Typing Faster

July 26, 2010

A Long Road Ahead: Critics Preview the 2010 TV Season

Filed under: Future of TV — petertypingfaster @ 11:52 am

So the US networks are about to throw their promotional machine into overdrive flogging their upcoming premieres. Every year there’s usually one or two shows that start to generate a lot of early critical buzz. Last year it was Glee and Modern Family. The year before True Blood was getting everyone’s attention. What show are people going to be talking about this year?

Well, if Broadcasting & Cable’s 2010 Critics Roundtable’s any indication, then it’s not much.

After last season’s critical and commercial success (think Glee, Vampire Diaries, Modern Family, The Middle, Community, The Good Wife and NCIS: Los Angeles) the expectations were high. Unfortunately…

That’s why this year’s freshman class of mostly indistinguishable series-and a few that look to be full blown misses-[was] all the more disappointing to a roundtable of top TV critics B&C polled about the new season.

“It’s almost as if people had something to prove last year,” says Matt Roush, TV Guide magazine’s television critic. “And now that they’ve proved it, they just kind of gave up this year in terms of developing anything that would really catch our attention.”

While the article goes into more depth, let’s just take a look at the highlights. What shows seem to be worth watching, what shows were the big disappointments, and what shows are just kind of meh.

THE BEST

Fox’s Lonestar and Raising Hope.

…Fox’s Lonestar, about father-and-son grifters who bilk unsuspecting investors until the son decides to listen to the angels of his better nature, is the drama pilot with the most potential. A fresh concept amid the glut of crime procedurals, it also has a likeable lead in James Volk, who plays the son. But everyone seems to be wondering how this show can sustain itself over the long haul.

The Fox comedy Raising Hope-from My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia-got high marks for its subversive quirkiness. Like Earl, the show revolves around a goodhearted central character stuck at dysfunction junction. Lucas Neff plays a twentyshomething with few prospects who ends up with a baby daughter after a one-night stand with a wanted felon. He’s surrounded by peculiar supporting players, in this case his scene-stealing family played by Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt and Cloris Leachman.

Matt Roush: “Lonestar has a great new star with a lot of charisma. It’s different from the other shows, but the pilot made me wonder what would happen next.

Ellen Gray: “In spite of myself, I loved Raising Hope. It’s very clever. There seems to be some heart in it. I could not stop laughing, and at the same time I hated myself at times for laughing-which may be the absolute essence of any Fox comedy.”

THE WORST

$#*! My Dad Says, Hawaii Five-O, My Generation and Body of Proof.

Several shows made this list, including $#*! My Dad Says, Hawaii Five-O, My Generation and Body of Proof, which stars Dana Delany as an infallible medical examiner. But the show that prompted the most impassioned lambasting was NBC’s Outlaw. The improbable premise has Jimmy Smits as a womanizer, gambler and Supreme Court justice who quits the bench to go back into private practice, where he’s determined to fight for the downtrodden. Early in the pilot, there is a scene in which a young woman from the ACLU harangues Smits’ hang-’em-high jurist as he’s emerging from a casino.That they end up in bed together is only one of the pilot’s dubious turns.

ABC’s My Generation and CBS’ $#*! My Dad Says are the runners-up on the indefensible list. My Generation, about a group of friends, shot mockumentary-style in the present day and 10 years ago, elicited strong reactions from critics for its self-conscious characters and messy construction. When CBS bought the rights to a Twitter feed-$#*! My Dad Says-for a sitcom adaptation, it made headlines. The show itself, which stars William Shatner as cranky septuagenarian who barks out one-liners, is not likely to make the right kind of headlines for CBS.

Robert Bianco: “$#*! My Dad Says is completely inept and miscast and ill-conceived. It’s an abominable show. But Outlaw is a howlingly bad show. A Supreme Court justice stops in the street to argue with a young ACLU girl about an upcoming case? Yeah, happens all the time; just can’t muzzle those Supreme Court justices.”

***”The mock-documentary structure of My Generation is just terrible. This constant cutting back and forth makes the ludicrousness of that conceit all the more obvious. And five minutes in, you realize that someone is going to represent every single social and pop culture aspect of the last decade. It’s so tedious and stupid and unbelievable.”

David Bianculli: ***”If Outlaw were just performed differently, it could be a very funny spoof of itself. They could use the same dialogue, add a laugh track and tell the actors to wink at the camera. $#*! My Dad Says should prove that you shouldn’t make deals like this. You expect the things the father says to be home runs, like Archie Bunker-isms. And they’re not. At one point, he says, ‘Rule No. 3: No stupid jokes while I’m talking.’ So, I’m thinking, well now, we’re into mime for the rest of the half-hour.

“[My Generation] is very contrived. It’s pandering to nostalgia for people who are too young to have nostalgia.”

THE MEH

Undercovers, Running Wilde, Mike & Molly.

Roush: “Undercovers kind of feels to me like a USA Network show with a bigger budget. It’s not as special as you want it to be. It doesn’t have the teeth, the edge, when you think about how Alias burst across the scene. It’s just a very genial show about two really beautiful people having spy adventures. I’m very conflicted about Running Wilde because that’s the kind of show I should like. But [the characters] are so patently unpleasant. There should be some charm in that smarm, but I don’t see it.”

Gray: “Undercovers just didn’t do it for me. I much prefer to watch Chuck. They’re very pretty. But I think maybe that’s it: They’re so pretty, they’re so competent. It’s almost like, what’s the problem? [Critics] have that innate we-love-Mitch-Hurwitz gene, but I was disappointed. Running Wilde seemed a little too precious. It’s one of those shows where there’s a lot of talent running around being clever. But I’m not feeling a whole show yet.

“I could see Mike & Molly becoming something. I have learned to never bet against Chuck Lorre. He’ll keep tweaking until it works, which I think we saw with Big Bang Theory.”

***Maureen Ryan (Chicago Tribune): “Undercovers certainly looks like a J.J. Abrams project-it’s glossy, classy and engaging. Whether the world needs one more spy drama remains to be seen. It certainly feels a little too light to rescue an entire network-NBC needs a lot of help and this show might perk along nicely, but it does not scream “Peacock Savior!’ I think Will Arnett and Keri Russell are talented, but their new comedy, Running Wilde, is kind of painful to watch.”

There you have it folks! Hopefully some of these shows are better than the critics think, otherwise we’re in for a long 2010 season.

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