Here Comes Fall TV: 2011 Edition

[17 August 2011]

By Michael Landweber

The new TV season is fast approaching. This year, the networks collectively have tapped a whopping 46 new series for the fall and midseason: 25 dramas, 17 comedies, and four reality shows. Most of them will fail. Some may never air. Regardless of what any network executive might whisper sweetly in an advertiser’s ear, no one knows which will catch the imagination of the viewing public.

This year’s new shows include fewer straight up procedurals about cops, doctors, and lawyers than usual. And only a few comedies involving young people cohabitating in urban environments. Instead, we’re looking at multiple high concepts.

With that in mind, and nothing to go on but the network’s misleading blurbs and trailers, here are all the new shows ranked in the order that I’ll consider watching them. 

 

 

Set Your DVR for a Season Pass Now

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Terra Nova (Fox, drama, Sept. 26)
Don’t pay attention to the troubled production rumors. It’s Steven Spielberg, dinosaurs, and time travel. We’ve destroyed the world in the future, so we need to go back to the Paleolithic past and reboot humanity. If this isn’t awesome, something has gone horribly wrong. 

 

The Show They’ll Cancel After One Season, Leaving Viewers With No Closure

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The River (ABC, drama, midseason)
Winner of the most intriguing premise with the least descriptive name. A TV personality goes missing on a wildlife expedition in the Amazon, and his family goes to find him after his beacon mysteriously sends a signal. Hints of supernatural shenanigans abound. Hopefully, this isn’t the latest in a long line of serialized shows trying to be Lost, starting fast, fading in the middle, and getting cancelled. But don’t despair: it’s another one from Spielberg, this time with an assist from the guy who made Paranormal Activity, which suggests some scary thoughtful fun. 

 

Let’s Hope This Show Hasn’t Been Fucked Up by a Studio Executive

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Awake (NBC, drama, midseason)
Holy Sliding Doors, Batman. A man wakes up from a terrible accident to discover his wife is dead and his son is alive. But when he goes to sleep, he wakes up in an alternate universe where his wife is alive and his son is dead. He’s also a cop who solves crimes in both worlds with different partners. It sounds like some idiot from the studio needed an emotional hook because the science fiction premise was “too smart.” Let’s hope that’s not the case. 

 

You Know You’re Going to Watch It, So Stop Pretending You Won’t

The X Factor (Fox, reality, Sept. 21)
I don’t want to hear it. You all watch American Idol and you’ll watch this too. For a bit anyway. It does kind of feel like tuning in for Evel Knievel’s comeback jump over Snake Canyon. But the possibility of a Simon Cowell crash and burn (combined with a Paula Abdul meltdown) makes for more interesting viewing than your average singing show. 

Promising Enough to DVR the First Episode or Two

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Ringer

Promising Enough to DVR the First Episode or Two

Ringer (CW, drama, Sept. 13)
A woman on the lam finds her twin sister dead, takes her identity, and then realizes her sister’s secrets may be even worse than her own. It sounds too complicated to sustain. And the potential for Twin Peaks-esque rise and flame-out seems high. But Sarah Michelle Gellar is the lead, which bumps it up a few notches. Buffy’s back, baby!


A Gifted Man (CBS, drama, Sept. 23)
A brilliant but vain surgeon (which seems to describe every surgeon on TV) gets a wakeup call from beyond the grave when his ex-wife starts haunting him. It’ll either be Touched by an Angel or Wonderfalls. Worth tuning in once to see which one. 


Smash (NBC, drama, midseason)
I’m going to label this the new season’s biggest wild card. There is just no way to know how it might turn out. It’s like Glee, but with adults in a Broadway show. Interesting tidbit: this is Spielberg’s third show to land on a network schedule. 


Touch (Fox, drama, midseason)
Kiefer Sutherland’s autistic son has the ability to see numerical patterns that no one else can. And he’s going to tell us the meaning of life. It’s the number 24. No, that can’t be right. But I do miss 24

Allen Gregory (Fox, comedy, Oct. 30)
You got to hand it to Fox’s animation division. They churn out the most realistic and enduring families on TV. The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and even Bob’s Burgers sketch families that are far more memorable that the majority of live-action sitcom families. Now we have Allen Gregory, a kid with gay dads and delusions of grandeur who sounds like Jonah Hill. 

 

The J.J. Abrams Show I’m Pretty Sure I Want to See

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Alcatraz (Fox, drama, midseason)
When they shut down Alcatraz, they said they transferred all the prisoners to other facilities. The reality is that they closed the prison because all the prisoners had mysteriously disappeared. Now they’re coming back. We can only hope this is Abrams’ next Lost or Fringe.

 

Two Fairy Tales Go In, Only One Comes Out

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Grimm

Once Upon a Time (ABC, drama, Oct. 23)
The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming doesn’t believe fairytales are real. In fact, she’s forgotten who she is and currently works as a tough-as-nails bail bondswoman. Yeah, you read that right. Now, the fate of the world rests on her going back home to Storybrooke and claiming her rightful place as heir apparent. How the hell did that get pitched? I’ll be watching to find out. 


Grimm (NBC, drama, Oct. 21)
Fairy tales are real! We’ve got two shows to prove it. In this one, certain people called Grimms keep the rest of us safe from evil fairy tale creatures. It sounds like The X-Files monster-of-the-week episodes, now with ogres. 

The J.J. Abrams Show I’m Not Sure I Want to See

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The J.J. Abrams Show I’m Not Sure I Want to See

Person of Interest (CBS, drama, Sept. 22)
J.J. Abrams has created a new show for Michael Emerson from Lost. He has an algorithm that predicts when people are about to do something illegal and then he sends the guy who played Jesus to go get them. Get ready for the best show ever. Uh, wait a minute. It’s a CBS crime procedural. We can only hope it isn’t Abrams’ next Undercovers.

 

Sitcoms I Hope Don’t Suck Because I Like One or More of the Actors

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New Girl

Up All Night (NBC, comedy, Sept. 14)
Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are too funny to rack up another failed show. And Maya Rudolph is in this one too. Please don’t suck. Oh, the premise is something about a married couple juggling jobs and a baby. But who cares? Please. Don’t. Suck. 


New Girl (Fox, comedy, Sept. 20)
Zooey Deschanel is too charming to rack up a failed show. Unfortunately, this one looks a lot like the dozen other Friends clones we’ve seen in recent years. Let’s hope it’s not. 


2 Broke Girls (CBS, comedy, Sept. 19)
Two women working at a diner trying to make it. It’s Alice and Flo! Well, kiss my grits! Oh, it’s not a remake of the classic ‘70s sitcom? The plot has something to do with cupcakes with a side helping of sass? Where’s Mel when you need him? At least Kat Dennings looks like she’s having fun. 


Whitney (NBC, comedy, Sept. 22)
Any series that claims to be a “hilarious look at modern love” probably isn’t. Still, Whitney Cummings seems like a funny lady and someone decided to name a show after her, so we’ll go with that.

 

They Objectified Women in the ‘60s, Didn’t They?

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Pan Am

Pan Am (ABC, drama, Sept. 25)
“They do it all, and they do it at 30,000 feet.” Yeah, it’s about stewardesses in the ‘60s. Fun fact: people used to think all stewardesses did was fly around the world having sex. Mad Men it ain’t. 


The Playboy Club (NBC, drama, Sept. 19)
This one’s about playboy bunnies. Y’all realize you don’t get any nudity on network TV, right?

May stop if I flip past it, but I’ll hate myself for it

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Good Christian Belles

May stop if I flip past it, but I’ll hate myself for it

Good Christian Belles (ABC, drama, midseason)
Originally called Good Christian Bitches. It just doesn’t sound like the same show with “Belles,” now does it? This looks like it might be an attempt to recapture that surprising first season of Desperate Housewives. Still, I can’t help but feel that it’s already pulling its punches before it’s even started.


The Secret Circle (CW, drama, Sept. 15)
Kevin Williamson gives witches the treatment he gave vampires in Vampire Diaries. These shows air back-to-back and are both based on book series by the same author. I give them 10 episodes before the first crossover. Then come the werewolves. 


H8R (CW, reality, Sept. 14)
Idiotic celebrities, like Kim Kardashian and Snooki, confront idiotic real people who wrote bad things about them on the internet. It sounds like an excruciatingly painful train wreck. Count me in. At least for one episode. (Maybe I’ll get on the show for calling them “idiots.”) 

 

Gonna have to get damn good reviews

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Revenge

Hart of Dixie (CW, drama, Sept. 26)
Attractive young New York doctor moves to inhospitable Alabama to practice medicine. Finally, the show that will unite red and blue states by confronting stereotypes and challenging biases. Or, more likely, it’s the latest soapy-trashy offering from the guy behind Gossip Girl and The O.C. I did love this idea when Michael J. Fox did it in Doc Hollywood, but hopes are not high for this one. 


Scandal (ABC, drama, midseason)
Former White House fixer now runs crisis management firm for elite clients. Mr. Schwarzenegger on line 2.


Revenge (ABC, drama, Sept. 21)
Emily Van Camp is coming to the Hamptons. And she wants revenge. For something bad. I’m not sure I’m willing to wait out a whole season to find out what’s really bugging her.

 

Stop Me If You’ve Seen This One Before

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Napoleon Dynamite

How to Be a Gentleman (CBS, comedy, Sept. 29)
It’s The Odd Couple redux. Except this time the slovenly one is a personal trainer instead of a sportswriter. With Kevin Dillon, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Dave Foley, and Rhys Darby, this a contender for best cast in the least promising show. 


Napoleon Dynamite (Fox, comedy, midseason)
Hey, wasn’t that kid in a movie? Now he’s a cartoon. I’m not sure why either. 


Prime Suspect (NBC, drama, Sept. 22)
Why did anyone think remaking this show without Helen Mirren was a good idea? I never even watched the UK version and I’m cringing. Even if Maria Bello is a badass.


 

Charlie’s Angels (ABC, drama, Sept. 22)
I know that Hawaii Five-0 appears to have worked, at least temporarily. But didn’t anyone notice Bionic Woman and Knight Rider, and all the other failed retreads of decades-old shows? Have a little pride, people. 


The Firm (NBC, drama, midseason)
Do we really need a TV show based on the film that’s based on the John Grisham book? No, we don’t.

Emasculated Men and the Women Who Love Them

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Last Man Standing

Emasculated Men and the Women Who Love Them

Work It (ABC, comedy, midseason)
Two emasculated guys decide the only way to get a job is to pretend to be women. Because everyone knows it’s easier for women in the workforce in this country. Besides, it worked for Tom Hanks and that other guy in Bosom Buddies


Man Up (ABC, comedy, Oct. 18)
Three men emasculated by the modern world try to find their balls. Or something like that. Hilarious. 


Last Man Standing (ABC, comedy, Oct. 11)
Tim Allen is manly at work and emasculated by his wife and three daughters at home. Hilarious. 

 

This Is Getting Uncomfortable, Sitcom Style

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Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

Apartment 23 (ABC, comedy, midseason)
What if you took Friends and crossed it with The Grifters? You’d have a mess, though possibly a hot one. Note to ABC: James Van Der Beek is not famous enough to play himself in a sitcom. Yeah, I know it worked for Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar. It won’t work here.


Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (NBC, comedy, midseason)
I know it’s the name of Chelsea Handler’s bestselling book, but I think this would seem a little less desperate if the name was just Chelsea. Plus, doesn’t she already do this shtick on two different E! shows already? Oh, wait, Chelsea Handler isn’t playing herself. Laura Prepon plays her as a 20something. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. 


Free Agents (NBC, comedy, Sept. 14)
In the midst of separate personal crises, Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn sleep together but can’t commit to each other. Awkward. Then, they sleep together again. And again. And again. All while continuously explaining why they can’t commit to each other. Sounds like fun. 


Best Friends Forever (NBC, comedy, midseason)
Jessica St. Clair gets divorced and moves in with her best friend, who just moved in with her boyfriend. So the three are living together now. I’m thinking it ends up being either Three’s Company or Big Love

Bent (NBC, comedy, midseason)
A man and woman find themselves drawn to each other even though they can’t stand each other. I’d rename it Opposites Attract. Because Bent sounds like the name for a much more interesting show. 

Suburgatory (ABC, comedy, Sept. 28)
When a single dad (Jeremy Sisto) finds condoms in his daughter’s (Jane Levy) room, he moves her with him to the suburbs. Because everyone knows teenagers don’t have sex in the suburbs. City folk are cool. Suburbanites are soulless automatons or worse. Could we be any lazier in our satire?

No, Thanks: Crime Time Edition

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Unforgettable

No, Thanks: Crime Time Edition

Unforgettable (CBS, drama, Sept. 20)
A detective (Poppy Montgomery) has perfect memory that helps solve crimes… except the murder of her sister. Another huge procedural hit for CBS that I won’t ever watch. 


The 2-2 (CBS, drama, midseason)
Rookie cops in NYC. Yeah, whatever. But it’s executive produced by Robert De Niro and stars Patrick Wilson. Despite that pedigree, you know you’re in trouble when the hardnosed training officer is nicknamed “Yoda.” Ugh. 

The Finder (Fox, Drama, midseason)
It’s a spinoff of Bones. If you like that show, enjoy this one too. 


Missing (ABC, drama, midseason)
Liam Neeson called and he wants his plot back. Ashley Judd is a former CIA agent whose son disappears abroad. She’s gonna find him. Haven’t they realized yet that some plotlines only work in movies? You just can’t drag this crap out over 24 episodes (unless you’re Jack Bauer).

 

Are you serious?

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I Hate My Teenage Daughter

The Frame (CW, reality, midseason)
Here’s what the network has to say about its new reality show: “What happens when your whole life is reduced to one Frame? There’s only one rule: if you’re out of the Frame, you’re out of the game.” No idea what this means. Don’t care. 

Re-Modeled (CW, reality, midseason)
And here’s what the CW says about this one: “Modeling industry veteran Paul Fisher is planning to bring together hundreds of small agencies around the world in a new venture called The Network. The Network will give Paul the leverage to change the industry from the inside out. He has two missions: to make sure agents in small towns no longer get screwed, and to empower models to take control of their careers and lead healthier lives.” My first thought is, The Network sounds like a cult. My second reaction: in these tough economic times, the two groups of people who really need a champion are agents and models.


I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox, comedy, Nov. 23)
The moms were outcasts in high school and somehow they raised popular daughters. So they hate them. Yeah, that makes sense.

Michael Landweber is the author of the novel, We. His short stories have appeared in a variety of places, including Gargoyle, Fourteen Hills, Fugue, American Literary Review, Barrelhouse and Ardor. He is an Associate Editor at the Potomac Review. Landweber has also worked at The Japan Times and the Associated Press. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and two children. He can be contacted through his website at mikelandweber.com.


Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/146146-here-comes-fall-tv-2011-edition/