* THE MUPPETS. 8 tonight, 6ABC.
* SCREAM QUEENS. 8 tonight, Fox 29. Moves to 9 p.m. next week.
* LIMITLESS. 10 tonight, CBS3.
MAYBE the late-night wars aren't over after all.
While the new guys on the after-dark celebrity-talk circuit insist that they're noncombatants, ABC's offering up a feisty female with the chops to take on all comers.
Too bad that she's a pig, and that her show, "Up Late With Miss Piggy," exists only inside the prime-time half-hour of ABC's "The Muppets," one of three new network shows premiering tonight.
Smartly updated by executive producers Bill Prady and Bob Kushell for an audience that might not remember the Jim Henson-produced "Muppet Show," the new show owes as much to "The Larry Sanders Show" as it does to "The Office" or "30 Rock."
Piggy and Kermit the Frog are no longer an item - a plot point that inexplicably made international news last month - but are still very much in each other's lives. Kermit's producing "Up Late," a job that mostly involves keeping Miss Piggy's temper from ruining the show. And, as we see in next week's episode, he's not afraid to play dirty (in a way I found slightly disturbing).
In tonight's very funny premiere, Piggy's dead set against having Elizabeth Banks on her show and Kermit's dead set on changing her mind.
That the root of Piggy's problems turns out to, well, humanize her is both the joy and peril of a show that asks us to see icons from many people's childhoods in a new, not-always-flattering light.
Readers rate 'Muppets'
Most of this year's Everybody's a Critic panel of a dozen Daily News readers loved "The Muppets," giving the show's first episode an average score of 8 out of 10, with nearly half awarding it a perfect 10.
"I was so nervous about this - really happy that this is so good," wrote Judy Weightman (who noted that it's a "heck of a thing" for the only female in late night to be a pig).
"Very funny and original," wrote Robert Moore.
"Cute. Like the combination of adults and puppets," wrote Paula Cohen.
Karen I. Carter was less sure. "Children won't buy into this format and adults won't watch it often enough to keep it on," she wrote.
One of my favorite things about CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" is that it's about smart people who neither fight crime nor solve medical mysteries.
OK, they're required instead to be dumb about a lot of things, but every show has its limits.
Including CBS' new "Limitless," a spin-off of the 2011 movie in which Bradley Cooper played a struggling writer whose life is changed by a mysterious drug.
Cooper, who's a producer on the show, will have a recurring role beginning tonight, but it's slacker musician Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) whose life is about to be changed by a drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain capacity.
This turns him into a kind of superhero while embroiling him in a murder mystery. The superhero aspects can be fun to watch, but they don't make a lot of sense.
That the only other actors listed as regulars - Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter"), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Hill Harper - are all playing federal agents should give you more than a hint of where this train is headed.
Panel praises 'Limitless'
Our readers appear to have liked "Limitless" a bit more than I did, awarding it, like "The Muppets," an average score of 8.
"Highly enjoyable, action-packed . . . You actually cared what happened to Brian," wrote Stephanie Stith.
"Great, very moving," wrote Joe White.
"Slick production, interesting concept," wrote Kirsten Winering. "I didn't see the movie, so it will be fun to watch the season unfold."
"Not a bad show, just very generic," wrote Brian Burrus. "The best part of the show was the cameo by Bradley Cooper."
"Loved 'Limitless' the movie. The TV show is an excellent continuation," wrote Randi Goldberg.
Fox's 'Scream Queens'
I loved every minute of tonight's two-hour premiere of Fox's new horror-comedy, "Scream Queens," except for the ones Jamie Lee Curtis wasn't in.
Those other minutes? With the exception of one very funny scene involving text messages, most left me cold - even the ones when sorority girls got what "Glee" creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan apparently think they had coming to them.
But then Curtis' character, college dean Cathy Munsch, can't be everywhere. "Scream Queens" is just more fun when she is.
For people who love the stylized violence of Murphy and Falchuk's "American Horror Story" on FX and think "Glee" would have been just a little better if Lea Michele had been forced to wear a neck brace, "Scream Queens" could be the best news of the fall season.
I'm so not one of those people.
It's not the fault of her co-stars that Curtis, who made her big-screen debut in the 1978 "Halloween," steals every scene she's in. This is a show that's gathered an impressive lineup of young names, including Emma Roberts as the ultimate mean girl, Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Keke Palmer ("Akeelah and the Bee"), Billie Lourd (a newbie who'll also be in the new "Star Wars" movie with mom Carrie Fisher) and, of course, Michele, and then cast them as cliches.
Now that's something to scream about.
Reviews of "Empire," Season 2,
and "Rosewood," both on Fox 29.