You know what they say about the third round of the ol' TV.com 4-Episode Test: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. What? They don't say that? Well who do "they" think they are? Whatever, moving on: This was a tough group of shows to get through. Back when we first started this fall's proceedings, we were relatively hopeful. And after round two, things were looking pretty decent overall. But round three contained some real stinkers—it's like the broadcast networks saved many of their worst shows for last! (Well, almost last; we'll do a fourth and final catch-all round in a couple weeks, to weigh in on the stragglers.) However: It's not all red Xs up ahead, because thanks to cable and one sassy witch, there are a couple true keepers here, too. Hence that 'best of times, worst of times' thing. Ladies and gentlemen, round three:
Verdict: Dump it.
After introducing the series with one of the worst drama pilots of all time, there was only one way for this disaster could go: just barely up. The Jack-Sara affair at the core of Betrayal's dry romance finally showed some signs of life in Episode 4, but up until that point, it only consisted of Jack's frightening stalking, Sara's perverse day-mare fantasies, and wretched fingerbanging in the back of a taxi. For whatever reason, several stories following new characters sprung up in Episodes 3 and 4, and the show's "sexiness" was undermined when Jack exhibited more chemistry with his 18-year-old lesbian IT whiz than he has with Sara. The last two episodes weren't as embarrassing as the first two, but they didn't help solidify what this show is about. Is it a steamy romance? It is a murder romance? Is it Chicago big-business mobsterdom? Is it TV's version of The Room? Poor James Cromwell, he really should erase this from his resumé and go back to playing sadistic Nazi scientists. —Tim Surette
Verdict: It's earned a fifth date.
There are moments when Hello Ladies is by far the best new comedy of the season, and there are moments when it's just difficult to watch. That's the series' aim, but it still needs to figure out how to make the awkwardness fun. This up-and-down quality was on perfect display in Episode 4, which featured some of the biggest laughs of the fall, alongside some of its most painful moments. When Hello Ladies is at its best, it touches on what made Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld so special; when it's at its worst, it feels like a knock-off of both. Main character Stuart is still too over-the-top, refusing to tap the brakes for the sake of cringe comedy, but the supporting characters—Kevis, Wade, Rory, and Jessica—are fantastic (Jessica could go on to become the new Elaine Benes). Reinforcing Hello Ladies worth-watching status are its surprisingly artistic emotional moments, which express the true pain of aching loneliness—and which have caught me off guard in every episode. This is a good show that will get better. And the awesome soundtrack doesn't hurt, either. —Tim
Verdict: Move this to the top of your Sunday-night watch list.
This season's crop of new shows has left quite a bit to be desired, but there's one legitimately good, teetering on great drama in the bunch, and that's Showtime's Masters of Sex. The show has a lot of ground to cover in the real-life work and romantic courtship of the chilly genius Dr. William Masters and his smart, progressive assistant (and eventual wife) Virginia Johnson, but it's done a, well, masterful job in that regard thus far. Although there's quite a bit of buzzworthy material to play with—a whole lotta masturbating and nudity, for starters—the show has successfully honed in on the personal drives and frustrations of a slew of fascinating characters. Michael Sheen has been great as Masters, but Lizzie Caplan has been even better. Her Virginia is strong, smart, complex, and willing to throw Masters' (or any man's) B.S. back at him. For a show that's headlined by a man, Masters of Sex has many great and interesting female characters that help it paint a more diverse picture of the late 1950s than anyone might have expected. I know you're bummed out about Homeland, but stick with Showtime anyway, because Masters of Sex is worth it. —Cory Barker
Verdict: Oh what the heck—keep watching (or DVR it for a rainy day).
Confession: I thought this show was going to be a real stinker. I didn't hate the pilot, but nothing about it really stood out, either. And after four episodes, I have to say that I find the show amusing enough to give it the green light. The weakest parts of The Millers—the plots that feature the helplessness of Beau Bridges' Tom, for instance—are eventually balanced out by some genuinely funny moments courtesy of Will Arnett and Margo Martindale. And Episode 2, which featured Eliza Coupe as the ex-wife of Arnett's Nathan, was definitely a high point. The show should bring her out more often. Bottom line: Although it's not laugh-out-loud funny, The MIllers is a harmless comedy that passes the time easily. (But just a suggestion, CBS: Tone down the Smothering Mothering a bit. It doesn't need to be the focus of every episode.) —Kaitlin Thomas
Verdict: It was shaky for a while there, but keep watching.
The Originals faced the same curse-slash-blessing as any other backdoor pilot: It counted on fans to be familiar with the characters but then spent most of its creative energy trying to attract new viewers. That made for a very frustrating start, as anyone with a passing familiarity with The Vampire Diaries was bound to grow extremely bored with the constant exposition of the parent show's labyrinthine plotlines. Viewer goodwill and artful rephrasing made the series premiere an overall success, but then Episodes 2 and 3 seriously overestimated our tolerance for reiterated back story. Suddenly The Originals felt tedious, unadventurous, and borderline creatively bankrupt. Thankfully Episode 4 happened.: It was a rip-roaring hour full of forward momentum, crowd-pleasing moments, and the kind of TVD-inspired breakneck storytelling fans of the franchise have grown accustomed to. If Episode 4 was any indication, The Originals may soon finally become as good as (or better than) we all expected it would be. —Price Peterson
Sean Saves the World is what happens when a network starts develops a show by grabbing a "star" and stops developing it immediately afterward. NBC's love affair with and commitment to Sean Hayes (he produced Smash and created Hollywood Game Night) shows just how out of touch the network is with the world around it, and the decision to plop this uninspired comedy in the 9pm slot on Thursday reveals just how far gone its mind is. Each of the first three episodes was indistinguishable from the one before, with only the fourth episode showing a hint of originality when it faked the death of a bellhop. The series' sole bright spot is Tom Lennon (Sean's boss), who earned all the points in the star ratings above. Why NBC ever thought this show would be worth anything is beyond me. —Tim
Verdict: Burn any hard copies and erase this show from your memory.
There's no other way to put it, Super Fun Night is a complete wreck. And I'm trying to be nice here. This is technically a five-episode test, since ABC scrapped the pilot (probably due to poor advanced reviews) and kicked off the series with Episode 2; unfortunately, it didn't show a single sign of improvement at any point during its first two-and-a-half hours. This sitcom has two ideas of what constitues "funny"—singing, and ripping clothes off of Kimmie—and it dips into those wells all too often. In a season full of generally terrible new comedies, Super Fun Night is the worst of the bunch, bottoming out in its purely awful Halloween episode, which featured three costume changes for Kimmie (sexy vampire, bride of Frankenstein's monster, and the "chick" in a "chick magnet" couple costume), none of which even attempted to take advantage of the show supposedly being a comedy. I'm no big fan of Rebel Wilson, but even I know she's better than this disappointment, which was rushed onto the schedule just because ABC wanted to say it had a show starring Rebel Wilson. How did the network possibly convince itself that Super Fun Night would be a good fit behind Modern Family when it also had Back in the Game, The Goldbergs, and Trophy Wife? No more for me, please. Ever. —Tim