The Staff Takes on the New Fall Shows

The fall TV season is officially here! What's worth watching, and what's not worth your time? The team has screened the inaugural episodes of nearly every new fall series in an attempt to help you decide—below, you'll find multiple (and sometimes contradictory) opinions of each network newbie. Pilots will be pilots, of course, and lots of shows get better once they've had a chance to settle in. But that's why we'll be back in a few weeks with the Four-Episode Test, where we'll check back in with these shows as they find their footing. For now, first impressions are all that matter. Here's our take on what's looking good, bad, average, and just plain ugly this fall.


2 Broke Girls
Premieres Monday, September 19 at 9:30pm on CBS
Comedian Whitney Cummings writes and produces this series about a pair of waitresses from different walks of life—one is scraping by, the other is a former heiress who's newly out on her own—who team up to realize their dream of starting their own business.

Didn't like it:
The season's OTHER Whitney Cummings project (see Whitney, below), this show squanders a lot of potential with terrible storytelling and unconvincing reveals. The genuinely funny jokes are super outnumbered by desperately dirty, straight-up hacky ones. And while the show could turn itself around with a better writing staff and a looser storytelling sensibility, I don't even feel like giving it a second chance at this point. Nice to see Garrett Morris working again, though! —Price Peterson

Hated it:
A lot of critics like this one, but I don't see the appeal. It's still a CBS sitcom, which means the same grating laugh track, the same setup-setup-joke formula, and the same "Why is this so popular?" question. —Tim Surette

Free Agents
Premieres Wednesday, September 14 at 10:30pm on NBC
This remake of the British comedy series of the same name centers on a pair of public relations executives who are both dealing with their newfound singledom (he is recently divorced, she's recovering from the death of her fiancé) while navigating their mutual attraction to each other and trying to maintain a certain level of professionalism at the office.

Liked it:
I watched this pilot twice—once with a few friends and again on my own. The group was generally nonplussed, but after a second viewing I'm wondering if they were trying to be cool by hating on NBC? Anyway, I think Free Agents has potential. And Hank Azaria is great. —Jen Trolio

Didn't like it:
Free Agents should be called Your Parents Doing It: The Series. I'm not saying forty-somethings shouldn't have tons of casual sex and nonstop dirty locker room banter; I just don't want to watch a show about it, sorry. Plus these people are seriously in need of a sexual harassment seminar! The image of eight millionaires sitting in a conference room discussing sexual positions in front of their staff just seemed really unsettling. Do not want. —Price

How to Be a Gentleman
Premieres Thursday, September 29 at 8:30pm on CBS
This comedy follows a prudish magazine columnist (David Hornsby) who learns to be more of a man from a rough-around-the-edges buddy (Kevin Dillon) he hasn't seen since high school.

Hated it:
Prude meets Dude! (Worst tagline ever?) What a spectacular showcase for two intensely untalented comedic actors. Even the laugh track seemed bored! The most depressing part of this wildly unfunny sitcom is the presence of three of comedy's best people: Dave Foley, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Rhys Darby (Murray from Flight of the Conchords!). Were you three really so desperate for paychecks? I'm not mad, just disappointed. —Price

Hated it:
If you can make it through watching this drivel without putting your fist through your television screen, then you, sir, are already a gentleman. —Tim

Last Man Standing
Premieres Tuesday, October 11 at 8pm on ABC
Tim Allen returns to television in this family sitcom told from a man's point of view. Allen plays an outdoor catalog editor who must cope with the increasing decline of masculinity in today's world, and his wife and three daughters aren't helping things.

Hated It:
Tim Allen isn't unlikable per se, it's just that his ideas and jokes are. This is basically Home Improvement except with daughters instead of sons and he hosts a video blog instead of a TV show. Allen's character spouts some truly obnoxious Archie Bunker opinions, but the series seems to believe that its audience will agree with him about the ickiness of gays and liberals and other sissymen. Maybe they will? Who knows. Fun Fact: Nancy Travis co-stars in both this pilot and Hart of Dixie's. (Is your agent mad at you, Nancy Travis?) —Price

Hated it:
Honestly, Last Man Standing wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But I expected it to be really, really, really, really, bad. It'll find an audience in the flyover states, but not in my living room. Just call this According to Tim. —Tim

Man Up
Premieres Tuesday, October 18 at 8:30pm on ABC
Three male friends in various relationship states (one is divorced, one pines for his old flame, and one is married) struggle to be manly men in a woman's world. Not to be confused with Last Man Standing.

It's okay:
Similar in feel to Modern Family but thankfully without the mockumentary element. It's too bad about the central premise (manhood and the strive to be manly), because there are some very funny people involved. If this show were to drop the tired manhood analysis and focus on just being about funny characters, it could be pretty watchable. —Price

Hated it:
The odd thing about this other show about being manly is that it was clearly made by people who have no idea what it means to be manly. It's like quadruple reverse sexism and steals everything from the Modern Family playbook, but with a lesser cast. —Tim

New Girl
Premieres Tuesday, September 20 at 9pm on Fox
Hipster darling Zooey Deschanel is a quirky girl who's looking for love after catching her boyfriend cheating on her. She moves into an apartment with three guys, who all have their own relationship problems. Quirkiness ensues.

Liked it:
Zooey Deschanel's character may be polarizing for some, but I found her to be one of the funniest, most interesting female characters I've ever seen on television. The jokes are fresh, dirty, and heartfelt all at once (in contrast to the whiplash-inducing tonal changes of Whitney). Overall, New Girl is a pretty great pilot. It makes me wish I could flash forward in time and watch the entire Season 1 DVD set RIGHT NOW. —Price

Hated it:
Since New Girl is based on the scientific fact of Zooey Deschanel's adorableness, every moment she is off-camera is painful, and when she's on screen she's way too offbeat, thus leaving the "whimsical lady" stereotype behind and crossing into "Touch of Asperger's" territory. Also she does way too much singing. I'm not saying the show won't have its fans (who have presumably never met an actual human male) but the novelty of opposite-sex roommates is kind of anachronistic, and Zooey Deschanel's cuteness shouldn't have to take the place of a writing staff. —Lily Sparks

Premieres Wednesday, September 28 at 8:30pm on ABC
When a single dad (Jeremy Sisto) finds condoms in his teenage daughter's room, he packs their bags and moves them out of New York City and into the suburbs. But cultures clash when they encounter Stepford wives, manicured lawns, and gossipy neighbors.

It's okay:
There's a great cast here, including newcomer Jane Levy. There's also predictable humor. But I'm going to focus on the cast and series potential and go ahead and say watch at your own risk. —Tim

Liked it:
You've seen sardonic takes on life in the suburbs a million times before, but Suburgatory actually has a lot going for it. The script nails the details: There's a shopping mall scene that's about the best depiction of the current state of conspicuous consumption I've seen in a long time. And the show has a secret weapon in Cheryl Hines, who shatters her image as the hapless Mrs. Larry David to play Dallas Royce, a deeply unlikeable and shallow suburban mom you somehow end up liking anyway. Jane Levy, Carly Chalkin, and Allie Grant all do great work, too. My only real complaint is the choice of Jeremy Sisto, miscast as the dad. Comedy really isn't his thing. —Seth Abramovitch

Up All Night
Premieres Wednesday, September 14 at 10pm on NBC
Baby on board! Reagan (Christina Applegate) must juggle being a mom while maintaining her job as a a producer at a talk show, while her husband Chris (Will Arnett) faces the daunting task of feeding himself and keeping house as a stay-at-home dad. Maya Rudolph also stars, as Reagan's Oprah-inspired boss.

Liked it:
Up All Night pulls off the rare trick of portraying life as it is and also how we wish it were. The smart, witty repartee and top comic talents are balanced by a naturalistic, recognizable world that any professional can relate to. In a truly superior cast, Maya Rudolph stands out as Ava, a character with the comedic potential to outdistance Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott. (Perhaps this is why her character's job description was recently expanded from PR rep to talk show host.) —Lily

Loved it:
After Whitney and How to Be a Gentleman made comedy writing seem SO HARD, the breezy, effortlessly hilarious Up All Night came along and made comedy look so easy. Written by an SNL scribe and produced by Lorne Michaels, its individual scenes have the energy of sketch comedy but are also as organic and humanistic as anything on TV. Both characters in the central married couple are equally weird, don't constantly bicker like everyone else on TV, and seem genuinely in love. And Maya Rudolph. How GOOD is Maya Rudolph in this? So good. This is an excellent show, for real. I want to watch it all day. —Price

It's okay:
Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are always welcome on my television. The pilot didn't blow me away, because I think we've gotten all we can out of "new parents" sitcoms. But there's a lot of potential here if the show moves beyond its "OMG we have a new little person in the house!" premise. —Tim

Premieres Thursday, September 22 at 9:30pm on NBC
This romantic comedy stars spitfire comic Whitney Cummings as a woman in a five-year relationship that's yet to have a determined level of commitment, as neither party wants to get married. Through the advice (both good and bad) of friends, she tries to keep the flames fanned.

Hated it:
Whitney is probably going to be a huge success, much like its namesake, and also like its namesake, the pilot got a a few honest chuckles out of me. But for the most part, the laugh track made the silence in the room deafening. This is a great show to have going while you prepare your dinner and check your emails, but if you're a TV snob it's low fruit. —Lily

Mostly Hated it:
I'd like to believe that three-camera sitcoms aren't dead, but this one suggests they just might be. Whitney Cummings' protagonist is an okay character, her drunk ladyfriend made me laugh, and there's a decent amount of insight into modern romance, but the storytelling is so ham-fisted and the jokes are frequently terrible. However, there's definitely potential for Whitney to turn into something much better than this (Seinfeld was terrible at first, too). Who knows? —Price

Hated it:
This show is THE WORST —Tim


A Gifted Man
Premieres Friday, September 23 at 8pm on CBS
Patrick Wilson stars as a hotshot surgeon who learns to live life differently under the tutelage of his philanthropist ex-wife's ghost.

It's okay:
I started off watching this with my arms crossed (figuratively and literally), but by the end I was feelin' it. This show is very sentimental! Also it's beautifully filmed and also Patrick Wilson. But honestly, the wife-ghost's overly emotive face got annoying really quick, and the procedural aspect of this show will get so boring so fast. So, I guess the wife-ghost is gonna be constantly hanging out whispering in his ear, "look closer at the MRI and don't forget to be a better person." Ugh. But anyway: Patrick Wilson, am I right ladies? —Price

Liked it:
Yuppie alert! Despite the over-emphasis on class disparity, this series appears to have a lot of promise. The acting is great, the story is fresh, and the characters are well-defined. It's ER plus Ghost. —C. Killian

Charlie's Angels
Premieres Thursday, September 22 at 8pm on ABC
This modern-day retelling of the classic series that posterized the bedrooms of young men in the '70s features new superspy Angels (Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor) in Miami as they kick, punch, and seduce any bad guy who stands in their path.

Hated it:
I might have liked this if it had (A) legitimately called itself out as a campy remake, or (B) been any good. But it didn't, and it wasn't. The new Charlie's Angels takes itself too seriously, to the point where even its attempts at humor feel awkward and flat. The puns are cringeworthy, but the actors don't even seem to notice. —Killian

Didn't like it:
A trendy remake of a well-known property and a recognizable brand! Hot chicks who can kick with their leggy legs and punch people while making cracks about breaking nails! Cars racing, helicopters chasing, bullets flying, and things blowing up! This is a network executive's dream! And that's exactly why it sucks. Because network execs are morons. —Tim

Premieres Friday, October 21 at 9pm on NBC
This procedural with a fairy-tale twist follows a Portland cop (David Giuntoli) who learns he's one of a long line of hunters who must protect humans from the very real supernatural creatures of lore.

Liked it:
Rarely does a procedural create such an appealing balance of cozy and terrifying. The show goes to dark places while referencing familiar fairy tales, giving the story a deeper psychological impact. It looks great, too, with thoughtful cinematography and direction and decent special effects; the strong visual appeal grounds the fanciful premise and cuts the fairy tale tone with gritty realism. —Lily

Liked it:
I was really skeptical of the name, premise, characters, and everything about this pilot but I'll be darned if it wasn't very entertaining. And scary! I was scared of things in this pilot! It's way more horror-based than I expected. There are demon faces! The main guy is likable, the mythology seems pretty interesting, and it's one of the best-filmed pilots of the season. Grimm might die an inauspicious Friday-night timeslot death, but I will definitely tune in again. —Price

Hart of Dixie
Premieres Monday, September 26 at 9pm on The CW
Rachel Bilson stars as a surgeon who moves out of New York City to establish a medical practice in rural Alabama.

Hated it:
Not only the worst new show on The CW but also of the whole fall season. Rachel Bilson as a heart surgeon? Plus a thousand tired small-town cliches, horrible Southern accents, and super dumb plot developments. Just truly ridiculous on every level except the fun one. I never thought I'd say this, but Alabama deserves better. Decent soundtrack, though. —Price

Hated it:
Ditto what Price said—I just can't bring myself to buy Rachel Bilson as a surgeon. And while there may be plenty of real-life surgeons out there who speak with the diction of an over-pampered Valley Girl, for the sake of my reality, I'd like to think there aren't. That's what really kills this one for me. —Killian

Once Upon a Time
Premieres Sunday, October 23 at 8pm on ABC
Lost writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis team up for this fantastical drama about characters from fairy tales who lose their memories and end up trapped in a present-day small town. The story is told through the eyes of a woman (Jennifer Morrison) who comes into contact with the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago.

Liked it:
This ambitious, insane pilot cuts between fairy tale characters dressed up like Shelley Duvall's Fairy Tale Theatre, swooning and swashbuckling in a castle and tough, wounded loner Emma Swan dealing with a ton of childhood angst on her birthday. The son she gave up for adoption came back! He's miserable! But she was even more miserable as a kid! Cut to a fairy counsel in the aforementioned castle. The contrast is at times so ridiculous that you will laugh out loud, but the compelling performances, the sheer uniqueness of the concept, and the dedication of the entire cast to a collective gravitas makes this a very entertaining show. Hopefully the solid acting buys the series enough time for its writers (yes, the geniuses behind Lost) to develop the modern lives of the stranded fairy tale characters. Bottom line: If you can keep a straight face during lines like, "What do you think, Gepetto?" then it's worth watching. —Lily

Hated it:
Look, this isn't for me. But if you like wearing Disney Princess costumes designed for 12-year-old girls, by all means... —Tim

Pan Am
Premieres Sunday, September 25 at 10pm on ABC
This period drama is set during the heyday of the Jet Aage and focuses on employees of the legendary Pan Am airlines. Gorgeous flight attendants and chiseled pilots jet-set around the globe and may just get involved in a little espionage, too.

Hated it:
Pan Am is the TV show equivalent of one of those trashy, mass-market paperbacks you'd buy from a rack at an airport newsstand. Actually, scratch that—I'm making it sound a lot better than it is. Pan Am is more like the equivalent of airplane food: bland, lukewarm, and synthetic. The sets and costumes are pretty to look at, but the writers just don't have a finger on the pulse of the early '60s the way Mad Men does. And the characters—even the international spy stewardess (groan) and home-wrecking French coquette—are strangely muted and ultimately forgettable. Did I mention you spend much of the show inside an airplane cabin? Unless something seriously disastrous happens up there, I'll be missing these flights. —Seth

It's okay:
If you’ve never seen Mad Men, prepare to have your mind blown by Pan Am! Much like the AMC hit, Pan Am is painstakingly period-correct, except nobody smokes cigarettes on camera or acts like they weren't born after 1980. With a dash of espionage and a sprinkling of second wave feminism, Pan Am has great intentions, but the series will have to fly a little higher to escape unflattering comparisons to its Don Draper-starring predecessor. —Lily

Person of Interest
Premieres Thursday, September 22 at 9pm on CBS
A billionaire (Michael Emerson) with the technology to predict crimes before they happen employs a presumed-dead ex-CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to clean up the streets in this twisty procedural with themes of vigilante justice and the government's all-seeing eye.

Liked it:
I enjoyed everything about J.J. Abrams' new pilot—the characters, the actors, the premise, the style—EXCEPT for the fact that it intends to be a procedural. Please don't be a procedural! Oh well, I recall that Fringe was originally presented as a strict procedural and we all saw how much it improved when it became more of a serialized show. Learn from your mistakes, J.J. Abrams! I want to know more about Michael Emerson's backstory, not some random-murder-prevention-of-the-week. —Price

Liked it:
Worth it for Jim Caviezel's performance as one of the smelliest people you've ever seen. Also worth it for the kickass guns and most badass character on network television. It won't be amazing, but it's a step in the right direction for CBS. I second Price's to-be-or-not-to-be-a-procedural question. —Tim

The Playboy Club
Premieres Monday, September 19 at 10pm on NBC
The sleazy scum, sexy starlets, and suave studs who populated the legendary Playboy Club in early 1960s Chicago are at the heart of this drama. In addition to smooth jazz and stiff cocktails, expect a healthy dose of mob-related predicaments, capiche?

Didn't like it:
It's like Mad Men, but without the meticulous attention to detail, culturally relatable storyline, or Don Draper (Eddie Cibrian's Nick Dalton doesn't quite cut it, though it's obvious he's trying.) I like show's female-driven cast and potentially interesting premise, but the pilot just didn't live up. —Killian

Hated it:
So obviously trying to be other shows that it hurts. And here's a tip for network execs trying to make their shows "sexy": do a Google search on "cable TV" and "the internet." —Tim

Premieres Wednesday, September 21 at 10pm on ABC
A young woman (Emily VanCamp) returns to her childhood home in the Hamptons with a new name and the intention of infiltrating and destroying the lives of the community that led to the unjust demise of her father. Think The Count of Monte Cristo but with women.

It's okay:
Madeleine Stowe looks good. In fact, she looks damn good. That's the best thing I can say about Revenge, which straddles a fence between the first season of The O.C. and guilty pleasure Harper's Island. The simplicity of a lone woman descending on the Hamptons to cause trouble with nothing but a wooden box of trinkets, a head of bleached hair, and several million dollars seems almost charmingly dated, but the fact she's avenging a father who was framed for an embezzling scheme connected to 9/11 (Yowza!! Who let that slip through!?) pushes the show into the realm of enjoyable camp. Lifetime movie-level acting and an endearingly small budget make this a fun show to cackle over with a glass of wine in hand. But make no mistake, it's not the kind of series any human being will ever buy on DVD. —Lily

Liked it:
Weirdly, I think I'd like anything starring Emily VanCamp is in. In fact, it's impossible to hate her, which is why she's perfect for the role of the sweet-faced, revenge-seeking Emily—who's a little like Dexter, but instead of offing serial killers, she's mortifying the pretentiously and undeservedly wealthy. What's not to like?! —Killian

Premieres Tuesday, September 13 at 9pm on The CW
Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to television to play identical twins! When Bridget runs into problems after witnessing a mob murder, she seeks out her well-off sister Siobhan for help. But after Siobhan disappears, Bridget takes over Siobhan's life, not realizing that her sister was keeping several secrets of her own.

It's okay:
This pilot is just straight-up ludicrous, but at least it isn't boring. Unfortunately, the evil twin/impostor plotline is the only plotline anyone uses these days? In that regard, Ringer will have to do a lot to separate itself from the pack, but nothing in the pilot suggests that it's terribly original and I'm just not sure the story has anywhere to go. So, people find out that the trashy one isn't actually her rich sister? Then what? Also, why cast Sarah Michelle Gellar and then not have her be witty? Imagine if Buffy didn't say much and just walked around looking stiff and scared. Now you don't have to imagine, there's a whole show about it. —Price

It's okay:
Just because Sarah Michelle Gellar played Buffy doesn't mean she can drama-act. But this garbage-y thriller is full of ridiculous twists and turns and brain-dead fun, even if it doesn't know it. —Tim

The Secret Circle
Premieres Thursday, September 15 at 9pm on The CW
A companion to the popular Vampire Diaries, this young adult drama follows a teenager (Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson) who returns to her small-town home and discovers she's from a family of witches.

Loved it:
Probably my favorite show of the fall season. The story is ridiculous, thrilling, and beautifully filmed. The intriguing characters (which include teens and—get this—their parents) are perfectly cast. It's unclear whether this show will reach the addictive heights of The Vampire Diaries, but in my opinion the premiere episode is already better than TVD's original lackluster pilot. Yeah, I said it. —Price

Liked it:
The teen-interest genre just continues to improve. The Secret Circle is small-town high-school drama on steroids—Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Charmed meets The Craft. It's dark but lighthearted, sexy but endearing, and it has nothing to do with vampires or werewolves (about time we brought back witchcraft!). An immediate guilty pleasure. —Killian

Terra Nova
Premieres Monday, September 26 at 8pm on Fox
Set in the year 2149, where Earth is becoming more and more uninhabitable due to environmental damage. Authorities travel back in time to establish a colony in a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs. Life on Mars' Jason O'Mara stars in this big-budget sci-fi show from producer Steven Spielberg.

Liked it:
Aside from some pretty stupid dialogue and predictable storylines, what's not to like about a show involving dinosaurs, time travel, and action with a weekly budget equal to the GDP of some of the world's smaller countries? Will it blow you away? Probably not. Will it be a great way to spend Monday night? Heck yeah. —Tim

Liked it:
I'm still feeling a little burned by Steven Spielberg's most recent productions (Falling Skies, Super 8), so I was wary about this one, which to me seemed like it would simply replace aliens with dinosaurs and then have nothing else going on. Well, it turns out that wasn't a fair comparison and Terra Nova is definitely a show all its own. The people are more likable, their circumstances more interesting, plus DINOSAURS. My main concern is that the special effects look expensive, and expensive shows tend to get canceled when they don't blow the roof off the Nielsens. Stick around, Terra Nova! I want to know what happens next. —Price

Premieres Tuesday, September 20 at 10pm on CBS
Poppy Montgomery stars as a gifted New York detective who is pulled back into duty by her ex-boyfriend, also a detective. Her gift? A rare medical condition that allows her to remember everything. Her personal goal? To find the perps who murdered her sister, the one thing she can't remember.

Didn't like it:
After an interesting introduction in which Poppy Montgomery's character uses her photographic memory for personal gain and philanthropic pursuits (counting cards in blackjack, cheering up Alzheimers patients), the show shifts gears into an insanely uninteresting murder mystery and a similarly uncompelling backstory for the main character. Add to that Montgomery's constant battle against her own Australian accent and the whole show is kind of a mess. —Price

Hated it:
I really couldn't bring myself to care much about this one. The get-Poppy-Montgomery-back-onto-the-police-force exposition was clunky, the case was boring, no one needs another procedural with a twist, etc.—Jen

Watching TV for a living is tough work, but somebody's gotta do it. Now that you've heard our honest assessments of the new crop of shows, what's on your must-see list this fall? (And do you believe we can we trusted?)

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