Lately, the announcement of the major networks’ fall schedules has been something of a parade of the mediocre. The decline of scripted television and the ceaseless development of reality television has left network television in a state of disrepair. However, all is not lost and there are some good new and returning shows on each of the networks. As well, I hope this guide steers people away from certain shows which show the lack of imagination and originality on the part of network executives over the last decade.
Best New Show- The Nine- ABC has a number of new shows on the fall schedule and few look very good. However, “The Nine,” which involves nine people involved in a particular bank heist, could have a sort of “Lost” following because of a similar formula of back stories and intriguing plot lines.
Worst New Show- What about Brian- After seeing this show one time towards the end of the 2005-2006 television schedule, I wondered what had happened to television when such a bad show was put on the air with so many commercials preceding its premiere. Presumably, the audience should care about Brian’s relationship problems or the rest of his friends’ marriage and relationship problems, but this is the type of fare that is no good on prime time or anywhere but ABC Family. Don’t watch this show unless you like pointless discussion about the same topic week in and week out.
Best Returning Show- Grey’s Anatomy- Patrick Dempsey has had a career resurgence, putting aside “Can’t Buy Me Love” as his major career milestone and starring on a hit television show. As “ER” starts to recede into the television twilight, “Grey’s Anatomy” may be the show that takes over its place as the preeminent hospital drama.
Worst Returning Show- The Bachelor Rome- I think I am one of a few people who are sick of shows like “The Bachelor,” where a bunch of people fake wanting to find true love in order to get television exposure. ABC will soon find they need to put this show down and find a new reality show formula.
Best New Show- Smith- This show, which stars Ray Liotta and views heists from the point of view of the criminals, could be a nice addition to the CBS lineup. However, CBS has so many good shows on its roster (including the “CSI”franchise and “Survivor”) that it can afford to have a few duds in their new lineup. However, “Smith” seems interesting and could be something along the lines of “Numb3rs” which was able to make the crime drama more interesting by putting an analytical spin on it.
Worst New Show- Jericho- Skeet Ulrich stars in this show, which should say enough about the quality of this show. Ulrich, whose biggest role was in “Scream,” is not a very good actor and CBS’ effort to fill the few spots on its roster seem to have a few leaps of faith.
Best Returning Show- How I Met Your Mother- This show’s first season was very good and its hip, young cast found the balance between being too hip and being too much like a college dormitory. Neil Patrick Harris is particularly funny as Barney and the rest of the cast play well off of each other. Check this show out if you haven’t already.
Worst Returning Show- Ghost Whisperer- Jennifer Love Hewitt is not a good actress, “The Ghost Whisperer” is a show that benefitted from a weak Friday night lineup, and CBS is better than to keep a weak link like this show around for too long. Watching the show for a couple of minutes made me wonder how Hewitt got another chance on television.
Best New Show- Standoff- “Standoff,” with “Office Space” star Ron Livingston, looks like a show that could be interesting. It involves Livingston and his attractive female partner who get involved in a relationship while working as hostage negotiators. Sort of a convoluted plot, I know, but Fox has done well with “Prison Break” and “24” and is distinguishing itself as more than a vessel for “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” As well, Livingston is a good actor and “Standoff” seems like it will be developed well enough to gain some popularity in its first season.
Worst New Show- ’til Death- Brad Garrett of “Everybody Loves Raymond” stars in a show about a man who is unhappy in his long marriage after seeing some newlyweds moving next door. A more tired plot line I cannot think of and Garrett obviously did not care much to branch out from his work on “Raymond.” In the many commercials that Fox has run over the summer for this middling show, I have images of a poor man’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.” That is no good and Fox will be worse off for investing in such a bad show.
Best Returning Show- House- With network monolith “The Simpsons,” still getting a lot of attention, the average television watcher should check out the third season of “House.” As a newcomer to the show this past season, “House” has a quirky sense of humor and is extremely well written. It is a fairly popular show but “House” seems like a show that could stay on the air for a long time, as it has a great ensemble cast and there are any number of medical cases that the show could deal with.
Worst Returning Show- The War at Home- Fox has tried to recreate the formula it had in the 1990s with “Married with Children” and they hoped that Michael Rapaport would be able to fuse “Married” with “All in the Family” with “The War at Home.” The idea did not take off and Rapaport went from being slightly amusing to horribly unfunny in one episode. The thing with “Married” is that it was raunchy at a point where Fox was really the only one doing anything raunchy but now that formula does not work. If you have any sense of comedy or just don’t want to waste a half hour, stay away from “The War at Home.”
Best New Show- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip- “Studio 60” is Aaron Sorkin’s first attempt at television since leaving “The West Wing” after four seasons. Sorkin did well by picking several “West Wing” regulars like Bradley Whitford, Timothy Busfield, and Matthew Perry to carry his show. Sorkin’s writing and general direction of “West Wing” was great but there is a chance that his tendencies may lean him more toward his failed effort on “Sports Night.” My apologies to those few in the cult following for “Sports Night,” but it was not a good show and Sorkin needs to stay away from mundane and stick to cutting edge and interesting.
Worst New Show- Friday Night Lights/ 30 Rock- These two shows seem to fall under two particular odious forms of television program: poor movie adaptations and self reflective shows about show business. “Friday Night Lights” was a decent movie but the show will lose momentum quickly and barely make it out of one season, if that. “30 Rock” is Tina Fey’s attempt to branch out from Saturday Night Live and it combines her writing on “Mean Girls” with her experience as writer on SNL. This combination sounds promising, but SNL has been horrible and a cast of largely SNL members makes this show unlikely to gain in popularity.
Best Returning Show- The Office- This show has been fantastic in its first two seasons and it is breaking off of its British predecessor’s influence and expanding outward on its own. Steve Carrell is hilarious and the ensemble cast is great at playing at various points cynical, dead pan, or ridiculous.
Worst Returning Show- The Biggest Loser- Much like “The Bachelor Rome,” I am not interested in “The Biggest Loser” and while the idea of a weight loss competition is great, it is just like “Survivor” for the overweight. Television and attention equals the worst in human behavior and “Biggest Loser” is guilty of trying to pawn off a good message while glossing over this fact.