San Francisco Chronicle's Scores

For 962 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 52% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 45% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 1.5 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average TV Show review score: 63
Highest review score: 100 Luther: Season 2
Lowest review score: 0 Fear Factor: Season 1
Score distribution:
  1. Mixed: 0 out of 508
  2. Negative: 0 out of 508
508 tv reviews
  1. The acting here is exceptional and the writing strong and honest. Though "Brotherhood" may not be in the rarefied air of "The Sopranos" or "The Wire," it's still a major achievement for Showtime's original-series development and yet another top-notch cable drama.
  2. "Vanished" is indeed compelling. And it is without question Fox's best fall offering (though, having seen all its shows, that praise is not as high as you might expect).
  3. Tonight's pilot has a film quality to it and the narrative flow is both intriguing and unexpected.
  4. The promise of grown up storytelling is alluring. This is a series to watch to see if it grows.
  5. "Heroes" may be the dark horse among this year's serialized dramas. It also might be a dud down the road. Because after two episodes, it's not even remotely clear what these "special" ordinary people are capable of.
  6. "Ugly Betty" is worth checking out. It retains a charm that far outstrips expectations. And Ferrera's performances are small wonders to behold.
  7. It has a goofy charm and outsize ridiculousness that wins you over -- even if you'd prefer more snark.
  8. Season 6 proves that the best part of "24" is its ability to make your pulse race as you sit slack jawed in front of the bastard machine mumbling, "They didn't just do that, did they?"
  9. "Andy Barker, P.I." is a joyous, ridiculous, warm, affecting and silly comedy that is tone specific (read: Not everybody is going to get the vibe, and thus the jokes).
  10. The television version of "This American Life" does not ruin the fragile, hip beauty of the radio version. Glass and the team responsible for adding pictures to words have created a compelling television series.
  11. With all the intrigue of a Shakespearean drama and all the coiled intensity of youthful power-brokering and rampant sexuality, it's hard to not like this version of Henry VIII.
  12. Unexpectedly, it's funny. And it gets funnier and sharper in future episodes.
  13. Most of the performances are very good and some are thrilling, particularly Kline's Jacques, whom he imbues with great world-weary nobility.
  14. The good news is that State of Mind is surprisingly engaging and Taylor continues to be wonderful in just about any role she plays. This is a series that bears watching.
  15. All told, this series is pleasantly unexpected, taking chances on TNT when it seemed the channel's DNA wouldn't permit that level of risk. If the writing continues to hold up, viewers could be in for a better ride than the one Hunter is already taking them on by herself.
  16. It's a big soapy epic that allows you to turn off your brain late at night, but it ultimately carries no gravitas, minority hiring or not. As long as we're clear on that, there's nothing wrong for applauding what the series gets right, given the constraints of the genre.
  17. Dirty Sexy Money is compelling even when it's not, funny when you're not quite sure it should be, ridiculous in the strangest spots and ultimately addictive if, for no other reason, you want to watch more episodes to find out what kind of beast it is.
  18. It's slightly unpolished in some areas but funny and charming and a perfect companion series to "Chris."
  19. Project Runway is entertaining and likable on so many levels that it's hard to resist.
  20. It's helpful to remember that Life on Mars is less about said realism and more about Sam's twisted journey. Enjoying that retro-cool ride is the essence of the series.
  21. Breaking Bad promises seven compelling and unique hours of drama.
  22. What works so well in the series is that the four friends are so distinctly different, and the writers are able to adjust the level of humor to each.
  23. The Riches is gloriously inventive, daring and provocative, with excellent performances.
  24. Recount pays due diligence to history while at the same time fictionalizing the interactions of the participants.
  25. Like "Sex and the City" - oh, no, not that comparison - the half hour flies by and you realize that the human relationships depicted here are interesting and worth mining and Belle's life choices are entertaining.
  26. In the best tradition of light but engaging (and highly entertaining) dramas, Burn Notice is plain and simple fun--you want to come back every week.
  27. Both Paquin and Moyer do well here. And True Blood is fleshed out with other interesting characters getting to spout well-written lines. But at times the whole thing seems silly.
  28. Though the pilot has some flaws in it--mostly from a clash of tones--it still overdelivers on creativity, creepiness, fine acting and burgeoning character development.
  29. Friday Night Lights, like "Battlestar Galactica," also proved initial assumptions wildly wrong and deserves credit for being vastly better than either a show about high school football or an irksome teen drama.
  30. It stars Elizabeth Reaser ("Grey's Anatomy"), as Bella, who strikes the right balance of snide, seasoned relationship survivor and romantic hopeful. There's a winning cast, particularly Rachel Boston who plays Bella's sister and Amir Talai ("Campus Ladies") as one of Bella's male buddies.
  31. If the ambition of the pilot continues, American television may get another remake right. We'll have our first hint this next week. In the meantime, enjoy the pilot.
  32. The documentary look is engaging, and Lilley's wildly over-the-top performance as three distinct characters is made all the more funny as it clashes against the reserved nature of the nonactors.
  33. It's one of those series with overabundant potential and early hints of provocative brilliance, but it may take a while to truly arrive.
  34. Big Love just doesn't induce love. And yet, the series crafts compelling stories.
  35. At times slight--the trick of talking into the camera was never novel, and the absence of an erotic backbone made it feel partly contrived--Secret Diary of a Call Girl nevertheless ends up at an unexpected place: smartly satisfying.
  36. Right out of the gate, the series is surprisingly solid. What it ultimately becomes bears watching.
  37. Glenister is still riveting, naturally, and Hawes is a real gift. Maybe that's enough to offset the smaller issues, like the cartoonish hero worship of Hunt (three quarters of the way through the pilot, there's a moment where you half expect a laugh track to kick in).
  38. It's all light, good fun. Yes, there's a heavy dose of syrup, but Cannavale should be able to cut that to satisfactory levels. Paulson is perfect as the love guru who believes in rationality while Cupid believes in passion.
  39. It's a strong cast, and Byrne and Wiest continue to deliver incredibly mannered and minutely shaded performances.
  40. The writing is just clever enough to probably make the killing-a-week conceit work. And if you're into watching a phalanx of almost-recognizable actors you've seen in work you can almost remember, this is the series for you. Beyond that, it's just plain fun.
  41. Fans can read into it whatever they want, but the series' greatest strength is the vampire quality of accepting fate and reveling in it.
  42. The pilot, directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), is superb, and the first handful of episodes (there are 10 in the season), prove that the writing is consistently strong, the characters multidimensional and the tone assured and surprising in its depth.
  43. New characters, new rivalry, same old high quality.
  44. There's some spot-on and sharp humor throughout, but it never gets too light and breezy.
  45. Save for one far-fetched incident, the two hours provided enough clues as to where the season will head--and how much conflict from secrets and lies will be coming down the pike - to hook fans of the show who might have been waffling on the commitment.
  46. As promising as the early episodes in Season 2 are, the over-the-top nature of "Tara" remains.
  47. "Love Monkey" manages in one hour to be both funny and endearing, a more option-rich version of "Ed."
  48. Screenwriter Amanda Coe is to be credited not only for developing such rich characterizations, but also for the delicacy of the show's satiric point of view.
  49. Lie to Me comes out of the box strong, and it's especially encouraging that the cases at hand and the science used in the first hour is compelling enough that Roth's character (based on Paul Ekman, a real-life expert on lying and microexpressions, among other things) can evolve more slowly.
  50. Better Off Ted is more funny than not, rushing into absurdity with abandon and playing at stylized comedy in a completely fearless way. The pacing doesn't allow for regret.
  51. The casting on Southland is a plus and so is Biderman's intent not to make it easy for viewers to succumb to "pilotitis."
  52. The workaday mysteries of Jackie and the phenomenal performance of Falco are more than enough to hold down the series while the rest of the characters find their niche.
  53. As long as the jokes stay barbed, fast and witty--as they are in the pilot--there's more than enough reason to keep following the band of misfits.
  54. NBC did renew Parks and Recreation and, like a small miracle of second-act redemption, it comes back on Thursday as a fully realized and very funny sitcom.
  55. Though future episodes don't quite measure up to the brilliant pilot, Archer nurtures a collection of recurring themes that pile up and become funnier the more they are referenced through the episodes.
  56. The series gets better with each episode, and the characters become funnier and more interesting when you come to know (or pity) them along the way.
  57. Despite the title, Cougar Town seems more female centric, which is key to ABC's audience, and it's a little more formulaic than "Modern Family," but both are welcome new sitcoms.
  58. If you can get past the shortcuts that series like this have to take (everything happens too effortlessly, there's excessive exposition, etc.), there's an enormous likability factor in play, and it makes you want to watch it (without much mental effort) the following 13 weeks.
  59. As in "Sunny," they are almost-lovable losers, and that's a formula FX is now perfecting.
  60. V doesn't have an original premise - the humans versus aliens thing is as old as moving pictures. But the special effects are better, and if ABC can get you to buy into the storytelling then it might have another genre hit on its hands.
  61. Evans does a fine job of keeping all these metaphysical plates spinning on their sticks, eliciting superb performances from the entire cast.
  62. Right now it's an action-packed drama that entertains with ease. That's plenty good enough.
  63. "How to Make It in America" is, like "Entourage," more entertaining than actually funny. You're not going to burst out laughing at anything, but there are plenty of comic moments.
  64. It does the near impossible for any extended-family drama: It manages to be poignant and funny without becoming ridiculously soapy and larded with cliches.
  65. By having everyone around Jackie seem daft, quirky or incompetent--an attempt at humor, one would guess--the series never felt connected. Those elements improved by the ended of Season 1 and have, for the most part, been ironed out in the early episodes of Season 2 (though the tone will need to be monitored).
  66. If you're a viewer into quick and easy answers and seek resolution at the 59-minute mark, this is probably not your show. But if you're interested in the notion that post-9/11 paranoia is justified in ways we haven't even realized (and perhaps it would be too chilling if we did), and you have a fundamental distrust of government doings, Rubicon could be your new mental puzzle.
  67. Logue and Raymond-James are, straight out of the gate, the two most believable and funny buddies you'll see on the screen.
  68. Lone Star has enormous potential to be a complicated, tightrope-walking tale of two lives. Or it could just implode. Like "The Event," it's worth your investment, but you'll have to record one or the other.
  69. There's always a need for a pulse-pounding mystery with a little paranormal thrown in. If The Event proves it can let out the story while reeling viewers back each week, it could be something special.
  70. Raising Hope works on two levels, the absurdist gags about dysfunctional families and lower-class values that populated "Earl," and the never-too-saccharine sweetness that Jimmy brings to the world. If Garcia can keep up this mix, Fox may have itself a non-animated comedy hit.
  71. To its credit, there are a few extra twists along the way that make the show more intriguing and which hint at a slightly darker feel (but not too bleak) and a chance to have a more complicated story than simply one family with super powers.
  72. An argument could be made that so much attention to the history-making World Series runs of both of their favorite teams - which happened after the original documentary aired - is excessive, particularly with the Yankees. But that's a minor quibble in an otherwise superb, informative account.
  73. Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Wartorn is convincing on a number of levels.
  74. This may not be Martin Scorsese's most sophisticated film, but it actually takes a smart filmmaker to understand that, with a subject like Fran Lebowitz, the best thing you can do is let her talk.
  75. Lights Out may not reach the level of "The Sopranos," but it has enough going for it to at least earn a shot at the title.
  76. Being Human works better than it should because of skillful writing, often laced with wry humor, and the very deep well of plot possibilities in the idea that three "monsters," as they call themselves, can pass for "human."
  77. Media Rights Capital, an independent production company, took an offbeat idea and made it work surprisingly well.
  78. While some plot elements and characters have been imported intact from the United Kingdom, the American show makes its own statement and will move away from its British roots in future episodes.
  79. The trick to Archer is that you have to listen--and watch--carefully. What can be seen and heard on the surface is outlandish, but the real genius of the show is to be found in its seemingly offhand sight gags and throwaway lines.
  80. For the most part, [Haynes] succeeds because he embraces the story's excesses instead of feeling they need to be swept under a metaphorical rug.
  81. The Borgias, created by filmmaker Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game"), is the better of the two [The other is "Camelot"], thanks largely to Irons, a strong supporting cast and sophisticated production values.
  82. The material works more often than not because the guys are completely shameless, which makes them difficult to dislike.
  83. While there are somewhat foreseeable plot developments (Cameron's falling for Melanie, but she's hooked on Dutch), the series does have an agreeable cast and clever writing, and perhaps enough of both qualities to go the distance.
  84. They bring David himself on as a kind of nudge to the ribs, as if to say, "Of course we know we're ripping off Larry's show." But what the hey? David's clearly in on the joke and is well paired with Reiser as the two of them riff off each other over lunch.
  85. Several recent documentaries have tried to help the rest of the world understand the realities of being transgender, but, ironically, one of the better efforts does it well in spite of the fact that it focuses on the offspring of one of the most famous couples in pop culture.
  86. Despite the complexity of the subject, it's impossible not to get the gist of what went on in 2008, thanks to the focus on the players and the actors who do the playing.
  87. Unlike other documentaries, Gettysburg is short on archival still photography from the battlefield, but that's because, for once, it isn't needed. The re-enactments are dramatic and horrifically convincing all by themselves.
  88. Despite what we know about his troubled childhood, Fischer remains enigmatic.
  89. Don't try too hard to make sense of it: Covert Affairs is simply--and simple--fun.
  90. Skies has enough going for it to appeal even to those who don't think they like sci-fi.
  91. It's unlikely that any TV drama filmed in Toronto could ever come close to the bloody reality of war, but ABC's new series, Combat Hospital, makes a pretty compelling attempt at doing so.
  92. The performances and characterizations are all top-notch, and the action sequences, especially in the first episode, are crisply directed.
  93. Pelosi's film may not tell "the other side of the story" directly, but if it does nudge us to consider these issues, viewing the film becomes more rewarding.
  94. The life of an everyday American high school girl has rarely been rendered with such sly and funny precision as it is in MTV's aptly named Awkward.
  95. Dinner isn't quite ready to take its place in the Brit-com hall of fame, but it's good for a laugh or three.
  96. By making us wonder what Steinem doesn't declare, we can come to a greater understanding of the complexities of the woman herself, but only if we are willing to venture beneath the surface.
  97. With a cast this big, though, and plots this complicated, it can be a challenge to keep up. Then again, if you're willing to do the work, it more than pays off.
  98. The show is great fun, and clearly the star herself is having fun in the lead roles.
  99. The changes enhance the comic balance between the reality-based humor of a young couple coping with their new baby and their evaporating youth, and the "SNL"-sketch-like satire of a powerful and powerfully self-involved talk show hostess.
  100. Broke is rich with laughs, warmth and credibility. The performances by the two lead actresses are instantly winning, both individually and as they play off each other.

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