Every year when we write our fall TV previews, we do so with minimal foreknowledge of the shows in question. We’ve maybe seen a screener or two, and maybe read some advance reviews from other critics, but mostly we’re relying on instinct and a lifetime of watching TV. But we don’t always get it right. The following is a sampling of some not-so-exact predictions and prejudgment from the past four years of A.V. Club fall TV previews.
On Criminal Minds: “Although Mandy Patinkin’s one of Broadway’s brightest stars, and a reasonably value character actor in movies, the divine Mr. M. hasn’t exactly set the small screen ablaze.”
Actually… The show’s been a solid hit for CBS, and is heading into its fifth season this fall. (Though to be fair to us, Patinkin only lasted two years, and CM has become a bigger hit since he left.)
On Head Cases: “Although the eccentric-lawyer genre has been expertly mined by shows like Boston Legal, Head Cases promises a fresh take on the law as practiced by weirdoes. Chris O’Donnell and Adam Goldberg look to be playing real characters (with families, motivations, notable feelings, etc.), as opposed to ‘characters.’”
Actually… The show was cancelled after two episodes.
On How I Met Your Mother: “The show boasts an intriguing gimmick, but at heart, it looks to be yet another sitcom about quirky twentysomethings living and loving in New York.”
Actually… One could argue that HIMYM really is “yet another sitcom,” etc., but we hadn’t counted on it being so funny, or on us getting so wrapped up in the characters.
On Just Legal: “Jay Baruchel’s presence is a promising sign, and the commercials suggest that Don Johnson has learned to embrace the ham within. Could a William Shatner-like comeback be in the cards?”
Actually… The show was cancelled after three episodes (though The WB burned off the remaining five episodes the following summer).
On Prison Break: “The pilot episode has been collecting a surprising number of good notices, but how many seasons can this elaborate escape plan possible chew up?”
Actually… The show ran for four seasons (though the original plan didn’t chew up all of them).
On Reunion: “As with 24 and Lost, this seems like a premise ideal for television, where subplots and red herrings can play out over weeks and months.”
Actually… Planned as a 22-episode miniseries, Reunion only got 13 episodes in the can (only 9 of which were aired in the U.S.).
On Supernatural: “The WB clearly wants to recapture the magic of past hits like Charmed and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but then again, so did Fox’s Point Pleasant, which floundered even with Buffy alums on staff. Also, it’s from the writer of Boogeyman.”
Actually… Now entering its fifth season, Supernatural is hardly a sensation, but it’s got a fiercely devoted audience.
On 30 Rock: “This show might go down as the Chicago Hope to Studio 60’s ER.”
Actually… Well, we all know what happened to Aaron Sorkin’s heavily hyped Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, and we all know what’s become of 30 Rock. In our defense, we were expecting 30 Rock to be more of an inside-showbiz satire than the full-on absurdist free-for-all it’s become.
On The Nine: “Each episode incorporates flashbacks of the standoff as the survivors try to get on with their lives. Discovering the nature of their individual and collective bond—certainly emotional, possibly criminal—seems certain to give the series the addicting what-happens-next quality that makes Lost so compelling.”
Actually… This ambitious attempt to show a bank robbery through the prism of its aftermath was yanked off the air after seven episodes (with six more burned off the next year), but it only took about three or four episodes for it to become clear that the premise was ill-conceived, and that parceling out the action in the bank in tiny week-to-week increments was a drama-killer.
On Runaway: “If it’s half as well-executed as its influences, the show stands a chance, and early word seems solid. If The CW is anything like The WB and UPN, any show can survive so long as it doesn’t outright embarrass the network.”
Actually… The show became the first-ever CW series to be cancelled, after only three episodes.
On Six Degrees: “Seems well-suited to J.J. Abrams’ knack for expansive, addicting mythology.”
Actually… The “everyone’s connected” concept proved forced, and the characters too stock. After a highly watched pilot, ratings sunk dramatically in ensuing weeks, and it went “on hiatus” after six episodes (then came back for two more the following spring).
On Smith: “With the sterling production values and a first-rate cast, Smith could be like a serialized Heat.”
Actually… It very well could’ve, if it had lasted more than three episodes. Smith’s examination of what it takes to be a professional thief was clicking along quite well, but CBS is a network that demands hits and Smith didn’t measure up fast enough.
On The Big Bang Theory: “Based on the pilot, in which the sexy neighbor uses the nerds’ bathroom after her shower breaks down, this sounds like the big hit of 1981.”
Actually… The show has become more popular practically by the week, and though its hipness quotient remains low, BBT is consistently funny and well-acted.
On Bionic Woman: “As long as there are no campy Lee Majors cameos, this should do all right.”
Actually… It did not do all right, despite the lack of Lee. It was cancelled after eight episodes, and its last episode drew less than half the viewers of its first.
On Chuck: “The O.C. mastermind Josh Schwartz is one of the creators, so expect Chuck to be one of the most addictive shows on TV for its first season, then never that good again.”
Actually… The second season improved on the first, and despite low ratings, the show established enough of a fanbase to get a pickup for Season Three.
On Kath & Kim: “We’d put even odds on it outlasting the original show’s four-season, 32-episode run.”
Actually… Although that line was meant to be a joke on the short seasons of foreign TV series, the American K&K actually lasted only one short, 17-episode season.
On Little Britain USA: “Its new characters alone should position Little Britain USA for inclusion into the cult-comedy canon.”
Actually… The new characters were awful; the show was a critical failure.
On The Mentalist: “Simon Baker’s The Guardian lasted three seasons, though his Smith was cancelled after three episodes. This one should fall somewhere between. Put the over/under at three months.”
Actually… This was last season’s biggest new hit; it’s the first show since Desperate Housewives to top the weekly ratings in its first season.
On Opportunity Knocks: “This seems like the sort of low impact, highly sponsor-friendly show that could easily catch on.”
Actually… Three episodes and out.