Fall TV 2011 – week 2

Didn’t I tell you that week two was going to be packed? There are over 20 new and returning shows that I want to talk about, so I’ll try to make it quick and rapid-fire (try to keep up).

I’m getting a bit tired of Glee with its “We’re so unpopular that we still get slushies in our faces” sob story. It’s contrived and beyond-unrealistic at this point (considering how popular they are in the real world). Time for a new theme (and it better not be the channeling of Pat Benetar that Quinn is going through). Also, as glad as I am with the focus on show tunes, I kind of miss the pop songs. The Sing Off brings back its acappella competition goodness for a longer (starting in September like all the other legitimate shows) season and replaced Nicole Scherzinger (who jumped ship to join Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell and the American version of X-Factor) with the clearly more-informed Sarah Bareilles on the panel of “It’s OK, you’re all winners” judges. It’s a good change and I’m already enjoying this season.

Community made a weird splash with its Glee-esque musical opening. Maybe it’s because they already did so much in the first two seasons to examine the group dynamics, but it seems like there’s nowhere new to go. (I like Chang as security guard, though. I hope he will become less annoying. And John Goodman was awesome as the don/vice-dean of air-conditioner-repair school) Not diggin’ James Spader’s return to The Office as new Sabre CEO (As if!). However, I like Andy for manager, but I’m not sure how he’ll do when the big boss goes back to Florida. Is he the central character of the show now? Modern Family made a wonderfully understated return with back-to-back episodes. I don’t love new Lily as much as everyone else seems to, but maybe that’s because the plot was about how she’s unwilling to share. Dylan’s departure was a bit ridiculous, though. (Don’t his parents care that he’s staying at a ranch for good?)

Many of last season’s cliffhangers didn’t seem to have very big ramifications. On Big Bang Theory, Penny’s dalliance with Raj may have played for laughs but was written off in the end. On Parks and Recreation, Leslie had to choose her political career over her relationship with Ben, but it didn’t seem like the tragedy that other breakups do. How I Met Your Mother continued to tease Barney’s wedding, but frankly, that series has been crying wolf for so long that it has lost its ability to build anticipation. (Nevertheless, I hope it’s Nora that he’s with.)

The same kind of tension-deflation happened on the dramas as well. Supernatural continued right from the point where Castiel declared himself the new God, but the episode just ended up as another overpowered bad guy that the brothers had to stop. The ending seemed to suggest a twist, but after the last few seasons, don’t new baddies The Leviathans also seem just like another shade of demon? Fringe was going to come back with a new world minus Peter. Despite his absence, I don’t see much different (especially considering the fact that it was Peter that caused Walter to cross over to begin with). Where’s the It’s A Wonderful Life effect?. Plus, they found a “new” way to gross us out and have shape-shifters running around. Come on, not see-through skin again! Nikita was probably one of the few shows that made a true “game change” (in fact that’s the title of the premiere episode). Michael and Nikita are now teamed up and on the run from Alex and Division (under the leadership of Melinda Clarke’s Amanda, while they store Xander Berkeley’s evil Percy in a Hannibal-Lecter-style clear, underground cell). I like the shakeup, but it’s always a bit tiring when the main characters are on the run.

You knew there was no way that Beckett was going to die on Castle, and was anyone expecting that she and Castle would become a functional couple? They need to get back to the fun stories and move past this conspiracy stuff. I like Penny Jerald as the new chief, but only if she becomes more than just a wet blanket. Same goes for Hawaii Five-O. I’m happy that the band’s back together (and even more happy for the addition of Lost’s Terry O’Quinn and Heroes’s Masi Oka), but I hope they don’t keep dragging out the Wo Fat story arc (even though I am Chinese myself, I find his name sounds sillier the more they keep repeating it — Plus, what is his surname anyway?). Harry’s Law returned this week as well, though I only half-cared. The amazing Jean Smart began a guest stint as a bitchy D.A. who’s got it in for Harry (Yay!). However, Tommy Jefferson is now sharing office space (Boo!). A little of his character goes a long way. We don’t need another Denny Crane.

As for new shows, I was truly surprised that I enjoyed New Girl (with Zooey Deschanel) and even more surprised to enjoy 2 Broke Girls (an odd-couple sitcom pairing a cash-strapped heiress with a street-tough waitress). Both were pretty well-written and funny. On the other hand, Charlie’s Angels was not the Alias-times-three that I hoped (I guess I was duped by the voice of Victor Garber as Charlie). The dialogue was ridiculously bad and wasn’t compensated for at all by atrocious acting. If I never hear another “angel” pun or expression, it will be too soon. Revenge (think Desperate Housewives minus the humor, but with a healthy dollop of CW melodrama added) wasn’t too bad, even if it did take itself a bit too seriously. I like a good mystery and plot twist here and there, plus who doesn’t like to see stuck up rich folk get their comeuppance, eh?

Lastly, new J.J. Abrams project Person of Interest featured James Caviezel as a vigilante (Batman minus the tights) and Michael Emerson as his mysterious boss, who get cryptic numbers from an all-seeing computer system warning them of people to stalk in order to prevent bad things from happening. Frankly, the complexity of the premise seems like an attempt to hide how flimsy its concepts actually are. Nevertheless, it might turn out to be an enjoyable weekly adventure.

Oh, by way of update, Up All Night got much better in the second episode — some very funny stuff, including some Facebook bashing, which is always fun. Maybe there’s hope for some of these other shows as well in future eps (but I doubt that Charlie’s Angels has a wing or a prayer — Oh great! Now I’m doing it too!)

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