by Matthew Thompson
The network season is in full swing and with it a bunch of new TV shows have debuted. I have been able to watch six of the big networks’ new offerings from September and am here to let you know what I thought and whether they are worth your time. Of course, I am basing these mostly on just the pilots which isn’t exactly the best indication of a show’s quality. But it will give you an idea of what you are in for and I’ll be sure to check back in on the shows I will be sticking with as their seasons continue. Here it goes.
Gotham (Mondays at 8PM Eastern on FOX)
The Premise: A crime drama set in Gotham before Bruce Wayne dons the cowl focuses on a young James Gordon and delves into the origins of many of the city’s other famous characters.
My Take: A lot of my fears were realized especially in the pilot. They are trying to cram in too many of the famous Batman villains too soon. And the fact that their intros were so on the nose made matters worse. But there is plenty to like here. As expected both Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue are great in the lead roles. If given the opportunity, they should be able to carry the load for the show. And I love the look of Gotham. They have done a great job with the sets and nailing the feel of the city. There is definitely potential in the various villain origins too, I just wish they’d go about introducing them a little more gradually. I thought the one character they actually gave some material to delve into, The Penguin, was really good… terrible penguin jokes notwithstanding.
Worth Watching?: Yes or at the very least worth a try. Overall, the pilot is kind of a middle of the road offering, but there is some definite potential here. They’ve created an interesting take on a popular universe and if they can find the right balance going forward, I think it could be a winner. I already liked the second episode better than the pilot and I’m definitely in for more. I just wish they’d dial back all blatant references to these characters’ futures. A little subtlety would go a long way towards silencing my weekly groans.
Selfie (Tuesdays at 8 Eastern on ABC)
The Premise: A modern take on Pygmalion and My Fair Lady focusing on a social media-obsessed woman (Karen Gillan) who looks to a co-worker (John Cho) for help in re-branding herself.
My Take: I think the idea of the show is pretty solid, but the pilot is really obnoxious to start. Both Gillan’s character and all the references to social media are really in your face. The jokes can really fall flat too even if there are a few that might make you smile. By the end of the first episode, I did come around to Selfie a bit. And if the idea is that the main characters will be growing from this point forwards, it will likely never be quite as obnoxious as it is in the pilot. I have such a soft spot for the creator’s previous show Suburgatory that I’m hopeful this could turn into something a little better than what I’ve seen so far. It certainly seems like a good fit for her surreal sort of style which I thought worked particularly well when dealing with some of the workplace comedy featured in this first outing. And the two leads certainly seem up to the task. But the pilot just isn’t all that good.
Worth Watching?: Probably not. I don’t think it is nearly as bad as I heard it was before I watched, but there still isn’t a lot to be excited about here. Being honest if it wasn’t for my affinity for Suburgatory, I’m not sure I’d have much hope for this show. I did like the end of the pilot, but there was plenty I didn’t like before that as well. Hard to advise this one based on the first episode.
Forever (Tuesdays at 10 Eastern on ABC)
The Premise: A new crime procedural that pairs a female cop (Alana de la Garza) with an immortal medical examiner (Ioan Gruffudd).
My Take: There isn’t anything you haven’t seen here before. It’s a crime drama/cop show with a slight twist. That comes in the form of Gruffudd’s Dr. Henry Morgan who has been living for 200 years. His flashbacks show an intriguing backstory that helps illuminate why he trusts his friend Abe with his secret. The pilot also teases that he isn’t exactly one of a kind. Both of those things I liked. But the fact that his extra-long life has given him extraordinary observation skills which is the thing that will make him such an aid to the show’s weekly cases got an eye roll out of me. This has been done to death at this point (Sherlock adaptations, The Mentalist, probably 100 other shows I’m forgetting) and I’m a bit tired of it at this point. Overall it was a pretty boring episode and I imagine the interesting backstory will be drip-fed to us while we deal with run of the mill cases each week going forward.
Worth watching?: No. There is an audience for this sort of light procedural fare, so I guess if you live for the Castles of the world, give it a shot. But this is a very been-there-done-that show. Even my soft-spot for Law & Order ADAs couldn’t get me to give it another shot. And if you are looking for a good procedural you are better off catching up on a proven winner (The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Arrow or Sleepy Hollow would fit the bill).
Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9 Eastern on FOX)
The Premise: This dramedy, based on the Spanish series Polseres vermelles, follows the lives of a group of teenagers who live together in the pediatric ward of a hospital.
My Take: In my new Fall TV show preview, I mentioned that this was my favorite of the pilots I’d had a chance to see early. Even with a bigger sampling at the end of the month, it remains my favorite. I feel like a broken record with these two things, but I like that a big network is attempting a series focused on teens (these are mostly relegated to places like The CW and ABC Family these days) and I like that focusing on the younger patients makes it stand out from other shows with hospital settings. Most of all I just think the show is great. My ideal show has a nice balance between comedy and drama. The kind of show that can make you laugh or cry and this show definitely hits the right notes in that regard. The pilot was able to surprise me too. It’s depiction of those in a sort of limbo is a neat touch. And the fact that the least likable character is a part of my favorite moment in the pilot (Kara and the pizza) shows that they will likely be able to do some very interesting things with this cast.
Worth Watching?: Obviously I love it, so the easy answer is yes. It is a teen drama at its heart though which won’t be for everyone. And as a show dealing with sick kids it can walk a fine line between heartfelt/earnest and overly saccharine/cheesy. I find it falls on the good side of that line 90% of the time, but opinions will obviously vary. And the harsh truth is the ratings means this show won’t likely be around for all that long. Whether that means running out the first season or being pulled earlier I don’t know. It’s a shame though because it has been great so far.
Black-ish (Wednesdays at 9:30 Eastern on ABC)
The Premise: A comedy about a modern black family living in the suburbs starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne.
My Take: I’m sure this show offended someone. It could be viewed as one long race joke, maybe not exactly surprising for a show called Black-ish. But I found it to be fairly enjoyable myself. There were some laugh-out-loud moments (the jokes about OJ and Africans stood out to me) and the level of humor was much higher than the promos would have indicated which featured some real duds. I even liked Anthony Anderson here and I can’t think of any work of his I can say that for. Laurence Fishburne’s role playing Anderson’s father has great potential for producing laughs too. I think they need to find a better balance going forward between the racial humor and the family comedy aspects, but if they can it could be a success.
Worth Watching?: This is a tough one. I don’t see this ever being a special comedy. And its flavor of humor won’t be for everyone.But it seems like it could be a good fit after Modern Family and if you are watching that it couldn’t hurt to stick around after it is over to see what Black-ish has to offer. I’m going to continue watching, but it certainly isn’t a must-watch.
How to Get Away with Murder (Thursdays at 10 Eastern on ABC)
The Premise: Shonda Rhimes’ next hit delivers a heaping helping of legal drama with a side of murder.
My Take: This has been the surprise of the pilot season for me so far. I basically just watched it because I wanted to check out as many big pilots for the purposes of this site as I could and now I think I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future. It reminded me very much of Damages with its legal backdrop, intriguing dual-timeline setup and murder mystery. Though with a more network feel and the kind of soapy trappings that I understand are expected in a Rhimes-produced show (my only experience with the Shonda-verse is watching the Scandal pilot, so I really don’t have much experience of my own to speak of). All of that sounds like a pretty fun setup for a TV show and the reveal of who was in the rug was a nice final hook.
Worth Watching?: Yes. But I imagine the core audience for this show has already checked into it, made a few posts about it on Twitter and rewatched the pilot on their DVR three times. But as someone who wasn’t a part of that target viewership, I thought it was a lot of fun. My only worry is that I’m saddling up for about nine more years of this show since its first ratings indicate it is another hit and the show is sure to get silly as all hell before too long.
That will do it for my look at some of the new pilots that aired in September. If I catch up on any others, I will talk about them with the October batch. And as I said before, I will likely check back in on the shows mentioned here that I end up sticking with to see how they are coming along as the season progresses. Which pilots did you catch in September? Which shows will you be sticking with? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!