2011 Fall TV Season

Back in the stone-age, when I was a kid, the fall tv season was a huge event. Because it coincided with the start of school, it made the month of September feel extra special - like it was the beginning of a new year. January 1 means nothing to a 10 year old.

TV was eventful back then. There was no VHS, DVD, DVR, VOD, or streaming. You watched it when it was on, or you missed it. Once a year, special programs would air such as The Wizard of Oz or Christmas shows like Rudolph and Charlie Brown. Actually, Charlie Brown had the market on the "once a year" shows since there was one for every holiday.

In today's on-demand world, there's little to look forward to on the calendar. Even the fall tv season is plagued by our brave new media world. Missed the premier of that highly praised new show? No worries! It's going to air three more times this week on tv and, in a couple of days, you can stream it from Hulu Plus.

Even though the "event" element is gone, I still get jazzed for the new shows and all the new technology has actually made catching new shows a breeze. Since I'm a TiVo subscriber, I have access to something called a Guru Guide that presents me with every new show premiering within two weeks. I can read the description of the show and then record the pilot episode (or the whole season, if I'm feeling lucky). It's so much more efficient than the old process of having to actually be home on the night and time that a show airs. Plus, it allows me to check out competing shows in the same time slot.

So... all this being said, I thought I'd share some thoughts with you on some of the new shows I've seen (or opted not to see) this season.

The Good
(the title links will take you to the trailer for the show)
  1. Person of Interest - Convoluted concept but simple execution - it's a bit sci-fi and very action-adventure with a soupcon of mystery thrown in for good measure. Jim Caviezel is the tortured good-guy who is thwarting bad deeds before they happen. Michael Emerson (Ben, from LOST) is the mysterious genius who supplies Caviezel's character with the information to act on. 
  2. Terra Nova - Future earthlings flee a dying earth by going back in time to a pre-historic earth with clean air, clean water, and a moon you can see (because there's no smog). Oh, and there are dinosaurs - cute vegetarian ones and scary meat (people) eaters. I expect this show will appeal to the whole family - dinosaurs for the kids, teen angst and guns for the teenagers, and some mysterious hinted-at plot for the adults. Oh, and Spielberg produces it.
  3. Suburgatory - Smart sit-com about a snarky, Manhattan-raised teenager who's upended by her paranoid single-dad father and moved out to the suburbs. This culture-clash premise could devolve into caricatures but, if the pilot is any indication, it's going to be smart and funny. The great cast includes Jeremy Sisto as the dad, Alan Tudyk as the dad's smarmy suburban friend, and Cheryl Hines as the ultimate suburban mom who wants to take the new girl under her finely-manicured wing.
  4. Bedlam - A real-estate developer has turned an old mental institution (closed down  because the staff was abusing patients) and turned it into luxury apartments. Sparsely occupied by the living, the place is over run with pissed off, crazy ghosts. Fortunately, one of the residents can see/talk-to the dead and, I assume, will be sticking around to help keep the ghosts from harming the tenants. This show is seriously, awesomely creepy.
  5. The Secret Circle - Teen supernatural drama - I thought we'd mined this for all it's worth but someone came up with yet another iteration. Interestingly, I recorded the pilot just to make fun of it and ended up liking it a lot. I may tire of all the teen angst eventually but, for now, the plot is intriguing enough to keep me watching.
The Bad
  1. Whitney - Seriously. Awful.  My prediction is that this show will be the first to be cancelled.
  2. Free Agents - This broke my heart. I desperately wanted to like this because I love Hank Azaria but watching two damaged people trying to have a relationship, while all the ancillary characters around them are written as cartoons is just painful.
  3. Unforgettable - I don't need to say anything else. Actually, yeah I do. I need Poppy Montgomery to take some acting classes. She has one expression and it basically says "confused".
The Undecided
  1. Up All Night - I really want to like this one. Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are fantastic but someone decided to write Maya Rudolph's character as a Saturday Night Live skit. The thing is, Maya Rudolph is an amazing actress but, if someone doesn't fix her character, I think the whole show is going to sink under the weight of all that ridiculous mugging.
  2. Prime Suspect - I'm willing to give it a chance and try not to constantly compare Maria Bello to Hellen Mirren but it's tough. The over-the-top sexism in the workplace with the boss that just looks the other way, the stupid, costume-y fedora, and the constant "tough-girl" gum chewing, is just bothersome. The bright spots so far have been with the character's home life. Doesn't bode well for a show that's supposed to be about the workplace.
  3. A Gifted Man - This hokey premise - egomaniacal doctor learns how to be a better person through the ghost of his dead wife - is actually kind of sweet and touching. So far I haven't died from the treacle but, if you find me drowned in a pool of syrup, you'll know what happened.
  4. American Horror Story - looks promising but the pilot hasn't aired yet. Maybe I'll do a review post after it does.

I made a conscious decision not to watch any 60's retro, Mad Man rip-offs (Pan Am, Playboy Club) or the so-far well-liked The New Girl starting Zooey Deschanel. Neither retro show is going to out-do Mad Men so, really, what's the point? And, honestly, Zooey Deschanel just tires me with her cutsie-smart schtick.

So that's my very long post about the new 2011 Fall TV Season shows that I like, and why. I promise that I won't take offense if you hate what I like. However, if you say you liked Whitney, I'm afraid we're going to have to stop being friends.

- Alex


  1. I'm surprised by how much I kinda like A Gifted Man too. It's my Friday night guilty pleasure for sure.

  2. I have found Pan Am to be engaging. I also really like Person of Interest. It's nice to see Michael Emerson not play a squirrely character. I know Jessica has lost patience with Ringer but I like it enough to stick with it. I admit I like the dynamic between SMG and Ioan Gruffudd. Also, Jason Doughring is joining the cast. I am about done with Prime Suspect. For me it's not the comparison to the original but instead it's the almost total imitation of Mary Shannon that Jane Timmeney is. I really like In Plain Sight and to me it's just a better show. I don't find Jane or the story line interesting. I have set the dvr to record Suburgatory. I agree with you about Secret Circle. What is Bedlam?

  3. Beth, I totally forgot about Ringer! That was supposed to go on my "consciously decided not to watch list" primarily because the premise is WAY too Lifetime Movie for me. Good point about the Timmeney character ripping off In Plain Sight's Shannon - I hadn't made the connection but I totally agree. Bedlam is a BBC show that premiered in the UK last February (I think). Anyway, it's on BBCA and is creepy good so far.