TV reviews: New shows for fall
With everything that's premiering over the next few weeks, here's a look at the most anticipated and buzzed-about series coming up.
Nothing is truly outstanding - the networks are holding the best stuff (NBC's "Awake," ABC's "The River") until midseason - but there's definitely some stuff worth checking out. And some to completely avoid.
"Terra Nova" is probably the most talked about, and most problematic, pilot of the fall. Originally slated for a late summer sneak peek release, special effects and editing were cited for the postponement.
Whatever the case, the delay served the Steven Spielberg-produced series well. "Terra Nova" is the best-looking pilot of the fall, reveling in a dystopian future and prehistoric past.
In 2149, Earth is in bad shape - overdeveloped, overcrowded, crappy air quality, mass extinction of plant and animal life - and the only hope is the past. Yeah, seems like cheesy sci-fi time travel stuff, but there's a bit more at play.
Leading us through it all is the Shannon family. Jim (Jason O'Mara) is a cop who gets in trouble, and his wife, Elizabeth (Shelley Conn), has a way out. She's been invited to the Terra Nova settlement in the prehistoric past.
"Terra Nova" is beautiful, with majestic scenery and cool dinosaurs. Plus, there's potential for a strong and complex mythology to unfold. Let the "Lost" comparisons begin.
No, it's nowhere near that good - the characters could be stronger, the delays are worrisome - but even so, "Terra Nova" was my favorite fall pilot.
Who misses "Mad Men"? Uh, everyone.
Well, if you Don Draper and Peggy Olson junkies need a little '60s-era fix, "Pan Am" could be your answer. With cinematography, sets and some themes straight out of the Matthew Weiner playbook, "Pan Am" could help you make it to next year.
Following stewardesses in their heyday, the pilot centers on Kelli Garner's Kate, who bears a striking resemblance to Peggy on "Mad Men."
The characters are earnest and well-developed - generally through flashbacks - and Garner and Christina Ricci (Maggie) shine.
Kate is overshadowed when her beautiful younger sister, Laura (Margot Robbie), becomes the face of Pan Am's beauties after appearing on the cover of Life magazine. Yet Kate becomes the lead when she's entangled in a shadowy, if conventional, plot.
"Pan Am" is best when presenting its "new breed" of strong, progressive women in a transitional era. Now, if only Kate's ongoing yarn can get more oomph…
"The Playboy Club"
NBC's "The Playboy Club" is also trying to cash in on "Mad Men's" success. Only instead of creating a similar '60s-era series, it's whole-heartedly ripping it off and hoping the audience members won't notice because they're distracted by pretty girls in bunny outfits.
Set in the legendary Chicago club, our guides are new bunny Maureen (Amber Heard) and playboy attorney Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian utterly copycatting Jon Hamm's Don Draper).
Nick has conspicuous ties to the mob, so when he tries to help Maureen from being attacked by the Bianchi family patriarch and it ends in an accidental death, it's an uh-oh.
"Playboy" looks pretty good, but the acting and writing flaws make the shameless ripping off of one of TV's best shows even less tolerable.
Fox is banking on everyone loving Zooey Deschanel. While I'm not gaga for her, I liked her just fine until watching the obnoxious and wholly unfunny "New Girl."
Deschanel's Jessica is cheated on and then moves in with three bros who are so aggravating they actually have a douche bag jar to pay into when they act like douches. It should be full.
Throw in Deschanel to the extreme - oddly singing, dancing, crying and acting like a cartoon - and "New Girl" could turn Zooey's quirky cuteness into the most grating personality in history. It just tries way too hard.
"2 Broke Girls"
First off, I must admit that I've always liked Kat Dennings way more than Zooey Deschanel.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when I enjoyed "2 Broke Girls." It's a racy sitcom - more "How I Met Your Mother" than "Mike & Molly" - and Dennings is perfect in it.
Dennings' Max is a destitute waitress who has her fair share of problems when rich-turned-broke Caroline (Beth Behrs) walks into the diner needing a job.
Caroline is a working-class-ignorant work in progress, something Max hardly needs and makes sure to deflect with her (pardon the pun) catty exterior.
Obviously they form a bond, but the plot isn't important: the character and laughs are. Dennings channels Roseanne, and Behrs is simplistic fun.
The best thing "2 Broke Girls" has is a raunchy streak that keeps the laughs consistent. Keep it up, "Girls."
"Person of Interest"
CBS's best new drama owes its success to the strong pedigree behind the camera. "Person of Interest" is created by Jonathan Nolan ("Dark Knight" co-writer), and J.J. Abrams serves as executive producer.
It also helps that "Person" stars Michael Emerson from "Lost" and Jim Caviezel, aka Jesus. Yes, the guy who played Jesus in "Passion of the Christ" is now kicking ass all over the place as John Reese, a presumed dead ex-C.I.A. agent.
Reese's haunted past has him living off the grid, until Emerson's Finch recruits him for help. Finch is a wealthy mystery man who's figured out how to predict murders, rapes, etc., and needs Reese's badassery to stop them.
The premise is simple and seems to be a case-of-the-week type, but if they're executed as well as the pilot, it doesn't matter. There's some great action here, and this is probably the most violent show on the networks.
Emerson is fantastic as usual, and even Caviezel is pretty good, using his restrained blandness well. He's not flashy; he just kicks ass.
8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 on Fox
10 p.m. Sunday Sept. 25 on ABC
"The Playboy Club"
10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 on NBC
9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 on Fox
"2 Broke Girls"
9:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 on CBS
"Person of Interest"
9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 on CBS