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Fall TV: Our critics find gem in 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - and some duds

September 24, 2013|By Mary McNamara and Robert Lloyd

This week marks the official start of the fall TV season. Some series have already gotten off to a start, including Fox's comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and NBC's thriller "Blacklist" (with the official trailer above). There are almost too many new shows to keep track of — which is where Times TV critics Mary McNamara and Robert Lloyd can help.

In the conversation below, the pair discuss their new favorites — and, not surprisingly, uncover a few duds along the way.

Mary McNamara: Robert, it's that time of year. The fall pilots are in bloom again (insert Katharine Hepburn accent here), such a peculiar flower. Though not such a dazzling display this year I must admit. Still, there’s plenty to like. I’m already on record having fallen for “Sleepy Hollow” (Fox), so please don’t tell me you hate it, and I agree that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox) is the most promising comedy, though the main character's annoyance factor threatens to go from yellow straight to red. “Blacklist" (NBC) is hands-down my favorite of the new American dramas. It may not be the most original idea on record — “Silence of the Lambs” mercifully minus the cannibalism — but watching James Spader, um, chew up a role remains one of the great pleasures in life. Have no idea what to say about the political thriller “Hostages” (CBS), though. It seems more than mildly absurd, and not in a “Scandal”-icious way. Also, I have never understood the appeal of Dylan McDermott (though I do find it hilarious that Dermott Mulroney, with whom McDermott is often confused) is coming to NBC mid-season in the political thriller “Crisis.” How will we tell them apart?

FALL TV 2013: Watch the trailers

Robert Lloyd: Having encapsulated the entirety of the fall season show by show for the Times Fall Preview, it is (paradoxically) all something of a blur. [Rifles through notes.] Among the broadcast-network series,  although most of what's new is no worse than professional, little I've seen seems (at this new-colt stage) likely to create the kind of conversation that surrounds a show like "The Good Wife" or "30 Rock"— NBC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," maybe, but more because it's part of the ongoing saga of creator Joss Whedon than because it brings something especially new to TV. I don't hate "Sleepy Hollow" (I actively like Nicole Beharie, who plays the cop-partner of a character who has nothing to do with Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane), though I doubt I'll follow it closely; "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is indeed good and also righteous in the balance of its casting and (romantic interests notwithstanding) absent the adolescent sex jokes that make a minefield out of many potential family comedies. (By Fox standards, it is chaste.) On the other hand, there is its spiritual inverse, "Dads" (also on Fox).

Mary: Agree re: Nicole Beharie, who is absolutely the find of the season. (Not that she was exactly hidden, starring in movies as she has, but you know what I mean.) There seems to be a slow-grow attitude at play here, especially among the comedies, which may not be a bad thing in terms of quality but is always worrisome in terms of ratings/fear of cancellation. “The Michael J. Fox Show” (NBC) is appealing in many ways, though the sum of its parts does not add up to a whole, and I can’t wait to see Robin Williams meets Sarah Michelle Gellar in “The Crazy Ones” (CBS). I am still trying to figure out how far my hackles are truly raised by “Trophy Wife”  (ABC). Bradley Whitford and Marcia Gay Harden grant it a certain benefit-of-the-doubt factor but the title is just plain sexist (they know that right? The female creators?), as is the conceit. A young and lovely woman must navigate the perilous waters of new step-motherhood complicated by two very flawed ex-wives (one a basilisk surgeon, the other a dippy granola cruncher) while Whitford’s husband looks on, vaguely amused. Except, of course, he’s the common denominator of these failed marriages so why does he get to be the quiet center? I mean, it’s not as initially infuriating as “Cougar Town,” which became a pretty good show, so maybe I’m over-reacting. Also, I know we are all but legally required to surrender to Showtime's “Masters of Sex” (Michael Sheen! Lots of cool period clothes and science-creepy sex!) but an episode and a half in, I feel a headache coming on. As for “Dads,” I keep feeling that if we all stop talking about it, it will just quietly slink away.

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