Every new TV series is a leap of faith — for everyone involved.
For network bosses, who buy and schedule the show based only on a pilot episode and a fuzzy notion of what will follow.
For each show’s creative team, who make it up as they go along. For its actors, who typically sign on for as much as seven seasons after reading no more than the first script.
And, of course, for its viewers, who, week to week, can only trust that the show will keep holding their interest.
Unlike movies or almost any other art form, a TV series isn’t a self-contained thing (at least, not until the final episode has aired). Until then, it exists as a work-in-progress, an unfolding relationship between the people who make it and the people who watch.
All this comes to mind for a TV critic who’s expected to recommend which new series the audience should watch, or avoid, on the basis of having only seen the debut episode.
Let’s face it: The first episode provides only a first dose of clues (whether encouraging or cautionary) for how the series might emerge.
The things you like about a new show, you can only hope are part of its DNA.
The things you don’t like, you can hope will be corrected — that is, if you decide the show is worth a second chance at winning your love.
Maybe the safest way to express one’s gut reaction to a new TV show is with a simple “if-then” statement.
For instance, ABC’s “Quantico”: IF this conspiracy thriller can maintain the twisted, rambunctious (and sexy) storytelling of its terrific pilot, THEN I’ll never miss an episode.
Conversely, I could say that, IF episodes beyond the premiere of NBC’s “Blindspot” can convince me there’s a story here that’s more than skin-deep, THEN I might consider overlooking the exploitative, peek-a-boo premise of displaying the clues to the prevailing mystery as tattoos covering a naked woman.
NBC is taking a big swing with “Best Time Ever,” its comedy-music-and-lots-of-other-stuff hour to be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. IF just half of those ambitious, even brave, aspirations come true, THEN “Best Time Ever” will be a welcome change of pace.
As for the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” can lightning continue to strike week after week? IF this series can sustain the infectious abandon of its pilot, and IF it can continue to do justice to the rapturous Rachel Bloom (its star and executive producer), THEN “Crazy” will be the fall’s big crazy breakout hit.
Regarding ABC’s sitcom “Dr. Ken”: IF the second episode can make me do what I never did throughout the premiere (even crack a smile), THEN I might revise my prognosis that, from the get-go, it’s terminal.
What about Don Johnson’s return to series TV in ABC’s “Blood & Oil”? IF this melodrama set in boomtown North Dakota can stay true to the epic sweep and larger-than-life characters of its pilot episode, THEN it should bring in a gusher of viewers.
IF you like campy horror and pretty girls, THEN you can count on creator Ryan Murphy to deliver with Fox’s “Scream Queens.”
But IF you’re willing to buy into any part of Fox’s cartoonish medical-actioner “Rosewood” (especially the idea that, beneath his swagger and Adonis physique, its hero is a borderline invalid) THEN there’s a bridge in New York City someone’s eager to sell you.
CBS’ comedy “Life in Pieces” is taking a large-ensemble, entwined look at an extended modern family, but in an unusual format: four freestanding tales per half-hour episode. IF viewers warm to this piecemeal style, THEN “Pieces” could prove a fresh alternative to the well-worn “Modern Family.”
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