Fall TV: What's worth watching this season?

Sep 26, 2013

It's officially premiere week: Are you already overwhelmed by the amount of options on television this fall? The Post's TV critic Hank Stuever and Style writer Emily Yahr will take questions about what's good, what's terrible, and anything else surrounding the world of TV.

Related: 2013 Fall TV preview.

Hello! In case you've missed any of our Fall TV coverage so far, here are some highlights:

A guide to Fall TV 2013: Reviews of all the shows

Review of Sunday's Emmy Awards

Emmy ratings vs. "Breaking Bad" ratings

Hank's preview of two big shows that kick off tonight on CBS and NBC: Robin Williams vs. Michael J. Fox: A sitcom showdown between a pair of '80s stars

A look back at recently-ended "Dexter": As "Dexter" signs off, a look back at why people fell for such a gruesome show

And from earlier this week, Hank's review of ABC's "The Goldbergs": Back to the '80s and totally gagging

Welcome, TV fans. It's been an age since I've done a Washington Post chat and the system has probably changed three times since then, so bear with me. The TV Team's endlessly talented Emily Yahr is here to help answer questions and help keep things rolling. We're here to talk about this atrocious new fall TV season, plus your old favorites. And that awful Emmys show from Sunday night. And whatever else you want to know. What are you watching? What are you liking? Let's do this.

I'm surprised this show is getting decent, sometimes great, reviews. I watched the first episode and found it hackity-hack-hack labored and unfunny.

In another season, I might agree with you, but in THIS fall season, with this crop of shows, "Brooklyn Nine Nine" looks a lot better than it probably is. I've never felt more "meh" about a bunch of shows as once as I have this fall. That said, I though Samberg found a nice balance here. It didn't seem as labored to me.

Is "Parenthood" going to return? If so, when? Thank you.

 Great timing -- "Parenthood" is back tonight for a fifth season at 10 p.m., in a shiny new Thursday night time slot. Good old NBC, not being able to launch a new Thursday show! 

I watched Broadchurch's season finale last night and...wow! What do you know about the second season? I'm especially curious about how they'll continue, given how resolved the finale left everything.

I loved "Broadchurch" and gave it a rave review. Viewers like it too, except for the excessive commercial breaks, but what can you do, besides show off your DVR fastforward-ing skills?

As for season 2, this is one of those shows that I'm baffled as to how they'll come up with one. The creator has been quoted as saying that he doesn't want to go formulaic or necessarily take on a new case. One rumor going around involved the word prequel. So who knows, but I'm sure we'll all be dying to see it. Slated for the 2014-15 season (UK), so don't get too breathless with anticipation.

NBC's "The Blacklist" is actually the first non-reality, non-Netflix TV show that I've enjoyed in a long while. My only gripe is that I feel that it's trying way too hard to be "Silence of the Lambs" but without the gore. Did you all pick up on that as well? What are your thoughts about the show? I think that it very well may be one of those shows that should have been a movie--I just can't see how they can make this last more than a season.

I agree with you about the "Lambs"-y trope of the mastermind criminal ordering the FBI around. ("The Following" does that too. And so do a lot of other shows.) I find it tiresome, but I think it's also a tried and true plot device for that genre, so maybe people will get into it. Here's my review of "The Blacklist" from our Fall TV preview that ran Sept. 15. And, if you go to Emily's intro above, you can click on a link to our Fall TV that will take you to my reviews of 30 new scripted series this season.

When is the new season of Castle going to start?

"Castle" actually just started this past Monday at 10, right after the new (and really weird) season of "Dancing With the Stars."

We've watched pilots of both, Mom is better than Dads.

Oh, it's not even a contest. "Mom" is way better.

I miss the good old days when all of the networks started all of their new programming in a short timeframe. Now, it's almost work keeping up with everything. Do they networks have anything new that doesn't... stink?

Oh, this is a different complaint -- you think it's too spread out? You want them to start all at once? I think the networks (and the viewers) are headed the opposite way. If the ad-driven model of "season" continues to erode, I think (and sorta hope) we'll just roll out shows all year long. I think it would help the creative process. It can't be much fun to try to buy, produce and market a dozen new shows at once, much less try to watch them.

As for your other question, the networks didn't really bring great shows to us this year. Hope springs eternal for the midseason.

Could have been more than it is, Patton Oswalt can be funny, but I'm not sure he adds much to the show as the narrator. The cast is okay, but the brother is a bad fit, IMO. In the end, it seems too much like a checklist of 80's nostalgia than a cohesively thought out sitcom.

Agreed.

Which one should I watch? The Blacklist seems like Silence of the Lambs Lite and Hostages seems like a movie pitch that got rejected so they tried to turn it into a TV show. Any suggestions?

Hmmm, and I guess "neither" is not an acceptable answer to "which should I watch?" I would say that if plausibility is your main sticking point, go with "The Blacklist." If acting is more important, follow Toni Collette on "Hostages" and see if she can save not only her fictional family, but the show itself.

This show was bleak and depressing, even sold a similar story line from Person of Interest. With that being said, Person of Interest is one of my favorite shows, I love the characters - not just the storyline.

I haven't looked at "Person of Interest" in a while, but I do like that it seems to stick to what it set out to be.

I'm part of a TV death pool where the winner of the 2012-2013 season will be determined by the status of CW's "game show" Oh Sit. Do you know if the show has been cancelled? (I hope the answer is yes.)

I'm sorry to tell you that the CW has not officially announced it one way or another. Usually the networks have made up their mind at this point, but CW actually didn't announce until late September last year that "Oh Sit!" was picked up for a second season -- a surprise to us all, trust me. It actually does okay, ratings-wise, for a CW show, especially in the summer...so I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it was renewed again.

Any opinion? I watched the pilot and it was pretty boring until the last 5 minutes. Should I stick it out?

I found it to be dreary, but not in the way it intended to be dreary. Here's my review from the fall TV issue.

Is there any hope of them bringing this back as a mid-season for the inevitable flops? LOVED that show...

Sadly, ABC axed this one for good back in May. Too bad, I think -- the first episodes were not great, but it had a really talented cast, and barely got a chance to prove itself.

Hi, Hank. While I appreciate your warning that "Mom" has its problems, I thought the pilot episode worked very well, overall. I know one episode isn't nearly enough to go by, but I'm looking forward to where the show goes. One question, though: Has CBS canceled "Mike & Molly" to make room for "Mom"? Really hope not--surely there's room for both shows.

I also thought the first episode had some real smart moments. I just think it came on too strong. "Mike & Molly" is supposed to come back at midseason.

Any chance this could be the first of a recurring TV chat? We miss them!

Never say never!

I'm halfway done watching Season 2 of Scandal on DVD and getting increasingly disappointed. It is getting more and more ridiculous every week. Should I just suspend disbelief and watch it like it was from a comic book? Does it get better?

Well, I think you should have been watching with suspended disbelief all along. I also think "Scandal" is best experienced live while watching the Twitter hashtag. People get craaazy with the tweets while it's on and it becomes a party -- a window into a world you might not have known existed. "Scandal" is pure guilty pleasure for many -- the TV equivalent of a shoe binge catered by a boutique cupcake bakery alongside a silly dose of "Washington" mania.

That is another show that should not see the light of October. How can somebody order shows after seeing that pilot?

ABC is running ads about how well it did (I haven't looked into the numbers). Which is sometimes a sign of panic.

I liked it for Spader's performance. Hard to believe he started his career as a (usually mean) pretty boy. Nobody else in the cast kept up with him, though. And who in the world could our lady agent's father be???

Haha -- it's SUCH a mystery isn't it! (Though I was intrigued by what they did with her fiance. And by intrigued, I mean, I hope someone watches the next episode and tells me what happened.)

We were just watching Spader in "Pretty in Pink" the other day. He was a mean, rich high school senior who looked 30.

I do not have cable, so I wait for things to come to DVD. I am getting pretty desperate for more Treme. Will these be more? When??????

Just two more months! "Treme" is airing its fourth and final mini-season (only five episodes) on December 1. You may have to wait awhile for the DVDs, though...

I'm one of the holdouts who only has over-the-air (i.e. antenna) broadcasts. It seems that the past decade has seen a strong trend of the best scripted shows moving to standard or premium cable channels. Is there anything new on the major networks that's worth my time this fall? Or should I just concede that these are no longer where innovative and complex scripted shows air, and content myself with mindless reality TV and (not mindless) PBS?

I sometimes fantasize about living a life with antenna-only TV. (Or no TV, but that's not exactly good for job security.) So, if I was living that life: There's not much new I would this fall, save for maybe "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."; "Ironside," if that sort of thing grabs you. And I'd probably watch "Lucky 7" but it just seems so doomed ratings-wise that I can't in good faith send you to it now. But there are established quality shows worth taking on and free for anybody with a digital antenna: "The Good Wife," "Modern Family," "Amazing Race," "60 Minutes," "Parks and Recreation," "The Mindy Project," "Revolution." You didn't say what sort of shows you like ... but, yes, it's still possible. A lot of people's unhappiness with what's on TV is often a genre issue. There's just not enough out there that's like what they already like.

How do really, solid, well-written shows like The Walking Dead and Orange is the New Black end up on Netflix and cable networks? What are the networks doing wrong to not get this programming?

Because they have to aim for the middle and attract the broadest possible market, based on a business model that has been and still is extraordinarily lucrative. That is the burden of being mainstream, not just in television, but in all media-like things: books, music, magazines, uh, newspapers/websites ...

Had to take that show off the DVR. It had really bad premiere ratings which means that there is no way ABC will renew. I am not going to get attached to shows like I did last year that will inevitably be cancelled.

Can't argue.

It seems to have gotten a lot of buzz. I think I am going to DVR the re-broadcast of the premiere tonight. Did you like?

My quick reviews of all these new shows -- 30 of them, network and cable, etc. -- can be found here at our Fall TV page. I gave S.H.I.E.L.D. a B-minus. And boy I am really tired of putting those periods in S.H.I.E.L.D., which I must point out is against AP style.

I watched it last night,, the one with James Caan, but I can't remember the name of the show. It would have had potential, but the awful stereotyping of the kids has got to go, including a line that oversexualized the boy who gets to play the gay stereotype (something about sticking it in the rear).

Yep. (It's called "Back in the Game." I hope it's out of the game relatively soon.)

Where does the Dexter finale rank in a list of all time bad TV series finales? I think pretty low since the show runners had plenty of time to prepare for the end and gave us that clunker. The best part of the finale was the Homeland trailer that aired after it was done.

I was hoping someone would ask about this so I could rant. SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't seen it...okay. I don't know if it was the worst finale that's ever existed, but it was definitely up there. I just can't believe they ended (what used to be) such a brilliant show on such a lame note. I read the producer's explanations the next day that having Dexter die would be "too easy" for all the terrible things he's done -- but actually I think faking his own death was more of a cop out. Talk about a lack of closure on every possible level.

And yes that "Homeland" trailer is fanatastic.

Any guess on its prospects moving forward? I thought the pilot kept the breezy, Whedon-y tone from AVENGERS and dealt pretty well with their TV budget. Also read that Warners is bringing out GOTHAM CENTRAL, based on their comic series about the Gotham City PD.

ABC will give it all its got, because that market is everything. I hope to live long enough to see popular culture move on from DC/Marvel storylines and characters. I say that as someone who loved (and in theory still loves) comics and comics culture. I just think it will be a real shame when cultural historians look back on us and try to wonder why we lacked the ability to come up with our own characters and ideas.

I've been following a BBC gangster drama, Peaky Blinders. Have you seen it, and is it coming to the US soon?

PEAKY BLINDERS? Didn't she drag race Fonzie on an old episode of "Happy Days." (No, sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about. In the boundaries I have to draw out of necessity as an overworked TV critic, I give myself a pass on all foreign shows, because, sooner or later, if it's a hit, it'll be shown here or remade here.)

Thursday at 10: Scandal / Elementary / Parenthood. I can only record 2 shows at once. Is NBC trying to kill Parenthood, moving it here?

Weirdly, I think NBC is trying to save it. While having "The Voice" lead-in on its previous Tuesday night spot would have been nice, airing on Thursdays is better than any other alternative...even if it means the DVR will be sent into shock.

While it's not exactly just starting, I thought The Bridge was really well done, and I especially like the episodes--like last night's--that involve the interactions between the two lead characters, as opposed to the whole serial killer plot. It was just renewed for a second season, and I think it will just get better now that they can leave the serial killer in the past. What do you think?

I loved the beginning of it (my review from June here) and then thought it flagged a bit around eps 4-5-6 and then got really good again and is finishing strong. That's mostly because the leads are so good.

Please tell me that this season won't be like last year. The story lines became so confusing that it almost felt like work trying to keep up with the show.

Yeah, I sort of gave up at some point last year. But those shows are sort of doomed to ridonkulousness at some point, once the initial storyline peters out ... Maybe we just have to take our good memories and move on.

I don't mind the spread out format so much, but what I hate is when a show (such as Scandal, Franklin and Bash, etc.) skips a week here and there, and has mini-seasons where it'll be on for a short run, then take a break for a couple months, then start another short run. If all this is ad-driven, then it's making me lean towards skipping the whole thing and waiting for the DVD which I'm sure is not what the advertisers want.

Yes, it's maddening to chase all this stuff down. I answer a lot of email from readers who simply want to know when the next NEW episode of x or y will be on. This is where a DVR with a series-follow function ("new episodes only") can be your dearest friend. Or, if you want to do it your way, just wait for DVD box sets. (Might be time to look into streaming, though. If you keep holding out, America will never realize its dream of running out of broadband capacity.)

I couldn't disagree more with the first poster - I went in with low expectations, and generally don't dig Andy Samburg's brand of humor (I think about 20% of his SNL stuff is hilarious, and about 80% is contrived and tiresome, a.k.a. Laser Cats), but I'm loving Brooklyn Nine Nine. It's not just him - the whole cast seems to have natural chemistry and it just works. Almost like Taxi with a little bit of Airplane thrown in - the jokes keep coming. As opposed to Dads, which I wanted to like, but it just seems so forced, and the jokes purposely edgy, and the dads themselves are just generally unlikeable. Also tried Back in the Game - for about 5 minutes - before deciding it was unwatchable. James Caan and Maggie Lawson were just grating... Goldbergs I'm on the fence about - not terrible, not great - my problem is the youngest kid and older brother are kind of annoying - could have been cast better, but has potential and not giving up yet.

I'm with you on "Brooklyn Nine Nine." Low expectations and found myself really pleasantly surprised. There's just the right amount of Andy Samberg, and Andre Braugher's deadpan just made me laugh. The show is from the guys behind "Parks and Rec," so I'm willing to see where it goes.

South Park has been going strong for 17 seasons. What is it about this show that allows for it's continued success? What can we expect going forward? More of the same? Is there a logical successor for when they finally stop producing quality episodes?

I think of this every time I'm sitting in a press tour panel for an "edgy" new cartoon. It's always two or three schlubby guys and then they roll the clips of the cut-and-paste animation and I think, well, there's goes another one. You're right -- "South Park" reached (some time ago) the realm of irreplacability. (Is that a word?)

I'm the poster who asked earlier about OTA Network shows worth watching. FYI, shows from the past that float to the top of my "best TV ever" list are: West Wing, Alias, BSG (non OTA), Game of Thrones (also non OTA), most anything on Masterpiece. I'll occassionally tune into an episode of NCIS; usually turn it off for NCIS-LA. Big Bang was funny for the first few seasons, but has grown tiresome (I'm an astrophysicist, originally from Nebraska, with multiple Caltech colleagues, so the show worked for me on numerous levels that are innapplicable to general audiences). I more or less tuned out all of the reality TV stuff, as I found it completely worthless. I guess we'll just never have another West Wing...

Hmmm. Yeah, I can't think of a lot to recommend to you that is purely OTA. Maybe this is the year you get a whole lot of reading done.

Any info as to when the new season of Justified will grace the airwaves?

No news from FX yet, but expect probably sometime in January or February, based on past seasons.

Ok Arrow is one of my guilty pleasures; a fair amount of that is due to the use of Stephen Amell and his abs. If a flashback is not prefaced by him doing pull ups then I am dissapointed. Should I check out Robbie in Tomorrow People? Is that show at all worth watching?

THIS is the question I've been waiting for and yes, you probably should have a look at "Tomorrow People" to make sure you aren't missing any breaking abs.

I'm still reeling from a very good, abtastic season "American Ninja Warrior."

I haven't seen Dads, but I did catch part of Mom the other night, and if "Mom is way better" I can't imagine how dreadful Dads must be! It pains me to say that about an Alison Janney project, but yuck!

Speaking of Allison Janney ... She's got a great supporting role in Showtime's "Masters of Sex." I'm writing a longer review of "Masters" for tomorrow's paper (should be up online tonight). It's a great show and more worthy of her talents. But that said, I think she did all right in the "Mom" pilot. I think they all did all right. But the show is just only okay.

I actually thought this was one of the funnier shows I have seen in a while. My wife and I laughed out loud multiple times during the show. Part of it may be our age (35) meaning that it has nostalgic value for us, but it might be a difference in taste. It also may be that it will not hold up for us over time because the nostaglia factor will go away.

Listen, I can close my eyes and still smell and feel and breathe the '80s, because it encompasses the ages of 12-21 for me. And I am here to tell you that that was NOT a satisfying nostalgia trip. The only thing I liked about "The Goldbergs" was when they showed the original Goldberg home videos.

Is Fox the only broadcast network that's bothering to air animated programming in primetime? You'd think that NBC and ABC would at least TRY to use animation as a way to distinguish themselves from the lead dog, CBS. Obviously, the big C doesn't need any help.

It looks like it, at least until the holidays roll around and everyone has those delightful specials. Fox is trying even more animation this year, too, with another block airing on Saturday nights.

Hank, I have to say, I LOVE YOUR WRITING!!! I haven't watched TV for 7 years, really, but it's hard not to hear about shows, so I've gotten bits and pieces about shows from reading your reviews (you're that good of a writer that I will read anything you write!). And now that I *do* have a TV (just basic channels), I am relying on your reviews to guide me. To be honest, though, I am AMAZED at all of the violence on shows on TV, not just from when i was a kid (in the 70's), but even from 7 years ago. It floors me. Is this just me? Is there a point when it all just got worse??!!

Thanks and welcome back to TV land! (Pay no attention to all the rot and decay and mess.) I agree with you about the violence. I hit a wall with it twice this year: Once was in reviewing Fox's "The Following" and NBC's "Hannibal," both of which treat murder as performance art and it's just toooo much. The other time was at the cinema, for that second "Star Trek" movie, in which it seemed every character opened a can of whup-ass on every other character, over and over and over. I'm sick of watching people get THRASHED and BEATEN and then basically just shaking it off. Make-up applies a little welt to their forehead and things move on. Enough.

Felicia from Falcon Crest: What's the story behind the cancellations of Intervention and Hoarders?

Hello, Falcon Crest! I am so sad about losing both those shows, into which I was not afraid of a good wallow. I guess A&E has decided America's problems are all solved: No more drug addiction and Meemaw finally got help with the "doll collection." I'll miss all the messy-houses shows -- the lighthearted ones like "Clean House" and the hardcore psychological ones like "Hoarders." If nothing else, those shows were good at helping me keep my own place clean and clutter-free.

Were you surprised AMC pulled the plug after one season? I idly checked out the Season 3 premiere and was hooked - the episode's final scene knocked me out. I thought they'd reached a good rhythm.

That whole experience was full of "wha-hunh?" (Both the show and the backlash and the cancelled/not-cancelled.) Lots of great acting, though. Joel Kinnaman! Sigh.

Q for Hank: What were your favorite TV shows as a child?

My earliest obsession (and I mean hardcore obsession) was "Josie and the Pussycats," and if we'd had Twitter in preschool, we would have really given it to Hanna AND Barbera about "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space." A travesty!

I loved any show that could be played in the backyard or at recess. The bionic genre. Wonder Woman. Superfriends. Charlie's Angels. The Hardy Boys. Anything that involved lots of jumping and sneaking around looking for clues. Anything that had women in it who wore soft bras.

Ok Hank speaking of ANW, I know it's too early, but do you think it is coming back next year since G4 is no longer. I really enjoy that show, but I think that show is hurt by the fact that no one has beat that course!

I wrote a whole piece about how brilliant the show because no one can conquer Mt. Midoryama. It's the only show on TV where failure IS an option. That's an important thing to have in our everyone-gets-a-trophy culture.

I don't know its fate, but the NBC primetime tie-in helps. Now that G4 lives (Esquire swalled the Style channel instead), I think it'll probably stick around in some form. I hope!

I can't believe there are still people that don't have DVRs. They will change your life! They make tv-watching so much more enjoyable, never have to worry about missing a show. I just found out today that Grey's Anatomy starts tonight, but my DVR knew that weeks ago.

Agreed.

I watched the premier of Dads last week. Seth Green is so funny usually, plus having Martin Mull and Boone from Animal House? Thought it might be ok. The show was terrible. Hated the laugh track.

Every season has a show that is not only bad, but its badness becomes a symbol for ALL badness, an air of badness, that really has nothing to specifically with its own particular badness. "Dads" is that show.

How much creative control are these two guys exercising over their new shows? From your review, it sounds like not as much as they could/should?

I think they both have a LOT of say in their shows, especially Michael J. Fox, which is one reason I was so harsh on it.

Hank, realizing it's only Thursday - which shows are surprises and which are disappointments in the ratings so far? It looks like 8 PM on Tuesday is by far the time (so far) that most people will be watching TV, other than Thursday. It's good because it will probably kill "Dads", but bad because I'm worried it might kill "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

Just because we're running out of time, wanted to jump in and answer! So far it seems like the biggest surprise of the week has been a big turn-out for "The Blacklist" on NBC, which got about 13 million viewers without DVR ratings included. That's thanks to its lead-in "The Voice," which got huge numbers considering its a singing competition in its fifth season. Anyway, "Blacklist" time slot rival "Hostages" on CBS only got about 7.5 million, surprising some people.

Meanwhile, as for ABC's all-new Tuesday night, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." opened about as expected, around 11 million, and fell through the night so "The Goldbergs" had around 9 million, "Trophy Wife' about 7 million, and "Lucky 7" having the roughest time with only about 4.6 million.

Boy, I forgot how fast an hour can fly by on these chat things. Thanks to all for your smart questions. TV can really stink but talking about is always so cathartic. Feel free to reach out anytime you have a question or want to argue! I'm on Twitter at @hankstuever or you can email me at hank.stuever@washpost.com ... I'm always eager to hear what people are watching and especially what you're enjoying.

OK, DVRs are great. Unless some show (Amazing Race) changes its name every season and your TIVO can't figure that out.

Ugh, OR the world of professional sports keeps moving everything back by 40 minutes.

In This Chat
Hank Stuever
Hank Stuever, The Washington Post's TV critic since 2009, joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. Stuever was born and raised in Oklahoma and previously worked at newspapers in Albuquerque and Austin. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Emily Yahr
Emily Yahr reports, writes and blogs about TV for the Style section, and contributes to pop music coverage. She especially enjoys when the worlds of TV and country music collide. Originally from Cleveland, Emily has previously written for the Boston Globe, USA Today, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and the American Journalism Review.
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