Friday, June 15, 2012

"Was John Boehner there?"

Donna is the best.  Case closed. 

Suits is back!  Finally!  Seriously, USA Network, this is not Game of Thrones.  Logistically and financially speaking, I think I think you could stand to make more than 12 episodes a year and air them with fewer than 9 months between seasons.  Just sayin'.  That said, if the interminable wait is the key to the show's quality, then, as with Justified, I will happily relent.

The basic premise for the show has always tied the writers hands in a certain way.  The feasibility of Mike and Harvey keeping this kind of secret in this day and age stretches believability and hamstrings certain storylines from time to time.  Fifty years ago, this would have been more than doable, but in the computer age, it's a reach (especially when he has been under direct suspicion on more than one occasion).  Indeed, prior to the episode early last season with the hacker girl (who magicked a Harvard Law degree for Mike), it was getting hard to suspend disbelief.  That said, this show started off as a fun little USA Network dramedy in the vein of all their other "blue skies" programming.  What I like best about the show is that it didn't stay there for long and tweaked the base concept in order to accommodate more sophisticated storytelling. 

Throughout the first season, Mike's secret was an albatross that was at the center of most of the ongoing conflict of the show.  The writers worked around it with surprising aplomb, however, taking what could have been a wacky, madcap show and giving it more layers and depth than I expected.  It'll never be Breaking Bad or The Wire, but it's not trying to be, and that is absolutely okay.  Delightful, even.  I do think the show is trying to bring more to the table than its network cohorts though, and I'm beyond pleased at how wildly successful they've been in this pursuit.  Not only are the characters explored more deeply, but the show is comfortable with ongoing arcs than just about any other show on the network.  They rely on cases-of-the-week the way any legal show would, but they do a much better job than most.  In general, A-plots like that aren't my cup of tea, but Suits does a lovely job marrying solid, interesting A-plots with captivating, ongoing, and meaningful B, C, and D plots.  I wouldn't say they succeed on the same level that The Good Wife does, but that's an exceptionally high bar.

As season 1 ended, and the albatross of "Mike's secret" was presumably exposed by Trevor to Jessica, I had to wonder just where the show would go with this.  Most USA shows would have taken this cliffhanger, resolved it quickly in the first episode back (no matter how much magic and stupidity was required to make it work), and basically hit the reset button on the series.  Hell, such resets have been Burn Notice's bread and butter for years.  And they've been fairly irksome for years.  As the episode progressed, the show kept presenting opportunities to take the easy way out and keep the increasingly untenable premise alive and kicking as it has always been.  When Jessica first confronted Harvey and said that she checked his credentials and everything was squeaky clean, they could have just gone with that and been done with it.  That would have make Jessica an idiot and would have given the albatross a big, shiny diamond-encrusted tiara to wear, but that's an easy out that many shows would have taken.  Character development and overall narrative be damned.  But Suits didn't do that.  They opted for better.  One of the best aspects of this choice was the agency it gives to Jessica.  She was a more minor player in season 1 than I would have liked and now that she is in the know, it gives her character a lot more options.  I love, love, loved the way she laid into Harvey, calm as can be, and terrifyingly just in her assertions.  She is tough and smart and calculating and the show didn't need to tell me these things, in that brief scene, coupled with past awesomeness, I know these things.  I love it when a show does that.

Yet another of many opportunities to take the easy way out looks to be the most promising new aspect of the season to come.  With heretofore unseen senior partner Hardman coming into the picture (following the death of his wife), things are going to be very, very different.  But they didn't have to be.  I honestly though Harvey's plot to implement another blackmail scheme to keep Hardman out of the picture was going to succeed, at least in the short run.  I assumed Hardman (played brilliantly by David Costabile, most recently known as Gale Boetticher from Breaking Bad) would likely crop up to make trouble somewhere down the road, giving Mike and Harvey the temporary win, but then resurfacing.  Not so.  In a bold and surprising move, Harvey's plan backfires spectacularly at the end of the premiere, opting not to hit the reset button and instead alter the game.  The "Mike's secret" of it all is still in place to a degree (Hardman could find out at any time and use that to railroad Jessica and Harvey), but it makes "Mike's secret" a more secondary problem.  In the simplest sense, Jessica has bigger fish to fry.  Jessica in no way condones or approves of this deception, but her and Mike's fates are now intertwined.

Indeed, in one of the most interesting and telling character developments of the premiere, Harvey makes it very clear that he and Mike are a package deal.  He also makes it clear to Jessica that he absolutely know about Mike's lack of credentials and has been lying to Jessica for months.  For all of Jessica's insistence that Mike be fired, she can't lose Harvey without losing the firm to Hardman entirely.  This fundamentally changes Harvey's and Jessica's relationship on a personal level, but it also changes the direction of the show and includes Jessica directly in the ruse.  Given how much I absolutely adore Gina Torres, this was a brilliant move.  More important than Harvey's changing dynamic with Jessica, a friend and mentor he betrayed, is Harvey's allegiance to Mike.  This wasn't surprising in terms of the set-up for the show (uh, without Mike and Harvey, ya got nothin'), but in terms of character, it was a bit surprising.  Before proceeding with this review, I actually went to see what other's thought about this situation and read a review of this episode on AV Club.  Many similar sentiments regarding the episode throughout.   The reviewer didn't feel that the Harvey's determination to save Mike was entirely earned and I can see what they mean.  Based solely on what we've seen of the two of them together, the witty banter and brotherly ribbing doesn't quite equate to "I'm going to screw over Jessica and risk my job for a guy I'm fairly fond of".  From where I'm sitting, however (and this may be the English major talking), I think Harvey was as surprised by this turn of events as we were.  When Mike walked into his office, I think Harvey actually did plan on firing him.  I think he had every intention of giving him the boot, just as Jessica had instructed.  I think it's when he couldn't bring himself to fire him that he realized just how much he cares about Mike.  The scene with Harvey and Donna just prior to this set the table beautifully for this to actually work without the necessary foundation.  The writers did an absolute brilliant job of making it plausible by tapping into what viewers appreciate most.  Not only did they get a delightful and illuminating scene with Donna (pretty much the best character ever), but they got backstory on Harvey that directly ties into his feelings for Mike.  Donna knows him better than anyone on the planet and can read him like an open book.  Based on what he's wearing, how he addressed her, and the look on his face, she assesses the situation in true Sherlock-ian style.  When challenged about Harvey's willingness to go out on this big of a limb for Mike, I refer back to this scene and proposes the Mike is family.  There's always been a brotherly vibe between the two, but for Donna to make a one-to-one comparison brings it home.  Not only that, but Mike's situation evokes a specifically protective impulse in Harvey with regards to his brother.  Did the show give me everything I'd ever need to believe Harvey would risk his career on some kid?  Probably not.  Did they give me enough though?  Yeah, I think they did.

The albatross of Mike's secret is still around the show's neck, but it's lot looser, I'd say.  The events of the premiere throw a lot of relationships off balance and refocus the characters' priorities in a way that means the secret can't be the main conflict anymore.  The situation is simply bigger than that now.  While the implausibility and near silliness of the base conceit is still there, I think this season is going to be the show's way of moving past it.  In my heart of hearts, I think they will find a way to make it a non-issue.  How they might do so, I'm not sure, but even if they just casually forget about it, I'd be fine with that.  Okay, not totally fine with that, I mean really, there's no way it couldn't be an issue at some point, but as with the were-panther disaster on True Blood, I think I'd be so okay with it magically disappearing that I'd overlook the obvious narrative problems inherent in dropping it without a word.  I have to wonder if the writers of the show were unsure of the potential for story and drama early on and built in "Mike's secret" as a McGuffin to keep things going only to realize later that they really didn't need it.  This show is plenty strong without it and I think moving away from it as the primary source of conflict is a brilliant move.  The show will be all the better for it and will have the option to really explore these characters in a way that doesn't need gimmicks.

All in all, this first episode back far surpassed my already high expectations for the show.  They could have taken any number of easy ways out, but opted for more complexity, more drama, and a shifted focus.  All the better, they did all that while retaining the charm, warmth, and wit of the series.  Hardman throws a major wrench into the show and should prove to alter the dynamics between all the characters, the hierarchy of the firm, and power relationships therein.  I've been super excited for this show to come back since it signed off last summer, but now that I have a taste for where the show is going in its sophomore outing, I simply ecstatic. 

Other Tidbits:
  • Rachel is still a problem.  She's been the weakest character of the series since minute one and I'm still having a hard time liking her or caring about her.  I think the writers may have realized this themselves because they are promoting her friendship with Donna in a way I'm really enjoying.  Donna can make anyone more likable.  That said, I don't see much chemistry between her and Mike and she's basically dead weight right now.  Here's hoping that turns around.
  • Louis could be a real wildcard this season.  With Jessica's position threatened, people are going to have to choose sides and Louis has a sizable axe to grind.  Were he to side with Hardman, things go quickly go from bad to worse.
  • The fact that the show cast a little known, but incredibly talented actor like David Costabile for Hardman is a very good sign.  They could easily have gone for some sort of stunt casting or obvious big bad, but they opted for a quietly menacing Breaking Bad alum.  Can't argue with that.
  • Jenny appears to be a goner.  I can't say I adored her or anything, but I certainly liked her better than Rachel.  
  • In season 1, I often quibbled with the overtly secondary status of the female characters on the show, relegating them to cardboard cutouts of "boss", "love interest", "comic relief", so I'm overjoyed at the turn the show has taken.  Rachel can still go find work elsewhere as far as I'm concerned, but bigger roles for Jessica and Donna is a boon to the show and a delight to see.  They still technically embody the superficial roles of before, but they seem to be moving toward more depth.
  • Gabriel Macht is absolutely beautiful.  Not my usual type at all, but I'll be damned if I don't find myself just staring at him from time to time.
  • As if I weren't already bowled over by Jessica throughout the episode, that closing scene with her and Mike was awesome.  She is such a badass.  "I don't need the computer."  So good!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

CW FALL 2012: Schedule and Pilot Trailers


Not sure why, but neither NBC nor the CW offered up full trailers for their new shows when they unveiled their fall schedules.  Clips, sure, but no full trailers.  Ugh.  Well, the CW is finally starting to roll out actual trailers for their new offerings, but not all.  As such, this is a little incomplete.

Anyhow, the slowness with with they can assemble a trailer is the least of the CW's woes.  Aside from having the worst ratings on network TV (their ratings pale in comparison to most cable shows, in fact), their development slate last season was almost entirely a disaster.  Seriously, when a supernatural show penned by one of the writers of the most successful show on the network is terrible, you know you're in trouble.  Indeed, even with The Vampire Diaries as a lead-in, and Kevin Williamson at the helm, The Secret Circle was a truly awful show.  I spent the better part of the first season thinking that it might turn around ( the way TVD did), but it most certainly didn't.  The writing was bad, the concept was mishandled, and more than anything, the two leads had about as much successful chemistry as a pre-Walter White Jesse Pinkman (which, for you non-Breaking Bad people out there, is code for "none").  Seriously, I'm no fan of Britt Robertson OR Thomas Dekker, but even I thought they'd have more chemistry together than they did.  What a disaster.  Furthermore, rather than the writers of the show noticing  this and changing course, they kept on keeping on with the "they're destined for each other" storyline.  Long story short, even TSC couldn't survive and summarily cancelled.  Ringer, the other much-hyped pilot from last fall, was deservedly cancelled as well.

Here's the long and the short of the fall season:

MONDAY

8/7c 90210
9 pm Gossip Girl  (THE CARRIE DIARIES takes over in January)

TUESDAY

8 pm Hart of Dixie
9 pm EMILY OWENS, M.D. (formerly known as First Cut)

WEDNESDAY

8 pm ARROW
9 pm Supernatural

THURSDAY

8 pm The Vampire Diaries
9 pm BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

FRIDAY
8 pm America’s Next Top Model
9 pm Nikita

NOT RETURNING NEXT SEASON:  Ringer, The Secret Circle, One Tree Hill (sweet jesus, finally), H8R, Remodeled, and The LA Complex.


The CW still hasn't put out a trailer for The Carrie Diaries, but I'm already scared.  Gossip Girl is ending it's run midseason when The Carrie Diaries takes over, so odds are a trailer won't be forthcoming for a while.  Can't say I'm too heartbroken... 

Here are the trailers/clips that are available at this point:

ARROW

My Take: Well, this show has more than a few fairly overt Dark Knight elements and overtones, but hey, if you're going to copy something outright, may as well draw from the well of awesomeness.  I'm honestly not too familiar with the mythology of the Green Arrow comics, but it appears to borrow heavily from Batman lore.  Again, a fine choice of influences, but it also means that it'll be compared to it's predecessor.  A lot.  And it probably won't measure up.  Taking Arrow for what it is and trying to divorce it from The Dark Knight, this looks like a solid action adventure show with an interesting central mystery and modified mythology of its own.  Generally speaking, comic book heroes appeal to me greatly, but when translating to live-action, it has to be done right.  From the trailer alone, Arrow appears to have taken the concept from the comics (and other iterations) and transmuted it into episodic television successfully in terms of tone, cinematography, costuming, etc.  How well that will work in the long run is anyone's guess, but at least right now I'm not cringing at the cheesiness of his outfit or the absurdity of  the setting (*cough* The Cape *cough*).  That said, all I could think toward the end of the trailer was, "Awh hell, looks like someone brought a bow and arrow to a gun fight."  As far as weapons go, the bow and arrow have always been on the cool end of  the spectrum, but in a modern, urban setting it comes across as a bit silly.  Not as silly as I would have expected though, so that's a big plus.  I'm sure it's the kind of thing you'd get used to, but as ever with the bow and arrow, there's only so much one can do.  What happens when he runs out of arrows?  It's a pretty useless weapon at close range...   Anyway, it's derivative, to be sure, but if it's done well, it should be enjoyable.  It has a slightly different bent in terms of his origin story with the shipwreck and I think the writers could do a lot with that.  If they can present a compelling reason he's fighting for the little guy and if they play their cards right, this could be a serviceable superhero show.  All in all, it's more up my alley than most of the new pilots for fall and it looks to be well made and well cast.  Thievery aside, I must say, I'm kind of excited for this one.  It's certainly exceeds my expectations so far and even allays a few fears.

Potential-O-Meter:  7.5


EMILY OWENS, M.D.



My Take
:  Speaking of borrowing liberally from other shows, good lord, seriously?  Seriously.  And no, that wasn't actually supposed to be a straight-up Grey's Anatomy reference, but hey, when in Rome.  This is pretty patently derivative and I'm not sure there's any way around that fact when reviewing.  Man alive, it's even the same specialty front and center.  What few elements aren't specifically Grey's in nature are cliches from every other medical drama you've ever seen, plus a dash of Mean Girls for good measure.  You've got the spate of new surgical residents who don't know what they're doing, the obvious budding romantic situation between resident and attending, the uber-competiveness, the Baily-esque Nazi, the voice-over, etc.  There are only a few minor differences and tweaks, but they're appreciated and will be the key to this show hopefully becoming it's own show at some point.  I like that our lead was a losery geek back in the day and the theme that we never really leave high school.  It's not much of a departure from other shows out there, but with Mamie Gummer in the role, it's pretty charming.  Mamie is delightful, so even with overly-familiar storylines, this might be an enjoyable little medical drama where you totally know what's going to happen, but you like watching it anyway.  The cast in general seems likeable enough, but I'm not sure anyone will really be able to stand out among the crowd of pretty people.  I think the show will be banking on the central love triangle with some random medical stuff thrown in here and there, which to be honest, doesn't have me chomping at the bit.  That said, I really enjoyed the first few seasons of Grey's, so many this show can capture some of that appeal.  In pretty much every respect, this is the same old thing, but it's an old thing that usually does pretty well on mainstream TV.  I review medical research proposals for a living, so seeing different specialties described in terms of different high school cliques made me smile, so with any luck, the show will find a way to integrate the "life is high school and high school sucked" theme in a new and fresh way.  Can't say I'm holding out too much hope for that, but that's the element that most appealed to me in the trailer.

Potential-O-Meter:  5    



BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


 My Take:  Oh dear god, SO cheesy.  Like, eye-rollingly, wince-inducingly cheesy.  Apparently this is very loosely based on the '80s series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman in lion make-up.  The beast for the modern era is basically a Calvin Klein model with a bit of a scar and a lot more brooding.  Ugh.  Yikes.  Wow.  This show is clearly hoping to tap into the tween girl fantasy zeitgeist of the past several years, taking a healthy dollop of Twilight and adding a sexy detective.  For a specific audience, this show could work, but as far as broader appeal is concerned, I'm already groaning and I've only seen 5 minutes of the show.  First and foremost, they seem to be pushing the romance between the two leads WAY too soon.  Again, tapping into the conventions of YA teen girl fiction, there's no build-up, only immediate pay-off.  Which, when the pay-off is immediate, there is no pay-off.  I think I'll have a hard time caring about these characters even in the long run, let alone the pilot.  This show has been paired with The Vampire Diaries on Thursday nights, and while I think there's a sizable segment of TVD's audience that falls into the very specific demo that Beauty and the Beast is aiming for, there's just as sizable a segment that won't care about this show one iddy bit.  Perhaps this show is hoping to do just what TVD did, taking a seemingly contrived tween love story and turning it into a kickass supernatural show, but as with The Secret Circle before it, I seriously doubt Beauty and the Beast will succeed.  I don't know.  I guess it's possible, and I'll certainly give it a few episodes to try, but TVD set the bar pretty high here.  On the plus side, the production looks good and it at least has some semblance of an over-arching mythology to cling to.  How well it will use said mythology is up for grabs, but I'm going to err on the "mostly disappointing" end of the spectrum.  The only aspect that really caught my eye was the fight scene when blood spatter hit the camera.  That was a nice touch and certainly against the grain for a show like this.  The damsely crap that followed was less impressive.  I'm sorry, why didn't she get her own ass off the railroad tracks?  Because the big strong man needed to feel useful, I guess.  Put her in actual, logical peril and it's fine to have some help.  Make her look like a dumbass who thinks she can outrun a train and we have a problem.

Potential-O-Meter:  4      



And that's it so far for the CW.  A mixed bag of mostly very familiar concepts and unnecessary voiceovers.  Yay.  Of these, Arrow is far and away the most promising, but as an anchor with no lead-in, on a struggling network, it's got its work cut out for it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bunheads: The Second Coming of Gilmore Girls

No, seriously.  It really, really is.  Many have tried to copy the charm of Gilmore Girls over the years, even Amy Sherman-Palladino (GG creator and executive producer), but few have even come close to succeeding.  Indeed, even Palladino has struggled to recapture the magic with misfires like The Return of Jezebel James, trying to take an established look, and feel, and tone and cramming it into some other form.  Turns out, the secret to recapturing the magic of  Gilmore Girls is to make pretty much the exact same show, in the same setting, with the same characters, music, and actors.

That may sound like a dig, but in all honestly, I say stick to your strengths.  Clearly Palladino excels at a certain kind of show, so I say, if you can, make that show again.  Palladino's newest project Bunheads is Gilmore Girls is almost every possible way--and that's a good thing.

I have often said that I have little patience for the "same old thing", but in this case, I'm making an exception.  I have sorely missed Gilmore Girls since its demise some years back and could hardly believe my eyes when Bunheads gave me that charming, funny, authentic Gilmore Girlsy vibe that I hadn't felt in ages. 

Premiering on ABC Family on June 11th (I watched the pilot online already), Bunheads stars Broadway vet Sutton Foster as Lorelai (er, Michelle), a classically trained dancer whose life kind of flew off the rails, landing her in a Vegas showgirl act.  With nothing going her way and her life sitting next to "dead end" at the singles table, Michelle gives in to lovelorn Hubbel's offer to whisk her away from this life, take care of her, and give her a new life on the beach.  I don't want to give away all the pertinent details here, but the main point is that Michelle ends up in Stars Hollow (er, Paradise), a quirky small town full of peculiar, familiar characters.

Foster is an absolute delight as Michelle and even though it's completely apparent that Michelle is a thinly-veiled reincarnation of Lorelai, I am more than fine with that.  I could easily imagine every word coming out of Michelle's mouth being said by Lorelai and rather than annoying me or feeling like some ersatz, inferior clone, it made me smile ear to ear.  Oh Lorelai, how I've missed you!  Foster tackles the quick dialogue like a pro and her line deliveries had me laughing out loud.  Not a small feat.

Michelle finds herself in Paradise, which is basically Stars Hollow, only warmer.  The real difference with Bunheads is that she's not yet a part of the quirky town and is seen as an interloper and intruder, especially by her new mother-in-law, played by Kelly Bishop, aka Emily Gilmore.  Again, I don't want to give too much away here, so I'm going to save some of the salient points, but basically, Michelle is tossed into this new situation and has to sink or swim.  Helping her succeed is the fact that Emily (er, Fanny) is a dance teacher.  One of the most endearing aspects of the pilot was watching Michelle interact with the young dancers (a group which includes a Paris, Madeleine, and Louise type trio).  She's so warm and easy-going that it all just seems effortless.  And completely charming.  Based on where things end up at the end of the pilot, I suspect Michelle will join Fanny in teaching the girls, adding some much needed fun and youth to a fairly staid routine.

Perhaps it's because I already know many of these characters from their pseudo-stints on Gilmore Girls, but I found myself connecting with them almost instantly.  These are characters and character types that I adored for many years and it's so nice to have them back.  It kind of felt like a reunion with some old friends.  Gypsy and Emily are the only two actors to have come straight across so far (albeit in slightly different roles this time), but I imagine they won't be the last.  The rest of the town has some definite potential as well.  The only character that didn't work for me is Truly, a dressmaker in town who despises Michelle for stealing Hubbel, the only man she's ever loved.  It's not so much that the character is a problem so much as  the actress.  I don't know the actress' name, but she was really terrible.  Like,  this is a bad audition for community theatre terrible.  I'm hoping she settles into the role and can pull it off better in the future, but at this point, it all rang false to me. 

That said, overall, I was completely charmed by this show, it's warm blanket of familiarity, and the chance to see my darling characters back in action.  I grew so attached to all of them, in fact, that I'm already invested and dismayed at the things that happen to them.  Not to give too much away, but there's an event that happens in the episode that actually really got to me.  Generally speaking, just about anything can happen in a pilot and I simply don't care, but this one mattered.  This event facilitates the ongoing series in a number of ways, but it still struck me pretty hard.  You'll know what I mean when you see the episode. 

In summation, if you've been missing Gilmore Girls as much as I have, good news!  Seriously, I went in with trepidation and a pretty low bar and was delighted to get that same old feeling.  The second Michelle walked down the street and I heard the same (well, near same) strummy, la-la music start up, I couldn't help but smile.  And I kinda can't wait to see if  they can keep it going.  There are some logistical hurdles with this that Gilmore Girls didn't have, but I'm confident they can make it work.  The show has a lot of GG qualities, but it also blazes its own trail in certain ways as well.  Thematically, the show examines the consequences of squandered talent, wasted opportunities, and the necessity of adjusting your dreams based on what you've got.  A lot of shows take the "pursue your dream at any cost" approach, but Bunheads is more realistic and sobering.  Sometimes you have to rewrite your dreams.  There's a really lovely scene at the end of the episode where Michelle and Fanny, who have been oppositional and even confrontational thus far, come together over shared experiences and lost opportunities.  It really hit home and made me believe that these two characters, so different in so many ways, have a core of experience that few can truly understand.  If the series can pull of this kind of material with that kind of depth and heart going forward, it should be a long-time joy.  I sure as hell hope so at any rate. 

Gilmore Girls
plus ballet?  Uh, sign me up!

Pilot Grade:  B+

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CBS FALL 2012: Schedule and Pilot Trailers

While other networks are struggling so much they have to cancel as much as they pick-up, CBS has the opposite problem.  When nearly every show in your arsenal is doing extremely well, it doesn't leave much room for new shows.  Admittedly, it's a problem ABC and NBC would kill for, but it actually does have its own downsides.  It reinforces CBS' reputation for being kind of old and stodgy and doesn't allow for much wiggle room.  As such, when CBS makes cuts, they end up cutting shows that have higher ratings than NBC's best performers.  On the up side, this level of success allows CBS to cut shows that are terrible, even if their ratings are good (a la Rob and Unforgettable).  It also gives shelter to excellent shows with lower ratings like The Good Wife.  CBS may get a bad rap for skewing older in the demographic, but on the reality show of networks, they're just haters who are jealous of CBS' success.  In this case, it's actually kinda true. 
At any rate, CBS is in extremely good shape at the moment, but they have a lot of aging shows that will need to be replaced eventually (sooner than later, if they know what's good for them).
Here's the schedule for fall:

MONDAY

8/7c How I Met Your Mother
8:30 pm PARTNERS
9 pm 2 Broke Girls
9:30 pm Mike & Molly
10 pm Hawaii Five-0

TUESDAY
8 pm NCIS
9 pm NCIS: LA
10 pm VEGAS

WEDNESDAY
8 pm Survivor
9 pm Criminal Minds
10 pm CSI

THURSDAY
8 pm The Big Bang Theory
8:30 pm Two and a Half Men
9 pm Person of Interest
10 pm ELEMENTARY

FRIDAY
8 pm CSI: NY
9 pm MADE IN JERSEY
10 pm Blue Bloods

SUNDAY
8 pm The Amazing Race
9 pm The Good Wife
10 pm The Mentalist

DEAD AS A DEAD DEAD:  CSI: Miami, A Gifted Man, How to Be a Gentleman, NYC 22, Rob, and Unforgettable.
All the dead weight they cut needed to be but and deserved to be cut.  They shant be missed.  With only a few new slots in the schedule though, CBS only has room for a handful of new shows for fall and I have yet to see much of anything for their midseason.  Here are the newbs:
PARTNERS
My Take:  As mentioned, it’s harder to evaluate shows that have a feature video rather than a traditional trailer, so bear with me.  Comedies are tough to parse in bite-sized pieces, but I think this show has some definite potential.  After the characters have actually settled into their roles and the story finds its feet, Partners could be a lot of fun.  The cast is exceptional (LOVE Michael Urie and David Krumholtz has the Whedonverse backing him) and the writing talent is responsible for Will and Grace, a show I quite enjoyed back in the day.  The set-up takes your standard “attractive people dating other attractive people” comedy and puts a bit of a tweak on it.  Not exactly reinventing the wheel, but hopefully the actors and writing will bring something fresh to it.  At the very least, everyone knows the trepidation of friends and lovers interacting, so in terms of ratings and reliability, it has a lot going for it.  The laugh track is going to be a real turn off if the comedy is anything less than gold, so they’ll have to really work for it, as HIMYM does.  Partners looks to be an ideal pairing for HIMYM, so even though ABC’s scheduling department appears to have dropped acid before throwing darts at the calendar, CBS actually seems to know what they’re doing.  All in all, this looks like a charming, if fairly conventional sitcom that should be good for a low commitment, easy show.  PS—500 points for naming the dog Elphaba.

Potential-O-Meter:  6.8


VEGAS

My Take:  Dear VegasJustified, you ain’t.  I tried appreciating the nuances of the show and its concept, but by and large, seeing a rule-breaking cowboy in a hat just makes me pine for Raylan.  More so.  If I had to assess this show, I’d say I’m already kinda bored.  The mob, in general, doesn’t excite me.  As far as bad guys are concerned, they’re some of the least interesting (with more modern mobsters even less captivating that older ones).  I’ll make exceptions for shows like Boardwalk Empire, but even then, I’m not as intrigued as I am by other concepts.  The cast and production look solid, however, so if they can create a story that can bypass my biases, this could be a quality show.  Indeed, from what I’ve seen, this definitely looks like it could be a good show, just maybe not my show.  Michael Chiklis is awful, but I enjoy Dennis Quaid well enough (although the bad fake accent decreases my appreciation of him by at least 24%).  Overall, this behind-the-scenes vignette felt a little flat to me.  Maybe it’s my sensibilities, maybe it’s the show itself, but I’m far from taken with this show, its concept, and its cast.  I’ll give it a shot, of course, but I’m not hopeful.  I think it might be a hard sell for CBS, but who knows.  I don’t watch NCIS, so it’s hard to match up demographics, but maybe all those people who love NCIS will love Vegas.  Doubtful, but CBS has a good enough track record that I wouldn’t count it out.

Potential-O-Meter:  4.1


ELEMENTARY
My Take  Oy.  Dear America, please stop.  If I weren’t such a huge fan and devotee to the brilliant British version of a modern Holmes and Watson, I’m not sure how I’d react to this show, but seeing as I am, I’m annoyed.  Again.  American adaptations are almost universally inferior and unnecessary, so my knee jerk reaction is to simply write this off wholesale and go watch Sherlock instead.  In fact, that would probably be the best recommendation I could make.  Rumor has it there was a fair bit of scrutiny of this show for copying Sherlock hook, line, and inferior sinker, but the writers here very cleverly made Watson female.  On the surface, I have no problem with gender switches when adapting material.  It has worked a number of times in the past to great success.  But seriously, Joan Watson?  Man alive, you couldn’t have just given her an entirely different first name?  Cheesy.  Extremely cheesy.  Anyhow, strictly on its merits, it looks like CBS has taken a classic and turned it into a very typical, very uninspired crime procedural that probably has nothing to do with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle whatsoever.  That said, one of the executive producers has been involved with some excellent shows for HBO and Showtime, so hopefully he’ll bring a little something extra to the picture.  He’s more accustomed to working with pay cable though, so I’m guessing he’ll find the constraints of network TV to be stifling, not inspirational.  Were this on HBO, I’d have a much better feeling about it.  As it, not only does it have to try to live up to the superb British series, but it has to do so in a way that middle America will tune in on a network that won’t allow for any creative expression.  Yeah, good luck with that.  I don’t have high hopes.  Even if the show turns out to be pretty good, it will never surpass its predecessor.  Indeed, it shouldn’t be trying.  I like Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Lui a hell of a lot, but I think it’s going to be nearly impossible for the show to hold its own, even with a great cast.  We’ll see.  But I’m going to cite precedent on this one and assumethe worst.
Potential-O-Meter:  5.3

MADE IN JERSEY

My Take:  Yeah, no.  Good god, seriously, there have got to be more ideas out there for shows.  Here we have yet another lawyer show, about an young upstart who’s seen Legally Blonde a few too many times, making her way in the big city, blah, blah, blah, I’m bored.  Not only am I bored, I’m rolling my eyes.  A genre show can be a great show, but only if it brings something new to the table.  The Good Wife is a lawyer show on the surface, but it’s so, so much more than that.  With Made In Jersey, I see no such depth.  God, it’s like the network execs thought to themselves, “How could we make a show like The Good Wife, but that appeals to the masses more…  I know!  Throw in Jersey Shore!”  No, Phil (I assume his name was Phil).  That is a terrible idea.  Man alive, if I have to watch one more show where the experienced team members are blown away by the brilliant newcomer cracking the case, I might cry.  The fact that CBS has sentenced this show to Friday, after the fading CSI: NY implies that I’m not the only one with fairly little confidence in this show.  I’m fine with “the same old thing, only better,” but I have zero patience for “the same old thing, only worse.”  There was pretty much nothing in that vignette to recommend the show, so I think I’ll be sticking to my other networks for Friday night offerings.  CBS just doesn’t seem to want to try very hard on a difficult night (in their defense, they don’t really need to, but still).

Potential-O-Meter:  3


There you have it.  They only had a small handful of slots open to them and they decided to fill them with all that.  CBS, it's hard to argue with your business model given your sucess and your willingness to keep The Good Wife for me to enjoy, but this is a pretty disappointing slate for this fall.  Here's hoping that these shows are better than they look.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Scandal: Lessons in Chemistry and Arterial Spray

When I initially reviewed the pilot for Scandal, I was less than impressed but saw some definite potential if the show played its cards right.  Much to my delight, every episode since the pilot has been better than the pilot.  By a long shot.  I'm willing to wager Scandal will eventually fly off the rails, going the way of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and every other Shondaland production, but as of the finale of the first season, it's an addictive soap with some captivating and even shocking drama at its core.
It took a few episodes for Kerry Washington to really settle into the role (a role which was tweaked here and there to better suit her strengths, methinks), but by the end of the season, I really found myself believing her as this character.  Early on, the show was a little to concerned with repeatedly telling me that she and her crew were badasses for me to believe any of it.  Subsequent episodes have decided to show me that they're badasses.  That's when I can believe it.  I don't need the show to tell me how to feel.  Present me with a compelling situation and I'll judge for myself.  To the show's credit, these last few episodes have been much less obnoxious in this regard and have let me determine the team's ability level. 

The show also delivered some much-needed backstory for these characters, particularly Olivia and the president.  In the pilot, it was hard to get a clear idea of their past or present relationship, but the show has definitely filled in a lot of holes and given a better foundation for their interactions.  This also helps me buy Washington as Olivia and makes her interactions with the president far less groan-worthy.  There's still quite a bit we don't know (why exactly did Olivia end it?  when?), but there's enough that I don't want to smack the characters in the face.  Even better, the chemistry between Olivia and Fitz is absolutely electric.  Seriously, the first couple of episodes didn't do them justice.  Shonda productions tend to focus a little too much on romantic entanglements for my tastes, but with Scandal, it really, really works.  The difference between a sexual relationship on Scandal and one on any other Shonda production is that with Scandal, it matters.  Random hookups on Grey's or Private Practice are only superficially consequential at best, but with Scandal, sexual dalliances form the fabric of the show's conflict and it affects everyone, the politics of the day, and potentially the country.
Indeed, the fact that Olivia and Fitz (a simply superb Tony Goldwyn) have such great chemistry only adds to the powder keg.  This isn't just some cheesy romance between an attending and a resident.  The consequences of a Grey's romance affects only those directly involved.  On Scandal, it could completly derail the entire US government.  It's not often that those kinds of stakes are tackled and I find I'm totally engrossed.  It has its soapy elements, to be sure, but at the same time, Scandal seems more grounded, more adult, and more sophisticated in its drama (even during it's most insane plot developments).  The flashback episode in particular helped establish not only the show's backstory, but the tone the series is trying to strike.  It had some cheesy elements here and there, but overall, the episode took its time, built a compelling foundation, and allowed the viewer to see these two characters interact before everything fell apart.  It wasn't some huge, crazy, over-the-top affair, but rolled out in a fairly logical way.  Indeed, Washington and Goldwyn have such palpable chemistry that it didn't need grand gestures.  It allowed itself to be slower and subtler, and that's definitely up my alley.  It also elucidated Fitz's loveless marriage to sociopath Mellie in a way that really helped explain the whole foundation of the show.  This is what the best flashback episodes should aspire to do:  inform the present narrative by fleshing out the past.  Not all the characters have received such a showcase yet, but Fitz and Olivia are the center of this story and are the most essential to everything that happens.  The flashback episode solidified their interactions and set up the crazy of the finale perfectly.

Seriously, I spent better part of the finale thinking, "Man alive, how are they going to make their way out of  this one!?" only to have the dominoes keep tumbling.  Billy's actions, in particular, have been pretty damn shocking, I must admit.  I totally didn't see it coming.  Any of it, really.  I liked him so much early on (they chose a particularly affable actor on purpose), so to see him plunge scissors into Gideon's neck was over the top, totally soapy, and completely awesome.  Except for the whole Gideon being dead aspect...  Note to Quinn (make that "Quinn"), DON'T PULL THE SCISSORS OUT!  Seriously, it's almost like she never appeared on all of Shonda's medical shows or something.  If you ever get impaled with something, for hell's sakes, leave it in!  Only medical professionals should be removing such things.  Anyway...  If nothing else, it proves that this show doesn't pull any punches and is absolutely willing to go several steps further than you'd ever expect.  At times, if felt like the writers had written themselves into such a quagmire that there was no way out, but Olivia would manage to find a way.  That's badassery I can appreciate.  And I didn't even need to be told.  Some of her plans seemed like truly terrible ideas, but by the end of  this season, I'm at the point where I trust that she has an endgame in mind and that she knows what she's doing.  Early on in the season, I would simply scoffed.  That's an impressive progression in only a handful of episodes.

As mentioned, only really Fitz and Olivia (and Huck to a certain extent) received a full showcase this season, but the over-arching narrative made up for it.  I'm confident they'll flesh out all the little clues we've received about these people over time, but for now, I'm too wrapped up in the scandal and intrigue to care.  Having seen the total destruction that Bill Clinton's affair spiraled into, not only for him and his presidency, but for the stability of the system overall, it makes Fitz's affair hit hard.  Knowing Mellie the way we do, no one can blame him for the affair, but as far as the public is concerned, he has the perfect marriage and any infidelity would be horrific.  Getting to see the behind-the-scenes events that led to the affair is extremely captivating.  I can't imagine Clinton's motivations were as complex or engaging, but it would be interesting to know just what needs to happen to risk your presidency for it.  With Fitz, the affair actually makes him more appealing as a character and more likable as a man and a president.  The final two episodes really hit this home.  He'd be totally willing to give up the presidency if it meant he could live a normal life, divorce Mellie, and finally be with Olivia.  Anyway you slice it, that's endearing, even if impractical. 

The show very wisely uses the politics of the day to shape the drama.  It also rather interestingly chose a conservative presidency to be at the center of the story.  There's something about the fact that he's a Republican that adds more layers to it (particularly his Bible-thumping vice president).  It manages to raise the stakes even more, knowing that an affair would hit Fitz's own constituency even harder than a more liberal president would.  The show uses Cyrus in a really compelling way to drive this home.  Some of his blustering edges on preachy, but overall, he raises issues in a realistic, salient way.  The fact that he's a gay man serving a Republican president tweaks the paradigm in a really pointed way that I appreciate.  Cyrus wants to make gains for the gay community, women, and minorities, and he's essentially working with the enemy to achieve this.  Fitz is technically conservative, which curries favor with a prominent sector of voters, but he's also open to civil rights issues in a way that most conservatives wouldn't be.  Cyrus is using this to his advantage and is willing to do anything to keep Fitz in office.  Arguably, I think he believes that a conservative president would have a better chance for making major civil rights advances than a liberal.  In modern American politics, senators and representatives are little children who will only side with their own.  Under Fitz's presidency, there's room for crossover that hasn't existed for years.  Cyrus knows this and is willing to kill people to protect it (the reveal at the end, that Cyrus had commissioned the hit on Amanda was fantastic).  As such, when Fitz just wants to tell the truth, resign from office, and live a normal life with Olivia, Cyrus is apoplectic.  His rationale is sound, and Olivia, a black woman, can see where he's coming from.  Fitz may very well be the key to social change and they both know it.

As a result, Olivia makes a deal with the devil (Mellie) to lie, fabricate, and manipulate their way out of this.  It was actually really heartbreaking when Mellie was outlining the plan to say it was her on the tape, to get pregnant asap, and retake her husband--all Fitz can do is stare at an embarrassed, beaten, crestfallen Olivia.  When he asks Olivia "Who are you?" it hits homes.  For as much relationship drama and soapy twists as this has in it, the consequences make it work.  It's not just romantic trouble, it's a matter of national policy, and that makes me care about it far more than I would an elevator ride with Derek and Meredith.  It also manages to pull the show out of the genre barrel and give it some teeth.  The show is willing to kill people off, destroy careers, and pull the rug out from under you, and I totally dig that.

The show isn't perfect, but it's a solid production with a clear vision and enough room to explore that it could very well provide many seasons of intrigue.  The "who is Quinn?" mystery brought up in the finale will likely be a centerpiece of next season, and I kinda can't wait.  Seriously, in terms of mystery, insane plot twists, and huge reveals, Scandal is giving Revenge a run for its money.  Its only 7 episodes in, but I think this could be a long-term contender.  If you haven't watch, or were turned off by the pilot, as I was, I'd suggest giving it another shot.  All 7 episodes are on Hulu, so if you're hankering for fairly delectable guilty pleasure, I'd highly recommend getting caught up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ABC FALL 2012: Schedule and Pilot Trailers

Still struggling with Blogger.  Bear with me.

While NBC is clearly the bottom of the Big Four barrel, ABC has been nipping at their heels for some time now.  Last season seemed to be a turn in the tide  though with the successes of Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Happy Endings, Scandal, etc.  As such, they don't have as many shows coming this fall, but they have a hell of a lot slated for midseason (a bridge which will be crossed at a later date). 

In a season where there have been hardly any surprise pick-ups or unjust cancellations, ABC is right in the middle, once again.  The only real note of interest is that Cougar Town was cancelled by ABC, only to be picked up by TBS, which should prove a much better fit.  That said, looking at the horror that is ABC's new comedy slate, they should have held onto Cougar Town with both hands and a foot.  In  terms of scheduling, the biggest news is that Revenge is moving to Sundays.  I think that's a better fit in terms of tone, but in terms of being opposite The Good Wife, I'm less than thrilled.

Here's the full fall schedule:

MONDAY

8/7c Dancing With the Stars/The Bachelor (in January)
10 pm Castle

TUESDAY

8 pm DWTS Results
9 Happy Endings
9:30 pm Don’t Trust the B—– In Apartment 23
10 pm Private Practice

In January

8 pm HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
8:30 THE FAMILY TOOLS

WEDNESDAY


8 pm The Middle
8:30 pm Suburgatory
9 pm Modern Family
9:30 THE NEIGHBORS
10 pm NASHVILLE

THURSDAY

8 pm LAST RESORT
9 pm Grey’s Anatomy
10 pm Scandal

FRIDAY

8 pm Shark Tank
9 pm Primetime: What Would You Do?
10 pm 20/20

In November

8 pm Last Man Standing
8:30 pm MALIBU COUNTRY
9 pm Shark Tank
10 pm Primetime: What Would You Do?

SUNDAY


8 pm Once Upon a Time 

9 pm Revenge
10 pm 666 PARK AVENUE

NOT RETURNING NEXT SEASON:
Charlie’s Angels, TBS-bound Cougar Town, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, GCB, Man Up, Missing, Pan Am, The River and Work It

THE NEIGHBORS
 

My Take:  Oh my holy god, are you effing kidding me?!  Wow.  Just wow.  This looks like a really bad idea for a family-friendly Disney made-for-TV movie that somehow got turned into a comedy on ABC.  I… have no words.  Seriously, how on earth is this going to be an ongoing series?  The 2 minute trailer was painful on its own.  I’m sure ABC is banking on Modern Family to buoy the show’s ratings (as they’ve banked on for every other comedy to have debuted in the last 3 years), but I don’t think there’s anything that can save this.  If I had to actually assess the show (and it pains me to do so), I’d say the cast is charmless and the conceit is oppressive.  There is no possible way to have any real heart or story arc in a show that revolves around a family that moved into a neighborhood full of aliens.  The gags employed in the 2 minute trailer will undoubtedly be employed every few minutes during every single episode because there’s really nothing else there.  I can’t believe this got picked up and I really can’t believe ABC is wasting the plum post-Modern Family slot on this.  I’m almost morbidly curious here.  Surely there was something ABC saw in this, right?
Potential-O-Meter:  About 10 points south of “If I had to watch this show on a regular basis, I’d shoot myself”.



NASHVILLE
 



My Take
:  For as off-putting and unappealing as country music and Hayden Panettiere are, this actually looks like a pretty solid production with a good base conceit and a great cast (cheerleader notwithstanding).  I adore Connie Britton and I have a feeling she could carry just about any show, even if its basic concept doesn’t really speak to me.  It’s a serial, to be sure, so that wins it some points, but again… Hayden Panettiere…  [insert cold shudder]  To be fair, she’s playing an utterly loathsome character, so it shouldn’t be too hard to translate my hatred into even more hatred.  My main concern is that the show will want me to love her at some point and I’m just not sure I can do that.  For the better part of Heroes, I was more than happy with letting the world explode or melt or whatever it was going to do if it meant that we could stop saving the effing cheerleader.  Anyhow, aside from some conceptual aspects that don’t really get me salivating, it looks like it could be an excellent drama.  Again, Connie Britton can pretty much do no wrong and I’m excited to see her back on TV, doing something other than giving birth to a demon.  In my heart of hearts, I’m hoping the approach of this show will be a lot like The Good Wife in terms of focus.  Connie is the star and the rest of the actors are peripheral.  Should they try to skew younger and make Hayden more central, I might just have to tune out.  Given that it will be premiering after the abomination that is The Neighbors, I suspect I won’t be the only one.  That’s a nasty timeslot and I think the show will suffer for it.
Potential-O-Meter:  6.5



LAST RESORT
 
My Take:  When the trailer began, I was fully expecting a “we’re the best of the best and we take no prisoners” blah, blah, blah, but it actually turned in a direction I didn’t expect (a fairly ridiculous direction, to be sure, but still different).  It really sounds a bit more like a summer movie than a series at this point, but it really depends on where they take it.  If the show focuses on the reasons behind the attempted sinking of the submarine, looks at the people and the politics that make such decisions, etc, I think this could be more grounded and interesting than the Michael Bay overtones would suggest.  If nothing else, it’s not very often you run across a show about the crew of a submarine, so at least it’s something off the beaten path (although it seems they’ll be creating a new society on an island, or something, so who the hell knows).  The cast is entirely too young and pretty to be believable as nuclear submarine anythings, really, but so it goes in Hollywood.  The cast and production look pretty solid, even if the story is up for grabs.  It all had a not-so-vague resemblance to The Rock, but that’s all part and parcel of the whole action show gig. All in all, I think this one could go either way.  I’m not exactly chomping at the bit, but if the writers really focus on the drama and politics of their situation rather than the promise of explosions and gun play, this could be a viable contender (or total guilty pleasure).
Potential-O-Meter:  5.5


MALIBU COUNTRY

My Take:  Okay, seriously, what the hell is ABC thinking with their new comedies this season?!  Good lord, this looks painful.  I never watched Reba for a number of reasons, and now they seem to have taken all those reasons, multiplied them by 37 and made a new sitcom out of them.  Ugh.  Well, I guarantee that this piece of shit isn’t my cup of tea, but I can see where any number of people might enjoy it.  It’s being paired with Last Man Standing, which is also horrendous, so odds are they’ll share a fair bit of the same kinds of viewers.  It’s a sub-par family sitcom with a painfully abused laugh track that will probably pair splendidly with a show like Last Man Standing.  The only point of interest in the trailer was the nearly unrecognizable Sara Rue, for whom blondness and weight loss seem to be in direct correlation.  At the end of the day, this looks like a low-budget, poorly produced steaming pile of cliché that I’ll be avoiding at all costs.  Surely there were better comedy pilots out there.  Surely.
Potential-O-Meter:  The theoretical temperature at which entropy reaches its minimum value.


666 PARK AVENUE

My Take:  I honestly have no idea what this show is actually about.  At the same time, I think it easily has the most potential of any of ABC’s fall offerings.  My sensibilities tend more toward supernatural than horror, but it looks like this show might have a nice blend.  The trailer doesn’t really tell me much about what to really expect on an episode to episode basis, but I think they’ve left a lot of room for the show to explore and a great basis for their own mythology.  The “haunted house/mansion/hotel” is a mainstay of fiction that doesn’t generally appeal to me much, but 666 Park Avenue has a great look to it and a captivating visual language.  I’m not really sure what I’ll be getting myself into with this one, but I’m pretty intrigued to give it a shot.  Depending on the narrative approach and main focus of the show, it could be a fine or illogical pairing for Revenge, which has been moved to Sundays (aka the day it should have been on all along), but only time will tell.  Even though I have pretty much nothing to go on but a few vague notions, my interest is piqued.
Potential-O-Meter:  7.5


There you have it, kiddies.  It's a pretty mixed bag for ABC.  I don't know who is in charge of their comedy development department, but sweet Jesus, they need to be fired immediately.  The dramas have some potential, but that's about it.  I'm guessing both comedies will come and go quickly, which might be why they have so much in store for midseason.  Fearing the worst.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

FOX FALL 2012: Schedule and New Pilot Trailers

Lord help me, I'm going to try to include embedded videos for the new show trailers. Given that Blogger has decided to plumb the depths of craptacularity just in time for Upfront season, I'm not holding my breath here. Come onnnn, HTML editor! You can do it!

Again, not a lot of surprises this year in terms of pick-ups and cancellations. The only shows there were even kind of up in the air were Alcatraz (which I thought might get a Friday night reprieve, paired with Fringe) and The Finder, whose ratings were bad, but whose association with Bones might have given it an edge. At the end of the day, I figured both would be cancelled, and I was right. I thought Touch would get the axe as well, truth be told, but it's been pushed to Friday, so it's only a matter of time. 

Here's the schedule for fall:

MONDAY
8/7c Bones
9 pm THE MOB DOCTOR

TUESDAY
8 pm Raising Hope
8:30 pm BEN AND KATE
9 pm New Girl
9:30 pm THE MINDY PROJECT

WEDNESDAY
8 The X Factor

THURSDAY
8 pm The X Factor (Results Show)
9 pm Glee

FRIDAY
8 pm Touch
9 pm Fringe

SUNDAY
8 pm The Simpsons
8:30 pm Bob’s Burgers
9 pm Family Guy
9:30 pm American Dad

NOT RETURNING NEXT SEASON: Alcatraz, Allen Gregory, Breaking In, The Finder, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Napoleon Dynamite and Terra Nova.

Scheduling notes: Glee has moved to Thursday, as a result of its ever-decreasing ratings, methinks. Tuesday night is now all comedy (hoping to replicate their success on Sundays, no doubt), with the new shows peppered in between consistent performers. Say what you will about Fox, their scheduling strategies make a lot more sense than most networks. That said, I think Touch is going to die on Fridays right along Fringe's final season.

Here are the new pilots for next season (fingers crossed that this actually works) and a corresponding Potential-O-Meter score regarding how excited I am about it, how well I think it will do, how much longevity I think it has, etc.  (0 being that cross-dressing CBS comedy from last season, 10 being Justified or The Good Wife):

THE MOB DOCTOR


My Take
:  You know, at first blush (i.e. the first 20 seconds of the trailer), I was ready to write this off as your typical “I’m a doctor with a bizarre/special/unique/quirky attribute who can save people better than anyone else” kinda show, but as the trailer went on, I actually became somewhat intrigued.  I assumed it would be your standard medical procedural (yawn), but it actually looks to be far more serialized than that and with much higher stakes.  To boot, said stakes are pretty unconventional.  Mobsters in general aren’t my cup of tea (which I literally just wrote “cup o tea” and almost left it that way), but the show seems to have integrated them in a more creative way than usual.  I can’t say I’m over the moon for this one or that I think it has much chance of longevity, but serials get my full attention and are granted the most leeway.  I like Jordana Spiro well enough and think she could anchor the show adequately.  I loathe Michael Rappaport, however, so hopefully he’s a more minor player.  At the very least, he doesn’t appear to be a potential love interest for Spiro, so that wins the show about a million points.  Were they to head in that direction, I’d be heading in the opposite direction.
Potential-O-Meter:  5.5 


BEN & KATE



My Take:  Aside from the innate prejudice I have about couples named Ben and Kate (there are a truly disturbing number out there, it seems), this show looks pleasant.  Not uproariously funny or anything, but pleasant enough.  In terms of comedies out there, it does err on the side of “train wreck guy, high strung girl”, but it seems to have more heart about it.  I can’t say I see where a long term storyline could develop here, but the show seems charming enough that I’m willing to see what they can do.  There’s something appealing about a brother and sister banding together for the greater good and forming an unconventional family for that little girl.  In a world with a hell of a lot of deadbeat dads, I find this angle pretty damn charming, even if I’ll need to see more before judging longevity potential.  So long as the show doesn’t bank on “he’s an idiot” too much, they could really make this work.  From the trailer alone, it looks like they’ll definitely need to flesh out the supporting cast though.  A little girl and an eccentric friend just aren’t going to do it.
Potential-O-Meter:  6 


THE MINDY PROJECT



My Take:  I like Mindy Kaling quite a lot, but I’m not sure I can handle yet another “she’s a disaster looking for love in all the wrong places” comedy.  To be fair, I think Mindy can pull off such a show better than most, but the conceit wore thin about 800 iterations ago.  I’m really torn.  The cast looks great, the writing team can’t be beat, but seriously, the concept is a total turn off.  If her love woes weren’t cliché enough, she’s also a doctor.  I did not see that coming.  My mind is blown.  Ugh.  The trailer had some funny moments, but it had just as many eye-rollingly hackneyed moments as well.  I’ll certainly give it a shot, but I’m definitely on the fence with this one.  I would really have loved to have seen Mindy at the helm of something really fresh and original, but instead, she’s pretty much just playing herself playing every girl I’ve seen in every irritating romantic comedy for the past 20 years.  Not exactly in my wheelhouse…  That said, it’s being paired with New Girl and has enough of an Office pedigree that I think it will do really well.
Potential-O-Meter:  5 


THE FOLLOWING
(midseason)



My Take:  Maybe I’ve seen too much TV, maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds, or maybe I’ve just grown weary of crime shows in general, but in spite of some interesting ideas, a great cast, and the fact that it’s not a story-of-the-week procedural, I just can’t seem to get excited about this one.  It all just seems too familiar to really grab me.  Seriously, this is like every third episode of Criminal Minds plus a healthy dollop of cinematic psychological thriller.  Objectively, it actually looks really good.  Not the most original show I’ve ever seen, but it certainly raises the bar well above its genre competitors.  Kevin Bacon seems well suited to the role and James Purefoy is always great.  I’m not sure I can handle yet another show where all I can think is, “Oh, for hell’s sakes, Winona,” but I’ll certainly try.  The dynamic between Bacon and Winona (aka Natalie Zea) could be interesting… or totally ridiculous… but it’s enough to have me intrigued.  Odds are this won’t bring a whole lot of new facets to an old routine, but in general, I enjoy the old routine well enough to give this one a shot.  Again, it’s a serial (no pun intended), so even if it’s less than unique, I’ll give it some slack.
Potential-O-Meter:  6 


THE GOODWIN GAMES 
(midseason)



My Take:  Well, I’ll be damned, I’m intrigued.  Even in spite of the Becky Newton of it all.  Seriously, had I not recently grown to dislike her immensely and shake my head disapprovingly at her acting ability, I think I’d be even more interested in the show than I already am.  Having watched as much TV as I have, I’m a total sucker for a unique concept, and this one comes pretty damn close.  Sure it borrows themes and elements of other shows, but all together, it looks like a charming take on the “kids coming back together as adults” motif (although to be honest, it’s a motif I always really enjoy, so even if it were half as promising, I’d still be interested).  It might just be my love of that episode of Friends where they play Ross’ trivia game about each other in order to win the apartment, but hey, I’ll take it.  It also kind of has a Royal Tennenbaums-y feel to it that I totally dig.  I can see where this could make a series and not just a great pilot, which is always a plus.  All in all, aside from Becky Newton, I’m actually quite looking forward to this one.  Which, of course, automatically means it’s being held till midseason.  Boo.
Potential-O-Meter:  7

Well, there you have it, folks.  Nothing totally disastrous, but nothing I'm salivating over either.  Fox is playing is pretty safe this season.  I hate safe. 

And good lord, Blogger.  This job should not be this hard!  I really hope all that worked above, but I seriously doubt it...  UGH!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

NBC FALL 2012: Pick-ups, Cancelleds, and Schedule


Whoa, blogger is different!  Hopefully better...  If not, my apologies.  Geez, how long has it been since I blogged that I didn't know about this till now?  Oh, well.  On with the show.  UPDATE:  Oh my holy hell, it is SO MUCH WORSE!  Just when I thought that wasn't possible!!!  Yeah, that picture above?  Hard as hell to move around without screwing up all your text.  If it moves at all.  Kudos, Blogger.  Way to suck.  Yeah, I'm gonna be looking for a new program to use in the very near future, because if pictures are this hard, embedding videos is going to be a blast...

As per usual with NBC over the past 5-10 years, they have more an insane number of new pilots.  Why, you ask?  Because the network is underwater and they cancel nearly everything they pick up.  Seriously, when a fantasy show in the Friday night death slot is the highlight and biggest success of last season’s pilot ventures, you’re truly, truly in trouble.  Here’s the breakdown of pick-ups and cancelleds (only the scripted shows, naturally).

PICKED-UP FOR NEXT SEASON:  30 Rock (final season), Community (wahoo! 13 episode initial order), Grimm (yay!), Law & Order: SVU, The Office, Parenthood, Parks & Recreation, Smash (will be held till midseason), Up All Night, and Whitney.

CANCELLEDAre You There Chelsea?, Awake, Bent, Best Friends Forever, Chuck, Free Agents, Harry’s Law, The Playboy Club, Prime Suspect, and The Firm.

Along with the largely unsurprising pick-up and cancellation news, some scheduling changes should be noted.  Biggest change?  Community has been moved to Fridays.  This, in and of itself, wouldn’t be a death sentence (if ever a show could survive on a Friday, it’s a show with a niche audience), and quite frankly, not being up against The Big Bang Theory anymore can only be good news, but that it will now follow Whitney is a big problem.  Whitney’s ratings are bad, and the fans aren’t going to follow it to Friday.  I think Community’s base certainly will, but no casual viewer is going to watching Whitney and then stick around.  It’s a terrible lead-in and Community is going to suffer for it.  Ugh.  Other than that, here’s how things are stacking up.

The entries in ALL CAPS are new shows for fall.  The times are all Eastern Time Zone because I was too lazy to adjust for the time zone I actually live in.

NBC FALL 2012 SCHEDULE

MONDAY
8/7c The Voice
10 pm REVOLUTION

TUESDAY
8 pm The Voice
9 pm GO ON
9:30 pm THE NEW NORMAL
10 pm Parenthood

WEDNESDAY
8 pm ANIMAL PRACTICE
8:30 pm GUYS WITH KIDS
9 pm Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
10 pm CHICAGO FIRE

THURSDAY
8 pm 30 Rock
8:30 pm Up All Night
9 pm The Office
9:30 pm Parks and Recreation
10 pm Rock Center with Brian Williams

FRIDAY
8 pm Whitney
8:30 pm Community
9 pm Grimm
10-11 pm Dateline NBC

SUNDAY (Post-football/Winter 2013)
8 pm Fashion Star
9 pm The Celebrity Apprentice
10 pm DO NO HARM

I’ll be posting clips and trailers of the new shows with my knee-jerk reactions in the coming weeks, but for now, that’s what we’re in for.  Having watched the trailers already, I can tell you that there are some absolute disasters coming down the pike, but also a couple of possible contenders.