E: Just to shake things up, there are new shows, and old ones in new time slots. What’re we still watching from last season? What — if anything — will we pick up this year? 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
- Click here for Monday and for Tuesday‘s schedules.
The Middle (ABC, September 25th)
M: I still feel like this is something I’d probably enjoy, but just can’t seem to pull myself to watch.
C: Sitcom about a family? I’m both too old and too young for that to sound interesting.
M: I know E’s bud MMGF is a big fan, or at least used to be. E, any tips from him that we should be passing along?
E: Yep. Here goes.
MMGF: It’s kind of the little-show-that-could. Only last year, in its 4th season, did it crack the top 50 ranked shows. (I.E. It must be dirt cheap to make.) But it’s just so entertaining and amusing. It reminds me a little bit of a slightly-less-cynical Roseanne. OK, maybe not so much less cynical as less whiny.
E: Well, we did like Roseanne back in the day, at least at first.
MMGF: The riches of the show are in the characters and in the acting. Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn as the imperfect but trying parents have such day-to-day chemistry. (Think: Your parents.)
C: Aw, that’s sweet of you. Except, I don’t know, I can’t decide if that’s going to make me more or less likely to watch it.
MMGF: Meanwhile, the kids are interesting twists on the typical archetypes. The oldest son (Charlie McDermott) is the dim jock. But he’s not exactly popular, and has interesting friends.
E: Wait, the kid from Frozen River is in this? How did I not know that? He was brilliant in that movie. That was one of my top five supporting performances of that year.
MMGF: That’s what I’m talking about. The youngest son (Atticus Shaffer) is the nerd, but he’s not awkward. He’s self-aware, and fine with who he is, tics and all. And Eden Sher as the middle daughter might just be the best comic actress on TV – where is her Emmy?? She’s the weird girl, awkward and mocked. But she’s nothing but optimistic and happy and positive, all the time. She’s blissfully unaware of her role as loser and failure – and that makes her, oddly enough, almost inspirational.
E: One of them – well, obviously the oldest – is going to college this season, I think, which is going to change up the family dynamic. Also upcoming: Rachel Dratch (yick) as a new principal.
MMGF: The Middle is just genuinely real, funny, endearing. I know that sounds smarmy and Full-House-y, but it’s not. Give it a shot, OK? For me? What’s to lose? The X-Factor? Revolution?
M: Your point, it is valid. And I did love Neil Flynn on Scrubs.
MMGF: Huh… maybe The Middle’s ratings will go up this season.
Survivor: Blood Vs. Water (CBS, September 18th)
M: Some pertinent questions to this latest installment of the always highly rated competition show: Can a reality show jump the shark? If so, did Survivor jump it years ago? If not, is putting together a cast of people that have already been on multiple seasons, and having them compete with (and presumably against) family members the official moment that it does? For some of these people (like Rupert) can we get a million people to chip in one dollar each to just make them go away?
E: You’re really over this show, huh? You used to like Rupert.
M: It’s Survivor, I don’t like the concept of going on it more than once. Plus, I don’t like that they are afraid to REALLY change the format. Like, don’t have the final vote be the eliminated castaways. That would throw people for a loop, since everyone plays preparing for that.
C: Another question: what is with this title? Is it about sharks? Don’t sharks have it bad enough already with Shark Week and Sharknado?
M: Hello! It’s a reference to the family members. Is blood thicker than water when a million dollars is on the line? Can’t believe I had to explain that to you.
C: It’s such an expected setting for a sort of literary joke! I would never have lept to the conclusion that they were being clever.
Arrow (CW, October 9th)
E: I hear I missed the boat giving up on this one after loathing the premiere.
C: Really? Because I don’t know anyone who likes it.
E: Yes you do. Our mutual friend The Writer does, and she’s got good taste.
M: I haven’t heard that from a single person either, actually, and I don’t know The Writer. Pretty sure no one I know, even my most ardent comic-loving friends, watches this. And personally I’m consistently not interested by anything I see for it. And this is coming from someone who was actually upset that The Cape was cancelled.
E: As a non-follower of the show, I can tell you from watching the season two trailer that the cast is good-looking and lots of stuff blows up. Actual information I dug up elsewhere, however, includes: Oliver (Stephen Amell) grapples with his best friend’s death and the meaning of heroism; also, fans of the comic should rejoice as the Black Canary storyline begins.
C: I just hope they don’t make the poor woman go around in fishnets and bodysuits all the time. (It is the CW…)
E: Which pretty much guarantees she will.
The X Factor (FOX, September 11th)
M: Remember my feelings about The Voice in Monday’s preview? If not, read them here, and insert The X Factor wherever it says The Voice.
E: Hee. I actually find this show far less appealing than The Voice, which as you can tell if you read Monday is not really saying a lot. I suppose in the end there’s little difference since I won’t be watching either, but if I were somehow forced to choose, it would not be the singing competition featuring Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Simon Cowell.
C: Wait, I thought Simon Cowell was on the other one? These singing shows you people watch, I can’t keep them apart…
Revolution (NBC, September 25th)*
M: Wait, which one of us is still watching this? I gave up on it last season when it had its long lay-off and looked like it was getting cancelled because it wasn’t living up to the promise of the premise and the pilot episode, and wasn’t even in the same stratosphere as the trailer for the pilot. Did I quit too soon?
C: It’s not me. I figured I could always Netflix it if someone told me it got good, but the first couple episodes were a bit hamfisted with All The Dystopian Cliches. I’d be happy to hear it improved, though.
E: The jury’s still out on that. I’m the one who’s still watching (as the process of elimination has told you all), but it’s without a ton of enthusiasm. Even less exciting? Last season’s nuclear annihilation of the East Coast and South East leaves our gang in Texas, dealing with their shoot-’em-up culture.
M: Wait, they nuked the East Coast? Holy crap, and not a good holy crap.
E: Alrighty. I’m not sure how much longer this show has before I give it the boot, especially if any of this season’s adventure shows give me a better adrenaline alternative.
C: Well, keep us updated.
Back in the Game (ABC)*
E: A newly divorced mom (Maggie Lawson) moves back in with her dad (a grungy, scruffy James Caan) after her husband leaves and bankrupts her.
C: For real, another of these adult-moves-in-with-parents stories? It’s been a recurring theme in every one of our Movie Previews this year, and in many recent TV shows as well. What’s with this as a cultural obsession? I mean, I get that the economy’s bad, but why this particular manifestation so very often?
E: Well, this show does have a way of setting itself apart. An excellent baseball player, Lawson’s charcter decides to coach a Little League so that her nonathletic son and a Bad News Bears-like group of misfits will have a team.
M: I love James Caan, and I loved the Bad News Bears. That might be enough for me to check this out.
C: I’ll admit, that sounds potentially fun. Maybe you can review it!
E: You know me and sitcoms, but at least this one is filmed out in the real world. It looks well made. Definitely tell us what you think if you watch, M.
M: Not a shot. If you don’t watch it yourselves, I’m staying tight-lipped.
E: If only I could believe it…
Modern Family (ABC, September 25th)
M: I will give them this… mixed throughout the several full episodes I watched last season, I did laugh a handful of times. That’s a huge step up from the previous years, which had made me laugh literally once.
E: I don’t get this show either. On tap for this year, Cam and Mitchell will think about getting married, and Lily (the baby adopted what, two years ago?) goes into first grade. Are they aging the other kids this quickly?
C: Well, she was adopted in the pilot episode and the series is starting its 5th season, so while it maybe should be preschool, it’s really not that fast.
E: No, the show is that old? I swear I read they’ve aged her up at least once. Not that it matters.
C: I find the series mildly funny; not worth following actively, but amusing enough if I happen to catch an episode over dinner or something. There are a few characters who are almost always good for a laugh — the young boys, Luke and Manny, particularly. But it’s the kind of show where the characters’ personalities essentially are the joke, so too much can be wearying.
Criminal Minds (CBS, September 25th)
M: Like NCIS, they had issues with female co-stars contract negotiations. However, unlike NCIS, they were able to successfully re-negotiate, allowing them to continue. I used to love this show, but tired of it a long, long time ago.
E: I never loved this show, but I’ve dug up some dirt on the new season: there’ll be drama surrounding Esai Morales who replaces the section chief killed off in last season’s finale. He shares a secret past with one of the main character. Along that line, the aim of the season seems to be ferreting a little into the personal lives of the agents.
The Tomorrow People (CW, October 9th)
E: No, it’s not the Ziggy Marley song, but it’s just as easy and familiar: a handsome but frowny teen (who looks his age – 25 – and happens to be the cousin of the CW’s 8 o’clock hero, Arrow‘s Stephen Amell) hears voices. But wait! It turns out that the voices are real! He’s a superhero, and can join a group of telepathic, telekenetic, teleporting “tomorrow people” in their awesome high tech home in an abandoned subway station.
C: Wait, isn’t that also the name of an old series, not just a song?
M: Yes, a British show from the 70s. But I have a more important question: does anyone else ever wonder why there are so many abandoned sub way stations in the Hollywood version of the world? I mean, villains are usually the ones holing up there (like in the utterly unnecessary Amazing Spider-Man), but sometimes it’s heroes, and sometimes it’s just creepy, tense scenes when heroes have to search through them.
E: Hey, shut up about The Amazing Spider-Man — it’s a good movie.
M: It wasn’t bad, but that doesn’t make it any less unnecessary.
E: I’m with you on the subway stations, though.
M: Excellent. So back to the topic.
E: And who took us off topic? Anyway, the advanced folk are all young and hot, and even I have never heard of any of the actors. It turns out that frowny boy’s missing father was a tomorrow person — and he gets to be young and hot too, because he’s dead and only appears on video.
M: You are remembering that this is on the CW, right? Pretty sure they have a rule about actors over 30…
C: Well, not quite. Every “teen” on their shows is played by an actor somewhere between 22 and 35. But they definitely have to be super hot. (Is this what “the next step in human evolution” will look like?)
E: And of course, because the resemblance to X-Men is not yet strong enough, the mutants are being tracked by a smarmy, ruthless government agency (Ultra) determined to eradicate them.
C: Also strongly reminiscent of Dark Angel. (And many another show of that kind.)
M: I figure the government would want to either experiment on them (which is what governments do to anything they don’t understand, right?) or use them for their own nefarious purposes. Eradicating them seems counter-productive for seedy government types.
C: Oh, I’m sure there’s some handwavy reason to create the threat — like they’re government experiments “gone wrong” or something.
E: Gotta say, although I snark, as a sci fi/fantasy/superhero fan this is exactly the kind of series I would love to watch. And the effects look great if unoriginal — the teleporting looks very much like apparating. It’s just that the whole thing looks derivative. If it’s written better and the leads can act better than the preview suggests, I would love to be in.
M: Perhaps it looks derivative because, as I said, it’s a remake of an old British show. Just sayin’.
E: I don’t think that’s it, actually, since I hadn’t even heard of the original. Could be the obligatory love triangle or the excess of bland prettiness; there’s that slick CW gloss over everything.
C: Well, you never know. Now and again they do transcend themselves.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, September 25th)
M: This is another “I can’t believe it’s still on” show. Seriously, do you know anyone that still watches it? As for the content, I will recycle my line from a previous year (might be last year, might be longer ago, I don’t know). One of the USA shows I watch comes on right after reruns of SVU, and my DVR picks up the last 10 seconds or so of the episode. Without fail, without exception, every single episode ends with serious, sad, downer music, and one of the leads of the show looking dejected. Why on earth would I want to watch a show that ends EVERY episode depressingly?
E: The only people I know who watch do so to drool over Mariska Hargitay’s surpassing hotness.
M: Really? Hmmm.
C: That’s nice to hear, considering she’s around 50.
E: Speaking of the lead detective, she’ll spend the season recovering from being held hostage in last season’s finale and this season’s premiere.
M: So, the same plot as NCIS: LA? Lovely, can’t get me enough of that.
NOVA (PBS, September 11th)
E: Why look for documentaries on NatGeo or the Discovery Channel when you can get the smartest and most fascinating science television on PBS?
M: You could have ended that sentence after “Discovery Channel.”
Super Fun Night (ABC, October 2nd)
E: Eh. I have a love/hate relationship with Rebel Wilson, writer and star of this series about three girlfriends who hope to jazz up their non-party lifestyle. Also, I know you’re getting bored with me saying it, but it IS a sitcom.
C: Yes. Seriously. Please stop making that comment on every half-hour comedy. It’s not even a critique, just a bias. And there are plenty of real, specific critiques you could make!
M: Such as, for instance, that this looks like one of the sitcoms that encapsulates everything you hate about the genre, and none of the arguments that C and I use to try to convince you to give good sitcoms a chance. But it has an actor in it you love/hate, so you’ll check it out and be soured on the entire genre again, while letting brilliant things like Big Bang pass you by.
E: Actually, no. This video ad encapsulates my ambivalence toward Wilson and the show: first, I love that they made a goofy musical, and that much of the cast has that “real person” look. Their voices sound great, and there’s dancing. I will pretty much always approve of the dancing. But then, there’s the desperation and the trying too hard. I won’t be going anywhere near this. Humiliation humor: not for E.
M: Really, who does like humiliation humor? Readers, please let us know if it’s you, and if so, why.
Nashville (ABC, September 25th)*
E: Okay, it’s totally soapy, but I’m really excited for this show to be back. I like a lot of the characters, but what I really miss is the music.
C: I was just talking to a friend in the U.K. who’s also obsessed, which I found entertaining. I suppose since everyone here’s obsessed with Sherlock, it’s only fair…
M: No, because Sherlock is intelligent. I have no excitement for the trashy soap or the country music. You can have this one all to yourself.
E: That’s only because you don’t listen to the music, M; if you did you’d like it, I’m sure.
M: No, I’ve listened to some of it. Not inspired. Certainly not enough to get past the atrocious plot.
C: One or two of the songs you’ve shared with me have been pretty good, but just like with Glee, I don’t need to sit through the show for the songs; it’s called Youtube,
M: Hear hear!
E: As for the soapiness, I can’t deny that. This season Deacon works on his sobriety so that he can re-establish his relationship with daughter Maddie, and walking disaster Juliette has some competition for the title of Hot New Thing. And of course the label’s giving everyone trouble.
Top Chef: New Orleans (BRAVO, October 2nd)**
E: Okay, I know New Orleans is awesome foodie town. But jeez! Are they ever going to come to Boston? What’s up with the cold shoulder, Tom Colicchio?
M: I take the blame here, I got in a Twitter spat with him. Although, in fairness to myself, I don’t think my political leanings are representative of the city, and his fall more in line with the overwhelming majority here. Or that he could tell where I was from, even if he cared enough to look. So maybe it wasn’t my 280 characters after all.
E: Yeah, somehow I don’t think that would have made enough of an impression to sour the show on our entire city.
C: Some day, Top Chef! Some day instead of going to a location famous for its varied and fascinating cuisine, you’ll come to a city known for its chowda–er, chowder. And baked beans.
CSI (CBS, September 25th)
E: Ah, the procedural that started it all.
M: Started what all? I think you may be a bit off on your TV history here, sis, there were TONS of procedurals before CSI. Or were you referring to shows with initials for titles? Oh wait, they were behind medical procedural ER on that, too…
C: Maybe she means that started all the CSI spin-offs?
E: I mean the current craze for procedurals, actually. The fact that they made up a good half of CBS’s dramas at least, that kind of thing. Not to mention all the tech-driven forensics shows that have since popped up elsewhere.
C: Law & Order clearly played a role in that, but CSI‘s focus on the investigative part certainly is more the trend.
E: Anyway, this season sees what must be a limited return of Marge Helgenberger, the death of yet another major character, and a guest starring role for John Ratzenberger, who gets to work with Ted Danson for the first time since the finale of Cheers.
M: Okay, that’s pretty cool.
South Park (Comedy Central, September 25th)
M: Still kicking, ready to start Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny’s 17th year of elementary school.
E: As our own children get older and that feeling of nostalgia for their youth (and ours) creeps in, at least this school remains the same.
C: Um… yeah. Oddly, the constant repetition of “They killed Kenny!” and other catchphrases by the boys at my school is not a part of my childhood I recall with a nostalgic soft glow.
American Horror Story: Coven (FX, October 9th)
E: I almost want to call this is a new show, since they change the premise every season. I don’t like what’s normally considered horror, but I love love love that idea of doing several short series revolving around a similar theme with a repeating cast. Hurrah for anthology shows and focused story telling!
M: Like you, I like that this is something different than the usual TV formula, even if I don’t like the genre or content. However, dipping into the super-trendy witches/black magic pool seems overdone at this point.
E: I get that, but the idea of a secret academy for witches set in New Orleans fascinates me. Teen witches (Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe) — Sarah Paulson as their headmistress getting a visit from her “Supreme”ly powerful mother Jessica Lange — yeah, I’m tempted to check this season out. It’s probably still too over-the-top creepy and gross for me, but that idea, and the flashbacks to the school in the ’70s as well as 200-year-old New Orleans history (featuring Kathy Bates as a slave-murdering plantation owner and Angela Basset as the leader of the voodoo witches, historical enemies of the girls’ school group) sound intriguing. It’s like the show is 85% perfect for me; I’m just afraid it’ll be 15% too much.
M: I’m more in the 15-85 skew. And again, it’s Hollywood doing things in twos, with this and The Originals doubling up the “supernatural crap in New Orleans” theme.
E: Oh. There is another thing; you’ve probably heard us grumbling about it before, but it has to be said. The school witches come from what they’re calling the “Salem” line — women from the North who fled persecution. To which I say — UGH! You people!
C: Dude, I hate that so much. The people who were killed in Salem were not witches. They did not claim to be witches. They were not martyred for showing their “witch pride.” They were falsely accused and wrongfully executed. They went to their deaths pleading for a crazed judicial system to believe them that they had absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft. Can we not even show their memory respect today?
M: Ahh, the power of the media, distorting the truth for 400 years! George Orwell would be proud.
E: I mean, I get that Salem is a byword for witch, and that the town has embraced this for tourism purposes, but come ON.
M: I would prefer it if they went for the “Monty Python” witch line. Although, we did do the nose… and the hat.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX, September 4th)
E: That’s not a typo: FX has spawned a new channel, FXX, and moved this scabrous sitcom over to it.
M: I’m completely baffled as to what the need for that was. They launched a network based around four 1/2-hour sitcoms. Seems like overkill, especially when they were probably carrying FX’s ratings.
E: It’s a bold leap for sure; two hours of new programming a week seems like a thin thread to hang an entire cable network on.
C: There are some cable channels that I’m pretty sure have only one show anybody ever watches. They can always fill up the rest of the time with syndicated TV marathons!
Ironside (NBC, October 2nd)*
E: This could be terrible — it will probably be terrible — but Blair Underwood has done good work now and again, and I sort of like the idea of a super rude, super sexy handicapped detective.
C: Okay, this is embarrassing, but my brain shortcircuited and when I read “Blair Underwood” I thought you said “Blair Waldorf” and meant that Leighton Meester would be playing a super rude, super sexy handicapped detective. And somehow, in my mind, for a moment, that was awesome.
E: That would be awesome, actually. Despite being better known for the heinous mean-fest Gossip Girl, I’ve wished Meester well since her guest starring time on family favorite Veronica Mars. The cop who first has to prove herself because she’s young and second because she’s handicapped? CW, get on it!
M: Ummmmm, yeah. I think we need to reel this back to Ironside. It reminds me a bit (here I go to my obscure references again) of the Denzel Washington-Angelina Jolie movie The Bone Collector that somehow flew under the radar in the very early stages of her stardom. That was pretty good, and while I agree that this has the potential to be horrible, I’m hoping that it works.
E: How is that obscure?
M: Because it was a movie that was not a hit, slipped under the radar, and has not really been in the pop culture spotlight or public eye since it slid out of theaters.
E: I don’t know, I’m sure you’re far from the only person who remember that movie. Also, it’s not as if “handsome black cop in a wheel chair” is a premise that gets a lot of play.
C: Why do you guys think this looks horrible? It seems to me from the trailer (which gives away what’s apparently the twist ending of the pilot, FYI) like it could be a decent cop show of the “unusual detective” variety. You know the rundown: detective with OCD, detective who was a criminal, detective who was a fake psychic, detective who is a real psychic, detective who’s actually a mystery writer, etc. The main character here has an irascible-but-always-right sort of “House” vibe going on (but tougher). I don’t see what about that formula shouldn’t succeed with today’s TV audiences.
E: I don’t think it looks horrible – I think the whole “grittier House” vibe could be very good. I’m just not sold yet, that’s all, and not to sound cynical, but more cop shows especially turn out to be lame than good. I do plan on tuning in to see.
The League (FXX, September 4th)*
E: M, this is your baby. What say you about the new season?
M: Well, the new season is already underway, and it’s off to a great start. From The OC’s Adam Brody guest starring as one of the “out of town” members of the league, to Ruxon dropping out of the league and desperately trying to get back in, to multi-episode guest spots by NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, it’s been great so far. The toasts at Andre’s rehearsal dinner were great even before Ruxon ended it faster than Taco’s bad advice ended Andre’s engagement. If you don’t watch the show, none of that will make sense, but if you like laughing and aren’t easily offended… okay, if you are VERY hard to offend, you should check it out.
E: And that would not be me. More thick skinned than I used to be, but still offend-able.