The Fall Television Report Card

I season pass lots of TV shows on my DVR each season. It gives me something to watch while eating breakfast each morning, making dinner, folding laundry, and while hosting competitive underground Chess Boxing matches.

With the new Fall television season a month into its run, now feels like a fair time to fill out my report card. The networks have time to fix shows, still, before the end of the semester. Let me know what you think about some of these shows. Any shows I’m not following, that you recommend

Mad Men

AMC’s show is just like the whiskey all the ad men drink, it’s better when aged properly. This third season is arguably its best season, yet. It’s pacing and characterization is as methodical and exacting as that on The Sopranos. Deserving of all the hype. It’s early enough to Netflix or Hulu past episodes so you can get caught up.

Grade: A-

Bored To Death

It’s no Curb or Flight of the Conchords, but Bored To Death is a show loaded with potential. Despite the fact that it’s merely meh so far, with its cast, I feel like it’s a second season kind of show. They’re figuring out who they are. They have Jason Schwarzman and Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson in their cast, so the writers are gauging what the audience wants to see out of them. It’s the story of a writer who has lost his girlfriend and is going through some writers block, so in his spare time, he (illegally) practices as a private detective. He uses his writers skills, research, getting into a character’s head, to solve the cases he takes on. HBO just picked it up for the rest of the season, so I expect to see better writing in the second-half.

Grade: C+

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David never lets me down. I was cautiously ecstatic when I heard that not only was Curb coming back for another season, but that it would reunite the entire cast of Seinfeld over five episodes. Reunions are always tricky. But the show used that as the basis of an entire episode, and openly griped about the pitfalls of reunion shows, in what turned out to be one of the funnier Curbs over the last few seasons. Larry David is a neurotic jerk. It makes me uncomfortable at how many of his quirks make sense to me. What separates me from him, is that I’d never voice half of the neurosis he does. Wait. Hello, Twitter. Maybe I do. It’s easily, still one of the funniest, smartest shows on television.

Grade: A

How I Met Your Mother

I’ve been compared to Ted by way too many people over the years, including my then-girlfriend during the first season. I’m finally giving in and accepting it. While I would rather be Barney, it’s better than being compared to Lilly? Consistently, HIMYM has been one of the funnier, better-written laugh-track-using sitcoms on television. They weave in websites for viewers to visit perfectly, to add an interactive nature to the show, to go along with the obvious “Who do you think the mother will be?” water cooler banter you’re going to get. They use some great indie/underground music, as well. This season has been a little underwhelming. I’m hoping it’s because they’re building towards introducing the identity of the mother, which will turn the show into a whole new direction and with luck, the catapult this season needs.

Grade: B-

Castle

Cheesy. Over the top. Tongue-in-cheek. Cliche. One too many twists. And the show knows it’s all of those things, and that’s why I dig it. The show hinges on Nathan Fillion’s ability to find just that right balance of all of the above, while still making it endearing and believable-enough. It’s season two and I’m still hanging around.

Grade: C+

Glee

I almost didn’t give this show a chance. But I’m a music geek. Especially love guilty-pleasure music. So when I heard the kids sang Journey in the pilot episode, far be it from me to deny the show a chance. Fox sitcoms have been notoriously bad over the years, in my opinion. There’s always a smarm-factor in them, where I tend to hate every character in a show. Glee finds that right balance of bite and lovability, though. Everyone can relate to at least one of the characters, whether it’s from their days in high school or now, as one of the adults. As much as we wonder which songs they’ll sing next (note: how long until Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”?!), we also await the day Will and Emma end up together. If I were employed right now, I’d imagine every Thursday morning as people await the brewing coffee, they discuss the show and which songs were sung.

Grade: B+

Modern Family

ABC has struggled with their new half-hour sitcoms over the last few years. This one seems to have stuck, though. Ed O’Neill is perfect as the husband with a younger, trophy wife and her child. There are enough characters in this show that even the most ADD viewer will never get bored, since the show jumps around so much. Here’s to hoping they continue to amp up the uncomfortable moments that every viewer can relate to.

Grade: B-

Community

Make no mistake, this is Joel McHale’s show. But if his supporting cast sucked, this show wouldn’t be on the air right now. It’s a fun ensemble cast. And I never thought I’d see the day where Chevy Chase was funny again. For a half-hour ensemble sitcom, I already feel like I know most of the characters quite well, and have formed an attachment. In most half-hour sitcoms, depth of supporting cast is usually an after-thought. I just realized the other day that Annie (over-achiever with the pill addiction in high school) is played by the same actress who is Pete Campbell’s wife on Mad Men. Jeff and Britta’s love/hate relationship is one that I hope has legs.

Grade: B

Parks & Recreation

This is a show I was really against, last season. I felt the show had no clue what it wanted to be. Amy Poehler wanted to be Michael Scott with girl parts, way too much. But I stuck with the show, and over the last few episodes last season, it felt like the show was beginning to learn who it was. There was chemistry. And this season, the show has continued with that momentum and is one of the more underrated shows on the air. Every time Nick Offerman is in a scene as Ron Swanson, he absolutely steals it. Look no further than the episode where he had a hernia, and didn’t move from his seat. Pure comedic gold. If they can still tone down Amy Poehler’s portrayal of Leslie a bit, this show has a chance to catch on and become the show NBC thought it had going into last season.

Grade: B+

The Office

As a lifetime fan of the show, and before this one, the original BBC series, this season has been a let down. The “Pam and Jim Wedding” gives me hope, though. Last season, the addition of Charles and the Michael Scott Paper Company provided some great laughs. But this season, it feels like a show where everyone’s staring at one another thinking, but not wanting to say, “Now what?” We got hooked on the show because of our interest in Pam and Jim. That can’t be the focus of the show, anymore. So, now who? Dwight’s the perfect supporting character, you have to use him sparingly so as to not water down his laughs. There needs to be some sort of office romance that people care about, no? I mean, after all, aren’t those the best rumors at any workplace in real life? Who’s messing around with whom? Whatever it is, they need to find some way to take the momentum from the wedding episode, and turn this season around, because it’s a shell of its former self.

Grade: C

The Vampire Diaries

Yup. You read this right. I watch this show. And ya know what? It’s solidly entertaining week in and week out! It has a young, mostly unknown cast that flies below the radar, and delivers dialogue and performances that consistently surprise. On a packed night of television, I’m happy to see the ratings on this show revealing that it hasn’t been lost amongst all the other, bigger networks. One thing that makes me appreciate this more than Twilight, is that I haven’t had to endure a “Don’t play with your food” line cliche-ingly stated by any vampires. Thank you, writing staff!

Grade: B

Grey’s Anatomy

I’ve watched this show since the pilot episode. I still stand by its earlier seasons, which provided quirky characters and dialogue that made it a memorable option on ABC. But last season they really started losing me with all the hallucinations and whatnot. It began to feel like a show that was way too aware of the fact that it was known for being quirky, and they fell into that house of mirrors, with every character trying to deliver quirker lines and moments than the next. This season, I find myself just not liking most of the characters, any more. On a packed evening of television, I’m really close to deleting this season pass.

Grade: D+

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I absolutely love this show. It rarely lets me down. Last week’s Intervention was probably one of the three funniest in the series’ history (behind only the “Gas Crisis” and “Eagles Tryout” episodes, in my opinion). Often times, when a series adds a “name” to the show, it’s distracting and can be the moment a show has been known to “jump the shark” as they say. But the addition of Danny DeVito a few seasons ago, proved to be the perfect move. Just when you think nobody could be crazier than Charlie, Frank comes along and one-ups him every time. Sunny is one of the ballsiest shows on television, and rarely fails to make me actually laugh out loud multiple times each episode.

Grade: A-

Flash Forward

Sure, we all know how the show probably came about. ABC executives heard everyone flipping out over the fact that the flash-forwards in Lost revitalized a show that some people feared had seen its best days come and go. So someone said, “I want a show all about those flash-forwards!” And voila … this show was born. But you know what? I’m fine with that. Gimmicks are fine, to get me to watch a show. As long as you can then back it up with some substance. Right now, I see it as a show with potential. There are far too many layers that have to be introduced, first. Luckily, ABC has picked up the show for the remainder of the season, despite only so-so ratings. Will be curious to see if the show becomes what it has the potential to be. Or will it end up like Kidnapped, another show from a few years ago, based upon a gimmick, that never lived up what it could have been?

Grade: B-

Saturday Night Live

I almost don’t want to list this show, because it’s become cliche to rail on its skits. But in all honesty, they have maybe one funny skit (outside of the always well-written “Weekend Update” and “Digital Shorts”) every episode. And I realize it’s difficult to be fresh, witty, and biting every week when you have a live show … but still, that’s your gimmick and what has kept you on the air for 35 years, so you’re damn sure we’re going to call you out when you regularly miss the mark. Abbie Elliot, Will Forte, and Bill Hader always bring the funny, at least. And their presence is enough to keep me DVRing it and at least FFing through, over Sunday morning breakfast.

What say you? Agree or disagree with anything, this season?

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2 thoughts on “The Fall Television Report Card

  1. I could debate and go on about many of these shows, but I shall refrain. All I will say is that Modern Family is the best new show this fall by far! I can’t believe you gave Parks and Rec a better mark! Manny and Phil are quickly moving up my list of favorite sitcom characters. Your next tv show netflix assignment – Dexter!

  2. I was certainly surprised by “Modern Family” … happy it got picked up for a full season! But “Parks & Rec” has really improved this season and it has lots of subtle jokes. It’s nowhere as good as “Arrested Development” (that show was in a league of its own) but I noticed they’re trying to go the same route with subtle site gags and remarks that go undetected much of the time. I didn’t get to watch last night’s “Modern Family” yet, so I’m hoping it’s as good as the previous episodes!

    I’ve heard GREAT things about “Dexter”. I don’t have Showtime, but at least I can Netflix the past seasons and give it a chance! Maybe I’ll do that during the Winter Olympics when all other shows are in reruns.

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