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First Impressions: New Fall Television

We watched them so you won't have to.

By / Posted on 03 October 2011

The change of seasons is always an interesting time for television junkies, because each new season brings with it a new crop of exciting programming options. Winter brings its midseason replacements, Spring brings sweeps, and Summer offers more alternative programming, much on basic cable. Most exciting of all, though, is Fall, when the major networks show their hand on a whole slew of potential blockbusters. As avid pop culture addicts, we are, of course, glued to the television this time of year, anticipating the returns of our favorites (hooray for Community and Fringe!) and looking for our next thrilling fix. More often than not, we are bored and disappointed, but every now and then something special comes along. After two weeks, here are our feelings on the most noteworthy new shows this season.

Bad News

New Girl and WhitneySomebody once said “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” (The exact lineage of the quote is oft-contended) Considering primetime television used to be dominated by sitcoms, there are remarkably few in production these days that are, you know, even remotely funny. Both single-female-driven sitcom pilots New Girl (starring Zooey Deschanel) and Whitney (starring Whitney Cummings) are so abysmally bad and downright offensive to our senses of humor that we shut them both off before the first commercial break. New Girl has somehow already been picked up for a full season, and Whitney is easily the most aggressively marketed show of the season, so obviously somebody thinks these shows are worth the effort, but we say stay as far away as you can.

Good News

SuburgatoryWe fully expected to hate Suburgatory, but this Mean Girls sitcom actually turned out to be pretty clever and surprisingly fun. The back-and-forth analogy at the end of the pilot comparing suburban life to both a goldfish in a bowl and a Felini movie was particularly refreshing. It’s easy for a show like this to get off on the wrong foot, but Suburgatory take it cautiously and confidently. Though it is a shame that one girl from Weeds is already being typecast as the image of a teenage lesbian already.

RevengeThe other one we entered with a mix of trepidation and curiosity was ABC’s Revenge, and we’re happy to say that two weeks in a row we have been blown away. What could have been a simple pretty-people soap revealed itself to be a relentlessly clever and mature thriller, with a dark history waiting to be fully fleshed out and a giddy thrill of exultant joy each time the protagonist snares another one of her Hampton traps. By far our biggest surprise of the season, and the only new show we’re DVRing already.

Wait and See

Person of InterestPerson of Interest may be the highest-tested drama pilot in 15 years (according to CBS) but the concept and pacing is a little hard to swallow so far. We typically trust JJ Abrams (Fringe started off rough but quickly became one of the best shows on television, Alias and Lost both did the opposite). We’ll keep an eye on this show in hopes that our willing suspension of disbelief kicks in alongside some sense of personality, but for now it seems like audiences just like the idea of an ex-military hero working outside the law to kick some potential terrorists asses.

Up All NightAfter the unexpected smash success of 30 Rock, Lorne Michaels tries the sitcom game again with Up All Night and it’s… okay? The premise certainly has potential — producer of an Oprah-like talk show returns to wok after maternity leave and adjusts to working life as a new mom — and the cast of Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph have certainly got the comedic chops, but it feels like this show hasn’t settled into its comfort zone just yet. We hope it does soon, because this could be a very funny show, it just isn’t yet.

The Playboy ClubFinally, the Playboy Club. It seems like NBC was banking on the combination of the Playboy name and the Mad Men style to draw attention, but so far this show is just kind of bland. We were very surprised by the direction the show took early on — say, the second or third scene of the pilot — and the Mob Land aspect of the time and place could serve to make the Playboy Club a compelling period drama, but for now it’s still rather dull.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.