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 Tor.com again.
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.