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Fall TV Roundup: A Mid-Fall Season Perspective

It's October 20th, and, amazingly, networks are STILL rolling out new shows, what with last week's premiere of Last Man Standing and this week's similar-in-theme Man Up!, both of which are all hilarious laffers that are all about the times that men have been, y'know, totally beaten down by all the women, and minorities. As a white hetrosexual male, I can attest that it is very, very hard to be a white heterosexual male. Totally.

And, as it stands right now, a few shows have already bit the dust. Poor Minka Kelly, because her Charlie's Angels already lost its wings (see what I did there?!; The Playboy Club and its weirdly actually-all-a-Playboy-infomercial-on-account-of-the-Hugh-Hefner-voiceover style, bit the dust. Yet, Whitney is still going strong (and, through four weeks of new episodes, is still earning higher ratings than Community and Parks & Recreation. America, you should be ashamed of yourselves), so you never know.

So, with all due respect to shows that I haven't checked into yet, or with all due lack of respect to shows that are outrageously terrible with no hope of redemption (I'm lookin' at you, Whitney, even though I still hold out hope that Chris D'Elia will some day be on a show that has good writing), and now including thoughts on new cable shows, here is the Mid-Fall Season Roundup of Fall TV.

2 Broke Girls: I really want this show to work. I don't really know why I want it to work so badly, because I have no prior feelings, good or bad, toward Kat Dennings. But, I think Ms. Dennings and her co-Broke Girl Beth Behrs have weirdly good chemistry. I love that they have a horse in their apartment, because, come on, who doesn't love a horse? My favorite episode thus far was "And the Rich People Problems", in which they broke into Behrs' old house to check out her closet and had a dance party set to Black Kids.

That said, there are lots of things that stand in the way of this show working. The characters Han and Oleg are ridiculous, unfunny stereotypes (though I admit to kinda laughing at how ridiculously skeezy the Oleg character is); the dialogue is full of unnecessarily "edgy" stuff that doesn't make what they say any funnier; and, as is expected to happen on a show on CBS, the sweetened laughs are just too sweet. Just trust me to think that your show is not uproariously hilarious but is a fun thing to smile to in the background, CBS! If they're trying to woo the late-20s-early-30s post-hipster young adult crowd, then trust your audience just a touch more.

Progress Report Grade: C+

Revenge: When I watched the trailers for all of the new shows that came out back in May, I pegged this as one of my least anticipated new shows. It seemed to take itself painfully serious, especially with the beat-you-over-the-head "This is not a story of forgiveness" tagline (of COURSE it isn't! It's called Revenge, for Chrissake!) Thankfully, as I am learning, commercials for stuff lie. Drive is not a Fast & the Furious for arthouse nerds like it is advertised as, and Revenge is not at all boring.

In fact, I am most pleased with this show. In a weird way, thus far it seems to be the best successor to 24 that I have seen. Emily Van Camp, as Emily Thorne, is definitely the Jack Bauer of getting revenge on people who wronged her. She's just, like, totally unstoppable, and totally awesome in the way she schemes out plans to bring people down who totally deserve to go down. More imporantly, Madeline Stowe brings a great performance as Emily's adversary. Better yet, the show is starting to hint at some wrinkles in the characters' pasts that make them much less black-and-white, good-and-evil, what with Stowe's past relationship with Thorne's dad. And after they teased it in the pilot, I'm more intrigued to find out more about Emily's past as Amanda. Twists and turns galore!

Progress Report Grade: B+

Ringer: This one started as the most hilariously bad show I've seen, the best television successor to The Room that I had ever seen, especially in the bizarrely illogical second episode. Since then, I've, for some reason, stuck with the show, and it has delivered a few scenes of modest genuine tension and a lot of boring stuff. Sarah Michelle Geller seems to be giving all she can, even though she is inexplicably asked to pretty much just stand around a lot and say things nervously as Bridget, the less scheming, more boring twin sister. She clearly has a lot more fun playing Siobhan, but sadly, Siobhan is mostly relegated to one scene per episode.

I think this show is still too fundamentally broken to ever work, but it has at least evolved from You Gotta Watch This Cuz Of How Horrible It Is to M'eh level. And Ioan Grufudd is very good in it, so there's that. And he wears cufflinks like a pro, so good for him.

Progress Report Grade: C

American Horror Story: Speaking of so-bad-its-good...FX's by-way-of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck of Glee and Nip/Tuck bring the new zeitgeist-sparking AHS. Now, I'm not gonna go out of my way by saying this is a good show. Through the full pilot and parts of the second episode I have seen, I can safely say that this is a show with a whole lot of things in the way of it being a good show. Dylan McDermott seems to be existing on a totally different planet from Connie Britton, who is quite good as usual despite being given lines that would make Tami Taylor blush. (Ah, a visual of Tami Taylor blushing...how I love her. Swoon.) It is clearly a much closer relation to FX's other Murphy-helmed drama Nip/Tuck, which, as Chris as documented here on our Classic Television Rundown, certainly had its moments but was mostly a trainwreck.

And yet...I feel strangely, oddly captivated and obsessed with it thus far. One of critics main criticisms of the show is the way it does things like play musical cues and re-enact scenes from Psycho just for the sake of doing so. And yet...what if one looked at these scenes through the lens of Mash-Up Culture? Rather than simply paying homage to horror movie classics, what if Murphy and Falchuck are attempting to re-contextualize famous horror movie moments in a way that, because they are presented in a new, interesting light, are now new? No? OK, well it was worth a shot. Jessica Lange is definitely magnetic, even if her possibly ghostly character doesn't seem to make any sense at all, while Frances Conroy plays the one-half of the weird maid character very well. And don't get me started on how much I genuinely love Denis O'Hare chewing scenery like he does as the other possibly ghostly dude with the half-burned face and "Terminal Brain Cancer." Did I mention that there are lots of things going on that don't really make any sense? And a lot of stuff that is just plain cringeworthy and unpleasant? Like, for example, Dylan McDermott masturbating to a ghost and then crying hysterically?

There's a genuinely awesome show in here somewhere. But, Murphy and Falchuck have to somehow overcome their lengthy history of abandoning the interesting ideas and adding shock tactics to the point the show falls totally limp the way Nip/Tuck did near the end of its run (yes, I stuck around for the entire run of Nip/Tuck, because I'm a glutton for punishment and Dr. Christian Troy.) Maybe it's just because horror is one of my favorite genres, but I feel like, despite this being a bad show, it is going to be high on my list of shows I want to keep up on.

One suggestion: change the name of the show to Spooky Spook Spook as Brigitte suggested. It just sounds better.

Progress Report Grade: B-

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  1. Blogger Josh "Old Man" Duggan | 11:53 AM |  

    Weirdly, I am in total agreement on Revenge. I'm oddly drawn to the show every week.

  2. Blogger qualler | 11:54 AM |  

    Yeah, it clearly makes no sense that it is an addicting show. On paper, it's a snoozefest, at best. Shows that solid writing and good casting can get a show 90% of the way there.

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