T.G.I.F. – Ten Impressions of Fall TV

Network Russian Roulette

Network Russian Roulette

Another season, another crapshoot. But if you’re going to find the pearl, you gotta shuck the oysters. Here’s my first impressions on five shows making their debut this fall, as well as five shows trying to avoid that sophomore slump:

 And yes, there might be spoilers below.

The freshmen

CommunityJoel McHale, like the hosts of The Soup that preceded him, has charisma. Hard to tell where this one is going with so many characters getting introduced so quickly, but McHale plays his selfish user somewhere between Sgt. Bilko and a young Chevy Chase. Problem is, the old Chevy Chase is in the cast, and in the first week he already dropped the name-fumbling gag from Caddyshack and the awkward food pantomime John Belushi used in Animal House. If Chase is used sparingly, and they let McHale spar more with the hilarious John Oliver (who I hope will be a recurring character), this could work. LINK

EastwickThey don’t know Jack. if they did, they would have realized that most remakes suck, and remakes of Jack Nicholson vehicles really suck. It was a stupid movie with Jack; imagine how abysmal it is dumbed down for network television sans Sir Satan. This should be dead by Christmas. LINK

Flash Forward…Hands-down the most ambitious and amazing looking pilot; the debut episode looked like a feature film. The central concept is a good one, and the strong performances of a solid cast already have me invested in a few of them. It’s odd that despite a global catastrophe most of the characters seem to have wrapped their head around this global mystery, accepting the chaos with a little better demeanor than I would have, but an hour of people screaming “what the hell??” probably doesn’t make good television. Conspiracy theory, science fiction, time travel, dreams and alternate reality. I’m down. LINK.

Glee…Yes, every character is a stereotype (jock, nerd, bully, brainiac chick, earnest teacher, dysfunctional athletic director, etc.). I don’t care. This is laugh-out-loud funny, the songs are phenomenal, and even though Jane Lynch is playing the same character she usually does – here a cross between her oddballs from The 40 Year Old Virgin and Role Models – she still steals every scene she’s in. Hopefully they don’t try to make it melodramatic as well. Either way, I cannot believe this is from the same guy who created Nip/Tuck – that’s like Barbara Walters doing porn. In your face, High School Musical! LINK

Modern Family…This is like watching a nervous juggler; if he can keep all those balls in the air it will be an amazing feat and perhaps even something worth talking about. But he might have tossed too many up at once, and it’s possible he’s going to collapse under a hail of projectiles. I love Ed O’Neill, and Ty Burrell shows promise as a cringeworthy “cool Dad”, but they were already going for the cheap, broad laughs in the pilot. Must admit I laughed at a couple of them, but with so many characters, the writing will have to be very strong or this is toast.   LINK

The sophomores

Castle…Looks like it’s picking up right where it left off, and if Bones continues to waste its time on romantic subplots between the secondary characters, this will be the go-to show for people who want a little light banter and sizzle with their crime drama. The leads have killer chemistry, the cases are plausible and  interesting enough to hold their own, the daughter might be the most realistic teenager on television, and Nathan Fillion is a star. LINK

Dollhouse…If any other team was behind this show, I think the network would have deep-sixed it after the first season. But Joss Whedon not only has proven himself, even the shows of his that have been cancelled have continued to mesmerize large fanbases. Regardless, it doesn’t look like a concept with a master plan at this point, it seems as if they’re trying things out to see what sticks. He’s got to focus this one better or only the fanboys will be left, because Friday night is a tough sell. LINK

FringeMindblower of a final episode last season, the kind of cliff-hanger that people talk about all summer. Solid cast, complex but not difficult plot (if you pay attention), and if you can accept the premise, you can be richly rewarded. Great chemistry between the leads and main supporting characters with some fascinating oddballs in the mix. If you liked The X-Files for either the linear mysteries or the Mulder/Scully relationship, you’ll love Fringe. LINK

Parks and Recreation…I’m really pulling for this one, although I can understand if people’s patience wears thin. The cast is amiable and there’s good situational dialogue, but the amount of people who can identify with this workplace – as opposed to The Office, which it’s modeled after – might not be enough to make this water-cooler material. Amy Poehler’s character is a dolt with heart and she nails it, and the supporting cast is good, with Aziz Ansari a standout. Hiring Louis CK as the small town cop was a stroke of genius; he might just save the show. LINK

Sons of Anarchy…Obviously not for everybody, but this biker drama is yet another reason FX has become the best channel on television. Somehow they pepper in a little humor among the violence and criminal activity, and the performances are so universally excellent (Kim Coates is absolutely twisted, and Katey Sagal was robbed of an Emmy) that even the guest stars need to bring their A-game. This season’s first episode brought Henry Rollins and a quietly demonic Adam Arkin to the table and proved the show already took it up a notch. LINK

There's always this option...

There's always this option...

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