More first impressions of the new fall shows.
“The Class” (Mondays, CBS): Premise: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the day he met his fiancee, a Nice Normal Guy hosts a reunion of their 3rd grade class. Fiancee dumps him at the party; guests at the party reconnect with each other; a sitcom is born. What’s unusual about this one, which stars the uber-likable Jason Ritter as the Nice Normal Guy, is how much focus seems to be placed on the people as characters and not just as punchline delivery systems. In the 22-minute pilot there were several decent laughs and some genuine poignancy, too; kudos to the actors for doing so much with their characters in so little time. TiVo verdict: Season Pass, at least for now.
“Standoff” (Tuesdays, Fox): It’s a drama about FBI hostage negotiators, with the added twist that the two lead negotiators (a man and a woman) are secretly dating each other. The first episode suggests the focus will be on hostage-related crises, not personal ones, and that’s a good choice. Pretty good tension with the standoffs, mild surprises in the way they’re resolved, and the characters are likable enough. I won’t watch it every week, but it seems light and enjoyable enough to catch now and then. TiVo verdict: Low-priority Season Pass, ignored if something more urgent is on.
“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (Mondays, NBC): Never having watched “SportsNight” or “The West Wing,” I was personally unfamiliar with the legendary writing talents of Aaron Sorkin. Now I see what I’ve been missing: sheer genius. My friends, THIS is a TV show! It’s set behind the scenes at a “Saturday Night Live”-style sketch comedy show, focusing on the backstage drama and mayhem that go into working for network TV. The dialogue is fast-paced and snappily written, the energy high, the acting (by Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet, notably) impeccable. It helps that it’s about one of my favorite things — the inner workings of TV — but even if it were something else, I suspect I’d find these characters and situations fascinating, so compelling is the writing and direction of the show. TiVo verdict: Season Pass.