Reviewing the fall TV shows, or: Donating my brain to science, one micro-thin slice at a time…

Fall TV season! For you it began long ago, when NBC first started airing those endless commercials for “Whitney.” For me it began even longer ago, and involved a two-week press tour in Los Angeles in August. (Rough life, I know — boo hoo.)

But at last I see a light at the end of this tube. At least for a while. Before all the new shows get cancelled, I wanted to post evidence of my efforts and the efforts of my colleagues. For this year’s Fall TV issue of the Washington Post‘s Sunday Style section, I belatedly came up with an organizing principle: For each show, I asked myself if it was better or worse than ABC’s “Pan Am,” which is perfectly, exactly mediocre television. From there, the shows sorted themselves. The talented Mr. Kim Maxwell Vu, who designs Sunday Style, checked in for early priority boarding on the “airport” concept and found a cool artist, Jesse Lenz, to pilot us to safety. Kim managed to bring it all together in less than a week. Here’s the cover:

And here are some other pages, from the section’s center, furthering the theme without going bonkers, arranging the shows into FIRST CLASS, VIP LOUNGE, BAGGAGE CLAIM and AIR SICKNESS. This is the meat of the TV issue: reviews of all the fall shows. (I’ll deal with mid-season shows later, in, duh, the mid-season.)

The print newspaper readers got the real treat of this design, but our online readers aren’t badly served either. All the reviews and everything else can be had here.

For those who like things boiled down …

My five favorite shows this season, in order: “Once Upon a Time” (ABC); “Hell on Wheels” (AMC); “Homeland” (Showtime); “American Horror Story” (FX); and “Up All Night” (NBC). Yes, you need cable if you don’t have it.

Wanted for the crime of bugging the living shit out of me.

My five LEAST favorite this season, in whatever order you care to NOT watch them: “New Girl” (Fox); “How to be a Gentleman” (CBS); “Prime Suspect” (CBS); “Hart of Dixie” (CW) and “Charlie’s Angels” (ABC).

Not that anyone may notice, but I’m trying to break a certain age-old paradigm in the Post‘s approach to TV reviews. This fall, instead of writing a full review for the daily Style section of lots of new shows, I’m letting these capsule reviews from the Sunday package state my critical case for now, which we’re “repurposing,” in even shorter form, next to the daily TV grids on the premiere nights. I’m just not convinced that the world needs 600-plus words on every show on the morning of the night it premieres, when no one’s figured out if they even like or dislike it yet.

I’d rather wait for the wave of cancellations and the revisit a particular show once it gains any sort of traction or triggers something remotely like zeitgeist. Some shows I intend to write fuller reviews on — right now I’m re-watching “Terra Nova,” “Homeland” and “American Horror Story” for further thoughts.

Okay, so: Thank you all for visiting the sausage factory today. Please be sure to enjoy some fresh sausage on your way out and remember to leave your protective eyewear goggles with Sandy at the front desk.

PS: If you missed the TV issue, I wrote a piece on WTF HAPPENED TO WOMEN?! here. Shorter version: I don’t for one minute buy this crap about how “The Playboy Club” and “Whitney” and “Charlie’s Angels” indicate a step forward for women. Zooey Deschanel, in my mind, certainly qualifies as a big step back.) Also, lately: My deadline take on that tragic Emmys show. And Ashton Kutcher joining that dumb sitcom your Nana always watches. Oh, and Anderson Cooper, getting so personal in his daytime show and yet still withholding…


  1. James on October 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Yep another year of Fall flops. They are knocking them out fast thank heavens. So what is the next retread Green Acres?

  2. BT on November 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Hank, 3 for 5 of your most hated new TV shows for Fall 2011 are already gone. Batting .600 is great.
    Just found your blog after doing a google search for Tinsel.
    I’m reading one chapter a night. Now on Chap. 9. It definitely gets me in the Christmas spirit

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