We’re now almost half way through the new network shows, with ABC’s Forever, black-ish, and How to Get Away With Murder, CBS’ Madam Secretary, Scorpion, and NCIS: New Orleans, FOX’s Utopia, Red Band Society, and Gotham, and NBC’s Mysteries of Laura having premiered. I’ve also seen ABC’s Selfie and NBC’s A to Z already, since they’re on UVerse On Demand. My wonderful colleagues at Antenna have been reviewing them (see here for a hub post), but I thought I’d chime in here on everything except Fox’s Utopia (sounded bad, everyone says it’s bad, so I’m not even going to bother). Read on, below the fold. Read more…Tags: A to Z, ABC, black-ish, CBS, Forever, FOX, Gotham, How to Get Away With Murder, Madam Secretary, Mysteries of Laura, NBC, NCIS: New Orleans, Red Band Society, Scorpion, Selfie
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).
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…Tags: ABC, Betrayal, CBS, CW, NBC, Originals, pilots, Sean Saves the World, Super Fun Night, The Millers, We Are Men, Welcome to the Family
First up was Mom, the latest move in Chuck Lorre’s master plan to fill American television with uninspired comedy. Mom beats Dad, not only in the show, where the fathers are piss-poor, but in a battle of networks, where Dads is just plain old bad. But being better than Dads is hardly much to brag about: so is leprosy. Ultimately, it may smooth out, but right now this isn’t even a sitcom: it’s just a series of jokes, and is one of the choppier pilots I’ve seen. Anna Faris is okay (though the opening scene’s supreme lameness left her needing to fight her way back up from the bottom all episode long), and might be able to hold a show, and Allison Janney is always great, though the television gods clearly hate me and Janney and are punishing us both for something by bringing CJ Cregg down to this. Won’t someone give her a better vehicle, since we all know she can drive? I’ve read reviews from those touched by the mother-daughter love, but I didn’t really see that show – the show I saw just strung together a whole bunch of jokes about sex and private parts that I’m sure I would have found really hilarious when I was nine: “I saw you at McDonald’s going down on a Filet-o-Fish,” “That’s a castrated chicken they beat with a hammer,” “My daughter’s an easy lay, and it’s not my fault” (which sets up the later “What did you do tonight?” “Watch TV” “Is your TV on your ceiling?”), “Don’t lie to the woman who washes your sheets,” “My mother taught me how to beat a cavity search and still feel like a lady,” “It is nice to see you wearing underwear. And not on your head,” “What time do you get off work? I could use a lap to cry on,” and the interchange “I think I may’ve found a way to pay you back for childcare” “Trust me, you can’t sell that much semen.” I’m sure it’ll do fine, since everything Lorre touches does fine. Luckily that means it doesn’t need my support, so I won’t be forthcoming with it.
~ABC, Agents of SHIELD, Back in the Game, CBS, Crazy Ones, FOX, Masterchef Junior, Michael J Fox Show, Mom, NBC, Trophy Wife
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
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
The Other Pilots: Outsourced, Blue Bloods, Shit My Dad Says, No Ordinary Family, and Law and Order: L.A.
I’ve been a bit busy, so my final pilot reviews have dragged their heels, but here we go (reminder that three are to be found at Antenna):
I expected to hate this. The clips looked awful, and the concept sounded like yet another opportunity to make fun of Indians. And yet after watching the first two episodes, I’m somewhat intrigued.
Yes, there are definitely some nasty stereotypes. Witness, for instance, how quickly both the Indian and Aussie women fall for Ben Rappaport’s Todd Dempsey, ‘cause we all know how much the rest of the world’s women are just aching for an American man, right? And Manmeet’s (insert shudder at the cheap joke in his name here) reverence for all things American further ups the national chauvinist ante. The dark, brooding, silent Sikh is hardly likely to win the writers an “excellence in diverse and enlightening depictions award” any day soon. And much more.
But there’s also quite a lot of humor that’s directed at America and American culture, represented most clearly in the show by a slew of pointless, gaudy, kitsch novelty items for sale by the team. Dempsey, moreover, is an interesting mix of cultural presumptions and earnest interest in negotiating difference, while Diedrich Bader’s Charlie Davies serves as comic fodder for being less willing to budge culturally, his resulting isolation rendered in the clearest of high-school terms by occupying his own table in the cafeteria.
The show could still be a lot better, but it’s already much better than I expected. It stumbles over itself at times, but at least it’s trying. For a business that makes so much money from the rest of the world, American television has often been so painfully unconcerned with anyone who isn’t American, and so happy to ignore the rest of the world. Outsourced is by no means a stunning postcolonial, politically savvy text, but it’s doing a lot more than do most shows. And it’s actually quite funny, if you can put up with the awkward moments when its chauvinism crashes back on itself. I’ll continue to watch, if only because of its potential, and because I don’t think it’s yet suggested that said potential is dead.
Whose dumb idea was it to cast Donnie Wahlberg in this show? Tom Selleck’s a charismatic guy, Bridget Moynihan is no Connie Britton but she can hold her own, and Will Estes seems likable enough. Then there’s Wahlberg, as drab a detective as one can imagine, boring even when torturing a suspect, and expressing anger with one eyebrow, happiness with the other. But for him, the cast has quite a lot going for it, and then in he comes and the scene flattens.
More broadly, I found the show passable, but little more. The idea to mix family drama and procedural is handled awkwardly at times, but at other times distinguishes the show from the other 156 procedurals on primetime network television in a healthy, even occasionally interesting way. Yet – and it’s a big yet – the whacky introduction of the “Blue Templar,” a secret society operating within the police, and the suggestion that their activities will loom large for the show, did reek somewhat of a shark being placed under the water-ski ramp in the pilot.
I’m not much of a procedural fan anyways, so I set the bar much higher for what will bring me back, and while I could see the show being decent enough for those who like the genre, I won’t be returning.
Okay, I must admit that the title of this show alone bugs me. It highlights how remarkably juvenile and immature American censorship can be. The fact that CBS would commission a show called SHIT My Dad Says, and then refuse to use that title itself, insisting instead on calling it Bleep My Dad Says, makes me laugh and cry at the same time. The other pilots have showed a child being abducted, a woman brutally beaten by a burglar, and have found endless humor in joking about sex … yet we can’t say the word “Shit”?!! Clay Davis, where are you when we need you, my friend?
Moving beyond the title, though, this is not a good sitcom. The production of jokes and one-liners is telegraphed well in advance, to the point that they might as well add a countdown in the top left corner of the screen. Overall, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the writing team really wanted to be on this team, other than because they needed a job – there’s no great vision, nothing that’s all that exciting, and little to keep either their own or the audience’s attention.
Except for Shatner. I feel sorry seeing him stranded in this mess, but credit where credit is due, he largely makes the thing watchable all by himself. Shatner is a wonderfully talented comic actor, and even when fighting a rather mediocre script and co-stars, he often made me laugh and occasionally made it work. This and this alone could well keep the show alive, long past its time. With apologies to the Shat, though, I’ll be elsewhere.
I need a few more episodes to judge this show better, especially since the pilot is so densely laden with set-up. Besides, as endless superhero movies have proven, scenes in which superheroes realize they have powers are the easy ones to write, whereas the real test of a writer’s abilities come after the realization, when we see what the heroes do with those powers, and how the metaphor of having powers (since it’s always a metaphor for something) maintains itself.
But I’m interested enough to invest in seeing several episodes. Michael Chiklis delivered a good performance, Julie Benz has never been my cup of tea but she always manages to do an okay job in otherwise excellent shows, and I have a real weak spot for Romany Malko, who made both Weeds and Forty Year-Old Virgin so much better with his comic presence, and who once again makes his scenes fun and funny here. The daughter is shrill and very annoying at present, but that could hopefully resolve itself once she finds reason to do something other than talk down to everyone else on screen.
The show struggles a bit at making the family drama fit into the superhero show, and its continued success or eventual failure will likely rely heavily on how well it manages to balance these elements in the future. For now, it’s fun, and it’s especially refreshing to see a superhero show that doesn’t take itself so darn seriously.
I foresee problems for the latest in this franchise, and I blame the casting. It’s simply too back-end heavy. Alfred Molina is a good actor, and though Terence Howard doesn’t appear in the pilot, the idea of the two of them swapping out the DA role in the show is tantalizing, as both men really know how to command a camera’s and audience’s attention and interest. But the detectives are boring, and thus I can’t see myself being willing to sit through half an hour of hum drum, poorly paced, monotonous delivery until we get to the good part. This seems a violation of the franchise recipe, too: consider SVU, in which Christopher Meloni, Emmy winner Mariska Hargitay, Ice T, and Richard Belzer provide a wonderfully quirky and interesting detective team. Or think of many of the other strong character actors like Jerry Orbach who have anchored the first half-hour of others in the franchise. And then we get Skeet Ulrich, fresh from the Keanu Reeves Don’t Move Your Face School of Acting, and Corey Stoll, who might be okay, but has nothing much to work with.
Moving the franchise to LA was no doubt meant to make it sexy. At least, the pilot wants to promise as much, with LA night clubs, reality television stars, young starlets, multi-million dollar houses perched on the hills overlooking the city, and so forth. And yet despite all that, it began as remarkably boring, with the pacing all wrong. Dialogue seemed to sit in the air, scenes dragged on, and even the night club scene seemed fuelled more by downers than uppers. Oddly, too, as though composing a four hour-long French film, the director often paused on wistful looks into the distance for no particular reason. Molina rescued the affair, sped it up, added acting heft, and got the story back on track. Once in the courts, no less, the plot settled into a more familiar Law and Order style, complete with twists, rebuttals, and tension. But when I’m already not enough of a fan of the franchise to watch its other incarnations, I can’t see why I’d want to watch this one, unless it’s the second half, once Ulrich is out and Molina or Howard is in.Tags: ABC, Blue Bloods, CBS, Law and Order: Los Angeles, NBC, No Ordinary Family, Outsourced, pilots, Shit My Dad Says
I don’t have too much to say about Undercovers – it was kind of fun, the leads were relatively good, the script was okay, and so all in all it was good. ish. I just can’t get too excited about it. I wanted to – I like J. J. Abrams’ stuff, and I’m happy to see a show with two black leads, especially when they get to be both action heroes and romantic leads. I will probably watch again, and not even begrudgingly. But right now it’s just so-so.
The Defenders, though, surprised me. You see, I expected to dislike it, ‘cause, well, Jim Belushi’s not my favorite actor, and I didn’t have much faith in his ability to carry a show. But to be fair to Belushi, the show was already awful before his character was even introduced about five minutes in. Jerry O’Connell’s character did all the work of making it crap himself. Oh Vern Tessio, my old friend, what’s happened to you?
It spurts and jars between wanting to be sincere and wanting to be playful, between aspiring to be Law and Order: Las Vegas and aspiring to be Boston Legal. But it fails abysmally at each end of the spectrum. On one hand, Belushi’s over-acting — underscored by music that clearly feels it needs to improve his performance but that makes it even worse — is laughable and aggressively bad. O’Connell’s annoying playboy character flicked my anti-fan switch, and several times came back to make sure it was still on, but Belushi added the wattage and sent jolts of revulsion through the television screen. On the other hand, the comedy, gimmicks, courtroom stunts, and playfulness are juvenile. One eyebrow raise of Shatner, Spader, Bergen, Valley, Bowen, Clemenson, or pretty much any walk-on in Boston Legal was more amusing.
I’m kind of happy, though. None of the new shows have really excited me so far; some have interested me; some seem wholly meh; and Hellcats really tried to be bad. But I haven’t been able to really throw my weight behind my dislike of any of the new shows. We now have a winner. CBS even taunted me with its supreme skill at creating crap legal drama by cutting from the end of the show to a bumper for Justin Beiber guest-starring on CSI.Tags: CBS, NBC, pilots, The Defenders, Undercovers
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
I suspect Outlaw is not long for this world. And clearly the writers shared this concern, since it’s written all over their show. Consider:
- Early on, Jimmy Smits is threatened by a senator who tells him he’ll crush him.
- Later, Smits is told he has “3 months, best scenario.”
- And a mysterious man (Jeff Zucker’s axeman?) is following him around throughout the latter part of the episode.
The premise: Jimmy Smits plays Cyrus Garza, a Supreme Court judge who wants to fight cases, so he resigns and leads a supposedly crack team of his own choosing into the trenches of defending the innocent.
The script could be a spec script for any number of lawyer shows, it’s that uneventful. The music cues are poor and only hurt that script. Garza’s saucy PI Lucinda is all sorts of annoying, clearly trying to be like Angela from Bones and failing miserably. His other team members are simply boring. And the case seems almost laughably easy – if getting people off the death penalty after years of presumed guilt is this easy, we could (and perhaps should) all be lawyers. Indeed, I imagine lawyers will hate this show almost as much as I hate television’s insistence that all professors are remarkably inspiring leaders and/or sleeping with their students.
The politics in it are also remarkably crude. From Garza’s first scoff at a stereotyped ACLU member, to the subsequent charge, from the grave, that he is a conservative who knows he’s wrong deep in his heart, and to the nefarious Republican senator who threatens his career as Supreme Court Judge, it’s all good guys and bad guys. The starkness of this binaristic framework is all the more jarring when it surrounds Smits, whose most recent turn on television saw him navigate the murky moral waters of Dexter, and who a few years earlier, closed out The West Wing in a season that was willing to offer nuance to both liberals and conservatives. Yet here, I half expect the Republicans to wear black eye patches, such is the writing.
But truth be told, it’s not superbad, and I’m just picking on the more egregious things above. Rather, it’s just wholly uninspiring and thoroughly meh. It putters along without really dazzling or doing much of note. There are way better shows, but also way worse ones. David Ramsey (who you may know as Anton from Dexter), for instance, is solid and likeable. Smits is reliably strong, yet as with Cane, he’s once more jumped aboard a bland show that doesn’t promise to jump out in any real way.
So, I echo Garza’s bookie: “3 months, best scenario”Tags: David Ramsey, Jimmy Smits, NBC, Outlaw