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New TV Shows – What’s Worth Watching? Oct 05

We’re a few weeks into the 2011 Fall season of new tv shows. I’ve checked out a few, so I thought I’d give you my highly subjective take on the ones I’ve watched so far, from “worst” to best. I put “worst” in quotes because none of these shows were bad. But several were disappointments.

I look forward to hearing from those who soldiered on with the shows I stopped watching. Did they get better?

Stay with me to the bottom of the article to see the television series I’m now calling the best new show of the fall season. See if you agree.

If you haven’t watched these shows on your DVR yet, beware *** SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW ***.

RingerRINGER

A young woman on the run from the mob poses as her wealthy twin sister to try and evade them, but soon discovers that her sister has a price on her head as well. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: C
Verdict: Bail

I had high hopes for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to television. The show was competent. It hit all the beats. But it just didn’t grab me like I wanted it to — maybe because there were no real surprises.

And don’t even get me started on the Saturday Night Live quality green screen special effects used for the speedboat scene. I almost hit the delete button right then and there.

Terra NovaTERRA NOVA

Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 2
Final grade: C+
Verdict: Holding on by a thread

Wow, what an uneven pilot they came up with. Visually spectacular, but the story… What maximum security prison allows people to bring in unchecked gifts for inmates? Even if he did have that laser slicey thing, how did the husband get out? (That may have made for a more interesting pilot). And how did he hire some dude to bring [kidnap?] his daughter to him in a back pack? And the son — one minute he’s like, “I’m not leaving without Dad.” And the next minute he’s like, “Dad I hate you, where were you for the last 2 years?”

Implausibility seems to be a troubling, ongoing theme with this show. In the second episode, several military men are driving in an open sided vehicle, despite the fact that there are big scary creatures known to attack fully armored vehicles. Then these trained military men are then killed by bird-like creatures, yet later we see many attacks on people without body armor or weapons who survive. It’s borderline ridiculous. I’m giving this show one more chance to get it right.

RevengeREVENGE

Centers on a young woman who is welcomed into a community filled with people who don’t know she’s only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: B-
Verdict: ZZZZzzzz

Revenge may be a dish that is best served cold, but that doesn’t mean I want my lead actress to be cold and uncharismatic. Damn, I was so looking forward to this show. The Count of Monte Cristo, which this show was modeled on, may be the best story ever written. But this show (the pilot episode at least) failed to capitalize on the premise in my opinion. It was too slow moving, and the revenge schemes weren’t all that clever or interesting. I can see how lovers of soap operas would enjoy this show, but it had a much broader potential that was squandered in the pilot.

Something I think this show really could have used more of was Voice Over, to bring us inside the main character’s thoughts and motives throughout the episode. That’s part of what made Profit such a brilliant show (and unfortunately ahead of its time). And can you imagine Dexter without it?

New GirlNEW GIRL

A comedy about the sexual politics of men and women. (via IMDB) And a fantasy about a woman most men in real life would kill to date, but is somehow repugnant to everyone around her (that last bit added by me).

Episodes watched: 3
Final Grade: A-
Verdict: You had me at Zooey Deschanel

All of the characters on this show do a good job, but there’s really only one reason you watch — Zooey Deschanel. If you can suspend your disbelief that there’s this beautiful, hilarious, approachable girl that none of the heterosexual roommates want to date, then you can settle into one of the funniest new shows of the fall. The most recent episodes have shown a lot of growth in the supporting characters as well and I’m really exited about this show’s prospects.

But Zooey, I’m watching you — I see what you do to guys in your movies (500 Days of Summer, All the Real Girls), so don’t be pulling any of that stuff on your lovestruck loyal viewers!

Person of InterestPERSON OF INTEREST

Centers on ex-CIA hitman and a scientist who team up to prevent crimes before they happen. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 2
Final grade: A
Verdict: I’m hooked

Finally, a show that actually exceeded my expectations (even with the pedigrees of J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan as Executive Producers)! After watching the previews for this show, I was a little bit worried that the premise would be too implausible, but I think they nailed it. The shows are gripping, action packed thrill rides from start to finish. The story lines are fresh, with many clever twists that elevate the series above the standard procedural.

Bonus points for this show: We get to hear Michael Emerson call someone “John” again every week.

And finally, my vote for the best new show of the fall 2011 season…

HomelandHOMELAND

Centers on Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, who returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, and Carrie Anderson, a driven (and possibly unstable) CIA officer who suspects he might be plotting an attack on America. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: A+
Verdict: Must see television!

Wow. You could tell from the previews that this show was going to be really good. But who would have thought it would be that good! The set up of this show is fantastic. What the previews don’t show you well enough is that the co-main character, played by Claire Danes, is borderline crazy. She’s the only one who believes that a returning war hero may have been turned into a sleeper terrorist — and she may actually be right. The set up is delicious from the points of view of all of the characters involved. I don’t want to ruin any more of the fun. If you missed this show, you need to check it out on Showtime this week. They’ve only aired one episode. Look for this show’s actors to receive Emmy nods come awards season.

Perhaps my mom said it best after watching this show. When the episode ended, she was confused for a fraction of a second because she forgot she was watching a TV show — not a movie! The production quality and acting is that good.

Anyway, it’s your turn to let me know what you think.

Which show do I need to give another chance to? What did I get right? What did I flat out get wrong? What important new shows did I miss?

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9 Responses
  1. Scott says:

    Terra Nova – I’ll keep my eye on it.
    Revenge – on the Tivo when there’s nothing else.
    New Girl – hey, how can she be everyone’s new girl if she’s MY new girl? (I guess I can share, because there’s Two other Broke Girls I find kinda charming.) The hillbilly teeth were, ahem, a-dork-able.
    POI – good, and could be excellent.
    Homeland – hello! I love when they find out what her meds are for: “I mean, come one, you guys kinda knew all along!” or something to that effect. Many. Great. Moments. Will be too gritty for some.
    Profit – one of the best. Shows. Ever. Made me feel less weird sleeping naked in my cardboard box (probably sounds weird to people under the age of 30 who never saw the show, but oh well).
    Dexter – decent start. Friendly folks at the class reunion. Whether he gets 20 or 24 mil for the next two seasons, I’m glad he’s still there.
    A Gifted Man – capably walking the line between greed and sentiment, where many of us live. Crackling writing.
    The Good Wife – smart, fast, great writing.
    Louie – best show on TV.

  2. zuckerman says:

    Re Tera Nova, you state, “I’m giving this show one more chance to get it right.”

    You have more patience than I do. That ‘bird’ episode was ludicrous. It’s like “Land of the Lost” writing.

    So um, good-bye to this one soon, I imagine…

  3. Trevor Mayes says:

    I’ve heard good things about 2 Broke Girls. I’ll have to track down the first ep and add it to this page.

    Another Profit fan! Excellent! Haha. It’s definitely time for me to upgrade my cardboard box as well. :) I’m still sore over FOX’s cancellation of that one. Perhaps I should get a job at FOX and exact my revenge, Jim Profit style.

    Still haven’t seen A Gifted Man, but will add that one to my list. I hope it’s no good so I don’t get sucked into watching it. ;)

    Perhaps I’ll write a separate post about returning shows.

  4. Trevor Mayes says:

    zuckerman — I hear ya. My patience is only owing to the fact that Brannon Braga is Executive Producer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation became one of the best sci-fi shows of all time (after an execrable first few episodes). If the next episode sucks, I’m out.

  5. zuckerman says:

    Trevor– Do you also sort of feel like this year it’s all just so much the same sort of show across the board (except for say, Person of Interest or New Girl)? Like, Prime Suspect– I want to love it because, hey, Maria Fucking Bello, but it just seems like the same damn cop procedural. And “A Gifted Man” with a truly gifted actor, but again, it’s just hospital procedural + dead wife.

    And Whitney. Lord. Another standup routine disguised as a sitcom. It’s just old already.

  6. Trevor Mayes says:

    zuckerman — I think television is like that every year. And every year I’m amazed at how many of those standard procedurals stick around. People sure do love them I guess. But you’re right, I had exactly the same thought about Prime Suspect.

    A Gift Man looked terrible to me, based on the commercials, for the reasons you cite. But apparently it’s an excellent show that explores some new territory. I’m going to check the first episode out this week.

    The funny thing about Whitney is that I’ve never caught a full episode, but every time I’m flipping channels and catch it, it makes me laugh. At least it’s a funny stand-up routine disguised as a sitcom. :) That’s all Seinfeld was… Actually Seinfeld didn’t even disguise the stand-up routine!

  7. Dan Shea says:

    Trevor, you’re right about Whitney, but I guess I (nee zuckerman) am just getting weary of the same ‘sort’ of show, over and over. For instance, what will this year’s “dad is goofy/moron/etc, wife is smart” 3 camera sit-com be?

  8. Trevor Mayes says:

    Dan — What can I say? Hollywood is driven by templates and formulas.

    When an innovative breakout hit comes along, most of the powers that be don’t think, “Hey audiences really like that. We should come up with something original.” They think, “Hey audiences really liked that. We should copy it.”

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