Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday TV: First Thoughts on New Network Dramas

So Many New Shows!
I have a habit of sampling almost all new scripted shows on the major networks each fall. It doesn't always work. My DVR can only record two shows at once, and we are a one television family. I do my best. Some I'll watch until they go off the air. Some I'll watch for a few episodes. Some I only make it through a few minutes.

My thoughts
Given the range of both premiere dates and my somewhat limited television time, some shows I've seen several times, while some shows I've only seen once.

Shows Still Rocking My World (with links to their official websites so you can catch up on episodes you may missed if you're so inclined!)

RingerI adore Ringer. Yes, it's improbably, ridiculous, over-the-top and cheaply produced, but it's entertaining. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays estranged twins Siobhan and Bridget. Bridget is down on her luck living in Wyoming while Siobhan is married to a man who doesn't know she has a twin and living a financially fabulous life in Manhattan. Bridget now thinks Siobhan is dead. Siobhan is actually in Paris and pregnant. Bridget is pretending to be pregnant. It's a campy send-up to the prime time soaps of the 1980's, and I cannot get enough. Also refreshingly the plot moves along at a quick pace. Some have compared it to The Lying Game, a show I loveand yes, it involves twins switching places and one fantastic lead actress, but they're not terribly similar. I love them both, but I confess to loving The Lying Game more.

RevengeI love Revenge for similar reasons to Ringer, but quite frankly, Revenge is a better quality show. In many ways, it's also done in the vain of prime time shows of the past, but it has far less camp and more, well, revenge. Emily Thorne arrives in the Hamptons at the beginning of the summer as a mysterious young wealthy blonde. We learn through some crucial flashbacks that she is actually Amanda Clarke, and she has returned to a house she once lived in. Her father, wronged by his best friends in ways that are also slowly unfolding, has died, and she has returned to exact revenge. Madeline Stowe, her next door neighbor and mother to a very good-looking son smitten with Emily, is suspicious. It's a lovely duel of powerful women. What I love most about Revenge is Emily Thorne. Yes, she's driven by revenge, but she's a smart, powerful woman going after she wants. She's in control in a refreshingly feminist way for network television. Revenge is a guilty pleasure show, but it's an incredibly smart one.

Prime Suspect: A remake of the British series starring Helen Mirren, I was skeptical but excited about the Maria Bello version. Instead of solving one case a series as Mirren's character did, this version was Americanized to the case-a-week procedural that is so popular. I was curious, too, how the rampant sexism would translate to 2011. I'm incredibly impressed with Prime Suspect. It's raw, gritty and honest. The crimes have been intriguing, and Maria Bello is excellent both on the job and at home, as she struggles to be a step-mother to her boyfriend's young son (she isn't the most maternal) and deal with his ex-wife (who is comically cautious). It's a fantastic show that happens to be a procedural drama, and I hope its ratings improve so it lasts awhile.

A Gifted ManI wasn't expecting to enjoy A Gifted Man. The premise is a bit hokey: brilliant brain surgeon runs into his ex-wife and realizes they both live in New York. He calls her again and discovers she's dead. He is not one to enjoy the emotional or gray areas of life and (realistically) freaks out. It's description even has me questioning why I like it. The acting is superb, which helps. The characters are strong, and there's the right balance of realism with paranormalcy. There's the right balance of humor (his sister, played by Marin Ireland, is amazing) and stress. The medical aspect has been interesting so far. Most importantly, it's not schmaltzy. I'm curious to see how I feel about this show at mid-season, but for now, it's earned a spot in my weekly rotation.

Shows I Already Gave Up On

Hart of Dixie: I wanted to like this show. It seems quaint, fun, and it stars Rachel Bilson and Cress Williams. It's just too much for me. Bilson plays Zoe Hart, who aspires to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon but lacks any sort of beside manner. She takes the one job offer she has, a general practioner in Bluebell, Alabama that was offered to her several years ago at her medical school graduation. When she gets there, she discovers he has died. Then she discovers she is actually his daughter.
    • What goes wrong: with small-town charm, quirks, medical problems and Rachel Bilson, it should be a hit, but it simply tries to hard. It doesn't feel honest or organic.
    • I stopped watching in the middle of the second episode.

The Playboy Club: I had low hopes for this show based on reviews, but I was curious enough to tune in because sometimes I love a show so bad it's good.
    • What goes wrong: almost everything. Instead of treating sexual assault seriously in the age, when a bunny is attacked in the opening minutes she kills the man with her high heel. Seriously. 
    • I stopped watching seven minutes in. The shoe killing did me in.

Unforgettable: I was a huge fan of Without a Trace and Poppy Montgomery was excellent on it. I like the concept of this police procedural: she's a detective who remembers everything. I'm a detail-oriented person who loves trivia, and I was hoping for obscure details helping solve crimes. The pilot was bogged down with far too much backstory (she was a cop--and obviously will be again soon--and her ex needs her help because she just happens to be the only witness.)
    • What goes wrong: The writing wasn't strong enough for me, in dialogue or in the case of the week. 
    • I stopped watching 45 minutes into the pilot.

Charlie's Angels: I had low expectations here too. I thought it had the potential to be campy fun, but when I heard ABC was switching the order of episodes on the schedule, I saw red flags. Even campy fun shows should have a story arc that builds episode-to-episode. Still, I thought it might be a light-hearted program with smart women kicking butt. I hope it gets cancelled soon so Minka Kelly can come back to Parenthood.
    • What goes wrong: Instead of embracing the possibilities of being a fantasy, Charlie's Angels takes itself far too seriously. It's not believable, and it shouldn't try to be. 
    • I stopped watching 20 minutes into the pilot.

The Secret Circle: I only managed to survive the first half of the first season of The Vampire Diaries, so I was skeptical with this one because it's also based on a series of novels by L.J. Smith. It's about witches, and I'm sure fans of The Vampire Diaries will like it, but it fell flat for me. I'm not adverse to the paranormal (Buffy is one of my all-time favorite shows), but I like a carefully constructed world playing with notions of good and evil.
    • What goes wrong: It simply didn't grab me. I can't pinpoint why, but I was bored.
    • I stopped watching about ten minutes into the pilot.

Pan Am: I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot of Pan Am. It introduced a lot of characters, backstory and intrigue. It's a good show and many will enjoy it immensely. I have many of the same problems with it I have with Mad Men, which I also think is a good show, but it's a show I choose not to watch. Pan Am is a relatively authentic look at life at that time. The sets are impressive, especially given the number of cities depicted in a given episode. The second episode wasn't as strong as the first, and I fear it's a show without much trajectory. Male pilots saying sexist things, passengers mis-treating the flight attendants and traveling to different cities doesn't seem novel enough for me. Perhaps there are too many characters, as the pilots somewhat blend together, as do the flight attendants. As a story of a time and profession, it succeeds. As a story of compelling individual characters, it does not.
    • What goes wrong: Nothing. It's good. I like it. I simply don't love it, and there are enough shows I do love (some not as good as Pan Am, arguably). It comes down to time. The episodic nature of television watching necessitates a personal and emotional engagement for me to carve time out each week. I don't have that with Pan Am.
    • I stopped watching after two episodes.

Shows I'm Still Waiting to Watch:
  • Terra Nova: I have high hopes for this one, as I have an odd fascination with dinosaurs. As soon as Mr. Nomadreader gets home from his vacation, we'll be watching!
  • Person of Interest: I'm intrigued by this show, but I'm hedging my bets it's one I'll want to watch a few episodes of at once, so I'm waiting for four episodes to air before digging in.
  • Grimm and Once Upon a Time: I'll give both fairy tale shows a chance once they premiere later this month.
What new dramas are rocking your world this fall? Have you already given up on more shows than you're still watching like I have?


  1. I agree with you about Pan Am but I'm still watching it for now. And I'm looking forward to both the fairy tale ones too. Lately I've been really into sitcoms more so.. Maybe just the way my work has taken over lately that I prefer the short comic relief. Anyway I like the new girl, two broke girls, and Whitney.

  2. I was *thisclose* to not watching the second episode of The Secret Circle, but now I'm really getting into it (of course, I'm a Vampire Diaries fan as well, though). Pan Am is one I'm really digging, but I love all that mod '60s flair so much. I was pretty bummed about The Playboy Club. I had high hopes for it, too.

    I'm looking forward to Grimm and Once Upon a Time; fingers crossed that they're fun shows.

  3. This seems to be the week that book bloggers chose to talk about series :)

    I also gave up of The Secret Circle after the 1st episode. Nothing... sparkled.

    I've decided to stick with Pam Am for now and see where it goes (if it goes somewhere...). I also chose not to follow Mad Men because every time I did see it, I just got MAD.

    Completely agree with your list of "Shows I'm Still Waiting to Watch". let's see!

  4. I'm watching The Ringer and Prime Suspect too. So far I'm enjoying both. I'm DVRing Terra Nova, Person of Interest and a few others to watch once I see if they get cancelled early. I hater getting hooked on a show and then it's cancelled after a few episodes. I'll definitely be giving Grimm and Once a chance when they premier. I think they look fascinating.

  5. As someone who is borderline obsessed with Jurassic Park, I've watched both episodes of Terra Nova. The first was good and built up a lot of possibility for the season and the series. The second episode was not as strong in my opinion, and the scenes-from-the-next made me worry the show is already primed to jump the shark. We shall see. I am curious to hear what you and the mister think.

  6. Omg, we watched the whole episode of The Playboy Club so I could see Sean Maher being gay, and while that was awesome, I don't think it is awesome enough to keep watching the series.

    My MIL swears by Revenge -- she adores it -- but I don't know if she's done Ringer yet. I'm super excited to start Prime Suspect because I love the Brit version and Maria Bello. I'm glad you're liking it -- that's promising!

  7. I watch very little t.v, so I sort of feel like I am a bit behind when it comes to discussing the merits of one show over another. It was interesting to read you post and see what I was missing!


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