Winter Season 2011-2012: New Shows

Television ReviewsOnce upon a time, there were only two seasons on TV: Fall and Summer.

Now, things being what they are, we should just be honest and admit that there are four. Forget this “mid-season premiere” fallacy. If we’re luck, a season these days is 12 episodes. Shows that do 20+ episodes a year are, effectively, on for two seasons for every one they count. Everything else (especially stuff on cable channels) splits around the 12 episode mark.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s premiered in the new Winter season so far.

Alcatraz (Fox)

Another JJ Abrams show about strange goings on with time and conspiracies on an island. Not exactly the same formula as Lost, but close enough to raise some eyebrows. Those raised eyebrows went from skeptical to impressed after the first couple of hours, though. Same Neill does a good job of adding class and creepiness to the story. It’s different enough from other shows that it can keep you guessing at least a little. For now, it’s more of a police procedural, with the main characters hunting down bad guys as they appear, but I’m betting that before long some more internal drama will kick up some waves. Assuming, of course, that the show doesn’t get canceled.

Are you there, Chelsea? (NBC)

A semi-autobiographical sitcom from comedian/author/talk show host/bad girl Chelsea Handler, in which she plays the older sister to Laura Prepon’s portrayal of herself. Sadly, this show just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’ll grow on me with time, but the whole caustic bad girl thing doesn’t work for me unless there’s that “heart of gold” tacked on… or some serious repercussions for that lifestyle. The cast seems solid and I’m pretty sure the Jersey Shore and Real Housewives viewers would love it.

The Finder (Fox)

Oh, another quirky crime fighting show. This one about a guy who (surprise, surprise) is really good at finding things. Perhaps due to brain damage received while serving in Iraq. If it wasn’t for Michael Clarke Duncan being in this show, I would have just passed it up. It’s cute, has some potential, but hasn’t found it’s stride yet. Maybe in another few episodes my opinion will change, but as of right now, I don’t find anything special about it.

The Firm (NBC)

The cast of this new series is pretty darn good. Two Cylons, some strong alumni from other shows, one of my favorite kinda trashy actresses (Juliette Lewis)… but so far they’re being totally wasted on more or less standard plots that have been done everywhere (recently, too). Grisham’s stuff is usually pretty suspenseful, with some sharp dialog and forceful characters. The film that this series is following up on was one of the first big hits from him that made the leap from the page to the big screen, a handful of others followed and they were all pretty good. I keep hoping this one will live up to it’s name, but it hasn’t yet.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox)

This is another show that, if it did anything other play exactly to stereotypes, would be almost good. But, hey, if you like a show about completely incompetent parents (to the point where you wonder how their kids made it to be teenagers), this may be for you. There have been a couple of sweet “awwwww’ moments, but they were almost immediately counteracted by some bit of vitriolic barb from one or more characters. This show doesn’t have heart and, thankfully, it also seems it doesn’t have good ratings.

Rob (CBS)

I never liked Rob Schneider much when he was on SNL. Can’t say I care more for him in his own show. Especially when it’s a premise that’s been done so many times before, with more style and less stereotype. Schneider plays a character (oh-so-creatively) named Rob who’s just married a younger woman on a whim in a Vegas wedding. Now he gets to meet her parents, who just happen to be Mexican. Supposedly, culture-clash hilarity ensues. I had some hope for this show when I saw Cheech Marin was in it (the bulk of the cast is actually talented, really), but he doesn’t have enough to work with to make this worth watching. It’s one thing to use a stereotype as a jumping-off point for comedy in a “haha! It’s not really like that!” sort of way. That’s not what this show is doing. It’s relying firmly on the stereotypes themselves–of Mexicans, Americans, men, and women–for it’s  humor. That ship sailed decades ago, do something new or go away. (Sadly, the ratings indicate that this show won’t be going away.)

Work It (ABC)

Thankfully, this show didn’t last. Like many other shows this season, “stereotype” is the name of the game. If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember an old show called Bosom Buddies that introduced us to Tom Hanks and Peter Scolaria as two guys who dressed as women to get an apartment in a single sex building. That show worked for two reasons: it was vaguely plausible at the time and we didn’t know any better. Pretending you’re a woman and getting a job selling pharmaceuticals in this day and age? I don’t think so. One background check would out you right there. That small bit of reality aside, the show just wasn’t funny. It managed to be insulting to both men and women. Can’t say I’ll miss this one at all.

There are a few more shows premiering soon (and a couple that are on other networks), so expect another installment soon.