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'A' stands for ambitious on ABC this fall

It is about to lose "Lost," but ABC hardly is losing its drive to find the next big series.

"I think we have to remain ambitious," ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson told critics this summer. "I think we have only succeeded when we've been ambitious and taken chances and really pushed the limits."

The good news is that ABC not only has the most new programs, but also some of the best new programs.

"V," 8 p.m. Tuesday, starting Nov. 3: Great-looking aliens led by a beauty named Anna (Morena Baccarin) arrive in 29 cities around the world claiming to spread peace and technology, which wouldn't lead to much drama. Cast includes Elizabeth Mitchell ("Lost") as a cynical FBI agent and single mom of a difficult teenager and Scott Wolf as an easily co-opted TV newsman.

You'll Like It If: You're a fan of science-fiction shows that send messages about the dangers of being devoted to causes without knowing much about them.

You'll Hate It If: Sci-fi isn't your thing, especially when the idea has been done before.

Outlook: The pilot takes a while to get off the ground, primarily because it introduces so many characters. But it has some terrific twists and some timely messages about politics, journalism and religion. Rating: 3 and a half stars (out of 4).

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"the forgotten," 10 tonight: Christian Slater plays a damaged leader of a volunteer citizens group that solves crimes involving dead people who narrate from the grave.

You'll Like It If: You miss CBS' "Without a Trace," which was canceled.

You'll Hate It If: You only liked "Trace" because the heroes saved people from death.

Outlook: It is one of ABC's most routine and forgettable new shows. 2 stars

*

"Hank," 8 p.m. Wednesday: Kelsey Grammer plays the former CEO of a sporting goods company who has lost his fortune and has to move his family from New York City to a small Virginia town to reconnect with his wife Tilly (Melinda McGraw) and two children. His clueless brother-in-law makes Hank feel more worthless than he already feels.

You'll Like It If: You're a Grammer fan and long for a sitcom to watch with your kids.

You'll Hate It If: You don't think unemployment is much to laugh about.

Outlook: It's hard to cheer this sitcom, which seems older than the house the family has moved into. Grammer deserves a much better job than this one. Rating: 1 and half stars

*

"The Middle," 8:30 Wednesday: Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") plays a middle class, stressed-out wife, mother and car salesman in middle America (Indiana) with a dryly supportive husband (Neil Flynn of "Scrubs") and three kids. The youngest is a strange, smart boy named Brick who gets into a lot of trouble and thinks of mom as a superhero.

You'll Like It If: You're a fan of Heaton, miss the sarcastic tone of "Roseanne" and "Malcolm in the Middle" and don't expect too rosy a picture of family life.

You'll Hate It If: You expect something original.

Outlook: I'm kind of down the middle on this one. It's cute but not very funny and the pilot seems to say it all. 2 and a half stars

*

"Modern Family," 9 p.m. Wednesday: A traditional married couple, a gay couple and a couple with a wide age difference deal with stereotypes and parenting issues in a series shot in documentary style. It stars Ed O'Neill ("Married with Children") and Julie Bowen ("Boston Legal") and several others with less recognizable names.

You'll Like It If: You're a fan of dry comedy, mistaken identity comedy and occasional politically incorrect, stereotypical jokes.

You'll Hate If: You've seen enough precocious children to last a lifetime and don't like to be preached to about how families come in all different shapes and colors.

Outlook: The season's best new comedy, there are moments that are laugh out-loud funny. O'Neill supplies most of them as the old guy married to a hot Hispanic woman. 4 stars

*

"Cougar Town," 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays: Courteney Cox ("Friends") stars as Jules, a divorced mother and real estate agent with a deadbeat ex-husband and an easily embarrassed son. She looks at herself in the mirror and reluctantly decides a handsome divorced male neighbor (Josh Hopkins of "Swingtown") shouldn't be the only one having hot sex with much younger partners.

You'll Like It If: You're a fan of Cox, enjoy a steady diet of sex talk and wish broadcast television would become more like HBO.

You'll Hate It If: You don't find the jokes about sex, condoms and genitals appropriate.

Outlook: Cox looks great in her underwear in this broad, occasionally funny, oversexed comedy. She may look too good for normal fortysomething women to sympathize with or relate to. But sex sells so this newest series from Bill Lawrence ("Scrubs," "Spin City") probably won't be only a one-night stand. 2 and a half stars

*

"Eastwick," 10 p.m. Wednesday: Rebecca Romijn is the dreamer, Lindsay Price is the milquetoast, awkward journalist and Jamie Ray Newman is a nurse and an abused wife. They becomes friends in a New England town after a mysterious rich man (Paul Gross of "Due South") arrives to remake the town and their personalities.

You'll Like It If: You love looking at great looking, sympathetic women, pretty scenery and hearing a lot of talk about sex, breasts and yeast infections. Gee, do I spot a trend at ABC?

You'll Hate It If: You're not a fan of painting most men as evil, abusive and classless and quickly tire of jokes about female body parts.

Outlook: There isn't much magical about the pilot. 2 stars

*

"FlashForward," 8 p.m. Thursday: Joseph Fiennes plays a recovering alcoholic and FBI agent married to a beautiful surgeon (Sonya Walger) when his world -- and the entire world -- is put in turmoil because of a worldwide blackout that lasts 2 minutes and 17 seconds. Many people see visions six months into the future that are clues to what in the world happened and what might happen to them. John Cho ("Star Trek") and Courtney B. Vance also star.

You'll Like It If: You like stylishly done, suspenseful shows that look like a movie.

You'll Hate It If: You want things to instantly make sense and to be able to keep track of all the actors in a fast-moving pilot.

Outlook: Remember "The Nine," the stylishly done series about people whose lives were changed after being kidnap victims in a bank robbery? Didn't think so. Like "The Nine," "FlashForward" may have been better as a movie. The early time period won't help it. Enjoy it while it lasts -- whether it is six months or six years. 3 and a half stars

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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