In the current fall preview issue of TV Guide (the one with the new Two and a Half Men on the cover, on sale now), longtime critic Matt Roush appears to dis, or at least dismiss, 17 of 25 new network shows. What Roush says:
1) CHARLIE’S ANGELS (ABC): “noisy misfire”
2) FREE AGENTS (NBC): “toxic”
3) A GIFTED MAN (CBS): “schmaltzy”
4) GRIMM (NBC): “muddled, mopey”
5) H8R (CW): “insipid”
6) HART OF DIXIE (CW): “patronizingly phony”
7) HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN (CBS): “cringeworthy”
8) I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (Fox): “shrill”
9) LAST MAN STANDING (ABC): “hammy retread”
10) MAN UP! (ABC): “charmless”
11) ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC): “convoluted and campy”
12) THE PLAYBOY CLUB (NBC): “dreary pastiche”
13) REVENGE (ABC): “overwritten, contrived”
14) THE SECRET CIRCLE (CW): “the magic is missing”
15) TERRA NOVA (Fox): “clunky writing”
16) UNFORGETTABLE (CBS): “[un]memorable storytelling”
17) WHITNEY: “abrasively kooky”
That leaves eight shows with which Roush seems at least OK:
1) PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS)* “I’m hooked”
2) 2 BROKE GIRLS (CBS)*: “tasty”
3) UP ALL NIGHT (NBC)*: “refreshingly grown-up”
4) NEW GIRL (Fox): “irresistible”
5) PAN AM (ABC): “infectiously glossy”
6) PRIME SUSPECT (NBC): “solid”
7) RINGER (CW): “juicy”
8) SUBURGATORY (ABC): “broadly amusing”
*also in Entertainment Weekly’s “top five”
Three of those eight also make Entertainment Weekly’s “top five,” so they must be great, right?
My takes on Roush’s eight faves, starting with the three EW liked too:
1) PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS): This was the one I was rooting for. A project from “Dark Knight” screenwriter Jonathan Nolan and “Star Trek”/”Super 8” mastermind J.J. Abrams. It’s better than J.J. Abrams’ “Undercovers” but not as good as Abrams’ midseason ABC sci-fi hourlong “Alcatraz.” So far it’s also not as good as Abrams’ “Alias,” “Lost” or “Fringe.” Michael Emerson brings a lot, and I loved when haunted human weapon Jim Caveziel unpacked his whupass. But the slightly sci-fi-ish premise strikes me as a bit too dopey, and the plotting in the pilot too often feels surprisingly lazy and predictable.
2) 2 BROKE GIRLS (CBS): One of two new fall sitcoms created by new NBC star Whitney Cummings, it’s not as funny as CBS’ Chuck Lorre sitcoms but funnier than CBS’ other laughtrack fare. Kat Dennings, the Infinite Playlist girl who was Catherine Keener’s freaked-out daughter in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” has star power. But dang that laughtrack is distracting.
3) UP ALL NIGHT (NBC): SNL vets continue to leak into NBC’s sitcoms. Following in the footsteps of Greg Daniels and Steve “Ambiguously Gay” Carell at “The Office,” Tina Fey and Tracey Morgan at “30 Rock,” Chevy Chase on “Community” and Mike Schur and Amy Poehler at “Parks and Recreation,” Maya Rudolph and longtime SNL writer Emily Spivey are collaborating on “Up All Night,” which stars Will Arnett and Christina Applegate as the foul-mouthed hard-living fortyish parents of a newborn. Spivey’s depiction of the parenting life feels authentic and the pilot carries an agreeable semi-improvisational feel.
4) NEW GIRL (Fox): This Zooey Deschanel vehicle from the writer of the Portman-Kutcher comedy “No Strings Attached” didn’t make EW’s top five but I believe it’s my favorite fall broadcast pilot this year. It’s funny and full of likeable characters. Why is Zooey doing TV? Aside from Syfy’s “Tin Man,” this may be the first time Emily’s adorably deadpan sister has been the lead in anything.
5) PAN AM (ABC): This was the better of the two new network series set in 1963, but it’s no “Mad Men.” SPOILER: There’s a subplot about the U.S. government using the stewardesses as spies. (This feels a little hacky, as if Matt Weiner turned Don Draper into a part-time James Bond or something.) Nancy Hult Ganis, a Pam Am stew in the late 1960s and early 1970s and one of the show’s producers, insists this sort of thing really went on, but this series needs to put more emphasis on character than low-boil espionage if it wants me to stick around. Jack Orman, who did a great job running “ER” back in the day, is in charge. The fabulous Kelli Garner and Christina Ricci play hot stews. So I’ll give it a few episodes.
6) PRIME SUSPECT (NBC): Far from perfect but much better than the promos let on. Adapted from the acclaimed British series by original creator Lynda La Plante and longtime “Desperate Housewives” writer-producer Alexandra Cunningham, it’s set in New York but its emphasis on cops rather than cases makes it a whole lot better than any of those “Law & Order” shows.
7) RINGER (CW): I think TV Guide was worried that if it didn’t say something nice about one of The CW’s new shows, it would lose the netlet’s advertising or access to its stars. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to TV is no “Buffy,” believe you me. Not even “Lost” boy Nestor Carbonell elevates this enterprise out of the realm of meh.
8) SUBURGATORY (ABC): Created by “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” mastermind Emily Kapnek, this one’s about a Manhattan teen relocated to the boonies after her dad finds a box of rubbers in her dresser drawer. I’ve just retreated to the suburbs after decades in Los Angeles, and my suburb bears no resemblance to this suburb.