Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Fall TV Preview!

I’m cutting it close this year – new TV shows start this week! Read quickly!

This year’s Fall TV Preview is unlike those of most past years – for the first time in as long as I can remember, I haven’t been successful in locating the pilot episodes of this year’s crop of new TV shows online. That means I can’t really fully vouch for any of them being fantastic, or steer you away from any that are terrible. But what I can do is tell you which shows I’m going to give a chance – and why – along with the returning favorites that have already earned the much coveted Brian Seal of Approval.

The good news is, this might offer me a good excuse to Blog a bit more often over the course of the next few weeks as we test out these new shows. I don’t know that any of them will actually be Blog-worthy (but here’s hoping!), but if nothing else, determining which shows earn a spot on my busy DVR schedule and which fall by the wayside might make for some entertaining posts.

So stay tuned, I might actually be blogging semi-frequently for the next few weeks!

For now, here are the shows that I’ll be watching at the start of the season…


8:00 pm – How I Met Your Mother (CBS) – September 19

After a pretty lackluster fifth season, the only sitcom I’ve ever liked on CBS came back with a strong sixth season last year featuring a number of great storylines – the Ted / Zoey / Arcadian storyline, Barney meeting his Trinity Killer Father, Lilly finally getting pregnant, a flash-forward to Barney’s wedding day (!), and one of those “damn you for making me feel emotions, alleged comedy” storylines where Marshall’s dad died… which was powerful and touching, but still found a way to be hilarious thanks to its frequent references to Crocodile Dundee 3.

Even though the show continues to move forward at a snail’s pace in its titular (wait – is that a dirty word?) promise to show us how Ted meets the mother of his children, as long as the storylines with the characters remain strong, I really don’t care. With Lilly’s pregnancy and Barney’s wedding, the show potentially dropped two bombs big enough to destroy the show that we all know and love… (everyone knows that writing babies onto a show is generally accepted as meaning the writers are out of ideas) but also gives us two guaranteed overarching storylines for the next year to move the story forward.

In an ironic way, HIMYM is kinda like Lost - it’s one of those situations where you want to know the outcome of the story, but once you do, it’s over… so maybe we should stop worrying about the ending and just enjoy the ride. Plus, how disappointing is it going to be when it turns out that Ted is dead all along and the show is a place he created for he and his friends to meet up in the afterlife?

8:00 pm - Terra Nova (Fox) – September 16

True story – I love me some dinosaurs. As a little kid, they adorned my clothes and birthday cakes. As a medium sized kid, Jurassic Park was the first movie I ever saw in a theater multiple times. So it’s no wonder that this show intrigues me. The premise is that it’s the year 2149 and all life on earth is about to go extinct. Thankfully, scientists develop a time machine to send the people of 2149 back a few million years back in time when the earth was full of lush vegetation, clean water, and life-threatening dinosaurs (why not just send them back to the 1980s?). The show follows a family as they join “Terra Nova” – the first human colony in the prehistoric world.

Oh, and the show is produced by Steven Spielberg, who knows a thing or two about making dinosaur-centric entertainment.

There’s a lot of potential ways for this show to fail miserably. Terrible special effects (although the show’s budget is absolutely huge – something like $4 million per episode - so I’m hopeful), cheesy dialogue, the feeling like it’s some type of Avatar-rip-off, etc. But the dinosaur-loving-kid in me wants it to be great, so I’m going to give it a chance.

Stay tuned…


8:00 – 90210 (CW) – September 13

Yes 90210 is still appointment viewing in our household. This is how you know although I use a lot of big words and talk all intellectually about TV shows, I’m not actually a TV snob. I like entertainment, and 90210 gives it to me in huge, ridiculous portions. What do you need to know? Teenage drama, pretty people, generally likeable characters, and one of the rare shows that actually graduated its high school cast at the end of last season. Last year featured the typical teen drama storylines of a character realizing he’s gay, a character overcoming her fears of surfing by smoking pot, assisted suicide, and the risks of stealing song ideas from your dead boyfriend to become a temporary superstar. You know, the usual.

What next?

I don’t really care. Kate thinks the show bordered on the absurd last year, but I absolutely ate it up and loved it. All I know is that my high school years would have been a lot easier if 90 was around back then for me, warning me of the potential dangers of a monkey attack in Mexico (again, dead serious about the storylines).

9:00 – Ringer (CW) – September 13

True story #2 – I loved me some Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day. You might say this was the show that got me obsessed with TV. It certainly was the first show where I paid attention to things like episode titles, writers, season long story arcs, and used the Internet as a place to discuss and debate episodes. So I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic that Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar is coming back to TV. Watching the previews for Ringer on TV, it looked fairly terrible – but after reading the plot synopsis and critic reviews on Wikipedia, I’m intrigued enough to give it a shot… plus I’ll already be on the CW watching 90, so it just makes life easier this way. Also, it’s got Richard Alpert in it.

Here’s the plot:

Twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan (both played by Gellar) have been at odds for the last eight years and find that their lives are both unraveling at the same rate. Bridget, a recovering alcoholic, is on the run from the mob after witnessing a murder. She flees to her twin sister Siobhan's home. The sisters seem to be repairing their broken relationship until Siobhan mysteriously disappears overboard during a boat trip the sisters take together. Bridget soon discovers her sister's seemingly perfect life is full of secrets after she is attacked in Siobhan's home.

The critic reviews promise a lot of “twists and turns” and actually praised the intelligence of the story-telling, which is pretty surprising given that it sounds like a bad soap opera. But more than a few critics called it the best new show of the year – so I’ll give it a chance.


8:00 – The Middle (ABC) – September 21

For as much as people talk about Modern Family, I’m shocked that The Middle doesn’t get more love. It’s nothing life-changing, or quite at the same level as Modern Family, but it serves up its fair share of laughs with a few heartfelt moments sprinkled in. Plus it seems more like that “more traditional family” show that the average American could relate to. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t some “Everybody Loves Raymond” show – although it does star Patricia Heaton – it’s much more edgy and sarcastic… but not on a depressing “Roseanne” level. It just works. On more than one occasion last year, it was funnier than Modern Family. If you’re not watching it, you should probably give it a chance. You’ll probably like it.

8:00 – Up All Night (NBC) – September 14

I feel like a broken record here, but I’ll say it again – if GOB is going to be on a show, I’m going to give it a chance. Seriously, when is a network just going to start re-airing “Arrested Development” reruns in primetime rather than developing new shows that we all just hope are half as good? This is probably as good of an excuse as any to put another Arrested Development video on the Blog:

Up All Night has the added benefit of potentially being a sneak preview glimpse into my future six months from now, so it’ll either be absolutely terrifying and drive me to drinking whiskey every Wednesday night, or it’ll teach me important life lessons that I will jot down and will help make me into the greatest parent of all-time. I don’t think there’s any potential middle ground here.

9:00 – Modern Family (ABC) – September 21

Not much to say here – Modern Family is the gold standard for TV sitcoms right now. But I think we can all admit that the first season was far superior to the second season. This is somewhat normal for TV shows, since writers tend to use up all their good storylines in their first season in an effort to build a fan base, but what normally happens – and what happened with Modern Family last year – was that to “kick things up a notch”, they end up turning the characters into outrageous caricatures of themselves as they escalate the ridiculousness of the storylines more and more. Here’s hoping that the show overcomes their sophomore slump, tones it down a bit, and returns to the laugh-out-loud storylines from its first season.

9:30 – Happy Endings (ABC) – September 21

This show actually burned through 13 episodes over the course of April and May of last year, but I know very few people who actually watched it. Those who did absolutely loved it. Now it’s got the prime slot of airing right after Modern Family where it is guaranteed to have a big audience for at least the first few weeks – and I can’t think of a more deserving show to have the slot (unless we can go back in time and give it to Arrested Development). Having seen most, if not all, of the first 13 episodes I would compare the show to a hybrid between Friends and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s about a group of friends who drink and have ridiculous things happen to them, but it never quite gets as over the top ridiculous as some of the Sunny storylines. The basic premise of the show centers around what happens after two of the friends break off their wedding at the last moment, but still remain friends with everyone – so at least it’s something a little different than the run of the mill “pretty people hanging out and drinking in the city” sitcoms of the past ten years.

Also, the cast features both Kim Bauer (hot in a hot way) and Jo from the final season of Scrubs (hot in a “she could probably beat me up” way).

Give it a shot. You’ll like it.


8:00 – Community (NBC) – September 22

A year ago, in my mind this was the funniest show on TV. This year, it’s still a strong candidate for that title. The show continues to operate on a meta-creative level so beyond anything else that I’ve ever seen on TV that it’s ridiculous – even escalating to the point where they branch out beyond the show itself (see the “Cougar Town” / “Community” crossover videos below as a perfect example. The shows are on different networks for crying out loud!):

On the other hand, Community still manages to deliver surprisingly normal – and dare I say even “moving”? – storylines as well (see Troy’s 21st Birthday Party as an example). Aside from perhaps Pierce, who verged on the ridiculous last year, every character is both hilarious and believable. Sometimes the show is too weird for some people, but that’s usually when it takes its homage storylines a little too far (such as the Dungeons and Dragons episode last year). Still, I find myself laughing out loud at Community more than any other show on TV – and if that’s the best criteria to determine the “funniest show on TV”, then Community retains the crown.

8:30 – Parks and Recreation (NBC) – September 22

Over the course of the past year, Parks and Recreation has gone from a fringe show that only a few people watched, to a quotable show that the majority of people I know watch and love – that’s a good sign. Ron Swanson has become the most iconic character on TV, with his meat-loving, government-hating, down-to-earth-common-sense-ness serving as a beacon of hope for the world in a land full of political correctness and dirty hippies.

The supporting cast of Parks – even the minor characters like Jean-Ralphio provide more laughs top to bottom than most shows on TV. The show is currently operating at a pretty high level – I honestly can’t remember thinking a single episode of last season was “bad” – so here’s hoping it can keep it going through the fourth season and finally (along with Community) become the massively popular shows that NBC needs to replace the fading Office and 30 Rock (which you notice are no longer on my list).

9:00 – Person of Interest (CBS) – September 22

On the surface, Person of Interest sounds like a typical CBS show that I would hate – a CSI-esque show that offers “mission of the week” crime drama without anything deep or overarching over the course of a season. But then when you read the details, it sounds much more interesting:

Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) is a mysterious billionaire who has developed a computer program that predicts the identity of a person connected to a violent crime that will take place sometime in the future. However, the program has its limitations: for example, it cannot predict whether the person will be a victim, perpetrator, or witness, nor can it predict when or where the crime will take place. Unable to stop the crimes on his own, Finch hires John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former CIA agent who is presumed to be dead, to help stop the crimes from taking place.

Also interesting? In addition to starring Benjamin Linus and Jesus Christ, the show is Executive Produced by JJ Abrams (Lost), Bryan Burk (Lost), and Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight). I’m still afraid the show is going to be typical CBS-terrible, but I’ll give it a few shots to prove me wrong. It’s got a strong enough pedigree to deserve it.

10:00 – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX) – September 15

Sunny has always been absolutely ridiculous, but this season they are taking things to new heights – with one the main characters on the show intentionally gaining 50 pounds in real life for the sake of being able to make fat jokes this season. When serious actors do stuff like this for movies, they are praised for their “dedication to the art”. What is it called when comedic actors do it for the sake of making jokes? Unhealthy? Or hilarious?

10:30 – The League (FX) – October 6

Not a whole lot to say here. If you watch Sunny, you’ll probably stick around for the League afterwards. If you play Fantasy Football, you can relate. If you don’t fall into either of those two categories, this show isn’t for you. Far from my favorite show on TV, it’s entertaining enough… although the 10:30 timeslot is dangerously close to being past my bed time.


8:00 – Chuck (NBC) – September 23

Confession – I’m a horrible fan. I think I saw maybe the first three or four episodes of last season of Chuck, but the rest are all still sitting on my computer, waiting to be watched. I love Chuck! But it’s previous Monday night at 8:00 pm timeslot was impossible to deal with, since there were like 10 DVR conflicts at the same time. Since no one else I know really watches the show, it was the show that fell by the wayside that I would “catch up on” over the summer. It’s now September and I haven’t gotten to it yet.

Because of this, I can’t help but feel 100% responsible for this being Chuck’s final season. 13 episodes, airing on Friday nights, when all cool people are out on dates. Still – how impressive is it that Chuck has basically survived cancellation for the past three years, each year with ratings lower than the previous, and is going to get the chance to have a proper ending that the series deserves?

Someday I will catch up on you, Chuck. Someday…

For now, here is your token Yvonne Strahovski photo:



8:00 – Once Upon a Time (ABC) – September 25

This show has the strongest potential to be the “Lost” of the 2011 TV pilot crop. It’s from Lost writers, including Damon Lindelof, who is a “consulting producer” – how do I get that job? I’ll read your scripts and tell you what works and what doesn’t work. Heck, I’ll do it for free just to make the shows I like better! The previews even have Lost references in them (like a clock freezing at 8:15). But what is the show actually about? Per Wikipedia…

The series is loosely inspired by the classic fairy tale stories except set in the present day, hence the series name. The stories hold a key to the mystery that will draw a bail bonds collector and the son that she gave up for adoption 10 years earlier to a New England town called Storybrooke, Maine. This town is actually a parallel world in which fairy tale characters look like normal people and don't remember their true identities or anything about their true lives.

I really have no idea what any of that means, but hey – if nothing else, that sounds unique and unlike anything else on TV right now (except maybe that “Grimm” show on NBC, which seems pretty similar, actually).

I’ll give it a shot!

9:00 – Dexter (SHOW) – October 2

After a fourth season which rivaled the best of the series (John Lithgow still terrifies me to this day), last season was uneven. It seemed like the writers didn’t know where they wanted to go with the season, and would introduce and drop plot lines without any explanation on a fairly regular basis. By the time they got to something that seemed like it could carry a full season (the Jordan Chase plot), there were only a few episodes left, and that story ended up feeling rushed. I attribute a lot of this to the show’s creator, Clyde Phillips, leaving after the end of season four – and a new writing staff finding their feet. Still – I have high expectations for the upcoming season, which looks like it will revolve around the concepts of faith, religion, and how they apply to our favorite serial killer.

Really, all you need to know about Dexter is that it makes me subscribe to Showtime for three months of the year. We sign up right before the season premiere, and cancel right after the season finale. I don’t think I even watched a single other show or movie on it over the course of the three months last year. Which means, I basically paid $60 to watch last season of Dexter.

It’s that good.

So there you have it! The 11.5 hours of TV I’m going to attempt to watch this year. That admittedly seems a little high (I do have a job after all), but I’m sure we’ll start cutting the losers out of this mix in short time. For now, you have my initial recommendations, so you are well equipped to watch the best of the best on TV and be the envy of your friends and coworkers.

Happy TV-ing!