Best and Worst New Shows of the 2011-12 TV Season

  • Publish Date: May 23, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 12 user comments


2011-12 New Shows
Avg. Metascore 53.6
Avg. User Score 5.8
Metascore Rank 4th
Ratings Rank * 3rd

*Viewership through May 20. Source: Nielsen.

After three consecutive years in 2nd place among the broadcast networks in average Metascore for its new shows, ABC dropped to fourth place this season despite actually launching more positively reviewed newcomers (seven in total) than any other network in 2011-12. In fact, ABC saw 54% of its new series debut to positive reviews, a percentage second only to Fox.

So why did ABC's average Metascore decline for the third straight year? For that, you can thank a trio of terrible new sitcoms (including the previously mentioned Work It 19, which set a record for critical disdain) as well as a disastrous reboot of Charlie's Angels 30. Oddly, one of those four poorly reviewed newcomers—the Tim Allen-starring Last Man Standing 33—has been renewed for a second season, though it has been banished to Fridays.

And, despite sitting in fourth place in the key 18-49 demographic (while staying in 3rd place in overall viewership), the season wasn't a total loss for ABC. The network was able to launch a pair of critically praised and successful sitcoms in Suburgatory and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, and has a genuine hit on its hands in soapy drama Revenge. However, the network was unable to translate decent reviews for thriller The River or period drama Pan Am into viewers, though there is a very slim chance that the latter series, canceled at the end of the season by ABC, could get picked up by Amazon for a second season.

ABC's New Primetime Shows, 2011-12 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Metascore Users
1 Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 Comedy 71 6.7
2 Suburgatory Comedy 70 7.3
3 Pan Am * Drama 67 7.5
4 Revenge Drama 66 8.2
5 Once Upon a Time Drama 66 7.9
6 The River * Drama 65 6.1
7 Scandal Drama 64 5.5
8 Missing * Drama 56 6.0
9 GCB * Drama 55 6.4
10 Man Up! ** Comedy 36 5.9
11 Last Man Standing Comedy 33 5.0
12 Charlie's Angels * Drama 30 2.7
13 Work It  ** Comedy 19 0.8
-- You Deserve It * Game Show n/a n/a

* Show was canceled at the end of the season
** Show was canceled in the middle of the season before all episodes had aired


2011-12 New Shows
Avg. Metascore 53.8
Avg. User Score 5.7
Metascore Rank 3rd
Ratings Rank 1st

With just a few days remaining in Nielsen's official 2011-12 television season, it is clear that CBS will once again lead all networks in total viewership, achieving that feat for the ninth time in the past decade and actually growing its audience a bit compared to the previous year. While the network remains in second place in the key 18-49 demographic, CBS will finish the season averaging nearly 3 million more viewers than its nearest competitor (Fox), the largest margin of victory in over 20 years.

The result of this ongoing ratings success is that CBS once again launched fewer new shows than ABC or NBC. Just three of its seven first-year programs managed to eke out positive reviews from professional critics, and even those didn't exactly overwhelm reviewers with their quality. Interestingly, CBS's two highest-scoring new programs are the only ones advancing to a second season on the network, and they are both ratings hits: drama Person of Interest is the season's most-watched new series, and comedy 2 Broke Girls was the top newcomer among the 18-49 set. Last year, by comparison, CBS introduced four new series to critical acclaim, with three of those earning renewal.

CBS's New Primetime Shows, 2011-12 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Metascore Users
1 2 Broke Girls Comedy 66 6.3
2 Person of Interest Drama 65 7.7
3 A Gifted Man  * Drama 62 7.1
4 Unforgettable * Drama 57 5.3
5 NYC 22 * Drama 57 6.9
6 How to Be a Gentleman ** Comedy 42 3.1
7 Rob * Comedy 28 3.6

* Show was canceled at the end of the season
** Show was canceled in the middle of the season before all episodes had aired

The CW

2011-12 New Shows
Avg. Metascore 51.6
Avg. User Score 5.5
Metascore Rank 5th
Ratings Rank 5th

Once again at the bottom of the pack in terms of ratings and average Metascore for its new shows, fifth "major" network The CW successfully launched just one new series in 2011-12: Hart of Dixie, the only newcomer that will return next season. That show actually left critics mostly unimpressed, as did nearly all of The CW's freshman lineup; as a result, the network fell back to fifth place in average new show Metascore after improving to fourth place the previous season.

Oddly, The CW's lone new program to receive strong reviews—Canadian import The L.A. Complex—was so shunned by viewers that it established a new ratings low for broadcast drama debuts. Critics still like that show (an article in Slate just this week comes with the headline, "The Lowest-Rated Show in Broadcast History Is Actually Great"), but its ratings have somehow managed to decline even further since its premiere, to the point where fewer than half a million people watched the most recent episode. Elsewhere on the schedule, the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar (in Ringer) and a new supernatural series from the people behind hit The Vampire Diaries (The Secret Circle) failed to connect with either critics or viewers.

The CW's New Primetime Shows, 2011-12 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Metascore Users
1 The L.A. Complex *** Drama 70 n/a
2 Ringer * Drama 59 6.2
3 The Secret Circle * Drama 55 7.2
4 Hart of Dixie Drama 43 6.8
5 H8R ** Reality 31 1.6
-- Remodeled * Reality n/a n/a

* Show was canceled at the end of the season
** Show was canceled in the middle of the season before all episodes had aired
*** Show has been renewed in Canada, but the CW has not announced whether it will return in the U.S. next season


2011-12 New Shows
Avg. Metascore 56.1
Avg. User Score 5.5
Metascore Rank 2nd
Ratings Rank 2nd

After two consecutive years of boasting the highest average Metascore for its first-year programs, Fox fell to second place in 2011-12, its average score plummeting by nearly 7 points. Yes, that drop occurred in spite of the fact that five out of the network's nine scored newcomers (a 10th, Q'Viva!, did not earn enough reviews to receive a score) earned positive reviews—a success rate (56%) higher than that of any other broadcast network this season.

The culprit is the presence of two negatively reviewed shows on Fox's roster—something the network avoided in the two previous seasons. Animated comedy Allen Gregory and non-animated "comedy" I Hate My Teenage Daughter were despised by Metacritic users about as much as they were by critics (if not more), and neither will return for a second season. Three first-year series did earn renewals, and they were three of Fox's four highest-scoring newcomers. The fourth, time-travel dinosaur epic Terra Nova, was neither good enough nor viewed enough to merit its massive budget.

Fox's New Primetime Shows, 2011-12 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Metascore Users
1 The X Factor Reality competition 70 5.3
2 New Girl Comedy 66 7.3
3 Terra Nova * Drama/sci-fi 64 5.9
4 Touch Drama 63 6.7
5 Alcatraz * Drama 63 6.6
6 The Finder * Drama 58 6.4
7 Napoleon Dynamite * Animation/comedy 46 5.3
8 Allen Gregory * Animation/comedy 39 3.1
9 I Hate My Teenage Daughter ** Comedy 36 3.1
-- Q'Viva! The Chosen * Reality competition n/a n/a

* Show was canceled at the end of the season
** Show was canceled in the middle of the season before all episodes had aired


2011-12 New Shows
Avg. Metascore 57.0
Avg. User Score 5.5
Metascore Rank 1st
Ratings Rank 4th

The always-struggling NBC once again debuted more new series than any other network, and while those newcomers didn't help the peacock network emerge from its fourth-place total viewership hole, it did manage to grow its 18-49 ratings compared to the previous season. And all of those new programs were, as a group, better than those the network introduced in 2010-11. In fact, they were good enough to place NBC first among all networks in average Metascore.

You wouldn't necessarily guess that by looking at the list below, however. Three of NBC's six well-reviewed newcomers have been canceled, a fourth (news program Rock Center with Brian Williams) was mysteriously renewed despite miniscule ratings, and a fifth (NBC's best new show, Smash) has seen its viewership eroding and will undergo major changes in front of and behind the camera when it returns next season. Still, critics only hated one of the network's new shows (Are You There, Chelsea?) this season, which is an improvement over the two that were panned the previous year.

NBC's New Primetime Shows, 2011-12 Season
  Show (Network) Genre Metascore Users
1 Smash Drama/musical 79 7.1
2 Awake * Drama 75 8.0
3 Bent * Comedy 68 5.5
4 Prime Suspect * Drama 66 7.5
5 Up All Night Comedy 64 6.5
6 Rock Center with Brian Williams News 63 n/a
7 Fashion Star Reality competition 55 n/a
8 Grimm Drama 55 7.2
9 The Firm * Drama 52 6.5
10 Free Agents ** Comedy 51 5.2
11 Best Friends Forever ** Comedy 50 6.4
12 Whitney Comedy 49 4.3
13 Who's Still Standing? * Game show 47 n/a
14 The Playboy Club ** Drama 45 5.9
15 Are You There, Chelsea? * Comedy 36 5.1
-- Betty White's Off Their Rockers Comedy/reality n/a n/a
-- Escape Routes * Reality competition n/a n/a

* Show was canceled at the end of the season
** Show was canceled in the middle of the season before all episodes had aired

What are your favorites?

What are your picks for the best and worst new shows of the 2011-12 season? What did the critics get right and wrong when first assessing these new programs? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (12)

  • khan2705  

    Well i am personally really interested in watching Smash and Girls. Homeland without a doubt is one of the best shows ever and i really hope it does maintain that status. Sherlock, Awake, Enlightened, Once Upon a Time are the shows i loved with Once being a good guilty pleasure. Whereas Pan Am, New Girl, Touch, The River are the shows i just liked. I left watching Person of Interest, Terra Nova and Missing in the middle as i lost my interest in them completely or else i finish a show anyway! Loved The X-Factor too.

  • LamontRaymond  

    What's going on at NBC. They actually put some good solid shows out there - Awake, Bent, Prime Suspect, and The Firm (all of which I watched) - and you can't get the masses to pay attention! Not even slapping the Playboy logo on a show worked. A pity. And let's go, CW - renew LA Complex - it's fun and more than a little daring. You have to love these Canadian imports (see The Lost Girl, Degrassi).

  • JRath  

    The fact that NBC cancelled Awake just proves even further that they should be in last place. Hopefully another network is smart enough to pick it up...God knows Ill watch it. Im thinking USA or TNT should get it.

  • MarcDoyle  

    It\'s great to see White Chapel getting some recognition - a consistently entertaining crime drama. Actually, Dramaville on BBC America in general churns out great shows fairly regularly (The Hour, Luther, etc.) The one miss in my book is the current White Heat - ZZZZZzzzz. Speaking of putting me to sleep, Game of Thrones is significantly less entertaining this season than it was last year, which is really too bad. I was hoping its willingness to take such huge risks in Seas 1 would pay dividends, but it really has not.

  • Woodsy  

    I tried to get into a lot of these network shows, but the only one that stuck for me was "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23". Love the humor! As far as cable...go "HOMELAND"!!!

  • dunker  

    Some random thoughts:
    Boss just blew me away.
    Sherlock was even better than last year, and that's saying a lot.
    Homeland, Luther and Whitechapel were each great, but were just a notch below Boss and Sherlock.
    Good Wife, Southland and Justified were what I like to call "franchise shows". I looked forward to watching them each week.
    I'm probably forgetting some show, but that may just indicate that the rest of the shows I regularly watched this season were basically just "time killers"--shows I watched to kill time in the evening (when I wasn't watching NBA basketball).

  • FredMertz72  

    Woman Detective shows. It Is Becoming Such A Cliché. The men quality shows are being replaced with female shows for some reason.

    Justified (FX)
    Being Human (SyFy)
    Alphas (SyFy)
    Stargate (SG1, Atlantis, Universe)
    Mad Men (AMC)
    Breaking Bad (AMC)
    Walking Dead (AMC)
    Hell on Wheels (AMC)
    Burn Notice
    Sons of Anarchy (FX)
    The League (FX)
    Archer (FX)
    Royal Pains
    Grimm (NBC)
    2 ½ Men (CBS)
    Person of Interest (CBS)
    Downton Abbey (PBS)
    Sherlock Holmes, (PBS)
    Top Gear (BBC)
    Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

    These are the ones I like and watch.

  • AaronBC  

    Revenge was easily the best new network show (great casting, consistently excellent writing and a very strong finale), with Once Upon A Time a somewhat distant second. Over on cable, Homeland really was incredible and totally stole the season..

  • urkobg  

    Revenge the best new network show and Homeland best new cable show!

  • Jonzvu  

    FredMertz72 I agree with just about all you wrote. I'd just add HBO's NEWSROOM as its initial episodes were active and THE shows "on air" issues not that far off target even though they may need to gain some balance by looking, and veering a bit left in their critical behavior analysis. Then I'd say BOO to those who neglected to appreciate The Killing. Well written, directed and marvelously supermen or women, just humans with warts and heart.

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