The 4-Episode Test, Fall 2012 Edition, Part 1: Last Resort, Revolution, Go On, and More

By now, you likely know the drill: Series pilots are often terrible. Not only do they tend to be overstuffed with exposition, but many storylines require a few episodes to get off the ground. However, once a show hits the four-week mark (assuming it lives that long), it's a bit easier to tell whether it's going to be satisfying in the long run. And so we here at have vowed to always stick with a new show for at least four episodes, no matter the quality of its pilot, for better or for worse. So, now that we're a good chunk of the way through many of this season's freshmen series, here's what we're sticking with and what we're deleting from our DVRs.

Note: We're still catching up on/waiting for fourth episodes of several of the season's new shows—including Elementary, Vegas, The Mindy Project, Arrow, and more—are missing from this list. We'll post a follow-up to this story in a couple weeks.

Episode ratings are out of five stars.

666 Park Avenue

Episode 1: ★ Episode 2: ★ Episode 3: ★ Episode 4: ★★

Verdict: Quit watching.

If I'm being honest, there were brief moments in the fourth episode when 666 Park Avenue showed a spark of promise. Those moments accounted for maybe four minutes of its 42-minute runtime, but still, the fourth episode was better than the three episodes that preceded it. Boring, uninspired, and misguided in equal measure, way too much of this show relies on a tenant-of-the-week setup when it needs to be firmly in tight serialized form a la TVD or American Horror Story. Instead we get the main character repeatedly having ghostly encounters but then apparently going brain-damaged in between episodes and forgetting everything so that she can become spooked anew. For the most part the characters are simultaneously flat and unlikable, and the supernatural elements are just incredibly uninspired. As much as it pains me to criticize a show with Terry O'Quinn as a lead, this one is just so beneath him and I can't wait until he has something better to do. —Price Peterson

Ben and Kate

Episode 1: ★★★ Episode 2: ★★★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Keep Watching.

For me Ben and Kate is the big surprise of the season. I went from being initially pretty underwhelmed by the pilot (although I came around on second viewing) to being impressed by the second episode and then slightly disappointed by the third. But the fourth episode, in which the gang threw Kate a several-years-too-late, make-up 21st birthday bash, nearly blindsided me with how good it was. Incredibly funny, breezy, and then, in the end, utterly joyful, it was enough to let me know that this is a show I'll be watching all season. Though I'm still not completely sold on the Ben character, Kate has grown on me, and the supporting characters played by Lucy Punch and Echo Kellum are just plain stellar. The more this show focuses on this ensemble, and less on just the titular duo, the better. —Price

Go On

Episode 1: ★★★★ Episode 2: ★★★★ Episode 3: ★★★★ Episode 4: ★★★

Verdict: Keep watching.

The (totally biased) data doesn't lie! Not only is Go On the best new comedy of the season (sorry, Ben & Kate fans), it's also the most consistent, and that's the invisible trait so important to sitcoms that a lot of people forget about. Matthew Perry is SOOOOO Matthew Perry here, but his schtick really fits his gregarious, positive-thinking character—who's in denial about needing help to cope with his wife's death. Go On is another ensemble of weirdoes, but it works because they're all entirely different from each other and established, kind of like another comedy I know *sneeze* *Community* *fart*. But what really sets the show apart from other sitcoms is its connection to the human soul, which it chisels into each episode with unexpected emotional moments that elevate all other feelings. Go On isn't just a survivor of the season, it's a possible building block for NBC. Mr. K for president! —Tim Surette

Guys With Kids

Episode 1: ★★ Episode 2: ★★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★

Verdict: Quit watching.

Not as bad as you'd think, but definitely not as good as that guy who laughs at everything thinks it is. It's a comedy about guys with kids, true, but early on it seemed like the guys don't want the kids at all. Anthony Anderson is good enough to make his material work, and his exuberance—manufactured or not—is contagious to the point where if he's not on the screen, things sag. And what a shameful waste of the incredibly talented Erinn Hayes as a sour ex-wife! This rote comedy is about as plain as anything on television right now. —Tim

Last Resort

Episode 1: ★★★★★ Episode 2: ★★★★ Episode 3: ★★★★ Episode 4: ★★★★

Verdict: Definitely keep watching.

It's not uncommon for unique, high-concept television to not move beyond its initial premise, instead taking the time to develop characters and chart out a series road map, resulting in a show with a strong premise and little else. That's not the case with Last Resort, which added some of the best new characters of the season to its question of what happens when a nuclear submarine defies questionable orders and becomes a target of the U.S. government. The pilot was probably the best premiere of the season, and while the following episodes didn't reach that same level of quality, it gave me a solid sense that this is a show that knows where it's going and it's headed there with confidence. —Tim

The Mob Doctor

Episode 1: ★ Episode 2: ★★★ Episode 3: ★★★★ Episode 4: ★★

Verdict: It kind of works as a guilty-pleasure sort of show, but it EXCELS as a hate-watch sort of show.

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that over its first four episodes, The Mob Doctor briefly improved to the point of being watchable. The bad news is that it blew all of that progress within a single episode by essentially reversing one of the game-changing moments of the pilot. Oh, sure, we could chalk up a certain someone’s sudden resurrection to being ANOTHER game-changer, but frankly, I was actually starting to mildly enjoy the show without the return of he-who-should-have-stayed-dead. However, at the end of the day, the most unbearable aspect of The Mob Doctor is Dr. Grace herself, who continues to stretch credibility by coming and going from her job as she pleases and parading a steady rotation of secret mafia patients through the hospital doors beneath her overbearing superior’s gaze, all while maintaining her self-righteous monopoly on morality that was already irritating in the pilot. Conversely, William Forsythe’s mob boss Constantine is the complicated, fascinating, hardass-with-a-heart-of-gold that Jordana Spiro's Grace strives so desperately to be. If we dropped all the boring hospital stuff and went pure mob show, I might actually have nicer things to say, but as it stands, leave the stethoscope, take the cannoli. —MaryAnn Sleasman

The Neighbors

Episode 1: ★ Episode 2: ★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★★★

Verdict: It won't kill you.

One of the season's most critically despised sitcoms has certainly earned most of the shellacking it's received in the press based on the sports names joke alone ("Dick Butkus" stopped being funny in third grade, and in television years, that's one episode). But after a painful pilot that spent half an hour acting out a simple logline, the following episodes, free of that weight, were able to be what the show was always meant to be: a silly comedy about aliens living in a human world. The fact that The Neighbors doesn't try to be smart works to its advantage, and I'll be damned if that long-haired weirdo kid didn't grow on me by the fourth episode. After four episodes, the show has found its footing as a harmless, non-offensive, occasionally funny sitcom. Consider it a late option only after you've watched everything else you like. —Tim

The New Normal

Episode 1: ★★★ Episode 2: ★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★★★

Verdict: Price is quitting, but it's not an outright terrible show.

The New Normal carries the dubious honor of being the best new show that I no longer want to watch. A promising pilot led to three solid if unmemorable episodes involving everything from a child channelling Grey Gardens' Little Edie to a black actor being hired to portray a dinner party guest for diversity reasons. In other words, strong, edgy comedic ideas that still for some reason did not work for me. Personally, The New Normal's fatal flaw is its frantic, occasionally misanthropic sense of humor that's clumsily paired with mawkish sentiment. I just couldn't get into the rhythms of this show, and aside from Goldie I never cared for the characters and their borderline retrograde stereotypes. After four episodes, that's a problem. The show isn't without its merits, but it isn't for me. —Price


Episode 1: ★ Episode 2: ★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★

Verdict: Quit watching.

Every one of Partners' first four episodes involved one of the central best friends overstepping the boundaries of their friendship and the other behaving insanely harshly toward them for it. In other words, misunderstandings that in real life could be cleared up in a single sentence are here drawn out to 20+ minutes of excruciatingly phony and occasionally offensive banter. The third episode was slightly better than the rest, as it was centered on Ali's (Sophia Bush) former relationship with Derek Jeter, and the guys used a game of Celebrity to bring the admission out of her. But for the most part, the only truly likable character is Brandon Routh's Wyatt, and too frequently I wished the show was about him instead. As a good-hearted, sober, gay jock nurse and former Mennonite with limited emotional capacity, he was immediately more interesting and compelling than whatever stale written-by-gays-but-also-strangely-homophobic banter was spewing from Louis (Michael Urie). I really do not like Partners. —Price


Episode 1: ★★ Episode 2: ★★ Episode 3: ★★ Episode 4: ★★

Verdict: Watch at your own risk.

No one denies there's a great concept here: Who turned out the lights? As for the storytelling, characters, action, acting, writing, and directing, well, there's currently a war waging on the internet about those, and *surprise!* I'm one of the people who thinks Revolution is kind of stinky. There's tons of unexplored potential, but seeing how the show started off troubled and never got any better, it doesn't look like it will ever become the show we all hoped it would. Revolution is just another network sci-fi show with a big mystery, hollow characters, and little else. File this under: Alcatraz, FlashForward, Terra Nova, The Event, etc. —Tim

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