We're now about halfway through television's "midseason," and now that we've looked at how some of 2012's new shows are faring in the latest installment of the TV.com 4-Episode Test™, we've also decided to revisit the new comedies that debuted in the fall. How are they doing? What's still going strong and what's already long off the air? We're so glad you asked. Here's my report card for the state of some of TV's newest comedies:
A father moved his teenage daughter from Manhattan to the suburbs in what is arguably the best new comedy that fall 2011 brought to the table: It's got the biggest laughs and probably the best actors in an amazing ensemble cast. Though Tessa and her father are great, the best performances come from the cornucopia of eccentric side characters. Allie Grant, who plays Tessa's best friend Lisa, has the most wonderful creepy stare I've ever seen, and Alan Tudyk (Noah) is always welcome on my TV screen. From Tessa's struggles in adjusting to the suburbs to Dallas's cheating now-ex-husband, Suburgatory effortlessly sets up conflicts that will very likely keep audiences watching for another several seasons.
My grade: A+
Reagan and Chris were happily married, great at their jobs, and loved to drink, smoke, and party. Until Reagan got pregnant. They're still happily married, but now Chris stays home with the baby while Reagan explores the world of working mommy-hood. Though it's not perfect, this show is pretty adorable. Many of the conflicts are low on tension—like Reagan having to give up her cool convertible for a "mom car" or Reagan and Chris trying to have a night alone without obsessing about the baby—but there's something so cute about it that every time I watch it makes me smile. Maybe that's because of the amazing chemistry between the cast. It's hard to go wrong with Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph. They're all wonderful together. I sometimes wish the show went for bigger laughs, but it still provides a thoroughly enjoyable half-hour.
My grade: B+
Two waitresses, former socialite Caroline (Beth Behrs) and jaded Max (Kat Dennings), try to raise money for their cupcake business while not killing each other as roommates. This show has its flaws, but it's incredibly sweet and quirky. The main characters aren't entirely likable, but you can't help but root for them. I almost cried earlier this season when they had to give away Caroline’s horse, and Max gave him a little speech about how he was one of the best things in her life. There’s just something about a girl who doesn’t have anything better going on than a horse living in her backyard that really makes you want her to succeed. In January, the show added Jennifer Coolidge to the cast, giving 2 Broke Girls a huge leg up. She’s a comedic powerhouse. And with any luck, she’s here to stay.
My grade: B
After she caught her boyfriend cheating on her, Jess moved into an apartment with three male roommates. New Girl was Fox's most-watched comedy premiere since Malcolm in the Middle, but personally, I couldn't stand the pilot, in which Jess failed to pick up guys and was stood up at a fancy restaurant. Come on Hollywood, I’ll give you a certain level of suspension of disbelief, but Zooey Deschanel would not have trouble picking up guys. You can’t just slap a pair of nerdy glasses on her and think no one will notice that she’s gorgeous. To me, Jess is over-the-top and helpless—and not in a charming way. However, New Girl has gotten better since the start of the season, especially as it's put more effort into developing Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. It's still trying too hard to make Jess "adorkable," which remains off-putting, but it does have some genuinely hilarious moments sprinkled throughout.
My grade: C+
Whitney is about a woman in her thirties, her boyfriend, and their circle of friends. That's it. There's no highly conceptual plot, no intriguing twist, and no real obstacles for any of the characters to face. The show has been criticized for the one-dimensional character of Whitney’s divorced friend, Roxanne, but to be fair, all of the show's characters are pretty one-dimensional. From the angry-and-judgmental boyfriend to the sensitive-and-caring boyfriend to the perky-and-stupid friend, Whitney isn’t offering anything you haven’t seen before. Though not stellar, its ratings are decent, so apparently some people must enjoy it. I just don't imagine they're very funny people.
My grade: C
Tim Allen plays a manly-man named Mike Baxter who has to deal with the “difficult” task of living with his wife and three daughters. Oh no! How could anyone possibly handle that? For some reason, this show is getting excellent ratings, and because of that I can only infer that Tim Allen has psychic powers and is somehow forcing people to tune in. The characters are shallow, the jokes aren't funny, and the plots aren't interesting. For example, when Mike found out that his daughter’s boyfriend slept over, it triggered a tirade about how his house has gotten too womanly: He’s sick of seeing cat websites on the computer and bras left out to dry in the bathroom. Get over it, Tim Allen, er, Mike. Cat websites are adorable and if you put bras in drier the elastic stretches out.
My grade: D+
After a painful divorce, Alex had a one-night stand with his coworker Helen, who was still grieving her dead fiance. The sitcom was based on its British counterpart of the same name. Unlike other successful attempts at such a feat (The Office), the American version missed out on the heart and spunk of the original; without it, the show was too sad to be a successful comedy. In the opening scene of the U.K. series, British actors Stephen Mangan and Sharon Horgan made a joke out of the photographs of a dead fiance and a father who couldn’t see his children on Father’s Day. It was heavy, but they made it work. The American version's Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn are both amazing actors, but when they did the same scene, it was just depressing. Dark comedy is very difficult, and though the cast of the American Free Agents was full of talented actors, the show just didn't come together.
My grade: C
Uptight magazine writer Andrew (David Hornsby) was forced to reconnect with Bert (Kevin Dillon), who tormented him in high school, in order to understand his magazine's new target audience. It was a fragile premise—maybe Andrew could have found someone who didn't traumatize him to teach him about that demographic?—and audiences clearly weren't willing to sit through it to see if it could develop into something more. Also, it wasn't funny. The show’s lack of good writing was really a shame, especially since Dave Foley and Rhys Darby, who both played minor characters, are hilarious. You really have to try not to give those guys good lines.
My grade: C-
Three men explored their manliness in this trainwreck of a sitcom, which attempted to discuss the concept of masculinity in only the bulkiest and altogether unfunniest of ways. The characters were cartoon-ishly shallow and unlikeable. The show tried to convince viewers that three grown men who are still mentally 17 years old could be funny. But the three main characters weren't funny, they were mean: Craig ruined a wedding, to start, and Kenny not only refused to befriend his ex-wife’s boyfriend, he was overly cruel to the new beau. Sometimes selfish characters work (read: Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother), but they have to have a certain degree of heart. Otherwise, you spend the entire half-hour wanting to punch the characters in the face.
My grade: D
Note: Allen Gregory also premiered (and got canceled) in the fall, but I hated the selfish main character so much after one episode that I never gave it a second chance.
Which new fall comedies are you still watching? Have any of them made it onto your list of favorite shows? Do you miss Free Agents, How to Be a Gentleman, Allen Gregory, or Man Up?