Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Top 5 shows from this fall's freshman class

'Tis the season for November sweeps.

November sweeps is when TV shows pull out their best story lines to bump up their viewing audiences.  Sweeps is a magical time when all your favorite TV shows have new episodes and every week really is must-see-TV.  But sadly, sweeps is also the precursor to that long, dark night that is winter hiatus.  Winter is coming, and it smells like reruns.

But here's the good news: you can use the winter break to get caught up on all the great new shows you need to be watching.  It's not too late to start from the beginning with OnDemand or Hulu.  And I'm here to give you the rundown on the freshman class of fall 2013. Below are my top five picks from this fall's newbies.  I'm serious guys-- you gotta start watching these, stat.

My top pick from this fall's lineup is Sleepy Hollow, pictured above.  Yes, I know the premise sounds super weird. And if you recall from my TV upfront post, I was skeptical about how well this show would work. But ten minutes into the pilot and I was texting my friends to tell them they needed to start watching this show immediately.  Abby Mills and Ichabod Crane are the greatest new dynamic duo in town.  She's smart and spunky, he's adorably lost..it just works.  It's like a cross between Fringe and National Treasure, with some Supernatural and Once Upon a Time thrown in for good measure.  Plus, the best news of all is that John Noble will be returning to our lives with a guest arc on this show that I'm hoping becomes a series regular position.

The other good news about Sleepy Hollow is that it is here to stay. No worries that it won't get picked up, or worse, canceled.  It debuted to 10.1 million viewers, Fox's strongest drama premiere in seven years.  Fox has already picked up Sleepy Hollow, a no-brainer, but rather than extend the first season to 22 episodes, they elected to keep the story tight with a 13-episode first season.  A second season order is already in place.  Fans might be annoyed that they won't be getting more Sleepy Hollow this year, but Fox had already scheduled the sophomore season of The Happening to follow Sleepy Hollow, so they had little wiggle room in the line up.

Next top pick: The Blacklist.  Another hit right out of the gate, The Blacklist is the highest rated freshman series of this fall, averaging 10.6 million viewers and a 3.0 demo rating in adults 18-49.  (An interesting side note, The Blacklist is making history by increasing its audience by almost 50% when DVR viewing from the next three days is added.  Their average addition of 5+ million viewers is the highest in history.) James Spader is as wonderfully creepy as was expected, and Megan Boone gives a strong performance as his foil.  The father-daughter storyline was a little heavy-handed, leaving not much of a surprise for sweeps, but there's plenty more mystery to uncover when it comes to the history of Red and Lizzy.  The Blacklist was also picked up for a full season, and is almost guaranteed to get a renewal in the spring, so this one is worth investing in.

Switching over to comedy for a moment, my favorite freshman sitcom this year is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which fits in nicely with Fox's Tuesday comedy block (although it would be a better match with Parks and Rec-- if only they were on the same network).  Andy Samberg is certainly over the top, but there's a good vibe amongst the ensemble that shows a lot of promise, especially the stoic humor of Andre Braugher.  Parks and Rec wasn't perfect in the beginning either, but they learned, and eventually Leslie got her groove back.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine was picked up for a full season, so hopefully they use those extra episodes to find their feet. 

A sneaky surprise from this fall was Trophy Wife, a show whose title is terribly misleading.  Trophy Wife stars Malin Akerman as the new wife of Bradley Whitford who must now find her footing in a family of two ex-wives and three step-children.  This show's real strength lies in Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins as ex-wives Diane, the controlling surgeon, and Jackie, the spacey hippie, respectively.  This show didn't get a lot of hype during upfronts, but has become something of a critical darling since its premiere.  Its ratings aren't spectacular, but that's probably largely due to the fact ABC thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a full night of new programming with no returning show to anchor the evening-- because that always works soooo well.  Trophy Wife would be a much better fit with Modern Family on Wednesday, replacing Super Fun Night which will hopefully die soon.  Trophy Night was picked up for a full season, so stay posted on what time it returns to in the spring.

Rounding out my top five shows from this fall is The Crazy Ones, Robin Williams' new show on CBS.  The Crazy Ones doesn't have the zing that I want it to, but the outtakes at the end of every episode are what keep me watching.  The humor and chemistry of the cast is undeniable-- particularly the surprisingly funny James Wolk of Mad Men fame.  In fact, I'm impressed by everyone whose name isn't Sara Michelle Geller.  Her one-note manic anxiety girl schtick is wearing pretty thin.  But CBS believes in Williams, and so do I-- the show was picked up for a full season and I'll be hoping that they work out the kinks in the mean time. 

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