I don't have a "Boardwalk Empire" level of disinterest in this, but the way the "Luck" pilot left me with a bare minimum of interest in spending more time with these characters, much less an hour a week with them, speaks to how the HBO system of bringing some of the film world's best talent to the small screen often ends up neglecting the art of serialized television. It's really great looking and impressive, but it doesn't feel like TV in some of the bad ways as well as the good, in that it lacks that forward momentum of the best weekly addictions. For now, at least, I could be really premature here, I'll try to stick with it (although increasingly, I'm abandoning these slow burning cable shows pretty quickly).
b) "The Firm"
I watched the first episode of this and that felt like enough for a lifetime. I've said this over and over and over, after "The Cape" and "Terra Nova" and countless others, but seriously: networks, stop doing 2 hour pilots. It worked for "Lost," but it won't work for almost any other show. Focus on making a good 1 hour pilot.
This show is probably the best of the many shows the past couple years to combine "Lost" talent with a "Lost"-scale ambition, but that's not really saying much. I still don't think I even understand what's going on but it's pleasant enough to watch, not quite as obvious or derivative as "Fringe" or whatever.
This whole supernaturally gifted autistic kid thing, does not sit well with me.
e) "Are You There, Chelsea?"
It's kind of fun to just try to count all the things that are off about this show, from the borderline nonsensical bowlderization of the title of Chelsea Handler's book it's based on to the fact that Handler somehow failed upward into the world of network television to her playing her own sister. I guess the closest thing to a defensible factor this show has is Natasha Leggero, doing two doomed NBC shows in the space of a year like David Walton did a while back.
f) "Inside Comedy"
I enjoy seeing comedians discuss their craft, but it feels like there are almost getting to be too many venues for that now. And it doesn't help that Showtime keeps airing this before reruns of the much more entertaining "The Green Room."
g) "Key & Peele"
Comedy Central has a pretty spotty record, outside of "Chappelle's Show," of shows headlined by minorities or of racial humor that isn't "Mind of Mencia"-level stomach churning. This show is decent, though, kind of a budget "Chappelle's Show" hosted by two biracial "Mad TV" alums who both have a lot of material about having anxiety about 'talking white' or whatever, but occasionally do something genuinely over-the-top and funny.
h) "Russell Simmons Presents: The Ruckus"
Another rare example of Comedy Central devoting a show to black comics, and it's featured some good ones, but it also feels a bit awkward in that they need to constantly pan to the titular producer sitting in the audience laughing, even though he's not the host or really does anything. They never did that on "Def Comedy Jam," did they?
i) "The Exes"
These TV Land shows that are just a mashup of familiar stars and tropes from sitcom history are kind of depressing, but even more depressing is the fact that when I am bored enough to watch them I kind of enjoy them. Donald Faison deserves better. Probably. I think this is where Wayne Knight was always headed, though.
j) "Angry Boys"
I watched an episode of this once, didn't really grok what was going on or remember much about it.
k) "New Girl"
This has been the easiest new show to hate or root against all season, but I have to grudgingly admit that it's been getting better and better. The male members of the cast were funny enough right off the bat that I kept watching, and now Zooey Deschanel's character has gradually become less annoying and less central to the show. And a couple weeks ago, there was a kind of mindblowingly smart and self=aware episode in the Lizzy Caplan arc that totally analyzed and nailed the difference between the Deschanel archetype and the Caplan archetype in a way that was funny, moved the show forward and wasn't too obnoxiously meta. And then the towel scene at the end of the episode was just hysterical.
l) "Face Off"
My wife still really digs this SyFy reality show about crazy sci-fi movie makeup, I don't really get into it like she does but it is fun to see what kind of crazy junk they come up with.
m) "The Voice"
I didn't miss this show that much over the break, and got kind of cynical about it after first season winner Javier Colon's pretty good album totally sank while his coach Adam Levine used the show to stage a major comeback. But I am glad it's back, and it's still way way way better than "Idol" has been in years, I've become kind of evangelical about it lately telling any lapsed "Idol" fans I know to check it out.
One of the downsides of cable dramas having these kind of self-contained seasons that are shot all at once with long breaks in between is that it gets easier and easier to think of them almost like albums, and to have a hard time get into the new seasonal arc like the last one isntead of just taking it week by week. Which is my way of saying that "Justified" really has not hooked me this year like it did last year, but it's still pretty good.
In retrospect, this is the show I most neglected by leaving it out of my top 50 shows of 2011, it's really if not spectacular or addictive still just a consistent and engaging show from week to week, and the kind of show that's very rarely done well anymore.