Fall TV 2011 – week 1

This year, we are in for a pretty packed month of premieres, and there are a number of new shows that I’m looking forward to checking out as well.

The CW is the first out of the gate, debuting some of their new series ahead of the other major networks. In particular, they brought back former vampire-slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer. After the first episode, there was already a lot of backlash about the poor green screen effects used to make Gellar appear as twin characters Siobhan and Bridget. Bridget the recovering addict escapes her messed-up life (and the imminent court date to testify against a murdering mob boss) by staying with her rich, socialite sister. After her sister disappears, Bridget decides to take on her sister’s life but unwittingly gets tangled up in the dangers (romantic and life-threatening) that Siobhan left behind. While it was fun to see Gellar back on TV, the episode was only OK. I don’t yet care about any of the characters (and they aren’t made very likable, so it’s not my fault). Also, the twists are a bit predictable, especially since virtually the same story setup has already been underway on ABC Family, on its new series called The Lying Game.

The other new show that I watched on the CW was The Secret Circle. Again, I was underwhelmed. Britt Robertson (formerly of Life Unexpected), plays Cassie, a girl who loses her mom in a fire and moves in with her grandma. Little does Cassie know that she’s a witch, and part of a pre-destined circle of witches (all teenagers) who have been waiting for her to complete their group. The show comes from Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries creator Kevin Williamson, so I’m already on the hook. Unfortunately, I’m not crazy about any of these characters yet either, especially the lame Adam (played by Thomas Dekker of Heroes and Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles fame) and the bitchy girl in circle (you knew there had to be one) who seems so incredibly cliche. Nevertheless, I’m self-reminded that I was so turned off by the first two episodes of The Vampire Diaries that I stopped watching, only to rejoin after the great reviews started coming in. I am willing to give The Secret Circle a bit more time.

Speaking of The Vampire Diaries, the season premiere picked up a couple of months after last season’s finale. I was dreading seeing upstanding vamp, Stefan, turn into a brutal murderer just because of his deal with Klaus (also because it seems like such a contradiction). Similarly, the kiss between Elena and Damon seemed like it was going to lead to them being together, but I’m glad that kind of got diluted in the premiere. While I was prepared to shrug my shoulders at the mediocre start to the season, I found myself surprisingly moved by the last bit of the episode. Obviously it was meant to draw out our sympathies for Stefan, and gosh darn if it didn’t just work!

Meanwhile, on a totally different note, the promising sitcom Up All Night also debuted this week. With an amazing cast featuring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph, I was expecting another instant classic (like Modern Family had been), but this show was kind of a let down. It’s about TV producer Applegate, returning to work with a talk show diva (Rudolph freshening up her Oprah impression), leaving her lawyer husband (Arnett) at home with their new daughter. Maybe you need to have gone through that life stage to appreciate the humour, but I didn’t find the pilot episode very funny. How many times can they make a joke about how they should stop swearing around the baby (which isn’t so funny to begin with)? Half a dozen bleeping times!  Of course that pales in comparison to the Hank Azaria (who I love as the voice of Apu on The Simpsons) sitcom Free Agents (about a couple of PR agents who become friends-with-benefits). I don’t think I cracked even a smile the entire half-hour.

Finally, for the cartoon lovers out there, Cartoon Network brought back not only Star Wars: The Clone Wars with an hour-long premiere episode featuring an undersea war (and a particularly nasty shark-man villain), which I thoroughly enjoyed (I love the underwater stuff). Also, Young Justice, the animated series featuring the sidekicks of the Justice League, made an exciting return. They brought back some of their enemies from last season as well as adding heavyweights such as Lex Luthor and Ra’s Al Ghul. The kids are growin’ up.

Next week is going to be powerhouse, with the return of Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Community, and Parks and Recreation, not to mention the musical double-whammy of Glee and The Sing-Off, as well as the debut of the latest JJ Abrams creation, Person of Interest, starring none other than Michael “Ben Linus” Emerson. It’s going to be awesome!

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