Kristin Chenoweth

Although none of the new TV series have raced to the top of the ratings this fall, there are a few that have legs. And those legs are attached to Christina Applegate, Kate Walsh, Kristin Chenoweth, Angie Harmon and Michelle Ryan.

After five weeks into the new season, the top five new shows are Samantha Who?, Private Practice, Pushing Daisies, Women’s Murder Club and Bionic Woman. All of which feature lovely stars in strong female roles.

The leader of the pretty pack is Christina Applegate who stars in ABC’s Samantha Who? The freshman show has been #10 in the ratings, benefiting from having the mega-hit Dancing With The Stars as its lead-in. But there are a number of viewers (like myself) who tuned in just to see how “Kelly Bundy” turned out.

Applegate played Al Bundy’s ditzy blonde daughter on the long-running Married…With Children. Now about ten years after saying good-bye to the Bundys, she’s back in another air-head role, as the amnesia-challenged Samantha Newly. Samantha turns out to be a blonde floozy who is trying to improve her life– much like Applegate trying to put her Kelly Bundy days behind her.

Even though she was locked into her Married…With Children role for such a long time, Christina says she personally never had trouble disassociating herself with her Kelly Bundy image.

“I wasn’t her. I’m not a dumb blonde,” Applegate firmly insists. “On Friday nights I took off my makeup and put my hair in a ponytail and lived my life as someone totally different.”

“I worked through my childhood. And because I have a very grounded family unit, I’m still working and functioning as an adult, responsible and professional.” Definitely not a ditzy gal. She’s a fine comedic actress.

Private Practice, the spin-off of ABC’s hit hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy, has Kate Walsh in the lead as a doctor who wants it all– career, romance and a happy life. “It’s a great fantasy,” according to Walsh. “On the show we explore that, balancing comedy and drama, and the great spectrum of issues and relationships.”

Michelle Ryan

One of the strangest, and most engaging new show is Pushing Daisies, which is called a “forensic fairytale” blending fantasy and mystery. It stars Lee Pace as a guy who can bring back the dead with one touch, and Anna Friel as his childhood sweetheart. Adding to the charm of the show is Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth in a scene-stealing supporting role.

Kristin says the series lured her away from the Broadway stage (where she originated the role of Glinda in Wicked), “because of the whimsical aspect to Pushing Daisies that’s based in reality.”

She adds, “You know, we in musical theater believe that we sing because we can’t speak anymore. And I believe that this is a show that would lend itself to that feeling. It’s exciting to be part of something so unique.”

Women’s Murder Club is based on author James Patterson’s best-selling novels. The ABC drama series follows four successful working women who use their expertise to solve murder cases. Angie Harmon (of Law & Order fame) plays the homicide inspector, Paula Newsome the medical examiner, Laura Harris the assistant D.A., and Aubrey Dollar the crime reporter.

Harmon says she loves the dynamic of working with the other women on the show, “because we have the ability to be nurturing and supportive for each other. As we get to know each other, learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the four of us don’t find a weakness and pounce on it. You lift each other up. That’s what we do.” In other words – no cat fights!

Rounding off the top-rated five new shows is NBC’s Bionic Woman starring British actress Michelle Ryan as the man-made high-tech kick-butt babe. Michelle has an athletic background which makes it easy for her to pull off all the physical stunts. “I’m a real tomboy,” Ryan reveals. “I love the fact that I get to jump off things and throw myself around and be one of the guys. When I saw Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider kicking ass, I said, ‘Yeah, I want to be like that.’ I want to be strong, confident and empowered. That’s the great message that Bionic Woman has.”

Michelle also wants to get her own Bionic Woman action figure. What a doll!

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.