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Early reaction: ‘New Girl,’ ‘Smash’ among top 2011-12 pilots

Just in time for next week’s launch of the annual Television Critics Assn. summer press tour, I have completed my viewing of 34 broadcast network pilots for the 2011-12 season. While heeding the networks’ admonition not to review the pilots in their preseason condition (because they’re subject to tweaking before their premieres), here are the shows that, in my view, have the least or most to work on.

Several of these were just not going to be my cup of tea no matter what, but they could still succeed with viewers overall. On the other hand, I’m already bracing myself for another painful cancellation of a Kyle Killen series: last season “Lone Star,” this season “Awake.” The dark NBC drama doesn’t arrive until midseason, but it’s not too early to start the “Save the Show” campaign for that one.

Cream of the early crop (5)
ABC: “Once Upon a Time”
Fox: “New Girl,” “Terra Nova”
NBC: “Awake,” “Smash”

Sticking with for now, but have more (maybe much more) to prove (12)
ABC: “Apt. 23,” “Man Up,” “Pan Am,” “Revenge,” “Suburgatory”
CBS: “2 Broke Girls,” “A Gifted Man”
CW: “Hart of Dixie,” “Ringer”
NBC: “Bent,” “Free Agents,” “Prime Suspect”

Not for me (12)
ABC: “The River,” “Scandal,” “Work It”
CBS: “Person of Interest,” “Unforgettable”
CW: “The Secret Circle”
Fox: “Alcatraz,” “The Finder” (backdoor pilot)
NBC: “Grimm,” “The Playboy Club,” “Up All Night,” “Whitney”

Really not for me (5)
ABC: “Charlie’s Angels,” “GCB,” “Last Man Standing”
CBS: “How To Be a Gentleman”
Fox: “I Hate My Teenage Daughter”

In the spirit of constructive criticism — since these are supposedly works in progress — here are three pieces of “who asked you?” advice (believe me, I have more):

“Revenge”: Drop the voiceover, which is adding a layer of cheese you don’t need. The soapy characters and stories speak for themselves, but you’ve got a chance to lure viewers who are more interested in straight drama if you can just let go of this one unnecessary level of melodrama. Watching those same scenes with the voiceover muted, they’re actually more powerful.

“2 Broke Girls”: I know it’s anathema tell a comedy “don’t try so hard for the laughs,” but don’t try so hard for the laughs. Or at least don’t let us see the effort so clearly. The more natural this show gets, the better.

“Smash”: You’re absolutely one of my frosh favorites, but in the middle of the show there’s a number that the characters get really excited about, and it’s utterly unfathomable to this character, before, during and after that number, why that is.

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