Two guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Last Week in TV #14: Midseason Report

Before diving back into new TV next week (this week's How I Met Your Mother and Top Chef will be covered in next week's post) let's take a quick look at the state of the numerous new shows that debuted this season which I've been watching. 

Pan Am
Despite featuring one of my favorite pilots of the season, after three episodes there wasn't enough narrative urgency to keep this from slipping further down the queue as my TV time got crunched. Now, it seems like a dead show walking, having played out its string but unlikely to get picked up for any additional episodes. I'll finish it out, thanks to the style and characters, but probably not until other, more urgent or intriguing shows, bow for the summer. 

Once Upon a Time
Another strong pilot and one of the show's I most regret falling behind on. Hoping to catch up with it soon. Definitely not perfect, but seeing fairy tale characters re-imagined (both in the flashbacks and the modern day) plus a Lost-ian style ongoing narrative is enough to keep me watching. 


Hell on Wheels
Debuting during a time when it was tough to keep up on existing shows, I haven't started this yet, but I have the entire thing DVRed and plan to check it out. I do enjoy a good Western.

2 Broke Girls
When this show started, I was more intrigued by the diner setting than anything else. Now, the show succeeds thanks to Max and Caroline's whacky antics, and everything set at the diner is like an albatross around the show's neck, the one-note and racist caricatures of the gals' co-workers weighing the show down. Some effort has recently been put into rounding out some of those characters, but unfortunately, I don't think the producers think Oleg, Han and Earl are as much of a problem as they are. I'm still watching, and mostly enjoying, the show, but I really hope the diner cast moves beyond these one-note stereotypes fast.

Terra Nova
Any momentum I had in watching this show was sapped when the third episode was interrupted by an overlong ALCS game, and the fact that little in the first two episodes was compelling enough for me to make the effort to watch that episode online. Mrs. Teebore and I recently watched the fourth episode (the one where the Newt-esque little girl infiltrates Terra Nova) and it was, like the other episodes, neither terrible nor terribly interesting. We'll finish it out just to see where things go, but again, with the entire season in the can, there's not a lot of urgency to do so. 

New Girl
Of all the new comedies I'm watching this season, this is the one that is still doing the most figuring itself out (for all of my issues with 2 Broke Girls, the show is clearly comfortable doing what it's doing), with Jess' character varying wildly from quirky and naive to childlike and stupid from episode to episode, the questionable setup of a potentially-dangerous will they/won't they story between her and Nick, and the fact that the show still doesn't know what to do with Winston long term. The consistent bright spot has been Schmidt who, while suffering through some of the same growing pains as the writers figure out his character, has managed to be consistently hilarious week in and week out. I'm sticking with this one, mainly because of Schmidt, but also because sometimes it fun to watch a show try to find itself, whether it ultimately succeeds or fails.  

Suburgatory
The best new show of the season that I've never written about, mainly because I like being able to just sit back and enjoy it. While the whacky world it's creating isn't anywhere close to being as well-developed as Springfield or Pawnee, nor anywhere close to representing reality, it has the potential to rival those cities, and watching Tessa explore that world and interact with a strong supporting cast in the show's first half has been tons of fun. When Alan Tudyk is the weakest member of your supporting cast, you know you've got a good thing. 

Revenge
Believe it or not, this is probably my favorite new show of the season. Consistently and ridiculously fun and campy, with a cast full of gorgeous woman, it's a nighttime soap in the best sense of the word. It's also a good template for how to tell satisfying self-contained stories within an episode while still maintaining an overarching narrative, enabling each episode to be satisfying on its own but not inconsequential. I have no idea how its premise could be sustained for multiple seasons, but for now, I'm enjoying the ride. 

Up All Night
I rarely laugh out loud at this show, yet consistently come away feeling entertained. The big stumbling block early on was finding ways to integrate Maya Rudolph's broader Ava character with everyone else, and the writers found a nice way to do this by pairing her up with a restrained-but-funny Jason Lee. I have no idea how long he, or his relationship with Ava, will last, but it's a good sign that the writers recognized a problem and addressed it. Meanwhile, Christina Appelgate and Will Arnett remain, again, if not laugh-out-loud funny, consistently entertaining, and that's enough to keep me watching. 

Ringer
Mrs. Teebore and I only lasted two episodes. It tried to be everything Revenge is, but instead was leaden and boring. I love Buffy too, but this was terrible, and from what I've heard, we did right in bailing on it.

Whitney
Mrs. Teebore is still watching, but I jumped ship after three episodes, and regret hanging in that long. That this is still on the air and Community is on hiatus is a travesty.

Person of Interest
Another show backlogged on the DVR, and another show whose preference for done-in-one procedurals in favor of a larger ongoing narrative made it easy to skip past when viewing time got tight. But I've heard it's gotten better in that regard, and will try to make an effort to catch up on it sooner rather than later. 

Grimm
No one expected both of this season's "fairy tales in the modern era" shows to be good and successful, but surprisingly enough, it somehow happened (granted, Grimm is helped out by being on NBC, where its numbers make it a success it wouldn't be on other networks; it'll be interesting to see what happens in the wake of its move to Thursdays). If Once Upon a Time takes it cues from Lost, this show is definitely a Buffy/Angel descendant (not surprisingly, given some of its creators), which helps make the two shows distinct and enjoyable in their own rights. The main actor is pretty awful, but the rest of the cast, especially Silas Weir Mitchell, is good enough for a genre show, and like Once Upon a Time, the fun is in seeing the different takes on old fairy tale standbys. And like Once Upon a Time, this is another show which I'm eager to catch up with.

15 comments:

Anne said...

there are a fair amount of shows here that i've never even heard of...
the new shows i am enjoying the most this season are Hell on Wheels (BY FAR my favorite show right now- every episode is just great), POI (which has really picked up), and Terra Nova (a lot of stuff happened in the last couple episodes- we're excited to see what comes next).
We dropped Once Upon a Time after 3 eps, and Grimm after one, and while i hear from people at work they're still good, i don't regret not watching them

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

What anne said. We just got behind on once upon a time, and our dvr was full, so we had to sacrifice something.
And for some reason our DVR didn't record more than the first episode of Grimm so clearly it made that decision for us.

I cannot WAIT for you to start Hell on Wheels. It is excellent. We got caught up last night and i told anne and pat that i felt it was the best show on tv now and that the only thing that could beat it was Fringe.

Terra Nova will continue to be not bad/not great, but the season finale really brought out some big guns and they were really good about going in directions i didn't expect at all, which was especially refreshing for a show that pretty much goes where it's expected

POI is great as well. Like you, it was one of those shows we watched only when we'd watched everything else. But the most recent episode really jumped it up some, and now i'm really excited for new episodes. It's definitely a slow build sort of show

Teebore said...

@Anne: Terra Nova (a lot of stuff happened in the last couple episodes- we're excited to see what comes next)

IF it comes back...there's a good chance it may not come back for a second season. It got decent but not great ratings, as is apparently a fairly spendy show to produce.

We dropped Once Upon a Time after 3 eps, and Grimm after one, and while i hear from people at work they're still good, i don't regret not watching them

That's too bad. I mean, neither one is uniformly excellent or anything, but I definitely think both you and Sarah would enjoy them.

@Sarah: We got caught up last night and i told anne and pat that i felt it was the best show on tv now and that the only thing that could beat it was Fringe.

I'd heard the last episode was pretty bad (the Onion AV Club reviewer gave it an F), but I didn't read any of the details of it since, obviously, I haven't watched it.

It must be ending it's run soon, right? Most of those AMC shows are only 13 episodes a season, and it's been pretty much since Walking Dead started this year. We'll probably wait til the season ends then power through them in a weekend or something.

But the most recent episode really jumped it up some, and now i'm really excited for new episodes. It's definitely a slow build sort of show

Yeah, we watched another ep last night (the one with the judge and his kidnapped kid). It was definitely another "this guy is totally Batman" episode, but other than that, another self-contained, go-nowhere ep. I'm excited for it to pick up.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

huh. We just watched the most recent Hell On Wheels episode and loved it. We totally love all the characters and would more or less watch them do nothing.
There's only 2 episodes left in the season, so yeah, almost done.

Anne said...

what Sarah said. in fact, halfway through the ep i think i specifically said 'this episode is great!'. They finally got to a point in a couple character relationships that we'd been waiting for and it was as badass as we knew it would be
i mean, an F? how is that a realistic score, unless they actually regret watching it and there wasn't a single redeeming factor in the episode...

Teebore said...

@Anne: i mean, an F? how is that a realistic score, unless they actually regret watching it and there wasn't a single redeeming factor in the episode...

I dunno, you'd have to read the review to see. Though judging by the grades on previous reviews, it looks like the reviewer has been souring on the show as it goes along, fwiw.

Hannah Kincade said...

I've dropped out on Terra Nova. I'm pretty caught up on Hell on Wheels. Once Upon a Time is probably my favorite new show this season. Love it and I think you'll like it the more you watch.
And I like Grimm but I don't love it. I catch it ONDemand.

I gave up on Ringer as well. I don't miss it.

And I'm a couple of episodes behind on POI but I still enjoy it when I watch it.

Are you planning on watching any of the new cable shows starting mid-season??

I can't wait for Merlin to start tonight and I want to check out Lost Girl on SyFy as well. Alcatraz looks promising, but let's be honest, I'm watching it for Hugo (which will always be his name in my book). I wish I had Showtime so I could watch the new Mandy Patinkin show but alas, I do not.

Teebore said...

@Hannah: Are you planning on watching any of the new cable shows starting mid-season??

Offhand, the only new shows I'm thinking of checking out are Alcatraz, Smash and maybe that one with Kiefer Sutherland (on the one hand, it's Kiefer, on the other hand, the EP is Tim Kring, of Heroes infamy).

But I'm sure there's more out there (and some stuff that hasn't gotten a release date yet) that I'll likely check out.

And I can't wait for the return of Bob's Burgers in March!

Anne said...

FINALLY!
(@ Bob's Burgers)

Blam said...


I've not sampled as many new shows as you, but of the ones that I did try I find that we're in almost lockstep agreement.

Pan Am — I fully intended to give take a flyer on this but never even got off the ground with it. [Sorry.] Had I heard increasingly good things about the show instead of the opposite, I might well have finally tried it, but as it was I just had too much else to watch.

Once Upon a Time — While I've been doing a lot of catching up on TV these past few weeks, I still find myself three episodes behind on this not counting the new one that aired tonight. I like the premise and even a lot of the execution, but there's still a certain something missing to me. A frustration that I can articulate is that I'd rather the scenes of Fairy-Tale Land or whatever they're calling it either pushed the casual speech and tongue-in-cheekiness further, counter to expectations, or kept a winking yet reasonably firm adherence to archaic generically English accents and more formal mannerisms; as it is, there's a fish-nor-fowl quality to the half-baked postmodernism.

Hell on Wheels — Despite being impressed with AMC's original series — I even liked Rubicon (save for its frustrating season/series finale), although I bailed on The Killing after a few installments — there's just been no time to pick this one up, especially with mixed reviews from friends and critics.

2 Broke Girls, New Girl — I'm with you on both of these, including your parenthetical remark in the writeup of the latter contrasting them ("for all of my issues with 2 Broke Girls, the show is clearly comfortable doing what it's doing"). The diner scenes involving Oleg and Han are just deadly; Earl may be a randy-old-black-jazzman stereotype, but at least he's not as obnoxiously racist, although Garrett Morris' line readings are still as wooden as they were in his SNL days — yet still not as thuddingly offensive nor as just plain unfunny as the other guys'. Max and Caroline's developing relationship is fun, though, so far keeping me coming back to some extent for all the reasons why I can't usually stand the standard sitcom tropes. Almost despite myself, I love how Kat Dennings cracks herself up with each punchline, which whether it's actually a failure on her part to keep a straight face or a character choice works for me because of how sardonic her character is. The frequent criticism from some quarters of Zooey Deschanel's preciousness, by contrast, has begun to resonate with me, even though I still think she can act, sing, and look purty. Jess has done some colossally stupid stuff. The other characters and the actors portraying them all still feel like cyphers to me, although you're right that Schmidt's willful dislikability (on the part of both the character in-story and on the part of the producers) is perhaps the show's most well-defined, often outrageously funny aspect. I wonder sometimes if I don't just have too many familiar faces in my head to accept new ones and their attendant personalities, but then I remember some breakthrough performance that belies such a theory.

Blam said...


Terra Nova — I still haven't watched past the second episode, but everything to date remains available on Hulu Plus. I'd really hoped to get to them during December, but I was behind on too much else that I care about more. I signed up for Hulu Plus because in a reversal of my problems with Comcast I now with Verizon FIOS get the full array of cable channels but don't get proper reception for any of the broadcast networks save NBC; I wanted to watch some things that had cycled off of the networks' own sites as well as see some Fox and CW shows (Glee, Bones, Supernatural) either immediately without the one-week delay or in other cases belatedly. I don't know how long I'll keep the subscription going, but for now I look at it as putting my money where my mouth is in terms of saying that I'd be willing to pay a nominal fee to watch my favorite shows whenever I wanted to. I've unwittingly become the dreaded on-my-own-terms, on-my-computer TV viewer of the future.

Suburgatory, Revenge, Up All Night, Whitney — I haven't sampled any of these and probably won't with the possible exception of Suburgatory during summer repeats or when it hits DVD if it miraculously does so with enough time before the next season starts. Revenge is the one that I most regret not having seen, though, because despite what you said about it having impressively self-contained plots in each episode I'm of the impression that I really should've watched this from the start and realistically I'm not going to just drop in on a random episode at this point anyhow. Whitney tempted me slightly based on Whitney Cummings' appearances on Chelsea Lately, which is where I used to get my media-gossip fix, but if she was delicious Dr. Pepper there this looked like store-brand diet root beer by comparison, so I stayed away.

Ringer — During the third episode of this I realized that there was too much other stuff I'd rather be watching. I'm still sorry that I didn't try Pan Am instead, or get to Terra Nova and Person of Interest sooner so that I'd kept up with them instead.

Person of Interest — And speaking of that show it didn't really hold my interest either, to the point where after watching three episodes a couple of months after the show debuted and a couple of months ago dating from today I just deleted it from my list of what I'm watching and where I am in watching it (so that I know what episodes I've missed, being consistently behind on too much). I was definitely intrigued, but Jim Caviezel was too aggressively impassive and Michael Emerson too quirkily obtuse to draw me into their characters; as I feel like I've said here before, I'm also still stinging from the disappointment of Lost and can only hope that Jorge Reyes is a less bitter reminder on Alcatraz than his old castmate is.

Grimm — I'm about five episodes behind on this, but liked it enough not to have written it off yet. Like you said, it's different enough from Once Upon a Time to be worth the effort to watch both, and I think that the mythology has a lot of potential.

Blam said...


Teebore: Offhand, the only new shows I'm thinking of checking out are Alcatraz, Smash and maybe that one with Kiefer Sutherland

Ditto. Since I don't get Showtime, I haven't seen Homeland, which is the show with Mandy Patinkin that I think Hannah was referring to — I hear that its just-wrapped first season was excellent, and Clare Danes can definitely do the acting. I'm not up on any other cable shows beyond a few on AMC and a couple on HBO because of too long in the cable-less wilderness; I used to like Eureka, Leverage, and some other basic-cable stuff, but until late this summer I hadn't had access to "Syfy" since it was still Sci-Fi. I hear that Warehouse 13 is all kinds of fun but it's another one that'll have to be watched on DVD or Hulu eventually...

Are you gonna do a post like this for "returning" shows, Mr. T, or is it just back to the grind next week? I've still got plenty jotted down on past weeks as fodder for both my own potential posts and comments here, but I'm asking 'cause I'll definitely be working my way backwards through your posts this season as I can so as not to repeat myself or get caught up in spoilers.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I like the premise and even a lot of the execution, but there's still a certain something missing to me.

Agreed. If you ever figure out what it is, let me know, and vice versa.


A frustration that I can articulate is that I'd rather the scenes of Fairy-Tale Land or whatever they're calling it either pushed the casual speech and tongue-in-cheekiness further, counter to expectations, or kept a winking yet reasonably firm adherence to archaic generically English accents and more formal mannerisms

Agreed again. Either way, I'd like there to be SOME difference in the way the characters talk between the two worlds.

Earl may be a randy-old-black-jazzman stereotype, but at least he's not as obnoxiously racist

Of the three, Earl is definitely the least problematic, his biggest issue being he's given very little to do, whereas Han and Oleg are given plenty to do but the vast majority is racist and/or sucks.

I've unwittingly become the dreaded on-my-own-terms, on-my-computer TV viewer of the future.

Scourge of advertisers everywhere!

I'm not quite there yet, but with the number of times I go to Hulu to catch something I've missed only to discover I need a Hulu Plus subscription to watch it (or the number of times I've thought it would be nice to re-watch something on my phone, on the go, to kill time) increasing, it's only a matter of time before I'll cross the threshold to where it becomes beneficial to subscribe.

I trust you've been pleased with it thus far?

despite what you said about it having impressively self-contained plots in each episode I'm of the impression that I really should've watched this from the start

Yeah, the "self-containment" is more in service to making each episode satsifying on its own terms; Revenge is definitely a show you'd want to watch from the beginning.

I'm also still stinging from the disappointment of Lost and can only hope that Jorge Reyes is a less bitter reminder on Alcatraz than his old castmate is.

I'm in the same boat, and I too hope seeing Hurley again isn't as frustrating for me as watching Ben Linus pal around with Jesus has been. I'm thinking it should be easier, if only because Hurley wasn't as connected to those things about Lost that still bother me as Ben was...

I hear that Warehouse 13 is all kinds of fun but it's another one that'll have to be watched on DVD or Hulu eventually...

Along those lines, last summer we watched (and just a few weeks ago finished) Alphas on SyFy, which is another show you'd probably enjoy and could catch up with via DVD/Hulu. It's probably a bit early and/or unfair to say this, but it's definitely setup to be "Heroes done right", with a fun look at people with super powers that has thus far sidestepped a lot of the issues I had with Hereos, even in its "it's all downhill from here" first season.

Alphas features some clever (albeit less showy) super powers, fun, unique characters, and a great anchoring performance by David Strathairn as the group's non-powered Professor X-type character. It starts a little slow, but kicks into gear about halfway into the season as the characters start to gel and the mythology deepens.

I have no idea when season 2 kicks off, but if you have the chance to catch up before then, take it. I think you'd enjoy it.

Are you gonna do a post like this for "returning" shows, Mr. T, or is it just back to the grind next week?

Back to the grind next (this) week. Oddly enough, the thought of doing a similar post for returning shows never even occurred to me, and with shows starting to come back already this week, I want to avoid falling behind right out of the gate.

So if you've got comments on earlier posts, have at it! I look forward to them.

Blam said...


Teebore: Agreed. If you ever figure out what it is, let me know, and vice versa.

Ha! You got yerself a deal.

Teebore: I trust you've been pleased with it thus far?

Yeah, Hulu Plus is pretty keen. I wish it had CBS shows, as CBS's own video player craps out a lot, but I've discovered that if you go click on "watch video" for a show at the TV Guide website you get directed to a player at Xfinity — which is somewhat ironic, my house having given up Comcast / Xfinity for Verizon FIOS this summer as I said. And Hulu Plus still has brief commercials, same as free Hulu; while I don't like it, I just tap down the volume while I check some E-mail or whatever.

The single time I had trouble with a video, Hulu Plus customer service was almost overbearing in trying to help me fix it, quite a change from just about every other website, electronics store, or service provider I've had to deal with in the past few years. What really sold me on keeping it past the first month was that CW shows were just added (of which I watch exactly two, The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural, but I really wanted to catch up on them, and unlike regular Hulu they're posted the day after air; there's a similar benefit with I think all Fox shows but Fringe). I suspect that I'll be less keen to keep it when all I want it for it immediate playback of new episodes, so I might put my account on hold when I'm caught up on everything (or almost everything; if I don't watch Terra Nova soon I doubt it'll get watched during February).

Even if there are just couple of shows apiece that I don't want to wait for — the CW site not only delays a week and a day to keep up TV viewership but runs full commercials so that hour-long shows are still an hour, and Fox also has that delay of a week and a day for most of its shows at it's own site and on regular Hulu — that's less than eight bucks divided by four shows a week for four weeks, so less than fifty cents per one-time viewing of a show. And when you throw in the security of knowing that they're there in some cases for an entire season, plus there's plenty of other stuff to explore should I actually find myself looking for new stuff to watch, it's worth it.

Blam said...


Teebore: Oddly enough, the thought of doing a similar post for returning shows never even occurred to me, and with shows starting to come back already this week, I want to avoid falling behind right out of the gate.

Understood... I do keep meaning to revisit past weeks' posts and then caught up with other stuff, but I hate having jotted down notes (or just psyched myself up for joining the discussion, although at this point there won't be much of that) and then knowing they're lying there. So stubborn boy that I am they'll find their way into comment boxes eventually.