With the fall TV season beginning, I thought I'd take a moment to weigh in on some (if not all) of the new half-hour comedies barreling toward your screen. These aren't reviews -- those would be more in-depth and, honestly, would require more than the first episode to truly assess each show. Besides, there's always a chance that the shaky sitcoms will find their footing and even the bad ones could get total makeovers before cancellation (or will just become huge hits and stay on the air forever -- I mean, someone was watching "According to Jim" all those years). Of course, the reverse is also true, but let's hope this decidedly uninspiring fall slate is able to rise up.
Ben & Kate - adorable (Fox, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m.)
I had no expectations for this sitcom, which may be why I was so pleasantly surprised. It doesn't hurt when you have a mixed-up loser brother character played by Oscar-winning screenwriter (and former Groundling) Nat Faxon ("The Descendants"), who finds the sweet center of this show without giving in to schmaltz. It's a nice match for the wry tone courtesy of show creator Dana Fox, whose inspiration is her real-life brother, which may be why so much of the show rings true. Dakota Johnson is a clear-eyed foil for Faxon as Ben's long-suffering sister, and it's a pleasure just to watch these two go through the paces. Yes, the pilot has a "let's stop the wedding" scene, but it's worth it to watch these characters handle the aftermath.
"Malibu Country" (ABC, Nov. 2 at 8:30 p.m.)
It's "Reba" with Lily Tomlin and Sarah Rue. If you liked "Reba," you'll like this, guaranteed. And if you didn't? Even the great Tomlin as a pothead grandma probably won't pull you in.
"The Neighbors" (ABC, Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m.)
Just like the sweet-natured aliens of the show, who all have the names of real-life athletes and like to wear matching polo shirts, this series is weird but moderately charming. The funny, however, isn't really apparent thus far. I'm hoping this changes, as it's such an oddball idea I'm willing to give it another try, but this show may already need a shake-up on the writing staff.
"Go On" (NBC, Sept. 11 at 9:00 pm)
I didn't hate this as much as some critics, but Matthew Perry's twitchy patter isn't quite enough to hold my interest as the show veers wildly from broad comedy to heavy-handed poignancy. It will be up to his supporting cast to set the tone and keep this from devolving into Judd Hirsche's goopy '80s group therapy sitcom, "Dear John." Yeah, it could happen.
Mindy Project (Fox, Sept. 25 at 9:30 p.m.)
Sorry, but I find Kaling's meta approach to the romcom largely, if not entirely, unfunny. While the pilot has some amusing moments and a solid supporting cast (Chris Messina deserves better), it wasn't enough for me. But there are plenty of women who will watch this and see themselves in Kaling's bitchy, lovelorn and utterly emotionally dim gynecologist. I just hope I never have to ride in a car with any of them.
Guys with Kids (NBC, Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m.)
For the love of God, may this be the first new show cancelled. At least "Animal Practice" has a monkey and Justin Kirk.
"Partners" (CBS, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m.)
I was hoping that David Kohan and Max Mutchnick would be able to recapture that "Will & Grace" magic, but I didn't see much evidence to that effect in this tired gay/straight brocom. David Krumholz lacks the lightness Eric McCormack brought to the character of Will (and which I now fully appreciate), while Michael Urie isn't funny or charming enough to make up for his character's solipsism. Sophia Bush is written as an under appreciated sidekick and I don't get the impression she'll have the chance to do much more.The laughs might be there, but it's hard to find them behind the glaring miscasting.
Which shows are you looking forward to watching?