Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall TV Scorecard: Week 1

*The following grades refer ONLY to premiere episodes. In addition to a letter grades based on the quality of the single episodes, I will also suggest — based on what those episodes suggest of the season to come — that you “Subscribe” on Hulu, “Keep your eye on” for the odd episode here and there or “Kill and Bury,” which should be self-explanatory.

Well boys and girls, after a long and painful summer hiatus season we are finally back in the land of the living (televisions). NBC is still being goofy and rolling out their new shows early so this first week is a little sparse. As an added note, I'm focusing mostly on NEW television shows, with the occasional returning series thrown in for sentimental value. For example, Glee premiered this week but isn't on the list mostly because I couldn't bother myself to watch it (Kill and Bury) but when HIMYM or Community premieres later in the month they'll make the list becuase a) I'd move mountains to watch those shows and 2) they are quantifiably, categorically and incontestably better than most things on TV.

Guys With Kids (NBC)

There's nothing particularly bad about GWK, but there's nothing particularly good about it either. It is a perfectly average, laugh-track and multi-camera sitcom, and feels like it could nicely occupy an hour on CBS paired with Rules of Engagement, racking up 10 million viewers every week and running for 6 years even though no one actually watches it, talks about it or is even aware of its existence. Unfortunately, it landed at NBC where it feels woefully off-brand in the land of too-good-for-their-own-good single camera masterpieces.

What worries me is that after NBC found relative success with the comparably abysmal Whitney, it's possible this type of white-bread innocuous programming could be the new direction of the peacock. Bit I digress.

GWK is about three friends, two of whom are happily married the other recently divorced, who have kids. Jesse Bradford is the leading man (because he's single, thus giving us a character to watch juggle the competing priorities of parenting and socializing) and while he may have grown up a little since having Cheer-sex with Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On he still is far from leading man material. The shows best asset is the underrated Anthony Anderson, who frankly deserves better.

Like I said before, the pilot is innocuous, and filled with less-than-plausible moments that are supposed to make us laugh while we watch these men play Mr. Mom. Obviously, no three bros in the world would go to a bar with their kids strapped to their chests, but if they went to Chile's and had high chairs by the table that wouldn't be funny. This isn't funny either, and it's all too obvious their trying.

With all the rubbish on television, GWK certainly isn't the worst thing out there (Whitney is), but sadly it's mediocrity is not enough to wet my appetite even slightly, especially given my distaste for mutli-cam. Frankly, I'd rather watch Animal Practice and I completely hate monkeys.

Grade: B-
Class: Kill and Bury

The New Normal (NBC)

You can read my full review of New Normal here, but for the scorecard let me just say that NN isn't funny, but could be. If you like Glee (still), you're bound to enjoy this show because it occupies the same universe, borrows some of the same actors, includes essentially the same characters and is similarly washed so every surface bounces with bubble gum colors. While they may have different names, the show is essentially about Glee's Kurt and Blaine growing up and deciding to have a baby with the help of a surrogate who is Sue Silvester's granddaughter.

A lot of critics have made that connection, and some members in the LGBT community have called foul for the way it minimizes the diversity of the gay community. I say don't blame us, blame Ryan Murphy for only knowing how to write 2 characters.

Much has been said about how offensive the show is. To me, it's not as offensive as it is derivative and contrived. BUT the lead actors are charming and enjoyable and the premise certainly opens up the possibility for genuine storytelling and a little humor. Hopefully NN will take the New Girl route and weave straw into gold but as likeable as Rannels and Bartha are, they ain't no Schmidt.

Grade: B-
Class: Keep an Eye On

The Voice (NBC)

Singing competition reality shows are, in my opinion, the lowest of the low of modern entertainment. That said, if you're going to do it, then you should do it like The Voice. The producers have wisely decided to give us what we want: More Spinning Chairs! The initial blind auditions are longer, beefing each team up to 16 and this year the coaches can steel each other's talent, which sounds like fun.

If The Voice's only claim to relevance were the fact that its better than Idol (which it is) that would be enough, after all Idol continues to be the most watched show on television (I have my doubts they'll retain that title this season). But Voice is entertaining, they avoid the schadenfreude of most reality by beginning with people who are actually talented and from there the production and quality only go up. Here's to a new king of sing!

Grade: B+
Class: Keep an Eye On (if you like Idol, then subscribe).

The X Factor

Nothing on earth could make me watch this utterly pointless Idol rip off and Simon Cowell ego massage. Also, I'm sorry Demi but Paula Abdul you are not.

Grade: Who knows, who cares
Class: Kill and Bury

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