M: Welcome to day five of the Relatively Entertaining Fall TV Previews, or as I like to refer to it, Fringeday. Oh, and we’re including Saturday (aka Stinksday) on this one, because it’s bereft of quality programming thus not worthy of its own post (and should not be leading off the red-hot dynamite that is Sunday night). Anyway, here’s a quick key to help you as you read:
- Titles in blue are new this season
- Each * means one Quibbling Sibling will be tuning in
- For Monday’s preview click here
- For Tuesday’s preview click here
- For Wednesday’s preview click here
- For Thursday’s preview click here
Whitney (NBC, October 19th)
M: If you go back to our fall preview last year (click here), you’ll see that I was very skeptical of this show, but did think there were a few good lines in the previews. Well, at one point in the past year when we had an empty DVR and no desire to run out to RedBox, Mrs M and I watched a handful of episodes of it on demand. It was surprisingly witty and funny. Nothing spectacular, but fun enough for us to watch, since then, probably 6 or 7 more episodes.
E: Okay, I’m totally shocked you watch this. It looks hideously unfunny to me. I couldn’t even imagine how it got renewed. Raise your standards, bro!
C: I’m surprised too, since I don’t know anyone who watches this and I never got the impression it was about anything. But I don’t really have any feelings on the subject.
M: Like Friends and Seinfeld, it’s not about anything. But it is surprisingly funny, largely based on the talents of both Whitney Cummings and male lead Chris D’Elia. Their group of friends is good enough to bring out some funny moments, but it’s largely the lead couple that makes this show decent.
E: You’re going to put this show in the same sentence as Friends and Seinfeld and you think there’s something wrong with my comedy standards? Dude.
M: No, there’s something wrong with your reading comprehension skills. I said that similar to those shows it’s not about anything. I did not put this show on the same level as them. And you were an English major?
E: Oh, are you saying you didn’t put them in the same sentence? My bad.
M: Like I said, it was about comprehension. I could have said “Friends and Seinfeld were all time greats, while Whitney is the worst show since Glee” and they would be in the same sentence. So yes, it was your bad.
Shark Tank (ABC, September 14th, through October, then moves to 9:00)
M: I’ve actually heard recently some people touting how much they enjoy this show (where would-be entrepreneurs can win start-up money), and are glad it’s back. I don’t get that, but haven’t watched it since the first couple episodes, so maybe I’m pulling an E and not giving it a fair enough chance.
E: I don’t give things enough of a chance, eh? Like Grey’s Anatomy? I suppose I’m only allowed to give chances to shows you approve of?
C: Come on, E, you know he’ll just say yes to that.
E: I know, that was too easy. That said, I have friends who really like this show, too.
M: Actually, I will not say yes to that. What I will say is that your judgement in watching some shows from the start is questionable, not that you don’t give them enough of a chance. Also, you stick with shows that were once of higher quality (I won’t go as far as “good” for shows like Grey’s and Glee) far too long after they have clearly lost any mojo that they may have once had.
Last Man Standing (ABC, November 2nd)
M: Tim Allen, surprisingly renewed for a second season. With this, Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B, I’m wondering more and more if ABC is to comedies what the CW is to, well, everything except Veronica Mars.
C: Meaning, renew-happy? Or a closet of worn-out junk?
M: That should be an “and,” not an “or.”
E: This is another one I’m absolutely stunned got renewed. Do you suppose enough people watch just for Tim Allen? Or is it just that the pilots this year were terrible and they had nothing worth replacing it with?
M: I honestly don’t know, as I don’t know a single person who watches this. Or at least, who has admitted to watching it.
Kitchen Nightmares (FOX, September 28th, only through mid October)
M: I think I’ve mentioned it in these pages before, but I have heard from people I know who travel to the UK that chef Gordon Ramsey is an entirely different, and much kinder, persona on British TV. That said, I wish he’d go back there and stop being an @$$ to everyone on this side of the pond.
E: I know lots of lovely people who like this, but I can’t stand the gratuitous bad behavior.
M: Much like Last Man Standing, I don’t know anyone that admits to watching this.
E: Oh, I know lots of terrific folks who love even the evil incarnation of Gordon Ramsey (and so do you, you just know it). I don’t quite know how to account for that, but it’s a fact.
Touch (FOX, October 26th)*
C: This mid-season replacement from last winter played the “heartwarming” card in its advertisements in a way reminiscent of the old Touched by an Angel. So I was surprised to learn that the actual premise is not so much spiritual as mathematical: Keifer Sutherland’s mute, autistic son can “see the pain of the universe through numbers” and uses strings of digits to direct Keifer in helping people through their emotion problems. I’m not sure if I’m put off by a concept that wacky, or impressed.
M: Hmm, for some reason I thought you watched it. We did, and it was very good and very well done.
E: I watched the pilot, thought it was good enough, and then there were shenanigans with the time slot and suddenly we’d missed too many episodes to try again.
M: A quick clarification: the son, Jake, isn’t mute, he just doesn’t speak (he occasionally screams in panic, thus the need for distinction). Sutherland is very, very far from his Jack Bauer days in this, as a struggling, emotional, vulnerable and somewhat broken man who can’t beat people up, but is trying to find ways to love and support his challenging and uniquely brilliant son. He is also constantly battling to keep the state from taking the boy (whose mother died on 9/11) away from him, all while following the number sequences to set things right in the universe. It’s kind of like Quantum Leap and like Touched By an Angel and yet not like either of them at the same time.
C: Hm. What about Early Edition, but with more drama?
M: Yeah, that’s another show with similarities. The plot lines with recurring guest star Titus Welliver (the human form of the smoke monster on LOST!) were really good, and never lead where you thought they would. At the end of last season Danny Glover was killed off, but Maria Bello was introduced as the mother of a girl with similar characteristics as Jake, and it will be interesting to see where they take the show with her character in the mix.
E: Obviously you don’t want to know what other brilliant casting directors have used Titus Welliver to good effect.
M: Given the insinuation that he has been on The Good Wife, I have to assume that you will now Netflix season one, and be fully up to speed before the October 26th premiere!
CSI: NY (CBS, September 28th)
E: I think I’ve heard that this is the last season for this, does that sound familiar to anyone else?
M: I hadn’t, but as much as I love Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise, it really should be. I used to watch this on and off, but it never held me like even the original CSI did, and never had the comedic draw of CSI: Miami. Sinise is fabulous in everything he does, but the cast around him has been just so-so.
America’s Next Top Model (CW, August 24th)
E: I hope you didn’t watch this show for anyone other than Tyra. Because the rest of the (non-rotating) cast is gone, baby, gone. No more Miss Jay or Mr. Jay for you!
M: Really? That would 100% make me more willing to sit through it were Mrs M to have it on, as I can’t stand either of them. Thankfully, she gave up on this years ago.
C: If I were going to watch a competition show, it would be one with remarkable talents involved, not deathly-thin people griping at each other.
M: As a tangent, I don’t understand how anyone who does to their own hair what Jay Manuel does to his can be taken seriously in a world the revolves around looking good. Seriously, not platinum blond, but actual platinum colored hair? He very well may have been the inspiration for Suzanne Collins when she created the people of the Capitol in The Hunger Games.
E: Ha! I always think that. Why is that “fashion” people so often look insane? Totally Capitol-esque.
Community (NBC, October 19th)*
C: I know some folks…
M: …like me!!
C: …who were very happy about the last-minute reprieve from cancellation this series received.
M: Yes, hooray for one of the best, wittiest, least conventional shows on a major network surviving!
C: However, with totally new showrunners one has to wonder if it will look and feel the same. The new guys have vowed, though, that there’s new romance, new weirdness, and the same meta humor coming up in the new season.
M: I am really concerned for this show for a bunch of reasons. First: Dan Harmon leaving, being let go after a feud with Chevy Chase. From everything I’ve read, each of them comes out looking like a total nickname for Richard. Harmon seems to think that the new show runners, who were involved all along, will be able to do a good job, but I’m reserving judgement. Second: the move to Friday and NBC’s general lack of backing the show, and stupid decision-making over the last, um, 10 to 20 years. Not good signs.
C: Alas, no. Friday is the TV Pit of Despair, though some shows have managed to thrive there.
M: However, the show itself is brilliant and witty as I mentioned above and even though it loses its way every so often, it comes back strong, like the episode Remedial Chaos Theory from last season, which was soooo good. I am really hopeful that it can keep up the good parts, and lose some of the tension and crap that came along with the Harmon-Chase in fighting.
E: M, I hope you’re sitting down, but is this the kind of show you can join mid-run? Because I’m intrigued by it.
M: Wait, now…. WHAT?!?!
E: You heard me. Er, read me.
M: If that was a serious question, then the answer is in fact yes.
E: It was. And good to know.
M: A few things for you, or anyone else thinking about just now joining in, to know: Jeff (Joel McHale) is a former lawyer who was found to not actually have a college or law degree, banished to community college to start the process of returning to his life of being sleazy-yet-charmingly-convincing. He started a study group as diverse as a show trying to poke fun at political correctness could be. Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) become best friends, though last season they had a fight that sparked a civil war on campus. They also pretend to be the show’s fake version of Dr Who – Inspector Space-Time. Also, Abed is emotionally messed up, and views (and occasionally narrates) life as if it’s a movie or TV show.
E: See, that’s the kind of thing that intrigues me. That and The Hunger Games parody I heard about. I’m down with the pop culture references, yo.
M: Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) tries to mother them all and, is married to Theo Huxtable (for the second time in the show’s run). Annie (Allison Brie) is neurotic and Type A and has a thing for Jeff (but he’s too old for her, and it’s a little creepy). Britta (Gillian Jacobs), who was once the object of Jeff’s desire until they got together briefly, is trying to find herself, is a wanna-be activist, and her name is used by the group as a verb for making things go wrong (Aww, you Britta’d it). Pierce (Chevy Chase) is bat-crap crazy, a member of a cult (he’s described as a Level 6 Laser Lotus), and completely comically insensitive, racist, sexist and every other -ist you can think of. Oh, and the Dean (Jim Rash) is a completely incompetent, over-the-top cross dresser, and the crazy former teacher/head of security (who actually staged a coup and took over the school last season), Chang, is played by the fabulous Ken Jeong. Ok, you’re good to go!
E: So that’s all I need to know? Excellent. Done.
Malibu Country (ABC, November 2nd)
C: Reba McIntire and Lily Tomlin star in a sort of bizarro-world Good Wife, in which a famous country star’s betrayed spouse refuses to stay with him, moves to Florida, and attempts to kickstart the music career she abandoned when she became a wife and mother. If you want to shudder at the “sitcommy” quality of this, E, I won’t complain.
E: In the tiny bits I’ve seen of anything she does, Reba pretty much epitomizes that sitcommy feeling I hate. Lily Tomlin usually classes up a project, but I just can’t see this one working out.
C: I wouldn’t have recognized Tomlin without her name in the credits.
M: Probably because the last time you saw her in anything was when you watched Sesame Street. As for the show, it sounds eerily similar to Reba (where Reba had to survive out on her own after her husband cheated on her and she left him), except this time it’s with music.
E: You know what else it’s with? Stars who used to have their own shows: Jai Rodriguez of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Sara Rue of Less Than Perfect. So at least they sprung for a decent cast, if nothing else.
Fringe (FOX, September 28th)***
C: E would obviously vote for The Good Wife as the single best show on TV, but I (and maybe M?) would have to place my vote with Fringe.
M: Oh, there’s no “maybe” about it, and in my book there’s no competition, even.
C: I’m really bummed that these amazing writers will only get 13 episodes in which to bring the saga to completion — I know they would have knocked our socks off with the full 22 or 23. But I’m immensely grateful they’re at least getting to write an ending.
E: So utterly grateful. Pissed that it has to end at all, of course, but grateful that the writers can end it on their own terms. You’ll both be happy to know I would put this show at a competitive second.
M: Given what our regular readers know is an immense devotion to TGW, that’s really saying a lot! I agree, of course, that it is fortunate that FOX is allowing them to at least finish this wonderful, intelligent, well-acted, well-directed, well-written show. In case you haven’t read our past writings on it, this show consistently surprises me in very, very good ways. It routinely has moments that make me exclaim “I LOVE THIS SHOW!” while watching it, and to me has been the best thing on TV, hands down, since LOST concluded a few years ago.
C: Yes, sometimes it’s so brilliant you can’t even believe what you’re seeing! And, I would say, with better planned plots and way more payoff than LOST.
E: We all know how much I love TGW, but Fringe is far better plotted.
M: I am interested to see where they go with this season, as it looks like the seemingly random trip into the Observer-dominated future from last season is actually the basis for most of this one, but there are so many questions left to answer and plots to wrap up. Most of all, though, I want to see Peter and Walter together, as they have always been the heart of the show, as much as possible, especially after a season that had them first physically, then mentally apart for most of it.
C: Since J.J. Abrams and those who have taken courage from him, it’s not as unusual to see a time jump of a few months or even a couple years in a series these days. But a jump forward of, what, 20+ years? Yikes. I’m curious to see whether the events of this season will include that moment, or will lead up to it and end there, another chapter left unwritten.
E: I think the time leap is genius, and I’m beyond excited about it. I love the boldness of their ideas, and the complete willingness to change absolutely everything up.
M: That has been one of the brilliant things about this show, its complete willingness to change EVERYTHING. I personally think that the first stretch of episodes will tie up the William Bell alternate universe plot and lead to the main cast freezing themselves in carbonite… er, amber. Once that’s done I expect the latter half of the season will deal with the dethroning of the Observer overlords in the future, with our regular crew teaming with Peter and Olivia’s daughter Henrietta, and the friendly Observer, September. I could be wrong, of course.
C: Isn’t September dead? Then again, time travel… We’ll see!
M: Yes we will, and I can’t wait!
Made In Jersey (CBS, September 28th)
E: Young lawyer brings her Jersey street style to a slick NYC law firm. Why does Jersey still have this rep? Jersey Shore, fine, but why does the media persist in this myth that everyone from the state conforms to that stereotype? I know lots of great people who live there (including one who went to high school with the Situation) and none of them fit the stereotype. It really annoys me.
M: Why do they perpetuate the stereotype that everyone from Boston speaks like a drunken Kennedy? Or that women from the south all wear hoop skirts and are phony mean girls, while the men are all rednecks with questionable intellects? Because it’s easier to write stereotypical characters than the write deep, real ones, and because it’s easier to get people to watch something with a character that adheres to a stereotype that they recognize, with the promise that they will overcome the (phony) reputation that goes with it.
C: Also, you answered your own question with the reference to Jersey Shore, E. For whatever reason, the stereotype amuses people. It’s bankable. Probably more bankable, alas, than a series where a soul-searching young lawyer played by Zach Braff gets his slick NYC firm to listen to The Shins.
M: Ummm, C, come on back to Earth.
Grimm (NBC, September 28th)
E: I was so sure I was going to like this last year, but we gave up a few episodes in. The idea charms me (cop gets drawn into the family business of hunting monsters) but the lead actor just isn’t that charismatic. There’s so much potential for brooding here, and it just didn’t happen.
M: I only watched a couple episodes, and liked it, but like you I didn’t stick with it. My biggest complaint of it is that this summer NBC peppered the Olympics with very scary commercials for it, which my 5-year-old did not particularly respond well to.
C: Yeah, that was tasteless! But I’ve heard that the show improved later in the season and ended up being pretty good. I would agree that the lead actor is too vanilla, but I’m told his relationship with his fiancée is interesting and a selling point of the series. Apparently, [spoilers for last season] he reveals his Grimmness to her in the finale, which should make for some drama at the start of this season.
Nikita (CW, October 19th)
E: This show was a casualty of my over-committed Thursdays. I really liked what I saw of the first season (the CW smartly started it early, sucking me in before other shows started up) but several seasons in, I think I’m just going to put it on my list to rent so I can catch up. I love the idea – action show, secret agencies, criminals turned into disciplined assassins, La Femme Nikita.
M: I was in the exact same boat as you, again. Mrs M lasted longer, watching episodes of it on demand when she had time, but I didn’t make that same commitment. And I still think Maggie Q needs to eat something.
E: Still on the same page. When people praise her as having the ideal woman’s body, I find it very unsettling.
Blue Bloods (CBS, September 28th)
M: This show is just further proof that CBS is really the top of the heap these days. On NBC this show would probably be on Thursdays at 10:00, not stuck on Fridays. Even on a night that is typically considered the TV Pit of Despair, as C put it earlier, this show has been holding down the steady audience, and good reviews from critics and audiences alike. And the cast is still stellar.
E: I watched the first half of the first season because of that cast. Mostly for Donnie Wahlburg, actually, who’s impressed me since Band of Brothers. The show is well acted and explores a lot of hot button issues in a fairly realistic way. I love that the titular family’s very close despite disagreeing on a lot of issues. It feels familiar.
C: The “blue” in the title refers to the New York police department, and “bloods” to the vampire cabal who has taken it over… no, no, this is just a regular procedural, with cops who happen to be related. One can almost wish, though…
M: Yes, because we have been so lacking in vampire-themed entertainment as of late.
Doctor Who (BBC America, September 1st)**
C: Isn’t the season almost over by this point?
M: Well, the “Fall finale” is this week, but to be fair the fall portion of the season consisted of a whopping five episodes. Very entertaining, the four so far, and the next one’s name, The Angels Take Manhattan, is not only a play on a family favorite, but it is Amy and Rory’s last episode. I’ll be more sorry to see Rory go, actually, as he’s really grown on me, and this season’s introduction of Arthur Weasley as his dad has been terrific. In all, the show is excellent, and everyone should be watching it. Plus, even if like me you don’t get BBC America, it’s On Demand, so it’s easy.
E: I agree with promoting Dr. Who at all costs! It’s been a very nice mini-season so far, and I’ll be quite sorry to say goodbye to Amelia Pond and to Rory. And, of course, to Mr. Weasley.
C: If there’s one thing I’ve observed about Steven Moffat, it’s that if something works he brings it back. And back. And back. So the Pond connection may have future appearances yet.
M: Unless they die this Saturday, of course.
E: They better not! I’m beyond excited about the new companion, and can’t wait for the next mini-season for that introduction.
M: Actually, from what I understand, the new companion, who was surprisingly introduced in VERY strange circumstances in the season premiere, will actually be brought on officially in the Christmas special.
48 Hours Mystery (CBS, September 29th)
M: Just to further hammer home the current differences between the networks, CBS dumps this news magazine on Saturdays at 10, when no other network is even scheduling programming, while NBC has its version, Rock Center, in the old ER and Miami Vice time slot. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
E: It’s good to be CBS.
Saturday Night Live (NBC, September 15th)
M: Even if the show has always been hit or miss from skit to skit, what was once a huge gamble has become an institution, and keeps chugging along. This year SNL has lost its biggest names (as it so frequently does) — Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg — and in their place has added a trio of former members of Chicago’s famous Second City troupe.
C: Considering the huge number of Second City alum who are now household names (Fey, Carell, Poehler, Colbert, to name only a few), this seems like a logical move.
E: It’s good to be from Second City! It remains to be seen whether they’ll be as good for SNL.