Fall TV Report Card: How Is the New Class Doing?
Last Man Standing, Homeland, The X Factor
So many new shows, so little time! With a handful of fall TV casualties already — RIP Charlie's Angels, Playboy Club, Free Agents, How to Be a Gentleman and H8R (and it's not looking too good for Prime Suspect or Man Up either) — it's time to assess what's worth keeping on your DVR, and what you can safely skip.
For now, we're high on American Horror Story, a spooky mash-up unlike anything else on TV, and Homeland, a twisty thriller anchored by two riveting performances. We're cautiously optimistic about Suburgatory, for those who miss Gilmore Girls, but then there are the shows we're thisclose to ditching...
Is your favorite show in danger? Check out our list of 10 "bubble" shows
Read on to see how we see fall TV's freshman class thus far.
2 Broke Girls (CBS)
The Good: Beth Behrs' Caroline is endearing, and Kat Dennings' Max is vulnerable, hiding behind barbs. Both are damaged; together, they're great friends and a great team. Their chemistry results in a fun — and funny — rapport and repartee. Plus: The show acknowledges the current economic climate, unlike just about every other TV show.
The Bad: It's an old Odd Couple trope; and the guys at the diner are too often nothing more than borderline offensive ethnic stereotypes.
Allen Gregory (Fox)
The Good: Sunday nights on Fox is the place for prime-time animated comedy, and the show features some pretty funny folks, including executive producer/star Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, French Stewart and Family Guy alum David Goodman.
The Bad: This show isn't nearly as funny as the other "Animation Domination" shows that surround it. And while we get that the premise involves an uncharacteristically mature and insufferably rude 7-year-old, we don't like how the show makes us hate a little kid.
American Horror Story (FX)
The Good: All due respect to the other bone-chilling ghost stories of the last decade (The Others, The Sixth Sense) but we're really digging Ryan Murphy's hyper-sexual, revenge-bent house of horrors. It's a ghoulish scary movie mash-up with awards-worthy performances by cursed grand dames Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy and Connie Britton, not to mention Kate Mara as a mistress scorned who's prepared to boil more than bunnies.
The Bad: Less is not more here. But they could nix the true-crime stuff — the murders in "Open House," Eric Stonestreet's turn in "Piggy Piggy" — and not miss a beat.
The Good: We all want to be good people. But when someone like Amy (Laura Dern) actually tries — after a workplace meltdown and a subsequent stint at a New Age rehab program in Hawaii — it's painful, heart-breaking, uncomfortable and uplifting all at the same time. Which means, it's pretty funny, compelling stuff.
The Bad: That said, her struggle is so relatable it can also be kind of a downer.
A Gifted Man (CBS)
The Good: The show's supernatural premise — hotshot neurosurgeon Michael is encouraged by the ghost of his dead ex-wife to tend to those who can't afford him — became an easy, even compelling sell as deftly performed by Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle.
The Bad: Michael's progress to date is best summed up by Paula Abdul: two steps forward, two steps back. Will he become even a little less selfish before year's end? Also, it's still more or less a medical procedural, and it's hard to stick with it when Michael's cases are a lot less interesting than, say, the mysteries House gets to solve.
The Good: As the hilarious Big Bad Wolf Eddie Monroe, Silas Weir Mitchell steals the show from former reality star-turned-leading man David Giuntoli. We also appreciate the series' less whimsical approach to childhood fairy tales.
The Bad: There's just no escaping the show's tired procedural format. We know the show is supposed to be dark tonally, but the show is literally really dark. We've had to strain our eyes in more than a few scenes to see what's going on.
Hart of Dixie (CW)
The Good: Rachel Bilson sure is cute! And we're always happy to see Friday Night Lights alums like Scott Porter on our TV screens. Plus: The show feels like a bit of a throwback to the days when shows with heart (get it?) ruled the airwaves at CW's predecessor The WB.
The Bad: Summer Roberts as a hot-shot heart surgeon? Not so much. Almost as unbelievable is the show's nearly cartoonish Southern stereotyping: The town is called Bluebell, gators named Burt Reynolds run loose, and twangy town folk gawk at the new Yankee in their presence.
The Good: In a cast that is solid from top to bottom, stars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis give outstanding performances as two very different damaged characters. The intricate plotting is full of twists and surprises that keep us engaged (and guessing), but the character study of Carrie and Brody is such that some weeks, the show's central question — is Brody a terrorist? — doesn't even matter.
The Bad: Not much, though we'd hoped the producers would resist the urge to have Carrie and Brody hook up so soon.
Last Man Standing (ABC)
The Good: The show brought Tim Allen back to series television, and the supporting cast of women surrounding him (Nancy Travis, Alexandra Krosney, Molly Ephraim, and Justified standout Kaitlyn Dever) are all likable enough.
The Bad: Allen's an old dog that hasn't learned any new tricks. He's playing a less likable version of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. But it's not all his fault: Creator Jack Burditt found the funny on 30 Rock and New Adventures of Old Christine. The problem here is everyone seems to be on auto-pilot.
New Girl (Fox)
The Good: Jess only looks like indie hipster queen Zooey Deschanel. Jess is actually a nerd, albeit an adorable one, who has trouble saying "penis" and cries to Dirty Dancing. So enough with (500) Days of Summer comparisons already!
The Bad: We're big believers in Nick and Schmidt, but the show doesn't seem to know what to do with Winston (Lamorne Morris), Jess' personality-free third roommate.
Once Upon A Time (ABC)
The Good: The ambitious creators of this show have crafted two fully realized worlds with big story ideas. Fortunately, they have a talented, compelling cast (Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Robert Carlyle) with which to convey them.
The Bad: The show's split universe can be confusing. The "real-world" versions of the fairy tale characters aren't nearly as interesting as their whimsical counterparts, and there are moments when the fairytale world looks cheap and silly. (But as created by two veterans of the Lost writing staff, the show clearly prefers questions to answers.)
Person of Interest (CBS)
The Good: We would watch Michael Emerson read the phone book. Even though the show is more procedural than we'd originally hoped, its use of technology and vigilante heroes offer a freshness to the genre. Plus: The cat-and-mouse game between Caviezel's Reese and Taraji P. Henson's Detective Carter evokes the best of The Fugitive.
The Bad: Caviezel borders on charisma-free. Also: The dialogue can be, much like the opening credits sequence, annoyingly expositional.
The Good: You thought one girl plotting revenge against well-to-do Hamptonites might get tedious week after week? Not so! Especially not with Tyler and the real Emily Thorne coming to town to turn Amanda's master plan upside-down.
The Bad: Daniel (eventually) won us over, but we know he will soon be gone for good. Will the trial for his murder be as suspenseful and surprising as everything that led up to it
The Good: Campy, soapy, murder-mystery fun with Sarah Michelle Gellar playing estranged twin sisters separately on the run — what's not to like? (Did we mention that one of the sisters is a former junkie stripper? And the other is a murderous socialite with no qualms about ensnaring sis in her nefarious plans?)
The Bad: If you're not into cheese, and plenty of it...
The Secret Circle (CW)
The Good: The show shares a source-material author and an executive producer with our TV obsession The Vampire Diaries: But instead of blood-sucking, there's crazy magic!
The Bad: The story can sometimes be a bit slow and disconnected, only sometimes leaving us ravenous for the next episode. Plus: We're not 100 percent invested in certain characters (ahem, Diana), who don't seem to have much reason for being.
The Good: It's like the half-hour Gilmore Girls, with Jeremy Sisto as a less hyper Lorelai and Jane Levy as a prickly (but still lovable) Rory. Yes, please!
The Bad: Sometimes the suburbanites of Chatswin are painted a little too stupid, as in "Charity Case," where Tessa discovered that her classmates — and guidance counselor -- have no idea what "needy" means, let alone how to spell it.
Terra Nova (Fox)
The Good: So the villains of our story turn out to be the folks from the future who want to strip Terra Nova of its natural resources to take back to save miserable, depleted 2149. Commander Taylor and Jim want to stop them and protect their untouched paradise. Huh. That could be interesting...
The Bad: But we were also promised dinosaur action! Unfortunately, there's nothing close to Jurassic Park money here -- and it shows. Prehistoric swordfish, really? In the end, the dinosaurs aren't much of a threat, and that means there is nothing to distract us from the boring Shannon family at the show's center.
The Good: We've missed Poppy Montgomery's charms since Without a Trace was canceled. She has excellent chemistry with co-star Dylan Walsh and, even though they're usually in the background, we're big fans of supporting players Michael Gaston and Kevin Rankin.
The Bad: It's a totally run-of-the-mill "procedural with a twist." (Carrie remembers everything! Well, except for who killed her sister.) And even though solving crimes is a tough job, the show could really stand to lighten up a bit.
Up All Night (NBC)
The Good: Reagan and Chris are a hip young couple trying to adjust to life with a new baby. It's a welcome spin on the new parents yarn, and it's mostly held up by proven funny people Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph.
The Bad: But none of it is terribly, you know, funny. Also: The workplace antics of Rudolph's Ava, a self-obsessed talk show host who is Reagan's boss and best friend, feel uncomfortably wedged into the misadventures of parenting.
The Good: Stars Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia, who come from stand-up, are able performers, and their chemistry is one of the show's few bright spots. And, hey, Jane Kaczmarek is Whitney's mom!
The Bad: The show is a bad translation of Cummings' stand-up. She's spouting punch lines rather than dialogue. Most of the supporting characters are one-note ciphers and the show simply feels out of place with the other NBC comedies surrounding it.
The X Factor (Fox)
The Good: Simon Cowell is as unforgiving as ever. Paula Abdul's, er, erratic ways continue to surprise. And of all the music competition shows, X Factor's got the most diverse group of contestants, from a seriously good 14-year-old rapper to an all-girl country pop group to a soulful (and good-looking) 60-year-old singer-songwriter.
The Bad: Nicole Scherzinger is the poor, nay, broke man's replacement for Cheryl Cole, the original fourth judge ripped so suddenly from our already won-over hearts earlier in the season.