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Continuing on a theme I wrote about here, there comes a time – and that time is now – where viewers (and, yes, critics) start weeding out the shows that are not going to make it. People can only watch so many series. Every fall they are making the decision to add to their total and, subsequently, delete a few former-favorites in the process.Three or four weeks into the season this ritual of elimination begins to get really bloody. For me, after giving the freshman crop of scripted shows enough consideration, I dropped the following series off my DVR: Last Man Standing, Man Up!, Once Upon A Timeand Pan Amfrom ABC; 2 Broke Girls, Unforgettableand A Gifted Man from CBS; Hart of Dixie, Ringer and The Secret Circlefrom the CW; American Horror Storyfrom FX; Hell on Wheelsfrom AMC; Whitneyand Prime Suspectfrom NBC; and Allen Gregoryfrom Fox. That doesn’t count nixing already canceled series like The Playboy Club, Free Agents, Charlie’s Angelsand How To Be A Gentleman. (For specific details on why I gave up on all of those shows, read the column in the link.)
Why so many? Why these shows? Does it really matter? (Most producers, networks and cable channels never really know why people say no. In my case, it’s pretty simple – the shows were either lousy from the start, never got better in subsequent episodes or weren’t compelling. In the current TV environment, if a show doesn’t make you excited to watch it, people won’t.)
If you want to get wonky about the whole notion of living and dying in TV Land, this is a column I wrote about whether, in the current mega-crowded television landscape, series deserve or will get second chances.
In the list of 14 shows I dumped from my DVR, I said that Fox’s Terra Nova and NBC’s Grimm were on the bubble — I hadn’t seen enough of the latter and, for some reason I can barely express, I was hoping that the former would snap out of its doldrums and really deliver. I was being patient. That patience is over. I dropped Terra Nova off the DVR, finally. Given all the high-priced talent involved behind the scenes, including Steven Spielberg, I was hoping that all of that money and ambition would ultimately spit out something really exceptional. Instead, it’s like Mercedes Benz promised the world a thrilling new concept car and nearly two years later spit out a Kia (and given the advances with Kia, that comparison may be generous for Terra Nova).
Enough about failure. Here are the 10 fall series I’m sticking with:
Homeland (Showtime): Now this is a compelling series. It’s currently jostling with Boss on Starz as the best new freshman series. The premise – returned American prisoner of war might actually have been turned by his terrorist captors – has been intriguing each week and the performances from Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin have been outstanding.
Boss (Starz): An out-of-the-box astounding performance from Kelsey Grammer anchors this King Lear-like look at politics and power in Chicago. It’s a creative coming out party for series creator Farhad Safinia, who delivered the Boss universe fully-formed.
Enlightened (HBO): Mike White and Laura Dern have crafted this half-hour series in such a way that there’s nothing like it on television. Dramatic, funny, quirky and unexpected in so many places, it’s arguably the best show you’re not watching (and the fact is, not enough people are watching it). Here’s hoping that aforementioned patience from HBO pays off here.
New Girl (Fox): So many of the freshman sitcoms have been weak and humorless. Zooey Deschanel brings a freshness and quirkiness to her role as a naïve girl in the shark-infested dating waters of the big city.
The X Factor (Fox): Immediately more intriguing than American Idol, much of the credit here goes to the return to television of Simon Cowell and his excellent decision to bring on L.A. Reid as a judge. Those two alone, with their gravitas, clout and judgment, make every other singing competition look like a cat fight or a crap shoot.
Suburgatory (ABC): This sitcom was strong from the start – single dad uproots teenage daughter and drops her in the suburts to protect her, which backfires on both of them. The excellent cast features a breakout performance from Jane Levy.
Revenge (ABC): Holy guilty pleasures, Batman. Who would have guessed that this sudsy tale of killing off enemies from the past in the Hamptons could be so delicious?
Up All Night (NBC): Rooting hard for Will Arnett and Christina Applegate helps this series as it tries to graft on a secondary story line featuring Maya Rudolph, which is still a struggle and a work in progress. Luckily, the material with Arnett and Applegate has been funny since the pilot.
Person of Interest (CBS): It’s always comforting to have one closed-ended procedural on the docket and this fits the bill. The element of unpredictability and cyber-intrusion helps out a lot. Not great but good enough.
Grimm (NBC): Friday night is choking with genre series, but there’s something about Grimm that keeps me interested. Sometimes you need a show that’s escapist and entertaining. And while Fringe has always fulfilled that role — and I continue to love it — it needs more attention (no complaint there). In Grimm, I enjoy the ride and flip around on the iPad at the same time.
And that’s it. Like everybody else, to fit some of these new series on to the DVR, I had to weed out old favorites. But that’s tale of woe best left for another column.
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