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Jane Previews the Fall 2011 TV Season

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Terra NovaIt’s that time of year again. The time when we all wait in rapt anticipation to see what the Fall TV season brings us. I’ve had a chance to preview quite a few pilots, so thought I’d give you my thoughts. I’ll add more shows as I watch them – just got the CBS screeners yesterday and haven’t had a chance to see them yet.

As is usually the case, the new season delivers a mix of awesome shows, mediocre shows, and downright awful shows. One thing to remember is that sometimes you have to watch a few episodes to really get a feel for the show.

Also, sometimes the pilots change. The screeners that TV critics get often don’t have the final music, credits, or even actors. If an actor doesn’t test well, it’s possible they’ll get the boot and be replaced by someone else before the pilot even airs on TV.

That said, it doesn’t always work. Look at last year’s $#*! My Dad Says. The guy playing William Shatner’s son got replaced, but even that didn’t save the show. I liked it well enough, but mainly because of Shatner.

So let’s take a look and see how things shake out. I thought it’d be easiest to just put them in categories of Awesome, Mediocre, and Downright Awful. We’ll also be doing a preview round-up with all of us over at TV Worth Watching. I’ll let you know when that hits the Web.

AWESOME – CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE:

TERRA NOVA (Fox, 2-hour premiere 9/26 @ 8 p.m.; airs Mon., 8 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: The Shannons are an ordinary family from 2149. But the planet is dying and they’re transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization. Stars Jason O’Mara, Shelley Conn and Stephen Lang.

Jane’s Take: AMAZING. A family drama, a sci-fi extravaganza, and a Neanderthalic mystery with perfect casting. Need more!

UP ALL NIGHT (NBC, premieres 9/14 @ 10 p.m.; airs Wed., 8 – 8:30 p.m.)

Premise: An irreverent look at parenthood through the eyes of an acerbic working mom (Christina Applegate) and her stay-at-home husband (Will Arnett).

Jane’s Take: I predict a big hit here. It’s real-life stuff, but still very funny. Like peeking in on real parents.

PAN AM (ABC, premieres 9/25 @ 10 p.m.; airs Sun., 10 – 11 p.m.)

Premise: Period drama about the pilots and flight attendants who once made Pan Am the most glamorous way to fly.

Jane’s Take: The dialogue’s a little corny, but I still love this show and its 1960s details: Rat Pack tunes, a plot-centered Life magazine, and girdled stewardesses with their little Pan Am bags. Watched the pilot twice and can’t wait for more.

NEW GIRL (Fox, premieres 9/20 @ 9 p.m.; airs Tues., 9 – 9:30 p.m.)

Premise: Zooey Deschanel stars in this comedy about the sexual politics of men and women.

Jane’s Take: Any show with a “Douchebag Jar” has promise. References to Lord of the Rings and Dirty Dancing help, along with Deschanel’s loopy star power.

THE RIVER (ABC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: The crew of a state-of-the-art research vessel is on a quest to find a missing TV explorer in the Amazon.

Jane’s Take: Heart of Darkness meets Lost with Paul Blackthorne. More, please.

ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC, premieres 10/23 @ 8 p.m.; airs Sun., 8 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: Jennifer Morrison plays a woman with a troubled past who’s drawn into a small town in Maine where the magic and mystery of fairy tales just may be real.

Jane’s Take: Robert Carlyle as a cackling, twisted Rumplestiltskin = awesome.

THE SECRET CIRCLE (The CW, premieres 9/14 @ 9 p.m.; airs Thurs., 9 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Brittany Robertson plays Cassie Blake, a 16-year-old girl who moves from California to live with her mom.

Jane’s Take: Witches are the new vampires. Fifteen minutes in, my daughter and I were inching closer to the TV set.

ALCATRAZ (Fox, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Sci-fi tale reveals what happened to the prisoners of Alcatraz when the prison was shut down. Some, like Alan Sylvane (Paul McGillion) have been in some kind of time warp where they didn’t age.

Jane’s Take: Ooh, I love a good J.J. Abrams mystery. The story is fun and conspiratorial, but I’ll watch for the wondrous Robert Forster, Jorge Garcia, and Sam Neill.

GRIMM (NBC, premieres 10/21 @ 9 p.m.; airs Fri., 9 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Fairy tale characters spring to life in the modern world. And it’s not always pretty.

Jane’s Take: My heart stopped five times in the first two minutes. Gripping, sinister and slightly comical. Like Night Stalker only with fairy tale characters. Love it, but oh no! Not the Friday night death slot!

FREE AGENTS (NBC, premieres 9/14 @8:30 p.m.; airs Wed., 8:30 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: Alex (Hank Azaria) is recently divorced, and Helen (Kathryn Hahn) lost her fiance a year ago. These two are not ready to be dating again.

Jane’s Take: Good writing that doesn’t dumb it down, and fun to see Anthony Head, a.k.a. Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

SMASH (NBC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Go behind the scenes of a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe. The cast includes Debra Messing, Angelica Huston, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty.

Jane’s Take: It’s got “smash” written all over it.

PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS, premieres 9/22; airs Thurs., 9 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson team up for their own brand of vigilante justice.

Jane’s Take: An Equalizer for the modern age. Love Caviezel’s Christian-Bale-Batman voice.

MEDIOCRE – I’LL GIVE IT A CHANCE: 

SCANDAL (ABC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: When you get into trouble there’s only one person to call, Olivia Price (Kerry Washington), a professional “fixer.”

Jane’s Take: Shonda Rhimes goes to Washington. Love the idea of a top-secret crisis management firm that drives the FBI nuts, but Kerry Washington isn’t convincing as the no-nonsense fixer whose romantic history with the Prez will likely come back to haunt her.

PRIME SUSPECT (NBC, premieres 9/22 @ 10 p.m.; airs Thurs., 10 – 11 p.m.)

Premise: Maria Bello plays Jane Timoney, an iconoclastic female detective who has to make her mark in a tough New York precinct dominated by men.

Jane’s Take: I have a big girl-crush on Maria Bello, and she throws herself into this role. Will it stand out from all the other cop shows? With exec producer/director Peter Berg and stars Aidan Quinn and Kirk Acevedo, it must might.

UNFORGETTABLE (CBS, premieres 9/20; airs Tues., 10 – 11 p.m.)

Premise: Poppy Montgomery plays a former cop who remembers every single moment of her life – except the details that would solve her sister’s long-ago murder.

Jane’s Take: Interesting. I like the little Tangerine Dream sequences of her remembering things at the crime scenes. A little Cal Lightman, a little Adrian Monk.

A GIFTED MAN (CBS, premieres 9/23; airs Fri., 8 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: A cranky, but brilliant surgeon sees his deceased ex-wife, who needs his help to keep her free clinic running.

Jane’s Take: I guess House is running its course, so we need a new doc with issues.

THE PLAYBOY CLUB (NBC, premieres 9/19 @ 10 p.m.; airs Mon., 10 – 11 p.m.)

Premise: Centers on the Bunnies and patrons of the original Playboy Club in 1960′s Chicago.

Jane’s Take: Law & Order meets The Sopranos, with a speck of Mad Men thrown in. Love the 1960s soundtrack, Amber Heard’s bunny appeal, and Hugh Hefner’s voiceover in the pilot. I’ll keep watching.

REVENGE (ABC, premieres 9/21 @ 10 p.m.; airs Wed., 10 – 11 p.m.)

Premise: Emily Van Camp plays a young woman who’s welcomed into a community filled with people who don’t know she’s only there to exact revenge on those who destroyed her family.

Jane’s Take: I like Emily Van Camp, but do we really need a show encouraging revenge as a lifestyle?

RINGER (The CW, premieres 9/13 @ 9 p.m.; airs Tues., 9 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a young woman on the run from the mob who poses as her wealthy twin sister to try and evade them, but soon discovers that her sister has a price on her head, as well.

Jane’s Take: The story’s a little slow, but I’m excited that SMG is playing not one, but two characters. It’s been eight long years since she stood with her friends at the edge of the ravine formerly known as Sunnydale.

THE HART OF DIXIE (The CW, premieres 9/26 @ 9 p.m.; airs Mon., 9 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Rachel Bilson plays Zoe Hart, a doctor who moves to Alabama to take over a longtime practice.

Jane’s Take: Plays more like a movie than a TV show. Northern Exposure, only with a female doctor in Alabama, an alligator named Burt Reynolds, and a rapidly-aging Scott Porter.

H8TR (The CW, premieres 9/14 @ 8 p.m.; airs Wed., 8 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: Real-life celebrities hang out with the people who hate them.

Jane’s Take: Weird and awkward. In other words, just the kind of show I’ll probably get sucked into.

GOOD CHRISTIAN BELLES (ABC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Leslie Bibb plays Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mom of two who moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew up to find herself in the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud.

Jane’s Take: Not a good sign that I completely forgot about this show the day after I watched it. Still, you can’t argue with a Darren Star production and Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb and Annie Potts.

THE FINDER (Fox, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Geoff Stults plays a guy who can find anything or anyone. Spin-off of Bones.

Jane’s Take: Fun stuff, but not in a “can’t wait to see more” way. Highlight is Michael Clarke Duncan as a “legal advisor” a la Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

AWAKE (NBC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: After a car accident takes the life of a family member, a police detective (Jason Isaacs) lives two alternating parallel lives, one with his wife and one with his son. Is one of his “realities” merely a dream?

Jane’s Take: A Sixth Sense-ish mind-bender with Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong as psych docs. Yeah, I’ll watch.

I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (Fox, premieres 11/30 @ 9:30 p.m.; airs Wed., 9:30 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Two lifelong friends realize their daughters have turned out to be the same type of unlikable bullies that made high school insufferable.

Jane’s Take: The writing and one-liners could use some help, but the pilot delivers a few laughs, thanks to Jaime Pressly. Since I have a teenage daughter, I’ll give it a chance in solidarity.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (ABC, premieres 9/22 @ 8 p.m.; airs Thurs., 8 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: This reboot of the 1970s TV show finds a cat burglar, a street racer, and a dirty cop getting a chance to turn their lives around – fighting crime and working for the mysterious Charlie Townsend.

Jane’s Take: Fun show with lots of action, but other girl-centric shows like Lipstick Jungle, Cashmere Mafia, and Eastwick haven’t fared well. We’ll see if Drew Barrymore’s production smarts help.

BENT (NBC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Amanda Peet and David Walton play two mismatched people who find themselves attracted to each other.

Jane’s Take: Has a Parenthood vibe to it. Nice cast, including Jeffrey Tambor. I like it.

WHITNEY (NBC, premieres 9/22 @ 9:30 p.m.; airs Thurs., 9:30 – 10 p.m.)

Premise: Whitney Cummings and Chris D’Elia play a happily unmarried couple, together for five years.

Jane’s Take: Not great, but not awful. Real people don’t talk about sex this much. And I’d like to take a razor to D’Elia’s face.

DOWNRIGHT AWFUL – NOT NOW, NOT EVER:

WORK IT (ABC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Two unemployed car salesmen realize they’re living in a woman’s world, so they decide that to find work again, they’ll have to be women.

Jane’s Take: The last time guys in drag were funny was Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in Bosom Buddies, and before that, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot. I’ll take a pass on this one.

SUBURGATORY (ABC, premieres 9/28 @ 8:30 p.m.; airs Wed., 8:30 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: A teenage girl moves from the city to the suburbs with her dad.

Jane’s Take: Ellen Page-ish teen in Desperate Housewives meets Mean Girls. Some funny lines, but way too much sex talk for an 8:30 time slot.

LAST MAN STANDING (ABC, premieres 10/11 @ 8 p.m.; airs Tues., 8 – 8:30 p.m.)

Premise: Tim Allen plays a married father of three who tries to maintain his manliness in a world dominated by women.

Jane’s Take: Oh, Tim Allen. Are you that desperate for cash? Could you at least come up with a different show than Home Improvement with daughters? And really, Hector Elizondo? Are there no Garry Marshall movies coming up?

APARTMENT 23 (ABC, mid-season premiere, 2012)

Premise: Krysten Ritter plays Chloe, a New York party girl with the morals of a pirate who bullies and causes trouble for her naive small town roommate June (Dreama Walker).

Jane’s Take: I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but I hate it. Cringe-worthy pilot includes a naked girl, a guy pleasuring himself, a girl wearing a whipped cream bikini, references to “4-way action,” and an adult pushing alcohol on a kid. In other words, non-family-friendly crap.

MAN UP (ABC, premieres 10/18 @ 8:30 p.m.; airs Tues., 8:30 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: Mather Zickel, Christopher Moynihan and Dan Fogler star as three modern men trying to get in touch with their inner tough guys and redefine what it means to be a real man.

Jane’s Take: Apparently, real men 1) are relentlessly henpecked by their wives; 2) think 13-year-old boys need hookers; 3) watch porn on their work computers; and 4) play non-stop video games online with their friends. Remind me again why Men of a Certain Age was canceled?

2 BROKE GIRLS (CBS, premieres 9/19 @ 8:30 p.m.; airs Mon., 8:30 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs play total opposites who end up waitressing and rooming together.

Jane’s Take: Please go back to the big screen, Kat Dennings!

HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN (CBS, premieres 9/29 @ 8:30 p.m.; airs Thurs., 8:30 – 9 p.m.)

Premise: About the unlikely friendship between a refined writer (David Hornsby) and his unrefined personal trainer (Kevin Dillon). Mary Lynn Rajskub plays the writer’s bossy sister.

Jane’s Take: The show where once-great character actors go to die.

 

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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18 comments

  1. Oh no! American TV trying to remake classic and excellent gritty, hard-hitting British cop show starring Helen Mirren? Come on Yanks, leave Prime Suspect alone!
    Melanie recently posted…Tim Burton Anti-Graffiti FenceMy Profile

  2. Hey Jane, your take on Men of a Certain Age is oafish at best. MOACA was taken off the air because IT HAS NO GUNS IN IT. Look at your own column today, Love the Terra Nova photo, WITH GUNS IT.

  3. Pan Am and Ringer are the only two that turned me on. I cannot stand the previews for Up all Night!
    Living Large recently posted…Living Large Tip of the Week: Eliminating Junk MailMy Profile

  4. Will Arnett is a hoot. I’m intrigued by Pan Am, especially since I have pals who worked for the airline, back in the day. And I love Zoey D. Quite a lot to look forward to and I’m not a huge TV watcher.
    sarah henry recently posted…Communal Supper Club Frugal Foodies Seeks New HomeMy Profile

  5. Alexandra

    Thanks for this run-down. Usually, my husband does this for me. He will be surprised that I know so much already!
    Alexandra recently posted…Prez. Hall Hosts First Raw Foods ClassMy Profile

  6. thanks for your take on all these, Jane, I always enjoy your opinions..

    especially as I’m not a big tv watcher, it’s really interesting to see what sort of ideas people think will work for series. myself, think I may wait for the new episodes of The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles to come up in November, instead..
    Kerry Dexter recently posted…road trip music: three ideasMy Profile

  7. What is with all the remakes? Charlie’s Angels? Terra Nova looks interesting, though – I’ll have to watch for it.
    Kris recently posted…Patchwork Living Blogging Bee #5My Profile

  8. Whew. Do you ever sleep??? But I’m so grateful that you did the work for me. Now I know what to watch – and what NOT to watch. By the way, not enough medical dramas in this line-up ala Chicago Hope, ER, Gray’s Anatomy…are they all on their way out?
    Sheryl recently posted…Lower Body Exercises to Round Out Your RoutineMy Profile

  9. Jane: Seems there’s not a lot of comedys. According to some analysis, we watch comedies in hard times. Does that mean hard times are coming to a close. Thanks for helping me sort out what goes on my DVR.

  10. Oh wow, thanks so much for this! I was already planning to check out Pan Am but now you’ve given me a great list of other things. I am interested to see Up All Night – from the previews I’ve seen I was predicting it was another bad sitcom but now I will give it a chance.
    NoPotCoooking recently posted…Smoky Turkey and Arugula WrapMy Profile

  11. The pilot of New Girl is available via Hulu, and I found it really cute. I did think they missed a comedic opportunity by cutting straight from Jess’ roommate interview to her bawling her eyes out on the couch (I can imagine her roomies watching her bring up box after box of stuff with some physical humor thrown in), but I’m looking forward to seeing more. Also excited about Pan Am.

  12. MyKidsEatSquid

    Prime Suspect does look destined for cancellation–which is too bad. I hope Terra Nova is good–I like the premise, and a show that’s completely escapist. Thanks for the round-up, I had no idea there were soooo many new shows.
    MyKidsEatSquid recently posted…Mexican riceMy Profile

  13. Wait–what about a prediction for 2 and a half men with Ashton? Or did I miss that post?
    Alisa Bowman recently posted…13 Ways a Bad Marriage is Like a Rubik’s CubeMy Profile

  14. Hi Jane
    2011 s the good year for this movie. I see this movie and really like this. This movie earn the profit.
    thanks,
    Jac Evans recently posted…No Posts Were Found!My Profile

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