Fall TV 2013 is well underway now and though there are a few hits here and there, there are also a lot of duds. Cancellations come more rapidly than pick ups, and some shows didn't even manage to live through their first three or four episodes (RIP Welcome To The Family and Ironside). Let's just say at this point, the networks have no earthly idea as to what viewers actually want to watch and I guess, I don't either. Some of the shows I absolutely love beyond anything have dismal ratings and some shows I absolutely abhor are practically unstoppable. But, even though I'm not exactly the expert in figuring out what America, and the world, wants to watch - in this somewhat a little disastrous TV season, I have found a few shows that I've fallen for, hard and fast. Yes, as much as it pains me to admit it, I did find love in a hopeless place. Despite the steady decline of quality from today's network television (and some cable), there are still a few shows that have managed to completely charm, delight and satisfy me. This Fall, I found 5 gems in the midst of all that garbage that we call "2013 Television Season". And since my mission in life is to get more people to watch real good stuff on television - good stuff, not Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Boo, thank you very much - I feel compelled to share with you just what those five shows are, and why I have fallen for them this early in the game. What can I say, when you know, you know, and with these shows - I just know. Our love is real, people. And I will explain to you exactly why, if you'd care to give me the time of day.
Oh before we begin, I am happy to report that at least for this season, these five shows I'm going to be talking about are safe - as in they're not going to be yanked midway through and replaced with reruns of other hit shows, which will leave all of us hanging and frustrated. They have all been picked up for a full season, and two have even gotten the order for a second season. SO. Fret not. I will not lead you astray. I am a good girl, I will never do that to you. :) Anyway! Let's not waste too much words on the introduction - here are the five new shows I happen to love (yeay!), coming to you, in alphabetical order. Enjoy.
BROOKLYN NINE NINE:THE SILLIEST COPS IN THE BLOCK
I have to admit, before this show even premiered on Fox, I was already super excited about it. You see, this show is created by Mike Schur, the guy behind one of my favorite shows of all time, Parks and Recreation, so of course I was already biased before I even saw an episode of this new cop comedy. And then I found out that Andy Samberg was going to play the lead character, Detective Jake Peralta. As a HUGE fan of funny Jewish guys (it's true, I definitely have a thing for funny, smart, hot Jewish guys. Ask anyone who knows me. I think it all started with Seth Cohen from The OC. Ever since then, if you're Jewish, funny, smart and geeky-hot, you're practically my Kryptonite. Sssh. Don't tell anyone), I of course have been in love with Andy Samberg ever since he first became an SNL castmember. So yeah, those two things - the fact that Mike Schur of Parks and Rec created it and that it stars Andy Samberg - were a huge draw for me. I was probably going to love Brooklyn Nine Nine even if it sucked harder than that other new Fox comedy, the insipid "Dads", but luckily for everyone involved, it didn't. In fact, Brooklyn Nine Nine, despite a wobbly start (I had to admit, the first two to three episodes weren't all that great), quickly worked out their kinks and is now a consistently funny, super delightful precinct comedy, where crimes are solved by a mixture of incompetence and humor. The show's Halloween episode was especially delightful - it was the first time when the cast seemed to gel perfectly, they played off each other nicely, and Samberg has finally managed to find a balance between goofy slacker and competent detective. It'll still take some more time for this show to be the perfect, beloved comedy like its predecessor Parks and Recreation, but if it keeps going the way I think it's going, it'll eventually get there. And what's great for Brooklyn Nine Nine, Fox has given it the coveted, ratings-booster post-Superbowl timeslot to drum up viewers (ratings aren't disastrous but it's not exactly a hit either), which means even the network has faith in it. I really do hope that this comedy will keep improving and more and more people are going to be on board because a girl needs a lot more Andy Samberg in her life, people.
If Brooklyn Nine Nine is my boyfriend, I think he'd be the kind of guy that makes me laugh and makes me cringe - sometimes at the same time, but who I'll definitely call back because - hey, every date with him is always so much fun.
MASTERS OF SEX:GOOD DRAMA, CLOTHING OPTIONAL
I have to admit, the only reason I decided to give Showtime's Masters of Sex a try was because of my undying love and devotion for Lizzy Caplan. I mean, I've loved the girl since Mean Girls, you know, that kind of loyalty goes a long way. I've had a few reservations going in - the title was a little on the nose, for one, even though it's not really their choice, it is based on the Masters and Johnson biography of the same name. And then, judging from that name, I kind of expected a show full of tired sex puns, the kind of juvenile puns that teen boys giggle about. But what I got from this show is nowhere near what I expected it to be, in a good way. Masters of Sex, to its credit, managed to stray away from the obvious - pun jokes, gratuitous nudity (don't get me wrong, there are nudity - but trust me when I say it's nowhere near as gratuitous as nudity in other cable shows such as True Blood, Boardwalk Empire or even Girls). Instead, what I got was a beautiful, well-written show about real people - all with different motivations - trying to connect, understand, and love in a time that when it was customary to just sweep everything under the rug. This show is also somewhat about an antihero - Bill Masters isn't the most charming man in the universe and sometimes you really do hate what he does to his friends, colleagues and especially wife, but he's more than just an antihero - he's a fully fleshed human. He's brilliant but deeply flawed and even though he can't be the classic good guy sometimes, deep down you know he has the best intentions, he just doesn't know how to process half the things going on in that mind of his. Even more important, this show is about women. Strong women, flawed women, women who try their best to be a mother, to have a career, to be independent, to love the men they're with who they don't think appreciate them as much, to be their own person despite what society is telling them to be. I would have never thought a show called "Masters of Sex" would be so deeply feminist, but there you go. Sometimes good TV just sneaks up on you when you least expect it. This show started off a little bit show, it took its time to establish the characters and their motivations, showing an admirable restrain - but by episode four, I am positively hooked. And episode five gave us such a mind-blowing performance from most of the cast, especially Michael Sheen, Caitlin Fitzgerald, and Lizzy Caplan. Who knows if this show is ever going to be appreciated at the Emmys, but in my mind, they have all won the highest accolades just from their performances in that episode alone.
If Masters of Sex is my boyfriend, I think he'd be the kind of guy who I underestimate at first, because he takes things slow and he's not impressive right off the bat, but in our fourth or fifth date he suddenly pulls out all the stops and I'd go, "Daaaang, he really is amazing!".
THE ORIGINALS: VAMPIRES, MIRACLE VAMP-WOLF BABY, WITCHES, OH MY.
Spin-offs are not always a good things. When a show is successful, it's always tempting to do a spin-off to ensure longevity of the brand, but let's face it - not all of them work. Cheers was successful with Frazier, but Friends failed miserably with Joey. But that doesn't mean networks don't jump at the chance of a spin off every time a show is successful. CSI managed to expand the brand with CSI: Miami and New York, even though both eventually had to be euthanized (after a pretty long run, actually). NCIS has been successful with NCIS: LA so far, even though its other planned spin-off, Red Team, was not picked up to series. Considering the moderate success of some spin offs, the mostly underestimated and overlooked network, The CW, decided to give it a try with their most successful series to date, The Vampire Diaries. This wasn't their first effort, back when Gossip Girl was still the reigning queen of the teen channel, they toyed with the idea of an 80s-set spin off following the life of Lily Van Der Woodsen (nee Rhodes), but nobody gave a crap, so the idea was nixed before it became anything than a nostalgic backdoor pilot. However, with The Vampire Diaries it was different. When the characters Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah (aka The Originals) were introduced, fans responded with a frenzy. We love The Originals so much that The CW thought it might even be a good idea to ship them off to New Orleans and focus a show on them - with new allies and enemies. And by jove, it worked! I wasn't sure by the backdoor pilot (let's face it, the vampire/werewolf hybrid pregnancy plot was a little too out there even by a supernatural show standard), and the first few episodes were a bit slow for my taste - sure a lot of things happened but nothing really happened either - but by the fourth episode, I was completely sold, and it was all because of one Joseph Morgan. Hey, I love Daniel Gillies and Claire Holt, and even Charles Michael Davis - but Joseph Morgan has such charisma and gravitas that it's easy for him to play such a complex character with even more complicated motivations. I find myself rooting for the diabolical Klaus, even if his quest for power seems a little tired by now. The dude has been around 1000 years. You'd think he'd have enough power by now. No matter though, Joseph Morgan plays Klaus with such vulnerability and sincerity that at the end, no matter how ridiculous Klaus' power play really is, I buy into the whole thing without question. And what's more interesting about this show is that there's no real heroes and villains. Everyone can be either or both. The Vampire Diaries has always been clear about its heroes and villains - but not The Originals. I like the ambiguity, the willingness to stay in the grey instead of drawing a clear black and white line. It makes the show a lot less teen angst and a lot more adult vampy fun. And I soooo love adult vampy fun!
If The Originals is my boyfriend, he'd be that dangerous, morally ambiguous bad boy that I know I shouldn't have anything to do with because hey, I know better but I somehow can't resist him because he is so so delicious. (Oh and obviously he looks just like the sexy, sexy Joseph Morgan).
SLEEPY HOLLOW:WELL HELLO THERE, FIFTY SHADES OF CRAY
When Fox unveiled their Fall 2013 TV lineup, I don't think they really expected Sleepy Hollow to be quite the hit it has become - simply because this show is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I mean, total bananas. Forget all you know about Sleepy Hollow, whether from the Washington Irving short story, or the slightly more bananas Tim Burton version, this Sleepy Hollow takes a life of its own right from the crazy, exhilarating pilot episode, and to their credit, the craziness hasn't let up since. There are a number of reasons why this show should've failed spectacularly, but against all odds, this show actually thrives! And even though I'm not usually crazy about a show that just mixes every mythology in the world and makes a smoothie out of the sheer insanity of it all, I am totally okay with this show doing it. Why? Because one thing that this show is good at, right from the start, is that it's not afraid to just unleash the madness. Is it utterly ridiculous? You bet. Does it stay true to the original material? Aside from a few characters' names, not at all. Does it mix everything all the way from The Book of Revelations to the American Revolution to Native American sleep demons? You bet. Does it make for great television? Abso-freakin-lutely. Sleepy Hollow is so successful that Fox has decided to pick it up for a second season, foregoing a back nine and opting for a tighter, cable-like 13-episode seasons, which I think is one genius decision since a show like this thrives on the high octane sheer lunacy - and giving it a 22-episode season would mean the show would need to pull the reins back a little and have filler episodes here and there, and that could really hurt a highly addictive show that is all about the momentum. I also suspect that if it had gotten a 22-episode first season, they'd run out of crazy to sustain season 2, which would be a shame indeed. So far, the show has consistently churned out highly watchable and enjoyable episodes with the right amount of witty banter and heart-pounding action, and I hope it will continue for the rest of the (short) season. I'm not saying that this show is perfect. It's definitely not. It definitely, definitely cannot be compared to the greats like Breaking Bad or Mad Men. But it is super fun. Crazy, when done right, can be extremely enjoyable, and Sleepy Hollow definitely does their crazy right. Plus, the leads, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie have such an easy chemistry between them - these are two people who tend to find each other ridiculous, but have a great mutual respect for each other. So far the show has also done us right by not adding a sexual tension between them - Ichabod Crane in this show is still somewhat married to Katrina, even though she's kinda stuck in purgatory or something. I like a will they/won't they chemistry as much as the next girl, but every show in the world since the age of Cheers has done that and it's getting tired. Bring on more platonic relationships, I say. Not every beautiful lead actors need to secretly want to bang each other. Yes I said bang. Forgive me.
If Sleepy Hollow is my boyfriend, he'd be that strange English guy who has just been resurrected after being buried for 200 years, ready to take on the craziest world conspiracies and rage against pastry tax. Yeah I'd totally hit that.
TROPHY WIFE:MEET THE NEW (AND MORE DELIGHTFUL) MODERN FAMILY
When I was a kid, I grew up on 80s family sitcoms (as most kids in the 80s do, I suppose? No? It's just me? Okay, carry on). Nothing gave me more pleasure back in those days than to lie on the couch and watch Family Ties, Growing Pains, and later, Doogie Howser, M.D. (I had such a HUGE crush on Neil Patrick Harris back then, which was the start of me having a huge crush on various gay men in my life to this day. Yes I am that girl. Let's move on). Because of the huge impact 80s sitcoms have on my life, now as an adult I always somehow gravitate towards family sitcoms. I like all kinds of comedy, I love Friends and Seinfeld and the more recent ones such as New Girl and The Mindy Project, but family sitcoms always have a special place in my heart, which was why I loved Modern Family when it premiered. It had a strong pilot, and the first two seasons were pretty great. However, Modern Family lost its charms on me by its third season, and now I can't watch it without rolling my eyes every few seconds - why is Claire always so shrill and Gloria always so loud? Why is Jay so odious at times and why can't Mitch and Cam agree on anything? I mean, the whole thing works back in the first season but after 5 seasons of the same thing, I am super tired of their schtick. And considering family comedies are few and far between these days and most of them are just so, so lame (see: the new NBC comedy Sean Saves The World, or ABC's criminally unfunny The Neighbors), I had come to expect that the genre that I grew up with, that helped instilled some good, wholesome American values in me back in the day, is pretty much gone by now. That is, until Trophy Wife premiered last September. Sure, the title is misleading, I get that. But let me just reiterate that it's meant to be ironic, okay? Cougar Town had the worst title for a sitcom ever but the show itself is absolutely delightful and has nothing to do with cougars at the end. So don't judge a show based on its highly misleading title. Trophy Wife is what Modern Family should be but somehow couldn't. Sure, this family is not without conflicts and every week there's a misunderstanding, a misguided attempt to do something nice that backfires, and the usual family sitcom tropes, but they are done with such delicate balance - in the hands of really capable actors like Bradley Whitford, Malin Akerman, Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins and Natalie Morales - that at the end what we get is quality entertainment that is both funny and heartwarming without the need for a "moral of the story" voiceover to tie it neatly with a bow. And in Trophy Wife, the adult actors aren't the only ones who knock it out of the park every week, the kid actors are pretty freaking amazing too. Albert Tsai who plays Bert, is a much more delightful kid than Manny Delgado can ever be in Modern Family. He knows how to be cute and wise beyond his years, without being grating. The ratings for this show haven't exactly been stellar though, so I have been worrying that it would get the axe before it gets the chance to truly shine - but looks like someone up there loves me because ABC has just picked it up for a full season. Back nine baby! Holla! Now all they have to do is put this show behind Modern Family so it can truly gain the audience it deserves. Do us a solid, ABC.
If Trophy Wife is my boyfriend, he'd be a little like George Clooney. A charmer who gets things right pretty much from the start. Who knows how long it will last though, but so far so good! (And I plan on staying for a while. I mean, come on, he's George Clooney. Wait. What are we talking about?)
And there you have it, the five new shows of this Fall 2013 TV seasons that I am totally loving right now. I'll be back in two weeks with my reviews of Almost Human, Ground Floor and Getting On, as well as my Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special recap, so keep it here, human beings. Until then.