As the year closes, let's take a look at which shows worked and which didn't during the first half of the 2011-2012 season.
Despite initial reviews, some exceeded initial impressions while others started off well and waned. Still others, though highly anticipated (and promoted), failed miserably.
First the bad news, led by ABC and NBC, both of which are having a particularly bad year.
Pan Am, ABC (canceled)
Charlie's Angels, ABC (canceled)
Man Up, ABC (canceled)
Happy Endings, ABC
Two and a Half Men, CBS
Up All Night, NBC
Playboy Club, NBC (canceled)
Prime Suspect, NBC (canceled)
Free Agents, NBC (canceled)
ABC and NBC share the same problem, by the way. Their executives are picking programs with characters written as total jerks. The comedy and drama fall flat when you don't have any respect for the leads.
Suburgatory is an example. In the show, a father moves his teenaged daughter from the city to the suburbs to get her away from negative influences. But the father, himself, is the problem. He's a jerk who treats women poorly and leaves his unlikable daughter to clean up his messes.
Why do the network suits think viewers will keep coming back for that?
Take the successful shows, by contrast:
Two Broke Girls, CBS
The Office, NBC
Rules of Engagement, CBS
Blue Bloods, CBS
NCIS: Los Angeles, CBS
Last Man Standing, ABC
All of the above have struggling characters who may be imperfect, but they are essentially good and likeable. Take Two Broke Girls. The women are flawed, but they always do the right thing, even if it costs them. Much of the humor, in fact, comes from their ability to make miscreants look like morons. Now that's funny.
There are some mediocre shows that fall between the two categories, of course. In my book, these include New Girl (doing well, but a little too silly), The Office (finding its way without Steve Carell), Parks and Recreation (stagnant after a couple of seasons), and some of the dramas, like Rizzoli & Isles, Covert Affairs and Body of Proof. These are pretty good, but not up there with the best.
At the top of the heap, are some older shows that are still going strong - and I can't say enough about these. They are well-written with the strongest characters, the best acting and superior direction. They are:
The Closer, TNT
Modern Family, ABC
The Middle, ABC
The Good Wife, CBS
The Big Bang Theory, CBS
White Collar, USA
Royal Pains, USA
Here's to a New Year with more TV programs in the best category and fewer bombs. With programs like 30 Rock, Cougar Town and Necessary Roughness coming back to the schedule, it may be a fun winter. Cheers!