29. THE GOLDBERGS (ABC)
I’m slightly concerned that my Dad has texted me about this show both weeks it’s been on. I thought he was kidding, but now I feel like he forgets that he raised me in the 90’s, and not this awful version of the 80’s this show portrays. Jeff Garlin, much like J.B. Smoove, must be lost without Larry David in his life, but at least he isn’t stretching himself. He plays Jeff Garlin, who has always been a cranky, loud and obnoxious Dad from the 80’s. They somehow got him to sing, which is not an experience to be taken without medication. I don’t know if I’ve met a family on TV that I’ve wanted to punch collectively more.
Most shows, at least simple ones, are supposed to give the audience something to relate to, or like, or hint at some sort of wish fulfillment. But that was forgotten here, as comedy is supposedly taken from the fact that one parent (the Mom, of course) is an overbearing psycho who wants to ruin her kids’ lives (but loves them), and the other is a dick with a heart of gold. I’d feel bad for the kids if they didn’t all suck. And that includes someone who is clearly trying hard to be Rachel Bilson, straight from the set of THE TO DO LIST.
This show, or at least its marketing campaign, seems aimed at the people that are obsessed with 80’s themed parties or wardrobe (once you’ve done it once…move on). It’s a flimsy set up, even for a sitcom.
The “huh?” award goes to Patton Oswalt, who for whatever reason thought it’d be a good idea to narrate this plodding, unfunny show. Talk about a guy who needs his own show. THE GOLDBERGS is not it.
28. IRONSIDE (NBC)
Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe where Blair Underwood is on a good television show. It’s certainly not in this one. This is a remake of a 70’s cop show with Raymond Burr (who, confusingly, didn’t shoot Alexander Hamilton), and the pilot is an hour of trying to make the show so gritty, and Ironside (that’s actually his name) so badass, in spite of the fact that he’s in a wheelchair. He pumps iron, he bangs hot women, he even coaches (read: yells at) a hockey team, and gives all his detectives tough love. Essentially, we’re supposed to think he’s cool and kickass, but he’s so cliché and lame despite what should be a solid hook. Plus, they’ve somehow succeeded in making a guy in a wheelchair unlikable, something I feel like you don’t want to do when he’s the star. The show thinks that because Ironside is in a wheelchair, it makes this “slick” cop procedural different than all of the others. After about 10 minutes in, it isn’t. It’s also likely at the bottom of the barrel; I sincerely doubt any of the cases will teach you anything new.
THE KILLING’s Brent Sexton might be the most compelling character on the show, as the alcoholic Gary, who ostensibly is the reason Ironside is in the chair. He deserves better. So too does WEEDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK stud Pablo Schreiber, who’s always funny and captivating, but is reduced to 3rd or 4th fiddle on a crappy crime show. Ouch.
WHAT IF…this show was a sitcom starring grizzled and ubiquitous villain Michael Ironside (from such classics like TOTAL RECALL and STARSHIP TROOPERS) as a version of himself? Answer: it’ d be fucking incredible and wouldn’t be cancelled, like IRONSIDE is.
27. WELCOME TO THE FAMILY (NBC)
A white girl gets knocked up by a Latino dude, and the twist is that the Latino kid is the one heading to Stanford, while the other one is headed for a mall job. Har har har. In spite of that, I actually chuckled a couple of times during the show, and instead of hateful memories of it, have blissfully little to recall. That’s kinda nice.
I might feel bad for Mike O’Malley, who may have brought me to tears once or twice on GLEE, proving he’s a stellar actor, but then again, he was also partly responsible for YES DEAR.
UPDATE: WELCOME TO THE FAMILY has been cancelled. Thank you again, NBC.
26. BACK IN THE GAME (ABC)
James Caan plays an irritable, irascible drunk of a father and grandfather in this BAD NEWS BEARS style sitcom. He plays who I imagine James Caan would be in real life if he wasn’t James Caan. He joins up with PSYCH’s Maggie Lawson, whose character is so well rounded and three dimensional that her name is “Mom” on IMDB.
If you find it funny that James Caan told his daughter to walk off her first period, then you’ll eat this shit up, which is probably not the proper way to finish that sentence. In spite of it being cloying and formulaic, with some awful sexism (women aren’t good at sports, can’t coach little league BS), I couldn’t help but be slightly moved when “Mom” found that Cannon (yes, that’s Caan’s nickname) had taped all of her old college ball games. Baseball makes me think of my childhood and my father (and all my collective failings), so it’s kind of a cheap shot, but at least this show had some heart.
LAUGH COUNT: 4.5 (a snort or suppressed laugh is a half).
WHAT IF…this show starred Tom Selleck and took place in Japan twenty years after MR. BASEBALL? It’d be amazing.
25. HELLO LADIES (HBO)
Stephen Merchant helped create THE OFFICE and EXTRAS with Ricky Gervais. He’s probably a genius. This one he created with some folks from the American OFFICE and the result is an expert example of a British comedy set in America, with painfully awkward moments, miserable people and massively depressing events racheted up to 11. I don’t have a high tolerance for misery painted as “comedy,” especially if there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel, and this show had very little of it. The pilot felt pretentious, a clearly impersonal show devoid of heart, something that plagued THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF TODD MARGRET despite starring Will Arnett and David Cross.
HELLO LADIES has such a great pedigree that I’m inclined to believe it’ll be great, and that I’m overreacting, but I also know this style generally isn’t for me. I have to have a reason for coming back, and I don’t see much hope of that.
The only time Stephen is at all tolerable and actually a realistic human being and not a robot seeking to destroy human decency and giving awkward nerds bad names, is when he’s hanging out with his lessee Jessica (the very likable and appealing Christine Woods from GO ON and FLASHFORWARD), but since Stephen can’t possibly find true love yet, we’re left with precious few moments when you actually enjoy yourself.
24. THE BLACKLIST (NBC)
I’m not sure why James Spader decided to play a character laughably called “Red” Reddington, and I’m not sure if I like or hate this show after two episodes. I thought the pilot had some great scenes, and while the premise is doing anything but breaking new ground, it definitely goes for it and quickly establishes itself, and doesn’t hold anything back (except unadulterated quality). But it’s also pretty dumb, with Reddington spending time in a cube prison on wheels, and trying too hard to be mysterious and clever, amid 17 different tried and true TV tropes happening at once.
I’m mildly curious to see what Reddington is up to, and why he had to turn himself over to the government under such ridiculous circumstances, and I hope that he isn’t merely Elizabeth Keen’s father (she’s an orphan after all), because that’d be spectacularly lame and easy.
The show also has DOLLHOUSE alum Harry Lennix, for whatever that’s worth.
23. TROPHY WIFE (ABC)
This is the early contender for the COUGAR TOWN award: a great comedy murdered by a horrible name that does it no favors. It’s not great yet, by any means, but the ingredients are there, although you could’ve said that by casually looking at the casts for most of the previously maligned sitcoms on this list. But the good thing is that I laughed along with the first two episodes, and didn’t feel too guilty about it, and felt like there was hope for more.
The manufactured TV premise works fairly splendidly, with a young party gal (Malin Ackerman) moving into an already established family with an older beau (WEST WING’s Bradley Whitford), and a pair of still involved ex-wives, played by Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins. I can’t say this is what I want Bradley Whitford to be doing (he should forever be with Aaron Sorkin, or hitching back with Whedon in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.; he did have a role in the AGENT CARTER one-shot), but considering what he could’ve been latched to, he might even be considered lucky.
Plus, there are worse things playing a nice Dad married to Malin Ackerman. She’s going to be the key to the show going forward. If they don’t make her too ditzy and stupid, while also emphasizing her personal growth and interaction with the kids, this show could be the second best ABC comedy after MODERN FAMILY. She’s certainly charming and talented enough; it’s all up to the material (no shit Andy), which Harden, Whitford and Watkins have all elevated thus far.
It also features the best child actor find of the new season, Albert Tsai, who plays Bert, probably the most adorable (and annoying) little guy ever.
22. THE MINDY PROJECT (FOX)
I’ve seen two episodes of this show: the pilot, and the second season premiere. It’s pretty crazy how much has changed, and how much better it’s become. I find Mindy Kaling alternatively hilarious and cloying, and it was much more of the latter in the pilot. She’s been reined in a bit, much like Zoey on NEW GIRL, and this allows for her stellar ensemble to shine. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with the show, but it’s certainly got a lot of potential, and I love the guest stars.
Also: Chris Messina rules.
21. HOSTAGES (CBS)
I’m a week behind on this one, but I’m intrigued. I like Dylan McDermott’s career renaissance as mercurial bad guys, following up AMERICAN HORROR STORY with this leading role as the rogue FBI agent taking Toni Collette’s family hostage. You no doubt know the conceit: Collette is going to perform surgery on the president, and for unknown reasons, McDermott’s Duncan and company want her to bungle it and kill the POTUS. What you probably don’t know is that it’s also a family soap opera, with a daughter who’s pregnant, a son who’s dealing drugs, and a husband having an affair (of course Tate Donovan is sleeping around; that’s always in his contract). Yuck.
But it had an undeniably badass opening scene and while I think it’s the show most likely to be dragged out far too long (though I’ve heard it “resets” after season 1) because we’re supposed to care about family drama when it mucks up with the President’s affairs. That said, the first “twist”/method of dragging out the show came in the first episode, and I actually dug it. Of course, I also may wait out the buzz on this one before coming back.
The “type cast” award goes to Rhys Coiro, of ENTOURAGE and DEXTER fame, who plays one of the criminals. He may never play a nice guy.