matt zoller seitz

The Ten New Shows We’re Most (and Least) Excited For

The 2012 upfronts are over! Dozens of brand-new midseason and fall 2012 television shows were announced, and we offered snap judgments on all of them. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) And now that we’ve had, oh, 24 hours to reflect, we’ve chosen the five shows we are most looking forward to and the five shows that we’ll probably end up watching but only because it’s our job.

A remake of the same-named U.K. series about the complex relationships between four women and their significant others. The main characters are a successful lawyer (Alyssa Milano), her hard-partying baby sister (Jes Macallan), and their mutual friends, a recent widow (Rochelle Aytes) and a therapist (Yunjin Kim) who’s gotten horribly entangled with one of her patients. American networks have a long, not-so-proud tradition of watering down British television, and this could be no exception. But there’s no obvious, exploitable hook in this concept, nor much U.S. awareness of the original, which means that the people involved with the remake must have done it mainly because they loved the original and thought it could work here, too.
A female detective (Meagan Good) who grew up as a maid’s daughter in a rich white household returns home to solve the murder of the family’s heiress, her closest childhood friend. The more I think about this premise the more excited I am about Infamous. It’s plugging a working-class African-American woman into a white, old-money, Revenge-type milieu, and putting her in charge of solving a murder that affected her personally. How can that not be fun? Photo: NBC/2012 NBCUniversal, Inc.
J.J. Abrams (Lost) gets his mythology on again with this sci-fi series set after a mysterious catastrophe that rids the world of all forms of electricity. The survivors eke out a precarious living in the ruins while trying to get to the bottom of the whole mess. Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) has a plum supporting role as a warlord. Godawful postapocalyptic sci-fi tends to outnumber the good stuff by a factor of ten to one (at least), but Abrams is the right guy to add an entry to the positive side of the ledger. Photo: Cameron
Supposedly the cutdown for this series didn’t go over well at the Fox upfronts this week, but I thought all the promotional material has done a bang-up job of selling this Mindy Kaling project about a young doctor with, it appears, some pretty severe impulse control and judgment problems. I like the fairly recent trend of putting women in the lead role of scripted shows and making them just as screwed up as many of TV’s male protagonists without losing sleep over whether anybody finds them “relatable.” Kaling, who’s also the driving creative force behind this series, is smart, funny, and sexy, and has built up an enthusiastic fan base that’ll follow her anywhere. This feels like a next-stage career booster to me.
Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman take a nuclear submarine on the run after disobeying orders to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan, and end up on a tropical island. So, Crimson Tide turns into Mutiny on the Bounty. It could be a disaster (a lot of my friends are utterly baffled that I’d have the slightest interest in this series), but the strangeness of the premise intrigues me. It’s not as though you read the synopsis and think, Oh, not that story again! Plus: It’s overseen by Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and stars Andre Braugher as a sub skipper. Come on, you know you want to see that. Photo: Craig Sjodin/? 2012 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
The last time Bill Pullman played the president, he was roaring through the sky in a jet fighter, blasting UFOs with heat-seeking missiles. Now he’s back in another simulated Oval Office, but this time the project is a domestic sitcom. That happens to be set in the White House. The dad is the president. And that makes it more than just another domestic sitcom, him being president. Right? [Cricket, cricket.] Jenna Elfman is the first lady. [Cricket, cricket.]  Photo: 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Justin Kirk (Weeds) plays a veterinarian at a major New York City animal hospital who’s brilliant with animals but terrible at dealing with people. This just sounds so phony to me, so network faux edgy. You can almost see the network suits’ eyes lighting up during the pitch meeting; they’re always worried about making sure that lead characters are “sympathetic” rather than just letting them be interesting, which is not necessarily the same thing. Plus, I’m just so sick and tired of the “brilliant bastard who’s a great guy deep down” model. It’s safe, boring, and played out. It’s also a very expensive form of self-flattery for network bosses with green-light power, but that’s a whole other discussion. Photo: 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Suburbanites Debbie (Jami Gertz) and Marty (Lenny Venito) buy a house next door to a family who are secretly space aliens, and who have adopted the pseudonyms of famous athletes (Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, etc). This looks like a Homeboys From Outer Space–level disaster. Maybe I’m secretly looking forward to it? Nah.
Janet Montgomery plays Martina Garretti, a New Jersey native who gets a job at a hoity-toity law firm run by Kyle MacLachlan, and has to fight her way to respect by relying on her working-class grit and … Zzzzzzzzzz.  Is there anything more calculated and less genuine than the typical network TV show’s sympathy for working-class people? Photo: ????2012 CBS BROADCASTING INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Steven Amiel) battles street crime and his own rich family’s treachery by creating the alter ego of Green Arrow. Aside from Smallville, I can’t think of a recent TV series that did comic-book style (or story lines) well. And the early promo material for this one makes Green Arrow look like a fashion model/gymnast who scowls a lot.
Ten New Shows We’re Most (and Least) Excited For