12 Burning TV Questions Answered (Kind Of)

 Robert Zuckerman/FX

THR's chief TV critic weighs in on the turmoil in television -- big bets on expensive shows, networks struggling to right themselves and risky new leads taking over aging hits.

Will Terra Nova and The X Factor deliver for Fox?

These are big, big shows. The bet here is that Terra Nova will underperform but not fail, while X Factor might even exceed what Fox is expecting. Of course, if they both fail, there will be high-level job openings galore.

Will Ashton Kutcher save Two and a Half Men?

A lot of eyes will be on him. Of course, most of those eyes watched the show in the first place and still laughed, so it's not like standards are very high. The show's Sept. 19 premiere lured nearly 28 million viewers.

Will FX's American Horror Story be the most-talked-about fall series, and will it live up to the hype?

I thought Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's pilot was a gigantic, assaultive mess, but I eagerly await the next couple of installments to see if they can fix the confusing insanity. Here's a wild guess: The premiere breaks FX's ratings records, but the drop rate after that is precipitous.

 Will AMC wobble any more?

Season two of The Walking Dead will be the starting point for those seeking clues. The guess here is that Walking Dead, despite working on a tighter budget, will do just fine and is in good hands even with showrunner Glen Mazzara stepping in for the fired Frank Darabont. But Mad Men fans have a long wait until its return, the pilot for the new Western series Hell on Wheels (Nov. 6) isn't very good, and fallout from The Killing's unsatisfying season finale is likely to linger. If Killing executive producer Veena Sud can't fix her plotting mistakes in season two, a larger viewer mutiny will be at hand -- and AMC will be left in panic mode.

Will the faux Mad Men-inspired nostalgia of The Playboy Club and Pan Am mesmerize a mainstream audience?

Guess: No. But the overt sexism, even if it was inherent during that era, will likely turn off female viewers (who won't buy the "empowerment" nonsense). If they avoid it in droves, these shows are dead.

Will new entertainment president Bob Greenblatt turn the Good Ship Cinder Block at NBC around?

Everybody knows the challenge in front of him, so the bar is rightfully low. I'm predicting he delivers much better than expected, though more work awaits.

Will Desperate Housewives go out with a bang after eight seasons?

And, perhaps even more important, will creator Marc Cherry's decision to pull the plug on the series be adopted by other showrunners on veteran dramas? Will they realize that the time has come to move on? Our eyes are on Grey's Anatomy, CSI: Anything, the Law & Order franchise and sundry CW shows.

Nevermind Kutcher; how will Ted Danson do on CSI and James Spader on The Office?

Guess: Well and not so well. Danson has always been intriguing as a dramatic actor, something he's been fine-tuning in recent years. While Spader can do funny, it might be less about him and more about Office just seeming played out, no matter who's the boss.

What will happen to the graduating class of stars on Glee, and will anyone care?

Or will there just be a spinoff? Or do they all become townies who hang around near the school?

Will there be bigger hits in midseason than in fall?

There certainly seems to be more excitement (especially from critics and, if you pressed them to reveal the truth, probably from network execs) about what's to come from January onward with such shows as NBC's Smash and Awake and Fox's Alcatraz.

Will the programming experiment of the season -- CBS moving the comedy Rules of Engagement to Saturday (yes, Saturday, TV's graveyard) -- reinvigorate the night for scripted shows?

Guess: No. But it's a valiant effort.

Will people stay away from Prime Suspect if they were fans of the original?

They shouldn't. It doesn't share any noticeable DNA with the original. About the only familiar trait is that, in the pilot, the sexism is painted on pretty thick -- sexism being one of the main things from which the original Jane Tennison suffered. But the producers have said they are going to backtrack on that -- it's less of an issue, but not extinct, in the current age. While it was a little disconcerting to hear them dismiss the content of the original series as dated, especially when the new one is really just a procedural that breaks no ground, there's a very strong reason to watch the new version: Maria Bello.

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