Oct 12 2012 3:00pm

Should I Watch?: The Fall 2012 Episode 2 Test, Part 1 (666 Park Avenue, Ben and Kate, and More!)

666 Park Avenue posterSo very many new shows this fall season, and what with a vast phalanx of returning favorites (hello, The Mentalist, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother and—thank God!Fringe!), it is important to be choosy when it comes to allowing any of them a permanent place on my viewing schedule. Sure, room is made each year by the conclusion (good-bye, House) or cancellation (farewell, The Secret Circle) of, and/or my utter fed-upness with (good riddance, Gossip Girl!) former placeholders, but still, I can’t watch all the shows, and so must decide from the outset whether a series is worthy of my precious time.

My technique? I apply the Episode 2 Test to all pilots; if I reach the end credits and I am not utterly convinced that the next installment is essential to my life’s happiness, then I cut out the show entirely—at least until summer reruns, anyway. Of course, there are times when The Episode 2 Test fails me, and I find myself out of the loop on a show that hits the zeitgeist dead-on (it took me months to cotton on to Revenge, for example), and there are other times when my positive reaction to a pilot has led me astray (for Exhibit A, see Terra Nova). But on the whole, this is the best and only way I know to winnow out the wheat from the televisual chaff, and in so doing allow myself the dignity of at least a few hours spent off my couch.

And so, to this season’s bumper crop of newness (so far)…

666 Park Avenue cast666 Park Avenue
Sundays, 10 pm, ABC

It’s about: The devil (Terry O’Quinn), who is of course a Manhattan property magnate, and who specializes in corrupting the souls of residents in his flagship apartment building, the gorgeously appointed Drake—located, actually, at 999 Park Avenue. (Though in reality, 999 Park Avenue is fairly nondescript). Into his seductive orbit appears impossibly beautiful couple Henry (Dave Annable) and Jane (Rachael Taylor), the latter of whom begins to suspect something is awry…
Why I tuned in: The lure of the dark side.
Where’s the love?: In only the first episode, we saw much canoodling between Henry and Jane, the potential breakdown of one resident couple’s marriage and a husband so devoted to his dead wife that he was willing to kill for her. So, that’s sweet? Also, the Devil is married! To Vanessa Williams! (Ugly Betty must feel so validated.)
Episode 2 Test: PASS
Grade: B
Comment: At the end of the pilot, I was desperate for more; great, gorgeous, trashy television, with twists aplenty and the promise of much more to come. I’m hooked.

Ben and Kate posterBen and Kate
Tuesdays, 8:30 pm, FOX

It’s about: Kate (Dakota Johnson), single mom to precocious Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), whose rapscallion, strangely charismatic big brother Ben (Nat Faxon) moves back to their small hometown, bringing wackiness in his wake.
Why I tuned in: Aside from Ross and Monica in Friends, how often do you see shows focused on a grown brother and sister? For those of us who don’t have sisters but who do have a brother (and yet who aren’t a brother ourselves), it’s nice to see that particular familial relationship portrayed. Also, British actress Lucy Punch plays Kate’s best friend BJ, and she is always very funny.
Where’s the love?: All our main players are terminally single, so no doubt random romances will emerge in due course. And Ben’s best-friend Tommy (Echo Kellem—such a cool name!) carries an unrequited torch for Kate.
Episode 2 Test: FAIL
Grade: B
Comment: BJ’s outrageous comments were the biggest laugh moments for me, and I suppose the fact that this comedy has laugh moments puts it in somewhat rarefied company. Still, and I may come to regret this decision, I ultimately decided Ben’s outrageousness was just that little bit too much for me; he’s Ferris Bueller all grown up and yet not, which could get wearing, I suspect.

Brickleberry posterBrickleberry
Tuesdays, 10:30 pm, Comedy Central

It’s about: The hateful staff and oddly anthropomorphic wildlife at Brickleberry National Park.
Why I tuned in: Animation in all its forms is a weakness of mine; adult-orientated animation of the Family Guy school particularly so.
Where’s the love?: Probably the hot new ranger in town and the dorky, whiny ranger who keeps hitting on her. Meh.
Episode 2 Test: FAIL
Grade: F
Comment: So, shocking, stupid and lewd = funny. I had no idea. Nor did I have any idea before this pilot began that Daniel Tosh, host of internet viral video clip show Tosh 2.0 (after which it airs), had anything to do with this series. Now, I love Tosh 2.0, some of its more sophomoric humor notwithstanding, but Brickleberry is all sophomoric humor… which makes it entirely not worth standing.

Elementary posterElementary
Thursdays, 10 pm, CBS

It’s about: Sherlock Holmes (as the inventive title might suggest) in modern-day New York.
Why I tuned in: Aside from Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone), English accent intact, as Sherlock and—intriguingly!—Lucy Liu as his faithful Watson, also… it’s Sherlock Holmes in modern-day New York!
Where’s the love?: Dare we suggest a Holmes and Watson liaison? Slash fic writers of the past century or so rejoice!
Episode 2 Test: PASS
Grade: A+
Comment: This could have gone so terribly wrong, especially considering what must be inevitable comparisons to the superlative (and just as inventively titled) BBC modern Holmes adaptation, Sherlock. Happily, what we have here is a taut crime procedural filled with top actors—Aidan Quinn is also along for the ride—crackling wordplay and immediately engaging characters with promising back stories; Miller’s Holmes is every bit as fascinating, awe-inspiring and yet subtly pitiable as is Benedict Cumberbatch’s bravura rendition of this iconic detective. Elementary is my favorite new show of 2012 so far. And since it’s from a US network, at least it will give us more than three episodes per season.

Guys with Kids posterGuys with Kids
Wednesdays, 8:30 pm, NBC

It’s about: Three guys who, er, have kids.
Why I tuned in: The opportunity to see erstwhile, and somewhat unlikely, teen heartthrob Jesse Bradford as not only a proper grownup, but also trying to be funny, was not to be missed.
Where’s the love?: Two of the guys are happily married, while Bradford’s Nick is divorced and so doubtless much will be made of the hazards of single-father dating.
Episode 2 Test: FAIL
Grade: C+
Comment: Look, it’s not awful, not unfunny, but there are way too many annoying characters/actors for me to want to stick with this one. Comedian Anthony Anderson is simply exhausting (even his 2-minute cameo in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was a surfeit of his shtick), Jamie Lynn Siegler…no, and Sheila (Erinn Hayes), shrewish ex-wife of Jesse Bradford: hell, no. The good, surprisingly enough, is the still-cute Bradford, alongside the where-the-hell-have-you-been-all-my-life? awesome of relative newcomer Zach Cregger, who has rom-com leading man written all over his every smile and impeccably-delivered quip. But the bad outweighs the good here – even if there is a kid named Yoda!

Last Resort posterLast Resort
Thursdays, 8 pm, ABC

It’s about: The crew of nuclear submarine the USS Colorado, the captain of which (Andre Braugher) questions a suspect order to fire on Pakistan and is subsequently relieved of command and is fired on by his own people. And it’s a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top! We think!
Why I tuned in: Well, hello Scott Speedman in a Navy uniform! Excellent actors like Braugher, Robert Patrick and Bruce Davison in the cast also didn’t hurt. Plus, submarines! Who doesn’t love submarines?
Where’s the love?: Speedman’s XO Sam Kendal has a beloved wife (Jessy Schram; Karen from Falling Skies!) back home, and there are a few female officers onboard who will doubtless keep things interesting. On land, the exotically beautiful Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) has so far said very little but clearly has a role to play, potentially with a tortured Navy SEAL (Daniel Lissing) who knows way more than he has yet said about the Colorado’s—and indeed the world’s—predicament.
Episode 2 Test: PASS
Grade: A+
Comment: I had no clue what this one was going to be about, so the potential outbreak of worldwide nuclear war took me completely by surprise. And I’m hungry for more! (Not the worldwide nuclear war thing, obviously. That would be bad.)

Made in JerseyMade in Jersey

It’s about: A lovely young female attorney from New Jersey making it big in a prestigious Manhattan law office.
Why I tuned in: It’s been a while since Ally McBeal sashayed her mini-skirted way into a courtroom, all spunky and clever and impassioned about various causes, and it seemed outspoken Jersey girl Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery) might fill that long-felt void.
Where’s the love?: Among fellow lawyers, most likely.
Episode 2 Test: FAIL
Grade: C
Comment: Montgomery is enchanting, love Donna Murphy (who plays Martina’s mother), and hey, I’m all about the legal drama, but so much else this season has—astonishingly—passed muster that my threshold for committing to Episode 2 of anything (especially anything not within the bounds of my particular geekly bailiwick) has to be LOVE, and for this one I felt merely a mild like. (As, it seems, did most everyone; the show was just cancelled, after airing only two episodes.)

Continued in the Episode 2 Test, Part 2!


Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.

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Lana Baker
1. lanalucy
Despite Terry O'Quinn and the eye-candy, 666 Park Avenue failed completely to get me interested. It was pretty, really, but sloppy and predictable, and I didn't even bother watching the second episode on the DVR.

I'm still on the fence about Elementary, but I'm willing to keep watching until I decide. I love Last Resort. As you say, Scott Speedman in a Navy uniform! Plus, there's intrigue everywhere.
Elizabeth Halliday
2. Ibbitts
Of the seven programs listed here, three never made it to my watch list because I don't watch sitcoms. For the remaining four:
666 Park Avenue made my list because of Terry O-Quinn and my guess that it might be loosely based on The Devil's Advocate, but I didn't even make it to the first commercial break before turning off the TV. I don't enjoy gross. (Big FAIL)
Elementary is seeming to hold it's own so far, mostly due to the efforts of Jonny Lee Miller. He does this thing with his face when he's frustrated that I find both compelling and interesting. (Pass/B)
Made in Jersey was cancelled by me after the pilot. (I did make it all the way through this one.) I didn't find anything offensive about the program; it just didn't hold my attention very well.
Last Resort was put on my list due to The Hunt for Red October/SeaQuest parallel. I really didn't expect to like it as I am not one of Andre Braugher's biggest fans, but it grabbed me by the throat from the very first scene, and I've been hanging on ever since. By far, the best of the bunch. (A++)
3. SassyT
I only watched The Last Resort out of the shows you listed and I really like it. The mystery is keeping me watching (plus I like military shows generally...never miss an episode of NCIS or NCIS:LA). Plus there are some great scene chewing actors on the show.

I keep meaning to watch Elementary but it comes on at the same time as a show I'm already invested in so I need to go to my on demand channel and watch the ones I missed. I love Jonny Lee Miller. Hack the Planet!!!LOL
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