All the new fall TV shows have premiered. Have you put season passes on your favorites yet? Have you been discussing new shows the morning after with your friends and co-workers?

I’ll bet you haven’t.

This has proven to be the least buzzed-about TV season in recent memory. Among people I talk to, within and outside of EW, not one network show has inspired passionate affection. Sure, most people who’ve seen Raising Hope agree that it’s funny. I enjoyed the pilot of Hawaii Five-O, but I can’t say I’m hooked. Ditto No Ordinary Family, which has possibilities as the show begins to balance its light and dark elements. But the one series so many critics and industry folks were psyched for — Lone Star — got canceled by Fox before it could even build a respectable cult.

There are lots of shows that aren’t awful, and are perfectly good escapism, including Blue Bloods, Nikita, The Defenders, Law & Order: LA, and Undercovers. But at this point, I don’t see any of these becoming either substantial hits, the way Modern Family and Glee did last season, or cult faves, as Fringe and Chuck and Castle have in recent years. And are any of you really still thinking The Event is going to replace Lost as your go-to mythology show?

What’s going on? Why is most of America more entranced by Dancing With the Stars, Grey’s Anatomy, and Two and a Half Men than in anything new? How did this become the season more notable for its head-ache-inducing mediocrities — Hellcats or $#*! My Dad Says, anyone? — than for its attempts at crowd-pleasers, let alone ground-breaking television?

I think a few trends converged to make this an artistically timid fall season.

Everyone wanted to replicate the mass-cult, serialized storytelling of Lost, but no one knew how to execute it. After FlashForward, Dollhouse, and Harper’s Island all failed as big-audience draws, the networks looked around and{C} said, forget it — people don’t want to commit to serialized TV. (The immediate ratings nose-dive of My Generation was the new season exception that proved this rule.) Let’s give ’em a lot of self-contained hours from producers with proven track records, the executives seemed to say as one. Thus Jerry Bruckheimer’s Chase, Blue Bloods from producers who worked on The Sopranos, and the Hawaii Five-O reboot.

In hard economic times, people want to feel there’s comfort on TV, and that television entertainment will supply reassurance that the country still has rules. Thus the profusion of law-and-order shows like the ones named above, plus Jimmy Smits’ Outlaw, Detroit 1-8-7, Law & Order: LA and The Whole Truth.

It’s the cable, stupid. The entire notion of the “fall TV season” has been whittled away by incursions from cable. Not long ago, most original cable series aired in the summer months. No more: From Boardwalk Empire to Sons of Anarchy to the unending variations of Real Housewives, cable programming has had a termite-like effect on The House That Broadcast TV Built, weakening its foundations.

The result? More viewers who are working hard, coming home, looking at what’s on, and thinking, the hell with trying to remember what some vaguely-titled show called The Event or Chase is about — why not just veg out in front of Dancing With the Stars or wait to see whether or not those new judges wreck American Idol?

What do you think? Does this fall season seem particularly unappealing to you, or is it just that you’d rather stick with shows you know?

Follow: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Boardwalk Empire
Steve Buscemi stars in HBO’s sprawling Prohibition drama set in Atlantic City.
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