Second-Year Shows: Sophomore Slumps, or Smashes?

Television Without Pity
New Girl | Photo Credits: Dewey Nicks/FOX

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New Girl | Photo Credits: Dewey Nicks/FOX

Some TV series hit their second season and decide to change their formats entirely ("Up All Night," we're looking at you), while others that got off to a strong start in Season 1 are unable to sustain their quality or intriguing storylines in their second year. But on occasion, some shows actually improve with time. We took a look at the 2011-12 season's freshman crop to see how they are holding up.

"New Girl": Smash
We've got some problems with it (too much Schmidt and an underutilized Winston), but the show is a solid comedy that's still really funny, even though it does seem to be struggling to please everyone in its ensemble. As long as they stick with the group dynamics, which is what makes this show work, and the rapid-fire jokes, it will stay in our must-see list. Also, having the dreadful "Mindy Project" air after it makes us appreciate it even more.

"Homeland": Smash
This drama had a stellar freshman season (not to mention a huge Emmy night), so we were concerned that it wouldn't be able to keep up that breakneck pace. But it has. Each episode of the second season has been better than the last, and we've been treated to some of the most mind-blowing twists we've seen in … well, ever.

"Suburgatory": Smash
This little show has just maintained status quo. It's sweet and charming, with a bit of an edge, and we'll stick around to watch the weirdo Shay family as long as they're around. And at least it didn't lamely try and change itself into a multi-camera show in order to get more viewers.

"Comic Book Men": Slump
This post-"Walking" and "Talking Dead" reality series was too lengthy last season at an hour per episode, and we thought that pace was what made this otherwise geekily charming reality show seem sluggish. Unfortunately, cutting it to a half-hour this season hasn't allowed us to enjoy the nerdy antics because the program now seems more scripted and awkwardly forced than ever. Ghostbusting? Really? Just sell comics and talk in geek speak and we'll be happy.

"Once Upon a Time": Smash
The fact that people of Storybrooke are clued into their fairy tale alter-egos has really brought an interesting new dimension to the show, and bringing in characters from non-Disney stories (like Dr. Frankenstein) has really opened up the possibilities for the show.

"2 Broke Girls": Slump
Even more racist stereotypes than before, but now with the increasingly irrelevant cupcake business, more obvious punchlines and "jokes" that make us groan and want to turn off the television.

"Revenge": Slump
This was one of our favorite soapy shows of the 2011-12 season, and it's still worth watching each week, but not nearly as juicy with all of the baby stuff, Victoria back from the dead, and Emily's sappy mom drama. And don't even get us started on how grating Aiden is in general. We'd really love to just pack up Emily and Nolan and send them off to destroy people in another location, so they can get away from all the dead weight in the Hamptons.

"Hart of Dixie": Smash
Somehow, this show survived to see a second year, though don't ask us how. Now Zoe is firmly embedded in a lovely little romantic triangle, which involves lots of shirtless Wade. So the show is fun, and those weird little small town characters have developed beyond their shrill stereotypes.

"Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23": Slump
This sitcom with James Van Der Beek as a version of himself started out fun, but wore thin quickly. We were mostly over it by the end of last season, but gave it another chance… and it's already leaving a bad taste in our mouths. Focusing too much on Van Der Beek (who is wonderful in small doses) and not enough on the titular B is a big mistake.

"Scandal": Smash
We were lukewarm on this Shonda Rhimes political drama, but man, has it heated up with some really sexy scenes between Olivia Pope and President Fitz. Not only that, but all the shady conspiracy theory stuff happening with Quinn and the explosion is really paying off. We're hooked.

"The X Factor": Smash
When we heard Demi and Britney we joining the show, we were underwhelmed, but the two have been fun additions, particularly Britney. Her facial expressions have spawned a thousand memes. But what really improved the program were the story editing and the glossy production values. This singing competition is quick, has developed compelling personalities, and is far more engaging than "The Voice" or "American Idol."

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