Fall 2011: 27 New Shows, But is There Anything Worth Watching?

Comedy makes a comeback with 11 new tries

By the numbers, there are 27 new series on the five broadcast networks overall – four more than last year.  And two of those shows – dramas A Gifted Man on CBS and Grimm on NBC – happen to be positioned on Friday, so the networks are still trying to program the troubled evening.  New dramas continue to outnumber new comedies (14 to 11), but 11 upcoming chucklers is the most we have seen in the category on a fall line-up in five years. So what was once considered “dead” is attempting a comeback, with ABC and NBC, in particular, are expanding to a second night of comedies. 

CBS has the best prime-time line-up, which stems from years of smart planning.  And it's home to two of the more promising new entries: sitcom 2 Broke Girls (out of How I Met Your Mother) on Monday, and J.J. Abrams thriller Person of Interest (opposite Grey’s Anatomy on ABC) on Thursday.  The network was wise to move CSI out of the plum Thursday 9 p.m. hour for riveting looking Person of Interest.  But new sitcom lead-in How to Be a Gentleman looks painfully unfunny, and keeping three hours of the fading CSI franchise on the line-up is reminiscent of NBC overusing the Law & Order trio (and eventually shooting themselves in the foot, so to speak, for doing so).  It’s too much already. 

CBS should get credit for positioning aforementioned new drama A Gifted Man in the Friday 8 p.m. anchor position, but this story of a man communicating with his dead ex-wife isn't going to work. Also, positioning original episodes of Rules of Engagement in the Saturday 8 p.m. half-hour isn't exactly a bold maneuver. Sony Pictures Television must have made quite an attractive deal financially to keep it in production for additional episodes in off-network. 

New CBS crime solver Unforgettable, meanwhile, is positioned well in the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot out of NCIS: Los Angeles, but moving current occupant The Good Wife to Sundays at 9 p.m. means the night will skew considerably older. Still, there is every reason to believe CBS will dominate the season once again in total viewers, while Fox should have no trouble winning the season.

Fox, which has never been one to compete in fourth quarter because of the preemptions for baseball and the absence of American Idol (until midseason), is poised for its most successful fall season to-date thanks to the arrival of The X Factor.  Nothing is a given, of course, and many insiders are wondering if a singing competition in the fall will have the same draw as Idol in midseason.  But reuniting Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul in the format seems a pretty safe bet.  Two nights (and two and-one-half hours) of The X Factor will likely lift Fox to victory among adults 18-49, while offering solid lead-in support to promising looking new sitcom I Hate My Teenage Daughter on Wednesday.

Also on Fox, upcoming Zooey Dechanel sitcom New Girl out of returning Glee on Tuesday (and into relocated Raising Hope) could generate some buzz, and the network is keeping its Sunday night animation fresh with new arrival Allen Gregory out of The Simpsons this fall, and Napoleon Dynamite, based on the theatrical of the same name, in midseason.  But long-awaited Steven Spielberg dinosaur drama Terra Nova didn't look as promising as expected based on the clips shown at the presentation, and anchoring Monday minus any proven lead-in support is a tough assignment.

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