06.12.11 6:36 PM ET
TV Preview: Snap Judgments of 2011-2012's New Shows
Will the 2011-12 television season be a winner or another dud? Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez offer their first impressions of more than 30 network pilots—from Awake and Ringer to Alcatraz and Work It—coming to TV next season.
You’re spending your summer reading great books, sipping sweet cocktails, and catching some rays. What have we been up to? We’ve been on the couch, wading through pilots for 33 of the more than 40 new scripted series that likely will be on the air next TV season. (Sometimes networks do change their minds, as well they should.)
Some made us cheer, others made us groan, but we steeled ourselves to make it through the pile of screeners to offer our first takes on the dramas and comedies that are headed to the fall and midseason schedules of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW.
While every season the networks present their latest iterations on the doctor-lawyer-cop tropes, this year the broadcasters took a few more risks than usual, issuing green lights to such concepts as a police detective existing in parallel realities, 1960s Pan Am flight attendants, dead ringer twin sisters exchanging identities, Broadway musical producers launching a new production, multiple fairytale-based plots, and cutthroat Washington D.C. fixers.
It’s all very exciting, we know. But first a few (boring) caveats: 1) These should be considered “first impressions” of the pilots that were made available by the broadcast networks and not reviews. 2) All pilots—from music and dialogue to casting, etc.—are subject to change, so what airs next season may, in fact, be drastically different than what was seen here. (The middling pilot for Parks and Recreation—which didn't nail its tone, sense of humor, or comedic potential—bears no relationship to the sharp comedy it is today.) 3) We reserve the right to change our initial opinions upon seeing final review copies of these pilots—not to mention a few more episodes: 30 Rock had a bad pilot that soon turned into a great show. 4) Not all of the midseason pilots were sent out by the networks; the unscripted pilots and Fox's new animated comedies will become available later.
Apartment 23 (Midseason; Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: A naïve Midwesterner’s life turns upside down when she moves to New York and moves in with the roommate from hell.
Cast: Dreama Walker, Krysten Ritter, James van der Beek
He Said: Were it not for the chemistry between the amazing Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) and Dreama Walker (The Good Wife), this could be a run-of-the-mill sitcom. The James van der Beek stuff feels a bit old hat (foreign TV ads, really?), but there’s a caustic edge to this single-camera comedy that could elevate it from the pack.
She Said: What goes on in Apartment 23, should stay in Apartment 23. I loved Krysten Ritter in Breaking Bad and Dreama Walker is fine, too. But not together. These girls should not live together and they should definitely not live inside my TV.
Verdict: This may be one apartment worth checking out. Or we may need to sever our lease.
Charlie’s Angels (Thursdays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: An update of the 1970s action series featuring three beautiful “angels” who fight crime and look fabulous doing it.
Cast: Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh, Ramon Rodriguez, Robert Wagner
He Said: ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee described this as “pure candy” in May, and he wasn’t wrong. It is definitely bubblegum, set in sizzling Miami, and it’s entirely mindless, and middling; don’t go in expecting it to be anything it’s not and (maybe?) you’ll be entertained. Desperately needs an intelligence boost.
She Said: Oh, angels, how you break my heart. I was so excited about this re-make, but nothing has really been re-made here because the angels have no chemistry, the writing is weak, and it’s all trying too hard.
Verdict: These angels are no good.
Good Christian Belles (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A former mean girl returns to her Dallas hometown after a family scandal and encounters the women whose lives she made hell in high school.
Cast: Leslie Bibb, Annie Potts, David James Elliott, Jennifer Aspen, Kristin Chenoweth, Marisol Nichols, Mark Deklin, Miriam Shor, Brad Beyer
He Said: No offense intended, but there’s no way that Chenoweth and Bibb were in the same high school class. While the script was razor-sharp, GCB’s pilot has lost some of its edge during production; it’s not quite as mean-spirited or as brutal as it should be. Some tweaking required to make this a must-see.
She Said: Terrific cast plus soapy goodness made me think I’d just love this. I didn’t. But I liked it enough that I’d give it a shot. The cast makes it fun to watch but there were no surprises.
Verdict: These belles need some fine-tuning.
Last Man Standing (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: A marketing director for an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, surrounded by females at home, discovers his new boss is—shocker!—a woman.
Cast: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Hector Elizondo, Molly Ephraim, Kaitlyn Dever, Alexandra Krosney, Shirley Rumierk, Christopher Sanders
He Said: Painful and unfunny, this seems like a concept that has sat on the shelf for 20 years, reflecting an outmoded misogyny that’s surprising. Kaitlyn Dever, so wrenching this past season on Justified, deserves better than this also-ran sitcom.
She Said: I’ve got nothing against Tim Allen but if he’s the last man standing, he should try sitting. So predictable. Yawn.
Verdict: We suggest you lie down for this one.
Man Up (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: Three men explore what it’s like to be a modern man.
Cast: Chris Moynihan, Mather Zickel, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Jake Johnson, Henry Simmons, Dan Fogler
He Said: Time’s James Poniewozik coined the term “manxiety” in reference to this season’s seeming obsession with the amount of time that TV men spend worrying that they’re not manly enough. It’s seemingly pervasive this year and this is one of the worst offenders. Plus, I’m still looking for a shred of humor from this stilted sitcom.
She Said: Seriously, someone needs to [Man Up]. This is such a big ugh.
Verdict: Man down.
Once Upon a Time (Sundays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: Fairytales are real, and the stories’ characters live in a Maine town from where they can’t escape, until Snow White’s daughter—now a bail-bondsman—arrives to end the curse.
Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Jamie Dornan, Josh Dallas, Raphael Sbarge, Robert Carlyle
He Said: The show strives to capture the innocence and timelessness of fairytales, but instead oozes with cheesiness. Family entertainment should at least attempt to be intelligent and engaging, rather than toothless. Fans of fairytales should instead read Bill Willingham’s superlative Fables instead. No magic here.
She Said: Sometimes things are weird-good, and sometimes they’re just weird-bad. This is the latter. I wanted to love this, as it hails from Lost pedigree but it’s just bizarre in an “eh” kind of way.
Verdict: No happy ending here. The Witch of Dullsville prevails.
Pan Am (Sundays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: 1960s flight attendants cruise at high altitudes in search of love, success, and Cold War espionage training.
Cast: Kelli Garner, Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Michael Mosley, Jonah Lotan, Karine Vanasse
He Said: Far sexier than NBC’s more provocatively titled The Playboy Club, this is a slick, stylish period romp with the (professional) jet set of the 1960s. By intertwining both the personal and the professional (and throwing in some cloak and dagger to the mix as well), Pan Am manages to be both fun and frothy, emotional and intellectual at the same time.
She Said: Wait… there’s a love story, espionage intrigue, the glamour of the ‘60s and nostalgia for a time when flying was fun all in one show? I’m so in.
Verdict: This show is flying high.
Revenge (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: A young woman arrives in the Hamptons in order to enact a bitter vengeance on the men and women who destroyed her family’s life 10 years earlier.
Cast: Emily Van Camp, Ashley Madekwe, Nick Weschler, Gabriel Mann, Connor Paolo, Christa B. Allen, Henry Czerny, Madeleine Stowe, Josh Bowman
He Said: Female-skewing revenge fantasy with more than a hint of malice. I’m not sure how this can sustain more than one season’s worth of plot, but this is a campy and dark takedown of the well-heeled Hamptons’ set, as Van Camp’s Amanda plots her deadly revenge.
She Said: Somewhat intriguing, but it’s also hokey. Emily Van Camp is OK in it. It’s probably worth another look.
Verdict: The sweetest revenge would be for this to turn into something. Rooting for you.
The River (Midseason TBA)
Logline: The estranged family members of a television naturist head out to the Amazon to find the missing hero, but encounter an ancient evil along the South American river.
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope, Eloise Mumford, Paul Blackthorne, Thomas Krestchsmann, Daniel Zacapa, Paulina Gaitan.
He Said: Told documentary-style (and incorporating found and hidden footage), this is a terrifying and gripping horror story that’s an exploration of the natural magic of the world, long forgotten among technological advances. With the creator of Paranormal Activity onboard, this could be a fun and scary thrill ride and a high-stakes adventure story.
She Said: Can we say scary? And very intriguing? But two things bothered me: The Spanish-speaking Latinos in Brazil (Hello! They speak Portuguese there) and the Lost Smoke Monster music. If you’re going to use that, you must live up to it. Instead of a Charlie moment at the end—“Guys, where are we?”—we instead got “There’s magic out there.” If you don’t want me to compare, don’t remind me of Smokey.
Verdict: Please tell us what night this is going to be on so we know which night we won’t be getting any sleep.
Scandal (Midseason TBA)
Logline: These cutthroat Washington D.C. crisis-management experts may be lawyers, but they’ve turned their legal skills into the lucrative business of being fixers.
Cast: Kerry Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Guillermo Diaz, Tony Goldwyn, Katie Lowes, Jeff Perry, Columbus Short, Darby Stanchfield
He Said: Chock full of Shonda Rhimes’ trademark hyper-sonic dialogue, Scandal is a legal show that’s set outside the courtroom. While these fixers claim to have no lives outside of the office, there is already predictably a season’s worth of romantic longing (and Oval Office shenanigans) already in the mix. Glossy direction by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) makes this pilot visually engaging. Far superior to Rhimes’ last effort, Off the Map, but...
She Said: Absolutely not. I need another Shonda Rhimes show filled with characters who all talk in the same fast, clipped way like I need a hole in my head. Everyone was so annoying and it made me sad for Henry Ian Cusick.
Verdict: McDreamy and company stood out because they were the first. No duplicates needed.
Suburgatory (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: After discovering a box of condoms in his teenage daughter’s drawer, a single dad moves out from Manhattan to the suburbs and discovers that it’s even stranger than the city.
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Jane Levy, Alan Tudyk, Allie Grant, Carly Chaikin, Cheryl Hines
He Said: Featuring a great cast and a few astute and original humorous observations about life in the ‘burbs, this sitcom needs to dig a bit deeper to find suburban-based comedy that hasn’t already been covered a zillion times before. Still, it’s a bit smarter than the similarly themed Good Christian Belles, and presence of Levy, Grant, and Hines is a good thing.
She Said: A refreshing take on the single father-daughter relationship in the very capable hands of Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy. It’s a funny and sentimental coming-of-age/fish-out-of-water story. Loads of potential.
Verdict: We won’t move to the suburbs, but we’re perfectly happy to visit.
Work It (Midseason TBA)
Logline: Two out-of-work guys discover that there are no jobs available for men, so they dress up as women and score a gig as pharmaceutical reps.
Cast: Amaury Nolasco, Ben Koldyke, John Caparulo, Rebecca Mader, Kirstin Eggers, Kacie Lynch, Rochelle Aytes, Kate Reinders, Beth Lacke
He Said: I’d rather submit to a root canal sans anesthetic than watch another second of this brutally unfunny show, which makes Bosom Buddies look like a comedy masterpiece by comparison. The manxiety trend at its very worst.
She Said: Amaury Nolasco, I have one question for you: Por que? This is so wrong on so many levels. Just because it worked for Tom Hanks in the ‘80s, doesn’t mean we needed to go there again. Dios mio.
A Gifted Man (Fridays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: An ego-centric surgeon is visited by the spirit of his dead ex-wife, a do-gooder doctor, who tries to get him to change his ways.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale, Julie Benz, Liam Aiken, Afton Williamson
He Said: A combination of medical procedural and supernatural drama, the result is a little ethereal, though Wilson and Ehle are both top-notch. I’m not sure what the show is on a weekly basis, or in a second season, which is a problem. Also, after her Emmy-destined run on Justified (as Mags Bennett), Martindale needs more to do here than serve as a put-upon assistant. Get this woman a killer storyline, stat.
She Said: This is House meets Ghost. It took a little while to get me interested, but it eventually did. Patrick Wilson is very appealing as the lead, and I can definitely see fans of The Mentalist going for this. Jennifer Ehle and Margo Martindale also make it worth checking out.
Verdict: Needs a few cc’s of adrenaline.
How to Be a Gentleman (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: A magazine etiquette columnist discovers that he needs to move out of the past and learn about what it means to be a man today.
Cast: David Hornsby, Rhys Darby, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Dave Foley, Kevin Dillon, and Nancy Lenehan.
He Said: Another timeslot, another “manxiety”-based premise. Short on laughs, this multi-cam comedy needs to figure out its GQ-meets-Maxim vibe and find some depth to these paper-thin characters, who are too whiny and not at all likeable.
She Said: The network that has Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother) should not have gone anywhere near this. Even though the idea comes from a book, it just comes off as a bad imitation.
Verdict: So not legen-dary.
Person of Interest (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A down-and-out former CIA operative teams up with a secretive billionaire to fight crime before it occurs, using facial-recognition software that can predict violent behavior.
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman, Taraji P. Henson
He Said: Despite the secrecy surrounding the Jonathan Nolan/J.J. Abrams project, the result is a pretty run-of-the-mill crime procedural, anchored by the uncharismatic Caviezel, that bears some resemblance to The Equalizer. Once Emerson’s character started talking about the machine, Social Security numbers, and predictive crime, my brain clicked off entirely.
She Said: I am not the slightest bit interested in this person. What a waste of good actors. The story’s all over the place, I believe, in the interest of suspense. But it doesn’t work. (Note to all Lost actors on new shows: You have to go back!)
2 Broke Girls (Mondays at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: Two women—one a would-be cupcake maker, the other a disgraced socialite—waitress together at an NYC greasy spoon.
Cast: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Jonathan Kite, Garrett Morris, Matthew Moy
He Said: Dennings is a delightful presence and there’s some fun to be had in her character’s odd-couple chemistry with Behrs, though the humor tends to go for the obvious rather than the intelligent. Still, the cupcake trend peaked a few years back, so this multi-cam comedy needs to feel a little less stale.
She Said: Kat Dennings has big star power and there are some genuine funny moments. Big plus: Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) knows how to write women. If he can do his thing within the constraints of a traditional sitcom, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work.
Verdict: CBS could have gold here.
Unforgettable (Tuesdays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: An ex-cop with hyperthymesia—the actual, real-life ability to remember everything—reluctantly rejoins the police force.
Cast: Poppy Montgomery, Michael Gaston, Kevin Rankin, Daya Vaidya, Dylan Walsh
He Said: With all of the subtlety of an anvil, there’s a catch to Carrie Wells’ ability: She can remember everything except the day her sister was murdered. (Ugh.) Montgomery is amiable enough, but this doesn’t feel like enough of an engaging premise, despite some nifty visuals.
She Said: Yes, another crime show. I’m happy to see Poppy Montgomery and Dylan Walsh working again but they don’t have any sparks together. I already forgot it.
Alcatraz (Midseason; Mondays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: In 1963, prisoners and guards at San Francisco’s Alcatraz prison disappeared; now they’re returning, and a police detective and a covert unit try to discover why they’re back.
Cast: Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Parminder Nagra, Robert Forster, Sam Neill, Santiago Cabrera, Jonny Coyne, Jason Butler Harner
He Said: Despite the auspices (J.J. Abrams, Lost’s Elizabeth Sarnoff), this is a headache-inducing exercise in frustration that confuses narrative convolution for mystery and obvious plotting for dramatic twists, and which features what may just be the worst cop in TV history in Jones’ Detective Rebecca Madsen. Shockingly awful.
She Said: The premise is intriguing, but the execution was weak. The story needs a lot of work. It had none of the 24 or early Prison Break intensity, and it badly needs it.
Verdict: Skip the tour.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: Two women, each social outcasts in high school, discover that their teenage daughters have become the type of mean girls who bullied them when they were younger.
Cast: Jaime Pressly, Katie Finneran, Aisha Dee, Chad Coleman, Eric Sheffer Steves, Kevin Rahm, Kristi Lauren, Rosa Blasi
He Said: If “manxiety” is the dominant trend this season, the second would be “mean girls.” Here, we see two mothers deal with their out-of-control teenage hell spawn, and I couldn’t reach for the off button quickly enough. Mean-spirited and unfunny.
She Said: I didn’t hate the teenage daughters or their moms, so that’s a good thing. But nothing extraordinary about this adolescence.
Verdict: We are glad not to be teenagers or mothers of teens.
The New Girl (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A fourth-grade teacher gets dumped by her live-in boyfriend and moves in with three unruly guys, who teach her about life and love.
Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake M. Johnson, Hannah Simone
He Said: It’s a stretch to imagine Deschanel as a loser, but she does commit quite remarkably to the role. Were it not for her innately quirky charms, this would be yet another raunchy comedy, but Deschanel elevates it into the realm of the adorable. (Meanwhile, recasting the role played by Damon Wayans Jr. is a Very Good Thing indeed.)
She Said: I know everyone thinks Zooey Deschanel is adorable—and she is. But, oh my God, I found the new girl to be so obnoxious. Can we meet the old girl?
Verdict: It all rests on Zooey Deschanel. You will love this or hate this because of her.
Terra Nova (Mondays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: In order to save humanity, a family travels from the future to the pre-historic past, but they discover that their new civilization may be far more dangerous than they realized.
Cast: Jason O’Mara, Alana Mansour, Allison Miller, Christine Adams, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Shelley Conn, Stephen Lang
He Said: I've been sworn to secrecy.
She Said: Signed my life away before allowed one second of viewing.
Verdict: Dinosaurs are so cute. Can we have them as pets?
Awake (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A police detective lives parallel lives, unaware of whether he’s dreaming or awake; in one his son has died in a car accident, in the other, it’s his wife who is dead.
Cast: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette, Cherry Jones, B.D. Wong, Michaela McManus, Steve Harris, Wilmer Valderrama
He Said: The best pilot script of the bunch, it manages to fuse together an intellectual puzzle with an emotional spine. Isaacs (so amazing in the current U.K. drama Case Histories) is at his best here, struggling to come to terms with grief, loss, and life. It’s Sliding Doors combined with a procedural element that takes the pressure off the central mystery on a weekly basis.
She Said: I have absolutely no idea what’s real and what isn’t, and that’s exactly why I like it so much. It’s trippy and compelling, and could be challenging to sustain, but I’m up for the ride. It’s so good to see Jason Isaacs (Brotherhood) on TV again.
Verdict: We are so staying awake for this.
Bent (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A recent divorcee, turned single mom/lawyer, hires a contractor— a recovering gambling addict and serial womanizer—to redo the kitchen of her new house.
Cast: Amanda Peet, David Walton, Jeffrey Tambor, Joey King, Margo Harshman
He Said: Post-Friday Night Lights, do not EVER name a character Riggins without suffering comparisons. But names don’t seem to be Bent’s strong suit (witness: Screwsie), nor is compelling or memorable romantic comedy. I don’t see how this can sustain its own premise more than a few episodes. How long does it take to remodel a kitchen? Or an entire house?
She Said: I feel like I’ve seen this show before. Jesse, anyone? And I feel like I’ve seen Amanda Peet doing Amanda Peet before, too. Throw in a few references to being “bent but not broken” and it’s a no.
Verdict: So broken.
Free Agents (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: A recently divorced father has an ill-advised one-night stand with his public relations co-worker, who has lost her fiancée, as they try to keep their relationship professional.
Cast: Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn, Mo Mandel, Natasha Leggero, Anthony Stewart Head
He Said: Putting aside the needlessly lewd promotional campaign images, the show itself doesn’t feel all that fresh or the conceit all that novel, though it does put our central couple in bed in the first episode. Still, it’s going for easy sexual jokes and at 8:30 p.m., no less.
She Said: It’s always great to see Hank Azaria, but this was more depressing than funny. Kathryn Hahn is a plus as the other lead, and maybe she and Azaria can make this work.
Verdict: Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn might be free agents a little longer.
Grimm (Fridays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A homicide detective discovers that he comes from a long line of Grimms, hunters of supernatural entities from fairytales who hide in plain sight as everyday citizens.
Cast: David Guintoli, Bitsie Tulloch, Kate Burton, Reggie Lee, Russell Hornsby, Sasha Roiz, Silas Weir Mitchell
He Said: This is like a 1990s syndicated Canadian drama airing on Saturday afternoon, only not as good. Filled with bad acting, worse writing, and even sillier storytelling, it’s not surprising that Grimm got saddled with a Friday night slot. Portland looks nice, though.
She Said: Remove one “m” from the title, and it would be a perfect fit for this drama. Based on the fantastic fairytales by the Grimm brothers, this turns classic tales into a boring, muddy mess. Oh, and it’s a cop show too.
Verdict: Too grim. Watch Fringe instead.
The Playboy Club (Mondays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: In 1963, Playboy Club bunnies mingle with businessmen, mobsters, and politicians at the famed Chicago nightclub.
Cast: Amber Heard, Eddie Cibrian, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan, David Krumholtz, Naturi Naughton, Wes Ramsey, Leah Renee Cudmore, Sean Maher
He Said: It’s hard not to compare this show with Mad Men and that’s where the problems begin: Cibrian seems to be playing Nick by channeling Jon Hamm-playing-Don Draper, and the show lacks the cohesive tissue and narrative elegance and restraint of its cable competitor. Interestingly, despite the costumes and the settings, it’s far less sexy than ABC’s Pan Am.
She Said: Anything with Playboy in its title inherently should be fun, but fun it was not. My high hopes were dashed quickly with a dull murder mystery and no sign of Mad Men’s stylishness. I know there can only be one Don Draper but this doesn’t even come close.
Verdict: We might call this Sad Men.
Prime Suspect (Thursdays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: A female homicide detective encounters institutional misogyny within the NYPD and strives to prove that she’s the best man for the job.
Cast: Maria Bello, Kirk Acevedo, Tim Griffin, Damon Guptan, Joe Nieves, Brian F. O’Byrne
He Said: Putting aside the gender politics within the NYPD (which are oddly rendered here, as Mariska Hargitay begins her 13th year on SVU), let’s be honest: This isn’t the taut and intense Prime Suspect that many are obsessed with, but a police procedural that revolves around a prickly (and contemporary) version of Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison. Bello delivers a gripping performance, but I was hoping for deeply involved serialized storytelling rather than yet another episodic crime show.
She Said: Maria Bello is a big draw and doesn’t disappoint. It’s a cop show, yes, but from the point of view of a skilled female detective trying to make it in what feels an exaggerated sexist department. For sure, misogyny is alive and well in 2011, but the series could use a few lessons in subtlety.
Verdict: If you’re a procedural lover, this one won’t harm you.
Smash (Midseason; Mondays at 10 p.m.)
Logline: The behind-the-scenes of launching a Broadway musical, in this case, the life (and death) of icon Marilyn Monroe, seen through the eyes of the producers, stars, director.
Cast: Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Jaime Cepero, Jack Davenport, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston, Raza Jaffrey, Brian d’Arcy James, Katherine McPhee
He Said: Despite not being a musical theater fan, I found myself captivated by this smart and soapy drama, with its overlapping storylines and vast array of characters. Script changes have served this project well and there’s a magic and spirit to this that taps into dreams of the Great White Way.
She Said: I don’t think you have to love musical theater to enjoy this story about people who dare to dream big. A great cast, Marilyn Monroe lurking in the shadows, and original music? I’m in.
Verdict: Thank you, Glee, for making it OK to have singing in shows. Wish it were on in the fall.
Up All Night (Wednesdays at 8 p.m.)
Logline: A public-relations exec and her stay-at-home husband try to raise their infant daughter and get through the day in one piece.
Cast: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, James Pumphrey
He Said: While the first 10 minutes are slow-going (it needs a rewrite or two to tighten), this finds its groove after a few minutes and offers a quirky, funny, and quote-worthy single-camera comedy about parenthood, responsibility, and modern marriages. See if you aren’t dropping the “e” from insane after watching.
She Said: Christina Applegate + Will Arnett + Maya Rudolph = ingredients for what could become a terrific show. For now, it’s good enough. Applegate and Arnett (in a departure from his goofy side) have chemistry as new parents, and might just scare anyone from having babies in the near future. Rudolph spices things up nicely.
Verdict: Stay up (not so late) with this one.
Whitney (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: A long-term couple decides to never get married, even as everyone around them gets married, engaged, or divorced.
Cast: Whitney Cummings, Beverly D’Angelo, Chris D’Elia, Zoe Lister-Jones, Daniel G. O’Brien, Maulik Pancholy, Rhea Seehorn
He Said: Just… no. The presence of an irritatingly shrill laugh track doesn’t help this painfully tedious throwback sitcom, which might hold the record for fewest actual jokes in a 20-minute period.
She Said: If there’s a case to be made for why NBC should not go back into the traditional sitcom business, this is Exhibit A. Nothing new here except Whitney Cummings, who created the show and stars in it, and should go back to her stand-up career.
Verdict: Chelsea Lately is a good thing, Whitney. Go back!
Hart of Dixie (Mondays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A self-involved cardiothoracic surgeon loses her boyfriend and her job and heads to a small Alabama town, where she takes over their shared medical practice.
Cast: Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, Jamie King, Wilson Bethel, Cress Williams, McKaley Miller.
He Said: Hart of Dixie = Everwood x Northern Exposure + Gilmore Girls - smart screwball banter. It’s good to have Bilson back on television, but it’s hard to accept her playing a full-blown surgeon. There’s an expected syrupiness here that’s at odds with caustic lead-in Gossip Girl, but, for some, this could be the TV equivalent of sweet tea on a hot summer day.
She Said: Who knew they produce so much corn in the South? I get it. This is a fish-out-of-water story. Drown me much? (Note to Scott Porter: Run fast back to The Good Wife.)
Verdict: The South is a rich setting for stories. Unfortunately, those stories are not in this show.
Ringer (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A stripper, on the run from the Mafia, assumes the identity of her wealthy twin sister, only to discover that her sister had dangerous secrets of her own.
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell, Mike Colter, Ioan Gruffudd, Tara Summers, Kristoffer Polaha
He Said: A noir-tinged thriller that’s a little heavy-handed with the dual nature of its vertiginous concept (Double Nickel Motel, anyone?) and which could do with less telegraphing and more brainpower. Still, Buffy fans will devour this, and the plot is intriguing enough to want to stick around for more as danger mounts for naïve Bridget. Stylish and fun.
She Said: I would like this so much more if Sarah Michelle Gellar were only playing one role. CGI got on my nerves, and the story was kind of cheesy. Wish Nestor Carbonell had more to do.
Verdict: Crossed lines.
Secret Circle (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
Logline: After her mother’s death, a teenage girl travels to her mother’s hometown, where she discovers her lineage as a witch and falls in with a coven, unaware of the danger around her.
Cast: Brittany Robertson, Ashley Crow, Thomas Dekker, Gale Harold, Natasha Henstridge, Shelley Hennig, Louis Hunter, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Phoebe Tonkin
He Said: Supernatural spookiness in the Pacific Northwest that’s overflowing with Kevin Williamson’s trademark banter. There’s enough mayhem and manipulation going on in this seaside town to keep just about anyone entertained and hooked.
She Said: If Charmed and Pretty Little Liars had a baby, it would be this. Which is not a bad thing, except this doesn’t really go anywhere new. Witches, check. Beautiful kids, check. But so far, it’s Charmed meeting PLL at a boring intersection.
Verdict: If you like Vampire Diaries, sink your teeth into this one... tentatively.