NEW YORK - What can you say about a fall TV season most distinguished by the leap to prime-time by Jay Leno?
Not exactly a fresh face after 17 years as host of ''The Tonight Show,'' Leno has the most-anticipated, most talked-about new show on the networks' fall slate. Well, at least anticipated and talked about within the media sphere, where speculation rages over whether NBC can get away with stripping a talk-comedy hour every weeknight - instead of more ambitious, pricey episodic fare - in those five prime-time hours.
Meanwhile, what kind of advantage, if any, will NBC rivals enjoy going up against ''The Jay Leno Show'' with their sex-crime-blood-and-guts dramas, including newcomers ''The Good Wife'' on CBS and ABC's ''Eastwick'' and ''The Forgotten''?
The Associated Press
Courteney Cox (left, with Busy Philipps) stars in the new ABC?comedy “Cougar Town,” which premieres at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 23. It’s Cox’s second try at a new series since “Friends” went off the air.
Once upon a time, the fall TV rollout was as eagerly awaited by Americans as those shiny new Ford and Chevy models unveiled in dealer showrooms. But motorists know this is the season of Cash for Clunkers. Maybe viewers suspect that, in the new age of digital media, a fall TV season is terribly, um, analog.
Maybe network bosses dream of a simpler, more robust time before the PC became the new TV. In any case, they seem backward-looking this fall.
The CW is reviving ''Melrose Place,'' which premieres Tuesday, is the first Fall '09 show out of the gate.
Among the broadcast networks' 21 fall series, here are 10 whose debut episodes just might whet your appetite for a second round:
n ''Melrose Place'' (CW, premieres Tuesday). Here's romance, glamour, naughtiness, mystery and (of course) Spanish-modern architecture in trendy L.A. It's a smart-but-not-too-smart re-imagining of the original 1990s soap.
n ''Glee'' (Fox, Wednesday). Maybe you already saw the pilot (which Fox first aired last spring). A musical comedy about a struggling high school glee club, it was pitch-perfect. The series picks up Sept. 9 with the second episode.
n ''Community'' (NBC, Sept. 17). No disrespect meant to community colleges, but this one is an ideal backwater for goof balls, schemers and slackers. Sharp writing and a classy ensemble earn the very funny pilot an A-plus.
n ''The Good Wife'' (CBS, Sept. 22). Julianna Margulies has never been better as a wife and mother forced to pick up her long-dormant career as an attorney and return to work in a pressure-cooker law firm after her politician hubby lands himself in jail.
n ''Mercy'' (NBC, Sept. 23). A skilled, outspoken nurse, Veronica Callahan is back at New Jersey's Mercy Hospital after a tour in Iraq, with more personal problems than when she left.
n ''Modern Family'' (ABC, Sept. 23). A lively half-hour boasting interlocked tales of three disparate families and a full-to-bursting ensemble (including Ed O'Neill, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara).
n ''Cougar Town'' (ABC, Sept. 23). This comedy about a 40-year-old divorced mom (Courteney Cox) is both riotous and strangely true-to-life as it depicts youth obsession, and how the no-longer-quite-young grapple with it.
n ''FlashForward'' (ABC, Sept. 24). It happens to everyone on Earth, including all the characters who populate this eerie thriller: They black out for two minutes, during which they see visions of their future as they might live it on a certain day next April.
n ''Brothers'' (Fox, Sept. 25). Two brothers (played by Michael Strahan and Daryl ''Chill'' Mitchell) who, in adulthood, squabble as they did when they were boys, plus their parents, all living under the same roof.
n ''Trauma'' (NBC, Sept. 28). The first-responder paramedics from San Francisco City Hospital are a trauma team who, in various ways, are themselves traumatized, both on and off the job.
There will also be spinoffs of current series, including ''NCIS: Los Angeles,'' starring Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J, and Fox's animated ''Cleveland Show'' following longtime pal Cleveland Brown from the ''Family Guy'' fold.
Other new shows just feel like spinoffs, thanks to their ritualistic familiarity.
NBC's ''Trauma'' blends action and medicine to tell the wild-and-woolly story of first-responder paramedics in San Francisco - a sort of al fresco ''ER.'' Also on NBC, ''Mercy'' is a hospital drama told from the nurses' point of view (think Showtime's recent ''Nurse Jackie,'' plus a dash of TNT's ''Hawthorne'').
One of the most promising fall series is CBS' ''The Good Wife.'' It stars Julianna Margulies as a wife and mother forced to resume her long-ago career as an attorney in the wake of betrayal when her politician hubby (Chris Noth) is jailed for corruption and philandering.
The fall's funniest pilot is ''Community,'' a sort of classroom version of companion NBC comedy ''The Office.'' Here, a variety of losers (played by Chevy Chase and Joel McHale, among others) enroll at a second-rate community college for any number of reasons, none of them connected with higher education.
What else does the future hold for viewers this fall?
Familiar stars from past sitcoms will be starring in new sitcoms.
Patricia Heaton (late of ''Everybody Loves Raymond'') stars in ''The Middle"; Kelsey Grammer (who after ''Frasier'' co-starred with Heaton on the short-lived ''Back to You'') is back, on ''Hank''; Courteney Cox returns to comedy in ''Cougar Town''; and former ''Dharma & Greg'' star Jenna Elfman leads CBS' ''Accidentally on Purpose.''
Can broadcast networks launch ANY kind of solid, sustainable hit anymore in the scripted realm?
Observers of the TV scene forlornly wait for a new game-changing hit such as ''Lost'' or ''Desperate Housewives'' five long years ago. In the meantime, NBC is striking its own blow for the future of prime-time: repurposing Jay Leno.