The network TV season doesn’t officially start until September 22, but fall TV is already here. “Boardwalk Empire” and “Sons of Anarchy” came back earlier this week, FOX is doing a few premieres next week, and all but a handful of notable summer series are either over or (in the case of a few Sunday night dramas) will be over by the end of the month.
This is, as you may have gathered from skimming Fienberg’s annual Take Me to the Pilots series of not-reviews, not the most exciting fall for new series – or, at least, for new pilots. (As I discussed a few years back, TV criticism at this time of year is as much voodoo as it is actual analysis, as you have to guess which pilots are representative of what’s to come, which shows might get better, and which shows might get worse.) There aren’t a ton of genuinely awful shows, but nor were there many that made me eager to see episode 2.
(We’ll be running a big fall TV preview next week to give you a better sense of what might be worth watching.)
Ordinarily, that might mean I would lean more heavily on veteran shows as ones to write about weekly, but we go into fall with “HIMYM” over, with “Parks and Rec” held for midseason, with “Community” held probably until sometime in early 2015, with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” moving to a night where it may be impossible to cover it regularly, and some other gaps among the shows I tended to cover weekly at this time of year.
The longer I’ve been doing this, I’ve also recognized that there are some shows I just don’t particularly enjoy writing about every week, even if they’re better than ones that I want to hit week in and week out. It’s not about what are the best shows, necessarily, but what shows I have something to say about every time, and also shows where the process of reviewing doesn’t detract from the pleasure of the show itself. (I imagine “The Strain” would have aggravated me more had I analyzed it weekly.)
Keeping in mind that many of these plans are tentative, and could change quickly if I grow tired of one show I’m covering, or fall in love with a show I had previously dismissed – and also that I’ll likely do a lot of short posts early in the fall to gauge reactions and offer brief ones of my own about episodes 2, 3 and 4 of some of the new shows – here’s what I’m going to try to do weekly this fall (and note that the days in question refers to when the shows air, and not necessarily when the reviews will appear; that’ll depend on what shows I get screeners for, what I have time to do when, etc.):
MONDAY: With “HIMYM” in the ground, I have an opening on the night, and “Gotham” seems an interesting thing to fill it. The pilot’s good, but I have some fairly deep reservations about whether the “‘Batman’ without Batman” approach can actually work over the long haul. But seeing how Bruno Heller and company deal with that very issue will keep me engaged for a while, at least. (And I imagine I will write something about its FOX companion show “Sleepy Hollow” from time to time.)
TUESDAY: Drew McWeeny covered “Agents of SHIELD” for us last year, but he has to bow out this season due to a conflict. I’m going to step into the breach at least initially to see if the improvement from the end of season 1 was an anomaly or something that can be sustained (or, better, improved upon). In other superhero show news, I really liked the pilot for “The Flash,” but we’ll have to wait and see if the series lives up to that, and also whether (like fellow Berlanti-verse show “Arrow”), I enjoy it but would rather write about it only periodically. If “New Girl” can get its act together (and the season premiere is a promising return to form), I’ll continue writing about it at least on a recurring basis, maybe in tandem with another Tuesday comedy if they get more interesting post-pilot (“Marry Me,” I’m looking at you) or continue previous improvement (“The Mindy Project”).
WEDNESDAY: Other than finishing up this season of “The Bridge,” this is a night without anything I intend to do weekly write-ups on, though “Arrow,” “Black-ish” and “Red Band Society” are all interesting in various ways. We’ll see, but it’s often a night I use to catch up on things from earlier in the week.
THURSDAY: “Parenthood” is coming to an end 13 episodes from now, so that’s an easy one to stick with (though I will, as usual, mostly write about it the following morning). I imagine I’ll check in on the Shonda Rhimes shows (well, “Scandal” and the new “How to Get Away with Murder,” at least; I’m now about a year and a half behind on “Grey’s Anatomy”) from time to time, and there are some other shows here I expect to touch base on periodically, but not weekly.
FRIDAY & SATURDAY: Nada. The networks’ lack of interest in putting good things on during those nights neatly coincides with my own logistical difficulty in covering shows that air on those nights. There are some cable shows I may write about on occasion – I’ll be checking in on “The Knick,” for instance, when it hits the home stretch of season 1, and if Moffat and company really hit it out of the park on any upcoming “Doctor Who”s, I’ll try to write something – but nothing as a regular.
SUNDAY: Oy. Sundays remain the most obvious example of the Too Much Interesting TV problem. Here’s what I know for sure: I’ll be doing the final season of “Boardwalk Empire,” the remaining episodes of this season of “Masters of Sex” and, circa mid-October, the new batch of “The Walking Dead.” Also, I don’t plan to do “Homeland” as a regular thing anymore, unless there’s a miraculous creative turnaround (screeners are still a few weeks away from arriving). I’d also like to keep doing “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in the regular rotation, but that may not be feasible, and everything else on Sundays – including “The Good Wife,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “The Simpsons,” etc. – will be touched on when I have time and/or something interesting to say. All plans could change if I’m knocked out by additional episodes of Showtime’s very promising “The Affair,” but… Sunday. Bloody Sunday.
So that is The Plan (Subject to Change). We’ll see how things shake out over the coming weeks.