By Daniel Walters
Who watches: That vast, mysterious multitude that votes for American Idol.
When we watched it: Sept 5-20
Hours wasted: 5
Sign of the Apocalypse or the new Golden Age of TV? Fox, sadly, has lost its dominance on the “harbinger of moral decline” market.
Cartoons with a surprising number of sex jokes: 5
Seasons of The Simpsons after it stopped being good: 16
Date Cleatus the Fox Football Robot became self-aware: April 19, 2011, 8:11 pm
Ben and Kate
Air time: 8:30 pm, Thursdays
Watch if: You greet immaturity with light amusement, rather than anger.
You meet a person. They’re odd.
And that’s your litmus test for Ben and Kate, a promising new sitcom with an asterisk. Kate (Dakota Johnson, Five Year Engagement) is neurotic and a bit of a coward, while her brother Ben (Nat Faxton, The Cleveland Show) is spontaneous and reckless, childlike and childless.
Only one episode in and already it’s relying on lazy sitcom plots (Ben wants to stop his ex-girlfriend’s marriage! Kate is nervous about sleeping with a new boyfriend! A secret radio earpiece on a date!) But on most sitcoms, plot matters little — character matters a lot. Ben and Kate have a sweet, soft sibling chemistry. To me, they’re endearing. Yet, some people won’t be able stand Ben nor Kate. “Get your life together, Ben and Kate!” they will yell at the screen. “Don’t hide under the table, Ben and Kate!”
The Mindy Project
Air time: 9:30 pm, Tuesdays
Watch if: You think TV could finally use a good female-driven sitcom.
So when we say that The Mindy Project is the best new comedy on television, we mean it has genuine potential, unlike so many other comedies. Mindy Kaling is a very experienced writer, great at creating recognizable comedic characters.
The Mindy Project’s main character, Mindy (played by Kaling) comes off like an evolved, more rounded version of the Kelly character she played on The Office. She’s self-destructive, self-sabotaging, self-absorbed and selfish. Her self-help quest generates just as many disasters as successes. In other words, she’s a recognizable character, but of a type we haven’t seen much on television.
The Mob Doctor
Air time: 9 pm, Mondays
Watch if: The safety of your family depends on it.
That proceeding synopsis had all the craft, effort and passion of The Mob Doctor. You’d think this would be a sure thing. Mob dramas are gripping. Doctor dramas are gripping. But this — this show takes genuine endurance to get through a single episode.
The titular Mob Doctor (Jordana Spiro, My Boys), supposedly has a death threat against her family, but acts as if she lets out a giant sigh whenever the camera stops rolling. Not a single character could in any way be defined as “interesting.” Theoretically, the plot points, when written on a white board in a writer’s room somewhere, could be considered “suspenseful” or “provocative,” but the execution mostly seems like something off of C-SPAN.
SHOULD BE CANCELED
Air time: 9 pm, Thursdays
Watch if: You like mocking it, mercilessly from afar, like the intolerant bully you are.
Fittingly, the series that constantly preached a “seize the day” message burned bright and loud, but its quality died young. Characters on one episode would bear little resemblance to those in the next episode. It couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be dark, silly, zany or preachy; defy stereotypes or propel them; whether it wanted to be an after-school special or a parody of an after-school special.
And so it became a mashup of moments, often clashing, often non-sequiturial, rarely harmonized. Now that ratings are falling, and the magazine covers have moved onto younger, sexier shows, it’s probably time for it to deliver a killer swan song.
And we never did find out what “sectionals” means.