2012 Winter TV Preview

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It looks like 2012 is bringing with is a handful of new TV shows attempting to fill the shoes of some oldies but goodies. With the end of longstanding staples of my living room Rescue Me and Smallville and the impending end to the notoriously difficult to kill Chuck, I’m looking for some new fixes. The most difficult part of filling out a watch list is that it’s insanely easy for a new TV series to be given the axe even before the initial season ends. On top of that, I don’t have early access to pilots, so I have to judge these shows based solely on their trailers which, of course, never reflect a series’ possible staying power. This is where I come in.

Over the years I have honed my incredible skills to determine a series’ fate far before the viewing public have made their decision. This skill doesn’t include seeing the future of shows about Hogging, Swapping, Picking, Trucking, or really any other bullshit reality series along those lines. That’s why I won’t include them here. Also counted out are any shows I have no chance of even watching: Think MTV, Lifetime or any SyFy series (I’m a nerd, but my tolerance for 70’s caliber CGI is extremely thin). This leaves all readily accessible new shows on the big four networks if they have any plus channels like FX, HBO and Showtime that have spawned great shows that I’m extremely likely to want to watch.

Here’s how this works: I watch the trailer for each show only and based on that will make an uneducated snap judgement on a few counts: Whether the show will be good or bad and why, when or if it will be cancelled and an overall grade on a 10 point scale. Let’s start the show.

Alcatraz (FOX)
Produced by Mr. Lens Flare himself (J.J. Abrams) and penned by one of the writers of Lost and Deadwood (two shows that received wide critical acclaim but I’ve never watched), this sci-fi thriller takes part of the plot from The 4400, mixes in one part ex-Palentologist (Sam Neil of Jurassic Park fame), ex-dead white supremacist (Sarah Jones from Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy) and still fat guy from Lost (Jorge Garcia). From the trailer, I gather that a batch of 200+ prisoners disappeared from Alcatraz and have reappeared a certain number of years later and are all the same age as when they disappeared. Apparently a new gov’t agency is created (I won’t call it a Fringe Division) and goes out hunting said re-appared criminals.

Given the number of escaped criminals, Alcatraz theoretically has a good 200+ episodes built in to the plot assuming a “bad guy of the week” plot device. There would be an overarcing plot thread where the stars uncover the actual events of the past through several seasons. Expect flashbacks (where I predict the lens flare will make its appearance), season ending cliffhangers where new questions pop up after old questions are answered and plot twists galore.  This show is making an attempt at pulling in the Lost fan base and as long as it squeezes out some season one Fringe-like writing, Alcatraz could actually be the hit that they want.

Unfortunately for Alcatraz, however, this will not be a first season staple in my TV watching lineup. Alcatraz screams “catch and release” show. It will have a great premiere followed by a steady drop in viewership week after week. Ultimately, there will be enough of a fan base that Alcatraz’s fate will be determined by the quality of Season 2. If the follow up is a hit, you can be sure this could be an easy 5 Season show. The key will be whether or not the writers fall into the “same episode, new week” trap and don’t lose focus of an ultimate end game. The highest probability will be Alcatraz being cancelled after a lackluster second season.

Overall, I give Alcatraz a 6 out of 10.  

Angry Boys (HBO)
After the series finale of Entourage, HBO hasn’t had much luck with their attempts at comedy. After killing off their entire comedy lineup last month, HBO has decided to hit reset and try again at capturing comedy gold and they’ve decided to lead with the new series, Angry Boys. Now if the trailer is any indication, they’ve missed extremely wide of the mark. Chris Lilley created this mockumentary in the style of Eddy Murphy and Tyler Perry’s “one actor as multiple characters“ shows that follow six individuals as they do something or other. I don’t really even know what the plot is supposed to be, but all I can say is that for a comedy, I didn’t laugh even once during the first half of the trailer. As a matter of fact, I was so turned off by the concept of this show that I didn’t even finish watching the trailer.

As you can imagine, I will not be watching this show and would be surprised if this one airs on HBO beyond the first season. Since it was developed in partnership with the Australian Broadcasting Company, Angry Boys might film more than one season and air the follow up seasons in Austraila and the UK, but I can’t imagine it ever catching on in the States. In my book this show is a shit sandwich.

I give Angry Boys a solid 3 out of 10.

Are You There, Chelsea? (NBC)
A show about situations that happened to Chelsea Handler inspired by a book written by herself (still with me?), Are You There, Chelsea? is NBC’s latest attempt to bottle a funny book and turn it into a series that will compete with ABC’s insanely popular Modern Family. Blonde Donna from That 70’s Show (Laura Prepon) play’s Chelsea, while Chelsea  Handler play’s Chelsea’s pregnant sister (Yep, I’m lost again). In the trailer, Laura Prepon is firing on all cylinders with some classic punchline delivery that had me laughing a few times and her chemistry with Chelsea as her sister looks promising.

NBC has had some pretty good hour long shows with some decent comedy like one of my personal favorites, Chuck, but they’ve struggled in my book to really hit a comedy high to rival ABC. NBC is hoping that breaking up their comedy block from three hours on Thursday to one hour on Wednesday (Whitney then Chelsea) leading into a news show of all things (Rock Center with Brian Williams) then following that up with a 2 hour comedy block on Thursday leading into the new series The Firm will increase their comedy success. I’m not sure this strategy will work as opposed to current lineup, but only time will tell.

Me? Well, I think I’m going to give Are You There, Chelsea? a try. Being a half hour comedy show, there isn’t much in the way of stakes I’ll be putting into this so even if it goes the way of $#*! My Dad Says, I won’t be heartbroken. Having Chelsea Handler actually involved in a show based on a book she wrote about her life gives Chelsea a chance to actually succeed. As long as the stories are fresh and they don’t move away from pushing the line with the raunchy jokes, I could see Are You There, Chelsea? lasting quite a few seasons. I’m sure you’ll see Chelsea moving around a bit as NBC’s lineup settles, but I predict a minimum of three good seasons out of Are You There, Chelsea?

Chelsea receives a solid 8 out of 10.

Betty White’s: Off Their Rockers (NBC)
Betty White comes to NBC with a new hidden camera show where old people play pranks on our youth. There won’t be any previews of this show available until the Betty White 90th Birthday Special NBC will be running, but based on the description, I’m picturing a cleaner version of the Jackass gag where Johnny Knoxville gets made up as an old dude and walks down the street with his fake balls hanging out past his shorts. Betty White is a comedic favorite, but I just can’t see Off Their Rockers working for very long.

If the situations are clever, I could see Off Their Rockers getting a second season, but not lasting much beyond that. Really, all NBC needs to do is create a sitcom with Betty White and Doris Roberts and add in someone like Tina Fey’s writing and you’ll find a successful comedy (call me, NBC, and I can make it happen). As you can imagine, I’ll be passing on this one.

I’m giving Betty White’s: Off Their Rockers a 5 out of 10 because of Betty White.

The Finder (FOX)
The Finder, a spin-off of the popular crime series Bones, stars Geoff Stults (7th Heaven apparently), Green Mile’s large black gentle giant (Michael Clarke Duncan), and two relatively unknown actresses (Mercedes Masohn from Chuck and Maddie Hasson) as a group of people with the talent to..wait for it....find stuff (surprised?). The pilot for The Finder was actually seen as the 19th episode of season six of Bones, so fans of Bones already know some of what’s in store. Essentially, Stults plays an eccentric and paranoid character with House-like powers of deduction, reasoning and intellect that can find anyone and anything he sets his mind on. Backed up with a crew that provides situational comedic support in Duncan, Masohn and Hasson, The Finder is set to be a great addition to FOX’s lineup.

Admittedly, The Finder episode of Bones has not exactly been very personally memorable, but then again *SPOILER ALERT* with the death of Vincent Nigel Murray and Brennan’s ensuing pregnancy with Booth, it’s a bit of a tough act to follow. The trailer for The Finder does an excellent job of reminding me how much fun that particular episode was and how great the show could be. Some of the commercials I’ve seen are further proof that The Finder can really hit its mark and be a spectacular partner to Bones and the rest of the FOX lineup. You can be sure that The Finder will be a great addition to my 2012 TV schedule.

I predict that The Finder will last a respectful five seasons. This can only happen if the stories are kept fresh and fun and the series doesn’t become too serious over time, though. In my book, The Finder has the best chance of being the new Chuck, but hopefully for their sake, they learn from the things that Chuck did wrong so they don’t end up on the edge of cancellation every year. I’m not sure I can take that kind of anxiety again.

The Finder gets high marks with a rating of 9 out of 10.

The Firm (NBC)
A sequal of sorts to the John Grisham movie from 1993 of the same name, The Firm follows up the movie 10 years after its events took place. I’ve never seen the movie or read the book (Grisham novels are so damn thick) so I’m not sure what to expect, but Grisham is serving as Executive Producer of the series so I’m pretty sure this will mean that the show will be faithful to the book proper. That’s always a good sign when the network is willing to avoid taking liberties with classics by keeping the creator in the loop. They’ve picked up Josh Lucas (career supporting actor from American Psycho and A Beautiful Mind) and Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) as some of the cast members with the rest being largely unknown.

Having never seen the ‘93 movie or read the book, I’m not sure how a show like this could be more than a miniseries, but based on the trailer, it seems like The Firm is going to take a “case of the week” approach, throw in some manufactured “now that we’re out of hiding, everyone is after us again” suspense and shake in a bit of “conspiracy of the season”. I’ve never been a fan of law shows outside of the classic Night Court (which probably doesn’t even count), so I’m not super excited about The Firm from the outset.

In my mind, though, I’m picturing The Firm to be a well written and well acted show that ends up being under appreciated and cancelled early on before it gets a chance to find its legs and mature. Law stories are out of touch regardless of the client in the early 2010’s so The Firm will be lucky to see a second season. I don’t expect this will be cancelled before finishing the first season has a chance to conclude, but there will be a massive gap between those who love it and those who hate it. For the right person, it will be a winner, but I’m definitely not the right person.

All said and done, I’m giving The Firm a respectable 6 out of 10 (and an A for effort).

House of Lies (Showtime)
House of Lies is a new comedy on Showtime featuring Ocean’s War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Sarah Marshall herself (Kristen Bell) among other names I’ve never really heard before although they supposedly made appearances in shows I have heard of before. Outside of Cheadle’s wit and charisma seen in the trailer, I’m not really sure how the rest of the cast vibe, but some of the lines made me laugh, so I’m hopeful regardless. I also wasn’t exactly sure what the show is about based on the trailer, but it would appear that the group is involved in some kind of con on big business. Actually looking at the website clears some things up in that Cheadle and crew work for a management consultant business that is extremely underhanded but somehow manage to get the job done.

I expect that House of Lies will be a hilarious, over the top, raunchy excursion into the world of big business with plenty of sex, drugs and excess. Sounds like it’ll be right up my alley, which is why I’ll be adding it to my list of shows to watch in 2012 for the same reason as Chelsea. The possible pitfalls would be keeping the laughs somewhat original and bringing in high quality guest stars (I could easily see Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy making a guest appearance). The trick will be to also not abuse the freedom that Showtime will provide a show like House of Lies. There is, after all, such a thing as too over the top.

House of Lies will easily last a minimum of three seasons as long as they can keep the episodes fresh. Even if they lose their way, I can guaranty a solid two seasons. What I don’t expect, though, is that House of Lies will be funnier than The League. That’s too tough of a job to accomplish.

House of Lies earns itself a 7 out of 10.

Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
Comedy Central’s next attempt to bottle the magic found in Chappelle’s Show, Key & Peele is a sketch comedy show that tries out the theory that a comedic duo is just enough change to prevent people from comparing it to Chappelle’s Show. Well, I can tell you that they’ve failed on this front, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Key & Peele will be a failure. That will be firmly decided on by the quality of the writing, the originality of the sketches and remaining relatively current with the topics. The two skits I’ve seen so far (a cell phone sketch and a holiday sketch) were barely chuckle worthy, but that’s not necessarily indicative of the overall show.

These shows are tough to call. Both Key and Peele aren’t unfamiliar faces around Comedy Central so each will bring their own fan base to at least the series premier. Given a good time slot: on either side of The Daily Show/The Colbert Report or South Park, Key & Peele could have an excellent chance of succeeding. Given all the variables, though, I’d bet on two seasons. I might stop to watch it if I’m passing through, but it won’t be added to my list for 2012.

Key & Peele is a mediocre 5 out of 10.

Life’s Too Short (HBO)
Life’s Too Short is the second attempt at comedy for HBO in 2012. It also happens to be the second mockumentary on this list (Angry Boys also from HBO is the first). Life’s Too Short features HBO mainstay Ricky Gervaise and costarring the famous dwarf, Warwick Davis. As seen in the trailer, Life’s Too Short, shot in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm, follows the schemes involved in getting Davis back in the spotlight, except unlike reality, Davis is a bit of a self centered asshole.

Life’s Too Short has had a head start in the UK premiering in November and so far hasn’t had such a wonderful critical reception but who gives a shit what they think. This is about what I think and I believe Life’s Too Short has a good chance of being an awkwardly funny, entertaining, show. I don’t expect initial reception to be all that great, but given some time, Life’s Too Short will find its legs and come into its own. I’d expect Life’s Too Short to last right around two seasons as the worst case scenario and upwards of six seasons as a best case. I’ll probably check it out after the second season if it makes it to a third.

Life’s Too Short gets a 6 out of 10.

Napoleon Dynamite (FOX)
Full disclosure; I hated Napoleon Dynamite and am physically sickened that there is an animated series starting up this year. That being said, it is my firm belief that Napoleon Dynamite only succeeded as a movie because Jon Heder pulls off the over the top goonie awkward look better than most.  Animation can’t do his face justice so I would place this show firmly in the one and done category (if it even lasts that long). The last new comedy that wasn’t written/animated by Seth McFarlane that premiered on FOX’s Sunday night animation block, Allen Gregory, failed miserably and after only 7 episodes, is most likely not making a return in 2012 or ever.

Let’s just leave it at this: check out the trailer and make your own decision. My verdict is I hate the thought of this show and hope it crashes and burns.

Napoleon Dynamite receives a -10 out of 10.

The River (ABC)
ABC has always come off to me as a network that focuses on the family, children and women. I’m not even sure this is true, but outside of Lost, there really hasn’t been much in the way of TV on ABC that has intrigued me (and I never got around to watching Lost). The only shining spot is ABC’s fantastic comedy lineup with the headlining heavy hitter Modern Family and new in 2011 Last Man Standing. The River, however, appears to be a complete departure from anything shown on ABC in recent memory. The interesting trailer sets up a paranormal, supernatural, missing person plot where people with far too much money and not enough training head out into the wilderness to find dear old dad.

Spielberg is involved alongside the director of Paranormal Activities, so there will be plenty of handheld camera footage and documentary style action to go around. The problem I get here is that I only see one season out of this show. My friend Carl said it best when I was watching the trailer: “What movie is that?” and that’s exactly the issue. The River would make a fairly decent movie, but as a TV show, everything will be drawn out to the point where it will feel like only one minute has passed over the span of an hour long episode. Of course the music will probably attempt to create some type of suspense but will ultimately end up giving away the shocking moments that would make this a memorable experience.

Ultimately, I can’t see this show lasting more than one season so while it looks like a fun show, I just can’t bring myself to add it to my list.

The River gets a 5 out of 10.

Rob (CBS)
Rob Schneider stars in a new CBS sitcom about an extremely white guy who marries into a large hispanic family fathered by funny man Cheech Marin. As you probably can imagine, there will be an insane amount of hispanic stereotypes combined with Rob trying to make the new in-laws like him while screwing things up left and right. Don’t believe me? Watch some clips. Rob screams of plot devices along the lines of Meet the Parents, except CBS found the only person less funny than Ben Stiller.

Unfortunately for most, I don’t think America has caught on quite yet, so Rob will get a decent three season run before people come to their senses and CBS replaces Rob with a new sitcom where an asian man marries a black girl and the same plot devices are recycled with different stereotypes. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of this idea and while there can be a few funny moments thanks to Cheech, I can’t endorse Rob.

Rob gets a 3 out of 10.

Smash (NBC)
Sooner or later it had to happen. A bunch of TV executives were sitting around the board table at NBC and said “You know what? That show Glee is kicking ass over on FOX. How can we get in on this?” This is how Smash was born. The overcoming adversity plot of Coyote Ugly meets Broadway musical in a show starring the lady from Will & Grace (Debra Messing) and becoming the vehicle for first time actress and first loser on American Idol’s fifth season, Katharine McPhee. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against musicals or musical shows; I’ve lived my entire life with music, but Smash suffers from the same unfortunate issues as The River.

Assuming the majority of the events that take place in the trailer occur in the pilot, the only logical conclusion is McPhee’s character gets the lead part and wows audiences opening night. The obvious trap is taking a show like this and stretching it out over multiple seasons. The reason Glee works is the “song of the week” model is a hit for the cast members and as long as they’re all in the same grade, the series has enough material to last four years. Smash doesn’t have a physical age limitation like Glee, but unless the creators have plans for future Musicals, I just don’t know how you can get more than one season out of it.

The new faces (and voices) will surely be a hit plus the Broadway setting gives Smash a good chance of being a successful series. I predict three seasons minimum if the creators can think of logical ways to carry Smash into the future without just stretching things out. I may not be adding this to my list, but for the right person, Smash could be better than Glee.

Smash gets a 7 out of 10.

Touch (FOX)
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) makes his triumphant return to FOX, except this time he’s brought his 10 year old son that chooses not to speak (at least the kid’s voice works fine in the narration) but is some kind of soothsayer of dastardly events. Sutherland has to try to interpret his kid’s patterns of numbers, Know1ng style, in order to stop these dastardly events from taking place. Since his kid doesn’t speak, and appears at least somewhat Mercury Rising-ish, Sutherland has to work extra hard to decipher these messages mainly by yelling at stuff or whispering half out of breath to people.

Touch is brought to FOX by Tim Kring of Heroes and Crossing Jordan fame which definitely is a promising foundation. I’m hoping some homework has been done with this series and the mathematical concepts presented are well thought out and factual instead of thrown in there for some kind of make you think effect. The trailer shows off patterns of Fibonacci spirals and talks about universal ratios presented to the viewer by Mr. I’m Too Old For This Shit (Danny Glover) so I’m hoping Glover’s character has his math straight. This is a chance for FOX to fill the nerd void that has been in my TV schedule ever since Numb3rs finished up a few years back.

Hopefully my expectations aren’t too high, but I’m putting Touch at the top of my best new shows of 2012 list. I predict Touch spans around four seasons as long as it can get off the ground. It should utilize several multi-episode story arcs to not drown in the “new disaster every week” default that most new shows are following. Combined with excellent writing and making sure plot devices aren’t introduced and ignored, Touch should be a fantastic new addition to my personal lineup.

I’m giving Touch a spectacular 9 out of 10.

Unsupervised (FX)
FX found an animated hit in the insanely funny Archer fueled by the comedic timings of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler and Judy Greer and focused around a spy organization called Isis. FX is at it again pairing up the same animators with Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) and the rest of the Always Sunny gang to bring a couple 15 year olds to life voiced by Accepted’s Justin Long and Hornsby and throwing other talents like House of Lies’ Kristen Bell into the mix. The trailer shows the two main characters partying it up at their home where they can (and of course will) do everything they want whenever they want.

My initial feeling is that Unsupervised is a more modern, adult focused, version of the classic idiot duo Beavis and Butt-Head mixed in with some shenanigans from Always Sunny. While this sounds like a solid combo, my concern is that this show will lack whatever magic keeps Archer and Always Sunny rolling along strong making for a chaotic mess.

At this point, I’d say that Unsupervised will be a “one and done” show and will not be added to my 2012 viewing but if it makes it to a second season, I might be convinced to give it a look.

Unsupervised gets a 5 out of 10.

Work It (ABC)
The last new show coming to the winter lineup is a new comedy about a couple of guys who dress up like women to find jobs, Work It. I’m not really sure how hard ABC is trying with this one, but it seems they’re trying to find a show that will bring in the male crowd but have missed the mark. The trailer shows these guys ending up in a few predictable and not really laugh-worthy situations in their new found lady-jobs but even these come off as pathetic attempts for chuckles. Work It would appear to be some kind of filler and based on the little bit shown in the trailer doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

There is one thing Work It has done successfully, though, and that’s make it to my list as the only show starting this winter that is cancelled before all episodes air. Expect to see repeats of Modern Family in its place for a month or two after four or five episodes air.

Work It receives a pathetic 1 out of 10.

UPDATE: After a surprising two week stint, ABC has officially removed Work It from the lineup. It is being replaced by reruns of Last Man Standing for the time being.

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