Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall TV 2015, Week Two: The John Stamos v. Rob Lowe Eternal Youth Showdown

The second week of fall TV presented a slight improvement over the first. This year's new shows may not represent TV living life to the fullest, but at least all of this week's shows have a pulse. (Even if not all of the characters do.)

Read on to get the beats per minute.

Grandfathered / The Grinder

Grandfathered and The Grinder are a sharp pairing on Fox’s part; they have similar sensibilities, likely play to a similar crowd, and in their first week, actually got the exact same rating (1.5). They also had similar weaknesses in their pilots; they’re both half-hour sitcoms with fairly involved premises that required their first episodes to cover a lot of ground very quickly, leading to stories and relationships that felt a bit thin. Luckily for both shows, the best part of both their pilots were the casts’ chemistry and their comedic sensibilities, two things that generally do hold over—and improve—from the first episode. Todd VanDerWerff said that at this year’s TCAs, there were Grandfathered people and there were Grinder people, and I’m probably a Grandfathered person, but it really comes down to the cast and concept that works best for you personally. (Paget Brewster 4 lyfe!) These are two potentially strong comedies, on a network that has turned into a surprising home for strong comedies.

Code Black

Code Black basically is ER. The only elaboration on ER’s concept is that, instead of being set in an emergency room, Code Black is set in a super emergency emergency room, one that goes into critical we-have-no-more-resources mode pretty much every day. Code Black is not an original show. More or less every story beat in the pilot is something that you’ve seen on ER, or House, or even Scrubs, often with a great deal more subtlety or style. (If you see the whole birth/death delivery-room/emergency-room dichotomy in the first episode, you’re probably not looking at a very subtle show.) That said, Code Black has several strong players in its ensemble, and while the narrative tools it wields may be blunt instruments, they can still be effective. I even teared up once. God help me.

Dr. Ken

The major problem with Dr. Ken is that it’s not funny. There are other issues—none of the characters are very well defined, which in turn makes the show not so much low-concept as no-concept—but those can be, and often are, overcome with time, as a show works out its kinks. A total lack of comedic sensibility presents a less surmountable obstacle. But others may see it differently. Dr. Ken is kind of a throw-back to the 90s sitcoms of yore, and if the premiere ratings are any indication, that’s something that’s appealing to people, right now. If that’s what tickles your funny bone, have at.

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