I doubt anyone will ever compare me to Kenneth from “30 Rock” (I’m too bitter and don’t know nearly enough about farming) but we do have one thing in common: we live for television. Love fades, friends grow distant, but TV is always there, basking us in its comforting glow at all hours of the day. So you can imagine my disappointment with this summer’s abysmal programming. It was a landscape of reality shows, reruns, and disappointing dramas, all of them mocking me with false promises of entertainment.
But the wait is finally over. I have organized and color-coded my schedule, and I’m officially ready for the 2013 season to begin. Here are the shows I’m most looking forward to this season, and a few that I would recommend staying away from.
The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC): Fox plays a beloved New York news reporter who is attempting to re-enter public life after taking a break due to Parkinson’s. A lot of networks are building comedies around famous personalities this year (Sean Hayes in “Sean Saves The World”, Robin Williams in “The Crazy Ones”) but “The Michael J. Fox Show” looks the most promising. The show is brave and smart (a rare combination) about the jokes it chooses to make about the disease, and the supporting cast which includes Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad) and Wendell Pierce (The Wire) pushes the premiere into required viewing territory. The show will fit in well with the returning “Parks and Recreation,” and might help fill the 30-Rock-shaped hole in your heart.
Sleepy Hollow (FOX): Ichabod Crane, a Revolutionary War spy, died just after killing The Headless Horseman (fighting for the Redcoats, naturally). But wait! Crane is awakened in 2013 and, after discovering that the Horseman has also returned, teams up with Sheriff Abbie Mills to stop the Horseman’s killing spree. I am not going to pretend that “Sleepy Hollow” isn’t ridiculous. But it’s also delightful. Nicole Beharie is wonderful as Mills, and there’s a fun dynamic between her and Crane, especially when his progressive-for-18th-century views collide with her reality as a modern woman of color. If you’re willing to embrace some significant cheese (I’m looking at you, “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” fans), “Sleepy Hollow” is for you.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC): The television followup to Marvel’s wildly successful “Avengers” franchise, starring fan-favorite Agent Coulson. This installment centers on S.H.I.E.L.D’s human agents who handle everything from tech development to recruiting new heroes to disaster cleanup. Recommending this show might be redundant, as it’ll probably be the most highly rated premiere of the season. Joss Whedon directed the pilot, and his siblings and “Doctor Horrible” co-writers, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, will handle the rest of the series. To say fan expectations are astronomic would be an understatement. There are many reasons to worry about the show’s staying power, the most serious of which is that a typical television budget won’t be able to support the cinema-level effects and action audiences will expect. But I’m with the legion of Marvel enthusiasts who are crossing their fingers that ABC can pull this off.
Dads (FOX): Two childhood friends (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) now run a successful video game company, but things get zany when their two unemployed dads move in with them. Are you one of the 10 people who enjoyed Seth Macfarlane’s stint as Oscar host? Do you have a soft spot for racial stereotypes? Do you miss William Shatner’s short-lived “Sh*t My Dad Says”? Then this is the show for you! After the TCA Press Tour presentation for “Dads” was cut short due to a palpably hostile response, Fox has allegedly reworked the show, but I’m worried to see what the people who put Brenda Song in a sexy anime outfit to win over Chinese businessmen will think of as “improvement.” Even if the show’s racism and sexism don’t bother you, the fact that it’s not funny will. I plan on watching the pilot, if only so I can hate the show in detail, but I wouldn’t recommend joining in on my masochism.
Mom (CBS): Young single mom Christy (Anna Faris) joins AA in an effort to turn her life around, only to run into her own estranged mother (Allison Janney) at her first meeting. “Mom” is a multi-cam Chuck-Lorre-developed comedy on CBS, but don’t let that turn you off just yet. Much like “The Michael J Fox Show”, “Mom”’s humor about its more serious conceits (the main characters are working class alcoholics) is sharp, and Faris and Janney are more than able to carry the show. There’s no guarantee it won’t go the way of other Chuck Lorre comedies (“Two and a Half Men”, “2 Broke Girls”), but for now it seems to be worth a shot.
Hostages (CBS): Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is an elite surgeon set to perform surgery on the President of the United States. When her family is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) she is given a choice: kill the president, or her loved ones will die. If the show was not on a major network I think it would have more potential, but since it’s airing on CBS I have a feeling neither the president nor the Sanders family will die. And even though I love the cast, as the question of how this time-sensitive premise will be stretched out over months remains unanswered, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in.
Masters of Sex (Showtime): Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) were controversial pioneers in the field of sex research. The show begins as Masters hires Johnson as a research assistant in his studies of human sexual response, and follows their discoveries and developing relationship. Don’t let the ratings-grab title fool you: “Masters of Sex” is one of the most exciting dramas of the year. The scientific side of the show is interesting, but Lizzy Caplan’s performance as Johnson is what really sets it apart. Caplan is finally getting the meaty dramatic opportunity she deserves after being relegated to supporting parts in comedies like “Mean Girls” and “Party Down”. As Johnson, her charm masks a canny and tough interior, making it easy to see how she eventually gains respect as a researcher in her own right. The show also takes a risk in making sure Masters isn’t a perfect progressive, and challenges him to realize the way he views (and represses) women himself. And like Mad Men before it, “Masters” seems ready to address the navigation of female sexuality in the prim and proper 1950s. Don’t be surprised if you see this title popping up in Emmy nominations this year.