We're only a few weeks into the new fall TV season, but there's been more than enough triumph and tragedy so far to make a spin around the dial for a quick overview of what's working -- and what isn't -- thus far this year.
WINNER/LOSER: CBS' "2 Broke Girls" is this year's ultimate good news-bad news example. The sitcom -- which the head of programming for CBS called "the highest testing comedy in network history" at the May 2011 upfront presentation -- premiered in the catbird seat after the "Two and a Half Men" season debut and hung on to a significant chunk of that audience. It now airs in the 7:30 p.m. slot and maintains consistently strong ratings, more than good enough to be renewed for the remainder of this season.
But there's been a major critical backlash against the show, as a number of media observers have written in recent weeks about their displeasure with the program's over-reliance on racial stereotypes and sexual humor.
I'm in agreement with those critics -- "2 Broke Girls" feels like a show that needs to have its mouth washed out with soap.
WINNER: ABC's "Revenge" was a pilot that I had admired, but my biggest concern was whether or not the show could maintain any forward motion in its potentially tricky plotting -- that is, if the show ever found an audience willing to stick with it. ABC's recent schedules have been a graveyard of failed 9 p.m. dramas, some deserving better fates than others.
Several weeks later, "Revenge" has been doing quite well, not only quality-wise, but also in terms of holding on to the viewers. Up against CBS' still-popular "CSI," "Revenge" manages to not only be competitive, but occasionally defeats the crime drama. I have to admit that I'm hooked on the show, too; it's a bit of a throwback to the opulent primetime soaps of the 80s, with a procedural element thrown into the mix.
LOSERS: While ABC airs my favorite new comedy of the season (Wednesday night hit "Suburgatory"), they've also managed to bring my two least favorite sitcoms of the year to TVs across the USA as well. The Tuesday night doubleheader of "Last Man Standing" and "Man Up!" is possibly the worst hour of so-called comedy in recent memory.
Just thinking about them -- and about how much talent is being wasted in their individual productions -- makes me unhappy, which should never be the aim of a sitcom. Neither show is worth spending any more time discussing.
WINNER: NBC's "Sunday Night Football" continues to show why the NFL -- even after labor issues threatened to derail the season -- is the current king of all sports broadcast on television. The ratings are gigantic, of course, but not many people talk about the level of production that goes into the show. From the on-screen graphics to the camera work to the overall presentation, "Sunday Night Football" is packaged as an event, and comes off feeling that way.
The NFL (which wasn't exactly going away) has been growing in popularity through the last decade. The technological and creative efforts by the pioneering "Monday Night Football" on ABC (now on ESPN) and NBC's Sunday broadcasts are a good reason why.
LOSERS: What did we do to NBC and ABC to deserve "The Playboy Club" or "Charlie's Angels"? Whose feelings did we hurt in the fourth grade? Did we forget to show up at someone's birthday/anniversary/Arbor Day party?
Admittedly, NBC's "The Playboy Club" and ABC's "Charlie's Angels" weren't supposed to be brainteasers. But why were the people behind them apparently aiming so low?
"The Playboy Club" was an hour of pure smoky smugness, a show that desperately dreamed of being "Mad Men," but with none of that drama's strafing wit or gritty self-awareness. "Charlie's Angels" was the other side of the grim coin, a program that wanted to be taken seriously (because it was a serious crime drama about serious issues) but also be light and fun and sexy (because it's "Charlie's Angels"). By reaching for both goals simultaneously, it achieved neither.