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RICK KUSHMAN: The fall lineup and spring wrap-up

The broadcast networks have been announcing their fall lineups all week, and with most of the attention focused on the new shows, some of the smaller details may be going unnoticed.

Well, we live for the small stuff around here. There's no point too insignificant or trivial for me. So here's a little of that.

CBS put the final nail in the we're-not-doing-mystery-serials coffin by canceling "Jericho." The move was directly related to the steadily dropping ratings, but that ratings drop came from a larger problem: the trouble that CBS, just like all the other networks, had with managing continuing story lines.Click Me!

Rather than mixing in repeats, which interrupts a show's flow and ticks off viewers, CBS tried to announce a "fall finale" in November and the start of a new spring run in February.

The result? It interrupted flow and irritated viewers. See, running a TV network is not as easy at looks. Pays well, though.

I'm declaring my new favorite low-profile series, sight unseen. It's NBC's "Life," about a cop who spent years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and now he's back on the force.

It's an intriguing premise, actually, but that's not why I'm an instant fan. It's because it stars Damian Lewis, the squad leader in HBO's "Band of Brothers," a good guy and a great actor.

NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly compared him to Hugh Laurie of Fox's "House" and called him charming, funny and the "kind of guy who can just bring it all together."

All that's good. More fun is that, like Laurie, Lewis is British, yet he sounds better speaking Americanized English than most of us do. And he's just always watchable. (Now I hope the script is good.)

Fox renewed "24" for two more seasons, both of them with star Kiefer Sutherland. The "24" producers had talked about major changes to the show and hinted that those could include a format change -- one possibility was that each episode, rather than the season, would cover one full day -- or even going on without Sutherland.

But this week Fox said it's still agent Jack Bauer's game, and he's still playing it in real time (give or take actual Los Angeles driving times), where each episode is one hour, each season is one traumatic day, and CTU will have another half-dozen leadership changes and break-ins.

Fox also has the most can't-miss- sounding comedy, based on the cast. Except in comedy, and particularly TV comedy, there's no such thing as can't-miss.

Still, Fox's new show "Action News" is about TV journalists and it stars Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and Fred Willard. If there is any funny in the show, these people will find it.

The new series getting the best insider buzz -- and there is no way to overstate how misleading that can be; "Joey," for instance, had great insider buzz -- is an ABC drama called "Pushing Daisies."

ABC has all kinds of descriptions for it, but the best is that it's a "forensics fairy tale." It's about a man (Lee Pace) who can bring dead people back to life by touching them, and he uses the talent to solve murders.

Along the way, he brings back his childhood sweetheart, but if he touches her again, she's back to dead, and this time for good. ABC says the tone is like nothing on TV, and it's got heart, romance, fantasy and, of course, crime-solving. The only TV genre missing from the show seems to be the Western, unless at some point Pace brings back a cowboy.

If NBC decides not to renew "The Apprentice," producer Mark Burnett is saying, he'll shop the show to other networks, because, apparently, everyone is looking for the chance to work with Donald Trump on a low-rated series.

NBC's Reilly told reporters that he's still interested, but you have to know they are haggling over how much NBC will reduce its payout for the show.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to be Trump and bluster. After spending the season calling the sagging "Apprentice" the No. 1 show on TV -- it averaged about 7.5 million viewers and didn't make the top 50 -- he told the New York Daily News this week that it's "one of the most successful shows ever on television." Wouldn't that make you nervous buying real estate from this guy?

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A heads-up for fans of "The Simpsons," one of the best shows ever on television, right up there with anything from Donald Trump.

Seriously, "The Simpsons" is a first-ballot hall of fame show, and for so long it was the gold standard for ironic social commentary and for laughs. It's in its 18th season, and -- speaking as a loyal devotee -- though its humor is now sometimes painfully clunky and obvious, it's still worth noting that the show will hit episode No. 400 on Sunday.

That will be the second episode of the evening (at 8 and 8:30 on Channel 40), and it does have a couple golden moments amid the clunky.

There is even better news, which is that the buzz on "The Simpsons Movie" coming this summer is that the feature film will be back to the form of the good old days.

* * *

Speaking of hall of famers, CBS tonight (at 7 on Channel 13) airs "That's the Way It Is: Celebrating Cronkite at 90," a look back at the career and life of the masterful Walter Cronkite.

The hour special talks with all the usual news folk, but also includes some good friends, including Robin Williams, George Clooney and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Turns out, Cronkite is a late-in-life Deadhead.

* * *

There is still time to get on the "Heroes" bandwagon before the season finale Monday night. Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sci Fi Channel will run all 21 episodes of the show in a single, mind-expanding marathon.

No one is saying it, but rumblings from some mysterious geneticists imply that anyone who watches all 21 hours straight could develop a super power of their own. Or a phenomenal headache.


That's the Way it is: Celebrating Cronkite at 90

7 p.m. Friday on 13

Heros 21-hour marathon

9 a.m. Saturday on SciFi

The Simpsons