Must See? Maybe Not: Fall TV Season Recap

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Over the last few years, we’ve watched as big name directors, actors and producers moved from the big screen to the small one (although some home theatres are competing in the screen department). And this season was no different. As we set our DVRs to our new favorites, and November sweeps season approaches, it’s time to see how the new fall lineup is faring.

Before the season began, the big drama buzz seemed to be about shows like Spielberg’s Terra Nova and the new Charlie’s Angels, which was introduced onstage during the Emmys this year (a first, I think?). More than once I heard Terra Nova dubbed as “the new LOST,” which might have set up audiences for disappointment - LOST fans are loyal, and I think that filling that hole is going to be about as easy as explaining how the The Island worked. But the show has time to develop, unlike Angels, which was already axed.

In attempting to compete with the cool that is Mad Men, new series like The Playboy Cub and PanAm are proving that it’s more than just 1960s style that makes Mad Men work. Playboy was cancelled after 3 episodes, and I don’t know what the future hold for PanAm. While original programming is a big risk for Hollywood (and why we get so many remakes), just because a genre is popular, it doesn’t guarantee success.

Courtesy of Showtime

Also widely talked about on the drama front were Homeland, Boss and Prime Suspect. So far, I think Homeland has some of the best suspense writing I’ve seen in a long time. My one concern is the whole bipolar CIA operative thing. After writing about depictions of mental health in TV, I’m watching things more carefully. I hope they use it in a way that builds Claire Danes character instead of just using it for dramatic effect.

Although we see a lot of film actors on cable shows, with Boss we have a well-known network star in the lead. Kelsey Grammer’s shattering his Frasier image with this one, as the less than lovable mayor of Chicago. Although it just premiered on Starz, the network has already picked it up for a second season. On network TV, Prime Suspect stars Maria Bello, in the role made famous by Helen Mirren, alongside a great supporting cast (nice to see you, Aidan Quinn!). I love the way it captures New York (can’t get much more New York than a scene in a Loehmann’s dressing room) and it’s well written, but the ratings leave me unsure how well it will do.

What we know is doing well this season is women in comedy. Female comedy writers are writing, co-writing and/or creating their own shows (a few are starring in them, too). Which probably wouldn’t be happening if not for the success of shows that came before them (see Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, amongst others). From the successes of New Girl, Two Broke Chicks, Up All Night and Whitney, we’re seeing that funny women can write about funny women and men and audiences tune in.

On Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood, Neely Swanson wrote a great breakdown of the changes for female writers between pilot season 2011 and 2010.  As a female writer in a town where you often hear that people don’t want to watch “women’s stories,” news like this is encouraging.

Just yesterday, another article came across my screen that I found worth mentioning. As Wall Street is occupied, and the economy continues to be uncertain, The Wrap notes the success of shows about the working class.Especially in comedy. From Raising Hope (in its 2nd season) to Two Broke Chicks to a new pilot coming from Roseanne Barr (Roseanne was a hit during last big recession), comedies about a tough economy are entertaining the masses. Even New Girl shows us four late-twentysomethings all sharing a place. Not because its prime real estate. It’s reality. The 99% has hit primetime.

Another theme entering late in the season are fairy tales. Both Grimm and Once Upon A Time are just starting out and only time will tell if they live happily ever after. While remakes of hit 80s teen flicks might not be working, perhaps a return to stories of our childhood will.

What new Fall Shows have you set your DVR to record? Any new recommendations? And, if you’ve found a LOST surrogate, will you let us know? Please?

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