2010 Fall TV Preview
As the network onslaught begins, what if the TV critic picked out shows just for you?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
'What should I be watching?" strangers and casual acquaintances always want to know.
"Well, that depends," a TV critic learns to reply. "What do you like?" (People want customized everything, now -- even custom TV reviews.)
To give the best recommendation, it helps to know what they currently watch, or what departed shows they still yearn for. And how do they prioritize their DVR directories or catch up on prior seasons of newfound favorites: Via Netflix? On demand? Free reruns online? Have they managed to marry their Internet access with their flat-screen HDTVs and download all their content? Or are they still watching a cathode tube with a digital antenna?
The evidence keeps mounting that the simple act of watching a TV show when it's "on" is an antiquated ritual practiced only by people older than 40. To which I say: Hmmmm, really? From the balcony of my Washington apartment, I can look across the street at night into a whole city block of new, glassy condo buildings -- and in nearly every window I see the flickering blue glow of our old friend.
Maybe they're all playing video games or watching movies, but I'd be willing to bet that they're just watching some TV.
The networks believe that, too, and refuse to let up on the annual inundation known as the fall TV season. Nearly everything new is on in the next 10 days. I will go ahead and tell you there are no must-see standouts this season -- no "Glee" or "Modern Family" with which to fall instantly in lurve.
To tailor answers to that never-ending question -- "What should I be watching?" -- I came at this year's season preview with a variety of certain, idiosyncratic viewers firmly in mind, based on my readers, Facebook groups and newsroom colleagues.
I asked people what they're looking for and what shows they've loved, past or present; then I sorted them into composite viewer types. I tried to think about what new scripted shows they should try (setting aside most reality programming, for the moment) and what shows they should probably avoid.
What do you like? I'll tell you if it's on . . .
He still watches "Friends" and "King of Queens" reruns whilst astride the gym stationary bike. He watches "Golden Girls" reruns. He cheered when "Melissa & Joey" got new work. He just wants to chuckle, the way he did in the 1990s. He likes edgier comedies ("30 Rock," "Community") but what he really likes is the sound of studio-audience laughter ("The Big Bang Theory"). If he's still laughing and Hulu-ing his old favorites, then how can the sitcom format really be kaput?
"Mike & Molly": Premieres Monday, 9:30 p.m., CBS. Grade: B-