Fall TV preview: The good, the bad and The Shat

Senior Television Writer
09.15.10 51 Comments


The 2010-11 TV season officially begins on Monday, and for once virtually all the new broadcast network shows will be debuting in that week, and most of the returning shows will have their premieres then as well, with cable further busying the waters with the “Boardwalk Empire” launch on the 19th and “Dexter” returning on the 26th.

That is going to be an insanely busy week for me, and as I’ve said, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to cover it all, especially when you factor in the usual morning-after spoiler reviews and whatnot. In some cases, I may have to skip shows altogether if I have little to say about them (as I did with the CW’s “Hellcats,” and as I suspect I’m gonna do with NBC’s “Chase”). But before I start writing and writing and writing some more about all these shows, I thought I’d do a quick run-through of my thoughts on all the new network series (other than the CW shows, which already debuted, and “Outlaw,” which I reviewed yesterday), some of which will be reused and/or expanded upon in longer reviews next week.

Overall, I’d say this wasn’t a memorable year for network TV development, certainly not compared to last year. My clear favorite of the network shows, FOX’s “Lone Star,” is far behind both “Boardwalk Empire” (which I’ll have a review for later today) and “Terriers,” and behind shows I loved last fall like “Community” and “Modern Family.” I don’t know yet how long any of these shows will stay in the regular blogging rotation, but after the jump, my brief thoughts on each, going in rough chronological order:

“Lone Star” (FOX, Monday):
Con man (James Wolk) wants to go straight, but can’t decide which straight life (and which woman) he wants. Great pilot, fine performance by Wolk, good use of music, intriguing world, etc. But I still haven’t seen past that pilot and have no idea if this all falls apart by episode 3.

“The Event” (NBC, Monday): Less a TV pilot than a confidence scheme, the debut of “The Event” keeps trying to make me care about a mysterious global conspiracy without telling me any details about it, and without giving me a single character I’m invested in. All flash, no substance.

“Mike & Molly” (CBS, Monday):
Like “The Big Bang Theory” before it, this Chuck Lorre sitcom – about a couple (Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy) who meet in Overeaters Anonymous – is constantly at war over whether it wants to be laughing with or at its main characters. The “with” parts I like, and Gardell and McCarthy are charming. The “at” parts are nauseating.

“Hawaii Five-0” (CBS, Monday):
Pilot’s a fun, noisy, expensive action movie-style hour, and if Alex O’Loughlin is fairly bland as the lead, Scott Caan is more than strong enough to compensate as Danno, as are Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. The location is used well and they wisely kept the original version of the theme (albeit much shorter). We’ll see how it looks without that pilot budget and director Len Wiseman, and it’s not the kind of show I watch religiously, but it works.

“Chase” (NBC, Monday): The Jerry Bruckheimer version of a U.S. Marshal show – which is to say, one with a lot of running and yelling and nice photography and very thin characterization. I’ll stick with Raylan Givens from “Justified,” thanks.

“Raising Hope” (FOX, Tuesday): Greg Garcia’s “My Name Is Earl” follow-up about a poor, dumb twentysomething (Lucas Neff) raising the baby he had with an executed serial killer. (Yes, this is the premise.) Like “Earl,” most of the jokes are about stupid people not understanding how to do simple tasks the rest of us take for granted, and while I laughed at a few of them, and like co-stars Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt as Neff’s parents, I don’t know how much mileage there is in baby endangerment.

“Running Wilde” (FOX, Tuesday): The heavily-anticipated, ultimately-disappointing “Arrested Development” reunion of Will Arnett and writers Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely. The pilot – with Arnett as a GOB-ian manchild whose old crush Keri Russell wants to make a better man – has been tweaked, but still isn’t very funny (I laughed more at “Raising Hope,” to be honest) and I just don’t think this character works as the center of a show.

“Detroit 1-8-7” (ABC, Tuesday): The original version of this cop procedural had two interesting things about it: Michael Imperioli’s performance as the cranky, inscrutable senior detective, and a documentary framework that actually felt like it was enhancing the storytelling. The docu format got ditched for a variety of reasons, and while Imperioli is still around, what’s left is a pretty unremarkable show that’s less “Homicide” in Detroit than Bruckheimer-lite.

“Undercovers” (NBC, Wednesday): Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as married ex-spies who get back into the game together. I think I liked the idea of “Undercovers” – producer JJ Abrams taking the fun parts of “Alias” (the missions, the sexual tension) and ditching the convoluted mythology, Jennifer Garner angst, etc. – more than I actually liked the show. It’s fine – nice banter, fun action in a few spots – but nothing special. At its funniest, it’s not as funny as “Chuck.” At its most exciting, its action isn’t as good as “Human Target” (or “Chuck,” for that matter). Etc.

“Better With You” (ABC, Wednesday): Frantic, not particularly funny relationship sitcom that manages to feature a bunch of actors I like, including JoAnna Garcia, Jennifer Finnigan, Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller. Oh, well.

“The Defenders” (CBS, Wednesday): Surprisingly likable buddy lawyer show with Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell as ambulance-chasing Vegas defense lawyers who will play dirty but mostly mean well. Though he’s picked a lot of awful projects over the years, Belushi is not a bad actor, nor a bad light comic, and the pilot uses him well. Won’t change the world, but for what it sets out to do, it works.

“The Whole Truth” (ABC, Wednesday): Haven’t seen the revised pilot for this one, with Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney as criminal lawyers on opposite sides of the case each week, so can’t say.

“My Generation” (ABC, Thursday): Pretentious, predictable, unsubtle faux-documentary show about a group of high school kids from the Class of 2000 and what they’re up to 10 years later. In some ways, I dislike it more than the other two Thursday shows I hate, because it has actual ambition that it falls far short of.

“(Shit) My Dad Says” (CBS, Thursday): You’ve read the Twitter feed! Now watch the lame sitcom it inspired! I’ll say this: the original pilot was an abomination, where the revamped version – with a new actor playing William Shatner’s son, and more of an attempt to humanize The Shat – is just profoundly lame.

“Outsourced” (NBC, Thursday): As Ricky Gervais would say, it’s funny because it’s racist! Or, if not racist, then incredibly lazy in the way 90% of the punchlines depend on the Indian accents. For this, NBC held back “Parks and Rec”?

“Blue Bloods” (CBS, Friday): Still need to watch the slightly tweaked final pilot of this drama about a family of New York cops, including Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Will Estes and (as the one prosecutor in the bunch) Bridget Moynahan, but the original version was fine; another show I likely wouldn’t watch past week two, but whose existence I don’t begrudge.

“No Ordinary Family” (ABC, Sept. 28):
There are parts of this Greg Berlanti show about a family that gets superpowers that I like a lot, specifically the way it makes the idea seem, you know, fun after all the mopery of “Heroes.” Michael Chiklis in particular is a pleasure to watch as the dad, and Romany Malco is even more amusing as his friend-turned-sidekick. But there are parts of the pilot that are clunky, particularly a talk-to-the-camera device that’s redundant and annoying. So we’ll see.

“Law & Order: LA” (NBC, Sept. 29): Haven’t seen a pilot yet.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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