The fall 2009 TV season opens up its floodgates this week and lets loose a tsunami of new shows. We’ve got everything from tough cops to hilariously dysfunctional families to mopey teenage vampires to rodent-eating space invaders. But you never can tell which shows will be good and which will suck so hard they’ll pull the remote out of your hand. Nonetheless, you can always make an educated guess ... or a rash pronouncement based on innate prejudice. Either one’s good by me. So, here’s my snap judgment for the best and worst of the upcoming TV season.
“Glee” (FOX, already airing): It’s hard to tell what “Glee” has more of: buzz or advertising. Either way, it’s gotten a head start this season. And its clever conceit—wedding high school geek empowerment with “American Idol”-style musical numbers—is winning major praise. “Community” (NBC, debuts 9/17): Joel McHale and Chevy Chase as instructors at a low-rent community college? Sounds like a recipe for funny to me. Plus, it’s a sitcom that does not involve wacky, dysfunctional families. Bonus! “Bored to Death” (HBO, debuts 9/20): The quirky cast (Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson) is enough to pique interest in this oddball “noir”-otic comedy about a frequently stoned writer who rents himself out as a (not very good) detective on craigslist. “FlashForward” (ABC, debuts 9/24): A mysterious event makes everyone on Earth black out and see the future. But can their destinies be avoided? Even though the mythology sounds dense on this one, it’s written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and Brannon Braga (“24,” “Star Trek: Enterprise”), so the potential for smart sci fi is sky-high. “V” (ABC, debuts 11/3): You can’t lose with this one. Whether this sci-fi reboot is “Battlestar Galactica”-sharp or a total lizard-faced alien cheesefest, it’ll make for a fitting tribute to the much-loved ’80s original.
“Mercy” (NBC debuts 9/23): A medical drama with doctors, nurses, emergency rooms. I’m bored already. “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS, debuts 9/22): CBS’s Navy cop drama goes the “CSI: Location” route with Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J in tow. (Yikes!) It’s just like “NCIS”—only, you know, cheaper for the studio to shoot because it’s set in exotic Los Angeles. “Eastwick” (ABC, debuts 9/23): If you’ve been waiting patiently for a spin-off of 1987’s Witches of Eastwick, here it is. Cher has been replaced by Rebecca Romijn, which is kind of an improvement, and it could wind up being campy fun; but the commercials look like nothing more than “Desperate Housewives” crossed with “Charmed.” “Parenthood” (NBC, scheduled for midseason replacement): So, apparently, TV programmers haven’t been to the movies since Bush I left office. Remember the 1989 movie starring Steve Martin and Keanu Reeves? No reason you should. Here, 20 years later, is the sitcom spin-off. Believe it or not, they tried this in 1990 with Ed Begley Jr. and Leonardo DiCaprio. It failed miserably. Somehow, unlike fine French wine, I don’t think this dysfunctional family sitcom has aged well. “The Sing-Off” (NBC, scheduled for midseason): I don’t even need to explain this reality show competition, do I?