2011 TV season: Few smooth takeoffs, many bumpy arrivals
This year’s fall season isn’t going to soar to great heights, but Post TV critic Hank Stuever has landed on a handy way to sort the new shows, with one simple question: Better or worse than dead-average “Pan Am?”
- Better than “Pan Am”
- “Pan Am” quality
- Worse than “Pan Am”
Once Upon a Time
Sunday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m., ABC
An elegant surprise that stirs fond memories of Sunday-night Disney TV shows of yore, meant for grownups but suitable for older kids, toggling between the present day and legendary fairy tales. When the handsome prince marries Snow White (“Big Love’s” Ginnifer Goodwin), the Evil Queen crashes the wedding to cast the mother of all spells, banishing everyone in the magic kingdom — including the Seven Dwarves, Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket, Rumpelstiltskin and even the Evil Queen herself — to “somewhere horrible,” where happy endings don’t exist and the characters have no memory of who they once were, trapped in humdrum lives.
That horrible place? Maine. Where young Henry (Jared Gilmore from “Mad Men”) escapes and runs off to Boston to find his birth mother (Jennifer Morrison from “House M.D.”). She doesn’t yet know it, but she’s Snow White’s adult daughter; Henry hopes she’ll help him break the spell and restore the kingdom. That’s a lot to take in, but “Once Upon a Time” is a smartly-crafted reward for fans of light fantasy, with the right mix of cleverness, action and romance.
Hell on Wheels
Sunday, Nov. 6, 10 p.m., AMC
Hands down the most intriguing show on the fall slate (from the network of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Killing,” etc.) this violent and gritty western is set in 1865 during the building of the transcontinental railroad. The first episode effortlessly launches several stories: A former Confederate soldier (Anson Mount) travels the country seeking revenge on the Union soldiers who raped and killed his wife during the war, which leads him to Iowa and a job on the rail line. There, a former slave (Common) bristles at the empty promises of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lily (Dominique McElligott), is married to a railroad surveyor and barely escapes an Indian attack on their camp. From afar, a railroad baron (Colm Meaney) maliciously bursts with manifest-destiny greed, giving the whole thing a loony, melodramatic fatalism that echoes “There Will Be Blood.”
Though imbued with epic sweep, “Hell on Wheels” is a western at heart, even if that heart is cold. Plenty of guns, knives, arrows, scalpings — mixed with the incendiary socio-psychological wounds left in the Civil War’s wake.
Sunday, Oct. 2, 10 p.m., Showtime
Classified memo to all Washington-area intelligence wonks (and wannabes): We have a new show to fuss over, which arrives with a taut air of near-perfection. A Marine POW (Damian Lewis as Sgt. Nicholas Brody) is rescued eight years after his capture in the Iraq War and given a hero’s welcome home to NoVa. But a determined CIA analyst (Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison) believes Brody may be a converted terrorist, based on intelligence she gathered during a bungled mission to Iraq a year earlier.
Already the object of her superior’s scorn, Carrie secretly investigates Brody as he readjusts to life with his wife (Morena Baccarin from “V”); Brody doesn’t know she’s been having an affair with her husband’s best friend in his absence. What makes “Homeland” rise above other post-9/11 dramas is Danes’s stellar performance as Carrie — easily this season’s strongest female character, who is also hiding some personal secrets of her own. The latter half of the first episode is exhilarating. I’m hooked.
American Horror Story
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 10 p.m., FX
The latest series from creator Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck,” “Glee”) is a deeply disturbing adrenaline attack in which a haunted house provides metaphorical backdrop to a troubled marriage. Dylan McDermott and “Friday Night Lights’ ” Connie Britton play a couple who move with their teenage daughter to Los Angeles, where a bad real-estate agent steers them toward a beautiful old home — the former scene of torturous medical experiments in the basement and, some years after that, the murders of twin boys. (Ask the mentally disabled girl who lives next door — she’ll tell you all about it.)
Infused with a “Dark Shadows” and “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe, “American Horror Story” is one scream after another. So much creepy stuff happens in the first episode that viewers will be left asking: Can I possibly watch an entire series of this? Followed, of course, by a more obvious question: Why do they stay in that house?
Overdoing things is one of Murphy’s trademark flaws, but this show has a captivating style and giddy gross-outs. It also has Jessica Lange, who’s terrific (in both senses of the word) as a sinister neighbor.
Monday, Oct. 10, 9:30 p.m., HBO
The fabulous Laura Dern — an expert at playing unhinged, crazypants women — stars in this sublime yet broodingly real drama about a midlife crisis-in-progress, which Dern co-created with writer/actor Mike White (“Chuck & Buck,” “School of Rock”). Dern plays Amy Jellicoe, an executive at an organic food corporation who suffers a nervous breakdown after a fit of rage against her boss, with whom she was having an affair.
A dreamy, $48,000 stay at a Hawaii rehab center rejuvenates Amy’s inner bliss, and she returns to L.A. ready to resume work — only to find she has been reassigned to the basement to join a team of other washouts working in data entry. It’s the beginning of a series of humiliations, as “Enlightened” finds a sweet spot between utter heartbreak and wry satire of corporate culture.
Amy is the portrait of a human-resources nightmare whose mental imbalance and New Age preachiness make everyone around her nervous. Luke Wilson plays her druggie ex-husband; Dern’s real-life mother, Diane Ladd, plays Amy’s emotionally cold mother. It’s a beautiful downer of a show that becomes more revealing and absorbing as it moves along.
Up All Night
Premiered Sept. 14; airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m., NBC
Sitcom writers return yet again to the new-parenthood and poopy-diapers trope, with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as Reagan and Chris, stressed-out parents of a baby girl — who is so angelic while sleeping that her parents are driven to mutter expletives in awe of her beauty. Applegate and Arnett work well together; the writing and “Cougar Town”-like pace provide the right amount of lift.
Comedy champ Maya Rudolph plays Applegate’s boss, a not-quite-Oprah-stature daytime talk host with an Oprah-size ego. Which gives Rudolph ample opportunity to run away with the show.
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Just once it’d be nice to see a comedy about urbanites moving to the suburbs that doesn’t rely on a mocking and simplistically Stepford view of such places. Setting that gripe aside, “Suburgatory” displays a polished sense of humor and a better cast than it deserves, which makes it worth a look.
Jane Levy stars as Tessa, whose single father, George (Jeremy Sisto of “Law & Order” and “Six Feet Under”), decides to move them from Manhattan to this idealistic “out there” — Westchester County? Connecticut? In voice-over narration, Tessa exudes toxic levels of disdainful sarcasm about her new home — where everyone drinks sugar-free Red Bull and “zombie-eyed girls” stare coldly at her from the back seats of their mothers’ SUVs. “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Cheryl Hines is delightful as the sweetly vacuous mother of the school’s mean girl; other surprises include Rex Lee (“Entourage”) as a school administrator and “Saturday Night Live” alum Ana Gasteyer waving hello from across the street.
Monday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m., Fox
Literally the biggest thing on TV this fall (for more on that, read my colleague Jen Chaney), “Terra Nova” has it all: time travel, misguided utopianism, “Swiss Family Robinson”-style cohesion and lots of hungry dinosaurs. It’s all pretty dazzling, but with so much time spent on special effects, the characters seem to be factory-direct. The script gets wordy, as the cast hurriedly speak in bursts of dialogue meant to give viewers all the background that, frankly, we don’t need. Even with a lavish two-hour premiere, “Terra Nova” could stand to slow down and admire the world it has taken us to — Earth, 85 million years ago. Still and all, it’s a dazzling debut, with a variety of compelling mysteries to get itself going.
A Gifted Man
Friday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m., CBS
Patrick Wilson plays Dr. Michael Holt, a busy Manhattan neurosurgeon who only takes platinum-card patients. After bumping into his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), whom he hasn’t seen in 10 years, he learns that she’s been running a free health clinic in Queens. That’s nice — except when he learns that his ex-wife has been dead for two weeks.
Yes, the co-star here is a g-g-g-ghost. Appearing only to Michael, she tries to get him to open his heart (and his high-end practice) to her impoverished clients. He wants to get her out of his head, so he seeks the help of a medium (Pablo Schreiber), but then again, maybe this will all somehow work out. “A Gifted Man” is meant to be a moving allegory for our troubled approach to health care reform: If the rich, snooty doctor had a moral conscience, he could do brain surgery and set bones for free. The earnestness comes in pretty strong doses, but it might be good for what ails you.
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 10 p.m., ABC
A solid prime-time soap with a burnt-crisp soul. Emily VanCamp plays Amanda, a young woman who moves to the Hamptons to wreak havoc on the lives of the powerful social circle who — to protect themselves and their fortunes — framed her father for embezzlement and aiding terrorists. (For more about the show, read my colleague Emily Yahr’s take, elsewhere in today’s section.) Prepared for gourmet cheese, I found “Revenge” to be intelligently paced and acted. The treat here is Madeleine Stowe as the Hamptons’ richest and most mean-spirited doyenne — campy and kinda fun. Grade: B-
Friday, Oct. 21, 10 p.m., Starz
Lavishly assembled Chicago political melodrama — executive-produced by Gus van Sant, who’ll also direct a few episodes — stars Kelsey Grammer as Tom Kane, a malevolent mayor faced with his own mortality. But as you might expect, Grammer doing gravitas simply adds more wind to this Windy City.
After a diagnosis of a mentally degenerative terminal illness, Kane ramps up his corruptive influence, handpicking a snakey young politico (Jeff Hephner) to run for governor. Side plots involve the mayor’s equally-conniving wife (Connie Nielsen), an estranged daughter (Hannah Ware), a gutsy newspaper reporter (Troy Garity) and a steely, voluptuous aide wearing librarian specs (Kathleen Robertson). “Boss” works hard to resist the usual “this is how we do things in Chicago” nonsense and dutifully aims for a somewhat “Wire”-esque believability. Yet it can also feel like a burden to watch. Everyone here is pretty despicable, which gets old quick. Grade: C+
Sunday, Sept. 25, 10 p.m., ABC
Groaning under the weight of takeoff, I don’t like “Pan Am’s” chances of reaching cruising altitude. Filmed in a meticulously set-decorated, honey-glazed nostalgia for 1963’s girdles, globetrotting and, most of all, ample leg room in coach, the show is about four stewardesses who work Pan American Airline’s New York-to-London flight.
Save for some obvious “Mad Men” envy, there’s nothing really wrong with “Pan Am”; it’s a handsome study in perfect mediocrity. It’s also pretty to look at, with a CGI assist in recreating Pan Am’s Jet Age glory, while providing fresh grist for people who like to complain about the indignities of present-day air travel. Christina Ricci stars as the rebellious stew (translation: She shares an apartment with beat poets! She sympathizes with Castro!), while Kelli Garner plays the stew with a secret (she has been drafted by international spooks for some light espionage) and Margot Robbie plays a runaway bride who joins Pan Am to see the world.
The co-pilot (Michael Mosley) can’t stop ogling his comely co-workers: “That, my friend, is natural selection at work. They don’t know that they’re the new breed of woman. They just had the impulse.” To fly, that is. The coffee-tea-or-me stuff has been replaced with a watered-down proto-feminist ideal, which I suppose is better than no feminism at all.
Thursday, Sept. 22, 9:30 p.m., NBC
NBC’s endless commercials for “Whitney” have had a counter-effect (“You’re wearing a hoodie to a wedding?” played over and over and over), daring you to warm up to its loudmouth snark-attack of a star, comedian/writer Whitney Cummings.
Surprisingly enough, there’s a fine sequence of laughs lurking in the middle of the first episode, such as when Whitney, to spice up her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Alex (Chris D’Elia), dresses up as a sexy nurse and . . . hands him a stack of insurance forms to fill out. “Whitney” is a regimented, by-the-book sitcom — the only way you know it’s 2011 here is that people are no longer afraid to make jokes about vaginas in prime time. It’s D’Elia and the other cast members who rescue the show from a wretched Whitney overload.
2 Broke Girls
Monday, Sept. 19, 9:30 p.m., CBS
This would be the other new sitcom with Whitney Cummings’s name on it — co-creator in this case. (She’s got to be the busiest vagina-joke writer in Hollywood!) “2 Broke Girls” will join CBS’s other Monday night comedies; like “Whitney,” it has just enough cheap laughs to merit a look. Kat Dennings stars as Max, a young, jaded waitress in a greasy Brooklyn diner that somehow evokes the good old days of “Alice”: The Mel here is a leering Russian fry cook named Oleg (Jonathan Kite), and the other waitresses keep getting fired for kissing grits or whatever.
In walks new waitress Caroline (Beth Behrs), an Upper East Side debutante left penniless after her father is busted for a Ponzi scheme of Madoff-ian proportions. For sitcom’s premise sake, Kat reluctantly offers Caroline a place to stay, and before you know it we’re watching a lukewarm revamp of “The Odd Couple.”
Person of Interest
Thursday, Sept. 22, 9 p.m., CBS
From producer J.J. Abrams’s busy hive mind, this perfect-for-CBS procedural is about a pair of vigilantes who fight crime by hacking into a government computer that can predict incidents before they happen. This summons other influences (“Minority Report,” for one), but “Person of Interest” has a paranoid pop-and-snap to it, making use of the frightening idea that all that security footage and monitoring of everyday consumer transactions can form an intelligence web that supersedes human deduction powers.
Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus from “Lost”) is the mysterious Mr. Finch, who designed the post-9/11 computer network and now uses it for his own purposes: preventing violence. He recruits Jim Caviezel (Christ from “The Passion of the Christ”), a former CIA special agent, to track persons the computer has identified as possible victims or possible killers. It’s a whole lot of techno-hooey, relying on screenwriter-friendly leaps of logic. Emerson turns out to be a one-note actor, but Caviezel is appealing in a particle-board sort of way. Taraji P. Henson also stars as a good-hearted police detective trying to figure out who Caviezel really is. (Lady, he’s Jesus. He’s techno special-ops Jesus.)
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 10 p.m., CBS
Poppy Montgomery plays CBS’s latest specially-abled sleuth, Carrie, who has acute powers of memory. Not only can she remember what day of the week a specific date was years ago, she also remembers everything she saw and did. And she remembers what others were doing or what was in the news. This makes her the life of the party at the old folks’ home where she works as a health aide.
Carrie’s “superior autobiographical memory” (matched with one heck of a photographic memory) once made her a top homicide detective. But she couldn’t solve the one tragedy in her life that her memory has completely blocked — witnessing her sister’s murder years ago. When her upstairs neighbor is murdered, Carrie’s old lover and boss (“Nip/Tuck’s” Dylan Walsh as a New York homicide detective) convinces her to get back in the procedural crime-solving game. You’ll vaguely remember several shows that went pretty much like this one.
Friday, Oct. 21, 9 p.m., NBC
More storybook stuff: A Portland, Ore., police detective named Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) learns from his dying aunt that he’s descended from a long line of Grimms, who’ve been secretly keeping the world safe from big bad wolves and other legendary beastlies that are disguised as everyday people. In the pilot episode given to critics this summer, Nick hunts down a big, bad (effete, pedophilic) wolf who has a thing for little girls wearing red hoodies. The show vacillates between hokey and clever as it mines the Brothers Grimm for contemporary analogues. Imagine if every episode of “CSI” began with a leather-bound book and the words “Once upon a time . . . ”
The Playboy Club
Monday, Sept. 19, 10 p.m., NBC
An ambitious but ultimately weak attempt to set an ensemble drama inside Hugh Hefner’s hallowed, smoke-filled nightclub of early 1960s Chicago, “The Playboy Club” wears its “Mad Men” jones in a much more obvious way than ABC’s “Pan Am.”
Amber Heard plays Bunny Maureen, who just started as the club’s cigarette girl. Fighting off an attempted rape in the back room, she accidentally kills a well-known mob boss. Series star Eddie Cibrian, as hot-shot attorney Nick Dalton (a loyal Club member), helps Maureen dispose of the body. Elsewhere in Bunnyville, a closet lesbian is diverting all her tips to help the covert gay-rights cause led by the Mattachine Society. Another bunny is torn between her job and her love for the bartender, who is jealous of the attention she gets. Another bunny wants to be Hef’s first black centerfold. And Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti), the club’s Bunny Emerita, gets Hef to appoint her “bunny mother” of “30 girls who won’t sleep through the night.”
That’s just a few of the story arcs wound up and set free in “The Playboy Club’s” clunky opener, which suffers from a first-episode version of erectile dysfunction. For all the Heffin’ and puffin’, these Bunnies look bored.
Tuesday, Sept. 13, 9 p.m., CW
Loyal Sarah Michelle Gellar fans (many of whom have actual PhDs in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” studies) are dying to know whether her return to a TV series will sate their every desire. That’s hard to say. Though confidently made, “Ringer” is ultimately a fairly ho-hum night soap. Gellar plays Bridget and Siobhan, twin sisters with opposite lives. Bridget, a recovering addict and former stripper, flees Wyoming just before she’s to testify in a federal case against a malevolent Indian crime boss. Nestor Carbonell plays the agent now hunting for Bridget, whose life is in danger.
He tracks Bridget to New York, where she went to visit her estranged twin, Siobhan, a wealthy socialite who lives in the Hamptons with her own rich-person problems. As anyone who knows anything about “Ringer” now knows, Bridget is now pretending to be Siobhan, having assumed her sister’s identity after Siobhan apparently kills herself by drowning at sea. In its first episode, “Ringer” makes the calculated error of hurrying through most of its better plot twists, making further episodes seem like a tedious prospect.
Sunday, Oct. 30, 8:30 p.m., Fox
Fox didn’t make a full episode of this addition to its Sunday animation lineup available before deadline, but from what we’ve seen, it’s fairly one-note. Created and voiced by comedy actor Jonah Hill (“Superbad”), Allen Gregory is a pretentiously sophisticated 7-year-old who has been homeschooled by his gay dads. It’s decided he should attend elementary school, where he quickly alienates everyone around him, uncorking a bottle of pinot grigio at lunch and asking the other kids if they caught last night’s “Charlie Rose.” No grade yet.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 9:30 p.m., Fox
This is about two suburban mothers, Annie and Nikki (Jaime Pressley from “My Name Is Earl” and Katie Finneran), who try to laugh off the animosity directed at them by their self-absorbed daughters, who are rapidly becoming the very sort of snobs that used to pick on Annie and Nikki when they were in high school. “Can’t we just go back to being best friends?” Nikki pleads with her daughter, after a failed attempt at discipline.
“We were never best friends,” the daughter icily replies, as her mother recoils in pain. (“It’s okay,” she moans. “I know you didn’t mean that.” And then she drowns her remorse in pie.) To someone out there, this might all be wildly funny, but I just found it to be a tone-deaf comment on modern motherhood. It was too much like what you see in an afternoon at Tyson’s Corner.
Premiered Sept. 14; airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., NBC
This painfully flat American version of a British comedy stars Hank Azaria as Alex, a newly-divorced and depressed PR agent who unwisely beds another agent at his firm (Kathryn Hahn as Helen). She’s still getting over the death of her impossibly dreamy fiance, whose pictures she keeps on every wall of her apartment.
The supposed hilarity centers on their awkward workplace secret, which they must keep from the usual zany array of colleagues at the big-time PR firm, none of whom stand out as a series-saver. And really — a comedy set in a PR firm? Boring.
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Another tardy, tepid entry into the suburban battle of the sexes— with neither side coming off very well and nobody laughing. Just so you know it’s 2011 (instead of, say, 1999), the pilot episode features more vagina jokes than “Whitney” has. Mather Zickel stars as suburban husband and father Will — and can’t help but come across as a less-funny Phil Dunphy from “Modern Family.” For reasons not entirely clear, his wife (Teri Polo from the “Fockers” movies) uses every opportunity to verbally emasculate him: “Your grandfather fought in World War II. Your father fought in Vietnam. But you play video games and use pomegranate body wash.”
There’s no zing whatsoever left in leftover Patio Man material like that, but the cast members (including Christopher Moynihan and Dan Folger as Will’s unlikable fellow man-children) give it whatever energy they can muster.
The Secret Circle
Thursday, Sept. 15, 9 p.m., CW
Based on a book series from the same author who ginned up “The Vampire Diaries,” the show centers on the new girl in a seaside town of witchy-poos, drawing upon every market-tested cliche the genre has to offer. After her mother’s mysterious death by spontaneous combustion, naive Cassie moves to her grandmother’s house in the family’s hometown — and the life her mother tried to escape. The adults here all seem to be hiding something and the teenagers have figured out what it is: We’re all witches!
Cassie’s arrival completes this easy-bake coven, which can now cast powerful spells of teen angst. Some are evil witches, some are good. And if they can make time for it, everyone has to go to high school. If you like this show, then you are 15 (mentally, if not actually) and I’ll let you watch it only if your homework is completely done and you took out the trash. Take my “Secret Circle” DVD out with it.
Thursday, Sept. 22, 10 p.m., NBC
Just what nobody wanted: a completely unnecessary redo of the great British mini-series that starred Helen Mirren as a homicide detective who has to fight against the chauvinism of her male colleagues.
Now it’s set in New York. Maria Bello was convinced to star as Det. Jane Timoney, bravely attempting to make up for a so-so script by donning a fedora and laying things on about 10 times too thick.
Thursday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m., ABC
This lousy, third-generation retread of the 1970s original is suitably DOA (dumb on arrival), but also offensively bland in feel. Set in Miami now, “Charlie’s Angels” is about three ex-cons (a well-to-do blonde jewel thief; a black detective caught in a sting; and a Latina car thief) hired as private investigators by the ne’er-seen Charlie Townsend, who now speaks to them from a decidedly upgraded speakerphone. The bigger upgrade is office manager Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), now a suavecito computer hacker. Producers include the makers of “Smallville,” as well as actress Drew Barrymore, who helped reinvent “Charlie’s Angels” a decade ago on the big screen, with memorable cheek.
Now diluted by present-day TV’s cookie-cutter hustle and flow, the real duds are the Angels themselves: Rachel Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh and Minka Kelly. They come off as interchangeable affirmative-action figures who make Farrah and company look like early suffragettes who fought for the jiggle rights we now take for granted.
Hart of Dixie
Monday, Sept. 26, 9 p.m., CW
Depressingly glossy drama about a smug New York heart surgeon-in-training named Zoe Hart, who loses her residency and is forced to take a job as a general practitioner in tiny Bluebell, Ala. Predictably enough, the town offends snooty, big-city Zoe with its folksy, “real America” ways.
“Hart of Dixie” is basically “Northern Exposure” dumbed down to a nanoscopic scale. This imaginary small town, which glows with an unbelievable immunity to the influences of Wal-Mart and Popeye’s, instead features handsome hicks, pet alligators and a clique of Southern belles who like to parade around in Scarlett O’Hara frippery. It’s the South as seen by Hollywood writers who’ve never been there, or went there blindfolded.
How to Be a Gentleman
Thursday, Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m., CBS
This sluggish, unfunny sitcom (based on an etiquette book of the same name) stars David Hornsby as men’s magazine columnist Andrew Carlson, a sort of mash-up between Alex P. Keaton and Niles Crane — and every other sitcom dandy through the ages. When his editor (Dave Foley) informs Andrew that the new owner wants to revamp the upscale magazine for younger guy readers (translation: bros), Andrew has to find something to write about besides collar tabs and proper stationery.
In a spooky case of life imitating art, Kevin Dillon shows up as the bully who used to pummel Andrew in high school (though they are clearly a decade apart in age) and is now Andrew’s surest path into the zeitgeist of the young American male. It’s as if we’re watching an “Entourage” episode where Dillon’s Johnny Drama gets cast in a stinker sitcom; you keep waiting for a meta-reveal that never comes. Therefore, welcome to this year’s “$#!* My Dad Says.”
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 9 p.m., Fox
I count myself among the apparently few male TV critics who are completely immune to the so-called “adorable” doe-eyed indie girl charms of one Zooey Deschanel. And boy, has she pulled the bangs over everyone’s eyes with this atrociously cutesy sitcom. Playing a part meant for someone about a decade younger, Deschanel is the recently jilted Jess, who answers a Craigslist roommate ad and moves in with three dudes. Zooey promptly infects their world with her zany, kooky-girl misadventures and mournful screenings of “Dirty Dancing.”
Worse still, she sings. “Did you just make up a theme song for yourself?” one of her new roommates asks. Yes, she did; plug your ears.