New tonight: The excruciating "Accidentally on Purpose" (CBS) pictured above.
Returning: "House" (Fox, two hours), "Heroes" (NBC, two hours), "How I Met Your Mother," "Two and a Half Men," "Big Bang Theory," "CSI: Miami" (all CBS), "Dancing With the Stars," "Castle" (ABC).
Notes on some of these items after the jump.
Let me start by saying that "excruciating" did not adequately describe my feelings about "Accidentally on Purpose," the new alleged comedy starring Jenna Elfman as a movie critic who gets pregnant during a fling with a much younger man. Less than five minutes in, I had winced at multiple bad jokes. I had seen Elfman mugging desperately, as if she, too, knew that the script was not going to help her. In spite of the presence of Ashley Jensen, so good on "Extras," the show just kept rolling downhill; "Accidentally on Purpose" is the Cleveland Browns, is the Indians against Oakland, Akron against Indiana ... It's just a nightmare. Do not watch it. It will simply taint the remains of your CBS comedy-viewing experience, which tonight includes a good "HIMYM," as well as "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory," either of which on its worst day has been tons better than anything "Accidentally on Purpose" manages.
"Heroes" was apparently not available for preview, which is fine with me, since I gave up on it once and for all early in the third season. I may go back sometime on DVD, but it's not going to take up space on my DVR this year. I have seen the two-hour season premiere of "House," and here are my thoughts, from Sunday's Beacon Journal:
Last season was a raw one for Gregory House, full of death and delusion. It ended with House checking into a psychiatric facility to deal not only with his ongoing drug problem but the hallucinations which were dominating his conscious life.
It did not appear that he would easily emerge from the haze, and the TV series "House" looks as if it is going to make him work hard on recovery as the new season begins at 8 p.m. Monday on Fox.
The two-hour premiere shows that dealing with House's drug problem is the easy part. There are still the burning personal questions which have driven him repeatedly to abuse painkillers -- not to mention to inflict endless damage on his personal relationships.
But in going into the facility, House has entered a world where, frankly, he's an amateur. The people around him have suffered as deeply, and in some cases are much less likely to find their way to stability. As a result, the doctors -- notably the attending physician, Darryl Nolan -- know all of House's tricks and then some.
As "House" goes on season after season, one of the challenges it has faced is how to come up with not only cases but people who are on House's level in debate, and who can match Hugh Laurie, who plays House, as actors. It has found ways to make the field more level with regular combatants, such as House's friend Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). But in the season premiere, it has found two solid foils for House, in Nolan (played by A-game actor Andre Braugher) and another doctor, Beasley (Megan Dodds).
Indeed, it is the duels with those characters that "House" shines more than in its working toward a House epiphany or two. Franka Potente, playing a regular visitor to House's ward, is mildly interesting at first, but you can anticipate much of what transpires with her. And while the Big Dramatic Moment in these two hours may fit right in terms of House's character, it's also something we have seen too often in too many other shows.
That said, by the end of the season premiere, the show has set a course for the new season which could offer a new way of seeing House, and in the process a new situation for the other characters to react to. I don't know if it will work, but I will be back to see.
I was talking to Sepinwall this morning, and he believes that House will go back to being his old self within a few episodes. Certainly the show has taken that course in the past, changing House but not letting the change stick. This time I hope will be more ambitious and daring.
Other viewing: I do expect to get to "Dancing With the Stars" tonight, because it's regular viewing and because of Tom DeLay. Lots of curiosity about that. And there's no question that the new season is on us in a big way. I finally exchanged the repeatedly-malfunctioning DVR for a new one today, since there's too much going on for just one machine. But there are limits to my interest. I tried the first few minutes of tonight's season premiere of "Castle," and that was enough. It's made some tweaks since its first season, including giving Stana Katic a softer look, but there's still a chemistry problem between her and Nathan Fillion.
And with the hours of other programming to watch tonight and in the days ahead, "Castle" doesn't seem worth the effort.