In The Ghost Whisperer's season premiere (Friday, 7 p.m., CBS), Jennifer Love Hewitt returns as a woman who solves supernatural mysteries by talking to spooks. Why this is best accomplished in skimpy negligees I've never known. This week, Hewitt's Melinda helps a psychologist who died in a fire along with a sexy patient. Then the psychologist comes back to life. The patient doesn't, but he can hear her ghost talking to him. Melinda can both hear and see the ghost, and she hopes to ask it who started the fire. But that won't be easy, not the way the damn thing keeps disappearing at dramatically convenient moments.
"Okay," says the skeptical psychologist. "Let's just pretend for a minute that this whole thing isn't nuts."
I tried pretending for a minute, but I only got as far as six seconds. This whole thing is nuts.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Friday, 8 pm (Cartoon Network)
George Lucas milks his Star Wars franchise in this animated series. Sadly, The Clone Wars takes its cue from the last three Star Wars films rather than the first three. It's heavy-handed and humorless, lacking the charm that made Star Wars a force (or Force) to be reckoned with in the 1970s and '80s. The characters speak in grave tones about matters of great importance - to them, not us. Yoda is trotted out for the umpteenth time to utter wise words with inverted syntax: "Tragic are these losses. But prevent more we must." You'd at least expect stunning visuals in a Lucas production, but the animated characters look like escapees from a PlayStation 1 videogame.
Stupid is The Clone Wars. Star Wars post-1983 I hate.
Friday, 8 pm (Sci Fi)
A forensic psychiatrist (Robin Dunne) investigates a routine murder that, on closer inspection, looks anything but routine. A boy with strange powers accidentally kills three people with a squishy tentacle that grows out of his body. The psychiatrist follows a trail that leads to a fantastical mansion presided over by a kindly British doctor (Amanda Tapping). It houses mermaids, flying creatures and other "abnormals" who are feared and misunderstood by regular folk.
Sci Fi's new series is a little too much like X-Men, though it can't match the movie franchise in terms of emotion or excitement. I'm going to stick with it, though, having long been a sucker for squishy tentacles.
The Ex List
Friday, 8 pm (CBS)
A psychic tells 33-year-old Bella (Elizabeth Reaser) that she must marry one of her ex-boyfriends within the year or die alone. This sends her into a frenzy of searching out her exes, despite the fact that her current boyfriend is clearly the perfect man (as you can tell by his perfect abs).
The Ex List is a screwball comedy without a screwball in sight. The cast members are so busy trying to be darling that they don't have time to be funny. Granted, that wouldn't have been possible anyway with the script on hand. Bella is made to say cutesy things to her friends, to her father, even to the bird that just pooped on her.
Along with poop, The Ex List features vomit, pubic-hair toupees and other gross-out elements that combine uneasily with the cutesiness. It doesn't take a psychic to predict that the series will be canceled long before Bella gets to the end of her list.
Little Britain USA
Sunday, 9:30 pm (HBO)
HBO picks up the BBC sketch comedy series created by stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. In this version, the two exploit the relationship between England and the U.S. "We deliberately let you win the War of Independence," the British narrator intones, "because you threatened to cry if we didn't."
That's a pretty good line, but it's one of the few. Lucas and Walliams' comedic take on the U.S. proves as crudely obvious as Tracey Ullman's was in State of the Union, her similar series on Showtime. We get egotistic astronauts, homoerotic gym buddies, gun-happy sheriffs, porn-obsessed children and lots of fat people. Are you laughing yet? If Little Britain USA doesn't get any better than this, I swear I'm going to cry.
Wednesday, 7:30 pm (CBS)
The scenario feels familiar: A slob (Jay Mohr) is recently divorced from his prissy wife (Paula Marshall), raising kids who have one character trait apiece. The script is full of non-punchlines from the lazy-sitcom-writer's handbook: "I haven't seen you this freaked out since that swan chased you at Disneyland!"
But wait. Mohr and Marshall are solid comedians, and Ed Begley Jr. adds a welcome dose of eccentricity as the ex-wife's egghead fiancé. Despite the mediocre script, I detect signs of chemistry among these actors. I haven't laughed at Gary Unmarried yet, but I expect to sometime before the end of '08.