After a rash of failed programming marked the year's beginning, the networks have started rolling out midseason replacements in the hopes of scoring a hit before a summer term of reality shows and reruns takes over.
Any hopes that some of the pinch-hitters might be either appropriate for all ages or deal with adult themes in a thoughtful manner were quickly dashed. Even the best of the bunch occasionally delve into gratuitous sexuality. That unfortunate reality notwithstanding, some are more worth a viewer's time than others. So for better and worse, here's what's new on the networks this spring:
TV-PG for violence, moderate language, and suggestive humor. Monday @ 10:00 p.m. on ABC.
On paper, this Moonlighting-style, opposites-attract show about a bestselling novelist who helps a spunky-but-beautiful New York City cop solve murders probably reads pretty corny. But thanks to some fine acting, not to mention some good chemistry, leads Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic pull it off. The flirty banter of Castle's main characters and the show's lighthearted tone provide a welcome change of pace for crime-show lovers.
Better off Ted
TV-PG for moderate language and suggestive humor. Wednesday @ 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
Certainly the most promising of recent sitcoms, Ted approaches the world of big pharmaceuticals with spot-on satire but peoples it with likeable characters for a combo that's as timely as it is entertaining. Sure, it takes shots at unbridled capitalism, but the show's treatment of the ridiculous policies modern companies have to embrace to appear politically correct is equally funny.
TV-PG for suggestive humor. Monday @ 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
A character in a recent hit film described marriage as an "unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond." Surviving Suburbia could be described the same way. Bob Saget's lazy, anti-social character is yet another in a long lineup of loser sitcom dads. But whereas Raymond generated laughs by exaggerating specific husbandly shortcomings, the spousal exchanges in Suburbia are generic and frequently gross.
Parks and Recreation
TV-PG for moderate language and suggestive humor. Thursday @ 8:30 p.m. on NBC.
If you're a fan of The Office, you'll probably like this Amy Poehler vehicle that has the Saturday Night Live alum starring as a clueless parks department employee. Not only is Poehler's character a near mimic of Steve Carell's Michael Scott, the show relies on the same mockumentary framing device as well as the same "awkward moment" style of comedy.
TV-14 for violence, language, and sexual -references. Wednesday @ 10:00 p.m. on ABC.
Though this drama about a New York homicide division strikes plenty of quirky notes, it's a bit of a stretch to call it "unusual." Relying on the time-honored conceit of putting a group of misfits in a workplace together, the most unique aspect of the show is that each character appears to be keeping secrets from everyone else, making each episode more about the revelation of these secrets than about the solving of crimes. We have a rich girl who prefers to keep her financial status under wraps, her partner who mysteriously gave up a promising career as a professional baseball player, and a terminally ill patient who hasn't disclosed his diagnosis. An outspoken Christian with a murky past rounds out the cast, and it remains to be seen whether he will be a layered character or a rhetorical punching bag.
TV-14 for violence, language, and sexual references. Thursday @ 10:00 p.m. on CBS.
If you've ever longed for a scary movie that lasted weeks instead of a couple of hours, Harper's Island fits the bill. CBS has already announced that the show will only run for 13 episodes, and the whodunit set-up in its first showing is more than enough to keep viewers engaged to the end. Unfortunately, while Harper's blood and gore may not match that typically seen at the Cineplex, it is still disturbing and will alienate anyone who was just tuning in for a good yarn.