Autumn is here, and like the leaves now dangling precariously from the trees, the new fall 2010 TV show line-up must try to hang on until the end of the season.
That's no simple task; two shows have already taken the plunge two weeks into the season. Fox's "Lone Star," a show chronicling the life of con-man Bob Allen that NPR called "a well-written, well-shot, exceptionally well-acted hour of television," was canceled last week after its second episode performed to a paltry audience of 3.2 million. A few days later, ABC's "My Generations," a lesser-acclaimed but still serviceable pseudo-documentary about life after high school, followed "Lone Star" into the ground.
Though the cancellation of any new shows is a disappointment, the bigger disappointment is in the shows that are still airing. With a couple of exceptions, the new network offerings have been nothing but middle-of-the-road affairs: not brilliant, but not completely awful and thus, not a whole lot to write about.
After bombarding viewers with advertisements all summer, NBC's 9 p.m. selling point, "The Event," is one such exception. The storyline is a little hard to determine so far, with focus paid to the points-of-view of at least three different characters and a non-linear timeline à la "Lost."
"The Event" looks at everyman Sean Walker, a group of mysterious prisoners and how the two interconnect in an unexplained event being covered up by the government. Intrigued? Not unjustly so, though the show needs to gain a better handle on its strange pacing and flashbacks if it wants to last.
"No Ordinary Family," an ABC contribution, worked its way onto the radar after its pilot presented an entertaining hour about a Disney-dysfunctional family of four developing superpowers after surviving a plane crash. Similar to The Incredibles and Fantastic Four, the dad is played by Michael Chiklis, who played The Thing in the Fantastic Four movies. The show is slightly cheesy and possibly too saccharine for many young adults, but it's amusing, pleasant and worth a look if you're free at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.
These rather half-hearted recommendations can be made for most shows this season. "Nikita," a femme-fatal action piece on the CW, plays well with its premise of taking down a corrupted American assassination bureau, but it is seconds from falling prey to melodrama.
J.J. Abrams' CIA-themed "Undercovers" is light-hearted and charming, but lacks the substance necessary to make viewers want more. "Detroit 1-8-7," "Hawaii Five-0" and "Blue Bloods" are well-regarded and surprisingly well-scripted, but no matter their slight thematic or filming intricacies, they're still just cop shows.
Out of everything on the table, the only shows worth flat-out dismissing are "Outsourced," "Running Wilde" and "Hellcats," two comedies and a bring-it-on drama that are mildly enjoyable at best and outright offensive at worse. The rest of the shows aren't bad; we've just seen them done before and, unfortunately, done better.
This season gives us a decent escape from reality when there's nothing else to do, but that's all. For television with real staying power, look toward the returning shows.