If you haven’t caught on yet, I watch a lot of TV. I’ll give just about any show a chance if enough people are talking about it, or if the fandom is crazy/adorable. But it’s more than just critical acclaim and good fans—I want shows that are smart, witty and well-scripted, shot and acted. I want shows that are original and culturally aware. They don’t all have everything, but if I’m ditching one thing (like acting), it better be worth it for something else (cultural commentary)—ie, Teen Wolf*. I like shows that push the envelope and encourage its viewers to do more than just zone. If a show is making me think, I’m on board.
Here’s my scale:
1 – Miserable, don’t even think about it/talk about it. Don’t feed the ratings in any way. (Two and a Half Men)
2 – Meh, I won’t watch it again, but I can see its appeal. (Once Upon a Time)
3 – Maybe? I’ll give it a few more episodes. (Agents of SHIELD, pre-giant plot twist)
4 – Memorable, I might not tell everyone to watch it, but I’ll keep watching. (Teen Wolf)
5 – Magnificent! Everyone should watch this show. I won’t stop talking about it until you do! (Hannibal)
Here’s my Fall TV Round-Up so far:
Fox, Mondays 8/7c
I really wanted to like this show. It has so much going for it. In the wake of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Gotham attempts to dive into the seedy side of the Batman universe. But ultimately, the script isn’t strong enough to carry the weight of the plot and world. Lines like “if you let this hair go frizzy, you’ll be sorry,” and “one of my staff has been stealing money from me so we’re beating his punk ass” build a villain (Fish Mooney) who is forced and unbelievable. The sets are quite stunning, but characters walking on them are flat and one-dimensional. So far, I’m not rooting for anybody, certainly not Gordon, who I am supposed to like on morals alone.
Episodes I’ll Give It: 2-3
Culture: There is one moment where you wonder if a female character has had a girlfriend in the past, and it could play out to be a successful bisexual character on TV. Or it could just be ridiculous fodder for romantic drama later. It also deals with the issue of a corrupt police force, but I highly doubt it will do anything important with that platform.
Should You Watch It: People are going to be talking about this show, so it will come up around the water cooler. It’s worth watching the first episode, to see if you can stomach it.
Prediction: The show will be quite popular, and hopefully grow into itself. Definitely picked up for another season, but unless a new batch of writers are hired, will peter out in its second arc.
Glee in a hospital.
2. Red Band Society
Fox, Wednesdays 9/8c
I’m on the fence about this show. It’s sort of like if The Fault in Our Stars had a baby with Glee. Teen drama in a hospital. Cancer kids. Eating disorders. Sexual tension abounds! The problem with heartstring shows like this is they often overdose you with emotional baiting. At any moment, the writers can decide to wake up the boy in the coma, or send someone in for emergency surgery to bump ratings. I don’t know if I trust this show to create memorable characters that I care about, and not just drama and tears. So far, everyone is either way too likable or way too unlikable. I expect the show to flesh out a bit more, but with the suspense of “cancer” always waiting in the wings, I worry no one will feel real for long.
Episodes I’ll Give It: 5-6
Culture: Recreational drug use and underaged drinking, but these kids have cancer, so it’s excusable? Possible lesbian character development. May explore issues of race, but not a high POC line-up.
Should You Watch It: Again, this is a water cooler show. While I’m wary of the plot devices, I think most people will enjoy the drama.
Prediction: This is the new Grey’s Anatomy. It will run for too many seasons, and by the end, have an entirely new cast who can’t support the original intent of the show.
Shonda Rhimes is a powerhouse.
3. How to Get Away with Murder
ABC, Thursdays 10/9c
I have to admit, I’m already predisposed to love Shonda Rhimes. I think she creates brilliant characters and solid tension. Her female heroines are unapologetic, complex women, who are real people with real faults. I guessed going into the episode, that I would likely enjoy How to Get Away with Murder. I’m definitely intrigued by the set up. As of the first episode, the plot seems to be pushing a bit harder than it ought to (like an extra character), but I think it will settle out soon. I’m slightly worried that the high tension of the pilot might force the show to juggle too many dramatic devices (law school, murder, adultery), but again I’m trusting this was just to pull viewers in. Already, I love the characters (with Viola Davis and Aja Naomi King bringing brilliant performances), and I’m enjoying the moral conflict.
Episodes I’ll Give It: full season
Culture: I expect we’ll discuss race in the show a few times, so I’m intrigued by that platform. There is also a gay character, and it comes out of nowhere. It’s well played. Hell yes, screw your heteronormativity!
Should You Watch It: Yes! It’s got believable characters, strong women, and witty law school banter! Plus, I expect copious amounts of sexual tension will arrive soon.
Prediction: The show will get picked up for a second season, but might struggle to find a third. I’ll stop watching around the end of season two, middle of three if it stays on air. I love Shonda Rhimes, but even I have to admit that her shows can sometimes cave in on themselves quickly (I’m looking at you Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal).
Close, but no.
CBS, Mondays 9/8c
This is clearly CBS’s star player this season. The pilot is packed—driving a Ferrari at 200 mph, hacking the LA traffic grid to get to an airport, LAX software meltdown, threatening the lives of 54 planeloads of people. Unfortunately, it’s too much. The premise of the show is cool enough. Four highly intelligent people (marketed as “nerds save the world” EYE ROLL) are drafted by the United States government to solve highly complex problems. The characters are great, and the show is almost nothing but tension (I bit my fingernails through the entire pilot). But I expect it won’t be able to hold up to a full season. The one normal person on the show (Paige, a waitress) is a bit too damsel in distress-y, and is given the job of “translator” for these gifted people. Meh.
Episodes I’ll Give It: Maybe a second, but probably not.
Culture: Prevalence of POC as main characters, which is pretty awesome. Female mechanic is witty and rugged, but that could backfire quickly. Might deal with social stigmas associated with high intelligence, but I doubt in a meaningful way.
Should You Watch It: I expect the show will end up feeling like a procedural, so if you’re into that, it might be for you. Don’t get too attached though, I don’t think it will get a second season.
Prediction: Will develop a small but mighty fanbase, but will unfortunately not get picked up for a second season.
What are you watching? Tell me your favorite new shows in the comments!
*I have to admit, for all the raving I’ve done about Teen Wolf’s cultural commentary, it has fallen off the wagon a bit recently. I suppose nothing gold can stay.