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THE SCREEN SCENE

In the typical teenager's world of homework, studying, after-school sports and more homework, watching an enjoyable TV show can be a welcome escape. But with so many stations and so many shows, where do you even start? And, with established shows, isn't it hard to catch on in the middle? Here is NeXt's handy-dandy guide to the new fall season, so now you have no excuse to get watching.

THE ROOKIES:

"Maybe It's Me"

Starring: Newcomer Reagan Dale Neis as Molly Stage, a 15-year-old with a family she wishes weren't hers.

Time and Place: Fridays, 8:30, The WB

Why You Should Watch It: "Maybe It's Me" is a lighthearted look at teenage life, and a welcome change from the melodrama of other shows about us (Dawson, I'm looking at you).The Stage family has so many characters it's almost hard to keep up. But the real stories are centered around our heroine, Molly, who recently lost her geeky braces and glasses. When her crush, the dreamy Nick Gibson, says, "you're hot," we're just as excited as she is. The diary-like voice-over only makes it seem more realistic.

Why You Shouldn't: The grandmother's habit of hiding strange food in strange places is a bit disgusting. And the pop-up graphics are reminiscent of "Clarissa Explains It All."

The Verdict: Its rather unfortunate Friday night time slot will prevent most teens from watching "Maybe It's Me," but it should gain some younger viewers who don't spend most of their Friday nights out with friends. A weeknight time slot could garner the show more ratings. Once January rolls around, Ill bet "Maybe It's Me" is on a new night.

Grade: A-

"Raising Dad"

Starring: Bob Saget as a single father and Kat Dennings and Brie Larson as his underappreciative kids.

Time and Place: Fridays, 9:30, The WB

Why You Should Watch It: It's Danny Tanner! Now with less annoying daughters! Bon Saget of "Full House" makes his triumphant return to TV with a show remarkably similar to the last one he was on. Saget plays Matt Stewart, a high school English teacher who tries too hard with his eldest daughter, Sarah, who is just embarrassed by her father. Watch it to relive the glory days if you're grounded or really bored. And instead of Uncle Joey and Uncle Jessie as our comic relief, we get Sam, Matt's father. He helps raise the girls and actually makes a few good jokes once in a while.

Why You Shouldn't: It's a lackluster, unfunny imitation of "Full House." Don't go out of your way for this one, folks.

The Verdict: This show won't last past mid-season unless some miracle happens. Hey, I know! A very special guest appearance by the Olsen Twins!

Grade: C-

"The Amazing Race"

Starring: A reality show showcasing teams of two Americans in a race around the world. The winners receive, you guessed it, $1 million.

Time and Place: Wednesdays, 9:00, CBS

Why You Should Watch It: This reality show is innovative and interesting, and doesn't involve any sexy singles looking for love. Sure, some of the teams are downright annoying, like the ultra-competitive Team Guido (Joe and Bill, the Life Partners,) but Kevin and Drew, the hilarious New Yorkers more than make up for it. If these two don't get their own show after the race is over, then there is something wrong with the world.

Why You Shouldn't: It's on at the same time as "The West Wing," another highly entertaining program. And Team Guido aren't the only annoying ones; Paul and Amie, the engaged couple, also have their moments. The race itself is too complicated and hard to catch on to.

The Verdict: Ratings have been dropping, so don't wait for next season to catch this one. The New Yorkers are priceless.

Grade: A

THE VETERANS

"Dawson's Creek"

Starring: James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson and Kerr Smith as America's most annoying collegiates.

Time and Place: Wednesdays, 8:00, The WB

Why You Should Watch It: Dawson and the gang are finally out of high school (thank God) and maybe will have a little fun without over-analyzing everything. The season premiere focused more on Joey, Jack, and Jen, and less on Dawson and Pacey, changing directions from past seasons. New characters such as Audrey, Joey's fun-loving roommate and Charlie, Jen's newest love interest, look to spice things up a bit.

Why You Shouldn't: The season premiere should have been renamed "Joey's Creek." The writers seemed to have forgotten that she was ever in love with Pacey and only focused on her relationship with soulmate Dawson. The show reached its peak during season three, when Joey and Pacey got together. It's been on a downhill trend ever since. If you've been a faithful viewer, you'll be disappointed by the show's post-Brenda "Beverly Hills 90210" slide.

The Verdict: Less Dawson, more Pacey, less melodrama, and maybe the show could be what it once was.

Grade: C

"Gilmore Girls"

Starring: Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel as mother-daughter best friends in last year's most critically acclaimed new show.

Time and Place: Tuesdays, 8, The WB

Why You Should Watch It: Gilmore Girls is like a great romantic comedy film -- only we get new episodes of it every week. The jokes are funny, the characters are likable, and there's always at least one Awwww! per episode. Lorelai (Graham), a single mother, lives in a small town in Connecticut. Her daughter, Rory (Bledel), is an extremely smart 16-year-old who goes to a fancy prep school. Lorelai can't afford the tuition, so she asks her estranged parents to foot the bill. They agree, but only if the girls eat dinner with them once a week. Complications and hilarity ensue.

Why You Shouldn't: If you don't like chick-flicks. "Gilmore Girls" is one big cheese fest. A well-made cheese fest, but a cheese fest nonetheless.

The Verdict: Complicated romances with both Lorelai and Rory will keep viewers interested in the show's second season. Let's hope they don't blow the wad and have Lorelai and Luke (the diner owner shes really meant to be with) get together too soon.

Grade: A

"Survivor Africa"

Starring: 16 castaways marooned in a barren area of Kenya.

Time and Place: Thursdays, 8, CBS

Why You Should Watch It: It's "Survivor," people! Of course it's going to be good! This year, the castaways have no river or ocean to bathe in or get their water from. All they have is a water hole. And you don't want to be left out when everyone's chatting about who got the boot on Friday morning.

Why You Shouldn't: That one show, I think it's called "Friends"? Isn't that on at the same time? Plus, there's always the allure of being different and going against the grain. You could always watch "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" instead.

The Verdict: As with the first two installments of "Survivor," "Survivor Africa" is a sure-fire hit. But as with every sequel, we appreciate the originality of the original. We know that these castaways are only on the show to become famous and rich. For the original castaways, it was merely an accident. And a huge accident in the case of Richard Hatch.

Grade: B

The choice is up to you, my friends. Don't say I didn't warn you. Just do your homework before you watch any new TV shows.

Christine Szudzik is a senior at Mount Mercy Academy.

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