Premiere Week: What I Watched

Quite the week for new and returning shows! I can’t recall a Fall TV season in recent memory where so much debuted at once, and I knew I’d never catch everything right out of the gate. So I stuck with my favorites from last season and sampled a few new shows. My thoughts:

Sunday

Boardwalk Empire: Maybe it has the unfair advantage of being an HBO show, but nothing else came close to this period drama.

Monday

How I Met Your Mother: Last season had its ups and downs, but a lot went right here. It looks like Ted is finally going to meet his future wife (at least by season’s end?), Lily and Marshall’s efforts to have a baby already yielded humorous and tender moments, and when Barney took note of Robin’s sundress… please tell me they’re getting back together to rectify a missed opportunity from Season 5.

Dancing with the Stars: I thought “The Situation” was one of the better dancers. That’s right. I said it.

Hawaii Five-O: I mainly put it on to see Athena/Boomer (and she didn’t really have a whole lot to do in the pilot aside from stripping down to her skivvies). But I was pleasantly surprised by this show. Beautiful locations, well-executed action sequences, and a fun performance by Scott Caan added up to a show I’ll probably watch from time to time (though I doubt it will become appointment television).

Tuesday

Raising Hope and Running Wilde: I’m not just lumping these two shows together because they made up FOX’s 9 o’clock hour. Raising Hope is an improbable show centered around a white trash family coming together to care for the title infant, the child of their young son and a recently executed criminal; Running Wilde is on the opposite side of the spectrum as a ridiculously rich playboy tries to win back his true love, an idealistic activist. I don’t find either premise that believable (Raising Hope has a slight advantage, but it’s slight). But both shows feature a lot of talented people before and behind the camera. And if I’m being honest, the premise of Community didn’t have me at hello. But once that show grew past its initial contrivance, it became a must see. So here’s hoping these new comedies similarly find their way.

Wednesday

Undercovers: This spy drama is not short on attractive leads (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with oodles of chemistry, but the pilot was underwhelming. Maybe there were too many changes of scenery in the first hour and not enough character development. Maybe this is one of those pilots that simply sets the stage and doesn’t really convey where the show can and will go. But I enjoyed it enough to give it a few more weeks to get into its groove (and I think this might be a show that could do with some more serialized arcs regarding the couple’s past and present spy exploits).

Modern Family: Last season, I loved this show from the start (and its recent Emmy wins were tres sweet). No question that the highlight of the season opener was Cameron, Mitchell, and Jay trying to assemble a princess castle for little Lily. Line of the night? Jay talking about building a bookshelf with Mitchell: “That was my Vietnam — and I was in Vietnam.” The Dunphy station wagon subplot and Gloria having to compete with Manny’s maybe girlfriend were not as laugh out loud funny, but both hit their tender beats, and I’m so happy to have this show back.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: I only saw the second hour of the season premiere, but… whoa! A little girl trapped with two video game addict parents? Her mom thinks she’s a pod person because of a brain injury? And that’s before she gets raped by a pedophile masquerading as a child rights advocate (guest star Henry Ian Cusick of Lost fame). Compelling and disturbing never gets old.

Thursday

Community: A wonderful return for last season’s other great comedy. Besides a fabulous guest spot by Betty White (she really can do no wrong), this episode quickly dealt with the fallout from the finale’s Britta/Jeff/Annie “triangle” by essentially doing an entire “will they or won’t they” sitcom in like 15 minutes (Jeff and Britta pretending they were in love, Abed arranging a wedding, the reveal of the Jeff/Annie kiss, etc.). In the end the gang basically reaffirmed their friendship and prepared for another semester/season of college hi jinks (and the promise of “the two Changs” doing battle for the former Senor’s soul and control of the study group bodes very well for the show’s sophomore season).

30 Rock: While last season ended on a high note (Liz found Carol, Jack finally chose Avery), the season premiere was far from the best 30 Rock ever. I like Matt Damon, but he paled in comparison to some of Liz’s other onscreen lovers (notably Jon Hamm and Michael Sheen). Still, Carol’s crying jag during The Barefoot Contessa was amusing, and there’s no way I’m tuning out before October 14th’s live episode.

The Office: Nice return to form as Steve Carell prepares for his victory lap. The opening recalled some of the show’s best ensemble moments (I found myself reminded of the “fire drill” that opened “Stress Relief”). While I was dismayed to learn that Erin hooked up with Gabe over the summer (poor Andy!) at least it seems like a realistic roadblock in their relationship. Pam trying to impress Jim by pranking Dwight was both funny and sweet, and if Michael Scott has to go, at least it seems he’ll go out with a bang.

Friday

Medium: This show is hardly groundbreaking, but it is well-acted and the mysteries can be intriguing. What the season premiere lacked in plot (the real murderer was obvious in the first 10 minutes), it more than made up for with a zany opening sequence featuring Paulie Walnuts himself, Tony Sirico, as a restless ghost and a Freaky Friday ripoff that gave Patricia Arquette and Maria Lark a chance to swap roles. Not surprisingly, both actresses subtly channeled the other’s character (guess that’s what comes from seven seasons of playing mother and daughter).

So what did you watch? Any thoughts on what will be the next breakout hit/bomb? Or was it just a little too much to take in at once?

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