After 16 of the new shows have premiered, I thought I’d stop and take count on what if any relationship they have to my DVR. Read more…Tags: A Gifted Man, ABC, CBS, Charlie's Angels, FOX, Free Agents, H8R, NBC, Person of Interest, Playboy Club, Prime Suspect, Revenge, Ringer, Secret Circle, The CW, The New Girl, Two Broke Girls, Unforgettable, Up All Night, Whitney, X Factor
Paratexts and extratexts play a key role not only in telling us what to expect, but in setting the genre and tone for a show. I’ve looked at this in past posts (duh – that’s kind of the deal with this blog) and work, but usually with longer form or more elaborate paratexts such as posters, trailers, alternate reality games, and such. What about those most seemingly simple and brief of paratexts, titles?
On one hand, titles may appear to have less room to create meaning for a show. And yet they’re way more mobile than other paratexts, and thus their scope is significant. Many audiences may only see a trailer or poster once, if at all, but titles find their way into lists of new and continuing shows, they can be picked out of a conversation in which most other details are confusing to the uninitiated, they often appear on the bottom of a screen while watching another show, and they find their way into all sorts of other odd places. If they’re evocative, they can do a great deal; if not, there’s a lost opportunity, and often a failed show.
Looking at a few of the new shows’ titles: Read more…Tags: A Gifted Man, ABC, CBS, FOX, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Last Man Standing, Man Up, Revenge, Unforgettable
Of the new shows this Fall, three are American adaptations of British originals: The X-Factor, Free Agents, and Prime Suspect. What I find interesting, though, is that the promos don’t seem keen to admit to their origins.
It’s not as thought any of them are actively obscuring their origins. The trailer for Free Agents at YouTube, uploaded by NBC, explains below that it’s based off the “cult UK series,” for instance. But none of the three shows’ webpages advertise the fact, nor do any of the trailers themselves. The Brits, in other words, are good enough to copy from, but clearly FOX and NBC don’t feel it’s wise to build the success of the British originals into the promotions for the American shows. Read more…Tags: adaptations, British, FOX, Free Agents, NBC, Prime Suspect, X Factor
Four of the new shows’ advertising, promos, and paratexts have been pretty much dedicated to a simple message: our show stars this one person. It’s a risky move, since you’re banking on the audience caring about that star, and you’re going all-in on the hope that he or she is enough enticement for enough people to watch the show. Compare, for instance, with Person of Interest, which mixes Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, which is a pretty decent pairing – Christ and Ben Linus! – but its publicity has been quite keen to let us know its creator, too, namely Dark Knight’s Jonathan Nolan.
So which are these shows that think they only need the one star, and what can we say about their chances?
Neatly, they divide into two groups of two: the two that are bringing back television stars of yesteryear (even if that yesteryear is just 8 years ago) – Last Man Standing and Ringer – and the two that are working with relatively new talents – The New Girl and Whitney. Read more…Tags: ABC, FOX, Last Man Standing, NBC, Ringer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, stars, The CW, The New Girl, Tim Allen, Whitney, Whitney Cummings, Zooey Deschanel
My Name is Earl and I were good friends. It gave television comedy one of its best characters in Randy Hickey, and often made me laugh. Then NBC axed it to create room for, what, Jay Leno and Outsourced? The buzz for a while was that FOX might pick it up, given that it always was more of a FOX-style sitcom, and while, alas, that didn’t happen, Greg Garcia and FOX did hook up for Raising Hope. I’ve been looking forward to this as a result.
It had far fewer laugh out loud moments than Earl often gave me, and its pacing was a little awkward (evidence either of a show that’s finding its legs, whose legs are pulled in different directions by the creative and economic team behind it, or simply of something that’s not all that good). The lead character, played by Lucas Neff, is likeable, if a little too comfortable with letting those around him provide most of the comedy instead of taking the job upon himself. The supporting cast is good, full of many Earl refugees or bit-part-ers (is that Kenny running the supermarket?), and of course Chloris Leachman. I feel like I’ve seen a bunch of this before, and the payoff from the pilot wasn’t huge, though I was amused at some parts (even if the clips spoiled the best jokes). So for now, I guess I’m just along for the ride because I want it to be good, and because it still could be.
I also need to remind myself that sitcom pilots are rarely good – they just kind of stumble out of the block, rolled up in character types and already-familiar scenarios, and/or trying way too hard to use a scant 22 minutes to set up everything. I’ve rarely fallen for a sitcom at the pilot stage. Or am I just creating excuses for the show already?
The other two shows after the fold…
~ABC, Detroit 1-8-7, FOX, pilots, Raising Hope, Running Wilde
My mini-reviews of Chase and Mike and Molly will appear over at Antenna, along with other thoughts on all the new shows from a neat group of people, so I’d point you all there.
As for my Monday, that leaves me with Hawaii 5-0, Lone Star, and The Event. All after the fold … Read more…Tags: CBS, FOX, Hawaii Five-O, heroes, Lone Star, Lost, NBC, pilots, The Event
Note to network TV: there are already enough procedurals. CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Criminal Minds, Law and Order: SVU, Bones, House, The Good Wife, Medium, The Mentalist, NCIS, NCIS: LA, and (debatably) Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice are enough. Really. CBS, I’m talking to you in particular.
Perhaps I should’ve sent out the note before the Upfronts, since procedurals are all the rage for next year, with 4.5 new lawyer procedurals, 5.5 new cop procedurals, and 2 new doctor procedurals. Instead of breaking them down by network, let’s look at them in those terms:
“I Didn’t Do It!”: Lawyer Shows
Outlaw and Harry’s Law should both be treated together, since their trailers were clearly cut from the same cloth. Both star a biggish name talent (Jimmy Smits and Kathy Bates respectively) as successful individuals who tire of their regular job and hence who change gears to help a poor, innocent African-American in their first case. Both are serious with a touch of sass, both are transformed into better humans by their experiences, and both want their own Green Mile moments. Both shows count on the talents of their stars, but Smits was unable to pull the trick with Cane, even with Nestor Carbonell at his side, and Harry’s Law risks splitting the vote with The Good Wife or losing out to it since the latter is a better show by most appearances. Consider me bored on both accounts, though with David E. Kelley behind Harry’s Law, maybe it’ll do better than I think, and become more funny and charming than it seems at present?
The Defenders’ claim that few lawyer shows depict the defense seems somewhat amusing in the context of a season with these other shows, and as much as I will always love Stand By Me, Jerry O’Connell is no Jimmy Smits or Kathy Bates, and Jim Belushi delivered his best performance in K9, which isn’t saying much. Amusingly in the trailer, after Belushi notes O’Connell’s strength as a comedian, O’Connell deadpans that he signed on largely for the experience of working with Belushi – a great joke if ever I heard one. I’d schedule the wrap party for this one early in the season, though I would’ve said the same with According to Jim, so maybe the Belushi Protection Society will keep this one on a feeding tube for a while longer. It’s unclear if it means to be funny or serious, both or neither, so it’s tonally vapid … in addition to seeming boring.
The Whole Truth promises the seemingly bold move of offering both sides of a case. But we’ve seen this before, and if the trailer’s anything to go by, this will result in head-spinning and/or gimmicky back-and-forth editing that could wear thin by the end of the second episode. Rob Morrow stars, but his former affability seems lost in an attempt to be a big boy lawyer. Once again, I’m unimpressed.
And, crossing the cop/lawer boundary is Law and Order: Los Angeles. There’s no trailer here, just a CGI teaser, so it’s hard to judge. But perhaps the tired, dead, horse-kicking series needs the jolt of a new visual style and a new location. Alternately, perhaps we’ve all seen LA in way too many crime dramas and cop shows already. I refuse to judge at this point.
“Book ‘em, Danno!”: Cop Shows
After falling for Lost’s Jin and Sun something fierce, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Daniel Dae Kim’s latest outing, Hawaii Five-O. With Grace Park costarring, no less, it’s a perfect fan Lost/BSG collision. The trailer didn’t do much for me, and suggested little more than a regular cop show, without the CGI bells and whistles that the CSI franchise brought into the picture. But it’ll have the advantage of a great location in Hawaii, and if they use that location and film it half as well as the folks at Lost did, it might at least pull a CSI: Miami and look too beautiful to cancel. Meanwhile, I owe Daniel Dae Kim at least a couple of episodes of watching.
CBS, ever mindful of their need to program 80% procedurals, has also commissioned an as-yet-unnamed Criminal Minds spinoff, which just seems wrong. No network should be allowed more than two cop show franchises. Surely there are only so many 50 year-old guys in the country and eventually their supply as viewers will run out? No trailer, just a premise, and an uninspiring one at that.
Bound to have more edge is FOX’s Ride-Along, from The Shield’s Shawn Ryan. Set in Chicago with a distinct Southland feel to it, it might be a good test of whether NBC just flubbed the delivery with Southland or whether it was the audience’s fault all along. At the same time, ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7 tries to offer a similarly gritty, NYPD Blue meets The Wire image of Detroit, starring Michael Imperioli. Both shows clearly have pretensions of being life-like, cutting-edge, and finger-on-the-pulse, and the latter in particular has an appealing visual style. Whether network TV can pull off this level of realism remains to be seen, and I’d rather hold judgment till I’ve seen more.
Finally, Chase follows a team of US Marshals led by a tough, kickass woman. Jerry Bruckheimer produced, yet penned by Jennifer Johnson. It’s a reasonably well-edited trailer, promising intrigue, action, and tough cookies, but see the note that opens this post to see why I’m unlikely to care.
“Ouch!”: Doctor Shows
After NBC’s Mercy and Trauma were tossed from their steeds this year, ABC is offering its own pair of medical dramas, no doubt buoyed by its success with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and hence sure that it can do better.
Body of Proof seems to have been made by the same team who did the Harry’s Law and Outlaw trailers, or at least written by the same machine. Many years after leaving China Beach, Dana Delany’s back headlining her own medical drama, as a neurosurgeon who has to leave her job and become a medical examiner. The former automaton now finds her humanity with corpses. If that irony sounds too heavy-handed to you, you’re not alone, so I propose that if the first four episodes repeat the irony more than twice, the show is dead to me.
Off the Map is the more intriguing offering, from ABC’s own Shonda Rhimes and co-writers, starring Wonderfalls’ Caroline Dharvernas, yet set in the South American jungle in a Medicins Sans Frontiers set-up. I repeat my interest in shows filmed and set outside the US, and hence hope that it works, but as with Outsourced, I worry about the significant potential for it to reel out stereotype after Othering after boneheaded prejudice. Let’s hope it pulls it off and avoids those ailments. It’s also interesting to see a trailer for a Rhimes production that doesn’t put the sexual intrigue first and foremost. I’m still skeptical, but at least I’m curious too.
And those are the procedurals. For our last installment, I’ll discuss other dramas (and dramedies).Tags: ABC, Body of Proof, CBS, Chase, Criminal Minds, Detroit 1-8-7, FOX, Harry's Law, Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order: Los Angeles, NBC, new shows, Off the Map, Outlaw, procedurals, Ride-Along, The Defenders, The Whole Truth, upfronts
What new shows lie ahead? Last week’s Upfronts gave us the answer. The allure of so many new shows is impossible for me to resist, and thus this is the first in a four part series discussing the new network shows for Fall. I’m not discussing summer additions, since most of those have already offered previews and various trailers or other promotional materials, so they’re more established, and since I have to cut it off somewhere. I’m also not discussing new cable shows, despite the cable channels being part of the Upfronts this year (as Amanda Lotz describes here), since there are so many channels that it becomes impossible to know when to stop.
Those warnings, offered, let’s begin.
And I start with the large crop of new comedies, 13 between the Big Four to be exact (The CW doesn’t believe in [intentional] comedy anymore, so it seems). This is a huge freshman class, and it suggests the degree to which all that crap about sitcoms being dead was so very wrong. Indeed, and as the third installment in this series suggests too, 2010-2011 promises to be just as full of procedurals and comedies as any point in television history.
The problem with evaluating new sitcoms is that the trailers must establish the sit(uation) in the sitcom, and to do so they nearly always create little more than archetypes and stereotypes. The challenge for any comedy is to live and breathe beyond those types, to play with and around them, and to be original in doing so, and sometimes none of that happens until the pilot is done and dusted. So I’m hesitant to crown any of these excellent at this point. But I’m more than happy to crown some of them as horrific.
Let’s start with NBC (see their trailers here), who as Derek Kompare notes here in his post on the network’s attempts to change its brand identity as Erstwhile Loser at these Upfronts, has a lot to prove and a lot to play for.
- Friends with Benefits looks painfully bad, and if nothing is scheduled against it that you like, please take up a hobby because it could hurt you. Luckily, its title is bad enough to warn you away, I hope. It reeks of the network trying to announce that it’s cool and hip, but that hip is the broken hip on the cool cadaver of comedy. I don’t really get who they’re pitching this at: in an age of CW and Internet porn, surely anyone who wants titillation can find it elsewhere, so what’s left in this tepid looking show but a badly-executed would-be romcom? I don’t plan on finding out. Though I will give points for the Yo-Yo Ma gag.
- The Paul Reiser Show doesn’t look as puke-drenched, but it is a bit sad to see Reiser once more riding the Seinfeld coattails (Mad About You being the original Kenny Bania), this time trying to do something Curb Your Enthusiasm-like. It’s meta and it’s singlecam, and but he’s Paul Reiser, not Larry David (and as Seinfeld told us, listening to Bania is like being beaten with a bag of oranges). This is the kind of format that cable will always do way better, which makes me wonder if someone in the NBC-Universal cable division was filling in for an NBC exec the day this one got greenlit. Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine unobjectionable, blah comedy, but I’d like something more.
- Perfect Couples, which focuses on three different young couples, is only meh for me – not bad, not good. Best case scenario: it learns from How I Met Your Mother how to do funny couples humor and delivers to the same audience. Worst case scenario: it looks like a really bad hybrid of HIMYM and Friends that burns out after the he says/she says humor runs dry. The tester: if they make jokes about men and women’s different reactions to the prospect of going shopping in the first three episodes, it’s gonna be bad (‘cause they already did the “she takes all the space in the bed” joke in the trailer, so thin ice has been courted already).
- Outsourced is a clear example of what I mention above, regarding pilots and types. Set in a call center in India, this show’s potential to peddle endless Indian stereotypes uncritically and moronically is vast. But it’s also a very rare beast in being an American show (a sitcom, no less!) set outside America with predominantly non-American characters, so the upside is worth tuning in for. I’m not getting my hopes up, but it would be nice if it works.
Overall, then, I just don’t see NBC returning to greatness with these comedies, though with The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and Community, that’s not their problem, so tune in later for discussion of their dramas.
ABC has three new comedies of its own (see all their trailers here), stoked on by the success of Modern Family and Cougar Town (and the impressiveness of The Middle, albeit to middling ratings):
- Mr. Sunshine, starring Matthew Perry as the manager of a sports arena, has me very excited. Why? Allison Janney. I looooove Allison Janney. CJ Cregg was one of the very best characters on television, and Janney is brilliant in all things. She also has history opposite Perry. This looks like it could be a smart comedy, and it’s certainly something different (a manager of a sports arena? Pa Brady never did that!), which may doom it on network TV, and maybe I’m letting my love of Janney carry this too far, but a person has to believe in something, and I believe in Allison Janney. The trailer looks like Sports Night meets The Larry Sanders Show.
- Happy Endings, however, looks to be in competition with Friends with Benefits for lamest new comedy. Elisha Cuthbert stars as … oh, I don’t care, and neither should you. She is close to a polar opposite to Janney in terms of acting skills. Trailers for comedies risk taking the only funny bits in the show, but here there are none, a sadly telling indicator of the horror that lies ahead. Don’t get me wrong – romcoms can be good, but this isn’t.
- Better Together strikes me as a very conventional sitcom. Kind of like Perfect Couples, it offers three couples, here a sister and her recent fiancé, a longtime unmarried couple, and their parents. With a fairly decent cast of sitcom-ready actors, it looks competent, if unspectacular, the kind of show I might find amusing yet not feel I need to follow. Dharma and Greg for the 2010s.
In terms of branding, I give the gold star to FOX (see all their clips here), who are launching four new comedies, three of which are exactly the kind of comedies you’d expect from the network.
- When people said that My Name is Earl should’ve gone to FOX, where it would’ve been a better tonal fit, clearly Greg Garcia listened and took Raising Hope there. Once more offering a seriously messed up hero and supporting characters, the show follows the arrival of a new baby in the lead’s life. Suitably irreverent, edgy, and very funny, this show looks quite good, I must admit, and it will nicely fit the Earl-sized hole in my viewing schedule. Any show with a flashback scene of a baby riding down a street with his head sticking out the bottom of a car must be good, right?
- Running Wilde also brings back a great talent to the small box, in the form of Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, with Will Arnett starring no less. Arnett is so fun to watch on screen, and the plot seems suitably ludicrous that I will definitely be watching when it starts. Offbeat, strange, and overdone in fun ways, it could be very good.
- Mixed Signals is another Friends/HIMYM-type show in a year with many of them. It seems fairly adept, perhaps the best of the bunch, yet I’m not sure the market analysis that’s told all these execs that people really, really want more of these types of shows is right, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see most fall my the wayside. Perhaps the studios are simply moving romcoms to TV and away from film since they don’t think they’ll succeed in 3D.
- Bob’s Burgers is another animated sitcom, but miraculously NOT from Seth McFarlane. The bits I saw seemed resolutely Adult Swim-y in their bit-ishness and low grade visual style. I’m guessing this is too cheap looking for network TV, and I give it a short life, especially if it’s as ho-hum as the clips suggest.
CBS only has two new comedies (see them here):
- Shit My Dad Says promised to be amusing if only to hear how people read the title on network TV. And it stars William Shatner as an irascible, opinionated old guy. So I expected a lot more, but the trailer is resolutely unfunny. Wow, who would’ve thought that a Twitter feed wasn’t enough to build a show off? At this point, studios should be more respectful of The Shat – don’t let this be his last role, CBS!
- Mike and Molly bothers me, since it seems entirely premised on the fact that its stars are heavy (even the title graphics, at present, are of a scale). Fat jokes are fine for five minute segments in a stand-up routine (or for Twitter feeds?), but as the basis of a show, the format seems too doomed to the bi-polar swing between self-loathing and inspirational “we’re all beautiful” platitudes. I’d rather a show like Roseanne where the stars are heavy but just get on with being funny about a variety of topics. I’d hold out more hope that they move away from that premise in due time, but it’s from Chuck Lorre, so comic genius and sophistication don’t seem to be in the cards.
And those are the comedies. Next up: reality television.Tags: ABC, Aliison Janney, Better Together, Bob's Burgers, CBS, FOX, Friends with Benefits, Happy Endings, Mike and Molly, Mixed Signals, Mr. Sunshine, NBC, new shows, Outsourced, Paul Reiser Show, Perfect Couples, Raising Hope, Running Wilde, Shit My Dad Says, upfronts
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…
CW, FOX, Glee, Melrose Place, pilots, Vampire Diaries