(Publisher’s Note: The shows below are graded on the network curve, which is to say, relative to the best shows on network television — Parks and Recreation and The Good Wife — and not the best shows on cable. — DR)
The Blacklist — Placing it at the top of the list of new network shows is not exactly a huge vote of confidence in The Blacklist, but more of a reflection of how nothing else has really stood out so far. The Blacklist, however, has something none of the other shows do, and that is James Spader, who is wicked good in this. While the series is procedural in nature, there’s a semi-compelling series’ long arc bubbling underneath that could flower into something even better, if NBC allows the series some freedom to explore. Grade: B+
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — As Joanna wrote in her recap, SHIELD is currently stuck in ‘encounter/monster of the week’ procedural territory, and it’s taken plenty of heat from Marvel fans. But Ming Na and Agent Coulson are bringing enough wit and kick-assery to the series to make it interesting, and better than most everything else on the new fall slate. The cameos haven’t hurt, either. Grade: B
The Goldbergs — It was a decent second episode, but it felt very much like a remake of the pilot. I worry that The Goldbergs is falling into a sitcom formula: Yell, yell, yell, heartwarming moment, yell. Honestly, it’s the footage from Adam Goldberg’s childhood that button each episode that’s selling it for me. Grade: B
Sleepy Hollow — I really want to like Sleepy Hollow more than I do, because the ratings are good, it’s already been picked up for a second season, and Tom Mison is fantastic. I love the Pans Labyrinth-like visuals, too, but the storylines are still a little staid, and though I watched it late at night during a period in which I had not slept for more than six hours (this period is called “parenting”), I fell asleep three times during this episode, and yet: There’s so much promise. Grade: B
Mom — This is not where I expected that Mom would place in its second week, and I’m baffled that two of the next three are also multi-cam laugh track sitcoms, but I gotta say: Mom has a lot of heart bubbling underneath the broad comedy, and Allison Janney is plain terrific in this. I like that the characters in Mom are a little messy, and that the situations dont’ resolve themselves at the end of each episode. Grade: B
Sean Saves the World — Sean is basically a spin-off of Will & Grace if Jack were a single father, and while the show itself is not particularly well written, creative, or smart, it’s hard not to appreciate how good Sean Hayes is in it. He is absolutely terrific , and his timing and energy are strong enough to make an otherwise bland sitcom somewhat watchable, at least in the short term. Grade: B-
Brooklyn Nine-Nine — Three episodes in, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine still has a lot of potential that hasn’t been realized, and I am concerned that the it may never achieve that potential. Fortunately, despite sluggish ratings, Fox has ordered more new scripts, so the network is showing enough faith in the series to let it find is stride. Grade: B-
The Millers — Yes, Margo Martindale makes several bad fart jokes, and yes, there is a laugh track, and yes, it is yet another new sitcom centered around a broken family, but the cast — which also includes Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, Jayma Mays, and Nelson Franklin — rises ever so slightly above the material. I have to believe that, with Greg Garcia (Raising Hope, My Name Is Earl) running the show, that it is bound to get better, right? Grade: C+
Back in the Game — Maggie Lawson’s charm, and James Caan’s bad plastic surgery continue to be the most compelling reasons to watch an otherwise uninspired sitcom version of Bad News Bears. I don’t think it’ll get more than a few more episodes out of me, though. Grade: C+
Trophy Wife — Ever so slightly better than the pilot episode, Trophy Wife still hasn’t given as a compelling reason to keep watching outside of the strong cast. It seems determined to be as middle-of-the-road as possible. Bradley Whitford’s charm can get the show only so far. Grade: C+
Welcome to the Family — A new entry on NBC’s already struggling Thursday night, Welcome to the Family boasts Mike O’Malley, and that’s about all it has going for it. I like him, but not enough to continue watching the multi-ethnic version of Modern Family. Grade: C-
Crazy Ones — I didn’t love the pilot episode, but I disliked the second episode even more. Again, it’s very broad and very CBS, and not even Josh Wolk can salvage the parade of Robin Williams voices and, yes, he even trotted out the gay voice this week. Grade: C-
We Are Men — CBS’s new Monday night sitcom, sandwiched in between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, has an OK cast (Tony Shalhoub, John Cho, and Jerry O’Connell), but the lead guy reminds me a lot of Ted from HIMYM and he’s the least annoying character in the bro-iest new sitcom of the fall. That does not bode well. Grade: C-
The Michael J. Fox Show — Wow, the third episode was absolutely dismal, and if the show doesn’t turn around quickly,, Michael J. Fox won’t be enough to redeem this it. It will probably get only one more look from me before I toss in the towel, which a painful thing to do given how much I love and admire Fox. Grade: D+
Super Fun Night — Rebel Wilson’s new sitcom is neither super nor fun, but it is exceedingly obnoxious. Rebel Wilson is a good supporting character, but as the main focus, she flails. The pilot episode culminated in a Meatloaf song, and that’s kind of all you need to know about this Super Fun Night. The ratings were good, though, so it may have some time to find outs footing, if that’s even possible with this premise. Grade: D+
Ironside — Idiotic, plodding and obvious, the only nice thing I can really say about Ironside is that Blair Underwood still looks terrifically handsome, even in a wheelchair. This is a one-and-out for me, and given that it was the lowest rated fall debute for a drama of all time, it seems unlikely to be around for very long, anyway. Grade: D
Betrayal — One episode was enough, and Betrayal is currently the show likely to be the second cancellation of the season after …
Lucky 7 — The new ABC drama, which fell to a .8 ratings in its second week, was shit-canned on Friday.
Dads — One episode was all we needed to see to know that it’s the worst sitcom of the year. The ratings have been bad, and hopefully, it is on its way out soon.
Still haven’t seen Hostages, and I’m unlikely to give it a shot. The ratings haven’t been good, so I doubt it is worth bothering with on what is a suddenly crowded Monday night.