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What My DVR Thinks of the New Shows

September 25th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

After 16 of the new shows have premiered, I thought I’d stop and take count on what if any relationship they have to my DVR.

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Season Recording Set

I should note that I’m open and perhaps likely to cut some of these as time goes on, but for now:

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Free Agents (NBC) has the air of something that will disappear in time, whether due to lousy ratings (1.3/4 for its second week) or disinterest. Mrs. Extratextuals isn’t amused, and even I am probably hanging on more because I like Hank Azaria and have wished him a good leading turn since Huff went under than due to excellence. It’s funny but not greatly so, it risks being 90% jokes about sex and I’m no longer 15 so its appeal will wear out soon if that ratio keeps up, and it seems a little too rudderless. But Azaria and Kathryn Hahn are extremely likeable, Anthony Head is having a lot of fun with his character, and it seems ideally suited to fill the “time for one more thing to watch before I go to sleep, and I might prefer a drama, but I don’t have 45 minutes to invest” slot in my DVR viewing.

The New Girl (FOX) will likely decrease in my estimation the more that it is described as a “breakout” hit. Right now, after all, it’s just passable. I think Zooey Deschanel has a lot of talent, but it also makes me uncomfortable, since, as Alyx Vesey aptly notes in her review of it, it “perpetuates the idea that young women are infantile co-dependents who need nerd glasses, insipid affectations, and male mentors to fashion an identity built entirely around men.” If she doesn’t cease to be painted as pathetic soon, I’m outta here. Also, a little less singing would make me happier with it. It’s okay funny, but really middle of the road. I could see it hanging around the DVR till it’s either that or watching Toddlers and Tiaras live off television.

Person of Interest (CBS) entertained me. It’s definitely guy TV, with lots of ass-kicking, surveillance, espionage, and plots to take people down. But it does it well, with good pacing, strong performances from Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson (I’d expect nothing less, Mr. Linus!), and the prospect for some serial-ish development in interesting ways to complement its reliable CBS meat-and-potatoes procedural elements. Mary Beltrán nails it in her review when she notes that the two lead characters need backstory and quickly if we’re actually meant to care much about them, so JJ Abrams better remember how to do flashbacks or it might wallow in “meh”-ishness. But I began the season hoping for good (if not great) things from this, and I still have those hopes.

Revenge (ABC) is very well done – well-filmed, well-pitched, and well-set up. I don’t know if I’ll actually watch it (it’s on the DVR since Mrs. E had a little more interest in watching it regularly than do I), but I don’t begrudge its existence, and it seems to deserve an audience. Certainly, a lot of more work and effort seemed to go into this than into a lot of the new shows. And it strikes just the right mixture between camp and seriousness.

Ringer (CW) ain’t great TV, but it’s interesting enough for me to keep it around for now. Gellar does a decent enough job, the plot is twisty and unpredictable enough, and though they’ve proven they can never, ever do another scene “on the ocean,” after the horrible green screen mess of the pilot, otherwise it’s realized well enough. So it’s enough. For now.

Up All Night (NBC) is still not as good as I had hoped. It’s kind of meandering around, alas, as though the writers haven’t yet found what they really want to do. I still don’t know enough about the two leads, and without that knowledge, it’s hard to care about them. Yet more confusing is Maya Rudolph upstaging most of their scenes together, forcing me to ask if it even is Arnett and Applegate’s show. But it makes me laugh here and there, and I want to be supportive of a sitcom about new parents, especially since it’s not a saccharine version of that tale. So I’ll keep watching.

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Not on the DVR, but might get watched occasionally

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Secret Circle (CW) would likely have made it onto the DVR, at Mrs. E’s request, because it seems Vampire Diaries-like enough to be fun, if not for the fact that our DVR can only record two things at once, and it’s up against Person of Interest and The Office. Campy, a bit fun, a bit not, it’s just “meh” for me. I’d rather read Facebook feeds, I guess.

Two Broke Girls (CBS) had a disappointing pilot, as noted by Erin Copple Smith in her review. The supporting characters are as trite and talentless as they come (with badge of honor going to the short order cook), but most surprisingly was Kat Dennings’ inability to introduce any flow to her performance: it just feels like she’s reading one-liners. Her co-star’s better, though still no great revelation. So why isn’t it in the below category? I’ve liked Dennings before, so I may give her one more shot, and hey, with the plum spot between HIMYM and Two and a Half Men, it’s likely not going anywhere for a while, blessed by artificially inflated ratings, so I’ll have plenty of chances to check it out again.

X Factor (FOX) right now is just American Idol with LA Reid and Nicole Scherzinger as guest judges. So it feels weird to be reviewing it as anything new. Later on, the new rules will kick in. For now, it’s just more of the same, which for me means it’s “watch if I’m bored and there’s nothing else on” kind of television.

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Quarantined from my DVR for the latter’s health

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Charlie’s Angels (ABC) is laughably bad. To the point that it could be fun to watch occasionally, I’ll admit. But sadly it doesn’t even know it’s bad, and has no tongue in cheek, even though shlock of this level has no business being anything other than camp. The acting is tortuous (the only range in the Angels’ performance being shown by the wide variety of leather they can wear), made worse by a horrible script. With all the talented people who want to break into Hollywood, what gives, when shows like this seem to be stocked with hacks?

A Gifted Man (CBS) isn’t bad, to be fair. It’s just not my thing. The white crusader myth that it seems keen to run with is regrettable, but mostly it’s just boring. Good enough performances, but when I’ve had a long day, I don’t really come home thinking, “man, I want to see a show about a guy who gives MRIs to tennis players and has a dead ex-wife helping him hack her computer.”

H8R (CW), on the other hand, is bad. For our souls. See my pre-hate here.

Playboy Club (NBC), along with Charlie’s Angels, proves that sexism in 2011 isn’t controversial as much as it’s simply boring. My review of it is here, though don’t feel compelled to follow that link: the less time spent thinking about this show, the better.

Prime Suspect (NBC) is also not horrible TV, though as my review here suggests, its racial depictions are pretty crappy. It’s just yet another cop show in a network television lineup of countless cop shows, and since it doesn’t do anything exciting enough to separate itself from the pack, I have no urge to watch it again.

Unforgettable (CBS) works in the same way, offering little more than yet another wholly mediocre, uninspired, middle-of-the-road show about a super smart cop. If there weren’t two to eight hours of primetime television each night devoted to the same story, I might care more. It’s not bad, it’s just there.

Whitney (NBC) is clearly by the same writer as Two Broke Girls inasmuch as both are written as a series of jokes, not as flowing plot. Both also tried too hard to be risqué in their pilots, Two Broke Girls with jokes about cum on uniforms and an opening joke about Kat Dennings’ breasts, Whitney with drawn out scenes in which Cummings is wearing a sexy nurse’s outfit. I simply didn’t care about the characters, and was too often too aware of how constructed the show was. It’s easily the worst of the new comedies (unless we count Charlie’s Angels as a comedy, in which case there’s a battle).

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