New TV Report Card: How Are They Doing?
NCIS LA, Melrose Place
In the fall TV season, we saw some breakout hits: Modern Family, The Good Wife, NCIS: Los Angeles and Glee have all found healthy audiences, critical acclaim and/or award nominations. We also had some fallen soldiers: RIP, Hank, The Beautiful Life: TBL, Eastwick and Three Rivers. Where do your favorite shows stand? Let's check in.
Accidentally on Purpose (CBS)
The Good: Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg) and Jon Foster (Life As We Know It) are charming romantic foils.
The Bad: Employing a series of the most annoying will-they-or-won't-they cliches, Accidentally wants us to believe that Billie and Zack are a bad match, so their Knocked Up-style romance will seem like a surprise when it ultimately turns the corner.
The Good: The cast is great, especially The Shield's CCH Pounder as the titular bro's wise, overprotective mom.
The Bad: We were rooting for this show to succeed, but it's just not funny. The show relies too heavily on bad-economy story lines, which, frankly, is a downer.
The Cleveland Show (Fox)
The Good: This solid spin-off adds actual sweetness to the nihilistic formula of its parent show, Family Guy.
The Bad: If you're not a fan of Family Guy, it's a little same ol'-same ol'.
The Good: Joel McHale and a quirky ensemble of talented comedians (including some guy named Chevy Chase) really know how to work the show's rock-solid dialogue.
The Bad: Plot-wise, the show is whisper-light. Debate team?
Cougar Town (ABC)
The Good: As 40-something divorcee Jules Cobb, Courteney Cox is game to suffer any humiliation for the sake of laughs. Her co-stars are pretty funny too.
The Bad: This can backfire, making Jules at times seem annoyingly needy.
The Good: The mind-bendy premise has kept us interested: What did cause that global blackout?
The Bad: There's a fundamental flaw in the show's logic: At times we're asked to believe the flash-forwards; at others, we're asked to ignore their implications. It's a little too convenient.
The Forgotten (ABC)
The Good: Jerry Bruckheimer has produced a solid drama with an engaging star, Christian Slater.
The Bad: It's deadly boring.
The Good: The too-weird-to-work formula — dark comedy + high school + musical + satire + melodrama — actually works!
The Bad: The cast is talented and entertaining, but not at acting.
The Good Wife (CBS)
The Good: Julianna Margulies is sharp and feisty as woman scorned Alicia Florrick — her scenes with her philandering hubby (Chris Noth) are electric. Plus, the show works as a topical legal drama with a strong supporting cast.
The Bad: With all the legal shows on the air, some of the stories seem less than fresh.
Melrose Place (The CW)
The Good: Katie Cassidy brings the same delicious nastiness that Heather Locklear brought to the original. Did we mention that Locklear is back?
The Bad: The rest of the cast is still waiting for a compelling story line. Even the murder mystery, which started strong, fizzled.
The Good: Nursing shows are having a moment. (See also: HawthoRNe and Nurse Jackie.) Star Taylor Schilling is a fierce presence.
The Bad: Schilling plays an adulterer, and unlike on Jackie, it's a bad fit for a show otherwise about ethical behavior.
The Middle (ABC)
The Good: This Patricia Heaton comedy is just zany enough. And it's great to see the underrated Neil Flynn (Scrubs) do something other than push a broom.
The Bad: The show is overshadowed by another ABC comedy (see below).
Modern Family (ABC)
The Good: Pitch-perfect writing and surprising performances (Ed O'Neill is like Al Bundy with a heart) made this show this fall's best new comedy on television.
The Bad: Not much.
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
The Good: Executive producer Shane Brennan has successfully transplanted the NCIS concept to the City of Angels. Linda Hunt's Hetty is a particular delight.
The Bad: So far, the characters' back stories aren't as compelling as they are on the original.
The Good: The adrenalized medical show has excellent production values; the traumas are vivid and memorable.
The Bad: With the exception of Cliff Curtis' PTSD-afflicted Rabbit, the characters are not memorable.
The Good: Elizabeth Mitchell proves her strong performance on Lost wasn't a fluke. The remake's twisty narrative has been quite entertaining. Scott Wolf's striving journalist is promising.
The Bad: The post-9/11 version is all muscular action allegory; it's lost a lot of the original's fun sci-fi spookiness. Going on hiatus after four episodes doesn't help the show's momentum, either.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
The Good: Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Elena (Nina Dobrev) are a hot couple. Stefan's acerbic brother, Damon (Lost's Ian Somerhalder), is refreshing in the face of all this lurve.
The Bad: There have been a lot of revelations already. What's left?