Hi ! Me again.
After summing up what I think about this summer's best shows (I declare they're the best because they're the ones I watch, obviously, and also because it's a scientifically proven fact — subtle attempt to try and make SpoilerTV become the ultimate Curb your Enthusiasm/The Big C fanbase), here's my opinion on the new series I'm watching this fall.
I really hope it will make people want to try some new shows, convince you to check out a new show, that's what I'm doing this for. All comments will be much appreciated !
Part III is coming up tomorrow (sorry about the delay, I wanted to see the fifth episode of Enlightened before posting this, some shows started late this fall and the more episodes I see the better).
- Part I - My Summer (Saturday, November 5).
- Part II - My New Shows, Part 1 (Tuesday, November 8).
- Part III - My Returning Shows, Part 1 (Wednesday, November 9).
- Part IV, My New Shows, Part 2 (Wednesday, December 21).
- Part V, My Returning Shows, Part 2 (Thursday, December 22).
- Part I is about all the shows (both comedies and dramas) that I followed weekly this summer.
- Part II is about all the freshman series launched this fall that I'm following weekly (mostly comedies).
- Part III will be about all the new seasons of returning series that I'm still following weekly (mostly comedies).
- Part IV will be about all the freshman series that I will catch up on during the next 7 weeks (mostly dramas).
- Part V will be about all the new seasons of returning series that I will catch up on until Christmas (mostly dramas).
I'm up to date with all the shows listed below, I've seen all episodes available for all of them, except Charlie's Angels and Whitney (of which I've only seen the pilot), which is understandable if you read my opinion about them.
As I subtly implied in the title of the topic, it's just my opinion, and you can read safely because I assure you I'm not giving away huge spoilers (not that there are many twists and turns in these shows, they're mostly comedies), like Cheryl Hines' Dallas Royce from Suburgatory revealing she has never done plastic surgery (that's not true... yeah, that's definitely not true).
As for the ranking, all you need to know is up is good, down is bad, the more thumbs up the better, I'm a logical man (well, having three thumbs up is technically impossible, but that's what makes it such a prestigious ranking).
Here they are, all the new shows I'm watching since September :
: Enlightened and Suburgatory.
: Up All Night, Death Valley, Prime Suspect and Free Agents.
: How to Be a Gentleman, The Playboy Club and New Girl.
: Charlie's Angels (pilot only).
: Whitney (pilot only).
Platane (comedy, Canal+, 12 episodes) :
I know it's not an english-speaking series (actually, there's a recurring american character on the show and the last 10 minutes of the season are in english... well, it's perhaps more franglish than actual english, but still) but even if no one cares I feel like this article wouldn't be complete without mentioning Platane, because to me it is simply the best new show of the season. It is Canal+ first primetime scripted comedy series (since 2007, they had only produced big, serious dramas for their Monday night timeslot dedicated to original series) and it is much better than what I was expecting. Sure, sometimes you see how some comical plots will pan out, but it's very enjoyable nonetheless. Each episode lasts 34/35 minutes but the truth is, it's so good it feels like 20. The quality was consistent throughout the whole season. Eric Judor's humor in Platane is like Curb your Enthusiasm meets Extras : a smart, funny and quite dark writing (with improvised dialogues sometimes) providing genuine laughter. I'm thinking about all the storylines and how they interact with one another in the show and you feel the influence of Larry David's eye and comical genius for handling several plots with a progressive escalade towards awkwardness and Ricky Gervais' mean/dark/insightful humor. It's a smart and hilarious analysis of how movies get made (TV does get tackled in the first 2 episodes, too), coupled with the depiction of a desperate man that everyone sees only as a buffoon, not as an actual actor, and who tries hard to turn that around. Eric Judor is playing an exaggerated version of himself but there's clearly a lot of truth in his character. Eric puts himself in such awkward, impossible situations, you feel bad for him but it's just so well written and funny, or sometimes you're outraged to see him being such a prick, it doesn't necessarily go one way. Also, there are plenty of big guest stars (Monica Bellucci, Guillaume Canet, Vincent Cassel, Clotilde Coureau, Matthieu Amalric, Luc Besson's voice, Pierre Richard, etc) and what's impressive is that they're all useful to the story. If you get the opportunity to watch that show, if you know a little french, if subtitles get made or if a british or american channel pick up the show (so far, regarding french-speaking series from Canal+, it's only happened with Engrenages (= cogs), aka Spiral in the UK), trust me, do it.
Enlightened (dramedy, HBO, 10 episodes (5 aired)) :
This show just feels right. At first, I have to say I wasn't looking forward to this show at all, neither the synopsis nor the cast didn't make me want to watch, but it's on HBO so I had to check it out. Yeah, it's a little shallow, but it turns out it's another win for HBO. When I read the premise, I thought "if I want to watch a pay-cable dramedy about a woman who decides to enjoy life, a woman played by a blond middle-aged Oscar nominee actress named Laura, then I just watch The Big C" (which is awesome, as I stated in my Summer report). But Enlightened isn't like The Big C at all. First, the social status of Cathy and Amy is different (one is a teacher, the other was a buyer until she got promoted to the basement), their family situation too (Cathy has a son and a husband, Amy lives with her mother), and moreover the angle chosen here is unique : Amy just wants to enjoy life, to do good, to inspire and be inspired to do positive things, but life is a bitch still giving her a hard time, the world is a corrupted place dragging us down and pushing us on the edge. The only real similarity with The Big C is that it is an inspiring show. I like Amy already and Laura Dern is fantastic in this role (smells like Emmy to me), like at the end of episode 1.03 where she was genuinely moving in her despair to not being able to afford spending time helping the poor people at the shelter. We can all sympathize with that feeling, you feel for Amy and it's in those moments I see the incredible potential of this show, which I did not suspect at first. Episode 1.04 was totally different from the previous three, entirely focusing on Amy's relationship with Levi (briefly tackled during the first 2 episodes), it was a nice break from the routine at the office, it was even more compelling than the previous episodes, actually. Amy and Levi are desperately human and that's the strength of this show, you may not identify with them but you do care for them, and that's the first step into making a great dramedy. None of the first 5 episodes disappointed me in any way. Check it out !
Suburgatory (comedy, ABC, 22-24 episodes (6 aired)) :
Best new show on network TV this fall. Along with the premise and point of view (an outsider with a voice-over) promising a lot of judgmental cynicism (which I like), the cast is a big part of why Suburbatory works : as the young lead of the show, Jane Levy is a revelation. I thought she was good in Shameless but here she's just awesome, and adorable. Also, the supporting cast is pretty impressive, with actors from shows I love : Cheryl Hines from Curb your Enthusiasm, Alan Tudyk from Firefly + Dollhouse, Jeremy Sisto from Six Feet Under & Rex Lee from Entourage. I love the sarcasm of Tessa towards the people she's surrounded with, she pokes fun at them but it's never mean. It's genuinely funny and well written (Emily Kapnek worked on Parks & Rec, she confirms she is talented). Basically there's all the ingredients I expect from a sitcom to have a good time. It's not as awesome as last year's revelation (Raising Hope) and it is not as good as most of the returning comedies I follow, but it's definitely worth watching. I am very surprised and pleased to see Suburgatory is doing more than great on Wednesdays on ABC, actually, because this is the best new sitcom of the season (careful though, the last couple of episodes were closer to 1 thumb up than 2) and usually when I like a show on network TV it struggles a lot, ratings-wise.
Up All Night (comedy, NBC, 22-24 episodes (7 aired)) :
I will watch this show this season, I'm in, but it could be better. I have no problem with the cast : I'm a big fan of Will Arnett (Gob Bluth forever, come on !) and I like Christina Applegate as well. Maya Rudolph was great in Bridesmaids, however here the writers have made kind of a drag out of her character, she is sometimes quite annoying. Also, I wish the show was a little more punchy, more crazy. It's not a mockumentary but the directing does display a documentary style, which I like, and the dialogues go along with it. Up All Night clearly doesn't have what it takes to be as good as the NBC Thursday lineup (the real one, with 30 Rock and without Whitney), mostly because of its premise (two parents raising a new-born baby) not allowing as much liberty and wildness as a workplace comedy, but it's worth watching, if only for the cast, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate already have a great chemistry.
Death Valley (comedy/horror, MTV, 12 episodes (10 aired)) :
If a month ago someone had told me I would eventually think this is one of the best new shows of the season, I would have beaten the crap of them with chains and a blowtorch. I hate MTV and everything it stands for, I never would have thought of watching a show coming from that channel. And yet, I caught up on Death Valley in October and with 2 episodes left this season, I can say that so far it is a very entertaining show, definitely worth trying. It's a surprisingly fine mix between mockumentary (like The Office, except here you sometimes see the camera crew), horror (a world where zombies and other creatures have arisen) and comedy (think of the movie Zombieland). The Captain is hilarious, often saying or implying the weirdest things. John-John and his partner Billy make a great duo. And there's the lovely Tania Raymonde. They all kick ass, explode zombies with shotguns, argue with each other about random things, bust vampire prostitutes, patrol in the streets, infiltrate a zombie fight club, etc. I never expected the storylines on the show to be so different and original from one episode to another. And furthermore, it is a little serialized, believe it or not. The acts of episode A influence the stories in episode B quite often, it's not much but it's better than most sitcoms. So check it out ! Besides, one of the very first lines of the show is the Captain talking about Glee and he said "I fucking hate that show", so it started off well. Yes, it's sometimes very dumb, but at least it's on purpose, unlike another zombie show...
Free Agents (comedy, NBC, cancelled and pulled off the air after 4 episodes) :
I'm not gonna say I loved the show and that I'm sad it got cancelled, because I wasn't fan of the main premise (the relationship/non-relationship between Alex & Helen), so it's a little problematic. However, the rest was great and had a little potential, and it most certainly was better than some other new NBC sitcom that got a full season (here's a clue : she's so full of herself she gave her name to her show despite having done nothing worth noticing before). I'm a big fan of Anthony Stewart Head (Giles !) and here his absurd role and his sometimes surrealist lines made me smile, the cold secretary was pretty cool, too (she reminded me of April in Parks & Recreation, in her attitude towards other people), and I didn't know Hank Azaria before (except his guest spot on Friends) but he was truly great here, he had a great comical timing. Too bad the show didn't air after The Office, it certaintly was more compatible than Whitney, and it would have had a shot at success.
Prime Suspect (copshow, NBC, 13 episodes (6 aired) — I stopped watching after 4 episodes) :
I hate most copshows but this one has some ingredients that make it interesting. First of all, the cast, led by the talented Maria Bello. The supporting cast has some familiar faces, like Kenny Johnson (Lem in The Shield), Kirk Acevedo (Band of Brothers, Oz, Fringe), Bryan F. O'Byrne (one of the rare actors that didn't seem to overact in FlashForward)... that's a great cast. I like the atmosphere, too : gritty, cold, and the directing (by Peter 'Friday Night Lights' Berg for the pilot) matches it. Despite that, it remains a copshow, there's no ambition to do more than that, so far there's no serialized elements we can follow alongside the cases of the week. Sure, it's not boring, there's no bland shipper relationship, the main character isn't 'special' in some way and we're not drowned under scientific stuff (right there I described 90% of all the copshows on the air). But nonetheless, Prime Suspect is a copshow, and sadly like I said, I'm not a fan of this kind of series, and since I couldn't bring myself to watch the 5th episode and since I couldn't come up with a strong reason to keep on watching (it's no Justified or Southland), I decided it was not necessary to go on.
How to Be a Gentleman (comedy, CBS, cancelled and pulled off the air after 3 episodes) :
I wanted to love this show, I truly did. I mean, look at the cast ! Like Suburgatory, the cast is filled with actors from shows I love : Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) and Dave Foley (guest spots in Scrubs & Sunny), plus the star and creator of the show, David Hornsby, a major writer on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (one of the best comedies ever made, in my opinion) where he also plays Rickety Cricket, or the kind priest turned crippled homeless. With all these ingredients, how can this comedy not be a complete win ? There are 2 major flaws : it's a multi-camera sitcom, and it's on CBS. Elsewhere, with such talent backstage and on stage, the show could have had time to grow and be ambitious storywise, but in the land of "we're in 2011 and yet we would never even think about putting a single-camera sitcom on the air", it's tricky. But it's not just CBS, David Hornsby can be blamed, too. I may love the cast but the premise is not interesting, it feels like déjà vu (it's pretty much a bromance between a jock and a nerd, and they end up sharing an apartment in episode 2, plus the girl the nerd has a crush on lives right next door ? C'mon !). Some dialogues work well, the manners of David Hornsby's character were sometimes well thought-out but in the end, it was not meant to last. It was not bad, just not original at all. I would have liked to see more of it though, if only because the cast.
The Playboy Club (drama, NBC, cancelled and pulled off the air after 3 episodes) :
This show could have been good, if there were not so many clichés/stereotyped situations and characters at every corner (like the Queen Bunny's attitude towards Maureen, the show feels like a parody in those moments (and there were plenty of them), except it's not meant to be one apparently). Also, I didn't really like the artificial suspense built around the manslaughter of the mafia boss, it basically consists in having the dead guy's son walking around Maureen, looking extremely serious and suspicious, insinuating a lot, basically acting like a creep, all that coupled with cheesy suspense musics and a lame editing. It epitomizes what the show is lacking : nuance, characters with multiple layers, and style. Sure, Amber 'demigoddess' Heard is drop-dead gorgeous and the fact that she walks around in a tight corset is drool inducing, but I don't really find Eddie Cibrian charismatic, I don't really care about the soap opera problems the main characters are having and I surely wasn't hooked by the murder storyline, which was moving forward very slowly in an uninteresting direction, although we never got the chance to see where it could have been going since the show was ruthlessly cancelled by NBC, which obviously wasn't the right home for such a show, but maybe it wasn't all NBC's fault that the writing was flawed or that most of the characters were one-dimensional, there was room to do better with such a premise, even on network TV.
New Girl (comedy, FOX, 24 episodes (4 aired)) :
That's it, mystery solved : Zooey Deschanel is a mermaid. She has drawn many sailors to New Girl with her luring charms, and these poor people, slaves of her magnificent eyes, think the show is great. But Zooey's cuteness is the tree that hides the forest : New Girl is a cheap show with an out-of-date synopsis and cheap jokes pulled straight out of the 90's, or from a dimension where Friends has not existed. Been there, done that, it's not my kind of show, no originality whatsoever and as much as Zooey is purty (and her character acts like a child, which makes her even more adorable), I can't watch this... or can I ? I hated the pre-air pilot so I didn't bother checking out the show for the past 2 months but last weekend, for some reason, I watched episodes 2, 3 and 4, because of the positive reviews I've read about the show, I thought maybe I had made a mistake to stop after 1 episode. 64 minutes later, I came to the conclusion that no, I had not made a mistake. I admit it was not as bad as the pilot, but still not good enough for me to be hooked. Also, Meriwether is such a clumsy writer, she could have hidden the Friends ripoff a little better : episode 1.04 was a complete rip off an episode of Friends, starting with Jess seeing one of the guys naked. I don't think I can watch such a show all season long. I gave New Girl a shot, a real shot by watching the first 4 episodes, and it's just not my kind of show. The only upside to this show is that Raising Hope gets great ratings afterwards, and Raising Hope is an absolutely fantastic comedy so as long as it is renewed, I'm good.
Charlie's Angels (drama, ABC, cancelled after 8 episodes — I only watched the pilot) :
Give these actresses Emmy nominations. Seriously, you have to be either brainwashed or seriously talented not to burst in laughs when saying such ridiculous dialogues. Why did I watch this in the first place ? Well, first there's Minka Kelly, so, as a big Friday Night Lights fan, I got curious. Also, I was sort of (hopelessly) hoping it would be a good substitute to Chuck in the action/comedy category (even if the trailers in May indicated pretty well it would be a turd). Then I was sort of repulsed yet intrigued when reading many, many times that this pilot was the most ridiculous thing produced in a while (I was convinced it would be bad but not that bad), so I decided to watch, to see how Minka Kelly is doing and occasionally to have a laugh. Well, it wasn't even funny. I'm not surprised it comes from the two buffo-- intelligent men behind Smallville, there's the same 'we pick an icon from the 70's/80's and turn it into a crappy 00's show with anti-charismatic leads and no sense of proper storytelling for grown ups' vibe.
Whitney (comedy, NBC, 22 episodes (6 aired) — I only watched the pilot) :
Put nicely, watching the pilot was like having vomit poured in my eyes, the vomit of something an NBC executive ate in the 80s and decided to throw up in 2011. And it does not taste good. Sure, I knew before I watched it that it would be bad, I knew it approximately 5 seconds after I started watching the trailer (which contained all the "best" scenes of the pilot, believe it or not) last May, while loathing NBC for producing a sitcom even CBS wouldn't dare to put on the air. It turns out it was even worse than what I expected, a load of rubbish on every single level. With a name like that, Whitney Cummings could write porn movies, she certainly has the ability to do so, but she can't write not regular programming, clearly. She's like a poison, spreading its toxins throughout TV, considering she has another new sitcom on CBS (2 Broke Girls, which I didn't even bother to check out), and sadly both received full season orders. In May 2012, let's just hope CBS and NBC will be smart enough to stop the disease from spreading any longer.
In my December report on the other new series I will have started watching until then, expect to see American Horror Story, Borgia, Boss, Grimm, Hell on Wheels, Homeland, Life's Too Short, Once Upon a Time, Pan Am, Person of Interest, Revenge, Ringer, Terra Nova and The Fades. I hope I will have nothing but great things to say about all of them.
And for 2012 :
And tomorrow, don't miss the epic third part of my thumbs up and down spectacular : My Returning Shows, Part 1 !
Hi ! Me again.
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