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Q&A: Dec. 8

Question: How many episodes of the new shows do you get from the studios before the season starts when you are coming up with your grades? Which of the new series have you kept up with? If you were to go back and re-grade all the new series, which ones would change?
Matt Cromartie

Answer: It varies wildly. More often than not, I only get the pilot. But many times networks quickly will send out subsequent episodes. I try to watch as many as possible, but I've found over many years that pilot episodes usually are very good indicators of whether a series is going to stink or shine. The best reaction to a show is if a critic actually wants to watch more episodes, as I very definitely did with NBC's Heroes.

Of all the fall series, I'm proudest of that early judgment. While still at The Dallas Morning News, I predicted it would be the surprise sleeper hit of the season. And on unclebarky.com, I wrote in part, "In a season full of new serials, this is the one to invest in. The first three episodes are thoroughly captivating, with cliffhangers that might leave you with mouth agape. So let's get the word-of-mouth going. Talk this one up, and then by all means tell me if I'm wrong."

I certainly wouldn't take back the grade of A that I gave Heroes. And so far, for this season at least, I wouldn't change any of the initial grades. I am the guy, however, who pretty much panned the first episode of Grey's Anatomy. I'm still not wild about it, but obviously millions of viewers are seeing something I didn't.

In every case, I never read another critic's review before writing my own. It's best to trust your own instincts and then see where you fall in the grand scheme of things. My track record has been damned good so far this fall. Sometimes it works out that way.

Finally, the new series that I've kept up with are mostly on NBC. Namely Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock. I also regularly watch ABC's Ugly Betty and should be keeping up better with that network's Brothers & Sisters. But it's on opposite NBC's Sunday Night Football, so that's usually where I'm parked.

Great question by the way. Thanks.