For 412 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 45% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 54% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 15 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Tom Shales' Scores

Average review score: 52
Highest review score: 100 The Sopranos: Season 6
Lowest review score: 0 The War at Home: Season 1
Score distribution:
412 tv reviews
    • 53 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Minor but deftly done.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    The pace is languid and the ambiance laconic. Easy Money isn't the kind of show likely to clean up at Emmy time. But it has the same sort of eccentric, addled charm that marks an increasing number of current television shows.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    There's no question that "Dog Bites Man"... scales heights of hilarity, more than one might have a right to expect. But there's a problem: Virtually all the characters are detestable in one way or another, and partly as a result, the show never seems grounded.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Largely faithful in tone to the BBC series, which concentrates on the maddening banality of workplace-as-microcosm, NBC's Office still fails to score a direct hit, settling instead for an amusing approximation.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Like the homeliest puppy in the pound, there's something lovable about this clanky ode to romantic love; maybe it's just that the cast is so determined to put it over, no matter how foolish even the actors might find the material.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Maybe it should be considered substitute programming, until more solid and substantial dramas return. On that level, it doesn't totally blow, bro; it's actually quite tolerable.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    In more exciting times, "Home Improvement" might barely pass muster as tolerable froth. But in a new TV season low on innovation and lean on potential hits, the happy competence of "Home Improvement" seems almost spectacular. [17 Sep 1991]
    • Washington Post
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Sorkin aspires to "importance," which can sometimes curdle into pretentiousness.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Horton may in fact reach too frequently into his bag of editing and photographic bells and whistles, but for the most part his approach helps sustain interest when the teleplay falters, sputters or just plain poops out.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    "Lucky Louie" is not a runaway smash right out of the gate, but neither does it stumble or implode.
    • 35 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Really, honestly, actually, it isn't all that bad...It's sort of like "Flipper" without the dolphin.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    The show... can easily be enjoyed simply as a fairly proficient thriller, pushing the kind of buttons that Alfred Hitchcock used to push with such films as "North by Northwest" -- although here they're pushed with much less artfulness and finesse.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    It is a little better than most other sitcoms, past and present -- especially those featuring wacky urban friends in their twenties experiencing the bittersweet mysteries of life.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Despite the limitations, and there are a bundle, "Emily's Reasons Why Not" logs a happy high on the delightful meter -- fresh and frisky much of the time.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Since the show steadily improves as the first few episodes progress, Hung can hardly be written off as a failure.
    • 39 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Even if many elements of "Vampire Bats" seem, to say the least, familiar, director Eric Bross and writer Doug Prochilo still deliver some darn good frights.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Basically a smart and sophisticated situation comedy -- and yet it is still not as good or endearing as its star. [26 Feb 2003]
    • Washington Post
    • 41 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Looking for a show to stave off "ER" withdrawal? Have Mercy; it's (you'll pardon the expression) strong medicine.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    West Wing is not a dramatic powerhouse as it gets off the ground tonight but, indeed, it does get off the ground. There are good performances, crispy-crunchy lines of dialogue and a few sizzly sparks. Subsequent episodes will have to improve on the premiere, however, if there's really going to be anything must-see-ish about the show. [22 Sept 1999, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 53 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Boasts the strongest cast of any new sitcom.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    A first-rate movie thriller has been turned into a second-rate TV show, but upper-second-rate, not lower. And among this season's new entries, with one or two exceptions, second-rate is about as good as things get. [16 Sept 1995, p.D01]
    • Washington Post
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    It's not an easy task to figure out where the thing is going, but it is intriguing watching it go there.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Like "Twin Peaks," it raises questions that it doesn't necessarily answer--but even the raising took a bit of daring, and "a bit" is more than one usually gets from television.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    ALF himself is funny enough to keep the show bubbling. He has a sardonic insouciance. [22 Sept 1986, p.C1]
    • Washington Post
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    An agreeable comedic hour that makes no intimidating demands. [18 Sep 1985]
    • Washington Post
    • 71 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    There are, in fact, simply too many characters chasing each other up and down the seven hills, and viewers who try to keep track are in for maddening frustration. If only people would address one another by name once in a blue moon, that would help a little. [28 Aug 2005, p.N01]
    • Washington Post
    • 77 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Very slick and very shiny, full of impassioned confrontations and noble utterances. [17 Sep 1994]
    • Washington Post
    • 31 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Demonstrates plenty of marksmanship in the old aim-to-please department. It has a nice convivial camaraderie going for it, and one fail-safe ingredient in reserve: the proverbial cute baby. [22 Sept 1987, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 53 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    For all its shortcomings and flat flourishes, Crusoe has one very significant thing going for it, a virtue that can be summarized in four reassuring words: At Least It's Different.
    • 43 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    " 'Til Death Do Us Part" would be sort of ultimately ordinary, the very definition of a negligible trifle, if Waters weren't lurking around.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    There isn't much in "Supernatural" to engage viewers older than Sam and Dean, but it's certainly not the worst of the new troop of spookers.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Distracting and annoying as some of its bad habits are, "John Doe" is still hauntingly distinctive enough to warrant further investigation. Who knows but that eventually we may even find -- yes, I'm going to say it -- Doe a dear.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Menace so permeates the atmosphere that a certain glum predictability has set in to the scenes. [28 Oct 2003]
    • Washington Post
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Stylista is--what is the phrase?--like a little tick that you want to flick off, but it's no worse than other reality games that have come before and will come after.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    Moving up to the big time, and relocating to the earlier time slot, seems to have robbed Conan of much of his charm. Much--but not all.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    While the film could not be called a rollicking success, it seldom if ever pauses long enough to be ordinary, complacent or conventionally minded.
    • 29 Metascore
    • 60 Tom Shales
    The laughs generated are not subtle, but at least they're there.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Accidentally on Purpose doesn't have the smarts to be the salvation of a genre, but neither does it look like the torpedo to sink the ship. Not great, but nothing heinous.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    The basic formula is by now so groaningly familiar, and the premise so weak and weary, that there's only the "reality" part of this docu-game, or whatever it ought to be called, to tempt one's interest, and that not much.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Often engaging, inventive, well acted and wickedly funny, Picket Fences keeps shooting itself in the foot with tastelessness disguised as daring. Irritating as it may frequently be, however, Picket Fences also seems the new fall drama most likely to become habit-forming. You may love it, you may hate it, but you're liable to be hooked. [18 Sept 1992, p.D1]
    • Washington Post
    • 61 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    The show is almost drowning in detail, minute detail, so that the basic plot line and its resolution are a chore to follow and figure out. [22 Sep 2004]
    • Washington Post
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Seriously, it is hard to take the show very seriously. It does traffic in issues and hot topics--and protests, in its way, the general corruption of the legal system--but not in particularly fresh or original terms.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Despite the prestigious presence of stars such as Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, Lisa Bonet and Gretchen Mol, Life on Mars, a new ABC crime drama, comes off as naggingly undistinguished.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    The pilot is admittedly a swift, brisk bit of escapist whimsy, but one has to wonder whether the idea of a heist every week will really prove tenable.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    This is no run-of-the-mill production, but it falls under the heading of "acquired taste." The main inducement to acquire it is to watch Gugino have her way with the title role.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Intriguing and confounding though it is, this is anything but easy, funsy television. In fact, there are times when a viewer may feel he's being punished almost to the same degree as Detective Hopper.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    The characters are refreshingly non-hostile and converse in something other than brittle, cold sitcom-speak. But the serialized nature of the stories (subsequent episodes begin with the "previously on" feature usually seen on dramas) is no particular plus. And while the characters are sweet, they stop short of being lovable.
    • 36 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    If the material were better, she wouldn't have to mug and grimace and cavort so strenuously; push wouldn't have to keep coming to shove. ... It's an in-your-face affair, and after a while, your face gets tired. [15 Apr 2003]
    • Washington Post
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Leno's funny, but in the safest way. He's adheres to the center of the exact middle road, so it's wrong to expect a revolution here.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Yes, they're wicked wacky, this group, but they also seem to have been torn from the pages of the Sitcom Writer's Handbook, their status as foils and fools having been measured out in carefully calculated amounts, the final goal appearing to be not so much nonstop hilarity as the reassuring guarantee of No Surprises.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Basically it's a half-baked adventure series, but it's July, and fully baked may just not be the way to go.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    The crew of the new Starship Enterprise doesn't seem as intriguingly colorful as the original bunch. ... "Star Trek" aims to fill the eye and engage the mind; it has a long way to boldly go at both. But the new beginning is not without its rejuvenating properties, and there's nothing else on the air quite like it. [3 Oct 1987]
    • Washington Post
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    "My Boys" is the kind of show that you're unlikely to seek out -- it's not TiVo-worthy by any means -- but if you happen upon it while channel-surfing, you could do a lot worse than pause and give it a shot.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    There's little about Homeland Security USA that's warmly reassuring in the post-9/11 world. But the agents do behave with commendable civility (at least while cameras are trained on them) and apparent diligence.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Fallon is far from such stature, but though his opening night had disappointments, none were crushing or looked potentially fatal. Once Fallon relaxes, hunkers down and lightens up, the new "Late Night" could win over many a semi-conscious heart and mind.
    • 38 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    It doesn't go quite far enough into uncharted territory but gets off to a basically promising start nonetheless.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Helen Hunt's bright and flinty performance makes Jamie the kind of person one might like to get to know; she's spontaneous and fresh. But hangdog comic Paul Reiser... is tiresome and mechanical as Paul, and his stand-up comedy rhythms are monotonous. [23 Sep 1992]
    • Washington Post
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Las Vegas needs all the gimmickry it can get because the basic premise of the show is shaky; we are expected to sympathize with the management of a big Vegas casino instead of rooting for the poor schmoes who are trying desperately to make some wild dream come true at the blackjack tables.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    More of a let-down than a pick-me-up. [19 Apr 1990, p.E9]
    • Washington Post
    • 54 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Perhaps partly because the producers are determined not to let More to Love turn into a jeer fest, the show almost chokes on its own sensitivity and refinement.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Carpoolers has a certain loopy cuteness to it, but the show lacks a beating heart, some strong central figure to care about and root for.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    Funny, yes. Wildly funny, no...As an addition to pop literature about women in groups, Designing Women appears more derivative than innovative, but being derivative hardly ever hurts in prime-time television. [29 Sept 1986, p.C3]
    • Washington Post
    • 86 Metascore
    • 50 Tom Shales
    A glorious bungle. It has been produced on a dauntingly massive scale (by no less than Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, those old war hands) and is at times visually astonishing...Unfortunately it also suffers from disorganization, muddled thinking and a sense of redundancy. [8 Sept 2001, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 62 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Worst Week has the primal simplicity of a Road Runner cartoon but less depth and, of course, far fewer laughs.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    The significance of naming the hero after T.S. Eliot's famous poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (do you suppose the "J" stood for Jim?) is not readily apparent from the premiere, but then this is a show that doesn't aim to be readily apparent, or even to be reasonably coherent.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    It takes the stuff of legend and imagination and makes it dry and commonplace. You look forward not to the next exciting chapter, but for the whole enterprise to go "poof" and disappear.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Its premise is humdrum, its two co-stars lack chemistry, and it seems essentially indistinguishable from most of NBC's other slipshod tripe. [21 Sep 1998]
    • Washington Post
    • 42 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    If only these little dears were fascinating, or at least more interesting than they are on the first installment. From the looks of the previews at the end of the hour, things will be heating up in future episodes, and the first might be viewed as a scene-setting preface to battles, tattles and conspiracies to come.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Seems too self-consciously and schematically a vehicle for the actor, a vehicle that sputters and stalls when one wants it to zoom. [10 Oct 2000, p.C01]
    • 50 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Several steps up from "Becker."
    • 65 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    It is earnest, well intentioned, based on a beloved book by Catherine Marshall, handsomely photographed, wholesome as a tea cozy, cute as a kitten and almost unspeakably humdrum. Part of the problem is the casting. ... Martin ... brings precisely nothing to the screen. She has a grand total of two expressions and always seems to be looking for a mirror in which to admire them. [2 Apr 1994]
    • Washington Post
    • 57 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    There's so little happening in "The Apprentice," NBC's new reality show, that it's hard to work up an opinion about it. [8 Jan 2004]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Although Justified qualifies as cryptic, and its mouth is plenty potty, it definitely lacks edge, the most important quality of the three. In fact, it can get downright sleepy between killings. It moseys. It meanders.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    The costumes and sets are just ducky and highly evocative, but the people in and around them spoil the show, gum up the works and shatter veracity.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    There are errant laughs floating around, but for the most part Gary Unmarried is Gary Unfunny.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Yet another blandly generic family sitcom. This one is supposedly based on the life and syndicated columns of Dave Barry, but it has all the fresh, distinctive flavor of dust. Probably the worst thing about the show...is its star, Harry Anderson. [20 Sept 1993, p.B4]
    • Washington Post
    • 79 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    At an hour in length, Parenthood seems like a prolonged, and rather melancholy, sitcom. There are too many characters, and it's hard to keep the relationships straight. Replacing the irreplaceable Steve Martin as the father of a 10-year-old problem child -- and a man who remains something of a problem child himself -- is the capable but unexciting Ed Begley Jr. [20 Aug 1990, p.B1]
    • Washington Post
    • 35 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    There's a sort of comfort that comes from knowing you won't run into anything disruptively unconventional in a sitcom, and that would make Engvall as pleasantly lumpy as a dying couch.
    • 19 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Momma's Boys is truly and sometimes horrifically fascinating, a deluxe example of sumptuous trash that takes the concept of "guilty pleasure" to a new extreme.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    They carry on like mischievous scamps, and while they are fun to watch up to a point, the point is reached well before the shenanigans peter out.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Poehler's show unfortunately isn't worthy of her. It's dry and hesitant when one longs for it to be raucous and madcap.
    • 33 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Big Shots tries way too hard to be shocking and raunchy. The actors resemble kiddies at school trying to impress one another with the latest naughty word learned in gym class.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    It's a pity the writers and producers suffer so badly from groin lock, because the show has promise, mainly in the person of John Lithgow. [9 Jan 1996]
    • Washington Post
    • 42 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Where the previous movie aspired to be a camp classic, "Martha Behind Bars" takes itself more seriously, and less entertainingly.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Peeps of sentimentality only serve to emphasize the film's uneven mix of the sardonic and the heartfelt. Tin Man unfortunately seems as bereft of an efficiently functioning ticker as is the titular character himself.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    At least [it] has possibilities and a good excuse for a giggle now and then.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    At present it suffers from a problem that predates not only television but radio and theater as well: Too many cooks, or at least too many ingredients bubbling to a busy and irritating boil.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    The new series seems to share a perhaps fatal flaw of that now-canceled show, which is that the premise becomes so byzantine and the complications so arcane that eventually people just give up on trying to make sense of the darn thing.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Those who wade into Carrier might not want to be quitters, either, but after four or five hours, they may find they'd really rather be checking out who's survived on "American Idol."
    • 77 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Despite plenty of surface sparkle, there is something discomforting about the show, and not just because it borrows tone and form from other sitcoms with youthful heroes, especially Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle."
    • 40 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Strictly as a sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Life, despite its unusual origins, comes across as blatantly ordinary. It's shamelessly similar to "Everybody Loves Raymond" but so far not nearly as good. [26 Feb 2003, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 79 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Joan of Arcadia may mean well, and it showcases a charming new star, but the premiere suggests viewers are being asked to wade heart-deep into a drearily portentous muddle. [26 Sept 2003, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 80 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    The problem is that the little scenes from the old shows seem so much more intriguing than the new show they interrupt. [7 July 1990, p.C1]
    • Washington Post
    • 35 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    As light summer fare, most of it done with a campy wink at the camera, Flash Gordon is by no means unbearable. But the fonder one's memories of the original, the more likely the viewer will want to send this Flash back.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Writer-director Murphy seems willing to do anything to startle viewers and introduce outrageous elements into the script, but as he pushes the envelope up, down, backwards and sideways, the characters become less and less believable. It becomes shock for shock's sake and, in addition, extremely overwrought, with lots of screamed accusations and lamentations.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    The din of familiarity is fairly deafening. Brown's dead wife pops up for posthumous chats with him the way departed loved ones have already done on "Providence" and, more notably, "Six Feet Under." The town is right off a Christmas card -- picturesque and cozy and full of quirky locals. [16 Sept 2002, p.C01]
    • Washington Post
    • 39 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    She's not bad, just flat; not annoying, just weak.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Unfortunately, Defying Gravity will have to be listed as one of its well-intentioned mistakes, another of the many peculiar oddities churned out by broadcast and cable every year, every week, every moment of our earthbound little lives.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    There's a certain "Twin Peaks" influence to the nuttiness of the show's plotlines and an attempted morbid irreverence reminiscent of HBO's fondly remembered "Six Feet Under." But at some point, the influences cancel each other out and you're left with half an hour of -- well, nothing
    • 58 Metascore
    • 40 Tom Shales
    Perhaps the writers, director Debbie Allen and executive producer Quincy Jones are afraid to show America how rich people in L.A. really live. As for the new arrival's "outrageous" behavior, that consists mainly of using slang expressions, playing a tune on the drinking glasses at the dinner table and wearing a funky tux to the party. Gracious goodness sakes alive, what next??? [10 Sept 1990, p.B1]
    • Washington Post

Top Trailers