[Added 9/25—Now that so many of the new fall shows have premiered, how you feeling about my choices? Your choices? There are still shows premiering next week but I think the coming weeks will be very telling for a lot of shows – like the nicely rated The Event and the lowly rated Lone Star – so I’ll be updating this guide in a few weeks and let you know if even I’ve been swayed by great season openers – like Fringe and the Smallville/Supernatural block]
For us TV Heads, the fall TV season is ripe with excitement, anticipation and, of course, more than a little bit of stress! Even with the dual tuner DVR or multiple TVs, it’s impossible to keep up with the abundance of returns of your favorite shows as well as the new shows all vying to become a new favorite. So, before you dive underneath your covers, know that I’ve been sent so many questions via ASK JIM about how to juggle your TV viewing schedule that I decided to take a hard (and harsh) look at the TV schedule and see what you should make sure to watch, DVR and, sadly, let go on every night of the week. There are definitely tough time slots to be found so forgive me for my brutal choices but someone has to do it, right?
To be clear with the categories here, WATCH IT is for the show that is so must-see you have to watch it live. DVR IT isn’t too far from there but the advantage of DVRing is that if a show really rocks your world, you can watch it over and over and over….right?? SKIP IT is, essentially, not worth your time. Since you won’t be able to watch everything (go ahead and try), many of the shows will be on the network sites, Hulu or Itunes a day or so after they air so that is always the back-up option. (And, yes, except for a few exceptions I’ve left off most of the cable programming and chose to focus on the broadcast networks since they are the ones throwing so much at us over the coming weeks.)
SUNDAY: I thought this would be a tougher night but it was remarkably easy to make my choices. WATCH IT: The Amazing Race is still a must for me. It’s one of the few shows that I like to watch live mostly because of spoilers I inevitably see on Facebook and Twitter. And I will never tire of Phil Keoghan raising his one eyebrow at the contestants at the final pit stop of each episode. I’ll be flipping over to HBO at 9pm to watch the new Boardwalk Empire. I’m waiting for my screener so I actually haven’t seen it yet but it just looks like a must-see, doesn’t it? We’ll see how it unfolds. 10pm is essentially a wasteland on the networks? See the SKIP IT spot below.
DVR IT: Thankfully, I have both East and West Coast feeds of Showtime so I’ll record Dexter sometime during the night and will watch in the 10pm hour. While Desperate Housewives (ABC) was not at the top of its game last season, I hung in there and am more curious to see how Marc Cherry incorporates Vanessa Williams into the fold. Hoping it’s better than Alfre Woodard and Drew DeMatteo. And, if there’s an opening, I’ll DVR the FOX animated sitcoms because they are all great and reliable to slide in when you need something to fill a half hour. HBO’s Bored To Death is the back-up if there’s time/space to record on the DVR. Eastbound and Down didn’t grab me in the first season but I’ll sample one more time in the 2nd year and see what happens.
SKIP IT: Brothers and Sisters wore out its welcome with me seasons ago and while I used to love Sally Field in anything, her Nora is one of the most grating characters on all of television. And while I’m all for positive gay portrayals, why has Kevin (Matthew Ryhs) always rubbed me the wrong way as just being a negative Debby Downer? Scotty deserves better. And CSI:Miami may have great eye candy in Adam Rodriguez (who was sooo much more fun to watch in a lighter Ugly Betty role) and Eddie Cibrian but ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named’ (hint–he’s red-haired and makes a dramatic move out of taking off his sunglasses) is a forever deterrent.
MONDAY: Watch It: Start the night out laughing with new seasons of How I Met Your Mother and Rules of Engagement on CBS. At the 9pm hour, flip over to NBC for The Event (after watching the pilot a few times – and interviewing Jason Ritter – I definitely am pulled in and want to see more) and then at 10 I’m going to back to CBS with Hawaii Five-0. After watching the pilot again, I liked it even more with it interesting characters who all have story, a slick production value and, of course, Hawaii. Fans of the cast – Alex O’Loughlin, Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park and Scott Caan – will be pleased. The new version of the theme song is kick-ass, too. Pays homage to the original but also works for the 21st century.
DVR IT: It’s a toss-up from 8-10 with the young fun fluff of CW’s 90210 and Gossip Girl and the double header of Fox’s House and Lone Star but I’ll be DVRing Dancing With The Stars and catching the others on the network sites. DWTS is just cheesey fun (I mean, Florence Henderson as one of the contestants?! Amazing!) but I also like it because you can watch the 2-hour show in about an hour if you cut out commercials and all the fluff between what you really tune in for – dancing! At 10, I’ll be recording the always enjoyable Castle (ABC), which gets better with each season. (And, if you have a second DVR, make sure to watch NBC’s Chuck…or at least catch it online after it airs)
SKIP IT: I’ve NEVER been a fan of CBS’s Two And A Half Men and I barely made it through the one-note-fat-joke of Mike and Molly (even though I LOVE Melissa McCarthy). Chase also didn’t intrigue me enough to want to see more.
TUESDAY: WATCH IT: In the 8pm hour, I’m going with ABC’s new No Ordinary Family. One of the best pilots of the new season, the cast (lead by Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz) is solid, the set-up is fun and intriguing and I’m definitely curious where the show is going to go. At 9pm, I’m switching over to the CW for most-improved 2nd season show, Life Unexpected. Don’t get me wrong – the first season was good but I wanted things to happen at a faster pace. Well, I got my wish. The season opener is chock-full of new directions, new stories and the new characters are seamlessly blended in with the returning ones. Thumbs up! At 10pm, I’ve got to go with The Good Wife (CBS). I didn’t jump on board with this show last season but caught up this summer and immediately saw what the fuss is all about. Just the right amount of interesting cases, personal conflict and, at its core, the always watchable Julianna Margulies.
DVR IT: I’m going to DVR Fox’s Glee so if some of the musical numbers are GREAT (and, let’s face it, they aren’t all amazing, right?) you can watch them again. I’m just hoping the storytelling is a bit more solid this season. I’ll DVR Raising Hope on Fox since it was a cute pilot and has potential. Then I’ll watch the hour-long results show of Dancing With The Star, which, again you can watch quickly if the filler musical guests/encore dances aren’t interesting and you really just want to find out who is eliminated. At 10, I’ll DVR Parenthood and hope it grabs me a bit more than the first season did and this from a guy who LOVES family dramas. Hopefully it will be less-Brothers and Sisters (see my Sunday SKIP IT section if you missed it) and more, well, anything else.
SKIP IT: Sorry OTH fans but One Tree Hill is on borrowed time at this point. And while I love Will Arnett and Keri Russell, Running Wilde just didn’t make me laugh and Detroit 1-8-7 isn’t bad for a cop procedural but it didn’t draw me in enough to stick with it.
WEDNESDAY: WATCH IT: This one was pretty easy. I’m going with ABC for the entire night. The Middle is probably the most unsung sitcoms last season – Patricia Heaton and clan made me laugh just as much as Modern Family. Better With You shows promise and Cougar Town got better during its first season. The Whole Truth has a great cast and while the pilot wasn’t pitch-perfect, it could definitely become one of my favorite dramas.
DVR IT: I love the concept of Undercovers (NBC), love the stars (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are SEXY) and it comes from the JJ Abrams camp so it will more than likely get a lot better than the just-OK pilot. At 9pm, I’m going to go with the CW’s Hellcats, which is going to be a hell of a lot of fun as long as there is good story amidst the bitchiness and cheerleading competitions. I’ve never been a procedural drama kind of guy but I’m going to give Law & Order: LA a shot more due to a cast that includes Skeet Ulrich, Terrence Howard, Wanda De Jesus and Regina Hall. And, don’t worry, I’ll be watching Lie To Me a day late on FOX.com
SKIP IT: Hell’s Kitchen and America’s Next Top Model are just, well, tired and The Defenders just didn’t work for me.
THURSDAY: This is definitely the toughest night so it’s going to require some tough juggling and maybe a few cutthroat eliminations. WATCH IT: Hands down, The Vampire Diaries is the winner here and the 2nd season opener gives you everything it’s supposed to – propels the story forward and in new directions and has more than a few WOW moments. Giving Michael Trevino more to do, showing that Katherine (Nina Dobrev must be in heaven playing both K and Elena!) isn’t just a one-episode fluke and adding Taylor Kinney as Mason Lockwood are all terrific choices. I won’t be changing the channel at 9pm since the Nikita pilot was kick-ass and Maggie Q is going to be a big TV star. Honestly, none of the 10pm shows WOW me so this could be a good time to watch anything you may have missed on Hulu or the network websites.
DVR IT: This is hard but I’m going to have to go with Community and 30 Rock at 8/830 pm and watch Bones online. It pains me to do this but The Big Bang Theory will be watched online too mostly because I found it’s time slot partner Bleep My Dad Says to be bland and unfunny. The 9pm hour is a toss-up. I’m still a Grey’s Anatomy fan but also want to see how the final Steve Carrell season of The Office is going to shape up. I’ll be going with Grey’s and probably watch The Office online. Outsourced didn’t blow me away (though it wasn’t as bad as I expected) and I’m still mad that the timeslot didn’t go to the stellar Parks and Recreation, which was wrongly delegated to mid-season. MISTAKE, NBC!! And nothing at all against Fringe but Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows are always a challenge for me to get sucked into. Should I give it a second chance, folks? And where does that leave the new My Generation? I liked the pilot more than some but when it comes up against some of the best TV on TV, it doesn’t come close to winning. Let’s hope ABC gives it a shot on a different night. [Note added 9/25 – I’m already rethinking my Thursday choices since I watched a handful of Fringe episodes and got immediately hooked and Bones is also a show I may relegated to watching online too easily (and I definitely HEARD from the Bones fans about my pick…so I’m going to give you all an update of this list in mid-October and see how my picks are fairing. Fair??)
SKIP IT: Bleep My Dad Says just isn’t funny at all and Shatner seems to be going off-script, which doesn’t work. Like the L&Os, I have never gravitated towards the CSIs. And I’ve never hidden my distaste for Private Practice. Despite a cast that I’ve always liked in other projects and being a diehard Greys fans, PP just never worked for me. Never has. Never will.
FRIDAY: WATCH IT: Sadly, some of the shows that are not going to get the love due to hectic timeslots (like My Generation), should have found spots on this lackluster night. But that doesn’t mean the whole night is a bust. I suspect it will be a toss-up for most people between Fox’s Human Target/Good Guys block and CW’s Smallville/Supernatural block. I’m going with the more fantasy based shows and stick to the CW on that night and catch the Fox double-header online.
DVR IT: I’ve loved Dana Delaney since China Beach so glad to see her front and center in ABC’s Body Of Proof. I’ll be sampling the show the first few episodes and hope it engages me enough to stick with it. I liked the Blue Bloods pilot (how can you not like seeing Tom Selleck on CBS and on TV again?) so will see where this family-of-cops show goes.
SKIP IT: I have nothing against most of the shows on the night but won’t be watching Secret Millionaire (ABC) or CSI: NY despite adding one of my fave TV stars, Sela Ward. But I do know that I won’t be watching any more of Outlaw. Despite loving Jimmy Smits in just about everything, this show felt like such a misfire and came off feeling contrived and uninteresting.
SATURDAY: Nothing really worth writing up since Saturday night is truly the bastian of, well, nothing to get excited about. But, if I haven’t caught up on everything from the week and the DVR was too busy to record L&O (both LA and SVU), they’ll be encored along with Chase.