Dispatches From the Couch: SURVIVOR, AGENTS OF SHIELD, THE BLACKLIST & More!

Ah, the fall season is finally underway… and that means all kinds of stuff for us to ruminate on! Ready to discuss some of the latest TV offerings? Then let’s dive right in, shall we?

Bad boys are always popular on reality shows. But I’ll tell you what: A little bit of SURVIVOR’s Colton goes a long, long way. He’s not the kind of guy you love to hate… there’s only room for one emotion on this street, and it ain’t love. Here’s hoping his whining and manipulating get him booted sooner rather than later, or I might just have to bail out of what has otherwise proven to be a fantastic season. The fact that players can swap out for loved ones has, in many ways, turned this into an entirely new game. And if you want proof that SURVIVOR is as close to real as you can get — and not manipulated by producers as heavily as other offerings — look no further than the outcome of last night’s battle on Redemption Island. You can be sure that the producers definitely did not want fan fave Rupert to be sent packing!

I’ll admit it: I went into AGENTS OF SHIELD prepared to not enjoy it. I’m just not that into the whole superhero thing. But as a big ol’ BUFFY fan, how could I not give Joss Whedon’s latest creation at least a try? The first few minutes weren’t particularly great for me, but man, was I glad I stuck with it. While some of the best bits (including Skye’s whole “You will never be able to find us” monologue being interrupted when the SHIELD crew found her) were given away in the promos, there were still several nice twists I didn’t see coming. Special kudos must be given to Clark Gregg, whose Agent Coulson is the beating heart of this show. He proves that not all heroes wear tights and have bulging muscles while also displaying a fantastic dry wit. I would, however, like to offer the folks at ABC Studios a bit of advice: Either do fewer shows with sequences involving green screen effects, or hire a better effects company. That flying car shot at the end of the episode could have been done better by your typical high schooler. This is a problem that has plagued ABC Studio productions, whether it be ONCE UPON A TIME’s often ludicrous looking creature sequences or something as simple as REVENGE’s Victoria standing on her balcony looking down on Emily’s home.

Speaking of shows I went into reluctantly, let’s discuss THE BLACKLIST. I actually was just going to bypass this one entirely, despite being a pretty big James Spader fan. The premise just didn’t do much for me. But when it popped up on my beloved Hulu when I had a little time to kill, I figured, “Why not?” Overall, I was pretty impressed. Spader is, not surprisingly, perfectly cast, and the plot zipped right along. If there’s a weak spot, it’s Megan Boone’s Special Agent Elizabeth Keen, and it’s a problem created by the script itself. During an early scene, Keen — a newbie — is asked to profile herself. Unfortunately, the person she describes herself as being bears very little resemblance to the woman we actually see during the rest of the episode. Another problem is how easily folks put things together in order to keep things moving and get the case-of-the-week resolved within the hour. Whether or not I’ll be back for more depends on my schedule, but I’ll tell you this: The minute they reveal that Spader’s Reddington is, as heavily implied, Elizabeth’s dad, I’m outta there faster than a vegetarian at a slaughterhouse.

Since we’re doing so well with the topic “shows I went into practically against my will,” let’s continue with HOSTAGES. I can’t actually say why I watched this, seeing as the ads made me think it was going to be awful. But by the end of the hour, I was hooked and dying for the next episode. There’s nothing particularly original here, what with the whole thing feeling like a less pretentious 24. But I really appreciated that the pervasive ad campaign didn’t give away every twist of the pilot, which introduced all kinds of story threads thanks to all the familial secrets. Dad’s having an affair! Daughter’s pregnant! Son‘s a druggie! And that sly look that Toni Collette’s Ellen gave Dylan McDermott’s Duncan, which all but screamed “Game on!” gave me chills. I can only hope that unlike with UNDER THE DOME, CBS actually sticks to its promise that this will be a 15-episode single-story season.

NBC’s THE MINDY PROJECT may be the most uneven show to hit the screen in years. When it’s on, it’s wonderfully funny. But when it’s off, the results are almost painful. Despite not really being much of a James Franco fan, I have to admit his two-episode stint here was pretty great. And given how awkward much of the other material in the first two episodes has been (and not THE OFFICE awkward, where it’s uncomfortably funny, just… you know, plain ol’ awkward), his presence was much appreciated.

Well, that’s it for now, kids. What did you think of the above-mentioned shows? What new shows are you sampling… and did you find them worth your time? Hit the comments and let us know!