Fall TV Season: What Has Been Surprising and What Has Been Predictable

Barney Is At It Again — What A Surprise

Every fall as the networks roll out new TV shows and bring back their old one’s the first few weeks of the new television season bring us some unexpected surprises and some totally predictable performances. Here are a few from the first week and a half of the 2012 Fall TV Season:

Predictable: We Still Don’t Know Who The Mother Is

HIMYM has been stringing us along forever and it isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Was anyone honestly thinking they were going to pan up and show the future mother’s face (why don’t they by the way? You could still keep plodding along with your comically drawn out story and still give the fans a chance to see the person. Unless it is Robin or Victoria in which case you will have an angry mob on your hands).

Shocking: NBC Won Week 1

Sure, they won mostly because of The Voice and the juggernaut that is the NFL, but those ratings count. What has to make NBC feel better is the performance of Revolution. Thus far (and to say this is an early statement may be the biggest understatement of my life time) Revolution is the only bonafide hit of the new season. It is hanging on to the bulk of its The Voice lead in and is easily winning its time slot with the key demographic (if you are under 18 or over 50 you do not count apparently). What’s better for NBC is that the show actually seems to be finding itself. I was worried after the first episode (see my review here) but I think it has gotten better with each of its now three episodes. Add to all of this the reasonably decent performance of Go On and The New Normal and NBC may actually start to look like a real network again, not simply a punchline.

note: all of this seems great but we can’t discount how much of the week 1 victory was due to The Voice. The problem with that is that The Voice has now finished its audition phase and is moving to the unwatchable “battle rounds”. NBC has added a twist (something about stealing team members) but in each of the first two seasons of the show the ratings begin declining the minute the chairs stop spinning.

Predictable: ABC Still Can’t Find Anything To Go Before Grey’s Anatomy

Who Could Have Guessed That A Submarine
Drama Wouldn’t Play Well With The
Doctors of Seattle Grace?

Last year they tried Charlie’s Angels (am I the only one who wishes they had kept the angels on the air? It was so horrible, in every way, that my wife and I would be laughing throughout. It had to be one of the most “unaware of how awful they were” shows in the history of television) which lasted four episodes. Then, in the spring they brought us a movie star looking for her son (Missing) which they ended up airing all of the episodes and calling it a miniseries in a vain attempt to garner some Emmys (almost worked too, they were actually nominated for a couple) in spite of rating that nearly mirrored Charlie’s Angels. Now comes Last Resort and the outcome is nearly identical again. They should just move Private Practice into this slot and make it their Sandra Rhimes night.

It is too bad about Last Resort because the pilot was quite entertaining (in fact it named best pilot by a number of TV critics). Much like Revolution‘s pilot it is hard to see how they will make a series (although, as I said, Revolution may be figuring it out) but the first hour was terrific. Now it appears like it will join Lone Star as the critical favorite pilot that somehow became one of the first shows canceled.

Shocking: How Many People Are Leaving Partners And Still Coming Back For 2 Broke Girls

Partners was on every critics short list of worst pilots, so it’s failure shouldn’t be that surprising, but how it is failing is pretty impressive. 8 million people watched How I Met Your Mother, then nearly half turned off the TV, changed channels or read a book only to come back en force a half hour later to watch 2 Broke Girls. Rules of Engagement has survived for years by simply being barely good enough to have lazy people not change the channel. Partners makes the lazy stand up and say no.

Predictable: CBS Knows How To Make CBS Shows

Hey, It’s Just Like The Mentalist

I don’t remember the last network (maybe NBC with sitcoms in the 80’s and 90’s) that was as adept at making a specific kind of a show as CBS is at making procedural crime dramas. Even when you think the show may not entirely be that, like in the case of Vegas or to a lesser degree Elementary, that is exactly what they make. They all appeared to be filmed the same way, with similarly high quality production, they all hit the same story beats, they all have deeper back stories that they never let get too much in the way of the weekly who done it, and they are all entertaining. Was I hoping for something a little different from Vegas? Sure, but I probably shouldn’t have been. CBS has been ruling the roost of the networks for years by following this formula, they would be idiots to stop now.

Here are a few other things that are shocking/predictable:

Predictable: That Callie and Arizona were never just going to be in a happy healthy relationship on Grey’s Anatomy

Predictable: That Carrie would be brought back to the CIA too soon

Shocking: That The X Factor would do worse after adding Britt and Selena

Shocking: That Dexter may be interesting again

Predictable: That Boardwalk Empire still isn’t that interesting, even if we want it to be

Predictable: That Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory are still a funny way to kill a half hour, but neither are as funny as they used to be.

Predictable: That the talk show was not the problem with Up All Night

Shocking: That anyone actually cares about Jim and Pam anymore

Shocking: That Parks & Recreation isn’t a bigger hit

Predictable: That a TV show starring a british actress playing a “Jersey Girl” who is also a lawyer became the worst premiere in recent history of CBS

Shocking: That even with the lead-in of Once Upon A Time and Revenge 666 Park Avenue still tanked … OK, just kidding, that wasn’t the least bit shocking.

Predictable: That a show called The Mob Doctor isn’t doing well

And finally, the most predictable thing of all is that the networks still can’t create a TV drama that is half as good as the best of cable TV.

But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.