Coupling: Chris Haston
Liane Bonin
October 25, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Which fall series will get the ax first?

New fall TV season, we hardly knew ye. Even though fresh-faced shows like ”Rock Me Baby” and ”Threat Matrix” debuted just a few short weeks ago, it’s already time for network suits to pluck the ratings-challenged from the schedule. We asked four of Entertainment Weekly’s TV staffers — critics Carina Chocano and Bruce Fretts, editor Henry Goldblatt, and senior writer Lynette Rice — for their analysis of which shows will most likely join the list of the DOA (yes, we’re talking to you, just-canceled ”Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.”), and we give their odds on each series’ demise.

SHOW ”Coupling” (NBC, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.)
WHAT IT IS Six attractive young ”Friends” hang out with one another, date one another…. Wait, isn’t this some other Must-See TV show?
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING The sitcom, based on a British series that was itself inspired by ”Friends,” seems familiar in the worst possible way. Though NBC promised something racier than ”Friends,” the sex talk is a yawn. Even worse, the series goes head to head with CBS’ monster morgue hit ”C.S.I.” When the audience would rather watch dead bodies than hot singles talking about sex, you know it’s time to sign off. (The show is currently on a short hiatus — not a good sign for its future.)
CHOCANO VERDICT ”Contrived euphemisms for sex! And, uh, more contrived euphemisms for sex.”
FRETTS VERDICT ”The cast isn’t very appealing. With the exception of Rena Sofer, they come off as obnoxious and self-involved.”

SHOW ”Luis” (Fox, Fridays at 8:30 p.m.)
WHAT IT IS Donut-shop owner and landlord Luis (Luis Guzman) bickers with tenants, his ex-wife, and his daughter in Spanish Harlem.
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING Everyone loves Guzman (”Traffic,” ”Boogie Nights”). But the stereotypical banter has put audiences on the offensive. So . . . adios, ”Luis.”
GOLDBLATT VERDICT ”The show is just not funny. They’re trying to create the Puerto Rican Archie Bunker, and it’s not working.”
RICE VERDICT ”He’s a character actor who can shine as the second or third lead in a movie, but he isn’t the best candidate to headline his own comedy series.”

SHOW ”The Mullets” (UPN, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.)
WHAT IT IS This sitcom about two heinously coifed brothers (Michael Weaver and Dennis Hornsby) who butt heads with their fussy game show host stepfather (John O’Hurley) won points with critics for its goofy lowbrow premise, but audiences must have been having a bad hair day.
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING Not only are the hair-don’t jokes getting old fast, the UPN may have overestimated its target audience’s ability to laugh at itself. (The show is on hiatus until December, according to studio sources.)
FRETTS VERDICT ”The network thought this would appeal to the wrestling crowd, but the show actually makes fun of the people who watch wrestling.”
GOLDBLATT VERDICT ”From the pilot, it wasn’t clear whether you were supposed to laugh along with them or laugh at them.”

SHOW ”Rock Me Baby” (UPN, Tuesdays 9 p.m.)
WHAT IT IS A show about a radio shock jock (Dan Cortese) who struggles to balance a new baby with his tough-guy act has been too soft for the Howard Stern crowd, and not funny enough for anyone else.
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING Cortese, who started his career as a buff MTV personality and slogged through three years of ”Veronica’s Closet,” may be hunky enough for a wall calendar but that doesn’t make his clumsy way with a punchline any easier to watch.
GOLDBLATT VERDICT”Cortese has had a lot of chances to prove himself, but he’s been unlikable in everything he’s been in.”
RICE VERDICT ”The only way UPN or even the WB can compete is to offer something completely different. And this show is just formulaic and predictable.”

SHOW ”Threat Matrix” (ABC, Thursdays at 8 p.m.)
WHAT IT IS A too-serious drama about an elite task force (led by ”Melrose Place” alum Kelly Rutherford and James Denton) dedicated to Homeland Security, the show’s real-life tales of Al Qaeda operatives and snipers have made viewers run for cover.
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING Though it comes across as an anonymous action drama, the real ratings annihilator isn’t bland writing and acting but the tough-as-terrorists competition: NBC’s ”Friends” and CBS’ ”Survivor.” However, there’s still a glimmer of hope for the threatened ”Matrix”: ABC is rerunning episodes on Monday nights.
RICE VERDICT ”After 9/11, people don’t necessarily want to see the world in peril when they’re dealing with that every day in real life. There’s nothing dynamic about the cast, either.”
CHOCANO VERDICT ”Oh, so THAT’S where all the weapons of mass destruction went!”

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