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The best and the worst of the new fall season

This image released by NBC shows Andrew Rannells as Bryan left JustBarthas David scene from 'The New Normal' premiering Sept.

This image released by NBC shows Andrew Rannells as Bryan, left, and Justin Bartha as David in a scene from "The New Normal," premiering Sept. 11, 2012 at 9:30p.m. EST on NBC. (AP Photo/NBC, Trae Patton)

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Updated: October 3, 2012 6:09AM



Less than half of last fall’s new TV shows survived broadcast networks’ ever-escalating war for eyeballs; NBC’s poor “Playboy Club” was the first casualty after a mere three episodes.

Of course, not all good shows stick around (“Prime Suspect”), and not all bad ones get the ax (“Last Man Standing”). Predicting what will be a hit or a miss can be tricky business. But after watching the pilots for this season’s 20-some rookies, I can at least tell you my picks for the best and worst of the bunch. This year’s batch of comedies are especially polarizing.

Here’s a look at 12 of 2012’s freshman class, divided into winners and losers:

THE BEST

‘The New Normal’
★★★1/2

Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha play a gay couple on the verge of parenthood in this witty-but-poignant look at what it means to be a modern family. Watch out Archie Bunker; no one plays a bigot better than Ellen Barkin. The show, from “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy, gets extra points for having been banned by an NBC affiliate in Utah and boycotted by the group One Million Moms.

Premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11 on WMAQ-Channel 5

‘The Mindy Project’
★★★

Proof that too many romantic comedies can be hazardous to your health, this laffer stars “The Office’s” Mindy Kaling as a doctor on a misguided search for the perfect man. The tone fits right in with Fox’s new two-hour comedy block on Tuesdays. (Fire up the DVR, fans of ABC’s Tuesday comedies.)

Premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 25 on WFLD-Channel 32

‘Nashville’
★★★

Not one but two shows this season feature female country music singers from Nashville. This is the good one (sorry Reba). The always stellar Connie Britton is a gently aging music legend forced to make room for a devious up-and-comer played by Hayden Panettiere. Throw in some Tennessee politics and you’ve got a soapy drama worth watching.

Premieres 9 p.m. Oct. 10 on WLS-Channel 7

‘Ben and Kate’
★★★

This sweet sitcom about two yin and yang siblings features Dakota Johnson as an overly responsible single mom and the fantastic Nat Faxon as her hyperactive, flies-by-the-seat-of-his-pants brother. It’s another welcome helping of “New Girl” adorkability.

Premieres 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 on WFLD-Channel 32

‘Arrow’
★★★

Based on the comic book superhero Green Arrow, this slick action-drama boasts Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy by day, good guy vigilante by night. After spending five years shipwrecked on an island, he’s back home on a “Revenge”-style quest to right a long list of wrongs. Record the pilot; you’ll want to watch Amell’s crazy-cool pull-up scene more than once.

Premieres 7 p.m. Oct. 10 on WGN-Channel 9

‘Elementary’
★★★

This contemporary take on the classic Sherlock Holmes franchise has Jonny Lee Miller roaming around the Big Apple solving crimes with his signature brand of deductive reasoning. The modern-day version will no doubt rile up purists (Watson’s a woman, after all), but I’ll take this fun procedural over another installment of “NCIS” or “CSI” any day.

Premieres 9 p.m. Sept. 27 on WBBM-Channel 2

THE WORST

‘Neighbors’

Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito move their family into a gated community in New Jersey only to find out their new ’hood is full of aliens. These unbearably annoying transplants from the planet Zabvron are disguised as humans and named after famous athletes, like Dick Butkus and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. And that’s me, faster than Usain Bolt, changing the channel.

Premieres 8:30 p.m. Sept. 26 on WLS-Channel 7

‘Made in Jersey’

Underneath all that big hair is a sharp legal mind, or so the creators of “Made in Jersey” would have us believe in this ridiculous rendition of a plucky, working-class gal (Janet Montgomery) who shows ’em all how it’s done at a fancy-pants Manhattan law firm.

Premieres 8 p.m. Sept. 28 on WBBM-Channel 2

‘Malibu Country’
★1/2

And this would be the bad show about a country singer from Nashville. Instead of standing by her man after he cheats on her, Reba McEntire packs up the family — including mom Lily Tomlin — and relocates to Malibu, where she tries to restart her music career. This show feels dated, unoriginal and, much like its Friday night ABC lead-in, “Last Man Standing,” a weak excuse to get its main star back on TV.

Premieres 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 on WLS-Channel 7

‘Guys With Kids’

Isn’t it hilarious when guys try to take care of kids? Not really. Not even when they try to hose down a baby in a kitchen sink or hang out at the bar wearing their BabyBjorns. C’mon, executive producer Jimmy Fallon. I expect more from you than this insipid sitcom.

Premieres 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 on WMAQ-Channel 5

‘Partners’
★★

I also expect more from the creators of “Will & Grace” than this lackluster comedy starring David Krumholtz and Michael Urie as long-time BFFs and partners at their architecture firm. One is gay. One is straight. Might have been mildly funnier 15 years ago. Today, not a chance.

Premieres 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 on WBBM-Channel 2

‘Beauty and the Beast’

Kristin Kreuk is a homicide detective who would have died years ago had she not been rescued by a mysterious stranger. Turns out that stranger (Jay Ryan) is a doctor who was presumed dead. He’s actually been hiding for the past decade as he tries to find a cure for his condition that transforms him into a beast when he gets enraged. This makes it difficult to date him, which Kreuk’s character clearly wants to do, even though he’s a beast — just look at that tiny scar tucked under his chiseled cheekbone!

Premieres 8 p.m. Oct. 11 on WGN-Channel 9

Lori Rackl



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