AfterElton Fall 2011 TV Guide: We Watch the New Crap So You Don’t Have To!

It’s surprisingly good.

That’s our take on the upcoming fall television season, based on what we’ve seen and
interviews we’ve done about this season’s new programming. There are at least six
shows that look terrific, and at least eight more than have definite potential.

Of course, there are a few stinkers, but that’s to be expected.

And sure, there are a few shows that seem like they’re aping each other: Once
Upon a Time
and Grimm both taking on fairy tales,
and Pan
and The Playboy Club both exploring life in the 1960s. But in each
case, there is one show that is clearly better than the other.

Thankfully, there are only a few remakes – namely, Charlie’s Angels and Prime

And while the supernatural has long been fodder for TV, this falls continues
the very welcome trend of fantasy becoming more sophisticated, with programming
like A
Gifted Man
and Once Upon a Time aimed squarely at
adult audiences.

The season has one show that everyone’s already talking about: the
time-travel dinosaur show Terra Nova. And there’s one show
that everyone should be talking
about: the brilliant new Sarah Michelle
thriller Ringer. Also not to be missed? Claire Danes’ Homeland, the fairy tale retelling Once Upon a Time, and Apartment 23.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Here are our selections for the best – and
worst – of the upcoming fall season:


Free Agents (NBC)

What Is It? A remake of the UK workplace comedy about a couple of coworkers who sleep together one drunken night, then try to figure out if they really want to date, all while trying to hide their relationship from everyone at the office. 

When Is It On? The show airs
Wednesdays at 10:30 PM, premiering September 14th.

Should You Watch It? Only if you like bragging about watching shows that were canceled after two episodes. Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, The Bird Cage) is woefully miscast as the show’s love interest and has zero chemistry with co-star Kathryn Hahn. We found the writing to be hackneyed (if you like the above promo pic then you might like the show), and even having out writer/executive producer Todd Holland in charge doesn’t seem to have helped. On the plus side, Holland did tell us that one of the secondary characters might have a gay brother who is as much of a horndog as his straight brother. 


(The CW)

What Is It? Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to television, a dark thriller about a desperate woman who
seeks help from her rich twin sister.

When Is It On? Ringer airs Tuesdays at 9 PM, premiering
September 13th.

Should You Watch It? You’d be
crazy not to. We found this to be the single best new show of the year, a
smart, labyrinthine suspense story unlike anything else on television. It’s
Gellar’s show all the way, and she shines. But a word of warning: ignore all
the other reviews, because the surprises they’ll spoil are exactly what make
this a show worth watching.

And we’ve been told by the show’s out co-creator Eric C. Charmelo to expect a gay
character to emerge later in the season and that not everyone is who or what
they seem.

of Dixie
(The CW)

What Is It? A soapy drama
starring The O.C.’s Rachel Bilson about a type-A would-be New York
surgeon who is forced to do a year of primary care in a small town in Alabama
whose down-home residents just might teach her a few things about life and love. Friday
Night Light’s
hunky Scott Porter

When Is It On? The show airs
Mondays at 9 PM, premiering September 16th.

Should You Watch It? Only if you
love Seventh
and the collected works of Nicholas
. Do they grow corn in Alabama?
Either way, they’re sure is plenty of it in this show.


All Night

What Is It? A single-camera
sitcom about the frustrations of a couple of new parents (working mom Christina Applegate and stay-at-home
dad Will Arnett) and their friend,
played by Maya Rudolph.

When Is It On? Up All Night airs Friday nights,
premiering September 14th at 10 PM
before moving to its regular timeslot at 8 PM on September 21st.

Should You Watch It? Only if you’re
a fan of the stars. They try hard and are likable enough (even Arnett), but the
jokes and situations are just too slight.


(The CW)

What Is It? A reality show hosted
by Mario Lopez where reality show
participants like Snooki and Kim Kardashian and other  “celebrities” confront their
so-called “haters” on camera.

When Is It On? The show airs Wednesdays
at 8 PM, premiering September 14th.

Should You Watch It? God, no. That
said, there something kind of fascinatingly “meta” about a reality
show about reality show participants who willingly whore themselves out in the heavily
scripted, extremely contrived reality shows that made them famous, and then
come to this heavily scripted,
extremely contrived reality show to complain that they’re
“misunderstood” by the public at large.


Secret Circle

(The CW)

What Is It? A supernatural drama
about a teenager who goes to live with her grandmother after her mother is
killed, only to learn that she comes from a family of witches – and that she
completes a mysterious “circle” that allows her and a group of other
teens to wield incredible power.

When Is It On? The Secret Circle airs Thursdays at 9
PM, premiering September 15th.

Should You Watch It? Probably.
The show doesn’t break any new ground, but the show’s cast is solid, its
storytelling sure, and its lack of irony is refreshing. Thomas Dekker (as a fellow witch) has a supporting role and the show
comes from out writer Kevin Williamson. But don’t expect any gay characters in the first season.


Broke Girls

What Is It? Sex and the City producer Michael
Patrick King
’s new three-camera sitcom about Max, a working class working
girl, and Caroline, a down-on-her-luck rich debutante, who work together as
waitresses in a diner, planning for the day they can open their own cupcake

When Is It On? It premieres on
September 19th at 9:30 PM before moving to its regular spot on Mondays at 8:30
(after How I Met Your Mother).

Should You Watch It? Probably
not. The buzz is supposedly strong, and the leads are likable, but the jokes
are broad, and it all seemed like very standard sitcom fare to us.


Playboy Club

What Is it? A Mad
-like drama set in the 1960s about the “scandalous” events
at Chicago’s
infamous Playboy Club. “The world was changing,” the actor who
narrates as Hugh Hefner tells us,
“and we were changing it.”

When Is It On? The show airs Mondays
at 10 PM, premiering September 19,

Should You Watch It? Sadly, no. I
almost feel sorry for Eddie Cibrian,
given all the times he’s about to read, “Eddie Cibrian is no Jon Hamm.” That said, Eddie
Cibrian is no Jon Hamm.

Meanwhile, while the Parents Television Council has already condemned the
show, we’re not sure why: compared to today’s cable fare, it’s remarkably tame –
which is frustrating, given a subject matter that calls for much more. And even
more disappointing than the show’s lack of scandal is its lack of authenticity:
unlike Mad Men’s brilliantly
subversive celebration of openly misogynistic attitudes, sensibilities here
seem way too modern, with the men too sensitive and the women too confident.
Still, the show does include a closeted gay character (played by Firefly’s
Sean Maher
) and a closeted lesbian bunny who are secretly part of The
Mattachine Society
, one of the first GLBT rights groups in the U.S.


New Girl

What Is It? A single-camera sitcom
in which (500) Days of Summer’s Zooey Deschanel moves in with three
single male roommates, including noted hottie Max Greenfield.

When Is It On? A New Girl airs on Tuesdays at 9 PM (after
and premieres September 20th.

Should You Watch It? Hard to say. The pilot has been reshot since we saw
it (to allow for the recasting of the character played by Damon Wayans Jr., who has moved onto Happy Endings). That’s a
good thing, because while Deschanel had quirky charm to spare, for a show that
claims to be about “modern sexual politics,” the observations were weirdly
cliché. And while Greenfield’s
character is frequently described as a “douche,” well, he’s still Max


What Is It? Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery) has the ability to
recall in vivid detail everything she’s ever seen, even casually (a real-life
ability called superior autobiographical memory, although not quite the
superhero ability the show makes it out to be). But despite Carrie’s ability,
she hasn’t been able to solve her sister’s murder – a frustration that caused
her to break up with her boyfriend (Dylan
) and ex-detective partner. Now her boyfriend is back, begging her to
once again use her incredible power for the cause of good.

When Is It On? The show airs
Tuesdays at 10 PM, premiering September 20th.

Should You Watch It? Possibly.
The lead is likable and the special effects are cool, but Montgomery doesn’t have much chemistry with
Walsh. Worse, the pilot suffers from hackneyed TV writing: stupidly meet the
would-be murderer alone, then depending on your partner to appear at the nick
of time to save you.


The X Factor (Fox)

What Is It? The U.S. version of the hit UK singing show. 

When Is It On? The show airs
Wednesdays at 8 PM, premiering September 21st.

Should You Watch It? Well, we haven’t seen it yet so its hard to say for sure, but given that we thought The Voice was one “singing competition show” too many, and were completely wrong, we won’t dismiss this yet. And given that it reunites Simon Cowell with Paula Abdul, there is an automatic trainwreck quality that will definitely have us tuning in. Nor does it hurt that it’s hosted by UK hottie Steve Jones



Is It?
A nighttime soap opera about a grown daughter (Brothers
& Sisters’
Emily Van Camp
) who seeks revenge on behalf of her father (Men in Trees’ James Tupper), supposedly dead and seen only in flashbacks. Van Camp’s character declares all-out total war on the woman who did Dad wrong (Madeleine Stowe).

Is It On?
Revenge airs Wednesdays at 10 PM,
premiering September 21st.

You Watch It?
There’s definitely a campy guilty pleasure buried in here
somewhere, but the hackneyed, stupid pilot takes itself way too seriously,
lugubriously droning on self-important platitudes in voice-over and employing
character names like “Emily Thorne” (get it? She’s a thorn in Madeleine Stowe’s side!).
Gossip Girl’s
Connor Paolo

On the plus, we’ve learned that in the third episode, we’ll meet a gay
character much in the vein of The Talented Mr.
and that he’ll play a significant role for the rest of the season.



What Is It? A remake of the
classic and campy 1970s show about three beautiful female detectives who are
given their marching orders via speaker phone from a man they never see.

When Is It On? The show airs on
Thursdays at 8 PM, premiering September 22nd.

Should You Watch It? Incredibly,
yes. It sounds stupid, but one small change in the premise makes it far less
demeaning than the original: the three angels (and hunky Bosley, who is
anything but his dumpy 1970s counterpart and who producers keep referring to as
the “fourth” angel) have all made major mistakes in their past and must now
“redeem” themselves by putting up with the indignity of working for

The producers claim this new version is not campy, but we have no idea what
they’re smoking. Then again, we think it’s a good thing that the three likable leads are brilliant detectives
and expert athletes, yet still have time perfect hair and make-up and an
ever-changing wardrobe. We also loved all the pilot’s cheeky “angel”
and “devil” references.



What Is It? A three-camera sitcom
vehicle for comedienne Whitney Cummings
about an opinionated woman trying to rekindle the romance with her live-in
boyfriend, even as she endures an assortment of quirky, occasionally deranged

When Is It On? Whitney airs on Thursdays at 9:30 PM,
premiering September 22nd.

Should You Watch It? Yes. Whitney
is droller and quirkier than your typical female sitcom lead, and in this case,
she’s almost outshone by her even quirkier supporting cast, Zoe Lister-Jones, Beverly D’Angelo, Maulik Pancholy, and
especially Chris D’Elia, who plays
Cummings’ boyfriend. The pilot
starts slow, but Cummings, like this whole sitcom, grows on you, and in the end, it’s impossible not to
laugh at her sexual roleplay with D’Elia when her “naughty nurse” insists that her hapless boyfriend fill out endless forms in order to get
inside her uniform.


What Is It? A “re-imagining”
of the UK
crime drama series that launched Helen
to superstardom, about a female detective’s efforts to hold her own
in a profession dominated by men.

When Is It On? Prime Suspect airs
Thursdays at 10 PM, debuting September 22nd.

Should You Watch It? Why not? American remakes are rarely as good as
their British counterparts, but they’re giving this one a good faith effort,
with a charismatic lead (E.R.’s Maria Bello) and a solid
script. That said, the sexual politics seemed to us to be about 15 years out of


Person of Interest (CBS)

What Is It? Yet another crime procedural, this time one about a former CIA agent everyone thought was dead who teams with an eccentric billionaire to stop crimes before they happen. Basically, it’s Minority Report with a smaller budget.

When Is It On? The show airs
Thursdays at 9 PM, premiering September 22nd.

Should You Watch It? That depends on whether or not you are a fan of Jim Caviziel’s charisma-free, glassy-eyed acting style. If you like your leads utterly blank and dull, this derivative show is for you. Also starring is Lost’s Michael Emerson, but we doubt he’ll need any Emmy acceptance speeches for this role.


Gifted Man

What Is It? A supernatural drama
about a self-absorbed but brilliant surgeon who is regularly visited by the
ghost of his dead ex-wife – an event that forces him to take stock of his life
and start making changes.

When Is It On? A Gifted Man airs Fridays at 8 PM,
premiering September 23rd.

Should You Watch It? Yes,
indeedy! Everyone’s making a big deal about the fact that A-list movie actor Patrick Wilson is coming to television,
but a bigger deal is the fact that the show’s really quite good. We expected
treacle, especially since it’s basically just a retelling of the overdone A
Christmas Carol
.  But the writing
is strong, the execution is more subtle than the similarly-themed Eli
from a few years back, and the cast is excellent, especially
Wilson and the actress who plays his wife, Jennifer



What Is It? The second 1960s
period drama of the fall, this one involving the pilots and flight attendants
working on now-defunct Pan Am airlines. Christina

When Is It On? Pan Am airs Sundays at 10 PM, premiering
September 25th.

Should You Watch It? Absolutely. It’s basically Mad Men for network television: bigger, broader, and splashier with
stronger, more conventional storylines. But it’s quite different from Mad Men too, in that it cleverly
emphasizes the bright optimism of the early 1960s (not just the racism and
sexism, although that’s here too), and it ends up being a fascinating contrast
with our current age of Complete Pessimism. And what about that leg-room?! Incidentally,
Pan Am is much better than The Playboy Club, which everyone is
going to be comparing it to.

And did we mention that Mike Vogel, the show’s male lead, is extremely hot?

Mike Vogel


What Is It? Fox’s expensive,
much-hyped (and long-delayed) adventure series about a family from a miserable
future Earth who travels back to the time of dinosaurs, to live with a group of
colonists attempting to “start over” in a paradise infused with
danger. Steven Spielberg executive

When Is It On? It premieres with
a two-hour movie on September 26th, airing on Mondays at 8 PM thereafter.

Should You Watch It? You will no
matter what we say! It’s broad, and there’s too much clichéd family drama and
not enough dinosaurs. But it’s got that premise to die for, and while the pilot
isn’t as great as it could’ve been, it’s also much better than it might’ve
been. Last January we asked Brannon Braga, the show’s creator if there might be
a gay character. He said there wasn’t, but it was still early in the show’s
development. We checked back with him this month, and, nope, still nothing.


The Chew (ABC)

What Is It? Here is what is taking the place of All My Children. It’s a talk show centering on food-related and lifestyle topics.

When Is It On? The show airs daily at 1 PM, premiering September 26th.

Should You Watch It? On the plus side, one of the hosts is the out Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear, and Carla Hall, one of the most awesome contestants ever on Top Chef. On the other hand, yet another talk show?




Is It
? A sitcom about a man (Six Feet Under’s hunky Jeremy Sisto) who moves his rebellious
daughter to the suburbs. Rex Lee has
a small role as the guidance counselor.

Is It On?
Suburgatory airs
Wednesdays at 8:30, premiering September 28th.

You Watch It?
No. We know that this is supposed to be a satire, and
we’re definitely no fans of the suburbs ourselves, but the show’s snotty,
clichéd attitude quickly becomes grating.


to Be a Gentleman

David Hornsby (left) and Kevin Dillon

What Is It? A three-camera sitcom
about a stuffy man who writes an old-fashioned advice column (David Hornsby) and how his life changes
when he’s befriended by a beer-drinking idiot (Kevin Dillon).

When Is It On? The show airs Thursdays at 8:30 PM, premiering September 29th.

Should You Watch It? Nope. Once
again, the premise seems about 15 years out of date. What magazine still
publishes a stuffy fashion columnist? Dave
gets some laughs as a desperate-to-be-relevant editor, but Kevin Dillon is just repeating his Entourage
character. The rest of the show’s basically an Odd Couple remake that
leaves no sitcom cliché unturned.


Homeland (Showtime)


What Is It? A thriller about a CIA agent who is convinced that a returning POW is really a double agent intent on attacking America in the name of radical Islamists. 

When Is It On? The show airs
Sundays at 10:00  PM, premiering October 2nd.

Should You Watch It? After Temple Grandin, we’d follow Claire Danes anywhere. Indeed, Danes has another winner here playing CIA agent Carrie Mathison, who is both deeply paranoid and possibly right about a far-fetched, Manchurian Candidate-like plot to overthrow America. Damian Lewis is terrific as the returning soldier and Mandy Patinkin stars as well. If the pilot is any indication, you absolutely don’t want to miss this extremely smart political thriller.


The A-List Dallas (Logo)

What Is It? Just as Bravo spun off their Real Housewives franchise to every city in America, Logo has decided to take their “Housewives with Balls” series The A-List from New York to Dallas. Gays across America steel themselves in preparation.

When Is It On? The show airs
Mondays at 10 PM, premiering October 3rd.

Should You Watch It? We haven’t seen it, but if you’re a fan of The A-List New York, then it should be right up your alley. But is anyone a fan of The A-List New York?


American Horror Story (FX)

What Is It? According to creator Ryan Murphy (Glee), it’s a psycho-sexual horror story. So basically, it’s Glee without the music. (We kid!)

When Is It On? The show airs
Wednesdays at 10:00 PM, premiering October 5th.

Should You Watch It? If you like Ryan Murphy, yes. Reaction among the AfterElton staff ranged from those who liked it to those who thought it was a complete mess. But with a cast that includes Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Denis O’Hare and Frances Conroy, and a plot that has to be seen to believed, we all agree that this is going to be watercooler fodder for a few weeks at least.

Enlightened (HBO)

What Is It? Cable TV’s latest “eccentric” woman offering in the same vein as Nurse Jackie, The Big C and United States of Tara.

When Is It On? The show airs
Mondays at 9:30 PM, premiering October 10th .

Should You Watch It? The first two episodes were a very mixed bag. But given that it features Laura Dern as a woman who cracks up and then wants to remake the world into a better place, and also stars bisexual actor/writer Mike White (who is also the show’s creator), we’re inclined to give it a chance.



Is It?
A sitcom about three different men who are trying to figure out
what it means to be a man in 2011.

Is It On?
Man Up airs
Thursdays at 8:30, premiering October 18th.

You Watch It?
No. It’s a blatant rip-off of both Modern Family crossed
with Judd Apatow’s brand of slacker
comedy. Both are better in their original forms.


Upon a Time

What Is It? A contemporary
fantasy about how an evil witch has trapped all the occupants of the land of
fairy tales into real-world counterparts in a small town, and only a small boy
and a down-on-her-luck woman who just might be the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming can save them.

When Is It On? It airs Sundays at
8 PM, premiering October 23rd.

Should You Watch It? With bells on!
In any other year, this might be the most unusual show of the season. But given
that contemporary fantasy is hot, hot, hot right now and that fairy tale
retellings are suddenly all the rage on both the big and small screen, this isn’t
exactly daring. Still, the pilot’s blending of fairy tale whimsy with some real
grown-up angst still struck us as fresh. There are a thousand ways they could
screw this up, but for the time being, it’s one of the year’s most promising
new shows.

Even better, writer Jane Espenson is penning a few episodes. Espenson is a
huge friend of the gays and wherever she goes, something gay often follows.
Nothing official yet, but our fingers are crossed!


What Is It? A crime procedural
with a twist. In the world of this show, fairy tales are real, and detective
Nick Burkhardt just happens to be the last descendant of the famous Brothers
with the ability to see supernatural creatures as they really are – and
the only person able to keep the “balance” between good and … well,
evil fairy tale characters. Every week he’s involved in another fairy
tale-related crime.

When Is It On? Grimm airs Fridays
at 10 PM, premiering October 21st.

Should You Watch It? No. Grimm pales in the shadow of the far
superior Once Upon a Time. Both the
“fantasy” and “crime” aspects seemed way too simplistic and
dumbed down to us. On the plus side, it stars gay fave Sasha Roiz and the hunky David Giuntoli.



What Is It? A new animated series
created by (and starring the voice talents of) Jonah Hill, about an extremely precocious seven-year-old being
raised by a couple of gay dads.

When Is It On? Sunday nights,
premiering October 30th.

Should You Watch It? If it
interests you. We haven’t seen the
full pilot yet, but overly precocious kids already seem overdone, not just in
general, but even specifically on Fox’s Sunday animated line-up. Still, anything that get Fox’s
animation out of the Seth MacFarlane
rut is probably a good thing.



Apartment 23 (ABC)

What Is It? A sitcom about a
naïve woman who comes to New York
determined to find success with her “life plan,” only to immediately be
fired and end up with the roommate from hell (Krysten Ritter), with whom she eventually forges a very wary

When Is It On? TBD: late-fall or

Should You Watch It? Yes. It
doesn’t all work, but the two leads (Ritter and Gossip Girl’s Dreama Walker)
are terrific, and the premise of a War of the Roses-like roommate
situation is definitely something new. Plus, James Van Der Beek is surprisingly funny playing himself as the horrible
roommate’s “gay BFF except straight,” a former TV heartthrob who uses
flannel shirt to bed women.


Bedlam (BBC America)

What Is It? A supernatural series set in an apartment building called “Bedlam Heights” that was once a mental asylum. The place is haunted and lead character Jed Harper (Theo James) can see the ghosts that haunt his neighbors. One of those neighbors is played by out UK singer Will Young.

When Is It On? Saturday nights at 10:00 pm ET, premiering October 1st.

Should You Watch It? Eh. The show finds plenty of opportunities to get sexy lead Theo James shirtless, so there’s that. Also having out singer/actor Will Young playing a romantic part is something worth supporting. But the series is perhaps too serious, and scary movie cliches abound. When practically every scene ends with walls bleeding or writing on a steamed mirror or a character getting sucked under the water in the bathtub, well, the suspense starts to wear thin. Too many spooks spoil the pot.