Over the past two weeks, I have sampled several of the new fall tv shows. So far, only one has held my attention enough for me to continue watching it. The others were either mediocre, awful, or would be inconvenient for me to keep watching because of scheduling conflicts or my own time constraints. Read on for my thoughts on the pilot episodes of several new shows:
- Mike and Molly – When I read the basic premise of this show, that it was about a school teacher and policeman who meet at an Overeaters’ Anonymous group, I thought, “That’s nice. CBS is actually airing a show about average Americans” (since these days, the average American is overweight). Unfortunately, this show fell really, really flat. The fat jokes are more of the “laugh at them” variety than “laugh with them.” Plus, it is full of stereotypes: the token black guy, the airheaded sister, the clueless mother, etc. I loved Melissa McCarthy as Sookie on Gilmore Girls, but I’m not buying her character on this show. That’s probably more the fault of the writers. It simply wasn’t funny. I don’t think I laughed at a single joke. But, who knows? Maybe this show will thrive for a few seasons. After all, it airs after the inexplicably popular Two and a Half Men. It seems that the general public is more interested in watching mediocre shows, while truly hilarious shows like Community and 30 Rock struggle to find an audience.
- S**t My Dad Says – Speaking of mediocre comedies, how about this new loser, powered by the one and only Captain Kirk. [Insert any number of cheesy Star Trek jokes here, preferably something along the lines of “Beam me up out of this bad show, Scotty…”] I suppose the writers were hoping William Shatner’s “cranky old man” persona would be enough to make this a hit, and they are probably right, but I won’t be tuning in. The writing fell flat, the jokes weren’t funny, the characters weren’t likable, and I stopped watching halfway through.
- Outsourced – I like the idea of this show – a young American gets transferred to his company’s India branch and becomes involved in all sorts of shenanigans caused by the cultural differences – but the pilot episode didn’t wow me. There were a few funny moments, but not enough, and too many of the characters were caricatures. Perhaps over time they will develop more depth, but I opted out after the pilot, so I’ll never know. I don’t think this one will last anyway – it came across as too awkward.
- Running Wilde – This was another painfully awkward show – I’m talking in terms of its writing and tone. There were definitely some funny moments, similar to the vastly superior Arrested Development, but mostly the story felt forced and silly. It was a little too slapstick for my taste, and I’m guessing it won’t be most Americans’ cup of tea either. But still, I love Will Arnett and Keri Russell, so I hope that people will watch so they can remain employed.
- Raising Hope – This show follows in the comedy footsteps of Roseanne and My Name Is Earl, by showing us a slice of life in blue collar Americana. While it is sweet, too much of the humor borders on the ridiculous: the grandmother mistaking the baby for an animal (“Get that dog off my sofa!”), Hope’s daddy not knowing that he has to secure the car seat in the car, the young mother being sent to the electric chair, etc. Still, of all the new comedies, I’d imagine this one has the best chance of surviving its freshman season. And it was nice to see Martha Plimpton of Goonies fame again, but it sure makes me feel old to see her playing the mother of a 20-something!
- Undercovers – This show is produced and written by J.J. Abrams, which is the only reason I considered checking it out. Unfortunately, the first ten minutes lost my interest. Hasn’t J.J taken us here before, when it was called Alias? The main difference is that this show focuses on married spies, but I just don’t see it being as good or entertaining as its predecessor. How can you compete with Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper?!
- Hawaii Five-O – This show has three things going for it: nostalgia, eye candy, and a powerhouse cast. I was too young to understand it, but I remember my parents watching the original version of this show in the early 80s. The opening theme song brings back memories of my childhood. As for the eye candy, what better combination than Hawaii and Alex O’Loughlin? Delicious! 🙂 Plus, this show is like a hall of fame from some of my favorite shows: James Marsters (Spike) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) from Lost, and Grace Park (Boomer/Sharon) from Battlestar Galactica. Even though I haven’t gotten around to finishing the pilot, I think I just convinced myself to give this show a second look! It seems like the type that I could jump in on from time to time, if I happen to be sitting around with nothing else to watch. I don’t think I have time to fully invest in it. But it’s definitely a well-produced, sharp looking show.
- Lone Star – I had heard good buzz about this show, but I was highly disappointed by it. I didn’t find any of the characters likable, which is always a huge drawback for me in a show/movie/book. Plus, it just wasn’t interesting. I hear this is one of the first new shows to be canceled, so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.
- No Ordinary Family – I like the concept of this show – a fusion of family drama and superhero action – and I’m a fan of Greg Berlanti’s previous work on Everwood (and to a lesser extent on Brothers and Sisters, which I watched for one season). Plus, it stars the recently departed Rita (Julie Benz) from Dexter, and Michael Chiklis (who, despite his acclaimed role on The Shield will always be the early 90s Commish to me). If I had more time on my hands, I would definitely stick with this show for a few more episodes to see where it’s headed. What’s not to love about a family whose mother can run at warp speed, father is nearly invincible, daughter can read minds, and son can solve complex equations in an instant? I also like the touch of the family members’ voice overs actually being part of their family counseling sessions (with Dr. Abbott from Everwood!). Hmm. Maybe I need to check this show out again, too. It’s sounding pretty good. But it may just be too weird to last. As I was watching, something seemed off about the show’s attempt to balance realistic family problems with an epic superhero adventure. But at least Berlanti and company are trying to think outside the legal/police/medical drama box.
- My Generation – This show sounded right up my early 30s alley: nine classmates who were the focus of a documentary their senior year of high school are revisited ten years later, when their lives are intersecting in ways they never would have expected. It’s a fun concept, and the early 2000s music is almost reason enough to watch. Unfortunately, the show has already been canceled, which isn’t surprising, since the concept wasn’t carried out very well by the writers, actors, or director. The flow of the show didn’t feel right, some of the acting was pretty unconvincing, and the stories seemed contrived. I was starting to like it, despite my best efforts, only to discover it’s already been dropped. Not a big loss. It was too soapy and angsty for a concept that could have been original and highly entertaining. The documentary style that works so well for shows like The Office just felt gimmicky, and not executed well, here. But there’s definitely room in the current tv landscape for a show about late 20 or early 30 somethings. Go back to the drawing board, tv people!
- The Event – And so we come to the one show that I’ve added to my viewing list, even though I’m skeptical about its long term potential for entertainment and quality. So far we’ve only watched one episode, but it piqued our interest enough to schedule a Season Pass on our Tivo. The previews made it look like a run of the mill government action thriller, but the pilot episode revealed a more interesting sci-fi and conspiracy element. The main reason we tuned in is that it stars Blair Underwood, who my husband sat next to on a plane about a year ago and enjoyed talking to. It’s nice that he is back on tv. My main complaint so far is that all the time shifts border on comical, in a show that is about as far from comical as you can get. “Twelve hours earlier.” “73 years ago.” “Three weeks ago.” It’s enough to make your head spin, trying to keep up with who was doing what, and when. To me, this element feels like a twisted rip off of 24, and a gimmick meant to make the show look clever. Perhaps over time viewers and the showrunners will find a comfortable rhythm for these time shifts. For now, my curiosity about what is going on is enough to keep me watching, along with some other familiar faces – Jason Ritter (who I most recently enjoyed seeing on Parenthood) and Scott Patterson (my beloved Luke from Gilmore Girls…)
In my opinion, this fall’s batch of new shows is mediocre. I don’t see many hit shows developing out of these. (I didn’t even bother watching the others shows that aren’t listed here – they were simply more of the same old same old.) I’m so out of the loop lately that I don’t even know which new shows have had ratings success, and which ones have flopped. Have you added anything new to your viewing lineup?