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October 9, 2015

Warning! The 10 Least Promising Shows for Fall

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 19th 2011 10:00AM
Your time is valuable, and you don't want to spend it on shows that are either outright awful or seriously flawed, am I right?

That's the idea behind the following list of iffy and/or terrible new TV shows. They pay me to watch this stuff so you don't have to, and the goal here is to steer you away from fall programs that have awkward premises, wrongheaded casting or sub-par execution of decent ideas.

But never fear, I'll provide descriptions of each comedy and drama as well, on the off chance that you really want to check them out.

In a few cases, I might check out future installments to make sure that my initial "Run, run away!" assessment was right. Occasionally a pilot is merely tepid, as opposed to screamingly terrible, and there's a chance one or two of these shows might improve. After all, 'Raising Hope' was one of my least favorite fall shows last year, but when I reassessed it later in the season, I found some things to like about it, even though it'll never be must-see TV for me.

Though I'm supplying a list of many of the fall shows I didn't like, it's not as if all the reviews I'll write in the next few weeks will be sparkly rainbows of praise. A number of the new shows I'll write about as fall rolls on are at least somewhat problematic -- 'Person of Interest,' I'm looking at you! -- but there's enough there to warrant exploring the show's good and bad points. (By the way, if you want to check out what I've reviewed thus far, go here. Ten promising new shows are listed here, and all AolTV's Fall TV coverage is here.)

Is there an ulterior motive at work when it comes to creating this list? Of course! I'm not particularly keen on writing full reviews of shows that really only deserve a few sentences of evaluation (and I'm guessing none of you are keen on reading 10 long, drawn-out versions of "It's bad!"). If one of these programs makes a giant leap forward in quality, I'll reassess it later in the season, but when it comes to most of these programs, I've pretty much written them off already.

Life's too short, you know?

Without further ado, here are fall's least promising programs:

The show: 'Charlie's Angels' (Sept. 22, ABC)
The premise: The '70s show gets updated for the modern era, on the assumption that, decades later, people still like to watch attractive women in high heels chase bad guys.
Why it didn't really work: Was the clunky script for 'Charlie's Angels' also dug up from some '70s vault? It contains more than a few leaden lines, and any show that asks me to accept Minka Kelly (Lyla from 'Friday Night Lights') as an orphan who grew up to be a tough car thief is asking too much. If I want light entertainment and action-adventure featuring attractive people, I'll switch over to USA Network, where they at least try to avoid making the stories and characters faintly ridiculous.
Will I give it another chance? No.

The show: 'Grimm' (Oct. 21, NBC)
The premise: A young detective becomes aware of nasty critters that most people can't see, and a dangerous family legacy promises to make his life more complicated.
Why it didn't really work: Wooden lead actor David Giuntoli, who plays cop David Burkhardt, adds nothing to the proceedings; he has an almost comical lack of range. Still, I wanted to like this show, given my genre proclivities and my deep and lasting love for 'Angel' (which 'Grimm' executive producer David Greenwalt used to work on). But there were several points at which 'Grimm' drained its own suspense away by having a plot development revolve around a convenient ability that a character happened to have. To compete with Friday's bumper crop of quality nerd bait ('Fringe,' 'Chuck,' 'Supernatural'), 'Grimm' has to have exciting, surprising plots and good characters, not bland leads and stories full of shortcuts.
Will I give it another chance? In a month or so (if it sticks around that long), I might try 'Grimm' again to see if it's gotten any better (after all, much of 'Angel's' first season was rocky). But Friday nights are already quite busy for genre fans like me, so I'm doubtful about whether this show will get another hour of my life.

The show: 'Hart of Dixie' (Sept. 26, CW)
The premise:
High-powered Manhattan doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) goes to a small Southern town to practice family medicine and learn life lessons from regular folks.
Why it didn't really work: This is one of the strangest misfires of the fall, given its solid pedigree ('OC'/'Gossip Girl'/'Chuck' titan Josh Schwartz is among the executive producers and 'OC' veteran Bilson is the star) and given the durability of the fish-out-of-water premise, which worked for everything from 'Northern Exposure' to 'The OC.' But Bilson proves herself to be too brittle to carry the lead of a show like this (even her voiceovers are strangely affectless), and the town is filled with boring, one-dimensional stereotypes. Little about this plays to Bilson's strengths: She's good at light comedy and mild rage and works best as part of an ensemble, but here, Zoe's emotional moments don't really land as they should. In any event, the entire thing felt underwritten and slight.
Will I give it another chance? Probably not. It's one of those shows that is likely to get lost in the crush of new programs.

The show: 'How to Be a Gentleman' (Sept. 29, CBS)
The premise:
Andrew (David Hornsby), a magazine columnist who writes about the proper conduct of a gentlemen, begins to take life lessons about how to be a manly man from his new trainer, Bert (Kevin Dillon).
Why it didn't really work: This contrived comedy wasn't particularly funny or inspired and it didn't give me a compelling reason to return to it, despite the presence of some stellar actors in the cast (Dave Foley of 'NewsRadio,' Mary Lynn Rajskub of '24,' Rhys Darby of 'Flight of the Conchords' and Dillon, who was often the best thing about 'Entourage'). This predictable, defanged version of 'Wilfred' wasn't terrible, but Hornsby and Dillon didn't really click as an odd couple.
Will I give it another chance? Given the cast, maybe I'll give it one more shot, if it sticks around.

The show: 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter' (Nov. 30, Fox)
The premise:
Two moms bond over the fact that they've raised selfish, thoughtless and condescending daughters. Hijinks ensue!
Why it didn't really work: My ears, my ears! The screechiness of this sitcom may have caused lasting brain and/or ear and/or soul damage. Jaime Pressley is strangely miscast as a low-self-esteem mom with a nerdy past, the pilot was full of lame, unfunny jokes, and the whole thing just felt mean-spirited and forced. Run, run away!
Will I give it another chance? No, no, no, no, no, no. Also, no.

The show: 'Last Man Standing' (Oct. 11, ABC)
The premise:
Tim Allen returns to sitcoms as Mike, a befuddled dad, marketing manager and outdoorsman. From an ABC press release: "Today it's a woman's world, and this man's man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society." Hmm, why didn't ABC make even more comedies about this timely subject? What's that you say -- ABC did just that? Finally my prayers have been answered!
Why it didn't really work: Weren't "I'm just a manly man who doesn't understand the Internet" jokes banned in 2002? I could have sworn that happened. And if you think those jokes are musty, there's also lots of "I don't understand the womenfolk" humor and an offensive gay joke as well. Now, I don't deny Tim Allen his God-given right to make an aggressively traditional sitcom, but to strand Nancy Travis and Kaitlyn Dever ('Justified') in this warmed-over cliche-fest is just wrong.
Will I give it another chance? No.

The show: 'Man Up!' (Oct. 18, ABC)
The premise:
Three friends -- a dad, a guy trying to get over a breakup, and a divorced dude -- try to get in touch with their inner manly men.
Why it didn't really work: If any of them were funny, I wouldn't care that ABC made three, count 'em, three comedies about how it's hard out here for a guy (yes, there's a third, the excreble 'Work It,' waiting in the mid-season wings). This comedy uses the single-camera format to tell jokes that feel only slightly less dated and questionable as the ones in the creaky Tim Allen vehicle.
Will I give it another chance? See above.

The show: 'The Playboy Club' (Sept. 19, NBC)
The premise:
Maureen (Amber Heard) is a new Bunny and Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) is a smooth, handsome Chicago lawyer and a member of the Playboy Club, where the city's elite parties and the Bunnies are always smiling -- when they're working, that is. Behind the scenes, there's intrigue! Drama! Muuuurrrrder!
Why it didn't really work: It's certainly possible to construct a great drama out of the changing gender roles and the cultural shifts of the '60s -- 'Mad Men's' been doing just that for four seasons But 'The Playboy Club' ignores most of what's interesting about its setting and time frame and shoehorns a melodramatic murder-mystery plot into its pilot. Why? I have no idea. Not much about this show works, aside from Laura Benanti as the toughest Bunny in the club.
Will I give it another chance? No. It's just too silly.

The show: 'Suburgatory' (Sept. 28, ABC)
The premise:
George (Jeremy Sisto), a single dad, moves his teen daughter, Tessa (Jane Levy), from New York City to the suburbs when he thinks she's growing up too fast.
Why it didn't really work: This comedy wasn't outright horrible, but I'm of the opinion that Jeremy Sisto was wildly miscast in this show. His presence is just too dour, the show's tone veers all over the place (from cynical to broad and sitcom-y) and the talented Cheryl Hines is forced to play a preposterous McMansion stereotype.
Will I give it another chance? Yes, because 'Suburgatory' has some talented people in the cast (including one of my favorite actors, Alan Tudyk). Also, my colleague Maggie Furlong really likes this comedy and will make sad-puppy noises until I give it another shot.

The show: 'Unforgettable' (Sept. 20, CBS)
The premise:
Warning: I'm liable to fall asleep midway through this description. Poppy Montgomery plays an investigator who can remember the details of every single day of her life and... zzz. Sorry! Yeah, that's pretty much it.
Why it didn't really work: Everything about this police procedural felt tired and uninspired. It's particularly ironic that there's nothing memorable about a show that depicts the life of a woman who can remember everything. Having the gift (or the curse) of being able to remember all of one's life isn't a bad premise for a TV show, but the execution here is extremely unpromising.
Will I give it another chance? No. I've already forgotten about it.

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You suck, Man up is fabulous. Eat a crap sandwich. :)

April 04 2013 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Slander Anonymously

- dumb c*nt..

December 22 2011 at 3:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like somebody would rather be pitching their own pilot ideas than watching television and being forced against her will to right something objective,. You hate your job, right? Shows in your reviews.

November 23 2011 at 10:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christopher F Cheney

give me one good reason i should listen to you moryan????

November 16 2011 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ello Emma Dear

Ok, just want to clarify that Last Man standing is in the top ten TV list. It is a great comedy and I love it, also Playboy Bunny I have to say dragged me in but I lost all my love in the show because they make problem after problem and it wares my concentration out. BIG TIME. But the one T.V show I CANNOT STAND is New Girl. I seriously do not get what everyone is in love with it for? It is a girl who likes to act stupid and dumb and makes a fool out of herself? These guys in the background don't make the show anymore interesting, I enjoyed the first 6 minutes of the show and then poof I hate it and cannot watch another episode.

October 28 2011 at 12:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kenneth R DeLeon Jr

Hart of Dixie does need to get some better writers, but i do like the characters, has the promise of a very good show, specially if the wedding is stopped by lemon. Unforgettable is another i like but they're gonna drag out the past to long and kill it i think.

reading current page of comments gotta disagree with the Terra Nova comment, it's another awesome concept, writing needs a little work though.

The Secret Circle was one of my favorite new ones, but they're killing people off to fast and trying to make it feel like a Twilight movie, i'm starting to loose interest in it.

Person of Interest is my favorite new show so it'll probably be cancelled soon, lol.

October 14 2011 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
levent islek

my book,,,THE WOLF WITH BELL,,,,coming soon.
Levent ISLEK

October 11 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
levent islek

my book,,,THE WOLF WITH BELL,,,,coming soon.
Levent ISLEK

October 11 2011 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John B

Stumbled on this after the start of the season and it could have saved me some time if I found it earlier. Now that the season has started and most of these shows have aired, it is pretty much right on. The only one missed here was Pan Am which was even worse than its promos suggested. That piece of drivel should be canceled soon. Only other one I might give another shot is Unforgettable only because I like Poppy Montgomery but I agree that overall it is pretty wooden.

October 10 2011 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know this is an old article but I stumbled upon it and felt forced to comment. I would like to not that, before I signed up for an account to post this, I did check out some of the author's other articles so given that we do agree from time to time, I'll be nice.

I stopped reading this list at Suburgatory. REALLY??? Suburgatory is one of the worst fall shows (based on the pilot) but 2 Broke Girls made your list of the best (also based on the pilot)? I need an explanation here. I don't get it. Suburgatory is - hands down - the best new comedy this fall. You were right on the money with How to Be a Gentleman - a show so terrible I couldn't even finish watching the pilot - but you got it wrong with Suburgatory. I also really enjoyed Hart of Dixie (far more than I thought I would) but I get that one might not be for everyone. But... Suburgatory? Okay... now, about 2 Broke Girls....

I kind of enjoyed the pilot but it felt so forced and awkward. The only reason I tuned in for the second episode is because I love Kat Dennings far too much not to. I was pleasantly surprised. It got infinitely better and I enjoyed the third episode even more. With that said, based purely on the pilot episode, Suburgatory should've taken the win. It's smart. It's edgy. It isn't terribly unique in terms of premise but the slightly exaggerated (and I do mean slightly) depiction of Suburban moms had me rolling on the floor. The performances are believable and, like 2 Broke Girls it has gotten better since the pilot. I implore you, dear author, give it another chance. I think you must've missed something on your first viewing.

October 09 2011 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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