20. THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW (NBC)
For those of you who know me, Michael J. Fox is a hero of mine. BACK TO THE FUTURE is my favorite movie, and the guy is clearly a saint who embodies everything that’s right in the world. So I wanted this show to be good. Either way, it’s incredible that he’s back at a full-time gig, and looking so good doing it. I love that they’re making light of Parkinson’s, and making light of the fact that they are using Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s as a marketing ploy in the show itself.
That said, it’s still pretty mediocre, with a lot of jokes that fall flat, or aren’t jokes at all (my roommate’s personal favorite was when the young kid yells “We’re sitting down…get it?!” in reference to the fact that they’re, yes, sitting down to eat at dinner, something the family struggled to do. This is like explaining that I’m wearing a black shirt when you can see me wearing it, and I talked about wearing it earlier. It’s not a joke). Most of it is through no fault of Michael J. Fox’s own, even though a lot of the situations are lifted from his life.
The show improved considerably from episodes 1 and 2 to 3, I thought, with actually funny lines sprinkled about and a more comfortable atmosphere, getting the elephant in the room stuff out of the way. Whether the show continues on that momentum is a mystery, but it’s an undeniable joy to see Michael hop nimbly over his sitcom wife out of bed, or race an employee up stairs, and you know he can pull on the heartstrings, something I expect the show to do once we, you know, care about anyone else besides him.
Fox isn’t the only draw: BREAKING BAD’s Betsy Brandt rebounded from BREAKING BAD quite well, landing in Michael J. Fox’s bed. If I could only be so lucky. Another alum from a different lauded drama, THE WIRE, shows up as Fox’s boss; that’d be Wendell Pierce.
Early red flag: Kattie Finneran’s sexed up and annoying aunt Leigh, who fakes being a single mother to whine about her problems. This is funny…why?
19. THE ORIGINALS (CW)
I doubt I watch this, because it seems silly and irresponsible to watch it before VAMPIRE DIARIES, even if it’s seen as a stand-alone spinoff. But the premiere was pretty damn good, positioning the oldest family of vampires back in New Orleans. If you want more information, look up Klaus in Google and go nutz.
18. THE CRAZY ONES (CBS)
This and the Fox show were the two new comedies I was most excited and nervous for. I’m not a massive fan of Robin Williams’ comedy or anything, but MRS. DOUBTFIRE is probably one of the most seminal comedies of my childhood, and he was also responsible for a lot of nightmares thanks to JUMANJI and JACK, for very different reasons. Plus the guy was the Genie! And he was in FERN GULLY! Then, of course, GOOD WILL HUNTING is one of my all-time favorites.
But, after falling in love with Joss Whedon and BUFFY, the Sarah Michelle Gellar factor loomed far greater in my mind. THE RINGER was one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen, so I was hoping that these two didn’t come together for crap…and thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case. This show is legitimately funny, and while the Ad agency isn’t exactly…creative, it’s one of the few new shows that clearly has genuine heart that isn’t forced down your throat.
I also dig the supporting cast: James Wolk is a star waiting to happen, rocking it on the short-lived LONE STAR, while also being terrific on MAD MEN. Clearly he likes being an ad man. And while Hamish Linklater will always merit a punch in the gut thanks to his NEWSROOM role, he’s well situated here.
UPDATE: THE CRAZY ONES has locked down a full season order from CBS. It’s no surprise, as it’s winning its Thursday time period and is the #1 highest rated new comedy.
17. ALMOST HUMAN (FOX)
The pilot was surprisingly mediocre, and even boring, but it had flashes of greatness in the form of the chemistry between Karl Urban’s Kennex and Michael Ealy’s Dorian, who is in the early running for breakout character of the fall. It’s likely going to annoy me by starting out heavily procedural based, but with J.J. Abrams and FRINGE’s J.H. Wyman in charge, there’s likely a greater plan afoot, and that’s why I’ll be sticking with this one until the end.
There’s also the added benefit of seeing Minka Kelly on a weekly basis.
For more of my thoughts, check out my review of the pilot HERE.
16. MASTERS OF SEX (SHO)
EW described the show as MAD MEN with boobs…and that was enough to sell me, especially with Lizzy Caplan in a lead role. The chemistry and opposite styles of her and Michael Sheen are going to be what makes this show more than an excuse for “classy” nudity and dildo jokes. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sold by the pilot. The show walks a tight rope, with a lot of nudity and sex without merely becoming gratuitous. It’s all a true story, and fascinating, but something was missing.
Interestingly, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale are both in this show as well. Clearly they’re a package deal.
15. EASTBOUND & DOWN (HBO)
Raise your hand if you thought this show was long gone. I certainly did. Aside from the brilliant first season, I’ve been on and off this show at least once or twice every short season, as Kenny Powers is best in small doses. I can’t say I missed him, or the show, but did enjoy the new jumping off point here, with Kenny unsurprisingly not taking well to responsible family life. It also helps that Ken Marino shows up. I won’t be watching any more of it, as the premiere was kind of a nice welcome back, and was all I needed, but thought I’d alert Danny McBride fans out there to this show’s continued existence.
14. THE LEAGUE (FXX)
It blows my mind that this show is on its fifth season already (WHERE HAS MY LIFE GONE?!). For the first three, it ranked among one of the best comedies on TV, with a perfect mix of bro-time, douchebaggery and football. Lately, the douchebag factor has steadily risen to the point where I don’t really like any of the characters. Aside from Kevin, Jenny and Andre, everyone is just an asshole. I know every show has to have a “Jerry,” a character that always is the butt of the joke, and Andre is wonderful for that, but it gets tiresome and sad after a while (I know it’s a TV show…but how is Andre still friends with them?!). I loved the recent “Rafi and Randy” swansong, where two characters normally best served in small bite size vignettes, actually shine in the spotlight. It threw me, since I normally groan whenever Rafi appears on screen, but maybe when it was just his own life he was ruining, I was more okay with it.
13. REVOLUTION (NBC)
This would’ve been much further down (er, lower) the list…but I’ve been impressed by the new season and the more focused storytelling thus far. I was so nonplussed by this show that I didn’t realize I hadn’t seen last year’s season finale until I plopped on this season’s premiere, but that somehow improved my experience immeasurably. So much shit had happened! It’s moving forward, there are consequences, there is some kind of answers, etc.
While it’s silly that the power came back on and is now OFF again, the fact that it was only up long enough for nuclear blasts battering the east coast, is pretty awesome. I love that it splintered our group, that Monroe is on the run, that Gus FringGiancarlo Esposito is given a purpose again besides being just an awful prick of a father, and that the U.S. government has returned to the country after years of hiding, and that they are the new Big Bad.
12. NASHVILLE (ABC)
Like UNDER THE DOME, this show was all over the place in the first season. It has phenomenal performances, as Connie Britton, Charles Esten and stunningly, Hayden Pennettiere all very much deserved awards season buzz. I’ve always been resistant to country music aside from Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me?” but this show actually made me want to listen to country music, as I’ve found some of the songs pretty memorable.
This is an unadulterated soap, but over its first season, struggled to find its voice and the right mix of characters, and suffered from so many ill-advised plot twists and subplots. After suffering through Avery for an entire season, he’s somehow gone from bastard to likable, but even that pisses me off, since it means he could work his way back into my girl Scarlett’s heart.
NASHVILLE would rank a lot higher if not for how the first season ended and mostly on how the second season has begun. I dig THE O.C.’s Chris Carmack’s addition to the cast as a closeted up and comer, but that’s about it. Charles Esten’s Deacon was one of the best characters of last year…and they’ve done a great job of ruining him. I know a show needs conflict, but it shouldn’t be in lieu of a character’s soul. Right now, Deacon’s a prick, and it hurts. Furthermore, I appreciate that they have to drag out the romance between Scarlett and Gunnar, but by turning Gunnar into a prick for a few episodes, they ruined another one of my faves. Most people are rolling their eyes and have long since moved on, but this show still has one of the highest upsides on the list.
11. ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC)
I’m about to watch the second episode of the show’s return, but based on the pilot, I’m encouraged. Like REVOLUTION, it seems much more focused, trimming off a lot of the Storybrooke fat, and featuring the main cast more exclusively, while giving them a more clear mission: to save Henry. Sure, he’s probably better off dead, but that’d hardly be kosher.
Rumpel looks poised to resume badassness, Neal isn’t dead and is actually accepting his true identity, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan and Prince Phillip might have something to do besides be a walking and talking love triangle, and Regina, Emma, Snow and Charming all have to work together to rescue Henry from an evil Peter Pan. I love the idea of a dark Neverland, and with Captain Hook getting a lot more screentime, there’s a lot of promising signs for the show’s third season.
Of course, it’s still all kooky and ridiculous, but right now, it’s in a good way.