STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Television critics are slogging through hour after hour of new shows to help guide our eyeballs through the busy fall season. And that includes NPR's own Eric Deggans, who's gotten off the couch long enough to talk with us. Thanks, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: (Laughter) Thanks for having.
INSKEEP: We're talking at the fall season here, which really does seem like an awfully old-fashioned notion.
DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, in an odd way, though, today's media environment makes this fall TV rollout even more important for network television. I mean, there is so much competition for viewers these days that it's become a real promotional tool for all these shows. We've got 23 new shows debuting just on the broadcast networks alone. And it gets them in the media mix in a way that I think is really hard to do if you were to debut those shows individually throughout the year.
INSKEEP: OK. Going through a few of those 23 shows and other shows that may be out there, what stands out for you?
DEGGANS: Well, I like to say, this season, the level of mediocrity has risen, right?
DEGGANS: So there's not so many really bad shows, but there's also not a lot of really great ones. Now, my first pick for a really great one is the CW's "Jane The Virgin." And it's based on this telenovela from Venezuela about a very chaste girl who winds up pregnant when she's accidentally artificially inseminated. So...
INSKEEP: Happens all the time, I'm sure.
DEGGANS: All the time. And in this clip she and her mother get the news from a doctor. So let's check this out.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JANE THE VIRGIN")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As doctor) Pink means pregnant.
GINA RODRIGUEZ: (As Jane) But I've never had sex.
ANDREA NAVEDO: (As Xiomara) Immaculata - you are Immaculata.
RODRIGUEZ: (As Jane) What? No, Mom.
INSKEEP: Nothing like a good immaculate conception to get a show going.
DEGGANS: (Laughter) "Jane The Virgin" does a great job of showing these three generations of Latinas in a fun comedy that showcases this great new talent in star Gina Rodriguez. And there's a lot more ethnic diversity that we're seeing in new shows this year. We've ABC that's got this great comedy about a middle-class family called "Black-ish." And they've also got a Latino-centered family comedy called "Cristella." But I think I like "Jane The Virgin" a little bit more than both those shows.
INSKEEP: What's your favorite drama?
DEGGANS: Well, I'm a superhero fan, so I like a superhero show with a twist. Now, Fox has got this new series called "Gotham" that's built on the Batman story before Bruce Wayne becomes the Caped Crusader. You know, Bruce Wayne is still a kid, and he's coping with the death of his parents in a robbery. And the show is more this noir cop drama that shows how detective Jim Gordon rises in the Gotham police force. And we get to see villains like the Penguin and Catwoman get their start. The only question that I have about "Gotham" is whether it can succeed as a superhero series without the superhero.
INSKEEP: What shows did you not like?
DEGGANS: Where do I start. OK. So Fox has this awful "Seinfeld" rip-off called Mulaney. There's this lame "Survivor" rip-off that's also on Fox called "Utopia." CBS has got this predictable cop drama about a unit that goes after stalkers that's called "Stalker." (Laughter) My award for worst show goes to NBC's of "Mysteries Of Laura." This is a not-so-hilarious comedy about a hard-driving police detective who also happens to be a mom to two young kids. Now, we've got a clip of her stumbling on a scene where a room's been destroyed, and the perps are standing right in front of her.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MYSTERIES OF LAURA")
DEBRA MESSING: (As Laura) Get ready inside for a very long time. Life as you know it is over. What do you have to say for yourselves?
UNIDENTIFIED BOYS: (As Laura's sons) Sorry, Mommy.
DEGGANS: So this is everything I hate in a TV show. As a parent, I really hate programs where adults act like they can't stop their kids from acting out. And as a TV critic, I really don't like shows that take a challenge that lots of women are handling really well, which is balancing being a mother with a really demanding job and treat it like it's some impossible task. And finally, it is so disappointing to see someone as cool as Debra Messing - "Will And Grace" alum - stuck in something so lame. If anything beyond this show should get canceled, I'm thinking maybe it's her agent.
INSKEEP: (Laughter) Eric, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
DEGGANS: (Laughter) Always happy to give my opinion.
INSKEEP: That NPR's TV critic, Eric Deggans.
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