Oct 7 2010 5:56pm

The Warm Glowing Warming Glow of Fall TV

2010 fall television seasonWe’re about three weeks into the new fall television season and even with the first round of cancellations under our collective groaning belt (so long Lone Star and My Generation, we never really wanted to know you) we’re still left with a dearth of quality and/or entertaining shows. Last season there was a glut of science fiction/fantasy shows (well, mostly just science fiction) and almost all of them proved downright disappointing upon execution—here’s lookin’ at you, FlashForward and V—or just couldn’t follow through with fans’ expectations (you listening, Caprica?).

Rather than examine why all those science fiction/fantasy shows turned out to be so shrug-worthy the networks have taken their usual uncreative stance and are instead pumping out nothing but legal dramas, cop shows/procedurals, and reality shows. In the case of the latter they drained that well dry so long ago that they’re down to shoveling up the putrid muck at the bottom of the pit, shoving it into old jelly jars, sticking on labels made of clip art and sadness, and forcing Lara Flynn Boyle resell it on highway exit ramps.

But never fear, dear readers, for I have sifted through the television wasteland for you. I have cleared my schedule and gotten my HazMat suit back from the cleaners so, sit back, relax, and for the next few minutes pretend to care about what some completely random person has to say about some television show you haven’t watched and didn’t even know was still on. (Those with an “*” are new this season.)

*Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sun. 9 PM): Okay, so technically this isn’t really Alternate History (unless you count changing “Nucky” Johnson into “Nucky” Thompson), but it’s the only show of its kind on television—and is really well done despite the less-than-original material, so I’m sticking it in anyway.
Mad Men (AMC, Sun. 10 PM - Summer leftovers): Again, not Alt-Hist per se, but shame on you if you haven’t been watching. Only two more eps to go before the end of this season which, strangely enough, also coincides with the date I stop watching basic cable on Sunday nights.

*The Walking Dead (AMC, Sun. 10 PM - not premiering until 10/31): Not much to tell yet beyond the tidbits dribbled out at Comic Con other than it is going to be the most awesome thing airing this year. While you’re waiting go watch the official trailers, some behind-the-scenes footage, this unofficial fan-made credit sequence, and pick up the graphic novels.

Legal Drama/Procedural/Mystery/Thriller/Kitchen Sink
*Blue Bloods (CBS, Fri. 10 PM): Look, CBS, if I wanted to see Tom Selleck’s moustache I’d rewatch Magnum, P.I. or Quigley Down Under.
Bones (FOX, Thurs. 8 PM)
Bored to Death (HBO, Sun. 10 PM): Hey, look! Jason Schwartzman is in something non-Wes Anderson. More importantly, yay Zach Galifianakis.
Castle (ABC, Mon. 10 PM): Nathan Fillion is one of those DR people who should be mentioned in everything produced on the interwebs, whether he’s involved or not. Same goes for Neil Patrick Harris and Jon Hamm.
*Chase (NBC, Mon 10 PM)
Chuck (NBC, Mon. 8 PM)
Criminal Minds (CBS, Wed 9 PM)
CSI (CBS, Thurs. 9 PM): Is William Petersen still gone? He is? Never mind then.
CSI: Miami (CBS, Sun. 10 PM) Is David Caruso still there? He is? Never mind then.
CSI: NY (CBS, Fri. 9 PM): I’m sorry, what now?
*The Defenders (CBS, Wed. 10 PM): Sorry, David Tennant, but this seems like a better use of Jerry O’Connell’s time.
*Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC, Tues 10 PM)
Dexter (SHO, Sun. 9 PM): Theresa DeLucci, having been amazed by the show's fourth season, covered the return of the show for
*The Good Guys (FOX, Fri. 9 PM - Summer leftovers): Never doubt the power of a moustache and Colin Hanks.
The Good Wife (CBS, Tues. 10 PM)
*Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Mon. 10 PM): Lands square in the “Why Must Hollywood Ruin Everything Awesome With Unnecessary Remakes” category (see also: Let Me In). Also, Alex O’Loughlin is no Jack Lord and no amount of gratuitous shots of Grace Park in a bikini will make up for that fact.
House (FOX, Mon. 8 PM): Hugh Laurie. Le sigh.
Human Target (FOX, Fri. 8 PM): Easily the best network show on Friday night. Um, that’s supposed to be a compliment.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, Wed. 9 PM)
*Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC, Wed. 10 PM): Law & Order dumps gritty New York City for sunny California and in the process loses most of what made it interesting. On the plus side, with NBC pushing the show as LOLA, Syfy now has some competition in the award for stupidest televisual name change.
Lie To Me (FOX, Mon. 9 PM)
Medium (CBS, Fri. 8 PM)
The Mentalist (CBS, Thurs. 10 PM)
NCIS (CBS, Tues. 8 PM)
NCIS: LA (CBS, Tues. 9 PM)
*Nikita (CW, Wed. 9pm): Fall’s second contender for “Why Must Hollywood Ruin Everything Awesome With Unnecessary Remakes” but with fewer gratuitous shots of Grace Park in a bikini.
*Outlaw (NBC, Fri. 10 PM): Wanna watch Jimmy Smits as an ex-Supreme Court Justice wander around the countryside dispensing legal advice in the most banal way possible like a gavel-wielding Johnny Appleseed? Neither do I.
*Rubicon (AMC, Sun. 9 PM - Summer leftovers): Perhaps one of the best summer premieres you (or anyone else but critics) aren’t watching. Not that AMC makes it easy to catch up, but check out their website for episode recaps and previews that will make absolutely no sense and are really nothing more than a grab-bag of interestingly spoken phrases and reaction shots.
*The Undercovers (NBC, Wed. 8 PM): Mr. and Mrs. Smith for the Will Smith enthusiast. Yes, it is exactly as interesting as you think.
*The Whole Truth (ABC, Wed. 10 PM)

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Caprica (Syfy, Tues. 10 PM): Teresa Jusino often writes about the show here on
*The Event (NBC, Mon. 9 PM): Networks, just because you go around shouting about mysterious events and plot twists doesn’t mean you’ve got the next LOST on your hands. In fact, it generally means you know you’re looking at a steaming pile of Lady In The Water and are determined to make back as much money as you can before kicking it into the cesspit of cancelled television. Oh, and, The Event, since you’re headed that way, can you pick up Outsourced and Shit My Dad Says on your way out? Great, thanks.
Fringe (FOX, Wed. 9 PM): Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll watch it eventually. After I finish rewatching The X-Files. Maybe.
*The Gates (ABC, Sun. 10pm - Summer leftovers): Luke Mably is part of my exceptionally-talented-and-wonderfully-named-British-dudes-who-aren’t-nearly-as-famous-as-they-should-be collection, next to Stephen Mangan, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Finlay Robertson. But, alas, this show does him little justice. Take the worst bits of True Blood and mix in The Vampire Diaries’ inability to follow through an exciting plot point with an equally exciting climax and you’ve got The Gates.
*No Ordinary Family (ABC, Tues. 8 PM): Turned out to be better than I thought, but I’m still not entirely sold. I do wish they had been more creative with who got what superpowers instead of resting on gender-specific stereotypes. It’s still too early to tell if we’re looking at Heroes season 1 or Heroes season 4, but fingers crossed it doesn’t buckle under its own storylines.
Sanctuary (Syfy, Tues. 10 PM)
Smallville (CW, Fri. 8 PM - final season): This show is still on? What do you mean it’s on its tenth season? Sweet zombie Jesus. Wait, where the hell did Lex Luthor go? You cast WHO as General Zod?
Stargate Universe (Syfy, Tues. 9 PM)
Supernatural (CW, Fri. 9 PM): Why are you not watching this? For that matter, why am I not watching it?
Ugly Americans (CC, Wed. 10:30 PM): Heh. Zombies.
The Vampire Diaries (CW, Thurs. 8 PM): (True Blood + Twilight) / network manhandling = meh. Ian Somerhalder struts around the screen like a poor man’s version of a poor man’s Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Wesley’s Stefan is the cardboard lovechild of Bill Compton and Edward, and Nina Dobrev is a blank-faced doe-eyed maiden who obviously graduated from the Kristen Stewart School of Acting with a degree in Sullen Eyes and a minor in Shouting Is The Same As Emoting. In other words, she is exactly like every other actress on the CW.

Not Really Genre But It Was At Comic Con So Why Not
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Thurs. 8 PM): I enjoy Jim Parsons much more when he’s in a suit of armor.
Community (NBC, Thurs. 8 PM): One of the best new sitcoms from last season returns from the outskirts of near-cancellation by riding the Betty White train.

Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare...

Teresa Jusino
1. TeresaJusino
OMG, Hawaii 5-0 is awful. Couldn't even get through the pilot, I was so bored.

And YES, please do yourself a favor and watch Fringe! It's gotten amazing this season!

And you know how I feel about Caprica. :)
Ian Tregillis
2. ITregillis
I like Rubicon, but I feel it has some substantial pacing problems. As in: glacial. But I'll probably stick with it to the end of the season, because I've been aching for a good conspiracy show since X-Files. (The problem with Rubicon, I think, is that it can't rely on monster-of-the-week episodes to stretch out the conspiracy stuff.)

I wanted to get caught up on The Event, but everything I'm hearing makes it sound like it won't be around long enough to bother.
Jason Henninger
3. jasonhenninger
I wonder who'd win a snark-off, you or Genevieve Valentine? (That's meant as a compliment to both of you....though I don't actually know what a snark-off would entail. But I know it would be entertaining.)

A friend of mine started working on Fringe as of last season. Glad it's going well!
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
@Teresa: After the Hawaii Five-0 premiere I gave up and had to watch the original to clear my palatte. Also, the whole "Book 'em Danno" only ever happened, like, once. It's not the defining moment everyone seems to think it is.

@Ian: I feel the same way about Rubicon. And I don't understand why AMC keeps pushing Mad Men viewers to give it a shot, other than as a lead in. They are 2 VERY different shows.

@Jason: My life is defined in terms of levels of snarkiness. The snarkier the better, in my book.
Alex Brown
5. AlexBrown
Hmmm...just noticed I forgot the link for the Lara Flynn Boyle comment:

Also, seems in editing it got added in that I apparently thought the 4th season of Dexter was "amazing". I did not, just so we're clear. I thought it was decent enough, but we're a long way from the actually amazing 1st season. And I'm none too thrilled with season 5 thus far either.
6. jsmith54
Nikita may have fewer gratuitous shots of Grace Park in a bikini, but they just replace them with gratuitous shots of Maggie Q in a bikini. It's not as much of a difference as you might imagine.
Alex Brown
7. AlexBrown
And seems like I'm not the only one who was put off by Outlaw:
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
@ jsmith54: True, but I'd take Boomer over Maggie Q anyday.
Chris Lough
9. TorChris
@5. Link and Dexter language all fixed! (Dunno what happened to either.) Thanks for the heads-up.
11. RobinM
Fringe is a blast! Start watching I think you'll like it.
Human Target got moved to Wednsday starting in November.
Sanctuary starts next Friday and I can't wait. All the shows shot in Vancouver that start with S all in one night. Yeah!!
12. cranscape
I can't take you seriously because you completely dismissed Fringe. It's the best genre show on network tv now. I watch a lot of tv, but it is the only one I insist on watching live. You sound even more out of touch by throwing The X-Files out there which was a comparison that didn't hold water three years ago and certainly doesn't not. Fringe is all about weird science, alt-u, and Olivia BAMF Dunham. Completely different shows.
Alex Brown
13. AlexBrown
@ RobinM: Yay for Human Target being yanked out of Friday night purgatory. Though schedule shifting can also spell bad news for soon-to-be cancelled shows (see Pushing Daisies and Better Off Ted and basically anything about to be cancelled on FOX and ABC).

@cranscape: First, I certainly hope you don't take me seriously, as that would make me feel like an adult and I'd hate for that to happen.

Second, I couldn't get into Fringe when it started and it has just never had enough pull to lure me back in. If it were the John Noble and Pacey show I'd be more inclined to turn it on every now and again, but the woman that plays Olivia just grates me the wrong way. They were originally marketing it as a replacement The X-Files, which is why I tuned in and when it turned out to not be that, what was left just wasn't interesting enough for me. But to each her/his own. You watch that live and I will kill anyone who gets in the way of me watching Mad Men live and we shall both be happier people.
14. elpuerco
Rubicon is a very, very bad show. The pilot had some promise, but since then the show has been stalling hard, trying to hide the fact that it's got nothin'.

Most unforgivable to me is that the main character is hailed as brilliant and punctual in the pilot, but since then he has been a chronically late, bumbling, clueless dope. Geniuses are hard to write, but Rubicon gives up in the second episode.
15. KVFinn
Rubicon is amazing, best show of the year. The slowness is what sells it. Frankly I could care less about the big conspiracy, I'll give you that. But as an intelligence procedural the show is awesome! Brilliantly shot too, just amazing in HD.

The good news is that the original showrunner was the big conspiracy guy, but the guy who took over is pushing the procedural part.

I do agree the lead actor isn't that great, but he's competent enough and everyone else is stellar. I wouldn't be sad if the main character bit it and Miles and the rest took over.

Fringe used to be forgettable (although Walter was always amazing in every scene.) But if you gave up on it, try it again! They've gone full on into the main arc, and now full episodes take place in another universe. Ever since the closing part of last season, the show has been great. The 'evil' universe is particularly cool, I'm glad they didn't make evil versions of everyone. In fact, it seems like a nicer universe than ours.
Alex Brown
16. AlexBrown
@KVFinn: Alright. I haven't been hearing the end of it since I dismissed Fringe. So it's now been moved up in my Netflix queue. After Jeeves and Wooster and rewatches of The Mighty Boosh, Pushing Daisies, and Wonderfalls. And those fansubs of Black Butler I got hold of a while back. And Sledge Hammer!. And possibly Keen Eddie. But it's there. So I should get to it by Christmas-ish or so. Probably. Maybe.
Ian Tregillis
18. ITregillis

I didn't know the showrunners had changed on Rubicon. Very interesting, and that does seem to explain a lot.

I don't need explosions and car chases, and I even think that some shows are too frenetic, but just the same I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the pacing. :) I don't need any more long, lingering shots of Will looking pensive.

And they really need to come up with something for Miranda Richardson to do-- they're wasting her to an almost criminal extent. Two episodes of her moping around the house would have been plenty to establish the state of her character. But they've been flogging that horse's corpse week after week after week. That's a sign of not having a good plan, I fear.

But for all that, I do like the show a lot. I like the fact that it's a show about really smart people. And the cast is incredible. I totally want to hang out with the API crowd (except they'd shun me because I'm not smart enough).


I thought I was the only person on Earth who liked Sledge Hammer! You just blew my mind. And, since you mentioned Wonderfalls, what's your take on Dead Like Me?
Evan Langlinais
19. Skwid
I'm a bit baffled as to why Chuck is listed under Kitchen Sink when it is so fundamentally SFnal? Very strange.

Also, Sledge Hammer was great!
Alex Brown
20. AlexBrown
@Ian: DUDE. Sledge Hammer! = awesome.

Dead Like Me isn't my all-time fave show, but I do enjoy it. Honestly, though, I would've rather had 2 seasons of Wonderfalls instead, but I'm biased. Jaye and I are basically the same person, and I relate to her more than any other TV character...

@Skwid: Yeah, the basic premise (the not-really-an-implant-implant-y thingummy) is clearly science fiction, but other than that (and the occasional appearance by SF stalwarts like Linda Hamilton) I don't really see it as a science fiction show. It's more of a spy/thriller/action/comedy kinda show than a true SF show like, say, Fringe. Science fiction is the means to an end, not the crux of the story, IMO...
Ian Tregillis
21. ITregillis
Honestly, though, I would've rather had 2 seasons of Wonderfalls instead, but I'm biased.

Heresy!! But then again, not everybody would want to work for Rube, whereas I think that would rule.

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