The TV.com Staff Takes On the New Shows of Fall 2012

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The fall TV season has officially begun! What's worth watching, and what's not worth your time? The TV.com 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 TV.com 4-Episode Test, where we'll check back in with these freshman series 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.


COMEDY


Animal Practice (NBC)

"Premieres" with Episode 2 on Wednesday, September 26 at 8pm

Justin Kirk stars as a vet who loves animals but hates their owners. Also there's a monkey in a lab coat.

TIM SURETTE: I'm sorry, am I supposed to NOT like a comedy set in an animal hospital that's a playful knockoff of medical dramas? Because that would be impossible. The pilot was a tad rough, but there's enough potential for the future (and more Tyler Labine) that I'm ready for more.

PRICE PETERSON: Didn't like it. I understood what Animal Practice was going for, but for my tastes it was just way too broad and way too phony. I never believed the hospital was a real place, I never believed that anybody's problems had stakes, I never believed any of the solutions, and I'm only so charmed by monkey humor. I liked the Betsy Sodaro character and the Matt Walsh plotline in the pilot, but for the most part I'm pretty sure this show just isn't for me.

C. KILLIAN: You know, not a lot of people dig this one, and I get it. I guess. But... Justin Kirk! A monkey in a lab coat! Other animals! And jokes! With dry deliveries! While the conflict device between Kirk and his new boss Dorothy is pretty weak, I can't help rooting for this to succeed.

MARYANN SLEASMAN: I’m here for Justin Kirk... and the monkey.


Animal Practice Review: Welcome to the Animal House | Watch the Pilot of Animal Practice



Ben and Kate (Fox)

Premieres Tuesday, September 25 at 8:30pm

TIM: This got a lot of early hype, but it I found it to be very average with dozens of recycled jokes. The biggest question I had after watching: "What the heck is this about?"

PRICE: It's okay. Ben and Kate suffers by comparison to both New Girl and The Mindy Project in that it's not as sharp or unique as those shows. But it does have a likable cast which includes the thoroughly terrific scene-stealer Lucy Punch as BJ, Kate's British co-worker. Somebody give this lady her own show!

WALTER MORBECK: Harmless, fairly funny show. I like the actress who plays Kate and her British coworker friend. They always like to throw in a Brit for comic relief, right? I'm curious to see a little more of it. I think it's kind of cool that the dude who plays Ben has totally effed-up teeth, you don't often see normal stuff like that in TV actors.


Watch the Pilot of Ben and Kate



Go On (NBC)

Premiered Tuesday September 11 at 9pm

Matthew Perry stars as sports talk radio host who joins a support group full of colorful characters after his wife dies.

TIM: As a guy who's always the first to crack a joke in the face of a depressing situation to get the healing started, I really appreciate the positive vibes this show sends out. The cast has a shot at being the next great comedy ensemble, and so far the show is on a very short list of the best new comedies of the season.

PRICE: Liked it. This is one of the weirder sitcoms of the fall season, mostly due to the fact that it has two distinct modes: broad comedy and straight-up tragedy. Oddly enough, it's the tragic moments that really hooked me. The cast is full of weirdos and eccentrics, but I came away liking each and every one of them. I'm not sure how the show will keep up its dual-tone premise, but I will definitely be sticking around to find out.

C. KILLIAN: All I've got to say is: Matthew Perry, the darkness looks good on you. The pilot did a great job of balancing the humorous moments with the sadder stuff, and I'm already in love with pretty much every character. Good on you, NBC.

JEN TROLIO: I really like this one. Matthew Perry's character, Ryan, seems more tolerable than (if somewhat similar to) whoever Perry played on Mr. Sunshine. Plus Brett Gelman is in this! I'll definitely be watching with high hopes.

MARYANN: The comedy/tragedy mash-up is my favorite flavor of humor and there’s a really great balance here. The funny parts don’t cheapen the sad ones and the sad parts don’t overshadow the funny ones or make them feel out of place.


Go On Review: Touchy, Feely, Funny | Watch the Pilot of Go On



Guys With Kids (NBC)

Premiered Wednesday, September 12 at 10pm; returns with Episode 2 on Wednesday, September 26 at 8:30pm

Produced by Jimmy Fallon, the title of this one is pretty self-explanatory: There are guys, and they have kids. Hilarity is supposed to ensue.

TIM: This is one smelly diaper.

PRICE: Didn't like it. Men being fathers is considered a strong premise for a sitcom? Sorry, dads, but if a hundred billion people have done it, it probably isn't something I'm going to be interested in watching on TV. The least this show could have done was dress up its non-premise with unique characters, non-contrived sitcom plotting, or, you know, funny jokes. But Guys With Kids is just content to have Anthony Anderson shouting at toddlers or have everyone make tons of tired jokes about how women be crazy. I'll pass.

JEN: So far it's stupid. But I think everyone wants to hate this show because even though it's produced by Jimmy Fallon, it's multi-camera with a laugh track "live studio audience" and the jokes aren't exactly brilliant. While I was watching the pilot I felt like I could hear Fallon's sometimes cheesy but sometimes solid schtick in there somewhere; I'm thinking the show could get better and at the very least become a simple, not-terrible time-waster. Although, as far as flustered-parents comedies go, I'll probably just stick with the not-perfect but enjoyable Up All Night. And I totally don't buy Meadow from The Sopranos as a mom.


Guys With Kids Review: Damn Kids Ruined These Guys' Lives!



Malibu Country (ABC)

Premieres Friday, November 2 at 8:30pm

TIM: It's unfathomable that comedies like this are still made in the year 2012. I'm pretty sure this was actually a Disney Channel comedy whose lead was changed from young country star to old country star when Reba became available.



The Mindy Project (Fox)

Premieres Tuesday, September 25 at 9:30pm

TIM: A lot of people love Mindy Kaling. I'm not one of them. However, this was better than I thought and I have a feeling lots of boyfriends and husbands across the country are going to tolerate it. But one question: Are guys really clawing at each other to get Mindy in the sack?

PRICE: Loved it! Around the time her book came out last year, I began to experience something like Mindy Kaling fatigue. You know? I liked her, but cute shopping anecdotes are only so fascinating. So my expectations for this pilot weren't sky-high, but man did I end up enjoying it. Clever without being show-offy, affecting without being forced. And yeah, very funny. One of the best and strongest pilots of the season.

JEN: Really liked it. I love Mindy Kaling, and I thought the pilot had just the right amount of self-awareness. I think the show could grow into a great companion for New Girl.

WALTER: Confusing setting; I couldn't tell how the offices and hospital were set up. Mindy's character is borderline unlikeable, though I guess that's supposed to be part of the appeal. Good supporting cast, I liked the mean doctor who plays Jane Fonda's son on The Newsroom. All told, Mindy is funny and interesting so I will definitely watch this one again.


Watch the Pilot of The Mindy Project



The Neighbors (ABC)

Premieres Wednesday, September 26 at 9:30pm; moves to Wednesdays at 8:30pm starting October 3

TIM: What happens when you have a comedy with zero funny people in the cast? The Neighbors! There isn't even a chuckle in the pilot. Nuke it from orbit!

C. KILLIAN: I'm going to give this one a solid "meh." Conceptually it's already a stretch for me. Yes, TV aliens have succeeded before, but what worked about shows like 3rd Rock from the Sun is that the aliens took center stage. Here, we spend far too much time getting to know the straight-laced human family—and frankly, they aren't funny. The alien family is pretty chill, but if the humans keep hogging all the screen time, then I don't see much of a future for this series.

WALTER: It was funnier than I was expecting once it got going, and it's got one of the best casts of all the pilots. I love the alien husband and wife. I'm hooked for now, but my interest and attention span usually diminish over a few episodes when faced with that cutesy cartoony ABC style of comedy. But we'll see, I'm giving this the benefit of the doubt.



The New Normal (NBC)

"Premiered" with Episode 2 on Tuesday, September 11 at 9:30pm

A gay couple hires a newly single mom to be their surrogate and help them start a family.

TIM: I pretty much want to murder every single stereotypical, paper-thin character on this show... particularly Ellen Barkin's Nana. While Ryan Murphy's message (bigotry sucks) is a good one, he presents it in the worst way possible, with arguments he can't lose, by making the other side absolutely hideous. And then he makes one of the gay guys look forward to a baby like it's a hand bag. A misguided effort.

PRICE: It's okay; I admit I'm exactly the type of viewer who should love this premise, but something about the execution just got on my nerves. Fortunately things picked up in Episode 2 and there's enough potential in the cast and writing for the show to become something special. As it is now though, it could go either way.

WALTER: Typically clunky awkward pilot introduction of the characters and ongoing story, but I liked several of the characters and actors and thought this one had lots of good lines. The great grandmother pulling the gun on the boyfriend was one of the funniest scenes in all the comedy pilots.

MARYANN: I didn’t cringe as hard as I thought I would. Actually, it was kind of sweet. Definitely grew on me.


The New Normal Review: Making the Choir Cringe? | Watch the Pilot for The New Normal



Partners (CBS)

Premieres Monday, September 24 on 8:30pm

PRICE: Didn't like it. It's hard to say what felt more old-fashioned: The three-camera format, the misunderstanding-based farcical humor, or the dated Jewish and/or gay stereotype jokes. This show is definitely for those who miss Will & Grace but not necessarily Debra Messing. OR people who enjoy seeing Brandon Routh in scrubs (which is honestly the best selling point here).

WALTER: Much cuter and far less forced I expecting. It's totally a recycled Will & Grace, down to the creators and director (James Burrows did all of Will & Grace) and some of the jokes and the really ethnically Latin assistant (which also brings to mind 2 Broke Girls). But the actors and dialogue and set-up felt comfortable already. Standard but well-done; if you're going to recycle a comedy with the exact same behind-the-scenes team, it might as well be one that ran eight seasons.



NEXT: DRAMA!




NEXT: DRAMA!


The fall TV season has officially begun! What's worth watching, and what's not worth your time? The TV.com 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 TV.com 4-Episode Test, where we'll check back in with these freshman series 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.



DRAMA



666 Park Avenue (ABC)

Premieres Sunday, September 30 at 10pm

TIM: It should be campy, but it's serious. It should be scary, but it's network safe. It should be interesting, but it's boring. It tries to be so many things at once, but accomplishes none of them.

PRICE: Ugh—how do you take a haunted hotel filled with insanely attractive people played by insanely talented actors and make it BORING AS HELL? Sorry, there's a chance my tastes in supernatural dramas demand way more storytelling action, but I knew I would not like this show when the protagonist was STILL unaware of it's premise by the end of the pilot. SPEED IT UP. Sure, things could get interesting once the mythology begins to unfold, but for me this was one of the most disappointing pilots of the season.

JEN: I liked the pilot, but the show could go either way; there's some real potential for things to get interesting, but it also might be something we've seen many times before. Depends on the type of suspense and scares we get from episode to episode, and how much the case-of-the-week element factors in. Terry O'Quinn is a big draw.

ANNGIE DEHOYOS: I enjoyed it. I got a Devil’s Advocate vibe from watching the pilot. And I absolutely love Terry O'Quinn playing a creepy dude.



Arrow (The CW)

Premieres Wednesday, October 10 at 8pm

TIM: The bad parts, which are endemic to every CW show, are overshadowed by awesome action sequences and an opportunity for some great mythology. The dude totally kills people and jumps off walls, and other DC Comics characters will find their way in. If you're even remotely interested in this, chances are you'll really like it. And ladies: Stephen Amell!

PRICE: Liked it—this iteration of the Green Arrow story strangely owes much more to Christopher Nolan's Batman interpretation than it does the Green Arrow you may remember from Smallville, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Stephen Amell makes a terrific lead and the revenge-based grittiness of the pilot WAS fairly compelling. I'm nervous about how flashback-and-voiceover intensive this show will be, but for now, I'm hooked.

WALTER: Dreadfully grim, by-the-numbers pilot. I predict a slooow, tedious, soapy take on Green Arrow a la Smallville. I did like the shot of Deathstroke the Terminator's mask at the beginning; does that mean more DC characters will be brought in?



Beauty and the Beast (The CW)

Premieres Thursday, October 11 at 9pm

TIM: Laughably, horribly, terribly, indisputably, atrociously, ridiculously, horribly, awful. But Kreuk is a babe, so it has that.

PRICE: Hated it! That this show is the timeslot successor to my beloved The Secret Circle is beside the point. It is objectively the worst pilot I've seen of the 2012 fall season. From Kristin Kreuk's laughable interpretation of a tough-as-nails detective to a truly appalling backstory for the not-ugly Beast character (hint: it involves 9/11!) to a total lack of originality or even FUN, I really can't see any reason why this show even made it on the air. On the PLUS side it's just terrible enough that it could turn into something weird and special later on. For now, though, it's a shameful low point for The CW.



Chicago Fire (NBC)

Premieres Wednesday, October 10 at 10pm

Firefighters in Chicago, from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.

WALTER: Typical big-city firemen drama. Can they get over the death of their coworker? Can someone stop blaming himself for someone else's death? Will the rookie work out? Will the chief take a desk job and put his firehouse past behind him? Sexy cast; if they're kept scantily clad there might be hope for this show. But then, what made Rescue Me work was that the lead WASN'T a total hunk backed by a sexy cast. He was a great actor surrounded by other great actors and lead an honest, effed-up life.



Elementary (CBS)

Premieres Thursday, September 27 at 10pm

A modern-day Sherlock Holmes tale, set in NYC with Lucy Liu as Watson.

TIM: I liked it—OMG guys, this is a CBS procedural and it's almost cool. Jonny Lee Miller is just the sort of lead the network needs to appeal to a generation of viewers under 60, but not so hip that he scares off the Rascal-driving crowd. This doesn't just work, it works well.

PRICE: I came at this with low expectations—I don't care for procedurals and lord knows we don't need another Sherlock Holmes adaptation—but I came away a fan. From the incredibly engaging lead performances by Miller and Liu to the artfully filmed crime scene to the atmospheric settings, this is definitely a world I'd like to visit each week.

C. KILLIAN: A lot of people are knocking this "Sherlock knock-off with a female Watson" adaptation, and I was once among them. But I was caught off-guard by how quickly I changed my tone after watching the pilot. This series is so well produced, and it shows in how many of the other details about Holmes it gets right. Besides, if anyone's going to be a lady Watson, shouldn't it be Lucy Liu?

WALTER: Great casting and imaginative reengineering of the familiar Holmes/Watson duo. If they can keep up the level of detail they showed in this pilot as far as the crimes go, this will be the new Mentalist. I enjoyed the chemistry between Miller and Liu.



Emily Owens, M.D. (The CW)

Premieres Tuesday, October 16 at 9pm

TIM: The show is like Emily Owens herself: You root for it, but do you really want to spend too much time around it? And would you miss it if it was gone? A perfectly harmless diversion and interesting take on the high-school drama with life-and-death situations thrown in for good measure.

PRICE: It was okay—Grey's Anatomy, Jr. is not as bad as I'd feared! The main thing this show has going for it is an incredibly engaging lead performer in Mamie Gummer. The presence of Justin Hartley as fellow doctor-in-training should tell you all you need to know about this show's ability to wish-fulfill, but it all works surprisingly well. Unfortunately I'm STILL feeling slightly burned over the George-Izzy hookup on Grey's Anatomy and I just don't know if I have it in me to follow another medical soap after that.

C. KILLIAN: Walking into this pilot I expected nothing more than a Hart of Dixie clone. This is not a Hart of Dixie clone. It's better. Way, way better. Sure, the promos make you think the show is just about a hospital staff that behaves like a bunch of high schoolers (and it is), but it's also about a socially awkward, entirely lovable hospital resident (Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep) who's trying her best to grow up and out of her misconceptions about herself. Those Streeps, man, the carriers of the rare but undisputed "lovability" chromosome. It's a disease, but it works for them.

JEN: Cute. Not for me, but totally watchable. Grey's Anatomy for the CW crowd, and Mamie Gummer could be a breakout star.



Last Resort (ABC)

Premieres Thursday, September 27 at 8pm

TIM: This is the only network drama of the season that has a chance to be seriously good. Usually when you don't know where a show is going, it's scary. But in the hands of Shawn Ryan (The Shield), it's damn exciting. I hope there is enough space on the sub for all the acting awards Andre Braugher deserves.

PRICE: Loved it—this was the best and most exciting hour-long drama of the new season, and if we're lucky it foretells the future of television. By that I mean it's clearly not beholdened to parceling out tiny bits of story in order to stretch things out to 22 episodes. No, we're in a post-cable series world where network series need to make every episode feel important and finale-worthy. Shows like The Vampire Diaries (and even Teen Wolf) understand this, so I'm glad executive producer Shawn Ryan does also. Who knows if Last Resort's premise is sustainable? But whatever brains thought up the events of the pilot surely must have tons of additional crazy ideas up their sleeves. Can't wait to find out.

WALTER: I liked the epic scope, but man there were a lot of plot developments you just had to roll with and not think about too much. I'm in for at least the next couple episodes.

MARYANN: Pilots have a habit of dragging, but this one brings the excitement from beginning to end and that sweet, sweet tension has the potential to run through the entire season. And it’s just really freaking good.



Made in Jersey (CBS)

Premieres Friday, September 28 at 9pm

JEN: I did not hate this pilot. I didn't love it, either, but Made in Jersey is CBS serving its audience. The lead character is likable enough, and while personally I'll probably find her annoying by Episode 2, I think this show will find a footing. It's got a scrappy underdog protagonist trying to hold her own against a bunch of NYC meanies, and at the end of the day she goes home to eat dinner with her loud, loving, and undyingly supportive family. Feel-good Friday TV for a specific audience (that I'm not part of).

WALTER: Light entertainment with an endearing lead actress. This could be a perfect pairing with Blue Bloods. Makes use of its soundtrack much like Grey's Anatomy. Didn't care all that much for the mean boss lawyer lady, but maybe she'll get better. This one has a lot of heart and I can see it working with the CBS audience.



The Mob Doctor (Fox)

Premieres Monday, September 17 at 9pm

JEN: Just could not bring myself to care, though the cast is okay (however I wish Zach Gilford would stop trying to play doctors). This one's going on my Dead Pool list.



Nashville (ABC)

Premieres Wednesday, October 10 at 10pm

TIM: So much better than Smash, mainly because the leads are so great. But the real breakout star here will be Aussie actress Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett. Beyond that, it's just another musical primetime soap, this time set against country music, but with enough juice to make it a hit.

PRICE: Sure, it doesn't reach the poetic heights of Friday Night Lights, or even the you-are-there importance of Robert Altman's film of the same name, but Nashville is still really well done and crackles with possibility. Boasting tons of great performances and songs (and I'm not even a country fan), this show has a lot of potential to become a must-watch... so long as it keeps its storytelling fast-paced and its characters likable. It's a tentative season-pass for me.

C. KILLIAN: This show is no more about country music than Friday Night Lights was about football. And that's a good thing. I'm not a huge country fan myself, and I was worried I'd be tempted to drown out the pilot with whatever punk metal I could scrounge up on my iPod. I didn't! The pilot goes a bit too far into soapy territory, and that could be a massive deterrent for those of us who don't crave cheese. But I did like that the root of the conflict is more a statement about the music industry as a whole than about any one part or any one character. It centers on a theme we can all relate to on some level, and that was a smart move.

JEN: There are definite Smash undertones here, but I was drawn in immediately by Connie Britton's aging country star and Hayden Panettiere's cocky young upstart. The pilot had a great feel to it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the drama between the two main characters unfolds.



Revolution (NBC)

Premieres Monday, September 17 at 10pm

TIM: I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this I want to like this but I didn't like it. Crossing my fingers for potential!

PRICE: WHY SO BORING, J.J. Abrams? Seriously, this was one of the most expensive pilots I saw and also somehow the least interesting. Do not care about the lead characters. Do not care about why the power went off. Do not care about why the inability to generate electricity somehow hasn't affected people's nervous systems. Do not care about Giancarlo Esposito's poor man's Hans Landa routine. I just don't care. Get out of here, Revolution.

JEN: Whatever, I'll probably watch as many episodes as make to air because it's J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke and all that. But it already feels like 2012's FlashForward. Or Terra Nova. Or The Event. Bring on Tim's inevitably divisive-yet-hilarious reviews!

WALTER: Dopey, fun sci-fi... but can it hold our interest more than three or four episodes? There were a lot of holes in the pilot to ignore, but maybe half the fun is pointing them all out.

ANNGIE: To be honest, I'm a little burnt on the post-apocalyptic genre; especially when created by J.J. Abrams. I found the mysterious blackout hard to swallow. Everything about the pilot had me asking tons of questions, and it just felt like the entire show was a big snore with the exception of Breaking Bad's Gus.

MARYANN: I’ll watch anything with “post-apocalyptic” in the description. That said, there are still some really annoying, over-used tropes at play here.



Vegas (CBS)

Premieres Tuesday, September 25 at 10pm

TIM: What if A & E's Longmire was on CBS? THIS! I don't think it will ever get great, but if you like seeing old cowboys punch guys in suits in the face while slot machines clang-a-lang in the back ground, you won't be disappointed. This is like comfort food for Middle America, and its great cast doesn't hurt either.

PRICE: It was decent—Vegas is a straight-up handsome, stylish, and expensive-looking hour of television. Whether it'll ever include compelling storytelling remains to be seen (it's a lot like Boardwalk Empire in this way). But Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis make for fine adversaries and the (CGI-enhanced) period Las Vegas backdrops ARE pretty stunning. For now, though, this show has my respect, if not my regular viewership.

JEN: The cast is stacked, but I found the pilot a bit boring. I'll stick around through the 4-Episode Test for Michael Chiklis, but so far this one's just average for me.

WALTER: This is one of my favorites of the new dramas. It has a terrific cast and Dennis Quaid does the best Indiana Jones-era Harrison Ford imitations around. Chiklis is charming and menacing, and it's so awesome to Carrie-Anne Moss in something, finally. I liked the rest of the supporting cast (mayor, district attorney, etc.) as well as the 1960s Las Vegas setting. The cowboy thing gets a little silly, but I totally felt for that young guy whose girl was the one killed. Whoever played her mother was good too. The casting director on this show knows his or her stuff. And CBS left stuff hanging! I liked that it didn't all wrap up neatly at the end.

ANNGIE: I wanted to like this. I love Dennis Quaid, I love good mob stories set in the '60s. But I found myself bored throughout the pilot. Here's hoping it will pick up.



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