The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: New Fall Shows Worth Watching

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Even a TV addict like me sometimes has to admit that the substance of my usually happy abuse can get a little more than overwhelming. Specifically I am talking about the plethora of new shows launched this fall in an effort to make up for the resounding failure of almost all new launches last season. At times I was so far behind all this “shiny new television” the networks were churning out, I contemplated just sticking with the shows I already watched and not adding any new ones to my roster.

But between House being the disaster it has become, HIMYM being as annoyingly elusive as ever, Grey’s Anatomy dabbling along with far too many baby storylines and Bones and Cougar Town sidelined until November, I really had to flesh out my viewing schedule.
So I delved into “the new” and four weeks into the Fall Season, here are some of the new shows I plan to keep watching.


Homeland (Showtime)
I refer you to my previous column for all the original reasons I could come up with after the pilot, all of which hold true three episodes in.


Hart of Dixie (The CW)
Hart of Dixie has the distinct advantage over “that other new CW show” (Ringer) that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fluffy, it’s bubblegum and it’s stylish. How could it be any other way when Rachel Bilson is involved? Sure, the South is painted in broad stereotypes, but they are inoffensive enough to be entertaining. Hart of Dixie doesn’t bite off more than it can chew either (like Ringer does). It’s just about a young doctor moving to a small southern town and trying to gain acceptance and respect there while being adorably clumsy and not afraid to take a few detours in order to protect her patients.
Someone on Twitter said this week we shouldn’t go all “Y’all should watch Hart of Dixie, it really is good”, because The CW is promoting it as their “new hit show” anyway. Seeing as how it already got a full season pick-up (as did Ringer), that’s probably true, so if you like inoffensive, sweetly medical shows, you know where to go.

Up All Night (NBC)
This is supposed to be a comedy starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, although it’s not particularly funny. NBC is struggling big time these days, their ratings are so far down, I can’t even come up with a metaphor for it anymore (seriously, their original programming was beaten be re-runs of other shows on USA last week), so to NBC Up All Night is a success. They’ve already canceled what was supposed to be their “big hit” this fall season, The Playboy Club, so you can see why they’d be trying to hang on to anything remotely resonating with the audience. And to be fair, Up All Night has found its footing from the uneven pilot. Its opening credits make me want to tear my eyes out (stop trying to pound your premise into the viewer’s skull in twenty seconds! It’s not so complicated that we won’t get it otherwise), but I enjoy the more light-hearted approach to telling parenting stories in comparison to that other show NBC has scheduled, appropriately named Parenthood.  
Applegate and Arnett make a cute couple and although I could do without the wacky characters from Applegate’s fictional job, Up All Night perfectly fits into my Comedy Wednesday. And has taught me how to properly play peek-a-boo, that could be useful some day.


2 Broke Girls (CBS)
Even though this show is much more obviously a comedy than Up All Night (it might be the laugh track giving the former away), I have less reason to stick with it and may in fact stop doing so in the foreseeable future. The racially insensitive stereotyping that goes on at the 2 Broke Girls’ fictional workplace is much, much less entertaining than the broad caricatures at the Up All Night workplace and are, in fact, the show’s weakest link. I would enjoy 2 Broke Girls perfectly fine if it actually went with the promise its two central female characters hold: one sassy girl with street smarts and a talent for baking things and one spoiled girl from money with the business education to make a profit off those baked goods. Instead these two broke girls keep a horse in their backyard and offend more customers than I have ever even seen come into a run-down NYC diner. Plus, I have been waitressing as an odd job while in school for too long to not be annoyed by how grossly incompetent these two “waitresses” are. I mean, they ALWAYS ignore food on the serving counter and all they ever seem to do is “marry the ketchup”. I do enjoy Kat Dennings, her decidedly non-stick-figure-esque appearance and her crude sass, but I am gonna need a bit more to really like 2 Broke Girls. Lucky for them, there’s not much competition in their time slot.


Pan Am (ABC)
This show owes its conception entirely to the success of Mad Men and people’s apparent fascination with The Sixties, when life still seemed easy and consumerism was patriotism at its best. NBC’s The Playboy Club tried to cash in on this nostalgia as well, but I’ve already told you how that turned out. Pan Am does a couple of things right: it looks perfectly stylish and beautiful, which is what we expect from nostalgic television and it taps into a legendary franchise, just like Mad Men tapped into the legendary world of New York advertising. However, Pan Am tries too hard to please everyone and therefore gets lost between spy stories, power struggles and indistinguishable locales. Sure, it’s fun to think these stewardesses are somewhere new and exciting every week, but it also bereaves the show of the chance to develop a setting that tells a story in and off itself. The Berlin, Singapore, Paris and Burma don’t add anything to the show, because our protagonists are largely confined to hotel rooms and pool sides, hence the whole show feels like a wild goose chase at times. Similarly, we are still chasing after most of the characters, which haven’t been shaded for us properly, with maybe the exception of Colette, who got a very culturally sensitive character arc in episode 3.
I can’t help but think that there is a good show buried in Pan Am if it realizes that its core audience will always be women, and that therefore the sexism needs to be addressed in a certain critical way (of which we have seen glimmers when Cristina Ricci’s character “stabs” a male passenger for coming on to her). The spy storyline on the other hand, while useful to position the show in the cultural paradigm that is the Cold War, is really boring and keeps separating the character of Kate from everyone else, when really the strength of Pan Am should be its ensemble’s dynamic.
Given how low Pan Am has been flying in the ratings, I am awaiting ABC’s decision on its fate fairly soon. I believe moving it from the highly competitive Sunday night might help things a bit. Will Mad Men remain the only Sixties show on the air?


Terra Nova (Fox)
This show received so much upfront buzz at the beginning of the year when it was screened, that was almost enough to turn me off it forever. But I gave it a chance and I am oddly intrigued. By its badness. The show has so many plotholes, I can’t even count them. And that is in every single episode. The central family is still largely unlikable, even though I do appreciate Jim Shannon’s occasional Bond-esquian quips. And don’t even get me started on the bad dinosaur effects. I am not one to bemoan the production values of television against movies, because I believe you can make a whole lot of awesome television without needing millions of dollars for it, but if you are going to go for something as grand as dinosaurs, your effects had better beat the ones from the original Jurassic Park from 1993.
Fox is marketing Terra Nova as a family show, so of course there is plenty of teen romance thrown in, which is infuriating to all us non-teenagers, but not for the reason you might think: it’s not that we hate teenagers, annoying as they can be, it’s that we hate TV teenagers, because they have been unrealistic and utterly useless for way too long now. I think the problem is that most TV writers don’t actually have teenaged children themselves, or else they could write those characters better.
Terra Nova does have the novelty factor on its side (as in there is no other comparable show currently on the air), which is what helps its ratings remain somewhat steady, but if it was set in the Lost universe, teenage son Josh would have been eaten by the Smoke Monster three times already, and justly so.


Some of the above mentioned shows may yet fall off my Watch List, especially when Bones and Cougar Town return in November and I get busy with the Holiday Season.
I have listed a few more shows and my attitude towards them below, but let me extend this invitation to you: please let me know which new shows made it onto your Watch List and why and also tell me about the drop-outs. Stories of failure amuse me, which is why I love Sheldon Cooper so much.


New shows I have not yet watched: Revenge, A Gifted Man

New shows I gave up on (for various reasons of badness): Unforgettable, Prime Suspect, Person of Interest, Whitney, Last Man Standing

New shows I would have given up on, but they were already cancelled anyway: The Playboy Club, Charlie’s Angels, How to Be A Gentleman, Free Agents