Your guide to new fall TV shows: TiVo or Ti-NO?

MONDAY

Partners, 8:30 p.m., CBS

Debuts Sept. 24

Cool as it is to see more gay characters on TV, I yearn for the day when they aren't all upper-middle-class professional white guys with a flair for the dramatic and loads of jokes about Bravo reality shows. That's what bugs me most about this comedy, based on creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan's real-life friendship, shoehorning Ugly Betty alum Michael Urie into a stereotypically flighty, self-obsessed gay male character whose wacky habits often spell trouble for his best pal, centered, heterosexual architect David Krumholtz.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Airing after How I Met Your Mother on Mondays, this show is bound to survive, regardless of its stereotyping, predictable plotlines and the fact that its creators, who also brought us the groundbreaking gay-centered comedy Will & Grace, should know better. TiVo just to see how bad it gets.

The Mob Doctor, 9 p.m., Fox

Debuts Monday

There may be no new show on network TV more neatly summed up by its title. Which means My Boys alum Jordana Spiro deserves serious props for making her character — a top-flight surgeon forced to work for criminals on the side — compelling and exciting, despite the foreshadowing.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Can a leading surgeon vault from pulling off complex heart operations to pulling screwdrivers out of the heads of thugs with no one in her life getting wise? Maybe, but she can't really make a TV show about all that stuff believable, which is why I'm going to Ti-NO here.

Revolution, 10 p.m., NBC

Debuts Monday

They had me until the sword fights. Superstar producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek reboot) tries TV once again with a postapocalyptic drama on life in a world 15 years after every form of power mysteriously stops working. Why that turns the fabled ballpark for the Chicago Cubs into an ivy-covered relic — one of the pilot's best, but most head-scratching visuals — goes unexplained.

TiVo or Ti-NO? When barkeep-turned-reluctant hero Billy Burke picked up a sword and started wasting bad guys, I actually laughed out loud. Even Breaking Bad alum Giancarlo Esposito as your typical, mustache-twirling, post-apocalyptic warlord can't save this one. Ti-NO.

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TUESDAY

Ben and Kate, 8:30 p.m., Fox

Debuts Sept. 25

The hardest part of judging any new TV comedy is sussing the most intangible quality: potential. That word is one reason why this comedy starring Oscar-winning screenwriter Nat Faxon (The Descendants) as an irresponsible, irrepressible brother to an uptight single mom gets a passing grade from me.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Sure the pilot is predictable; the brother's an undependable, eccentric pain until his loyalty and love outweigh all his faults. Yawn. But Faxon and executive producer Dana Fox, who can tell hours of sidesplitting stories about her real-life brother on whom Faxon's character is based, give me hope they can take this fictional Ben Fox to hilarious places no one expects. Ti-Vo, if only for that p-word mentioned earlier.

Emily Owens, M.D., 9 p.m., CW

Debuts Oct. 16

Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer steps into her second starring role on TV, this time playing a geeky-yet-beautiful aspiring surgeon with an unrequited crush on her best friend from medical school and mean girl enemies among her fellow first-year interns. In other words, it's the CW's version of Grey's Anatomy.

TiVo or Ti-NO? This is a movie we've seen before; in fact, we'll see it again on Tuesday nights when Office alum Mindy Kaling debuts an awfully similar sitcom situation on Fox. As Gummer's Owens bumbles through misplacing patients and fending off rivals, two things remain certain: Meryl's kid will one day star in a great comedy showcasing her understated charm. And this show ain't it. Ti-to-the-NO.

Go On, 9 p.m., NBC

Debuted last Tuesday

Watching Friends alum Matthew Perry now, it's easier to see how his more likable co-stars balanced his edgy, sometimes arrogant energy back in the day. Here, playing a sports talk radio host forced into therapy after his wife's death, Perry still isn't quite as appealing as you'd expect. Even when he rightfully challenges the not-quite-qualified leader of his therapy group, you're never quite sure who deserves to win that argument.

TiVo or Ti-NO? If Perry can tone down the Chandler Bing and find a new, more empathetic note for his character, I'll TiVo every week.

The New Normal, 9:30 p.m., NBC

Debuted last Tuesday

Yes, it seems like creator Ryan Murphy Xeroxed the most flamboyant part of ABC's super-successful Modern Family for his new show, about two gay dads who want a child born to a surrogate mother. But his series also has serious heart, as the surrogate, her tween daughter, the gay couple, a personal assistant and the surrogate's prejudiced grandmother form an oddball, new kind of family unit for a new century.

TiVo or Ti-NO? As usual, Murphy hands an able actor of a certain age a meaty role, letting Ellen Barkin chew all kinds of scenery as the bigoted grandma. And despite presenting yet another pair of upper-middle-class white males as his same-sex dads, Murphy also offers characters who feel well-rounded before the first episode ends. Well worth a Ti-Vo.

The Mindy Project, 9:30 p.m., Fox

Debuts Sept. 25

Critics seem to love this comedy most, starring Office alum Mindy Kaling as an Americanized Bridget Jones-style heroine: a young obstetrician looking for love while working a demanding job. At times, the plot mirrors the romantic comedies Kaling's character is obsessed with, showing her stumbling through romantic debacles like heckling an ex-boyfriend (SNL's Bill Hader) while toasting his wedding.

TiVo or Ti-NO? You've seen Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Aniston pull off these moves before, but there's something special about seeing a beautiful brown, Indian American woman who isn't a stick figure allowed to walk the same rom-com ground. I'd TiVo for sure.

Vegas, 10 p.m., CBS

Debuts Sept. 25

There's a great modernized cowboy story in how Las Vegas got citified and a great mob story in how wiseguys took over America's playground afterward. But it took CBS to build a promising new series around both stories at once, featuring Dennis Quaid as the cowboy-turned-sheriff destined to lock horns with Michael Chiklis' Chicago gangster moved west.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Any one of this show's four top actors — including Matrix alum Carrie-Anne Moss and Jason O'Mara from Fox's ill-fated Terra Nova — could be leading their own series. Here, they add texture to a show that busts the mold for CBS cop shows and adds a bit of movie-star glamor. I'm going to Ti-Vo hoping the tantalizing pilot is just the start.

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WEDNESDAY

Arrow, 8 p.m., CW

Debuts Oct. 10

This story centers on one of DC Comics' more obscure heroes and plays like a Dark Knight ripoff. Moody billionaire heir Oliver Queen is marooned on an island for five years, where he learns how to fight, shoot arrows amazingly well and hold great contempt for his moneyed relatives in a sleazy city. But star Stephen Amell has the smoldering charisma — and washboard abs — to keep fanboys and girls watching the tween network's revamp of the Green Arrow legend.

TiVo or Ti-NO? In the comic books, Green Arrow is a fiercely anti-authoritarian warrior; think an ex-hippie, Occupy Wall Street sympathizer with extreme archery skills. It would be amazing to see that guy show up here. I'm going to TiVo in hopes it happens soon.

Animal Practice, 8 p.m., NBC

Debuts Sept. 26

An actor in one promotional video for this show — which strands Weeds alum Jason Kirk in a hapless comedy about a superstar veterinarian who hates people — marvels that no one has tackled this subject on TV before. After the fifth sight gag centered on the cast's most interesting member, a capuchin monkey called Dr. Rizzo, you'll understand why.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Tampa native JoAnna Garcia tries gamely to keep up with the action, which feels like an oddball attempt by the network of 30 Rock and Community to lob a sitcom at the cheap seats. Ti-NO, mostly because NBC doesn't do stupid, I mean broad, comedy that well.

The Neighbors, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Debuts SEPT. 26

Named by many critics as the worst new show of the season, this comedy about a New Jersey family moving into a subdivision occupied entirely by aliens hits every mark of bad TV. It's a concept done better by shows long gone (3rd Rock From the Sun, My Favorite Martian), filled with miscast actors (including Jami Gertz from Twister) and gags that probably seemed way funnier in the writers room.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Do you find aliens who cry by leaking green goop from their ears hilarious? Me neither. Ti-NO.

Guys With Kids, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Debuted last Wednesday

In another TV comedy that seems imported straight from the '90s, three Mr. Moms struggle with diapers, bottle feedings and headstrong wives in ways intended to be both poignant and hilarious. But since this stay-at-home dad stuff is pretty common in the 21st century, I'm left to wonder: Are network TV producers really that clueless about the times, or do they just assume we viewers are?

TiVo or Ti-NO? Given the talent involved — from Anthony Anderson (Transformers) to Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos) and executive producer Jimmy Fallon — there is no excuse for how old-fashioned this sitcom feels. Ti-NO.

Nashville, 10 p.m., ABC

Debuts Oct. 10

The coolest thing about Friday Night Lights alum Connie Britton is that she's everywoman no matter who she plays. So her turn as a middle-aged country music star fending off a challenge from a Taylor Swift-ish teen singer (Hayden Panettiere) still feels like a universal, working mom's struggle set to a country lyric. Don't let the country twang and slide guitars fool you; this is a delicious nighttime soap about money, power, aging and the compromises we all make for what we want and those we love.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Besides the two female leads, there's Powers Boothe as Britton's ruthless power broker dad, Eric Close as Britton's floundering businessman husband and documentarian R.J. Cutler (The War Room) as executive producer. TiVo to catch every minute.

Chicago Fire, 10 p.m., NBC

Debuts Oct. 10

Two hothead firefighters, each blaming the other for the death of a beloved colleague. An aging commander who can't get out of the action. A beautiful paramedic tough as any guy on the job. The characters in Law & Order creator Dick Wolf's new drama are as familiar as the mopes you've seen in every movie or TV show about firefighters and medics, but twice as predictable.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Despite St. Petersburg native Monica Raymund's fine work as the aforementioned paramedic — along with House's Jesse Spencer, Sex and the City's David Eigenberg and Oz's Eamonn Walker — this show is like NBC's ill-fated Third Watch without the cops. Ti-NO.

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THURSDAY

Last Resort, 8 p.m., ABC

Debuts Sept. 27

What would happen if a U.S. submarine refused a set of orders to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan? Here, we see sub Capt. Marcus Chaplin (a typically steely Andre Braugher) take over a tropical island and threaten Washington, D.C., itself with his nuclear arsenal. And because it's such a cool show, he has Scott Speedman (Underworld) as his No. 2 and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) as his crotchety, let's-just-obey-our-orders chief engineer.

TiVo or Ti-NO? This is a gamble for everyone involved: For ABC, it's a male-centered action show on the network of Grey's Anatomy; for creator Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit), it may be one of the most complicated shows he has ever produced. But if they make a series as compelling as the first episode, it's a gamble that could pay off nicely. TiVo to see if it all works out.

Beauty and the Beast, 9 p.m., CW

Debuts Oct. 11

It's the first commandment for any series on tween-centered CW: Thou shalt not cast a show with ugly stars. So the channel's retelling of this classic romance features a stubble-cheeked hottie as a beast whose biggest problems are a scar on his face and an anger management issue. And the fact that this is hardly the show's biggest problem tells you just how bad this series really is.

TiVo or Ti-NO? The heroine (Smallville's Kristin Kreuk) is a homicide detective who was saved by the beast, tracks him down as an adult and falls for him, despite the fact that he becomes an uncontrollable, super-strong beast guy when angry. I've heard of going for the bad boy, but this is ridiculous. Ti-NO.

Elementary, 10 p.m., CBS

Debuts Sept. 27

Given that British TV and PBS have aired perhaps the best reinvention of Sherlock Holmes ever, expectations for another reboot on the network of CSI and NCIS were not high. But star Jonny Lee Miller is all twitchy cool and cheeky brilliance as a modern-day Holmes in America, a deductive genius recovering from addiction with a sober coach known as Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), who is damaged in her own compelling ways.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Since so many of CBS's cop shows are just thin Holmes ripoffs anyway, it's a surprising pleasure to see Miller use his native British tones to embody a tattooed, eccentric update, living in contemporary Manhattan after a meltdown in London. As long as they keep the cases more interesting than CBS's usual fare, I'll TiVo to stay in touch.

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FRIDAY

Malibu Country, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Debuts on Nov. 2

Watching Reba McEntire, Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue wade through this cavalcade of bad punch lines and roaring laugh tracks, there is a sense of talent seriously wasted. McEntire plays the wife of a philandering country superstar who moves to California postdivorce with her mother (Tomlin) and kids only to land next to a slimmed-down Rue, as the sexy, eccentric neighbor.

TiVo or Ti-NO? When the pilot's biggest punch line features McEntire yelling in her Oklahoma twang that her unfaithful husband is "a MOW-ron," you know there's plenty of mindless sitcom high jinks ahead. Ti-NO, much as I love Rue, Tomlin and McEntire, because no one can work miracles.

Made in Jersey, 9 p.m., ABC

Debuts Sept. 28

Someday, British actor Janet Montgomery will be a huge star. But that fame should not come from this show, which shoehorns her into a predictable role as a street-smart Italian girl (is there any other kind on TV?) struggling to make a mark at a tony New York law firm. Toss in Kyle MacLachlan as the pedigreed lawyer who sees something in this scrappy kid with working-class wisdom, and you have a completely predictable, borderline insulting exercise.

TiVo or Ti-NO? Urban Italians remain, along with working-class Southerners, among the last people TV feels free to stereotype. So lead character Martina Garetti's family is loud and uncouth, filled with bad hairstyles and over-the-top acting. Ti-NO because the best thing about all of this is Montgomery's spot-on American accent.

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SUNDAY

666 Park Avenue, 10 p.m., ABC

Debuts Sept. 30

Lost alum Terry O'Quinn and Desperate Housewives' Vanessa Williams are note-perfect as a tony, exotic married couple with a secret: They run the only high-rise luxury apartment building in Manhattan capable of granting your deepest desires — for a dark price. Of course, there's an idealistic young couple from the Midwest who stumble into it all as the building's wide-eyed, clueless new caretakers.

TiVo or Ti-NO? The drama of selling your soul for luxury is nothing new. But turning that into a literal interpretation, where residents can buy symphony-level violin skills or cheat death by signing on the dotted line? I'll TiVo just to see the silky-smooth O'Quinn collect his due every week.

Your guide to new fall TV shows: TiVo or Ti-NO? 09/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 6:36pm]

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