A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Fall TV Premiere Week Is Over | Must Watch Shows

In television on September 25, 2010 at 12:09 am

Ah, much like Fall movie season, the return of television series new and old in the fall bring us much more quality than I was expecting. Also interestingly, is a surprising number of series drama-oriented shows that I found myself liking. And I don’t know that there’s a comedy that I liked better than the returning favorites that I’m going to heap praise onto yet again – along with all previous heaping of praises. Though there is one show in particular that I find myself liking quite a lot, and think it might become one of my favorites.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Something you’ll discover is that my TV watching habits tend to focus solely on the channels that have online presence’s – and then, mostly only on HULU. So, pardon me if I’m missing out on any of the new best shows around (but I doubt that HAWAII FIVE O is such a show.), and unfortunately, it’ll be DVD time before I’ll get to catch up on DEXTER and the “heard through the grapevine” amazingness of HBO’s new BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

First the returning shows. And what better place to start than with the sitcoms. These three shows are some of what I consider to be the best comedies on television. With the fun of COUGAR TOWN being the least, but by no means worse, of the lot. The premiere featured a guest appearance both other FRIENDS colleague, Jennifer Aniston – in a role I didn’t really care for. But the fun movie mashup game they played throughout was fun, and made even more-so because of “Jules”‘ (Courtney Cox) inadequacy at it. Call it a weakness of character on my own part, but my favorite role I think is still Brian Van Holt’s “Bobby”. The dim-witted fool.

Which brings us to the next show and what I might actually call the best comedy on TV, MODERN FAMILY. With it’s wit, it’s off-beat humor, and mixture of characters; it just hits all the right notes. Ty Burrell’s “Phil Dunphy”, the lovable idiot I’m talking about, remains my main favorite character on the show. With the new premiere, he is tasked with a more heartfelt mission – one of reconciling his wife’s (Julie Bowen, always fantastic as the “straight *wo*man”) hard-nosed decision to sell the family’s old car; only to be hit with a major bout of nostalgia. Phil has a fantastic moment of commenting on why time machines haven’t been invented, and also a moment in trying to save the family car. The other characters though, from the Dunphy kids to “Cam” and “Mitchell”, remain fantastic. And then there’s Sofia Vergara – the eye-poppingly beautiful, Colombian trophy wife – who manages to remain the second funniest (okay sometimes she manages to even upstage Phil) character on the show.

And finally in the returning sitcom category is my favorite. With it’s first season, COMMUNITY, managed to hit all the right buttons. Perfectly carry out it’s pop-culture references (MODERN WARFARE may always be considered the best episode to many), and even work with the awkward character of “Pierce” (Chevy Chase). But, the premiere of this show, within 30 seconds, had me back in the palm of it’s hand. Sure, part of that might be the literal comment on one of it’s performers having his own internet meme over the past Summer. But, just about everything gelled in this opener. The one down-side, I’d say was the highly anticipated appearance by Betty White as an Anthropology professor. Sadly, she pretty much fell flat – with her stand-out moments only being those of performing violence on the students. But, it’s the show’s heart – which awkwardly is the character that exerts the least personality (not to be confused with lack of character) – Danny Pudi’s “Abed”, that delivers the central message of this episode and also delivers a severe wake-up call to some of the other characters.

The next show, which is kind of the gateway between the sitcoms and the more serious fare, is GLEE. Returning for it’s second season, the show doesn’t waste any time getting right back into the groove. Opening with a documentary session of unloved dweeb Jacob (Josh Sussman), covering all the topics, criticisms and general silliness (like the over-gross gesture of taking a piece of Slushee off someone’s sweater and eating it). Of course, the show also doesn’t allow the characters to sit on their back-sides. Introducing a new football coach (to replace the continually fun, but possibly obsolete “Ken Tanaka”, played by Patrick Gallagher), played by Dot Jones. “Coach Beiste” as she’s called is both the fly in the ointment to both “Sue Sylvester” (Jane Lynch) and “Will Schuester” (Matthew Morrison), but also maintaining the misunderstood, sensitive sports coach that Tanaka was. It should make for an interesting dynamic. The kids themselves, were kind of underplayed in the premiere, though they had some pretty great performances – that I wasn’t sure was due to the fact that I had a cold when I watched, or they were just that good – that gave me chills.

And finally, of the “must watch” returning shows – I did mention that everything I’m talking about are the shows I consider to be the “must watch”‘s of the season, yes? Well they are. So go reread everything I’ve written and understand what you’re supposed to do – is FRINGE. Returning for it’s third season – after a pretty great first and a phenomenal second – the premiere picks up pretty much where the finale left off. Which I’m not going to spoil here. Suffice to say, “Olivia Dunham” (Anna Torv) is in a couple of tight spots. The show sets up an interesting dynamic, that while audiences might know are sure to be turned around; this show gives just the right amount of doubt that things may remain messed up for the foreseeable future.

And now, the new shows. Where to begin? How about with the biggest show of the season, first. THE EVENT, starts off with a feeling that it wants to be the proper successor to LOST. I don’t think that it quite reaches that goal, but it’s certainlyinteresting. There are weird, flashbacks that vary from certain amount of days to decades. All of the characters at this point are enigmas, and no answers were delivered at all. Hopefully the show will live up to it’s hoped potential and not sizzle out like last season’s FLASHFORWARD – a show that I actually liked despite itself.

From there, I guess we should go to UNDERCOVERS. The new show with JJ Abrams’ name attached as creator, and for this episode at least, writer and director. Following a married couple as retired spies. The show looks to be a higher budgeted COVERT AFFAIRS (a USA Network show, that just ended it’s first season and was pretty fun), though the leads are lacking something that makes the show a little lower on the totem than most of the shows on this list. So, yes, at this point, it’s getting a pass because of the pedigree of it’s co-creator. That and it also features MAJOR DAD’s Gerald McRaney.

Oh and the new season’s sitcoms. I can’t forget those. Especially considering whose involved in both. One is an IFC original series (somehow on HULU, don’t ask me, just watch), called THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF TODD MARGARET. Starring David Cross, as an energy-drink salesman that is mistakenly sent to London to move massive amounts of product. Cross’ “Todd Margaret” is a buffoon, who continually just gets himself wrapped deeper and deeper in crap. The fun here is from the scattered appearances of Will Arnett as Margaret’s boss. He’s vulgar, offensive, and hilarious.

Which he’s only really allowed to be a little bit of in Arnett’s leading role show, RUNNING WILDE. Also featuring Keri Russell, theshow is created by – and it’s major selling point other than Arnett – by the creators of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. It’s not quite up to that same standard, but it is cute and I feel will wind up being great. Plus the appearances of “Wilde”‘s neighbor, “Fa’ad Shaoulian” played magnificently by Peter Serafinowicz, fake tan and deep-British accent all included.

Then there are two LAW & ORDER-type shows, that I actually quite liked from their pilot episodes. The first is OUTLAW, starring Jimmy Smits. He plays a Supreme Court Justice who resigns his post to become a defense attorney – in the pilot his client is The Rza. I’ll say that I’m sold more on the cast, which also features HACKERS’ Jesse Bradford, and Smits’ DEXTER Season Two costar, David Ramsey. Smits plays a smug guy, who is trying to do the right thing, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. And how is that not an appealing character.

Which is also the lead male character played by Rob Morrow in THE WHOLE TRUTH. A pretty great – at least from it’s first episode – lawyer show that also features Maura Tierney (a return to TV after her long stint on ER). They play opposite sides of a coin – notnecessarily the same one. She’s the DA, he’s a slummy, but fun defense attorney. The pilot kicks off with a fun gimmick, of taking an inciting moment – in this case a post-preliminary hearing scuffle between accused and victim’s parents. The episode then follows one team only to then rewind to that point and then follow the other. Intertwining moments from one side to the other. Managing to deepen the plot and also pay-off cryptic moments earlier in the episode. The show also pays off with it’s final moments by presenting the truth of the matter on guilt or innocence. All not bad for a show by a couple of semi-newbies.

Next is a show that harshly changes direction from everything so far discussed. You have probably heard more about the movement to save LONE STAR, than you actually have heard about the actual show. From the small synopsis that I’d read about it, I was completely surprised on where the show went. I was expecting something a little more BIG LOVE, and got something more early THE SOPRANOS – minus the gunplay and overt moments of violence. Since it surprised me, I won’t go too deeply into the plot. But it’s a great pilot and I hope it gets the chance to continue on through the season.

And finally. Yes, finally. There’s what might be my new favorite show on cable – at least until JUSTIFIED and LOUIE return – TERRIERS. Marrying the creative forces behind THE SHIELD (Shawn Ryan) and the guy behind the OCEAN’S ELEVEN movie (Ted Griffin), comes the off-beat, sometimes hilarious and down-right excellent show starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James (you’ll recognize him from the first season of TRUE BLOOD…I guess that might be a spoiler.), as private detectives, of sorts. And while this is going to sound simplistic and lame, it’s really not. It’s about the trouble they get into while trying to do the right thing. It’s kind of like BURN NOTICE, only not as much stuff blowing up with no collateral damage. (There’s lots of collateral damage, here though.)

It’s a fantastic show. It’s beyond funny. It’s got some serious heart to it – from the seemingly “go-to” source of guys pining for their ex-wives (also in the previously mentioned favorite of mine JUSTIFIED) for FX. But, I’m not complaining. Plus the show just has heft to it. In the pilot episode, the main characters find themselves mixing it up with a super-rich land developer and how that relationship goes sour, is not only believable; it’s clearly setting up the over-arching theme of the first season (at least).

While, I said that all these shows are worth checking out, TERRIERS is the one you absolutely, no doubt allowed, MUST watch! I’m not even kidding.

Okay, so that’s it. Those are the shows I think everyone should watch this season – because everyone has as much time on their hands as I do, right? Either way, that’s what DVR’s are for.

Go! Watch all of them right now.

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