No, this isn't déjà vu, it's just Part 2... of our 4-episode test, wherein we commit to watching the first four episodes of every new fall TV series, no matter how good or bad they might be. Part 1 zeroed in on the shows that debuted in September; now it's time to consider the ones that rolled out on the later side of premiere season.
Though some of the shows on this list have already aired more than four episodes, we've only rated the first four because, in our professional experience—and by "professional," we mean "human"—if a show doesn't hook us after four outings, it's usually not worth sticking with. Likewise, some shows on this list have aired only three episodes—but given that Thanksgiving is next week and cable finales are right around the corner, we wanted to tell you what we thought before
our brains implode it's too late. Here's what we're sticking with and what we're deleting from our DVRs after this go-round.
Analysis: Allen Gregory's pilot set a new benchmark for un-likeability in its hero, supporting characters, and frantically unfunny banter. Where there was once a promising concept—a pretentious 7-year-old raised and home-schooled by gay fathers suddenly transfers to public school—we instead got an awful, fourth-rate Jonah Hill character and some straight-up homophobia. The second episode dialed back the reprehensible personalities a bit, and it benefited from focusing on a smaller-scale story, but the utter lack of warmth or cleverness continued to pervade. Not to mention the fact that a 7-year-old was attempting a reverse-molestation scenario with an elderly woman, a concept made no less icky by giving the boy the personality of a full-grown man. The third episode showed no signs of improvement, however, as it continued to traffic in weird, politically incorrect yet witless jokes about how hysterical and icky gay people can be. Of all the misses of the fall season, Allen Gregory is by far the biggest bummer. —Price Peterson
Analysis: American Horror Story's first episode functioned less as a pilot and more as a tasting menu for the series to come. To the extent that it introduced a boatload of concepts, characters, and ideas, it deserves credit for sheer audacity. Few people will forget that first shriveled dwarf attack or Gimp Ghost sex scene. The second episode featured a harrowing home-invasion scenario that, while slightly unpleasant, still made for one of the scariest hours on television. Episode 3 backtracked a bit, and instead doubled down on explaining more concepts rather than bringing the scares. But the Halloween-themed Episode 4 (and its companion in Episode 5) was a stunner. Jessica Lange's character continued her evolving tragi-camp routine, and as we learned more of the rules of how the show's ghosts function, the series somehow became even scarier. All in all, AHS could easily have gone wrong, but now it's firmly in the must-see category. I already can't wait until the next episode. —Price
Analysis: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Boss is flattering a lot of highbrow shows. But it's doing it well. particularly in the strong pilot and Episodes 3 and 4. After four episodes there's still some uncertainty about its future, but with Kelsey Grammer's commanding performance and fantastic direction, Boss is a solid and consistent new drama.
Analysis: Enlightened was an instantly engaging series, a quiet and languidly paced dramedy about an angry and unlucky woman trying to get through the lowest point in her life. If that sounds like a downer, it frequently is. But series creator Mike White is an extraordinarily gifted writer with a soft spot for social misfits. He wrings so many laughs and contemplative moments out of his characters that I usually come away from an episode not depressed, but with a strange kind of renewed faith in humanity. The show has been consistent each week, but its fourth episode, in which Amy (Laura Dern) convinced her ex-husband Levi (Luke Wilson) to join her for a weekend rafting expedition, was a cut above; it was like a perfect short story that lingers with you long after you read it. —Seth Abramovitch
Analysis: Grimm got off to a good start, then tripped over itself with a disjointed second episode that struggled to balance two concurrent story lines. The pilot framed itself as a lighthearted, moderately cheesy series with a fantastic hook: A homicide detective, Nick (David Giuntoli), discovers he's a Grimm—a legendary being bred to track down and dispose of badly behaved fairy tale creatures living in our midst. As Nick processed the news, he crossed paths with his first supernatural offender, a Big Bad Wolf with a knack for attacking girls in red hoodies. Not a bad start to a sci-fi procedural! Episode 2 faltered because it spent too much time setting up Nick's corrupt boss, the police captain, as a secret adversary. He'd already been established as a villain in the pilot, so this felt kind of superfluous and boring. Episode 3 came back swinging, though, feeling more like the character-driven procedural the pilot promised with a "Queen Bee"-inspired case-of-the-week that was indirectly targeted at Nick. The connection between Nick's personal life and his cases is where this series is going to find its momentum. It might not be an epic primetime drama, but it's a fun watch—a melodramatic twist on a playful theme—and that's all it needs to be, so I'll keep tuning in. —C. Killian
Analysis: The Best New Show contest is over, and wearing the winner's sash and doing that funny wrist-wave is Showtime's Homeland. The psychological thriller came out of the gates with a clear direction and sense of tone, then did the unthinkable by actually improving each week. This is must-see television that puts Showtime back in the drama game. And if you're wondering about the 7-episode test: Homeland got even BETTER. —Tim
Analysis: This comedy may be pulling in decent ratings, but that's out of pure comfort and fear of the unknown. There's nothing new here, but Last Man Standing isn't as horrible as people would have you think. A Paul F. Tompkins cameo in Episode 2 was the highlight of the series so far, but you pretty much know what you'll get with the show: lots of Tim Allen. —Tim
Analysis: There are horrible shows and there's Man Up. This comedy about three lame friends started with a pilot that blatantly ripped off Modern Family's style. I hoped things would get better, but instead they got worse. Much, much worse. This is comedy dumbed down for dumb people, but I'm pretty sure even dumb people wouldn't like this dumb show. Frankly, I'm surprised it lasted four episodes. —Tim
Analysis: Once Upon a Time successfully intertwines two parallel narratives: one that depicts a fairy tale backstory, and one that deals with the modern-day troubles of cursed fairy tale characters trapped in a small town, their memories of their magical past (the aforementioned fairy tale backstory) erased by an Evil Queen's curse. The writers, the same team behind Lost, effortlessly make the closed world of the town compelling by weaving in intriguing flashbacks for maximum emotional effect. The casting of Lana Parrilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Robert Carlyle is proof enough that there are tastemakers behind the show who know what they’re doing. The show stumbled a little in the re-telling of "Cinderella" in Episode 4, and a ridiculous line or silly CGI effect guarantees a chuckle in each episode, but Once Upon A Time is on its way to becoming the smartest and most enjoyable family drama of the last 20 years. Now if only the wardrobe department would stop raiding the Anaheim Goodwill for its fairy tale costumes, the show might win over the last few hold outs. —Lily Sparks
Well, there you have it (again): We're going to keep watching more than half of the new shows on this list. But what say YOU? Have you decided which shows you're devoted to and which ones you'd like to never see again? Let us know why in the comments!