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You Weren't Going to Watch These Anyway

Ugh. Rrrnnnhhh. (retching) This is the part of the ATGoNFP where things take an ugly turn. I meant what I said about no good shows this season, and for the most part, it's true. Up All Night has become a bitter disappointment, to the point where I'm just embarrassed for buying into the hype. Prime Suspect is well made, if not wholly original. (I mean, I know it's an adaptation, but even without seeing Helen Mirren's award-winning version it feels familiar.) I admit I'm getting some enjoyment from Revenge even though it's a lot simpler than it should be. And New Girl, despite its flaws, will probably have me as a viewer for as long as it wants me, since I adore Zooey Deschanel – and Jake Kasdan has a near-lifetime-pass with me after Zero Effect and Walk Hard. So, a few 2011 shows that I watch, but if they were taken away I wouldn't bat an eye.

But, Free Agents, the one show which actually charmed me, which has improved steadily week over week, to which I was considering giving the full weight of the ATGoNFP "watch this or you're dead to me" recommendation, is apparently teetering on the brink of cancelation. But maybe Hank Azaria is being overly dramatic: I read elsewhere that NBC's honcho is making a welcome change to the machete-wielding schedule reorganization style we're accustomed to at this time of year. So, we'll have to see. I'll give it another week to be sure it's in league with previous ATGoNFP headliners Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies, and Life – but be prepared for some disowning next week if it's still on!

Meanwhile, 2 Broke Girls is pulling in nearly four times as many viewers – a show so bad that even my arch nemesis Ken Tucker has revised his outlook slightly. (You'll note that everything he complains about was present in the first episode, too. Maybe his kids just talked some sense into him.) It's enough to make a man curl up in bed with his Arrested Development DVDs and just shut out the world.

There's nothing else to watch, people. Rachel Bilson and Scott Porter are certainly charming on CW's Hart of Dixie, but the show's just what you were expecting: a near-perfect retread of Sweet Home Alabama (which wasn't exactly great to begin with). You've got banjo music, vicious debutante queen bees, wholesome charming down-home folksy folks, fish distantly out of water, and more narration than you can possibly stand. Terra Nova is equally unimaginative, but without being particularly well made. (Neither show is my cup of tea, but I'll at least give the Hart people credit for trying to make a good show.) I don't need to burden you with my extended, geeky rant about the way they're handling time travel on the show; suffice it to say that with every thing they do, they are preventing themselves from being born, creating a climate change cataclysm much worse than the one they left in the future, and unavoidably causing the Earth to spiral into the sun. (Not to mention all the fossil fuels they're burning to power their sonic cannons and armored vehicles – at a time when most of the fossils are still walking around and snapping at them!) Suburgatory takes a one-note premise (Stepford-like sterility and shallow suburban living) and tries every angle to find clever comedy in it, coming up empty. Jeremy Sisto is ill-prepared to headline a comedy, and his snarky daughter is just a bundle of sarcasm and attitude, making her an unlikeable protagonist and an insufferable narrator. My fears were realized in How to Be a Gentleman: Dave Foley and especially Rhys Darby are incredible, but the main characters (David Hornsby and Kevin Dillon) are such one-dimensional archetypes (preppy; jock) that all the comedy between them is flat and unoriginal. A season of just the B stories from all its episodes would be fantastic, but I worry that How to Be a Gentleman, in its current form, is not going to be very easy to watch.

Terra Nova Fox, Mondays at 8:00 1 star (20/100)
Hart of Dixie CW, Mondays at 9:00 2 stars (40/100)
Suburgatory ABC, Wednesdays at 8:30  star (0/100)
How to Be a Gentleman CBS, Thursdays at 8:30 2 1/2 stars (50/100)

I should say I was pretty intrigued by Showtime's Homeland which pits CIA Analyst Claire Danes against special-forces POW Damien Lewis, with plenty of ambiguity and lots of potential for interesting character stories. Danes thinks she's got good intelligence that Lewis is now working for Al Qaeda, but she's also taking antipsychotic meds; Lewis and just wants to get back to his family, but some shady stuff definitely went on throughout his eight years of torture and imprisonment. Mandy Patinkin is there. Morena Baccarin is there (and topless). I don't get Showtime, so this show will have to be pretty incredible for me to keep watching it on my mom's TiVo, but so far it meets the threshold.

Homeland Showtime, Sundays at 10:00 4 stars (80/100)

Returning Shows

Dexter 5 stars (100/100)

(I still have half of last season to catch up on, but I'm reasonably confident that the show continues to be flawlessly perfect.)

Returning This Week

House: Fox, Monday at 9:00 4 1/2 stars (90/100)
The League: FX, Thursday at 10:30 3 stars (60/100)
Rules of Engagement: CBS, Saturday at 8:00 2 stars (40/100)

I had to move The League from Meloni territory up to this section because I just realized I am actually recording it. I have precious little faith in FX's non-C.K. comedy (having suffered through Testees and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia before), but The League's Paul Scheer created the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast, which is fiendishly brilliant, so I am checking it out at his behest.

Also New This Week

American Horror Story: FX, Wednesday at 10:00
Sanctuary: SyFy, Friday at 10:00

5 Comments (Add your comments)

BrandonThu, 10/6/11 2:16pm

But maybe Hank Azaria is being overly dramatic: I read elsewhere that NBC's honcho is making a welcome change to the machete-wielding schedule reorganization style we're accustomed to at this time of year.

Nope. Machete wielded:


Bee BoyThu, 10/6/11 3:55pm

I blame you, and any other human who didn't watch every episode of Free Agents.

But it's all good, 'cause Whitney and Up All Night got full-season pickups, so there'll be no shortage of laughs! (At the people who made those decisions – not at those shows, of course.)

Joe MulderThu, 10/6/11 6:36pm

Mandy Patinkin is there. Morena Baccarin is there (and topless).

That should be the entire marketing campaign for HOMELAND. If you can't sell a show with that, then you quite simply can't sell a show.

Bee BoyThu, 10/6/11 11:53pm

Oh, I agree. I felt a little ungentlemanly drawing attention to it, but, on the other hand, it draws attention to itself. (I'm referring of course to Mr. Patinkin.)

Though, frankly, this review could easily have been, in its entirety: "You had me at Damien Lewis." Until he teams up with Shonda Rhimes, that's going to be my reaction to pretty much any show he's on.

"Holly"Sun, 10/9/11 9:01pm

It's enough to make a man curl up in bed with his ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT DVDs and just shut out the world.

Or a woman. 'Cause that's what I've been doing.

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