A week ago, most critics couldn't stop gushing over how adorable (or "adork-able") Zooey Deschanel is as Fox's delightful New Girl, and judging from last Tuesday's opening-night ratings, which actually improved over its Glee lead-in, the TV audience would seem to agree. They won't be disappointed in tonight's charmer of a second outing (9:01/8:01c). What struck me as I previewed the episode is that as easy as it is to fall for Zooey's pixie-ish pizzazz as Jess, it would hardly matter if it weren't for her invaluable back-up crew of supporting players.
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Question: Last year the TV season came and went without a breakout hit, and with more cancellations than usual. I'm interested in the strategy that the networks seem to be going for this year to make up for the extremely lackluster last season, especially over at Fox. I don't know exactly what Fox's expectations for The X Factor were, but I'm guessing that they're somewhat disappointed today. 12.5 million seems a bit of an underperformance, especially given that Two and a Half Men had double that many viewers. I was really surprised that New Girl (which I found absolutely delightful) not only matched Glee's numbers, but in fact did significantly better. Given that New Girl had been available online for several weeks prior, I'm surprised that so many people tuned in. This is perhaps a bit reminiscent of Fox's bold move in previewing the pilot of Glee in the spring after Idol, which paid off ...
As opening nights go, last Monday's kickoff to the fall season was pretty spectacular. Now with the two Charlies laid to rest (and Sheen charred at the celebrity roast), we'll see how Two and a Half Men holds up, along with the rest of CBS' comedy lineup. Add some high-profile dinosaurs to the mix this week, and it should be another fascinating night.
First, the new shows ...
Amy Poehler and Adam Scott
Hey, network TV, turns out we kind of missed you over the long, reality-clogged summer. You showed back up, so we did, too. Some bleary-eyed musing to follow.
Starting with the Shocker of the Week, by which I mean the solid but hardly spectacular early numbers for Fox's mega-hyped The X Factor, opening to about half the business American Idol typically commands. I consider this a punishment for Simon Cowell's ghastly America's Got Talent, which this year rewarded yet another soon-to-be-forgotten singer. Blech. To be fair, by any other standards, X is an instant success, and puts Fox into a competitive position on two historically tough nights. But no matter Fox's spin...
This busy premiere week is far from over. Here's a night-by-night look at how the weekend is shaping up this fall, with some thoughts on the new-season pilots, several key season premieres, and other highlights.
The Night in a Nutshell: If you're not a CBS loyalist on this low-viewership night, then it's best to have a healthy appetite for cult TV. CBS is expected to rule as usual, with the new A Gifted Man grafting the popular voices-from-beyond genre of Ghost Whisperer and Medium with a medical procedural, leading in to CSI: NY (which barely got renewed this year) and Blue Bloods. Once again, Fox's mind-blowing Fringe and the CW's undying Supernatural duke it out for out-there enthusiasts, with the underrated spy thriller Nikita taking over Smallville's old time period. NBC enters the game in mid-October, launching the final 13 episodes of Chuck alongside the third supernatural offering in the 9/8c time period: the fairy-tale/mystery hybrid Grimm. Reality fans will soon be able to choose among ABC's transplanted Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Shark Tank and Fox's Kitchen Nightmares.
And now, the main event. At least that's how Thursdays used to feel in past seasons. But according to the early returns in this new season's ratings race, Mondays and Tuesdays have their share of powerhouse shows as well, including the revamped Two and a Half Men and the delightful New Girl. Here's a quick overview of Thursday's programming strategies, with thoughts on tonight's pilots and some of the more notable returns.
Thursday in a Nutshell: Fox has officially planted its flag on this night ...
Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn
Continuing with a weeklong look at how the new season is shaping up, night by night, with thoughts on the pilots and selected season premieres, among other goodies.
Wednesday in a Nutshell: Hey, Fox, save something for everyone else. That's the inescapable feeling as a new juggernaut looms in The X Factor, which many expect to approach American Idol levels, at least initially, if only because of the thunderous Simon Cowell-Paula Abdul reunion hype. This will not be good news for its ...
Dana Delany, Nicholas Bishop
Continuing a weeklong series of new-season analysis and previews, here's my take on how I see the new Tuesday lineups playing out.
Tuesday in a Nutshell: The no-brainer: CBS will continue to rule with its NCIS-NCIS: LA combo, and the new procedural-with-a-twist Unforgettable should fit right in, possibly putting a dent in ABC's midseason surprise Body of Proof, which roughly targets the same audience for female-driven crime dramas. Fox should make significant inroads with the younger demos, especially if Glee gets back its groove in this transitional graduation season (for some characters, anyway). The delightful New Girl deserves to break out, and may bolster the fortunes of my favorite comedy from last season, Raising Hope. On NBC, The Biggest Loser provides stability if not much excitement ...
Alan Harper, Ashton Kutcher
They came to bury Charlie, and was anyone surprised when it turned out to be one long ewww-logy?
That's Two and a Half Men for you: proudly crude and heartily heartless. "His body just exploded like a balloon full of meat," said Rose, and that's about as sentimental as things got. (His nephew Jake promptly piped up, "Anyone else hungry?") There wasn't a wet eye in the house during the post-Charlie Sheen/Charlie Harper season opener, which began with Alan trying to read last rites over his mangled brother's coffin, interrupted by vengeful exes rattling off a gamy litany of STD jokes and a mother more interested in finding a buyer for his Malibu manse. (Among the potential buyers: John Stamos and, in the episode's best-kept surprise, Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as an embittered version of Chuck Lorre's Dharma & Greg.)
Two and a Half Men
This being such an epic week in the TV business, with the majority of new and returning shows premiering in the kickoff to the official TV season, I'm adjusting my "guide to the week" format all week to focus separately on each night as a whole: analyzing the programming strategies and showdowns while previewing the pilots and season openers I've seen in advance.
Monday in a Nutshell: ABC and CBS should continue to dominate. Dancing With the Stars has once again cast a buzz-worthy group — though some are wondering if they've overstepped and alienated their more mainstream fans with lightning-rod contestants like Chaz Bono and Nancy Grace. (Get over it, folks. It's a dancing show, all for fun.) And Castle makes for a fine nightcap. CBS' popular comedy lineup includes one new winner (Two Broke Girls) and one show in transition (Two and a Half Men) that's more talked about than almost any new fall series, while Hawaii Five-0 more than holds its own. Fox is shaking things up with its big-budget fantasy spectacular Terra Nova (which bows next week), which should open big at the very least. We'll see if its family-friendly tone attracts a broader-than-cult following. A Cuddy-free House (premiering Oct. 3) may be on its ...