Tonight’s TV premieres a mixed bag

Posted Sept. 19, 2010, at 7:50 p.m.

On the first full night of fall TV premieres, the series making their debuts have a range of quality.

The best of the bunch is the re-imagining of “Hawaii Five-O,” airing at 10 p.m. on CBS. This version is the creation of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, which revived the “Star Trek” movie franchise in 2009. Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin, “Midnight”) is a native and a decorated Naval officer. Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan) is a single dad who followed his ex-wife and daughter to Hawaii. Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim, “Lost”) is a former cop under a cloud and Kono (Grace Park, “Battlestar Galactica”) is his battling surfer-turned-cop cousin. The governor appoints this special unit to handle such modern challenges as terrorism. There’s a great chemistry between O’Loughlin and Caan, well-written dialogue, and action that flies right along. No wonder CBS gave “Hawaii Five-O” such a choice slot and shipped “CSI: Miami” off to Sunday.

Also debuting tonight on CBS is “Mike & Molly,” airing just before “Hawaii Five-O” at 9:30 p.m. This sweet comedy from Chuck Lorre focuses on cop Mike (Billy Gardell) and schoolteacher Molly (Melissa McCarthy), who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Molly gets little support from her pothead older sister Victoria (Katy Mixon) or her enabler mother Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz), who keeps telling her she’s just “big-boned.” Mike gets more help from his skinny, wisecracking partner Carl (Reno Wilson), but the Senegalese waiter at the diner is skeptical (“This isn’t much food for a man of your great girth.”) Gardell and McCarthy are wonderful together, and the show has big potential. CBS executives must have thought so too, giving “Mike & Molly” the spot behind its top-rated comedy “Two and a Half Men.”

An intriguing new drama is “Lone Star,” at 9 p.m. on Fox. From the creators of “Party of Five,” it’s about a con man attempting to go straight, while juggling two lives in separate parts of Texas. As played by newcomer James Wolk, Bob Allen is torn between the power of being married to an oil tycoon’s daughter (Adrianne Palicki) in Houston and the simplicity of dating a nursing student (Eloise Mumford) in Midland. He wants to keep living both lives, while preventing the cons of he and his father (David Keith) from crashing down around his ears. It will be interesting to follow Bob’s journey.

The most pedestrian of the lot is “Chase,” debuting at 10 on NBC, which is a shame, because this drama is about U.S. marshals who hunt down wanted fugitives. The star marshal is Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish), whose characterization seems to be “she’s a female and she can still kick butt.” Giddish is surrounded by such familiar TV faces as Cole Hauser (“K-Ville”), Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break”) and Jesse Metcalfe (“Desperate Housewives”). The squad uses psychology to get inside the fugitive’s head, which isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds. Every now and then, producer Jerry Bruckheimer misfires, and that’s the case here.

Unavailable for review was NBC’s “The Event,” at 9 p.m.

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