The good, the bad and the meh of fall 2012's new TV dramas
I couldn't just weigh in on the new fall TV half-hours, of course. For the record, these aren't reviews -- those would be more in-depth and, honestly, would require more than the first episode to truly assess each show. Still, the new fall dramas are a much sturdier, more promising lot than the sitcoms, so there's reason to be hopeful. And really, even if some of the stronger shows dive bomb, the all-star casts (Connie Britton! Michael Chiklis! Andre Braugher) will be compelling enough for me to at least set my DVR each week.
"Nashville" (ABC, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m.)
Created by "Thelma & Louise" scribe Callie Khouri, this has to be the new series I'm most excited about this year. The pilot promises layered characters, kick-ass performances by Connie Britton ("American Horror Story," "Friday Night Lights") and Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes") and all the entangled, complex story lines we could hope for from a character-driven potboiler.
"Vegas" (CBS, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m.)
The only downside I can see with this show is that it might make you view Las Vegas with a certain poignancy, which will totally take the fun out of the craps table. With Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Ann Moss and an old West-meets-the-Mob plot by Nicholas Pileggi, this show promises amazing performances, a rich period setting and an in-depth understanding of a very specific world. They had me at Chiklis as a mobster, really.
"Elementary" (CBS, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m.)
As a procedural, there's plenty to like in this CBS show. Johnny Lee Miller has always seemed like a talent in want of the right project, and hey, maybe this could be it for him. After eight seasons of "House," we may all be a little tired of the charming-but-brilliant nut job/addict/antihero, but for those of you who had always wished for a younger, more tattooed grump to solve mysteries outside of a depressing hospital setting, this should do the trick.
"Revolution" (NBC, Sept. 17 at 10:00 p.m.)
The first five minutes of the pilot are some of the best you'll see this year. Unfortunately, the show settles into familiar story ruts quickly, and the whole thing may just leave you pining for another, more complex dystopian drama ("The Walking Dead" comes to mind). Still, I'm hoping the show can at least try to rise up to its strong start and not give in to formula, though I have a sinking feeling that's hoping too much.
"The Last Resort" (ABC, Sept. 27 at 8:00 p.m.)
Another show I'm curious to keep watching. Andre Braugher is always infinitely watchable no matter what he's doing, and the fact that I don't even mind Scott Speedman as his co-star underscored to me how solid the pilot is. But once the drama that drives that first episode reaches a tentative resolution, I'm not sure if the show will be able to maintain the fraut tension of the pilot (submarine = built-in drama).
"666 Park Avenue" (ABC, Sept. 30 at 10 p.m.)
I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to this series. The concept is intriguing -- a sweet but clueless couple moves into a too-good-to-be-true Manhattan apartment building, ostensibly so that they can manage the place for the mysterious Gavin and Olivia Devlin (Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams). It could be one note if each week follows yet another tenant trying to game the system, but O'Quinn and Williams (along with Rachael Taylor and David Annable as the naive Martins) are worth watching until (hopefully) a few more twists turn up in the plot.
"Made in Jersey" (CBS, Sept. 28 at 9:00 p.m.)
Yes, it's basically "The Nanny" meets "Law & Order." This is not a good thing, in case you're unfamiliar with Fran Drescher's annoying '90s hit. As you might expect, the Joisey relatives of Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery) would be better suited to "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," and Garretti does annoying things like solve crimes with her handy made-in-Jersey knowledge of things like how to put on a pair of tight jeans. I was about to put this show squarely in the "bad" column, but darn it, that was only until the last fifteen minutes of the show. What starts off as eye-rolling actually grabbed me toward the very end of the pilot -- which I attribute entirely to Montgomery. She manages to bring unexpected depth and warmth to her character, and if this series makes it, she deserves a pay raise immediately.
Mob Doctor (Fox, Sept. 17 at 9:00 p.m.)
I like the concept -- a doctor must pay off her brother's debt to the mob by yanking bullets out of bad guys. The pilot even delighted me a little bit by tossing in a truly unexpected twist -- and how often does that happen? But the writers play a little fast and loose with logic for my liking (a mob guy may be connected, but I doubt anyone who isn't part of the working surgical team knows exactly who will be plunging a hypodermic into a patient during surgery), and when the main character is a doctor? Psst, writers? Don't treat your audience like a collection of idiots. No matter how stupid we may be, we probably still know how to change the channel.
Chicago Fire (NBC, Oct. 10 at 10:00 p.m.)
You know what you always used to love about "Law & Order"? Even though you hardly knew anything about the main characters, there was always this great, often topical legal case you could get sucked into, right? Now, imagine "Law & Order" with those same cardboard cutout cast members, but no case. Yeah, it's problem. "Law & Order" mastermind Dick Wolf is trying to recreate a successful formula by throwing out the most important part of it, and the results are just as boring as you'd expect. Yes, there are fires to fight, but the problem is that we don't really care who makes it out alive. Jesse Spencer, so good as a second banana on "House," is simply bland here -- which fits the rest of the show perfectly.