This fall's network and cable line-ups are surprisingly entertaining. Now that THE PLAYBOY CLUB, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and several other duds are history, we have good range of dramatic stories to choose from. REVENGE(ABC), a sudsy melodrama that recalls camp classics like DYNASTY and FALCON CREST and is loosely based on THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, takes place in the posh environs of the Hamptons. Madeleine Stowe plays Victoria Grayson, "Queen of the Hamptons," who rules her world with an iron and sometimes dangerous hand. Ready to wreck that world is Emily Thorne, who has a secret past and plans to wreak vengeance on all those who helped frame her father as a terrorist, the Graysons being on the top of the list. The plots are often ingenious, the dialogue amusingly baroque, and the acting of the major characters so seriously dramatic that it bristles with humor. REVENGE is one of those guilty pleasures that pulls you back each week.
PRIME SUSPECT(NBC), based very loosely on the famed Helen Mirren BBC series, is a detective procedural set in New York. The expected tension between a smart and off-putting female cop working with a bunch of macho guys who sit around the office drinking scotch. So each episode she proves herself not only their equal but often their superior, which only increases the problem. Maria Bello, an actress who has lifted many a lesser movie and was especially strong in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, gives Detective Jane Tennison a gritty and believable personality.
On CBS' new crime drama PERSON OF INTEREST Michael Emerson (that weird guy on LOST) plays a brilliant billionaire scientist who has rigged a system that keeps everyone under his surveilance. But this time he's an agent for good. Once he spots a person who is in danger, he lets his enforcer (Jim Caviezel) prevent murder. It helps that Caviezel is an ex-combat soldier who knows every fighting move there is. Although this show runs the risk of being repetitive, so far it has ingeniously delivered some of the action and magic we used to love in the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE tv series.
A totally different concept inspires ABC's ONCE UPON A TIME. This show takes place in two very different worlds: the land of fairy tales and a modern town called Storyville. Unbenowst to its residents, the town is under a curse from the Queen in the Snow White tale. And it gets more complicated and entertaining with each episode as we try to figure out which world will dominate in this witty battle between good and evil.
But the most dramatically engrossing drama is on cable's SHOWTIME. Claire Danes stars as a brilliant but unstable CIA agent who is determine to out former Iraq prisoner of being a terrorist turncoat. This cat and mouse game involves the man's family's problems after seven years of separation and Danes' intense mood swings. The writing is sharp but the actors are even sharper, and the show is full of suspense and surprises. But be warned: this is Showtime, so there's plenty of sex and violence, some of it actually pertinent to the plot.