In September, I decided that I was going to try 18 new shows this fall. In fact, I tried 19 shows. USA’s Benched managed to sneak up on me with its October 28th premiere date. Now that most TV shows are on midseason hiatus, it’s time to assess the relative success of these shows.
I’m completely sold on five shows and I’m still watching an additional five shows with some trepidation. That’s a pretty good success rate for a slate of new shows that seemed less than promising.
Benched (USA) I’ve loved Eliza Coupe since she first showed up on Scrubs. She was certainly one of the best parts of that last season where they were suddenly teaching at a med school. Then she went on to be half of one of my favorite TV couples ever on Happy Endings. Now she’s a former big shot corporate lawyer who lost her job and is now working as a public defender. Throw in Jay Harrington (Better Off Ted), Oscar Nunez (The Office), and Maria Bamford (The Comedians of Comedy) and I’m sold before I’ve even seen the first episode. Fortunately, it’s lived up to its excellent cast. I hope USA renews it and pairs it with the Playing House, a show that they just renewed for a second season.
Black-ish (ABC) One of the true gems of this TV season. ABC has found its sitcom niche in family shows. I no longer watch Modern Family but Black-ish still has me for the foreseeable future. They leaned heavily on what it was like growing up black and poor-to-lower-middle-class in America for older generations vs. kids of today with upper-middle-class-to-affluent parents but since then it’s become more about how this particular family unit relates to one another an in its specificity it has become more universally relateable. Both Mom and Dad can be competent but can also be a bit clueless. It is not the endless trope of the bumbling dad and the harping mom.
The Flash (CW) This show is everything I needed it to be. It’s the lighter-hearted, more superpowered little brother to Arrow. Grant Gustin is absolutely believable as a superhero finding his way in the world. I like the whole ensemble but I especially approve of the shades of gray that Tom Cavanagh is throwing out all over the place as Dr. Wells.
Gotham (Fox) I think that this show might slowly become the Penguin Show with copious appearances by Young Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Selina Kyle. I hope so, even if it doesn’t actually work with existing canon. Ben Mackenzie and Donal Logue work just fine as Gordon and Bullock but the happenings in the gangster underground and at Wayne estate are just so much more compelling.
Jane the Virgin (CW) The title made me think that I was going to hate this show. Then the over-the-top premise of a young woman being artificially inseminated with the sperm of a teenage crush was certainly off-putting. Fortunately, I’ll try almost anything and this show justifies that. Gina Rodriguez could carry the whole show herself as Jane but fortunately she doesn’t have to. Her very strong relationship with her mother and grandmother is the best depiction of multiple generations of women since Gilmore Girls. Her father, who did not know that he had a child until part way into the series, comes in and shakes everything up with his bumbling but earnest attempt to get to know his daughter. Then the narrator, officially credited as Latin Lover Narrator, brings a perfectly moderate level of camp while helping you keep track of the rapidly moving plot. I’ve been recommending this show to anyone who will listen to me.
Still in Contention
The Affair (Showtime) I think the main characters are horrible people. They may or may not have committed vehicular homicide. It’s not as good as I thought it could be but it held my interest enough that I’ll watch season 2.
Constantine (NBC) I wanted to love this show but it’s not coming together. I like Matt Ryan as John Constantine well enough and would like to see him in other things. I also think that Angelica Celaya is capable of more than the writers are giving her as Zed. She’s often dismissed and told to stay put. I was hoping that we’d be a couple of decades past that behavior. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of it in present-day shows and movies. The ratings are poor so it’s possible that NBC will make the decision on this one for me.
Cristela (ABC) I am very glad that this show exists. It’s a show on a major network created by and starring a Latina woman. It shows her as a successful but struggling law student and presents her close family life. I’ll continue to watch it inspite of its traditional sitcom format, complete with laugh track and cheering every time Gabriel Iglesias’s character shows up, because diverse family-friendly programming is important. As a single 30 year-old with no children, I am clearly not the target audience for this show and that’s OK.
How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) This show should be better. There is a very easy way to make it better: More Viola Davis, less unrealistic law students. Except for Connor. He’s a twisted, delightful mess. It has become painfully obvious to me that this is a show produced by Shonda Rhimes but not created by her. Her shows may not hold up over the many, many seasons that they’ve been given but they all started out stronger than How to Get Away with Murder.
Marry Me (NBC) This show was created by the same person as Happy Endings and stars Casey Wilson from the same show but in many ways, it’s the opposite of that show. I loved Happy Endings for the ensemble around the original main couple Dave and Alex but Wilson and her co-star Ken Marino are the only ones doing something for me with this show. Wilson’s two dads also add a little something but all of the couple’s friends annoy and bore me. I’ll keep watching and hope that they can figure it out. Maybe they can nab Adam Pally now that his run on The Mindy Project is almost over.
A to Z (NBC) This show is already dead. NBC is going to finish airing the 13 episodes that have already been shot and then it is done. The leads are adorable and it seems like they were getting somewhere with the ensemble beyond the premise of the show. Most half-hour comedies succeed based on the strength of the entire ensemble, not just the leads. Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti are adorable together and other characters have been emerging but this show just never had the chance to find its feet. It was paired with a show that was actively bad (Bad Judge) and it wasn’t good enough on its own that NBC could be compelled to save it without another half-hour show to pair it with. I would have been happy to see if this show could finally figure itself out but I’m OK with having more free time.
Bad Judge (NBC) Bad. Awful. Horrible. I struggled through three episodes and I couldn’t make it any further. NBC agreed and canceled it around the same time that I gave up on it.
Forever (ABC) The only thing notable about this was that they let Ioan Gruffud use a British accent. I don’t think it was his full-on Welsh accent but at least it was British. That didn’t make it anymore interesting but at least I had a pretty accent to listen to while I watched 3.5 episodes. ABC has picked up a full 22 episode order for the first season but as far as I’m concerned, episode 4 abruptly ended after half an hour and the show ceased to be.
Gracepoint (Fox) Can we just pretend that this never happened? It certainly didn’t need to happen. They told almost the exact same story as the British original except for one twist at the end. We all deserve to experience this story with a Scottish David Tennant. David Tennant should never use an American accent ever again. Anna Gunn deserves better than this show. Broadchurch comes back for series 2 next year and Fox canceled Gracepoint almost as soon as the final episode finished airing. Let’s all pretend that this was a horrible, tedious nightmare.
Madam Secretary (CBS) CBS definitely wanted this to be another The Good Wife, arguably the best, most consistent 22 episode network drama right now. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. They kept trying to insist that this was a fictional world where Obama isn’t the current president but then they keep referring to recent events like Benghazi. Also, it’s boring.
Mulaney (Fox) While I’m usually glad that networks will now let a show finish out its run even if it means shunning it into an odd time slot, I wish that they’d just put Mulaney out of its misery. I love John Mulaney’s writing and stand up so much. This show just makes me sad for him.
Red Band Society (Fox) I don’t necessarily think that this show is bad. I just think that it’s meant for teenagers. That’s OK. They can keep watching if they want to.
Scorpion (CBS) On the one hand, I’m glad that a bunch of nerds with different specialties are shown instead of one nerd who starts out with a specific area of knowledge but is later shown knowing how to do molecular biology, quantum mechanics, and hack a highly defended Department of Defense network. On the other hand, it still feels like they got a lot of things wrong.
Selfie (ABC) I think that this show could have gotten really good. It was already heading there. John Cho and Karen Gillan both ooze charm and they were really starting to build up the ensemble around the main two characters. I was even holding out hope that Henry would discover that Eliza had spent her early childhood in Scotland and had ditched the accent as part of her campaign to fit in. Much like David Tennant, Karen Gillan is better with a Scottish accent. Unfortunately, Selfie suffered the same problem as A to Z. It was paired with a much worse show and it wasn’t strong enough to be sustainable without another half-hour show to pair it with. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I do intend to watch the remaining episodes that ABC has been burning off on Hulu.