Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall TV Update: The Networks Slash and Dash

When I wrote about the new fall TV schedule a mere 11 days ago, there was optimism and a hint of promise in the air. Since then, NBC has wielded a mighty ax, canceling its execrable attempt at a "Mad Men" rip-off, "The Playboy Club" and the mildly unamusing "Free Agents." At least "The Playboy Club" had a recognizable title. I'm willing to bet that 80% of viewers have no idea what "Free Agents" was at all. (It was the one with Hank Azaria, scheduled to go with "Up All Night," the "Oh, no, we have a baby" comedy starring Christina Applegate and GOB Bluth, er, Will Arnett.

And speaking of which, NBC has balanced out the axings by giving full-season orders to "Up All Night" and another execrable show, the eponymous "Whitney." I lasted for a mere three minutes of "Whitney" before deciding I had better things to do. It's not funny, Whitney Cummings is not pleasant or attractive or anything I would want to watch, and I am shocked, shocked, I tell you, that this series got an early pick-up.

Meanwhile, the CW's nasty little pop culture show "H8R," hosted by Mario Lopez, has been axed after only four episodes. I guess everybody H8'd it.

Back in the positive column, CBS has picked up "2 Broke Girls," with Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as unlikely roommates, for a full season, while Fox has ordered a full season's worth of episodes of "New Girl," the too-zany-for-its-own-good Zooey Deschanel vehicle that makes me want to hurl but is frolicking happily through the ratings, smirking at the H8Rs like me.

I have now also seen the season openers for returning favorites "Parks and Recreation," "Happy Endings," "Modern Family," "Community," "The Office" and "House," and I would give them A+, A, B, B, B and B+, in that order, with that last grade for "House" not a permanent mark, but open to review. Its season-ender last year was so awful that even though I liked its first fall episode a lot (and I never don't like Hugh Laurie) I am going to wait and see just where it goes from here.

"Parks and Recreation," meanwhile, gets better every episode, and I wish some more viewers would tune it. Leslie Knopes running for office and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman, an alum of our very own University of Illinois, shown below with Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness) fighting off extra Tammies has been fabulous. But, no, the TV audience is apparently too busy goobering over the likes of Zooey and Whitney for their sit-com fun. I fear for "Parks and Recreation." Ron Swanson still reeks of greatness, though.

"Happy Endings," meanwhile, continues to be adorable and silly, with fresh, zippy characters, while "Modern Family" is trying hard to keep up its winning ways, but only partly succeeding for me. I do like that baby Lily has gotten older and more difficult, but I'm tiring of Claire's type A personality on overdrive, as well as Cameron and Mitchell always squabbling.

The squabbling is also my problem with "Community," which can be very, very funny (its season finale was a paint-spattered, conspiracy theory classic) but its trademark bickering and kvetching within the study group is starting to wear thin. Ditto for "The Office," with its new boss intrigues. There have been some good post-Michael Scott moments, but I'm feeling a bit fatigued there, too.

And over on "Project Runway," which is winding down, I am more and more unamused by the Man Behind the Curtain, or whoever it is that is running the show. The designers seem perhaps less talented in general, but the manipulation and team challenge after team challenge has muddied the waters so much I have no idea who has talent and who doesn't. Anya has only been sewing for four months! Josh the Oompa Loompa is a drama queen and a jerk! Nobody likes Bert! Laura is a smack-talking spoiled baby! Anya is gorgeous! The judges love Anya, even when her clothes are falling apart on the runway or are not remotely acceptable for real life, given that there's no zipper and the thing has to be cut off and sewn onto the model! But she wins, anyway, because she is gorgeous and has only been sewing for four months and was a beauty queen with a sex tape so WHEEEE does she have buzz! And Kimberly and Victor seem talented but there's a lot more drama with the beauty queen who can't sew and the Oompa Loompa with the bad attitude, so let's keep handing wins to them, shall we?

Yeah, I should probably stop watching "Project Runway."


  1. Thanks for the roundup, Julie. We can be grateful that "Playboy Club" and "H8R" are no more (Alan Sepinwall did a wonderful demolition of that one before its premiere -- the nerve of ordinary people, daring to critique trainwrecks like Snooki for exactly the only things they will become famous for!).

    The popularity of "Whitney" just baffles me. It seems like a version of "Two and a Half Men," but this time it's the woman who gets to be crass and crude. Yay? (And Whitney Whatsername also created "2 Broke Girls," so she's cleaning up these days.)

    I like all the sitcoms you caught us up on (except I've never been a real "Office" person), but will happily concur that "Parks & Rec" is on a real roll these days, and that "Happy Endings," which in advance looked like "oh, another Friends clone about 6 friends who hang out," really has an original character and flavor. It really makes me happy to watch it. (So glad Damon Wayans Jr is on this, and not "New Girl"!).

  2. I have Alan Sepinwall linked over there on the left under "Useful Links." He is "What's Alan Watching?" I really enjoy his writing.

    "Happy Endings" has a knack of making (quite) quirky characters also appealing and fun, which I wish "New Girl" and "Whitney" would figure out. But, then, I suppose if they fit my taste they would have dire ratings and not be boffo success stories like they are. AARGH. I will take ten "Parks and Recreations" and "Happy Endings" before one-half of a "Whitney."

  3. One thing for which I admired Sepinwall recently was his willingness to admit he'd been wrong. In company with some other critics, he panned "Happy Endings" at its premiere. (And in fairness, had I been a critic obliged to watch all the bunch-of-friends-dealing-with-adulthood sitcoms last year, "Better with You" and "Perfect Couples" and "Traffic Light" and all, I might have had trouble giving a new one a fair shake too. Also, the runaway-bride pilot premise is perhaps the weakest part of it.)

    But I kept watching and discovering how much I liked it, and how really fresh and funny it is. And a few weeks later he reported back that he'd been having the same experience, and had been unfair when it started.