunch and performances by comedians Steven B. and Lee Belshim. The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Modesto's Greek Orthodox Church. Tickets are $25. Visit alzheimersaidsociety.org or call 238-0538. ...

Kids and kids at heart should check out magician Devin Reynolds at the West Side Theatre.

The performer does magic and comedy "with a twist." Reynolds has performed across the country and even opened for the theater rock act The Tubes. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14-$14. Call 862-4490. ...

And finally, check out Portland-based indie folk act Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights tonight at the Queen Bean. The show starts at 8 p.m. No cover. Call 521-8000.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284. Read her blog SceneIt at thehive.modbee.com/sceneit.

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