Oct 12 2011 6:00pm

The Warm Glowing Warming Glow: Fall 2011

Fall has arrived and, much like a teenage boy, it has left the world damp, subject to constantly and randomly shifting conditions, and is determined to make me as irritable as possible. It also signals the start of the new television season, an event filled with trepidation, redundancy, and general disappointment. Granted, the 2011-2012 season has so far been less dispiriting than last year, but only if you squint real hard and cock your head to the side. Over the summer, studio execs swept the land clean of most of the cheesiest, vilest, and outright offensive shows. But in their wake, the bloated corpses of reheated premises and ploddingly plotted premieres have bobbed to the surface.  

A few weeks have passed since the season started, and the curtain rose on mediocrity and predictability. Everything you expected to return has, and all of the most talked about pilots made it on the air in one form or another. There was a lot of last minute switcheroos between the summer pilot season and their fall premieres, particularly in the form of replaced actors and re-edits. But, for better or worse, you got what you expected. Particularly if you expected not much more than something to pass the time until Alex O’Loughlin takes off his shirt again.  

But mediocrity wasn’t the only thing clogging up the air waves. You’ve also got your “so bad it’s (almost) good” in The Playboy Club, your “why do people insist on letting Mario Lopez on the air?” in H8R, and the annual “lost in translation British import” Free Agents. Apparently there is a god as all three have already gotten the ol’ heave-ho after attempting to murder the general populace, so silver linings and whatnot.

The last few years have seen a glut of science fiction and Twilight/True Blood wannabes clogging up the already muddy airwaves. This year the studios have hopped on the Mad Men train and shoved as many beehives and skinny ties on the screen as possible. Trailing not far behind is Hollywood’s weird obsession for all things Western. While I love the wild, wild west as much as the next guy, this seems like one of those inexplicable fads that no one remembers how it got popular but wish it would just go away now, please. If you’re going to do a Western then be creative with it. And no, casting Common doesn’t count.

Still trying to decide if it’s less of a waste of brain power to watch the 800th incarnation of a bunch of sexy people with rather pointless magical talents, a show about cops with bad hair saying the kind of half-assed punchlines you get in those chain emails your gran keeps sending you, or 21 minutes of ADORKABLE people doing ADORKABLE things with their ADORKABLE roomates? Lucky for you, you don’t have to. As a your own personal television junky, I’ve waded through all the crap, less-than-crap, and bleach-my-eyes-out on your behalf. So gather round, kiddies, and I shall tell you the tale of fall TV. (Those with an “*” are new this season.)

Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sun. 9 PM)
*Hell on Wheels (AMC, Sun. — not premiering until 11/6): I miss Deadwood.
*Pan Am (ABC, Mon. 10 PM): There is motherfucking sex on this motherfucking plane!

*American Horror Story (FX, Wed. 10 PM): I cannot convey how terrible this show is with mere words. It’s awful, stupid, demeaning, and bewildering. It’s like a visual version of that sandpaper-y film that covers your teeth when you eat a banana mixed with the uncomfortableness of being sexually harrassed by a group of men on the subway.
The Walking Dead (AMC, Sun. 10 PM — not premiering until 10/16): With all the disconcerting axings going on behind the scenes this summer, this season could be disatrous or awesome. I’ll be covering the show with cautious optimism for again.

Science Fiction/Fantasy
Fringe (FOX, Fri. 9 PM): No, I still haven’t gotten around to watching this. I know, I know, it’s the most incredible thing to ever air on televion ever in the whole of history EVAR. But until Pacey gets frosted tips again my interest is limited.
*A Gifted Man (CBS, Fri. 8 PM): A wannabe Dr. House is being haunted by his dead ex-wife, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.
*Grimm (NBC, Fri. 9 PM — not premiering until 10/28): Fingers crossed this ends up this season’s The Cape.
*Once Upon a Time (ABC, Sun. 8 PM — not premiering until 10/23): Fingers crossed this ends up this season’s The Gates.
Sanctuary (Syfy, Fri. 10 PM)
*The Secret Circle (CW, Thurs. 9 PM): This show marks the 1 millionth time television has compared the hormonal chaos that is puberty to the discovery of one’s magical abilities. Congratulations. Your card is in the mail.
Supernatural (CW, Fri. 9 PM)
*Terra Nova (FOX, Mon. 8 PM): Before this show, I didn’t think it was possible to make dinosaurs, time travel, and dystopian governments boring, but Spielberg’s done a bang up job of it.
Ugly Americans (CC, Wed. 10:30 PM — Summer leftovers)
The Vampire Diaries (CW, Thurs. 8 PM)

Legal Drama/Procedural/Mystery/Thriller/Kitchen Sink
Body of Proof (ABC, Tues. 10 PM)
Bones (FOX, Thurs. 8 PM)
Castle (ABC, Mon. 10 PM)
*Charlie’s Angels (ABC, Thurs. 8 PM): NO.
Chuck (NBC, Fri. 8 PM — not premiering until 10/28)
Criminal Minds (CBS, Wed 9 PM): Yeah, I watch those A&E marathons on Fridays and Sundays. No, I’m not proud of it.
CSI (CBS, Wed. 9 PM): Will Sam and Diane ever get back together?!
CSI: Miami (CBS, Sun. 10 PM): God dammit, Caruso. Punny bon mots are NEVER APPROPRIATE while standing over a corpse.
CSI: NY (CBS, Fri. 9 PM)
Dexter (SHO, Sun. 9 PM)
The Good Wife (CBS, Sun. 9 PM)
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Mon. 10 PM): Did I mention that Alex O’Loughlin takes off his shirt off a lot? Also, Alex Mack is apparently still acting.
House (FOX, Mon. 8 PM): Every time I watch this show I think, “I mean, fancy writing a song about saying good night to a whole city. I mean, you may as well say, ’Good Afternoon, Manchester’ or ’Fancy Bumping into You, Basingstoke’...Or ’I Didn’t See You at the Club Last Night, Cleethorpes’.”
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, Wed. 9 PM): “Chris Malongna is Tony Bologna in The Vigilogna”
The Mentalist (CBS, Thurs. 10 PM)
NCIS (CBS, Tues. 8 PM)
NCIS: LA (CBS, Tues. 9 PM)
Nikita (CW, Wed. 9 PM)
*Person of Interest (CBS, Thurs. 9 PM): Jim Caviezel sleepwalks while that dude from LOST hangs around.
*Prime Suspect (NBC, Thurs. 10 PM): No Helen Mirren and unnecessary American remakes make Alex something something.
*Revenge (ABC, Wed. 10 PM)
*Ringer (CW, Tues. 9 PM): Really, Sarah Michelle Gellar? You honestly thought this was a good idea? I mean, come on.
Sons of Anarchy (FX, Tues. 10 PM)
Unforgettable (CBS, Tues. 10 PM): Unforgettable? More like “Forgettable”! Thank you, ladies and germs, I’ll be here all week.

Sitcoms for Geeks
*2 Broke Girls (CBS, Mon. 8:30 PM): They’ll have a pretty decent show on their hands when they squeegee off the racial/cultural/gender stereotypes, dump the “Sex and the City for poor people” conceits, and figure out what a hipster actually is.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Thurs. 8 PM): If I have to hear someone shout “Bazinga!” one more time....
Community (NBC, Thurs. 8 PM): What other show could do a clip show made of clips from episodes that never aired and get away with it?
How I Met Your Mother (CBS, Mon. 8 PM)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, Thurs. 10 PM)
Modern Family (ABC, Wed. 9 PM)
*New Girl (FOX, Thurs. 9 PM): How’s your tolerance for Manic Pixie Dream Girls?
The Office (NBC, Thurs. 9 PM):
Parks and Recreation (NBC, Thurs. 8:30 PM): ’Nuff said.
*Suburgatory (ABC, Wed. 8:30 PM)
*Up All Night (NBC, Wed. 8 PM): Is the Arrested Development movie out yet? No? *sigh* Fine.

Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, 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.

Ian Tregillis
1. ITregillis
I was kind of interested in American Horror Story. I've only seen the first 10 minutes... maybe I should just skip the rest?
Ian Johnson
2. IanPJohnson
I was having a crappy day, but this article made me smile and giggle. Thank you for giving me a small cookie of amusement in the middle of a turd of a day, Alex.

(And yes, I can never get Hugh Laurie's British roles out of my mind when watching House either.)
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
@ITregillis: Given your DVR backlog, you'd be better off watching those instead of wasting your time with AHS. I kid you not, Connie Britton has sex (is raped?) by a ghost in a gimp costume. Just before that Dylan McDermott masterbates himself to tears after being seduced by a ghost in a French maid outfit. Both scenes are the unsexiest sex you'll see on tv this season.

@IanPJohnson: Ah, my life's work is complete ;)
4. HarleyG
My wife and I saw the first episode of American Horror Story and we liked it. It's strange and unsetteling and I agree that the two "sex" scenes were unsexy, but I think that was the point.
Can't wait to see what the baby looks like.
But honestly, you took the time to watch this show but you can't be bothered to try Fringe?
Jason Henninger
5. jasonhenninger
Insert "What? You're not watching Fringe!" outrage here. Great acting, richly developed characters, one of the strongest female character on TV in a long time, gross yucky scenes of great fun, and goofy-ass science. Well worth your time. (I'm biased, as a friend of mine writes for the show, but still, please do check it out).

All I think of when I see House is Hugh Laurie singing "America" over and over. An entire episode of House, at it's very best, pales in comparison to a single still frame of Jeeves and Wooster or A Bit of Fry and Laurie. So, I believe that it's for the best that you keep thinking of the proper British version of Hugh.
Alex Brown
6. AlexBrown
@Harley: It's not that I can't be bothered with Fringe, it's just that I tried it when it first aired and it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I haven't had the desire to go back and try it again. I'm sure once I sit down and focus I'll love it (especially since Daniels is on it), but for now there are so many other things I'd rather fill my time with.

@Jason: Ah, A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Fab.
Emily Lind
7. Malana
I actually liked to American Horror Story pilot. I don't know if that will hold up for a whole season, but I am intrigued enough to want to tune in again tonight. It was weird and unsettling, but so far it was one of the few new shows this season that didn't simply bore the pants off me.
David Thomson
8. ZetaStriker
I actually thought the Ringer might be good. But wow, was I wrong. Gellar couldn't pull off the acting, in my opinion, and I had a hard time caring about anyone when I had no idea what was going on. Same problem I had with that show about the con man last season - if I don't like the main cast, why should I care to watch them?
Alex Brown
9. AlexBrown
@Malana: Really? When I wasn't actively uncomfortable I was really bored. It seemed like such a waste of time to me. Then again, I never had the patience for Glee either, or Nip/Tuck. I just don't care for the way Murphy and Falchuk tell stories. AHS is one of those things that sounds great on paper, but Murphy and Falchuk never get around to doing anything worthwhile with it. Same with their other shows. They like playing with the Horror genre, but there's no meat to the story. It's all Dutch angles and scares but no substance.

@Zeta: I agree about the caring thing. The only reason I lasted through the end of The Killing is because I was promised I would find out who killed Rosie Larson - and they couldn't even deliver on that! I was so indifferent to the characters that I can't remember a single name anymore. I don't have to like the characters, but they have to be interesting enough to make me want to invest my time with them.
10. Marco1019
Curious as to your thoughts/feelings on Suburgatory. I think it's decent & I hope it sticks around.
Alex Brown
11. AlexBrown
@Marco: I think that, like just about every other sitcom premiering this season (especially 2 Broke Girls), Suburgatory had a clever premise but hasn't gotten its feet yet. I think both shows won't get "good" until the second season, but for now they're suffering from too much potential, not enough quality. It's treading very familiar territory and it clearly wants to be a better show than it is, but it's not there yet.
john mullen
12. johntheirishmongol
Making snarky comments about new shows is pretty easy. Most of them have to find their voice and get a good feel for where they want to go. I can understand legit criticism about the premise or plot, but it normally takes shows a while to develop real working chemistry.

That being said, I have looked at more than a few of the new shows. I don't recommend American Horror Story because it was just a bit too weird.

Secret Circle is very derivative and didn't take me by storm either.

Pan Am is fun and brings back memories of what flying used to be like for me.

Terra Nova has a long piece of rope for me because it has dino's.

I'm very much looking forward to Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

I enjoyed Person of Interest both episodes that I have seen.

Prime Suspect needs to get past the 70's attitudes of the guys, because frankly, it feels a bit dated.

Ringer is a pretty interesting show for me so far. I not only enjoy seeing SMG but also Ian Gryffud (sp).

Revenge is very cool so far. The setup is good and its already had a couple of slight twists to it.

Suburgatory is amusing but no belly laughs yet.

Hart of Dixie is a fish out of water story and decent. The girl is a bit immature for the role but she might grow into it. At least they aren't treating the south like its still in the 40's.

The new Tim Allen comedy is somewhat predictable, but very well done, and the cast is good.

And I did see Charlies Angels, but the new Charlie is no John Forsythe and there isn't any Farrah in the show.

I just mentioned the new ones....aren't DVR's wonderful???
Marcus W
13. toryx
This is the first time I've seen anyone say anything bad about American Horror Story. Not that I've been paying all that much attention. I no longer watch tv until it's survived a couple of seasons and then I Netflix it.

Just out of curiosity to the OP, though, what shows do you like? Anyone can be snarky about a lot of television but until we see what shows you like a post like this is really kind of meaningless. There's no way to measure your tastes.

For all we know, you could think Deadwood was horrible and Full House was the best tv of all time. Knowing that would totally change my view of your ratings.
James Whitehead
14. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Hoping Terra Nova picks up speed as the season goes along; mostly for familial ties. ;-)

My sons have enjoyed it but I am concerned that this show is going the route of that Christian Slater spy thriller where the writers threw all the backstory into one season instead of building tension slowly over a number of seasons.


PS - Lest we forget, MASH did terribly the first season or so but CBS stayed with it & worked to improve it. Didn't do too badly in the long run I guess. Maybe that's part of the problem, too much worry over ratings & initial reactions to shows and not enough focus on improving the shows.
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
@john and toryx: Well, yes, snark is easy, but it's also a hell of a lot more fun then straight up critical reviews. It's interesting to me that commentors here seem to think AHS is good television, making it the only positive feedback I've heard. Most major critics have panned it. My biggest concern for the show (besides the shoddy editing and Murphy and Falchuk's inability to tell a cohesive story) is that by ep 2 there's absolutely NO reason for the Harmons to stay in that house. And trying to rationalize why they do over the course of a theoretical 5 or 6 seasons just doesn't work for me. If we saw a series of different families living and dying in that house then maybe.

As for what shows I do like, that shifts dramatically. I can enjoy and watch a show without really liking it or agreeing with it. The Big Bang Theory is a prime example. I really dislike the way they deal with anyone not skinny, pretty, or white, and I think many of the jokes cross the line between funny and cruel, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy spending time with Leonard, Penny, Sheldon, et al.

I'm still watching about half the shows on this list, particularly the newer shows. Yes, I know it takes about half a season - sometimes as long as a full season - for a show to figure itself out. Particularly sitcoms, which derive most of their humor from a cast and crew that know how to play off each other.

For what it's worth, I absolutely LOVE Deadwood and am indifferent to Full House. My favorite premiere is 2 Broke Girls (it's the show in which I see the greatest potential, but it's far from there yet - and if King keeps his stranglehold it may never get there), my fave returning shows are Community and Parks and Rec, the show I'm most excited about (with trepidation) is Hell on Wheels, and the shows I hated the most were Charlie's Angels and American Horror Story. If we're counting midseason premieres then the only thing that fills my thoughts is the return of Mad Men.

@Kato: I also hope Terra Nova sorts itself out sooner rather than later. Frankly, I think sticking everyone in a safe zone is a silly way to set up a show. Talk about removing most of the dramatic tension. You'd have to keep finding excuses to chuck them out of the fenced in area. But I muchly adore Jason O'Mara and will follow him everywhere. Hell, I sat through the American remake of Life on Mars - twice! - for him.
James Whitehead
16. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@15Milo1313, he's why we watch as well; well that and gotta love a show with dinosaurs. The safe zone works to a point but they could definitely write things showing how they need to be more self-sufficient, particularly if supplies stop coming regularly from the 'future.'

I liked his Life on Mars maybe 'cause I hadn't seen the British one & also for the ensemble cast. Thought they were the strong point of that show.

Also for previous comments regarding Hugh Laurie's accent, I have read numerous accounts of fans having no idea that he is English as his accent is so good. I watch him on House and cannot here anything from his Blackadder days in his voice.

Just Like Bob Hoskins in "Roger Rabbit;" lots of people had no clue he was English or that he had so strong an accent.

Ian Tregillis
17. ITregillis

Just Like Bob Hoskins in "Roger Rabbit;" lots of people had no clue he was English or that he had so strong an accent.

Funny you should mention that-- I just watched "Roger Rabbit" for the very first time this past weekend. I've seen Hoskins in other things, but had no idea he was a Brit until I was told halfway through the movie. I'm generally pretty bad at identifying accents, granted, but he easily fooled my ears.
Risha Jorgensen
18. RishaBree
I liked AHS a lot. It's funny that you say you didn't see any positive reviews until now - those I saw were roughly half-and-half "this is great!" and "this is one of the worst shows ever made." It might be because I was randomly googling after watching the premier, looking for Constance quotes so I wouldn't have to transcribe one myself to Twitter. I wasn't looking for big name reviewers, per se.

That masterbation scene was incredibly non-sexy and kind of icky in a pathetic sort of way, but I'm pretty sure it was meant to be that way.

And, uh, I really like The Gates. It may partially be because I walked into it with very low expectations and sure knowledge that it would be cancelled. But there was a refreshingly small number of stupid and/or oblivious people, it didn't drag, some of the mysteries weren't instantly obvious, and all of the annoying characters were meant to be annoying. Well, ok, the teenage succubus was a little, sometimes, but her angst seemed to be at a reasonable level given her age and the trauma.
Alex Brown
19. AlexBrown
@Risha: I think the division with AHS comes down to recapers giving generally positive feedback and critics giving generally negative feedback. It all comes down to who is looking for what qualities. Critics tend to look at the construction, set up, storylines, potential, acting, script, etc., while recapers are just looking at whether or not they enjoyed the hour they spent. Take The Gates as an example. I enjoyed the hell out of it. But I also acknowledge that it was a terrible, terrible show. I'd never be able to give a positive review of that show because it failed at every technical aspect. But as a slice of pointless entertainment then yeah, it was just fine.

When I watch tv I have to balance the need for mindless fluff and desire for quality tv. AHS is mindless fluff that thinks its quality and that's where I get stuck. Murphy and Falchuk have never been able to create quality - sustainable quality - yet they're convinced their shows are the greatest gift to mankind. And that's what I see when I watch AHS: a show that thinks its people.

@Kato and Ian: I always chuckle at Hugh Laurie's American accent. It sounds so fake to me, like he's not sure if he's from the Midwest or California. Oddly enough, he even sings with an American accent.
Risha Jorgensen
20. RishaBree
I did see some professional reviewers that like it (and they mostly wrote something along the lines of "everyone else in the room hated it"), but fair point. And yes, despite my praise above, The Gates was an absolutely terrible show. Even if it wasn't a will-be-cancelled concept premiering in the middle of summer, I would have known it was coming by halfway through the first episode.
Alex Brown
21. AlexBrown
@Risha: If you're looking for something relatively mindless to enjoy, try The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries. Both are on the CW and are based on books by the same author. They're covered in overacting, silly premises, and interchangable teenagers, but there are worse ways to kill an hour. They dabble in spooky but manage to find all the fun stuff in magic that True Blood only stumbles upon occassionally. They're like The Gates and The Cape but aimed squarely at the WB set.
Zayne Forehand
22. ShiningArmor
Okay, I have a couple of comments and then a couple of serious questions for you Alex.

First of all, I laughed out loud at the comment about Alex Mack still acting. I watched the first 8-9 eps of H5O and then quit because there was not enough arc for me but her coming on the show almost made me start watching again. Also, insert standard Fringe outrage. I don't have the energy today to repeat how awesome it is. Ringer was slow at first but after this week's episode, it has a tight grip around my interest. Revenge was one of those show I watched out a curiosity and then got quickly hooked. Glad they got both got a full season pickup.

I think the snark is funny to a point and while I agree with most of your assessments of some of the new shows being near garbage, I think there is universally bad and "just not for everyone" and I didn't think you made that distinction well. For example, I really like New Girl and Up All Night is growing on me but I can see where the humor or acting may not be for everyone. On the other hand, 2 Broke Girls made me want to gouge out my eyes and burst my own eardrums just to make it stop.

Onto the questions: Have you ever watched The Good Wife? If not, you're missing one of the best scripted shows on TV right now. I'm a huge sci-fi fan and I usually loathe procedurals as stated above about H5O but The Good Wife has great writing, great acting, interesting and relevant cases, and some great plot and character arcs.

I'm curious about your comment for Once Upon a Time because I'm looking forward to it. Have you seen the pilot or are you just going off of the previews? I'm jsut wondering because I've been reading advance reviews trying to suss out what to expect. Same question to a lesser extent about Grimm.
Alex Brown
23. AlexBrown
@Shining: The trouble with the sitcoms premiering this season is that they are mostly "good" shows crippled with shoddy executions. The reason I like (and I use that word very loosly) 2 Broke Girls is because I see a nugget of greatness buried under all the horseshit - pun intended. New Girl is the same way, though I enjoyed myself much less. I have a low tolerance for the "sticking a hot girl in glasses and calling her ugly" trope. But there's also a good show lurking under the surface. Like the amazingly amazing Parks and Rec, I think that both shows will take a while to find their feet and improve. I think both also need to figure out what stories they want to tell and shrug off the unnecessary weight.

The distinction lies between whether or not a show has long term potential both in story telling and quality. Up All Night and New Girl have a lot of potential, but I'm not interested in watching them - your "just not for everyone" clause. AHS and Charlie's Angels lack any potential whatsoever and also lack quality. I'd be curious to find out what exactly are the reasons people seem to like AHS beyond "it's fun" or "cool premise". Give me a valid argument.

The Good Wife is on my list of shows to watch, ranked slightly higher than Fringe. It also suffers from the same affliction that turned me off from Fringe when it first aired. Both shows were marketed as something entirely different from what they actually were. With Fringe I wanted a replacement X-Files and didn't get that and what was left didn't jive with me. With The Good Wife I was offered a network version of a Lifetime drama and that turned me off so much I never got around to watching it, but now I've heard so many good things about it I plan on giving it a real shot.

Finally, unfortunately I don't have any screeners (HINT HINT, studios!) so no dice on Once Upon a Time or Grimm, but from what I've heard from those int he know, the former is pretty good and the latter is pretty poor. I was just being cheeky above, though I am looking forward to having a silly, fantasy-based adult show to watch now that I've lost both The Cape and The Gates, and MTV's Death Valley ain't it. I never recovered from the loss of Moonlight, a show so impressively stupid and vacuous that I had to buy it on DVD just so I could relive it over and over again.

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