The 4-Episode Test: Judging the New Fall Shows

We're as guilty as the next guy of judging a new TV show based on its pilot, actors, or even opening credits. But deep down, we know that the individual elements of a show shouldn't stand alone. That's why we decided to test out the first four episodes of several freshman shows that struck us as terrible, awesome, or confusing on first look.

We think that a show should be able to find its groove—and that viewers should be able to decide if they like it or not—after four episodes. The month-ish long span allows for a bad episode, but still gives the show room to build its momentum upward. Read on as we rate the first four episodes of 10 new fall shows on a five-point scale. Trust us—there's a method to the numerical madness.

Outsourced

Why Jen Trolio watched in the first place: Outsourced and I got off on the wrong foot when it pushed my beloved Parks and Recreation to midseason. But I'm pretty loyal to NBC's Thursday-night comedies, and somebody from TV.com had to watch it.

Pilot (Rating = 2): A newly relocated Todd Dempsey met his new staff... and wondered aloud whether an employee named Manmeet has trouble chatting online.
Episode 2 (Rating = 2): Todd was told to fire his lowest-performing employee, Manmeet, who was too busy flirting with all the female callers. Manmeet, you sex-crazed scamp! Todd made Manmeet break up with all of them, and he ended up selling them tons of novelties, thus no one gets fired! Also, Asha explained the Indian "head bobble" to Todd, and he used it as a running joke throughout the episode.
Episode 3 (Rating = 2): Todd attempted to "liberate" a female employee from her (obviously brainwashed) choice to participate in an arranged marriage.
Episode 4 (Rating = 2): Todd repeated the joke from Episode 1 and got quite a chuckle out of meeting a guy named Harsheet. (Not to mention the show tried to reverse the ol' "Indian people have weird accents" joke by having Indian actors say things like "Talk to the hand" and "Drop some science on this fool!" with, uh, American-accented "attitude.") I continue to record it, but only to make sure I can catch the last few minutes of The Office if my DVR cuts it off.

Boardwalk Empire

Why Tim Surette watched it in the first place: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." (That's a Goodfellas quote, see?) And I always wanted to watch gangster movies and TV shows.

Pilot (Rating = 5): This had Scorsese all over it and I LOVED it; you know what else it had? A bajillion dollar budget... this was one of TV's finer moments.
Episode 2 (Rating = 3): This did not have Scorsese all over it and in setting everything up for the long haul lost some of the punch of the pilot; also, who are all these characters?
Episode 3 (Rating = 4): Now things are heating up and we've got two clear sides: our beloved gangsters and a new resident badass in Agent Nelson Van Alden.
Episode 4 (Rating = 5): This show went from good to great after getting over some very necessary growing pains; I'm in for the long haul!

No Ordinary Family

Why Louis Peitzman watched it in the first place: Superheroes are fun, but they can often be a little too serious business. I love the idea of blending awesome powers with a more traditional family dramedy.

Pilot (Rating = 3): Flawed but fun. An intriguing ending implies that this series has actual potential.
Episode 2 (Rating = 3): Not much of an improvement from the pilot. It's also a bummer that a character who could prove to be an interesting adversary gets prematurely offed.
Episode 3 (Rating = 3): Again, it's just OK. There's a good show here, but it's buried under a lot of not-so-compelling nonsense.
Episode 4 (Rating = 2): Things take a turn for the truly ridiculous, with JJ using his super intelligence to ... play football? Besides that faulty logic, the story just doesn't seem to be moving forward. I'm losing patience.

$#*! My Dad Says

Why Emily Gordon watched it in the first place: I'm a longtime Shatner fan, and I was curious how on Earth they were going to construct an entire TV show out of a Twitter feed.

Pilot (Rating = 1): $#*! is nearly unwatchable from the get-go. Shatner…er, Ed seems to be in a different show than everyone else, just spouting unlikeable monologues (the Tweets) that don't seem connected to anything else that's happening. His son Henry has a hard time acting against Ed, and a hard time chewing on the forced dialogue.
Episode 2 (Rating = 1): We get to see more of Ed's other son, Vince, and his wife Bonnie. They both appear to be in a play, where they out-ham each other at every line. Their plot revolves around a rash that Bonnie has on her breasts that looks like spaghetti and meatballs. Seriously.
Episode 3 (Rating = 1): For a second I felt bad for Henry for having such a closed-off relationship with his father, like when they get into a fight and Henry yells at Ed for breaking up the family. But then I realized that the show wasn't going to treat the relationship as anything more than a hanger to hang jokes on.
Episode 4 (Rating = 1.5): Ed and Henry go on a double date! For once they break out of the forced "let's talk about our fractured relationship" stuff that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and they just let them do weird stuff together. The double date is still quite unfunny, but at least it's not trying to be touching.

The Event

Why Price Peterson watched it in the first place: The title and premise are too maddeningly vague for me to be instantly hooked, but I decided to check it out due mainly to its terrific cast and expensive ambitions. Plus, now that Lost and Battlestar Galactica are over, I could use compelling, serialized adventure in my life.

Pilot (Rating = 4): The choppy timeline takes some getting used to, but I'm never bored and the wormhole ending is pretty killer.
Episode 2 (Rating = 2): The plane crash and extraterrestrial reveal are a great start, but then we get stuck with the much, much less compelling abduction plotline.
Episode 3 (Rating = 4): And we're back. We get to learn more about Sophia and her "people," plus it ends with a hundred corpses coming back to life. This show really knows how to create some WTF-moments.
Episode 4 (Rating = 2): Uh oh. It's becoming clear that The Event is divided between two plots: aliens and a kidnapped girlfriend. Guess which one is more interesting? Unfortunately, this episode highlighted the other one. And it was ridiculous.

Running Wilde

Why Stefanie Lee watched it in the first place: The combination of actor-producer Will Arnett and producer Mutch Hurwitz is too magnetic for any Arrested Development fan to resist.

Pilot (Rating = 2): Who is this rich, semi-unlikable guy, and why does he look so much like Gob? Why is Felicity there? Why isn't there more Peter Serafinowicz?
Episode 2 (Rating = 5): Ah, that's better. More David Cross means more time to reminisce about Arrested Development and throw in an occasional "Come on!"
Episode 3 (Rating = 4): The show is losing steam—and not just because Fa'ad was shoved in a freezer for the whole episode. Arnett claims the show is not Arrested Development—so why is Steven dressing up in so many $5,000 suits?
Episode 4 (Rating = 3): The flashback episode was a good idea in theory, but mediocre in practice. I can't decide if I should root for Steve and Emmy or just turn the TV off and resume my Arrested Development marathon. I love you, Will Arnett, but things are not looking good.

Hawaii Five-0

Why Matt Jaffe watched it in the first place: I love the original, and I’ve always been surprised that it had never been revived or turned into a movie. Just getting to hear a snippet of the theme song again was enough to give it a shot and see what the “rebooted” McGarrett and Danno were up to.

Pilot (Rating = 3.5): Okay, I hedged a bit on that rating. The opening sequence was so big and dramatic (helicopter missile attacks, McGarrett’s dad getting whacked) that I worried that the entire series was going to be like the original on steroids. It was all a bit goofy but we did get a “Book em Danno.”
Episode 2 (Rating = 3): I struggled a bit with this one. Nothing horrible but an hour later I couldn’t really remember what happened. But they’re establishing the dynamic between McGarrett and Danny and building the 5-0 team. Still way too early to write it off.
Episode 3 (Rating = 5): I’m not even sure this episode was that much better than what came before. But I realized that I don’t need this series to be groundbreaking television to really enjoy it. The show’s Hawaii setting just plain looks great and Scott Caan has his Danno rap down. If I want metaphors, and allegories, I’ll read a book.
Episode 4 (Rating = 4): Although this episode brought me back down to Earth a bit, I’m sticking with the show. Caan’s knee injury hobbled things. The McGarrett sister subplot barely got going and the tourist family in peril seemed pretty standard. But I get the sense the show’s creators know what they have and the series will continue to grow and get better.

Nikita

Why Louis Peitzman watched it in the first place: I like sexy spy series, especially if they're heavy on the action and light on the heavy. Nikita's an intriguing character with incredible legs—there's satisfaction in watching her punch and kick things.

Pilot (Rating = 4): Sharp, flashy start to the series with a fun twist at the end.
Episode 2 (Rating = 2): The action scenes are still fun, but Alex's backstory is icky and, frankly, not that interesting.
Episode 3 (Rating = 3): It's just not up there with the solid pilot. Points for the Tarantino reference, though.
Episode 4 (Rating = 4): And Nikita begins its climb back to—well, not greatness, but at least enjoyability. More twists and moral ambiguity, please.

Terriers

Why Ilana Diamond watched it in the first place: I wanted to see if it would keep up with the rest of FX's roster of stand-out shows.

Pilot (Rating = 4): The chemistry between Hank (Donal Logue) and Britt (Michael Raymond James) is such a pleasure to watch, and it's only enhanced by director Craig Brewer's choice to keep it breezy and very real. Terriers is like Sideways meets Bored to Death meets Starsky and Hutch.
Episode 2 (Rating = 3): The whodunnit premise in this episode was a continuation of the case presented in the pilot. I was less interested in the crime they were solving than the totally believable relationships between Hank and his ex-wife Gretchen (Kimberly Quinn), and Britt and his girlfriend Katie (Laura Allen).
Episode 3 (Rating = 4): A premise so dark, twisted, and sexy, doesn't come along that much on TV. In this kinky episode reminiscent of Secretary, the client asks Hank and Britt to solve a convoluted and very noir crime. The episode wins major points for casting the always entrancing Olivia Williams.
Episode 4 (Rating = 5): The introduction of Hank's sister, the mentally disturbed and inappropriately blunt Steph (played by Donal's real-life sister Karina Logue), only makes me love this show more.

Undercovers

Why Tim Surette watched it in the first place: A new show from J.J. Abrams? Umm, yes please.

Pilot (Rating = 2): I'm not sure if this show knows whether it wants to be a light-hearted drama or an intricate spy comedy; instead it's just a semi-dramatic romantic spy-medy.
Episode 2 (Rating = 2): Hmmmm... is J.J. Abrams actually involved in this show at all? I came for some cool spy stuff and the writers are just brushing over it all.
Episode 3 (Rating = 1): This show is trying way too hard to be cutesy and fun when it's actually just a chore to pay attention.
Episode 4 (Rating = 1): Snooze alert. This is officially off my Season Pass list.

Comments (84)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
I think It could be a good idea extending this test through november sweeps. I'd like to know how you think these shows are doing season-wise.
Reply
Flag
$#*! My Dad Says. I don't know if I'd watch this if it wasn't sandwiched between Big Bang Theory & CSI. Shatner is goofyingly funny. The only problem with the show is the son (who is suppused to be the second lead in this show has now personality. The main reason this show is funny is because of Nicole Sullivan & Will Sasso, both finally get to show the comedic talents they both had back on :Mad TV". Between Shatner & these 2 the show is pretty good. But when any scene with Jonathan Sadowski comes on, the show slows down. IMO it was a weak choice for the role of Shatner's son. They could have come up with someone with more comedy experience.
Reply
Flag
Nikita and Chuck and hellcats are my favourite this season
Reply
Flag
Like Amy Poehler but not Parks, I think Outsourced is a good show. Enh as for the rest, I'll wait for Burn Notice and Psych to return. sorry to double post but I didn't see the edit button.
Reply
Flag
Like Amy Poehler but I don't Parks, I think Outsourced is a good show. Enh as for the rest, I'll wait for Burn Notice and Psych to return.
Reply
Flag
Hellcats, Nikita, and the Defenders are the only new shows that I'm watching this season, and in my opinion all three are very good, especially Nikita, Alex story was just fine, it doesnt need to be drawn out, it was basic and to the point, she is in division for a reason, and so far Alex is doing that, but I will admit the writer need to push Alex a bit more, now for Hellcats the writers are making a mistake with the apparent rift between savannah and marit!!
Reply
Flag
Terriers started a bit slow but it is really starting to get good. Last week's episode (S01E08) was easily the best thing I saw on TV all week. I'm a big fan of Nikita as well but the premise will be tough for the writers to continue forever (it reminds me a bit of Alias season 1). I really want to like Undercovers but nothing in the show has captured my imagination. No Ordinary Family isn't groundbreaking TV but its stars are likeable and so far the stories are fun. The Event has mainly been annoying and I'm having trouble wanting to care about any of the characters -- it's now on my "only if I have extra time" list of TVs shows. Outsourced has potential but I am still struggling with how much they've strayed from the movie. Running Wilde is improving as it appears Felicity is getting more comfortable in her comedic interactions with Gob (I don't envy her -- he's s scene stealer). Hawaii 50 seems like every other cop show out there but I'm content to watch just for Grace Park and the smile it brings to my face every time the theme song plays.
Reply
Flag
haha! i agree on all of 'em. except terriers, after watching a few episodes, i got bored with it.
Reply
Flag
I might catch up on Nikita since I sort of forgot about the show. The Event is one of those shows were you have to be patient with it. I like it but it has became sort of frustrating in a sort period of time and I hope that the show doesn't drag the plot to a point of no return. No Ordinary Family is a fun show which I really like.
Reply
Flag
Last weeks Nikita sucked. And the neutering of the show begins....
Reply
Flag
Blue Bloods...good drama...excellent cast...look forward to it every week. love the dinner table scenes.
Reply
Flag
nikita(GREAT ACTION DRAMATIC SHOW)no ordinary family(NICE ACTION DRAMATIC SCI-FI show the show is starting to move alot faster PS:NOT A FAMILY SHOW)and Undercovers(GREAT ACTION AND LIGHT SHOW)
Reply
Flag
Out of the shows mentioned "The Event" and "Terriers" are the ones I watch regularly and love. "Terriers" is such a good show, the acting, chemistry, comedy are all very entertaining. There is not a weak link on the show. As for "The Event", I wish some people would have given it more of a chance. Everywhere I go people on message boards say things like "I gave it one watch and gave up". This is not the kind of show that you can make up your mind about in one episode. I thought the pilot was just okay until the last few minutes and then I thought wow I really need to give it another episode before I decide. Well I am so glad that I did because it just gets so much more interesting and there are obviously many layers here to get through. I remember early on reading somewhere that there was no character development but that is completely untrue, especially now that they are going back into the aliens' pasts and showing what it has been like for them being here for 66 years and the affects it has had on their lives. Good stuff!
Reply
Flag
Wow, the bit on The Event is surprising to me. I'm the exact opposite with how much I've been enjoying each episode. The alien reveal and everything involving the president is boring the hell out of me (except for the last episode with the giant vortex thinger) and I only continued to watch because of the kidnapped plotline. The entire show in general is wrapped in a tortilla of meh, and I'll only continue to watch if we continue to see more of that cool alien technology. Not sure if the budget would allow them to do that every episode, so it could end up being a snore fest from here on out.
Reply
Flag
I have a five-episode rule because it was the fifth episode of Veronica Mars that turned me from liking to loving it. Based on that and ignoring the US comedies (as I always do):
Boardwalk Empire - quality but I'm not a fan of gangster tales
No Ordinary Family - meh. The Event - watchable but implausible nonsense
Hawaii Five-0 - derivative and lead would have been better cast as a surf board
Nikita - lacks any sense of humour
Terriers - quality and engaging. Best of the bunch
Undercovers - leads lack charisma, derivative.

For the person wanting ratings, try tv by the numbers. That will tell you what's popular, not what's good. Unless you think that Cornation Street and The X Factor are the finest of what British telly has to offer.
Reply
Flag
I Love The New Show Nikita
Reply
Flag
new shows that rock are undercovers(ppl need to stop picking on this show ratings prove ppl love it),no ordinary family(what a great action,drama,fantasy show and yes its not for kids)and nikita(maggie q is so hot and the action is great)
Reply
Flag
Love Terriers, Boardwalk Empire,S***My Dad Says, haven't watched the others. Still like Grey's Anatomy but am getting sick of Dr Yang being such a whining weenie. She's always been such a warrior and I thing Shonda Rimes should write "ass kicking" Christina back in! Give her back her balls and leave the whining to Merideth.
Reply
Flag
Where's Blue Bloods??
Reply
Flag
Ghost whisperer. We want Ghost Whisperer back you can't just end a show like you did. I love watching that show.
Reply
Flag
I love, LOVE J.J. Abrams, but "Undercovers" did not interest me at all. If I want to watch a spy show of his, I'll watch ALIAS thank you very much! I don't watch any other shows listed above except for "the Event" which I like a lot. It takes some patience to get into the story line, but I think the payoff will be worth it.
Reply
Flag
Is it just me or is the new fall season extremely disappointing?
Reply
Flag
Something wrong with me? i really like Undercovers :P
Reply
Flag
Boardwalk Empire is the best show of the year. Nikita and No Ordinary Family are passable.. but The Event such a waste of time..
Reply
Flag
medium,smallville,and supernatural are on their last season...shows im enjoying right now are burn notice,fringe, nikita(if they change the tone im gone),no ordinary family(i hope ppl dont think this show is for kids),and undercovers(being a black guy and loving action and sci-fi this show is great)
Reply
Flag
I agree. I came to watch this show because it is a J. J. Abrams show and being a black woman I wanted to see a serious show with beautiful black leads. It has disappointed. I would like to give it a chance but Abrams and company better oo7 it up.
Reply
Flag
#1 - Hawaii Five-0. The cast is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the stories are interesting. I don't remember any details of the original series, but I love this new series. I hope that they continue to find reasons for Grace Park to wear a bikini!
#2 - The Event. The mystery is really good. The story is exciting, the sci-fi aspect is interesting, and there is a great ensemble cast of characters.
#3 - Boardwalk Empire. I'm not a big fan of organized crime stories, but this story is based on historical events. I'm pleasantly surprised that I enjoy this series so much.
Reply
Flag
I am loving hawaii 5-0. I never watched the original, but I think this one is great.
Reply
Flag
hawaii 50 did such a good job casting and the banter between dano and mcgarrett is so much fun to watch that i want them in my living room every week. much like ncis and ncis la. so if the ep is'nt great it still works. could not agree more with undercovers. the event irritates and i keep comming back a sucker for the suspence i guess.
Reply
Flag
Nikita is great, Outsourced is hilarious, Five-0 is average to good, Event, just couldn't get into it. Ordinary People, kids like it, haven't watched My Dad Says, don't care for Shatner. Recorded Terriers but have not watched it yet, haven't touched Running Wilde, and Undercovers, I too dropped it from my season pass after the 2nd episode.
Reply
Flag
I'm SO happy to see that other posters are watching -- and loving -- "Terriers"! It's by far my favorite new show. I can't wait for Wednesdays. Great actors, great characters, great scripts. FX is really knocking them out of the park!
Reply
Flag
Nikita and Lost Girl are my two favorite new shows. Family lost me after two episodes, it's just Disney's The Incredibles recast. Hawaii's OK but most likely will lose inerest. The Event is frustrating but holding me. Lost Girl kicks butt!
Reply
Flag
I watched all of the new shows, and I agree with most of this, except that I think Outsourced did get a little better.
Reply
Flag
I can't believe you don't like Outsourced. Maybe because I'm from a mixed culture, I find the Indian angle very contemporary, very interesting. The show is very funny, and I love Mahmeet. He's so funny. And so is Gupta. He says the most funny and annoying things at the same time. Nikita is wonderful. Stop comparing it with La Femme Nikita and so what if Roy Dupuis isn't in it? We've got Shane West and he's great. No Ordinary Family's rationale with JJ is flawed. He wants to be thought of as special so he's hiding his gift? He doesn't mind being thought of as a cheat and a liar? And the father has no balls where both his wife and kids are concerned. He lets the wife boss him around, and he can't stand up and tell JJ when he's wrong. They're beginning to annoy me, but I'll give it another shot. I like Undercovers, why are you ppl so harsh with that show? I saw the first episode of Running Wilde and I ran wildly away from it. Don't watch 5-0; Raising Hope seemed nutty to me.
Reply
Flag
"Terriers" is the best new show of the season hand down. The little show shot in San Diego doesn't have the billion dollar budget or pedigree that "Boardwalk Empire" has but these are characters you like and remember. Laura Allen won't get near any list for best supporting actress next year because she is on a network that actually makes quality original dramas but she is really doing a fantastic job as Britt's girlfriend. It should be very interesting to see what effect her impetuous lapse of judgment is going to have. Michael Raymond James and Donal Logue have never been better in anything.
Reply
Flag
Of those listed The Event is my favorite, but am watching 5-0 also. My favorite 2 shows are both in their second season, The Vampire Diaries and White Collar. I love shows that keep me surprised and TVD does that each week. Fast paced, well written and great cast and of course the eyes of Ian Somerhalder, what is not to love about that.lol White Collar reminds me of The Sting with very good cons that don't always work out and have to be changed in mid stream. Great chemistry between the cast on both of these shows.
Reply
Flag
The only one of these that I have watched was THE EVENT. One episode was enough to tell me not to invest any more time.
Reply
Flag
The Event, and Chase, and Undercovers, are all now what I live to watch for each week!!! Now that these shows are going to be on a two week hiatus, there's really not a whole hellava lot to look forward too!!! Oh well, back to badassed cable TV!!!
Reply
Flag
Nikita is actually a pretty good show but now that The CW wants more romance with a lighter tone I have the feeling that the quality of the show will go down the toilet. I'll stick with No Ordinary Family for now since it got a full season pickup but they have to start moving the main story pilot along. It has potential but I find myself not looking forward to the next episode, the writers have to step it up. The Event is the only good thing on TV right now when it comes to sci-fi, sure some episodes weren't that great but at least it has me coming back for more.
Reply
Flag
nikita is great!
Reply
Flag
J J Abrams finally struck out BIG TIME with Undercovers. It had the chance to be a great show but episode 2, whew!!!!! And 3 got so bad, I turned it off in the middle.

Hawaii Five-O is OK but I don't like the underhanded way they treated their witnesses & suspects.
Reply
Flag
i would say nikita is quietly making an impression and hopefully it can keep up with the other new shows.... for now this show was able to catch my attention.
Reply
Flag
I'm also curious why 'Raising Hope' wasn't rated. I think it's the funniest new comedy on and it also has great heart.
Reply
Flag
the event is the best [:
Reply
Flag
The Event Is The Best Show yet In This Fall
Reply
Flag
My rating:

Outsourced: - - - - ( Did not watch )

BE: 3, 2, -, - ( didn't watch ep 3 and 4, i'll wait til the dvds )

NOF: 2, - - - ( boring pilot, didn't watch ep 2, 3 and 4 )

SMDS: - - - - ( did not watch )

The event: 3.5, 3, -, - ( ratings went downhill and I didn't want to watch a canceled show )

Running Wilde: 2, 2.5, - , - ( DNW )



Didn'0t watch H50

Nikita: 2.5, 2, 4, 4.

Terriers: 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, ,5, ,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5 ( awesome show )

Undecovers: 1, -, -, - ( awful pilot )
Reply
Flag
Terriers is getting even better. Last weeks ep was really good. Love Donal Logue. I'll stick with Outsourced till NBC gives us back Parks and Rec. I still can't believe people watch CBS.
Reply
Flag
I too am really enjoying Outsourced - just saw the movie version of it on Netflix so that helped me get hooked on the show as well... Personally I hope it stays for quite some time :)
Reply
Flag
I am really enjoying Outsourced and I am sticking with The Event for the rest of the season... I just hope that it picks up and it gets back to as good as it was when it started.
Reply
Flag
for WriterPatrick - the public's opinion is just as useless as the views of one person. Since the reasons for the shows being good/bad are boiled down into snippets of "arguments" , this article is mostly, if not completely pointless. If you want to get people to start watching a great show (like Terriers, since it's ratings are not super-high...i.e., the general public has no idea what they're missing) why not write an article about the things that have happened. That way, people can feel caught up when they tune in before the first season is over.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook