E: Gentle readers, welcome to the always highly anticipated Relatively Entertaining Fall Television Previews! It has in the last several years become our custom to present a night-by-night preview of each season’s offerings, including both returning and new shows. We cover the major nets, as well as the better-known cable shows – or at least the ones that pique our interest and conform to network scheduling norms. This year, Monday brings a pleasant mix of old favorites and intriguing new shows; after a few early hours of comedy and reality competitions, the 10pm is quite the log-jam. Wondering which new show to watch? Read on! And as always, if we haven’t included something that you watch or were thinking about watching, please leave a comment and convince us why we’re missing the boat! 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
Dancing With the Stars (ABC, September 16th)
E: Classic sitcom star Valerie Harper heads up this season’s field of celebrities strapping on their dancing shoes. Why do you care? Because she has brain cancer. Not had. Has.
M: Um, wow. Both to that, and to them having someone who at least at some point actually qualified as a “star”!
E: Other interesting contestants: Bill Nye the Science Guy (is he the first PBS star on this show?), Amber Riley of Glee, Corbin Bleu of High School Musical, Keyshawn Johnson of the NFL, Snooki from Jersey Shore and Elizabeth Berkley, last seen dancing in notorious flop Showgirls.
C: Okay, Bill Nye dancing is an awesome idea. Brilliant.
E: Right? I’m so intrigued.
M: Agreed! Also, that’s a surprisingly high name-recognition cast for them!
E: You think? I feel like there are always at least 5 or 6 people I’ve heard of.
C: Yes, well… who haven’t you heard of?
M: Exactly, it’s not Dancing with People E’s Heard Of, they’re supposed to be stars.
E: The big news about this show, really, is that the network has eaten up the results show. I loathe that in reality competitions which feature viewer voting, and I honestly don’t see how ABC thinks they’re going to get higher ratings with something else; I swear every time I look at the weekly ratings, DWTS and it’s result show both make the top ten.
M: Wait, what do you loathe? The results show, or not having it? Because I cannot STAND results shows. They’re always either 28 or 58 minutes of filler, and then 2 minutes of what you tuned in for. Other than a season finale they could just tweet the results for all I care.
C: I’m with you, M. They don’t even pretend to be anything other than a content-less money grab.
E: I agree, but what’s the alternative? You go by the results from the week before, because you don’t have time to get results this week. I hate that. Also, I’m personally more interested in the DWTS results show because they always have real dancers perform on it.
M: Either tweet the weekly results (won’t happen) or announce the results for the last week at the start of the next episode? I don’t know, but I know the results shows are horrible without a DVR.
E: Which I have, so again, not a problem.
M: As for ABC, maybe they’re committed to putting on higher quality progra…….HAHAHA!! Sorry, I couldn’t even get that whole sentence out without laughing.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS, September 23rd)**
C: Last season of this show was a complete waste, thanks to the actors renewing their contracts unexpectedly, presenting the writers with a season and a half in which they decided to spin out the amount of plot usually covered in two or three episodes.
E: Ouch! I though you liked this show, C.
M: I love the show, but C has a point. Last season was not their best effort by a long shot. There were far too many times that they forgot to bring the funny, and they had characters regress back to things they had already moved past. It had its moments (Barney’s bachelor party, for example), but overall was lackluster.
C: Yes, exactly. And now, after an excruciatingly dragged-out eighth season in which the same relationship moments were rehashed ad nauseam and the ending was a foregone conclusion, fans of the show — whom I have delightedly counted myself among for years — will be presented, rumor has it, with a “24”-style ninth season which covers Barney & Robin’s wedding day and Ted’s meeting with Your Mother in painstaking detail. My excitement about this series is at an all-time low, in case you couldn’t tell.
M: Wait, what? The whole season is going to be that one day? Please tell me you’re joking.
C: So the gossip claims.
E: It’s not exactly that, but close. Season 9 will take place over the wedding weekend, but will also feature flash-backs to the week before the wedding, and potentially flash-forwards to Ted’s relationship with Mystery Mom.
M: Come on HIMYM writers and show runner… SUIT UP!
Hart of Dixie (CW, October 7th)
M: I am kind of amazed that this show is still on. Mrs M and I gave it a try when it debuted, and lasted two or three episodes before we couldn’t stomach it. And we like Rachel Bilson. I will say, we caught show star Wilson Bethel on Whose Line a few weeks ago, and he was fantastic. Not as good as Glee‘s Kevin McHale (no, not the REAL Kevin McHale, the Hall of Fame power forward who played for the Celtics) was recently, but really good. So, there’s that.
E: And, let’s face it, that’s not much. What I’ve heard is that the show has tired of it’s love triangle format and has added a raft of new characters in the hopes of creating a love octagon.
Bones (FOX, September 16th)*
E: The venerable forensics comedy switches to Fridays midway through the fall to make way for a new sci fi adventure show.
M: A show moving to Fridays… it’s like the TV version of elderly people from the Northeast moving to Florida…
E: Hee. I think a big component of this season will be the fall out from stupid serial killer Pelant blackmailing Booth into retracting his acceptance of Bones’ marriage proposal. You don’t really need me to say it again, do you; I hate the “serious” episodes of this show. And I really, really hate cyber-villain Pelant. I don’t need a mythology or a nemesis on a show like Castle or The Mentalist or Bones. I am just fine with the regular episode that give me the zingy, zesty fun I tune in for. Once they dispose of Pelant (for good, please) I understand the show’s finally going to give us the weird and wonderful wedding we crave.
Almost Human (FOX, November 4th)***
M: E, I can’t believe you’re not gushing with expectation for this already, what gives? Yes, I am saying that because it stars The Good Wife‘s Michael Ealy, but I just as easily could be saying it because it also stars LOTR‘s Karl Urban, Say Anything‘s Lily Taylor, is a JJ Abrams sci fi show, looks like a Blade Runner type concept, and looks like it could be really good.
C: Eomer? You have my attention. He rules.
E: Oh, you definitely have my attention too. I’m super excited. Urban’s a gruff cop from 2050 recovering from a catastrophic injury and his partner’s death; Ealy’s the cyborg (“synthetic”) partner assigned to him. Most synthetics are bland, pitiless clones, but Ealy hales from a batch that tried to be more human. Almost human, you might even say.
C: You might indeed. So he’s basically Data? I’m cool with that.
E: Well, no, he’s much more human than Data. The futuristic city looks gorgeous, as sleek and shadowed as the Capitol from The Hunger Games.
M: I thought more Minority Report, but the Capitol is a good comparison, too.
E: Ealy, whose suave facade on The Good Wife masked a scheming, seething player, brings us a mildly quirky foil to Urban’s glowering detective.
M: Actually, more than Blade Runner, to me it looks like a new version of Total Recall 2070, which blended two Phillip K. Dick works, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the basis for the aforementioned Blade Runner) and We’ll Remember It For You Wholesale (the basis for Total Recall). However, that was a one-season syndicated show that almost no one saw or even knew about, so I went with the more recognizable analogy.
E: Thanks for that bit of refusatio, M.
C: Okay, I just googled that word and it didn’t help.
E: I have no idea why I know that term and you don’t; he told us about his comparison while telling us he wasn’t going to tell us about it.
M: Do I have to use one of my jokes about English majors?
The Voice (NBC, September 23rd)
M: I know a lot of people that love this. Just can’t get into it.
E: Me neither! The blind audition rounds are great, the judges are really fun, but as soon as the power switches to the judges I lose interest. I flat out hate the basic premise of those early competitive segments, where members of each mentor’s “team” are forced to sing against each other. Blech. What might be news: Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera re-team with Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, so if you prefer the original judging panel to last season’s Shakira and Usher shake up, you’re in luck.
We Are Men (CBS)
C: Every year, it feels like, some network executive has the genius brainstorm: “what if we made a series that was like Sex and the City, but with dudes?” Every year this series flops after a few episodes, and that exec learns the lesson that what made SATC interesting (to some) was the novelty of seeing women act how men in all TV shows have always acted. Too bad execs don’t seem to share tips.
M: Those shows usually turn out to be the literal reverse of SATC, though, where they have a group of men act the way groups of women usually act on TV shows. I don’t want to see women or men being catty and gossiping and the like. This one looks like it’s just a big ball of stereotypes.
E: Indeed. I know it’s going to shock you, but I will say I’m much more drawn to sitcoms that eschew the whole audience format and actually exist out in the real world – and this story of four men living in an an apartment complex for transitional dudes (fresh from divorces and being left at the altar) and living it up at least has that much going for it. The series focuses, of course, on the sweet guy who was left at the altar and so needs lessons in being a pig from the three lame dudes he meets at the apartment complex pool.
C: The only redeeming thing We Are Men has going for it is the presences of the ever-awesome Tony Shaloub. I hope he finds a good new pilot after this goes belly-up.
M: Don’t forget Kal Penn, who I also hope also finds something good after this.
E: I notice that no one is holding up Jerry O’Connell as a reason to watch.
Two Broke Girls (CBS, September 23rd)
M: I know we’re supposed to fawn all over Kat Dennings, but I just haven’t found this wannabe odd couple funny.
C: It doesn’t matter if we like it; it has big ratings, and will carry on without our attention.
E: Indeed. This season, the broke but striving girls struggle to get their cupcake bakery off the ground. There’s lots of great comedy potential in the idea of a 24 hour cupcake window in NYC, don’t you think? I’m sure they’ll get all sort of crazy rolling up for a late night snack.
Beauty and the Beast (CW, October 7th)
C: Even though I only watched the first half of this season, I found it to be sheer guilty pleasure delight and am glad it got renewed. The lead male actor isn’t all one could hope for, but he and Kristin Kreuk still drum up a palpable tension and there’s a good balance of romantic brooding and criminal butt-kicking. Also, the show stars an extremely diverse cast, including two non-white women (Kreuk and Nina Lisandrello) as NYPD partners. How often do you see that?
M: Every time you turn on the CW?
C: Hardly. Their keystone shows — Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Gossip Girl etc. — are the typical pasty white gang with a token Other thrown in.
M: Hmm. It used to be chalk full of minority comedies.
E: I think you’re thinking the WB from the late 80s, M.
M: Shows how often I watch The CW.
Sleepy Hollow (FOX, September 16th)**
C: The trailer for this series exercises your suspension of disbelief like the “hills” program on a treadmill does for your calves. We begin with what the title leads us to expect: Ichabod Crane in a creepy graveyard. But wait! He’s in the 21st century! Okay, so we’re blending our Irvings — a little “Rip Van Winkle” for good measure. And Ichabod isn’t just any old dude, oh no. He’s an assassin commissioned by George Washington! Having woken up inexplicably in the present day, he’s going to do typical fish-out-of water stunts like dodging cars and thinking black people must be enslaved. But wait! This is also National Treasure, with secret clues left by the founding fathers! Ichy’s got to track down these clues and also — we’re back on familiar turf — a headless horseman. But wait! The headless horseman is also one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse! And there’s witches and a supernatural (or Supernatural) battle between good and evil! I feel like I’ve just watched some young thugs shake down a screenwriting teacher for loose plots.
E: And yet I’m still going to tune in to the premiere. What can I say, C ? Action/adventure/literature? I can’t refuse to give it a try.
M: Me too. This is clearly an attempt to copycat Once Upon a Time, which I don’t watch (though my family has been Netflixing it without me, and loving it), but never hear bad things about. Will it work? Maybe not. Do I hope it does? Heck yeah!
Mom (CBS, September 23rd)
M: This has E written all over it. 😉
E: What? Oh. That was a joke.
M: Yes, your powers of perception are amazingly sharp. Seriously, though, it’s a very sitcom-y sitcom with a good cast (Anna Faris, Allison Janney) and a decent premise (woman who is a mid-life mess, mother who was more of a mess moves in to help with teenage grand daughter and younger grandson, life in general). My one thought, though, after watching an extended preview was: “more French Stewart, less… well… everything else.”
E: Yeah. Anna Faris can be appealing, and Allison Janney’s brilliant, and Nate Cordrry (as waitress Faris’ restaurant manager boss/love interest) seems sweet, but yeesh. Waaaay to sitcommy for me. The jokes don’t seem funny, the situations too contrived. It’s just not doing it.
Castle (ABC, September 23rd)***
C: This is currently the only hour-long show I make a point of watching (though I tend to catch up on Elementary in biweekly binges). The back half fell flat after the whizz-bang start of the fifth season, but for my money, Castle and Beckett are still the best team on TV for witty banter, crackling tension, and the allure of a good mystery.
E: And who wouldn’t tune in to find out whether Kate accepts Castle’s ill-considered marriage proposal, or takes her dream job with Homeland Security?
M: Or, as I pointed out should be a perfectly viable possibility (but the show will make it out to be completely not an option)… do both!
C: Come on, M. Women on TV have to choose between career and love; it’s in their contracts.
E: It’s stupid here though, since as M points out Castle could write his mystery novels just as easily in D.C. But what show blows up its format like that? (There is an answer to that question; look for it on Sunday.) How could we leave the Wonder Twins? I hate it when shows set up their characters this way. Cliffhangers to which we know the answer? Yawn. It’s beneath you, Castle crew.
Hostages (CBS, September 23rd)
E: Dylan McDermot holds surgeon Toni Collete’s family hostage in order to force her to assassinate the POTUS while operating on him. Great actors, exciting premise, but who thinks this is anything more than a really awesome miniseries? Of the 10pm logjam, I may be most likely to forgo this show not because it doesn’t look tense and exciting (it does) but because I just can’t figure out how the plot could last for an entire season, let alone two. I haven’t decided irrevocably, though.
C: Agreed. That is the plot of a movie, not a full-length series. It may burn bright but it will burn out fast (like another hostage show some years back, The Nine).
E: (Melodramatic sigh.) It still hurts to look back on The Nine. So brilliant, so canceled.
M: As the one of the three of us that didn’t watch it, I’ll move this along. I have to assume, like Prison Break, that there must be something past the operation, because otherwise you’re right, even if they do it 24-style, you’re only looking at maybe 10 episodes.
E: Indeed – and I don’t get the impression that it’s been written in a 24-style real time, either.
M: That said, it reminds me of the premise of one of my favorite underrated movies, Nick of Time, starring Johnny Depp. And this time I’ll actually use my obscure analogy without refusatio. E, is that even a proper use of your made up word?
E: It’ll do, bro. It’ll do.
The Blacklist (NBC, September 23rd)*
E: Mix up some White Collar with Alias and Silence of the Lambs and you’ve got something approaching this high profile series, with an arrogant James Spader in the Hannibal Lector role. The spymaster has turned himself in, and offers to help the government trap all his nasty contacts – but he’ll only communicate to a new (and unremarkable besides being young and beautiful) agent no one else has heard of.
C: But wait — he’s not actually a serial killer? Because I am getting really sick of those.
E: Nope, not that I can tell. Just a criminal.
M: Sounds like someone trying to copycat The Following.
E: Well, no. First, Spader is probably not orchestrating the crimes, he’s acting on vendettas against his fellow criminals. Probably. Second, The Following drips in envelope-pushing gore; there’s nothing to suggest The Blacklist will be remotely as gritty.
C: That’s good.
E: While we’re talking about it, I want to add that I really dislike trailers which give away the plot of the entire pilot rather than simply introduce the series. Trailers like this one. At this point do I even need to watch the first episode?
M: Couldn’t agree with you more. And on that unusual note, Monday has come to a close.