As with courting a new relationship or selecting your first prostitute, watching a new television show can be a delicate and tricky business. There’s hopefully less chance of contracting the clap (unless you’re watching “Jersey Shore”), but the risk remains the same. Television is one duplicitous temptress and, come every September, she’s on the prowl.
I’m talking about pilot season, people, so get excited. There are new shows! With exclamation marks and everything! No, really, it’s pretty exciting. It’s just like Christmas where every new series is a present. Only, these presents aren’t as great as they seem. They’re from your grandparents, which means 90 percent will be complete crap, 10 percent will have potential and, more than anything, you should just be drunk while you open them to numb the disappointment.
You see, fall TV premieres are a double-edged sword (literally in the case of this spring’s “Game of Thrones”). Every autumn, networks shell out their precious premises, from the outrageous to the mundane, in hopes of snaring those coveted virginal viewers. HBO is renovating a subway car 1920s style in anticipation of the “Boardwalk Empire” premiere (awesome) while FOX is previewing their quirky, Zooey Deschanel vehicle, “New Girl,” for free on iTunes (less awesome). Life couldn’t get better. Finally, my distractions have arrived just as my assignments have begun. But, amidst all this rousing promotional bliss, the inevitability of dissatisfaction still lingers.
Only one of those shows mentioned will probably be successful and I’m guessing it’s not the one where a blue-eyed bombshell wears overalls to seem sexy. Of course, “Boardwalk Empire” already has its audience swinging — live wires who enjoy watching Steve Buscemi verbally castrate physically fit men. But, what’s left for those new shows, those vulnerable shows who have yet to find a home in someone’s heart?
I watched the pilot of “New Girl.” It was, well, charming. Perhaps it was charming in the way an elderly woman describes her asbestos-ridden abode (hardly charming, mostly uncomfortable), but it was nonetheless endearing. Deschanel plays Jess, a girl who sings her own theme songs, thinks it’s cute and continues to woo us (if it can be called “wooing”) with an off-beat, “I wear glasses!” allure that makes the dialogue of “Juno” seem understated. It’s desperate is what I’m trying to say. “New Girl,” like Deschanel’s Jess and like so many pilots during this season, is almost pathetic in its unabashed attempt to worm its way into our liking. And this is why it’ll probably fail.
Who knows? If given the chance, maybe “New Girl” could develop into a half-hour sitcom that develops its characters instead of pigeonholing them. Maybe it’ll go the way of “Lost” and defy all expectations, dabble in time travel and transform Deschanel into a smoke monster. Sadly, for now, it is what it is — a show with a bit about jeggings. Ugh. But, such is television. Unlike books and films, TV shows are a medium almost entirely judged on first impressions, and if I don’t like the first taste, it’s very unlikely I’ll go back for seconds.
Odds are, with the dozens of “fresh” (The CW really loves this word for some reason) series this fall, I’ll find maybe one I like. Odds are, that show will be AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” because, like everyone, I love the drama of the Transcontinental Railroad. Meanwhile, those dozens of other shows will cease to exist, floundering in some pilot purgatory filled with lost hopes, shelved dreams and Jerry Seinfeld. For such an ostensibly optimistic time, fall premieres are laced with the cynicism of an increasingly picky TV audience. I’m not saying everyone should watch “New Girl” or whatever laughtrack-laden snoozefest CBS has planned, but you should open your heart to the Television temptress. Be Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman.” Give the hooker a chance.