#7. The Millers (CBS)
I feel guilty hating on The Millers. Its creator, Greg Garcia, is the man behind Raising Hope and My Name is Earl, both of which I greatly enjoy, and the cast is full of some of my favorite people, including Will Arnett, Margo Martindale, and J.B. Smoove, as well as Nelson Franklin and Jayma Mays. But then the laugh track happens after a masturbation/fart joke and I see the CBS logo in the bottom righthand corner, and the guilt goes away. It’s hard to fault anyone involved with The Millers for wanting a paycheck; I just wish it had been for something slightly better.
#6. Welcome to the Family (NBC)
Every year, come premiere season, New York City is littered with posters for everything the Big Four has to offer. The Q train, in particular, is currently lined with smiling advertisements for NBC’s Thursday night lineup: there’s Parks and Recreation, Sean Saves the World, The Michael J. Fox Show, and…that’s it. There are no indications that Welcome to the Family exists outside of TV Guide. NBC has no faith in the show, and I don’t completely blame them. Welcome to the Family is so inoffensive and dull, there’s nothing for viewers to latch onto. Mike O’Malley and Mary McCormack give strong performances, like they always do, but the kids only speak in platitudes and the lessons and jokes are strongly reminiscent of a sitcom that would’ve aired in the early-1980s, alongside Diff’rent Strokes. The rumor that Community will return when Welcome gets cancelled has done it no favors, either.
#5. Back in the Game (ABC)
Back in the Game is at war with itself, which isn’t a baseball metaphor, sorry. There is definitely a good, familiar show in there, based around the very dependable Maggie Lawson returning to baseball via coaching her son’s Little League team and making nice with her father, played by James Caan’s network TV Kenny Powers, but it keeps making the easy jokes. Haha, the gay kid dances like a ballerina in the outfield. Haha, the Asian kid talks funny. Haha, the fat kid is fat. Back in the Game is like a baseball player who’s too good for AAA, but not great enough for the major leagues; it’s stuck somewhere in between, and it’s unlikely it’s ever going to improve. (There it is!)
#4. The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
The “shaky” joke is a groaner, but unfortunately, it’s very true. The Michael J. Fox Show has gotten progressively worse with each episode; Marty McFly’s natural charm can only carry you so far. Betsy Brandt, Wendell Pierce, and Alison Brie’s fake-younger sister who I’m calling Alison Muenster (good, but not as good as Brie) are fine, but the selfish aunt really needs to go, and at some point, we need to spend less time in the apartment and more in the workplace. We’re told that Mike is great at his job, but outside of one scene in the pilot, we haven’t SEEN him doing anything worthy of this label. At some point, the concept needs to go beyond “America loves Michael J. Fox, so they’ll love this!” That hasn’t happened yet. (Also, minor complaint, but goddamn do I hate when they talk into the camera. It’s even more pointless than on Modern Family.)
#3. Trophy Wife (ABC)
If you don’t watch Childrens Hospital, I can understand why you’d be confused with “Malin Åkerman” and “funny” appearing in the same sentence. For the most part, her filmography is either boring (The Heartbreak Kid), embarrassing (The Proposal), boring AND embarrassing (27 Dresses), or Watchmen (Watchmen). But Malin Åkerman is very funny (see?) on Childrens Hospital, and she’s very funny on Trophy Wife, this year’s winner of the Best Sitcom with the Worst Name Award. (2012: Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23; 2011: Suburgatory; 2010: Happy Endings. ABC sucks at naming its shows.) Trophy Wife is a very different kind of comedy than Childrens, though: there are no huge laughs; rather, you get a series of amusing scenes, with an occasional well-earned punchline that lands. Trophy Wife‘s writing hasn’t caught up to its hugely talented cast, including husband Bradley Whitford and his two distinctive ex-wives Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins, as well as the underused Natalie Morales, but there’s enough promise in both the premise and tone to keep watching.
#2. The Goldbergs (ABC)
Like We Are Men, the marketing for The Goldbergs did it no favors. Looking at the posters and bus ads, it’d being to mistake the show for being nothing but warmed-over, romanticized 1980s references (no one loved Rubik’s Case then as much as they do, because nostalgia). That’s only half true. There’s plenty of “HAHA THIS IS FUNNY BECAUSE I LOVE THE 1980S *plays Human League record*,” but there’s even more, if you’ll forgive the corniness, heart. It’s a family show with likable, recognizable characters, not unlike the excellent The Middle…except much, much, MUCH louder, as if the stage direction is YELL. At least The Goldbergs has a good teacher in Jeff Garlin.
#1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Nothing even comes close, really. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is shockingly confident for such a young sitcom: it knows exactly who all its characters are, with plenty room left for necessary development. This time next year, when Brooklyn‘s in the first quarter of its second season, god willing, Rosa and Charles (and rest of the superb supporting cast) will feel like the same people they are now, just colored in more. That’s due to creator Michael Schur’s incredible ability to expand his characters and his show’s universe. There are some concerns — like a restrictive setting and Andy Samberg being Andy Samberg — but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is much better than Parks and Recreation was in its freshman season, and that show turned out pretty well.
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