In a few short weeks fall will be upon us (September 22nd according to our friends at Google.) It is a time of year that means many things: it’s time to shuffle those kids back to school, the dreaded Footballs season has begun and Labor Day has long since passed; meaning that wearing white is a horrible offense punishable by death. For me however, it has always marked the return of fall television; network, cable and otherwise. So I have taken it upon myself to preview some of the new shows coming this fall; I do this for you my friends. NBC and Fox have released most of their pilots via HULU, so those are the only ones I have had access to. If ABC and CBS decide to go the same route I will provide an additional preview. Enjoy!
The New Normal
When: Tuesday September 11th at 9:30PM on NBC
The latest in Ryan Murphy’s growing armada of television series (including Glee and Nip/Tuck), The New Normal centers on partners Bryan and David searching for the perfect surrogate to carry their child. They find said surrogate in Goldie who is trying to rebuild her life after a series of missteps after raising her daughter alone. Goldie’s conservative over-the-top bigot grandmother Jane (Ellen Barkin) doesn’t approve of Goldie’s choice. And for some reason one of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is there. It’s hard to see this show as anything but Fox’s attempt to create their own Modern Family. I’m all for a comedy with two male partners in the leading roles, but the addition of a racist grandmother and a sassy African-American assistant feels a little forced. This is not to say that Ellen Barkin isn’t mildly enjoyable as Jane. One of the best parts of the show is Andrew Rannells, from the hilarious Broadway Show The Book of Mormon. His character Bryan is a bit of a gay stereotype but has a visible sincerity as well. Based on the pilot’s merits alone, I probably wouldn’t continue watching this show. I do think that if it finds an audience it will also find its footing.
Pilot Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5 Stars
When: September 11th at 9PM on NBC
Since Friends ended, Matthew Perry has had a rough go of it in the world of television. In 2006 he had Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which came and went; and last year saw the short life of ABC’s Mr. Sunshine. Go On spotlights Perry has a sportscaster whose wife has passed away off screen. His station requires him to attend a support group full of colorful people who are also going through the grieving process. Can these sad, sad people overcome adversity and see the funny? Only time shall tell my friends. The premise of the show reminds me of Community’s first season: a reluctant hotshot being stuck with a bunch of crazy people (that he probably will end up loving.) Go On has an interesting setup, but more interesting will be seeing how well NBC walks the tightrope of comedy and tragedy.
Pilot Grade: ★★★ 3/5 Stars
When: September 17th at 10PM on NBC
NBC has been desperately trying to get a successful drama in their 10PM spot since the end of ER in 2009. Sadly I fear their quest shall continue, as Revolution (at least the pilot) is a bit of a dud. The premise is that electricity has been non-existent for 15 years and civilization has turned into a dangerous dark age of violent militias. We follow heroine Charlie Matheson, who loses her father and embarks upon a journey to find her missing brother and enlists in the aid of her uncle Miles (who may have the power to turn the lights back on.) Revolution’s pilot was full of Hunger Games-ian bows and arrows, dystopian CGI Americana and Gus Fring, Chicken King (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito.) It was also full of bad acting, an underwhelming setup and stakes that felt amazingly low. Oh and Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) was in the first scene then died off camera in a “she’s totally not secretly still alive at all” kind of way. Pass.
Pilot Grade: ★★ 2/5 Stars
The Mindy Project
When: Tuesday September 25th at 9:30PM on Fox
The Mindy Project is the brainchild of writer/actress Mindy Kaling (The Office) and centers around Mindy Lahiri (you guessed it, played by Mindy Kaling!) who is an egocentric headcase of a doctor. Mindy was raised on romantic comedies and bases a lot of her own romantic expectations upon them. The show is one part Bridget Jones’ Diary and one part Young Adult, but Mindy never comes off as excessively eccentric or insane (though I do question her reliability as a doctor; then again my doctor may be going on drunken benders and getting arrested after their boyfriend leaves them. Who knows?) I was really surprised at how much I liked this show. There is something appealing about protagonists who base their belief systems in works of fiction. Maybe that says more about my state of mind than the show…my bad. Either way, I’d say give The Mindy Project a shot. You may be saying to yourself “No way, Kelly is the most annoying part of The Office I don’t want to watch a whole show about her.” I would remind you that Kelly Kapoor is a character who is written to be annoying. And if you do love Kelly Kapoor, fear not; she will also be returning for The Office’s final season this fall.
Pilot Grade: ★★★★ 4/5 Stars
Ben and Kate
When: September 25th at 8:30PM on Fox
Ben and Kate is the story of a single mom trying to support her daughter and her zany brother who breezes in and out of their lives to enact one of his many “hair-brained schemes.” This is such a recycled plot it’s absurd. There’s even a line of dialogue where Kate actually uses the phrase “hair-brained schemes!” There were a few funny lines here and there, but Ben feels like a poor man’s Dwight Schrute/Owen Wilson a la You, Me and Dupree. And as nit-picky and conceited as it is, I can’t get over this guy’s teeth; they’re Great white shark-like chompers that look like they could cut through steel. Overall Ben and Kate is a tired TV trope that doesn’t really have anything new to offer.
Pilot Grade: ★½ 1.5/5 Stars
When: Wednesday September 26th at 8:00PM on NBC
You’ve probably seen the commercials for this one; if not let me refresh your memory: monkey in a lab coat. Yeah now you remember, don’t you? Animal Practice follows Dr. George Coleman (Weeds’ Justin Kirk) who is a head veterinarian at an Animal Hospital. He is more in touch with animals than he is humans. Through the convenient powers of the TV gods, Dr. Coleman’s old flame Dorothy returns to his life…AND IS NOW THE OWNER OF THE HOSPITAL! (I know right? Caaarrrazzzy.) If you’re looking for a show with an emotionally vacant hero, his girl Friday trying to break him out of his shell and animals doing things that people normally do, this is the show for you. Consequently, this is not the show for me.
Pilot Grade: ★★ 2/5 Stars