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'Awake' arrives; 'Idol' has ties to W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Currently riding the wave of a successful "Smash" launch, NBC debuts another new drama this week: "Awake," which begins at 10 p.m. today. It's a dual-reality crime procedural wherein a detective, Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), lives in two parallel worlds after a car accident: one where his wife lived and son died and another where the reverse happened.

In the world of his son, his psychiatrist (B.D. Wong, "SVU") is confrontational, believing the other world to be a figment of Michael's imagination, and at work, he's paired with his longtime partner (Steve Harris, "The Practice"). In the world of his wife, his psychiatrist (Cherry Jones, "24") is kinder and indulges his belief that he is living in two worlds; he has also been paired with a new detective (Wilmer Valderrama, "That 70s Show").

He works different cases in each world, but, at least in the pilot, both end up intertwined in a significant way. Clues uncovered in one world spark investigative tracks that lead to findings in the other. Also, each partner shows up in both worlds, though, of course, in different roles.

If this sounds confusing, it is. "Awake" won't be a show to watch casually; the pilot will require your full attention. I was trying to watch the sneak preview and work on this column at the same time, and I had to keep rewinding because I missed something and was lost.

Judging on the pilot alone, I'm inclined to say it's not worth the effort, but I'll give it a few more episodes to decide for sure. Although it's a different sort of reality swapping, it reminds me of ABC's failed "Life on Mars," which isn't a good thing.

If it succeeds, it will be on the strength of its cast. I haven't seen much of star Jason Isaacs' work save for big projects like "The Patriot" and some of the Harry Potter movies (he's Lucius Malfoy), but I've always been impressed with him. This is no exception.

His character wears rubber bands to keep track of the world he's in: red for his wife's and green for his son's. In one scene, he wakes up with no band on, and he can't find anyone in the house. His frantic ensuing search was the most powerful scene in the pilot for me.

In the supporting cast, Wong, Jones and Harris are the standouts. Laura Allen (most recently of FX's "Terriers") was fine, if not memorable, as the wife. Valderrama wasn't as bad as I'd expected (I've never been a fan), but he and Dylan Minnette ("Saving Grace") as the son are the two weak links.

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Also premiering this week is ABC's "GCB" at 10 p.m. Sunday. The title is short for Good Christian Bit . . . -- er, I mean Belles. It's a soapy drama about a disgraced former mean girl (Leslie Bibb) who returns to the wealthy Dallas neighborhood she grew up in, where she must face the women she tormented in high school (led by Kristin Chenoweth). In all the promos, Annie Potts is a hoot as Bibb's mother, but otherwise, most of the jokes fall flat.

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Point Pleasant's Chase Likens will find out tonight whether he will move into the Top 12 on "American Idol." Called "this season's country crooner" by Ryan Seacrest, the 21-year-old sang Hunter Hayes' "Storm Warning" in the men's semifinal on Tuesday.

When it was over, Steven Tyler exclaimed, "Welcome to 'American Idol,' cowboy!" and then made a wretched pun about his looks winning over women's' hearts (I'll spare you). J. Lo also acknowledged his "movie star good looks," before adding, "But you sounded great tonight, as well." Randy, who has apparently replaced "dawg" with "dude," told him, "Dude, you got skills. You got range. You're a good-lookin' dude. What else can I say? You're ready, dude. You're ready."

Among the other contestants who will learn their fate is 15-year-old Eban Frankewitz. Although he is not from West Virginia, he has ties to the state: his mother, Stephanie Phillips Franckewitz, lived here, and he has family in the Montgomery area.

Eban sang Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," which Randy said wasn't perfect but that he "brought it home at the end." J. Lo called him adorable, and Steven's conclusion was, "All in all, it was pretty good." His performance also earned him some less desirable feedback: he's the season's first contestant championed by the snarky website Vote for the Worst.

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Earlier this week, "Dancing with the Stars" announced the cast for its 14th season. It returns March 19 with one legitimate star (Gladys Knight), several people you've probably heard of and some you probably haven't.

Besides the Empress of Soul, the cast includes actors Jaleel White (aka Urkel), Melissa Gilbert ("Little House on the Prairie"), Jack Wagner ("The Bold and the Beautiful"), Roshon Fegan (Disney's "Shake It Up!) and William Levy (soap star/"the Latin Brad Pitt"); singers Gavin DeGraw ("I Don't Wanna Be") and Katherine Jenkins (opera); TV personalities Sherri Shepherd ("The View") and Maria Menounos ("Access Hollywood," "Extra"); tennis legend Martina Navratilova and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver.

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Series premieres: "Q'Viva! The Chosen," 8 p.m. Saturday, Fox (Latin talent show); "Stevie TV," 9 p.m. Sunday, VH1 (sketch comedy); "Love Broker," 10 p.m. Monday, Bravo (NYC matchmaker); "Prank My Mom," 10 p.m. Tuesday, Lifetime (hidden camera show); "My Crazy Obsession," 10 p.m. Wednesday, TLC (extreme collectors); "Million Dollar Listing New York," 10 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo (upstart real estate agents).

Season premieres: "Army Wives," 9 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime; "Breakout Kings," 10 p.m. Sunday, A&E; "Breaking In," 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Fox; "Happily Divorced," 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land.

Timeslot change: "Raising Hope," 8 p.m. Tuesday, Fox (guest starring Katy Perry).

Returning: "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Fox.

Season finales: "Rob," 8:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS; "A Gifted Man," 9 p.m. Friday, CBS; "The Lying Game," 9 p.m. Monday, ABC Family; "Jane by Design," 9 p.m. Tuesday, ABC Family. (None have been renewed, so all are possible series finales.)

Specials: "The Break," 8 p.m. Friday, MTV (homeless teens rebuild their lives); "The Kandi Factory," 10 p.m. Sunday, Bravo (one of the Atlanta "Housewives" tries to create a pop star); "Demi Lovato: Stay Strong," 10 p.m. Tuesday, MTV (the singer talks about her struggles); "Louie Anderson: Baby Boomer," 10 p.m. Tuesday, CMT (stand-up comedy); "I Am Bruce Lee," 9 p.m. Wednesday, Spike (a look at his legacy).

Noteworthy on PBS: "The Winding Gulf: Stories from West Virginia's Coalfields," 8 p.m. Sunday; "Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama," 9 p.m. Sunday; "Don McLean: American Troubadour," 8 p.m. Tuesday; "The B-52s with The Wild Crowd! Live from Athens, GA," 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Trainwreck alert: Lindsay Lohan hosts "Saturday Night Live," 11:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC.

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com.


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