The 5 Best New Shows of the Fall
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The 5 Best New Shows of the Fall

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | October 11, 2012 | Comments ()


Last night saw the debuts of the last series premieres on the major four networks this fall, Nashville and Chicago Fire (there are still a few upcoming on The CW, but we don't count The CW, except for the show on this list). Three weeks into the new season, there's already a lot of lost causes ("Guys with Kids," "Partners," "Animal Practice," and the already cancelled "Made in Jersey"), some likely to succumb to cancellation regardless of their quality ("666 Park Avenue"), some bad shows with inexplicably high ratings ("Revolution" and "Elementary") and others that still haven't had time to figure themselves out, but display some potential.

Overall, now that the dust has mostly settled, there are only eight new shows that remain on my DVR: The five below, plus "Vegas" (decent, but it really feels like a stodgy CBS show targeted at grandparents); "The Mindy Project" (fun but wildly uneven, though ultimately, it's the show I'm most likely to still be watching by the end of the season), and "Go On," which I don't even like that much (especially after this week's weak episode) but I'm sticking with it out of some misguided loyalty to Matthew Perry.

In my opinion, these are the 5 strongest shows so far, although none of the five have displayed enough promise to ensure I'll watch any of them all the way through May, if they even last that long.

5. Arrow (The CW) -- This one was a flat-out surprise, as "Arrow" (about the superhero, Green Arrow) was a show I'd only planned to watch a few minutes of before completely dismissing it. Ultimately, it proved to be badly written, but cheesily entertaining and surprisingly violent. There are some nifty action sequences, a cool backstory (particularly for those unfamiliar with the superhero) with a number of moving elements, and a lead (Stephen Amell) who does an excellent job of mixing superhero with total toolbag. If it turns into a monster-of-the-week show and abandons the mythology, I don't see myself sticking around for long, but the origins story, the action, and a surprisingly dark twist in the pilot has me captivated (and I'm not alone). For now.

4. The New Normal (NBC) -- I've been up-and-down this show, and I've found a lot of the politics in the Ryan Murphy series to be heavy handed and overly self-righteous, even if I do ultimately agree with those politics. However, I can't help myself. The damn show has grown on me. Ellen Barkin is hilarious in what is essentially a Tea-Party version of Jane Lynch in "Glee," and the rest of the cast -- save for the often unctuous Andrew Rannels, who plays Bryan -- is so sweet that I've grown smitten with the gay wholesomeness of the series. It's very much like the Cam and Mitch relationship in "Modern Family," only Bryan and David have been given considerably more freedom to offend and a delicious antagonist.

3. Ben & Kate -- Ben is painfully obnoxious, but like The New Normal, the show is too sweet to resist. Ben is this years' Zooey Deschanel, and once the writers figure out a way to tone him down without destroying the essence of that character, the show will come into its own, particularly if they also do a better job of highlighting the talents of Lucy Punch. It may also be beneficial if they upped the stakes, as the episodes so far have revolved around a scavenger hunt and a visit to the principal's office and given us little reason to invest heavily in the characters beyond the fact that they're sweet and quirky.

2. Nashville -- I'll second Sarah's assessment of "Nashville": "The stakes are higher, and twangier, (than "Smash") and while there is plenty of soap in this drama, there may be just enough heart, soul and talent to make it worth the investment."

There were certainly some "Dallas"-like soapy elements in the pilot episode, but Connie Britton is magnificent, as always, and Hayden Panettiere is a sufficiently bratty foil whose relationship with her drug-addicted mother may earn her some sympathy (I found myself hoping that Connie Britton's character would get over her dislike of Panettiere's character and mother her, like Tami Taylor would do). Powers Boothe's scheming father was a little overkill, but I suppose all good soaps need a Cruella with Larry Hagman eyebrows. At the very least, "Nashville" has earned the title of the most guiltily pleasurable of the fall, and the music -- if you're into pop country with a heavy dose of sentimentality -- is surprisingly decent.

1. Last Resort -- I've already rang this bell a number of times, and after two episodes, I'm still buying into the crackpot, edge-of-global-nuclear-destruction premise. Andre Braugher's weighty performance goes a long way toward selling it, and I already feel invested enough in the characters that there's tension in the high-stakes action sequences, even if Scott Speedman would suffocate trying to act his way out of a paper bag. Like with "The Unit," I expect that Shawn Ryan will be able to continue creating clever, caper-like vignettes within the larger overall structure of the series. Moreover, at this point, I'm less concerned with Shawn Ryan's ability to extend the life of the premise as I am with whether ABC will allow him to do so before canceling the series, which saw a steep ratings drop off from the pilot to the second episode.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • littlealbatross

    Arrow sat in my DVR for a few days because I thought it was going to suck. It didn't suck as much as I thought it would. And to be honestly I'll keep watching so long as Arrow boy keeps taking off his shirt and doing the weird super sexy pullup on the moving bar thing. You know you guys watched that part more than once. Also I'm a sucker for revenge/justice stories.

  • Javier

    welp, I missed Arrow when it debuted because I forgot about it but there's a rerun today and with all the love it's getting I'[m going to give it a shot.

    Another thing Dustin:
    "...some bad shows with inexplicably high ratings (“Revolution” and “Elementary”)"
    Elementary is not a bad show, at least not as bad as Revolution, I think it's quite good

  • POINGjam

    Green Arrow is a brilliant character. I can't imagine a TV show that wouldn't fuck him up, but now I'm hopeful.

  • Jezzer

    "(there are still a few upcoming on The CW, but we don’t count The CW, except for the show on this list)"

    Because we are far too good and intelligent and super-cool for The CW, and have to roll our superior little eyes right down our well-bred, patrician noses at it while adding one of its shows to our "Five Best New Shows" list and clutching our hands to our chests and crying out, "WONDERFUL GENIUS PERFUME!" every time Lena Dunham farts.

  • Blake

    Have we been watching the same Last Resort? The only compelling thing about the series so far was Braugher's speech at the end of the pilot. Someone please kill Shepard or Prosser so we can put and end to their ridiculously stupid subplot. The only other new shows I've been watching are Copper and Elementary.

    Copper has gotten steadily better since its premiered and I'm sticking with Elementary for Liu and Miller (also I'm hoping it can eventually fill the void left by House's exit).

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    This fall schedule makes me think the Mayans might be right.

    Or that Hollywood thinks the Mayans might be right and decided not to try this year.

  • Mrcreosote

    Arrow was good enough to keep me watching, but the mythology is really off. It's all Batman, all the time. Arrow was always more counterculture and flat out fun than the Dark Knight. I always thought of G.A. as the Jimmy Buffet of super heros. In related news I make the worst analogies ever. But come on..SPOILER...
    Nicknaming his sister Speedy and having her hooked on drugs? Genius.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I, too, noticed the similarities to Batman, but the backstory and the action are just too interesting to ignore the show for the moment.

  • Here's the thing about Vegas: I like the people in it, and I feel the story has potential to be really interesting, but it's on the WRONG NETWORK. It needs to be on a pay cable channel (or at least AMC or FX) that can really portray the gritty, over the top ridiculousness that is America's Playground and all that goes along with it.

  • Leclerc

    I'm looking forward to watch Nashville and Arrow (didn't have the time yet). I found The New Normal unbearable. I'm on the fence about Last Resort. I liked Ben and Kate, aldo i'm not too excited about it. I really loved "The mindy Proyect", so far, the only new show that i really enjoyed.

  • Artemis

    I don't think you need to worry about Arrow becoming a procedural. The CW does a lot of things wrong, but it is probably the network most willing to invest in mythology and serialized storytelling. The Vampire Diaries is probably the best example, but most CW dramas of late have been similarly invested in backstory.

  • I'd say Supernatural is the best example, especially as it has been running eight years. Even when they're in "monster of the week" format, they're delving heavily into back story and mythology.

  • Artemis

    I don't watch Supernatural, but fair enough.

    I do love that The CW continually ignores the conventional wisdom that viewers can't be trusted to follow a story from week to week or to catch up if they miss something. I mean, they're making shows that are primarily aimed at teens and they're generally more complicated and harder to follow than quality cable dramas (not better, just more complicated in terms of what the hell is going on, plot-wise). It would be far easier for a new viewer to start watching Mad Men in the middle of any of its seasons than for a regular Vampire Diaries viewer to figure out WTF is going on if they've missed even a single episode of that show ("Wait, he was dead!... Maybe he's a vampire? No, still human. But he was dead! Okay, wait, a ring made him come back to life? And he doesn't remember what happened? Ohhh, he does remember, he's just pretending not to. Why didn't the mind control work on him? And now he's evil? Wait a minute, that's not even him, that's someone possessing his body! WHAT IS HAPPENING.").
    I mean, yeah, it's ratings are terrible, but I don't think the problem is that viewers aren't able to follow anything that doesn't involve a case of the week. I just wish the other networks would stop being so scared of asking viewers to pay attention.

  • I totally agree. If teenagers can not only follow it, but argue about the mythology and speculate about what might happen next, then there's no reason not to expect adults to be unable to do the same. Obviously, smaller cable stations do this with shows like Justified, but you can still tune into those and pick up a lot of the background and relationships (though I defy anyone to understand the Robert Quarles character without seeing his whole arc, and ditto for Ellstin Limehouse). The major networks are pandering to the lowest common denominator with most of their programming, so it's surprising when they actually produce something I consider watchable.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I think the major networks' assumption (which for the record I think is bullshit) is that adults shouldn't be expected to be able to keep up in the same way because job, or real life or something and they don't have the time/inclination to keep up with a heavily serialized storyline.

    The problem, just ignoring for the moment that things like DVD and DVR and streaming have made following a show immensely easier, is it's basically a network assuming from the get go that people don't really give that many shits about their programming. Oh, sure, they'll watch, if they're not working or going places or having sex, because television is presumably the last thing they'd voluntarily opt to do in the network view, so they devote most of their time to shows there's virtually zero requirement to keep up with on a weekly basis. It's the same institutional inferiority complex that still somehow keeps television a distant second behind movies in perceived quality despite its ability to tell stories in different, equally (and sometimes more) moving ways to movies.

    Your CW shows, on the other hand, benefit from knowing their audience likely has limited alternatives, especially during the week, and that they are also mostly people who are known to follow given YA series near religiously. They know you'll be there, and they know you like a serialized story, so they know you'll follow. Adult audiences gravitate to James Patterson and Lee Child and so on, where the barrier to entry is only marginally higher than that to NCIS, and mostly because you have to hold it up in your hand for a long time, not because it's a dense mythology. They have no firm certainty you'll follow, and most of the evidence they do have of adults following tends to be in genre television more than straight drama or mystery (which passes for drama on the major networks). So you get Events and Revolutions and magic islands and what amounts to sci-fi given how speculative it is (that is, Last Resort).

  • The wife watched BEN AND KATE and assured me it was awful. That's all I have to say about that.

    I gave up on LAST RESORT after two eps. No way. Too far-fetched, and I expected better writing with Shawn Ryan at the helm.

  • Bill Williams

    Arrow had me at 'surprisingly violent'.

  • Phaedre

    I do not get the "Ben and Kate" love at all. I watched the first episode and wanted to alternately punch Ben for being such an annoying man-child or Kate for being so incapable of putting her f*ing foot down. This show pushes ALL my buttons!

  • Jannymac

    I only caught the last 5 mins of Arrow, but all I could think was daaaayumm it hooked me and now I have to watch the full ep on VOD.
    Wanted to hate on Nashville, but Connie/Tami/Reba had me at "you can kiss my answer as it's walking out the door." That bit of writing, plus the duet at the end was amazing.

  • JenVegas

    I only intended to watch the first 5 minutes of Arrow and then found myself sucked into the glorious ridiculousness of it all and stuck around for the whole thing. I think I'm going to keep it on my DVR for the laughs and the action.

  • Fredo

    Meanwhile Revolution is outside singing "What do I have to do to make you love me?!!"

  • lowercase_ryan

    not be stupid.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I watched Partners the other night. I didn't turn it off. It made me laugh. Brandon Routh is surprisingly adorable as a sweet gay.

    Not super original in plot, but the jokes were enough that if I end up bored and see it's on I would watch. Btw, that's about all a sitcom gets from me these days - I have 0 appointment sitcoms.

  • Fredo

    After Zack and Miri, I was ready to sign up for more of Brandon Routh as a sweet gay -- provided that Justin Long was his sherpa up the mountain of gayness.

  • junierizzle

    I really like Ben and Kate. I think they are already toning down Ben. I thought I would abandon after the pilot but pilot's are tricky, They can't really hold back. They have to try their hardest to hook you. I thought maybe they tried a little too hard but I came back and I like it.

    Also, is it just me or is Dakota Johnson ridiculously hot?

  • atoz15

    just you
    she totally turned me off in 'five year engagement'

  • junierizzle

    I didn't know she was in that. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Anna von Beav

    GAH, THE CW!


  • My father (who could be most of you-all's grandparent - I'm old) watched Vegas, so DR is right about who it's for. I saw about two minutes and had to run from the horrible writing and direction. Dennis Quaid and Carrie-Anne Moss: mailing it in and getting paid while in that difficult middle-age phase. Good thing the scare-mongering about 'death panels' in Obamacare isn't real - or the panel might go after them.

  • Drake

    As does my mother, who could be your Nana also. I was talking to her Tuesday night and she said that she had to go so that she could watch Vegas.

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