Fall TV 2011: 6 new shows and 6 returning shows to watch (Commentary)

Believe it or not, the fall TV season is less than a week away. Fittingly, one of the best-looking new shows and one of the best returning shows will throw out the first pitches of the season when they premiere on Tuesday. Here’s a closer look at those shows and more — my top six new shows and top six returning shows of Fall 2011. (Showing my non-coast bias, all times are Central.)


“Ringer” (8 p.m. Tuesdays starting Tuesday on The CW) — Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to TV (and on Tuesdays on the network that used to be The WB and UPN, no less). She’ll get to show her acting chops big time, as she plays a pair of twins caught up in some good ‘ol noir-style intrigue.

“New Girl” (8 p.m. Tuesdays starting Sept. 20 on Fox; Tuesday on Hulu) — Zooey Deschanel gets a TV series! It’s a sitcom, true, but previews suggest that the indie starlet’s presence punches up the “quirky single gal moves in with a bunch of bachelors” material nicely.

“Pan Am” (9 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 25 on ABC) — Christina Ricci gets a TV show (I’m noticing a trend: This fall’s series are almost worth tuning into for the cute actresses alone), and if done well, this blast from the early days of passenger planes should provide tasty period detail to go with its theme of the emerging independent woman.

“Terra Nova” (7 p.m. Mondays starting Sept. 26 on Fox) — If you ever thought “Jurassic Park” would make a fun TV series (and if you didn’t, I don’t want to know you), this is for you. With the Earth dying in the future, humanity starts anew with prehistoric colonies thanks to time travel.

“Hart of Dixie” (8 p.m. Mondays starting Sept. 26 on The CW) — I have a “Life Unexpected”-size hole to fill in my TV-geek heart, and this could do the trick. Rachel Bilson, having proven in film that she’s much more than the former Summer Roberts, gets the lead role as a young doctor who lands her first job in a backwater town a la Joel Fleishman.

“American Horror Story” (9 p.m. Wednesdays starting Oct. 5 on FX) — The good news is it’s an ambitiously weird horror TV show starring Connie Britton. The bad news is it’s from the creator of “Glee,” a series that has gotten too weird for my taste.


“Parenthood” (9 p.m. Tuesdays starting Tuesday on NBC) — Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter hook up again in the new season, Sarah Ramos continues to play the truest teen on TV, and Max continues to struggle (and sometimes thrive) with Asperger’s. There’s a lot to like here.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (9 p.m. Thursdays starting Sept. 15 on FX) — Mac shows up 50 pounds heavier in the long-awaited season premiere, the first episode since last December. At this point, all I need to hear is a ridiculous premise like that, and I’m already laughing.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (7 p.m. Fridays starting Sept. 16 on Cartoon Network) — My favorite show (only partly because I’m a “Star Wars” geek, honest) gets a little better each year, and it starts Season 4 (tagline: “Battle Lines”) with a full-fledged underwater battle.

“Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m. Thursdays starting Sept. 22 on NBC) — The most easy-to-like sitcom on network TV. Pawnee, Indiana, is not a real town. And yet it is; that’s where the laughs come from.

“Fringe” (8 p.m. Fridays starting Sept. 23 on Fox) — To be honest, last season was so bizarre that I kind of lost track of what was happening (Did they do a cartoon episode, or did I just eat some bad Mexican food?). Still, no current show does weird science better, and I love the central trio of Peter, Olivia and Walter.

“The Walking Dead” (8 p.m. Sundays starting Oct. 16 on AMC) — With all that pesky exposition out of the way, it could be fascinating to see the post-apocalyptic world come together in the battle against the zombie plague in Season 2.

What shows are you looking forward to this season?


Seth Stringer's GravatarJohn, you went top six, so naturally I’ll top that with a list of eight new and returning shows deserving of our couch-potato time.

Beginning with the returning gems, (Homer Simpson drooling noise) oh how I missed you …

Parks and Recreation – Clearly the best show last season, possessing the charm I haven’t seen since season three of The Office. Last season left us with some cliffhangers/questions – Leslie running for office, what’s going to happen with Entertainment 720, the other Tammy in Ron’s past – and I’m beyond excited to see what happens next.

How I Met Your Mother – If Parks tossed a perfect game last season, HIMYM spun a no-hitter. This is one of those shows I watch every time I see a rerun’s on, and there’ s good reason. Like David Boreanaz, the show has a Buffy alum in Alyson Hannigan (Lily), not to mention the brilliantly funny Freaks and Geeks alum Jason Segel (Marshall), Doogie Howser M.D.’s NPH (Barney), and Josh Radnor (Ted) and Canadian Cobie Smulders (Robin, also Canadian). Great, great show.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – As I commented on your Sunny first impressions blog, great start to season 7.

Bones – Like Greg Maddux back in the day, this show consistently delivers. It’s not flashy, but it hits its spots and now that Booth (Boreanaz) and Bones (Emily Deschanel) are expecting, this season’s gonna toss another quality start.

House – Man, this show just keeps you on its toes. Last time we saw House, he was driving a car through Cuddy’s house and on the lam. Looks like he’s back on the drugs and another stint at rehab will be drama gold.

The Office –Like my Super Nintendo, I keep this gem around because it still makes me happy. Even without Michael Scott, the shows still got a star-studded cast and I’m looking forward to seeing 80s bad boy James Spader as the new-boss-transitioning-into-CEO-role.

Glee – You might have given up on it, John, but “Don’t Stop
Believin’.” The frustrating 12th-place finish for New Directions in the national competition capped of a frustratingly mediocre season, but I enjoy the music and have grown to love (to a fault, maybe) the characters.

The Biggest Loser – What can I say, I love fat people going through the heart-wrenching plight of losing weight and becoming not pathetic.

# Posted By Seth Stringer | 9/17/11 11:14 PM
Seth Stringer's GravatarTried to add a long post about new shows, but it won’t let me
# Posted By Seth Stringer | 9/17/11 11:21 PM

Seth Stringer's GravatarAs for the new shows, welcome to my DVR …

Persons of Interest – If it’s half as good as the hype, I’ll be engaged. I’ve been waiting for something to take the place of my old viewings of Law and Order: SVU, and while the Killing’s away, this will suffice.

Up All Night – Have yet to watch the first episode, which I taped, but new parents are rarely funny, but Christina Applegate and Will Arnett should put some new spin on the process. Plus Mya Rudolph’s grossly underrated as a comedic figure.

American Horror Story – A horror TV show! Sign me up.

Terra Nova ¬¬– Great idea, just hope the execution’s there. And yes, John, I’d love to see Jurassic Park (that movie still blows my mind) on TV.

# Posted By Seth Stringer | 9/17/11 11:22 PM

Seth Stringer's Gravatar

Hart of Dixie – I loved Dr. Joel Fleishman from Northern Exposure and Dr. Benjamin Stone from Doc Hollywood, hopefully Rachel Bilson carries the torch well.

Last Man Standing – This may be a nostalgia thing, but having Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor back – even in a different capacity – is comforting.

Whitney – The jokes look funny in previews, so I’ll give it a chance.

Pan Am – Christina Ricci is a hotty, and it’s a plot and setting I’ve never seen before in a TV show. My friend’s a flight attendent and he has some good stories, so at the very least this should be entertaining.

# Posted By Seth Stringer | 9/17/11 11:22 PM

John Hansen's Gravatar“Parks and Recreation” — Yeah, the politics stuff should be great. Matt and Dennis should especially appreciate the comedy.

“The Office” — I just noticed that James Spader’s character’s name is Robert California. For that alone, I’ll give Season 8 a chance. But I can’t remember the last season “The Office” was good (other than the occasional standout episode).

“Glee” — I always liked the idea more than the actual show. For me, it became unwatchable last year (although I do fire up Gwyneth Paltrow covering Cee-Lo on YouTube every now and then).

Haven’t watched much of those other shows. What do you think, I have endless time on weekends to watch old TV shows? Wait, don’t answer that.

“Person of Interest,” “Up All Night,” “Last Man Standing” — I’m sure they’re good, but not my thing.

“American Horror Story” — I’m a little worried because it’s from the creator of “Glee,” but the commercials are intriguing as heck. Could be great, could be awful.

“Whitney” — Heard it was terrible, although I like Whitney just fine on “Chelsea.” The show she is producing, “2 Broke Girls,” is supposed to be the better of her two shows, but it doesn’t look good to me either.

“Hart of Dixie” — It’s gotten bad reviews already. Too bad, because I wanted to like a show with the adorable Rachel Bilson in the lead. I’ll give it a shot, though.

“Pan Am” — I will be disappointed if this isn’t good. And the proper spelling is “hottie.”

# Posted By John Hansen | 9/18/11 4:35 AM
Another Matt's GravatarYour spam filter is killing me John. I typed in a 300 word comment twice now, but I cannot get it to post. I will email it to you to see if you can get it up here.
# Posted By Another Matt | 9/21/11 12:13 AM

Another Matt's GravatarWith only three episodes left of Breaking Bad’s fantastic fourth season, I have finally started to look ahead to what’s coming up to suck away my free time later this fall that is not baseball playoffs, football or the annual video game holiday release blitzkrieg.

Parks and Rec is an obvious and fantastic choice you both mentioned. That show was at the top of all kinds of games over its past two seasons, and I believe it will have a better shot at keeping a good thing going than The Office did when it hit the equivalent stretch in its run and began its slow decline, in my opinion.

However, the NBC comedy I am most excited to see return is Community. I love the show’s characters, their chemistry and the writers’ willingness to go out on a limb with the plots from episode to episode. And I’m thrilled the Thursday lineup has Community and Parks and Rec back-to-back this year.

Next up for me is The Walking Dead. Although much has been made about the behind-the-scenes drama associated with the production of this show, I remain optimistic about where it could go with a second season that will consist of more than twice as many episodes as its surprisingly strong inaugural effort. If the comic series is any indication (which it really wasn’t so much in the first season) the story should go in some interesting directions pretty quickly, but truthfully I don’t know what to expect and that’s part of what’s so promising.

The only new shows I’ll make an effort to check out are Terra Nova — which John already made an excellent case for, and also it has dinosaurs, so come on — and 2 Broke Girls. I can’t pretend like I know much about the show yet, but two TV critics I quite like said it shows some potential, so I’ll just refer to the reviews by Alan Sepinwall (http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/po…) and Todd VanDerWerff (http://www.avclub.com/articles/pilot,61949/).

# Posted By Another Matt | 9/21/11 1:26 AM
John Hansen's GravatarNo doubt about it; Parks and Rec is much more flexible than The Office in terms of directions it can go in. The embrace of small-town politics as a source of comedy this year will be absolute gold. I bowed out of Community early, as I did in the early days of Parks and Rec; perhaps it’s time to revisit it. This 2 Broke Girls hype is bizarre. The previews look awful and the reviews are all glowing. I will have to check it out after all I guess.
# Posted By John Hansen | 9/21/11 1:32 AM

Another Matt's GravatarThe 2 Broke Girls pilot actually sounds pretty terrible, but what I’ve heard is that it shows some promise, so my approach will likely be to try to catch it later in the season to see if it’s any good rather than judging it too much by its first episode.

As far as Community goes, it is probably my favorite comedy on television right now, even over the excellent Parks. I would recommend watching just the two-episode finale from last season to get a sense of what that show is all about now. They’re available probably on Hulu or for sure on the NBC website.

# Posted By Another Matt | 9/21/11 11:13 AM