Friday Five - Grading the New TV Series I’m Watching for ’09-10

Fact: I watch way too many TV shows on a weekly basis.

Fact: Because of this, I limited the number of new series I started watching this year to five.

Fact: Those five TV series have aired enough episodes for me to form an opinion on them. So let’s go.

OK, a little more background first. My current DVR schedule consists of 20 scripted shows that air weekly (I don’t watch any so-called “reality” TV, but I do also watch lots of sports in between those 20 shows). That doesn’t include “24”, “Lost” or “Chuck”, all of which are returning midseason, or “V”, which debuts next month. Knowing how full my schedule was, I replaced five canceled shows (“Eli Stone”, “Dirty Sexy Money”, “Privileged”, “Reaper”, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) with five new shows.

I’m going to grade those new shows now. Understand, a show has to blow me away to get an A. And an show has to just plain blow to get an F. Everything in between is fair game.

The Cleveland Show - Sundays, 8:30 ET on FOX
I figured this show wasn’t going to be great, but I also figured I’d give it a shot, since I was already recording the other three shows in “Animation Domination”. I guess you could say it’s lived down to my expectations. Through three episodes, I may have laughed once or twice. It’s just not funny, and the humor is often forced and uncomfortable.
Grade: D- (very close to F territory, but it doesn’t get an F until I remove it from the DVR schedule)

Modern Family - Wednesdays, 9:30 ET on ABC
I slammed the premiere of this show when I first reviewed it. Amazingly, it’s growing on me. I still don’t find myself laughing out loud often, like I do during a good episode of “30 Rock” or “How I Met Your Mother”, but I definitely am enjoying about half of the characters. The other half? Eh, not so much. Also, I feel like the show could be so much better if it just ditched the faux-documentary style that’s becoming so popular these days. You’re not “The Office”, so stop trying to be.
Grade: C

Eastwick - Wednesdays, 10 ET on ABC
Three witches bonding over their powers and their man troubles, with a dark and mysterious stranger who keeps popping up in their lives? It was like Season 3 of “Charmed” all over again (my favorite season, by the way). Only they’ve somehow managed to make me hate most of the characters -- especially Lindsay Price’s Joanna. Despite being better than “The Cleveland Show”, this show is probably the closest to being dropped from the schedule.
Grade: D+

The Vampire Diaries - Thursdays, 8 ET on The CW
Yes, I’m watching this show? Are you surprised? Well, you shouldn’t be. Despite this being marketed at the “Twilight” crowd, this is actually much better, mostly because of the presence of Ian Somerhalder. He plays Damon, the evil brother, with just the right balance of terror and disdain -- much like David Boreanaz’s Angelus in Season 2 of “Buffy”.
Grade: B

FlashForward - Thursdays, 8 ET on ABC
This has quickly become appointment viewing for me (meaning I actually watch it live, and avoid all distractions during that hour). The plot is progressing well enough to avoid some of the lulls that can hurt developing serial dramas, and the characters are actually turning into people I care about. Plus, I love the schism that is developing between the people who treat the visions of the future like guidance from above and the people who blow off any greater meaning (a theme that was front and center in this week’s episode). Also, Dominic Monaghan finally made his long-awaited debut this week, and it looks like he’s playing a pretty damn important character, so that should be good.
Grade: A- (The only thing keeping this from a full-fledged A is the fact that none of the skeptical main characters have done something to outright change the future from the visions... yet...)