Premiere Week Scorecard: Grading the Fall's New Television Series
Masters of Sex — A breath of fresh air, Masters of Sex is a compelling, well-acted, intelligent and thoughtful glimpse into sex, both from a scientific and emotional perspective. Lizzy Caplan is sexual dynamite, and the series is the only outright home run of the fall. (See the recap) (A-)
Agents of SHIELD — Beneath the fun, Whedon-y goodness, Agents of SHIELD a little too befitting network television, which is to say: It’s another procedural, although a very fun one that could add enough mythos to make it very good (for a network show). (See Joanna’s premiere recap) (B+)
The Goldbergs — I am perfectly willing to concede that my Wonder Years nostalgia is creating bias, but I found The Goldbergs to be a funny sitcom about an overbearing, abrasive, and ultimately kind-hearted Jewish family. I think there’s even more potential for the show to get better. I hope so, because the pilot completely won me over. (See the review) (B+)
Brooklyn Nine Nine — The pilot episode was outstanding, thanks in large part to Andre Braugher’s terrific turn as the hard-nosed gay commander of the police precinct. The second episode faltered, however. Nevertheless, with Michael Schur behind the show, and a great deal of talent in front of the camera, I expect Brooklyn Nine Nine will hit its stride just before it gets cancelled. (First episode B+, second episode B-
Sleepy Hollow — The first episode was very good, in a guilty pleasure kind of way. The visuals are great, and Tom Mison — who plays Ichabod Crane — is charming British fun, but the second episode really established Sleepy Hollow as yet another twist on the network procedural. It’s a fun enough show to watch, but I can’t help but think it’s an empty-headed version of Fringe with gothic fairy tale creatures instead of sci-fi. (B)
The Blacklist — James Spader is deliciously good in the series, in which he plays a criminal mastermind who helps the FBI track down other criminal masterminds. He is not, however, good enough to overlook what is otherwise a fairly pedestrian procedural with a slight twist. It’s a meat-and-potatoes show, but I’ll continue watching for a while just to see if Spader can fully elevate the series into something other than broadcast network filler. (Spader: A, the show C).
Back in the Game — It’s a sitcom iteration of The Bad News Bears with James Caan (who has had some unbecoming plastic surgery) in the Walter Matheau role as the irascible, drunken f*ck up. He’s mildy amusing, although the biggest selling point so far is the sweet, effortless charm of Maggie Lawson (Psych), who plays the single mom that decides to coach her son’s hopeless Little League team. I wouldn’t expect too much from Back in the Game, but it could be a mildly amusing, occasionally touching family sitcom. (B-)
Trophy Wife — Great cast (Bradley Whitford, Malin Akerman, Marcia Gay Harden) and fitfully amusing, but it’s hard to think of Trophy Wife as anything but Modern Family with divorced people and custody arrangements. (See our review) (C+)
The Michael J. Fox Show — The pilot episode was sweet, if not conventional, but the second episode was not good at all. Hopefully the series will continue along the same lines as the premiere episode, in which case The Michael J. Fox Show could be a heartwarming, middle-of-the-road family sitcom. (See: ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ Is the Best Parkinson’s Sitcom in the History of Network Television) (B for the pilot; D for the second episode).
Crazy Ones — It’s old-school Robin Williams at his schticky best, and that can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about Williams when he is unhinged. The pilot would not have been so bad if it hadn’t felt so much like overzealous product placement for McDonalds. Kelly Clarkson — who has a guest role in the pilot — is actually the best part about the premiere, and easily the funniest moment came in the outtakes at the end of the episode. Robin Williams’ nostalgia and Josh Wolk’s charm is enough to give it a few more shots, but it seems unlikely that the Crazy Ones will ever be a great series, although I expect that it will be around for years, thanks to the cushy time slot on CBS. (C+)
Mom — The latest Chuck Lorre abomination is not as abominable as his other series, thanks to Anna Faris and, especially, Allison Janney, who is so good in the Mom pilot that I’m willing to give the show a second episode before I eventually quit. The premiere had a moment or two that suggest Mom could be a better sitcom, but it seems unlikely given that Chuck Lorre and CBS are behind it. (C- for the series; A for Janney).
Lucky 7 — Airing on ABC on Tuesday night, where Agents of SHIELD and the sitcom block of The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife already look promising in the ratings, Lucky 7 bowed with a 1.3 in the demo, and will probably be cancelled by November sweeps. Besides the presence of Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (who plays Clay Davis in The Wire), this drama — about seven poor people who win the lottery and have to sort out their lives — has very little going for it. Winning the lottery together “makes them family,” and the family that wins together, sticks together, right? I can’t imagine suffering through an entire season of secrets being spilled that break this “family” apart, especially knowing that in the end, two of the guys unload their money (as we know from the opening flash forward). (D)
Betrayal — Adultery! Betrayal! Revenge! It’s another stab at duplicating the success of Revenge and Scandal, although Betrayal falls much closer on the spectrum to Revenge: It’s bland and uninspiring, but most of all, it is boring. On an already crowded Sunday night of television, there’s no reason to bother with Betrayal. (D)
Dads — So far, easily the worst new series of the fall: Offensive, a waste of talent, poorly written, and most of all, unfunny. (See: 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Even Consider Bothering with Seth MacFarlane’s Sh*tty, Thoughtless and Offensive Sitcom, ‘Dads’) (F)
Not yet graded: Hostages and Stephen Merchant’s new HBO sitcom, Hello Ladies, which I have only seen the first 15 minutes of so far, mostly because Stephen Merchant is best in small doses, and since he’s the lead in Hello Ladies, I have to create my own small doses.