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Is it just me, or is How I Met Your Mother not very funny this season? Even the return of Sarah Chalke as Stella has done nothing to stem the tide. The first two episodes of the season, but especially this last one with Regis Philbin, barely registered on my laugh meter. It’s sad, since pre-strike it was one my favorite shows. Thankfully The Office is still strong, even if it is being pre-empted this week for the equally awkward pseudo comedy of the Vice Presidential Debate.
Returning shows I’ll be watching this fall:
- The Amazing Race. Always entertaining, often exhilerating, it’s head and shoulders better than any other reality TV show.
- Bones. The funniest crime drama on television! (Joss Whedon alumni show # 1)
- Chuck. This one really picked up steam near the end of its strike-shortened freshman season. Season two already has a full 22-episode order, and I’m expecting good things. (Joss Whedon alumni show # 2)
- Dirty Sexy Money. Frivolous rainy day DVR stuff. Love it.
- Eli Stone. One of the quirkiest, character-driven legal dramas I’ve ever seen. An absolute joy.
- How I Met Your Mother. The season opener was a little weaker than past episodes, but I still have faith. (Joss Whedon alumni show # 3)
- The Office. The most perfect, painfully hilarious show on television.
- Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. Just keeps getting better. (Joss Whedon alumni show # 4)
New shows I’ll give a shot:
- Worst Week. Reviews are good. We’ll see.
- Fringe. Three episodes in, I like it, though it’s the least awesome J.J. Abrams show so far.
- Crusoe. This show gets exactly one episode to convince me it won’t be terrible.
- Dollhouse. Joss Whedon alumni show # 5!
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Jeff Goldblum on a police procedural. Could be interesting.
- LOST. Will probably DVR the whole season and watch all at once.
This never happens: All but one of my favorite TV shows has been renewed for the fall season! While Bones, Lost, and The Office were never in any real danger, Terminator, Chuck, Reaper, How I Met Your Mother, Til Death, and Eli Stone were all on the bubble. I figured at least half of them were goners. I’m even strangely relieved that New Amsterdam and Back To You were cancelled, since I—like the rest of America, apparently—had already given up on them. It’s a good day.
It seems like forever ago that I gave my first impressions of the new fall TV shows. Then a little something called the writer’s strike happened (solidarity!) and screwed up my whole plan to give midterm and final grades for the new and returning shows alike. Turns out that plan was probably more ambitious than I actually am, anyway. But nevertheless, I’m back at it with a quick rundown of the “Best In Show” of the fall 2007/spring 2008 television season. *
BEST NEW SHOW: Reaper
I gave Reaper a B+ when it debuted in October, calling it “surprisingly not terrible.” Nearly a full season later, I’m in love with it, and it just keeps getting better every week. And that can only mean one thing: It’s on the bubble for renewal. (Runners up: Eli Stone, Chuck)
BEST SITCOM: The Office
It’s both the most excruciating 30 minutes of my week (that’s what she said!) and, often, a spot-on representation of the American workplace. This is my favorite show to talk about (and quote) the next day. Can’t-miss TV. (Runner up: How I Met Your Mother)
BEST DRAMA: Lost
By the middle of last season, I just wasn’t that into Lost anymore. I still watched it, but it wasn’t grabbing me like it did in the early days. But this season has been great, and I’m happy to put it back in its rightful place as the best 60-minute show around. (Runner up: Jericho)
BEST SHOW NOBODY WATCHED: Jericho
Jericho came back from the dead and gave us seven powerful episodes about my favorite post-apocalyptic Kansas town. A third season would have taken a miracle, but this abbreviated season left me wanting more. I’m sorry to see it go. (Runner up: Reaper)
BEST CONCEPT GONE HORRIBLY WRONG: Bionic Woman
How did they manage to screw this one up? Secret identities, government conspiracies, and super-powered heroines are a recipe for geek success, but Bionic Woman never knew what it wanted to be. I wasn’t at all sad to see it go. (Runner up: New Amsterdam)
BEST NEWS EVER: Joss Whedon is returning to television!
(Runner up: He’s bringing Eliza Dushku with him!)
* – I watch Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, two perennial geek favorites, on DVD, so I’m a few seasons behind on both. But man, that David Tennant makes a great Doctor!
Before I settled down and got a real job in 2001, I spent a year of my life bouncing from one doomed entertainment website to another trying to make a career out of my ability to write semi-lucidly about all things pop culture. Definitely not the best career move, but plenty fun except for all the layoffs.
My favorite among the many websites I worked for in those days was called WildWeb, which even at the time sounded like one of those sites you don’t want your wife catching you looking at. While my 9-5 job there required me to play and then write about video games all day long (yes, really), I moonlighted as a TV critic with absolutely no credentials other than that I liked TV. So I suppose in hindsight I shouldn’t be surprised that WildWeb went out of business.
Anyway, it was at WildWeb that I learned to truly embrace the giddy anticipation that comes with awaiting the fall TV season. (This was back when Buffy was still on TV every week—I haven’t actually been giddy for a TV show since then, with the possible exception of LOST’s first season and the occasional episode of The Office.)
So, in honor of my days as a faux TV critic for WildWeb, I thought I’d take a stab at grading this fall’s new shows. Well, the ones I decided to watch, anyway.
Back To You
This is basically Frasier Lite: Instead of playing a pompous, washed up radio psychiatrist, Kelsey Grammer plays a pompous, washed up TV news anchor. It brings to mind the last few seasons of Frasier—which is to say it’s good for a laugh here and there, but it’s hardly inspired comic gold. Still, it’s funny enough that I’ll stick with it for at least a few more weeks. Grade: C+
Here’s a show that really, truly, desperately wants to be Alias. Hot young kick-ass (literally) heroine? Check. Secret identity? Check. Super-secret government agency in charge of the whole operation? Check. Conspiracies, betrayals, and convoluted backstories around every corner? Check, check, and check. Only one problem: Alias did it all better. The writing on Bionic Woman is occasionally good but more often lazy, and Michelle Ryan is no Jennifer Garner. There’s potential here, but it’s just average so far. Grade: B-
This show wants to be Alias, too—only a bit funnier, I guess. I wanted to like it. I really did. But so far it’s not funny enough to be a comedy and not exciting enough to be an adventure. And Zachary Levi is definitely no Jennifer Garner, either. On the plus side, it does co-star Adam Baldwin of Firefly/Serenity fame, so bonus points for that. Grade: C-
I didn’t really know what to make of Reaper’s premise when I first heard about it: Slacker guy finds out his parents sold his soul to the devil, and now he must act as Satan’s bounty hunter. Hilarity ensues. This could have been awful, but it’s surprisingly not terrible at all. The writing’s crisp and funny, Bret Harrison is passable as the slacker-turned-bounty-hunter, Tyler Labine is legitimately amusing as the sidekick, and Missy Peregrym gets the much-coveted nod as my new TV crush of the year. Grade: B+
Overhyped, overpraised, and over-the-top. I literally can’t bring myself to watch this show again. Grade: D