Checking in on Fall TV

 

Now that we’re midway through October, the Fall TV season is in full swing. Normally I pay little to no attention to new shows as their success rate is pretty abysmal and I’ve been burned one too many times by falling for a new show that then disappears from the schedule, never to be seen or heard from again. This season, however, is a little different; not only do I currently have a lot of free time as I recover from a fractured fibula, but I also don’t have as many TV commitments as I’ve had in previous years. A lot of shows that I watched have ended their runs in the last few years and I’ve not picked up many new options. Given my generally open TV schedule and my lack of mobility, this season I’ve wound up sampling more new shows than ever. While there are certainly plenty of shows that I haven’t tried – I don’t think you could pay me enough to sit through Dr. Ken – it’s unusual that I give one show a chance, let alone multiple new shows. Here are some quick thoughts on the series that I’ve sampled.

 

The Bastard Executioner (FX – Tuesdays at 10 pm)

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I was generally a fan of Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy (despite some very uneven seasons, Charlie Hunnam was always worth tuning in for), so I was excited to check out his new series set in Medieval Wales. The Bastard Executioner is trying to be Game of Thrones-lite and while it doesn’t necessarily achieve that, it is still a pretty entertaining show. The first episode was extremely confusing, as so many characters were introduced and there are so many relationships, but as the series has progressed (and characters have been killed off) it has become much easier to follow the various storylines and remember who everyone is and what they want. I’ve seen the first four episodes and I think the show has finally found its groove; the most recent episode was easily the best of the series to date. It’s fun to watch Stephen Moyer in a very different role than his depiction of Vampire Bill on True Blood and you’re occasionally treated to interesting appearances like Ed Sheeran (yup, THAT Ed Sheeran) playing a torturer. The show is often extremely violent, which may be a deal breaker for some people, but I’m generally into it now that I don’t have to read the Wikipedia description of an episode to make sure I caught everything. I’m not as into the supernatural elements of the show as the intrigue at the castle, but so far it’s been minor enough that I don’t mind it too much (plus it’s always nice to see Katey Segal on screen). It will never be Game of Thrones, but The Bastard Executioner with its conflicted hero is right in Sutter’s wheelhouse.

 

Scream Queens (Fox – Tuesdays at 9 pm)

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I had high hopes for Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, which in retrospect was a little misguided on my part as all of his shows go off the rails (not in a good way) sooner rather than later. Even the American Horror Story anthology, which I generally enjoy, loses me about 6-7 episodes in when I tire of his shenanigans. Scream Queens, for better or for worse, is a true Ryan Murphy show and embraces what I consider the worst of his tendencies. I thought the pilot was borderline unwatchable, but I was curious enough about the identity of the murderer (or murderers) to stick it out. It’s slightly improved by then and there are usually one or two moments that make you laugh, but this is by no means a scary show. I was hoping for a little more AHS and a little less Glee, but unfortunately that’s what Scream Queens turned out to be. This is a bunch of over the top, campy nonsense which can be fun, but doesn’t always work for me. Not the best depiction of a sorority either, but I’ve given up that fight long ago. I’m sticking around for three reasons: 1) to find out the resolution of this mystery, which I assume will be grossly unsatisfying; 2) this is something of a watercooler show (at least on Twitter) and I hate to miss out on what everyone is talking about; and 3) Niecy Nash steals every damn scene that she’s in.

 

Grandfathered (Fox – Tuesdays at 8 pm)

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I don’t know if it’s possible for a show to sustain itself on charm alone, but Grandfathered appears to be attempting to do just that. By the second episode I feel like the show is already repeating itself, but there are so many likable people on this show and it tries so hard to be affable that I’ve watched both episodes that have aired despite the fact that this is exactly the type of comedy that I don’t normally like. John Stamos stars as a man that finds out that not only does he have a son that he never knew existed, but that son has a baby (hence the title of the show). Stamos’ character is a playboy restauranteur, so the idea of a family is a seismic shift in his personal life. The formula for the series seems pretty staid: Stamos fights against wanting to change his life to have a relationship with his son and granddaughter and then about twenty minutes into the show, he realizes what’s important. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. The only reason I even checked out this show was that the great Pagent Brewster (Thrilling Adventure Hour, Community) plays Stamos’ ex and mother of his son. Gradfathered is a harmless comedy, but I’m skeptical that I’ll stick with it much longer. There’s just not enough there to sustain my interest; everyone on the show is fine, but fine won’t keep me around for long.

 

The Grinder (Fox – Tuesdays at 8:30 pm)

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More promising is The Grinder, which marks the return of Fred Savage to my television on a regular basis. I’ve always liked Savage – I had quite the crush on him when he was on The Wonder Years – and he serves as the perfect foil for Rob Lowe, who plays his brother. The premise of the show is ridiculous – Lowe played a lawyer on a television show and now wants to be a part of his family’s law firm – but the show totally embraces the ridiculousness. Savage is the voice of reason on the show and I think I could watch him being exasperated on a loop for hours. Lowe is playing a slight variation on his Parks and Recreation character – he even says “literally” in the pilot – but he’s so good at that and there is enough differentiation that it doesn’t feel like a retread. Like Cougar Town, the show suffers from a terrible title (Grindr is also the name of a gay dating app), but should be able to overcome that baggage. Most comedies struggle to find their voice, but The Grinder had one of the strongest comedy pilots that I’ve seen in a while. Great cast, silly premise and funny – all marks of a show that might be able to go the distance for a second season.

 

The Muppets (ABC – Tuesdays at 8 pm)

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I really, really wanted to love this show; there is perhaps no show that could be created that I would be more in the tank for than The Muppets, but sadly I have to say that so far the show is only “meh.” It doesn’t even bother me that the show is about the personal lives of the Muppets and that they have broken up Kermit and Miss Piggy. But the old Muppet magic is just missing from this show; I can’t quite put my finger on what’s off, but this show just doesn’t do much for me. I barely laugh during an episode and while Muppets being on my TV is better than no Muppets being on my TV, I just wish this show was better. I don’t think it ruins the Muppets legacy, but the show is just really boring. Maybe it will find its footing eventually and I will continue to watch it, but it makes me a little sad that this show has yet to live up to its promise. Maybe if Jason Segal was still involved it would be better, but when The Muppets aren’t fun there’s a serious problem.

There are three additional new shows that I plan to check out – The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, CBS’ Supergirl and ABC’s Wicked City – but they either haven’t debuted yet (the latter two) or I have their pilot on my DVR because I was watching the MLB playoffs last night (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). I have no idea how many of these shows I’ll still be watching in a few months; once this cast comes off and I lose the crutches, my time watching TV will be significantly decreased as I enjoy the wonders of walking again. None of these shows completely blew me away; there’s not a Mad Men or Breaking Bad in the bunch, but that may be setting the bar way too high. For now, I’m moderately entertained, which is all I’m really looking for.

Now it’s your turn – what new shows this season are you loving? Any shows that you loathe? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you are watching or avoiding.

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