In Life Is Wild (Sunday, 7 p.m., CW), a New York veterinarian (Brett Cullen) moves his blended family to South Africa so he can fulfill his dream of healing every animal in the world. It's intended as a wholesome series for kids and parents - a respite from TV's pervasive violence. In other words, a lion won't rip off anybody's arm in gruesome close-up.
The pilot's first half sets up conflicts that will be resolved down the road. For example, the teenage daughter (Leah Pipes) feels out of place in Africa, obsesses on her dead mother, misses her loutish boyfriend back home and hates her moody stepbrother. These are a season's worth of subplots, but damned if Life Is Wild doesn't wrap them all up by the end of the episode. The daughter ends up loving Africa, putting her mother's death in perspective, cutting ties with her boyfriend and reconciling with her stepbrother.
So what's left for episode two? A lion may have to rip off somebody's arm after all, just to fill up the hour.
Friday, 8 pm (CBS)
Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin) is a heckuva vampire. He's not out to hurt humans, but to help them. He works as a private investigator, intent on serving justice. He buys his blood from a dealer so as not to be tempted by delicious-looking necks.
O'Loughlin pulls off this potentially ridiculous role. He's mysterious and tragic while adding enough humor to keep Moonlight from taking itself too seriously. And he looks fabulous, especially for someone who's been undead for 60 years.
The series' weak spot is Beth (Sophia Myles), the vampire's human love interest. She's a dogged Internet reporter who's just gotta get the story, even if it means putting herself in grave danger. In other words, she's a lightly updated version of Lois Lane, a damsel in distress who can launch a thousand plot points. Beth does stupid things like going undercover in secluded spots with suspected killers, all the better for St. John to swoop in and save her.
Who'd have thought the vampire would be Moonlight's realistic character and the human its phony one?
Tuesday, 7 pm (ABC)
In this new comedy, based on the GEICO commercials, cavemen have survived into the present day. They're just like you and me except for the way they look: low foreheads, stringy hair, broad noses. They're a racial minority, sensitive to unequal treatment. That bodes ill for Joel (Bill English), a well-meaning caveman marrying into the country-club set.
The sitcom certainly has novelty value. It's fun to watch the allegory play out, at least for a while. The cavemen object to media stereotypes, typified by The Flintstones. And Joel's friend Nick (Nick Kroll) is an amusing creation, with his self-satisfied cynicism about mainstream prejudice.
But it's hard to believe Cavemen can sustain its one-joke premise. And the old-fashioned punchlines were probably stale even in the Cretaceous period.
Tuesday, 7:30 pm (ABC)
Four men carpool together: a macho dentist (Jerry O'Connell), an insecure family therapist (Fred Goss), a beleaguered businessman (Jerry Minor) and an overeager new guy (Tim Peper). They discuss their problems on the drive to work, offering each other advice.
The advice is absurd, as is everything about Carpoolers. This new comedy is full of bizarre touches, most of which work. The insecure family therapist, for example, frets about his wife making more money than he does. She's a superhuman real estate type who can flip a house three times in the course of an evening.
Carpoolers has loads of promise. I hope it doesn't run out of gas.
Tuesday, 9 pm (CBS)
This new series is a turgid soap opera about a Cuban American family business specializing in rum. You've got the wise old patriarch (Hector Elizondo) who built the business with the sweat of his brow. You've got the bad son (Nestor Carbonell) and the good son (Jimmy Smits) battling for control of the company. You've got the evil rivals trying to destroy the family. You've got the female characters slotted into their traditional roles: helpmeet or slut.
What you don't have are wit, verve or originality. The only way to get through an episode of Cane is with a stiff glass of rum.
Wednesday, 9 pm (NBC)
A cop named Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) was framed for murder and spent seven years in the penitentiary. After being exonerated, he returns to detective work with a new attitude and a new lease on life.
There's not much to distinguish Life from other cop shows. Charlie butts heads with his partner (Sarah Shahi) and cunningly solves crimes - so what else is new? About all he's got going for him is the Zen philosophy he picked up in the prison library. That means you can expect pearls of wisdom in the middle of every investigation: "There is no future and no past, just now."
I suspect Charlie is at least partly right: There is no future for Life.