When life gets scary, TV lets us face our fears from a safe distance. A haunted house, rampaging dinosaurs and menacing storybook characters bow as antagonists this fall, stand ins, perhaps for a teetering economy, reigning terrorism and incendiary political climate.
Escapist comedies provide relief, too, the best being Zooey Deschanel’s endearing turn in “New Girl” on Fox. She single-handedly proves it’s still possible to build a bright half-hour around one can’t-miss talent.
Deschanel brings the adorableness, alright. But horror, terror, the prefeminist ’60s and recycled confusion about modern manhood are the bigger themes of primetime’s Fall 2011 TV season.
No matter where it goes for escapism, TV seems to circle back to current anxieties. Jokes about underpaid waitresses get a laugh, but the real-world pain underneath threatens to gut the enjoyment. A serial about a young woman exacting revenge from the super-rich may lead to unwanted thoughts about that top 2 percent of American wealth. An experimental comedy about co-workers struggling after an office affair may be more uncomfortable than entertaining.
At least there are oddities reaching to be more than bland this season.
With 27 new shows, and TV’s traditional failure rate of 80 percent, only five of these newcomers can be expected to stick around.