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Fall Pilot Score Card — Week Three

October 13th, 2013 | Jonathan Gray

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Yikes, I’m getting behind. So much so that We Are Men was cancelled before my review. Ooops. Sorry. So here we go (Ironside to come later).

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Betrayal

Wow, now that is some bad acting. In the final scene, the plot twist is revealed, as we learn that the protagonist’s husband will be facing off in a very public lawsuit against her new boyfriend. I consider the fact that I was still awake by that point quite an achievement, since that was arguably the only interesting moment of an otherwise thoroughly dull, trite script acted out by actors who aren’t up to the task. No, I lie, there was another moment. When the protagonist (played by Hannah Ware) gets a hotel room with her new man, and just as they’re about to consummate things, she gets a call from her husband who is looking for a kid’s book that their child loves. We then cut back to a chilled-out protagonist and man lying on the bed and chatting, as she describes the plot from this book. I’m currently reading the book – Giraffes Can’t Dance – to my daughter many a night, so my ears perked up at its mention. I don’t know how to feel about it being used as a metaphor for the protagonist’s need to find the man who will let her flourish. That said, I’m not surprised to see the writers are experts on stories that put people to sleep.  More shows below: Read more…

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The Freshman TV Class of 2010-2011, Part 2: Reality Television

May 29th, 2010 | Jonathan Gray

If one was inclined to read genres like tealeaves, one might find it interesting to see that 13 new sitcoms have been announced for Fall, while only 3 reality television shows are planned. Is The Age of Unscripted Television over? Granted, each network already has its tent-pole reality shows (Idol for FOX, Survivor and Amazing Race for CBS, Biggest Loser for NBC, Dancing with the Stars for ABC, and America’s Next Top Model for The CW), but it’s relevant that they’re not trying to triple up with many more.

Perhaps they’ve run out of ideas? Of course, many more objectionable, offensive, and crazy niche ideas exist for the conceiving and the making, but it may be that they’re being farmed out to the cable channels, lest ABC, for instance, need to explain how a dating show for pre-teens, or America’s Next Top Moving Company fits with its brand identity.

In the meantime, this leaves us with a small entering class.

School Pride is basically Extreme Makeover: School Edition, though the trailer made it unclear if the crew would do a different school each week or stay with the same school for a season. For the sake of seeing a wide variety of change, many viewers might hope for the former, but for the sake of dealing with due complexity and perhaps even analyzing root causes, I favor the latter. In terms of originality, the show seems uninspired, and it certainly seems to prove Laurie Ouellette and James Hay’s point in their excellent book Better Living Through Reality TV that reality TV has replaced the welfare state in our neoliberal times. But it’s hard to begrudge a program that promises to overhaul an entire school. It’s also impressive to see NBC up the ante on ABC’s EM:HE in grand style, and if ABC’s wunderkind can get the waterworks going in houses across the US, literally and figuratively, just wait to see what the School Edition can do. I’ve been very wrong before, but I can’t see this one failing.

NBC’s second newbie is America’s Next Great Restaurant. Their reality TV strategy seems quite simple: (1) Spinoff NBC’s only reality hit (hence Losing It With Jillian this summer), (2) Shamelessly copy, yet one-up, another network’s success (hence School Pride), and (3) Shamelessly copy a cable channel’s success. Here, the help comes in the form of Bobby Flay, one of the more watchable chefs on television. I have no trailer to go on, just the concept and the title. My concern is with regards location (as with School Pride, albeit to a lesser degree). Most of the other cooking shows succeed by putting the focus on the individuals, wherein place becomes unimportant. FOX’s Kitchen Nightmares roves from location to location, as does Flay’s own Throwdown. But if all the restaurant contenders are in one city, it might be hard to win the identification of viewers elsewhere, especially if that city is the big, bad New York. Personally, I’d rather watch Food Network and see the pros do it than watch NBC copy it, so consider me a skeptic.

Finally, there’s The CW’s Biggest Loser format twist, Shedding for the Wedding. Again, no trailer, just the concept – couples compete to lose weight so that they’re skinny for the wedding, and along the way they compete in challenges to win other things for the wedding (“Congratulations, you win a reprieve from having to invite all your mother’s great aunt’s bridge partners! We’re sending invitations to the wrong address for them!!” “Oh, honey, it’s just what we’ve always wanted!”). Biggest Loser already bothers me, given my suspicions that some seriously unhealthy weight loss is happening on “The Campus” (btw, isn’t that a Japanese horror film?), but once we add the fact that they’re doing it all in a manic attempt to have a “fairytale wedding” (so fairytale that nobody there will recognize them), I congratulate The CW on once again finding a show that actively encourages me to watch something else. With all that’s on television, and all that I need to catch up on, I appreciate such gestures.

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How to Sell a Guilty Pleasure: The CW and Its Posters

September 20th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

As I wait for more new shows this week to review, and as I find myself with little to say about the Emmy winners, largely because I agree with or can accept almost all victories (especially Michael Emerson. yay! About bloody time), let’s take a time out to look at some of the extratextuals surrounding the new shows:

I’ve been intrigued by the degree to which, in the wake of Gossip Girl’s past success, The CW has pounced upon the guilty pleasure label as being a great one with which to sell (and, of course, design) a show. Consider the following posters, for GG, Melrose Place, and The Beautiful Life, starting with GG. Analysis after the fold…
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New Shows, 1: Melrose Place, Vampire Diaries, & Glee

September 15th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

While living in New York City, I enjoyed attending the Paley Center’s new show sneak peaks each September. That’s not so possible now, in Madison, but instead I’ll be reviewing the new shows as I get around to watching them off my DVR.

Let’s start with The CW’s Melrose Place and The Vampire Diaries, and FOX’s Glee, after the fold…

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The CW Upfronts

May 24th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

Finishing our tour through this Fall’s TV schedule, let’s look at the CW.

Remember when The WB network began and it had a fair amount of African American programming, but then it went for wealthy young white women? Then UPN also programmed a lot of African American content. Then the two merged, and African American shows were ghettoized into one night so that the wealthy young white women could hold court for the other nights. Well, with the cancellation of The Game and Everybody Hates Chris, the CW can now boldly announce that CW stands for Completely White. (Okay, there’s Tyra and there’s the kid on 90210, but not much else.)

Gone, too, are 13: Fear is Real, 4Real, Easy Money, In Harm’s Way, Privileged, Reaper, and Valentine.

What’s new? After the fold …
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90210, J. J, and Vern Tessio Return: Fall Previews 2008

September 5th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

The Paley Center for Television and Radio in New York is once more doing its Fall Previews, showing pilots for new shows, and, because some networks don’t have many new shows, showing the premiere of some returning new-ish shows. I’m skipping The CW’s tonight, since all they had on offer were 90210, which I saw (and will comment upon below) and Privileged, which is on next week. But last night was FOX’s night, showing the premiere of this season’s Sarah Connor Chronicles, along with pilots for Do Not Disturb and the much-anticipated J. J. Abrams show, Fringe. I’ll discuss the new shows below the fold …
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Taming Life is Wild: The New Pilot

October 7th, 2007 | Jonathan Gray

LifeIsWild.jpgAs I previously blogged about, Ivan, Derek, Jason Mittell, and I took part in a fantasy draft of the new shows for this TV season. Each of us ended up with 6 shows, one of which is our “Designated Stinker,” a show we earmark for early cancellation. My DS is Life is Wild, whose pilot I soldiered through when it played at the Paley Center in early September. Well, tonight it hit the air. I wanted to check that its odor was sufficiently stinky. What I found was a different show. Read more…

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Aliens from Africa, Hell, Pakistan, and the Upper East: Previewing The CW’s New Shows

September 16th, 2007 | Jonathan Gray

Last year marked the first for The CW, the upstart hybrid of The WB and UPN. So programming was mostly about picking which shows from which networks they liked. This year therefore represents their first go at producing their own shows with their own imprint on them.The exec who introduced them proudly noted that 3 of the 4 were listed by USA Today on its Top 10 New Shows to watch list. So what did I think? Below the fold, the final installment of my fall pilot reviews Read more…

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