I’ve been keeping an eye out for interesting shows that I can listen to while I am working, watch while I am exercising, or watch with my wife. So I gave more new shows than usual a chance this season, and these are my thoughts:

Back to You – Those of us that have been going through Withdrawal since Frasier left the air have a new weekly dose of Kelsey Grammar. As a fan of Grammar’s as well as Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond fame), I was definitely looking forward to this one. The basic storyline is that after having left a TV news show in Pittsburgh, Grammar has been forced to return because of an embarrassing broadcast that became a YouTube sensation. Heaton is an old contentious colleague who before Grammar’s departure conceived his child. Back to You is the season’s new old school sitcom. While sitcoms in general are moving away from live studio audiences, Back to You has embraced the sitcom formula. The show is unremarkable in every respect. It’s competent, somewhat interesting, and quite funny at times, but never spectacular. Grammar’s character is much less likeable than Frasier Crane, which some people really don’t like but that I didn’t have a problem with. Heaton’s character kind of falls flat, but the side characters (the webmaster-turned-manager, the weatherslut, and Fred Willard) help compensate for that. On the whole, the show is quite watchable but not very engrossing. I will continue to watch it mostly because Dad’s watching it and it provides a TV show for us to talk about, which we haven’t had since Frasier went off the air. Grade: C/C+

Big Shots – Some are calling this the male version of Desperate Housewives, and from what I know of DH the label fits. The basic storyline centers around golfing group Christopher Titus (of Titus fame), Dylan McDermott (from The Practice), Josh Malina (Will Bailey from The West Wing), and some other guy that I am not familiar with. The first episode centers around Unknown Guy’s discovery of his wife’s infidelity, Malina’s own marital infidelity, McDermott trying to kick dirt over a prostitution arrest that could hurt his glamor company, and Titus as the henpecked husband. This may be one of my favorite shows of the new season. It’s a nice balance of drama and comedy that keeps me interested. It’s funny enough to keep from being too self-serious and dour and it’s dramatic enough that you really care what’s going on. I also enjoy the cast, which consists of a lot of people where I’ve literally thought to myself “Hey, I like this guy, I wonder what he’s doing now?” at some point this year. Grade: B+

Bionic Woman – Terrible script, mediocre plotting, lacking direction, there isn’t much good to say about this show. I watch it for one reason and one reason only: Michelle Ryan is exceedingly pleasant to look at (the promos actually make her look less interesting than she does in the show). Whereas I typically make a habit of listening to shows without watching them, this one is actually better watched on mute. I doubt that even Ryan can keep my interest for the entire season, but I’ve watched the first three thus far and I’m not sure if the show will last the entire season. Humorously enough, a lot of the fanboys wanted them to Katee Sackhoff because she’s sooper kewl in Battlestar Galactica, but in doing so they would be taking away the only thing on the show I can conceive of as worth watching. Grade: F

Carpoolers – This is the sitcom version of Big Shots. I saw some ads for this from football and caught the first episode and enjoyed it. I enjoy shows that can mash together people that don’t generally hang out with one another and make it work. Too often shows hang on to a certain demographic, be it the swinging twenties, the nuclear family, or the workplace. This is just a group of guys that need each other to access the HOV lane and do what guys usually do when they’re stuck around one another on a daily basis: find ways to get along. It’s goofier than Big Shots so far and I wouldn’t recommend it to people that don’t like outright comedies, but I thought it was fun and funny at times. It has a quirky sense of humor up my alley, meaning that it probably won’t last more than a single season. Grade: A-

Cavemen – I had to catch this one just because there was so much hooplah. I can’t imagine that ABC expects this show to last, I think that they figure that it was the kind of show that made its own publicity and that they could ride that out for a season or maybe two before moving on to something else. I missed the first ten minutes of this show and didn’t particularly enjoy it, but when I went back and watched it from the beginning I found it a bit charming. I’m not sure that I’ll continue to watch it, but I’m going to give it a chance. They could turn this show into something special if they were willing to take some chances on it, but it probably won’t last if they do. Grade: B

Chuck – A computer nerd saves the world, what’s not to love? Very little. The basic premise of Chuck is that a lowly computer retail technician downloads all sorts of secret intel into his brain and does double-duty as a secret agent. It’s implausible, but it doesn’t ask you to take it too seriously and focuses more on lovable characters that a certain brand of viewer can relate to. I’m not sure this one has the audience to make it, but I hope that it does. Grade: B

Dirty Sexy Money – Another one from the files of “What’s he doing now?”, Peter Krause plays a lawyer for an eccentric, wealthy northeastern family. Krause’s father was the family lawyer before him and he didn’t want to follow into those footsteps, but working for the family is the only way he can find out who killed his father. This show is mostly a string of gags in drama format, but they find a way to make it work reasonably well. There is unfortunately a dearth of likable characters and for the most part they aren’t even that interesting, but they partially make up for it with good plotting and the mere presence of Peter Krause and my favorite Baldwin brother. Were it not one of those shows that I could listen to without watching, I would probably drop it, but right now it’s hanging on as a show that I listen to while I am working on my computers, cleaning, or at work. Grade: C+

K-Ville – A post-Katrina New Orleans cop show. What’s not to love? A lot, actually. It stretches the bounds of being realistic but doesn’t compensate for it by being intriguing like The Shield does. I haven’t been given any reason to like the protagonists yet (I’m one episode in) or care about their fate. It also got unnecessarily political along the way. I’ll give it another chance, but I’m not optomistic. Grade: D

Life – Of all the new shows, this one has the most potential. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lived up to much of it yet. The premise is a cop that was convicted of murder is exonerated and as part of his legal settlement he’s back with the police (LAPD, I think). Being in prison has twisted the protagonist somewhat and he’s having trouble adjusting back to the real world. There is a present darkness in him that mixes intriguingly with the thrill of being free. This show could be one of the best on TV and I hope it gets there. Unfortunately, as with Dirty Sexy Money, I fear that they’re going to leave the who-really-did-it thread dangling in perpetuity. It’s been a fun ride thus far, though. Grade: B/B+

Reaper – I saw this one this morning. It’s a bit of a risky premise in the political environment of the last few years, but I thought that Kevin Smith handled it adeptly. He manages to sidestep the questionable theology of it with humor and handles God in an interesting but not preachy way that he failed to in Dogma. As with Chuck, this premise could get old pretty quickly, though. Grade: B+

The Big Bang Theory – Funny, funny. It looks lovingly at Geeks but at the same time doesn’t treat them with kid gloves. There is a tendency when portraying geeks and nerds to treat them with kid gloves where the viewer thinks that they would be great people to get to know if people would just learn to be less superficial. The thing is that geeks and nerds are quite frequently as annoying as heck even when they are good people. TBBT did a great job of balancing the obnoxiousness required for accuracy and the gentleness required to get us to care about them. The best comedies are ones that are willing to be brutal with their protagonists without forcing us to stop caring, and Big Bang manages it beautifully. Grade: A

Category: Theater

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4 Responses to New TV Season In Review

  1. Peter says:

    I wonder … is Cavemen the first TV series to be a spinoff of a commercial?

  2. trumwill says:

    My father and I discussed it and came up with two possibilities, one that probably doesn’t apply and one that probably does. There was a Pink Panther cartoon after the Panther was the pitchman for an insulation company, but before that there was the Pink Panther movie, and while that didn’t actually have a pink mammal, it did appear in the credits, so that doesn’t quite qualify. What does probably qualify are the California Raisins, which were created to sell raisins from California and was briefly a Saturday morning cartoon, though that could be more likened to creating a cartoon based on an existing product like toys as was the case for GI Joe, Carebears, and so on. No cases come to mind of mascot selling a product other than some variation itself, as is the case with the Geico cavemen.

  3. David Alexander says:

    Interestingly, people call my brother and I Frasier and Niles…

    Anyway, I’ve seen two episodes of Cavemen, and while I can’t say that it’s the best show ever, it’s decent enough for me to watch, and I suspect that may last long enough for syndication purposes.

  4. trumwill says:

    Whether a show makes it into syndication or not is generally the test of whether or not it was successful (100 episodes or bust!), so it’ll be interesting to see if it makes it there. The more I think about the show, the more I like it.

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