Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pilot Review: iZombie


iZombie (Tuesdays at 9:00 on The CW)

Have you been craving a fourth season of Veronica Mars? Good news! You got it! Only Veronica is a half-zombie this time around.

I feel like this was the pitch for iZombie, the new series from Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas and former Mars writer Diane Ruggiero-Wright. While the CW show is adapted from a DC Comics storyline (yup, another one, just in case you didn't get your fill with Arrow, The Flash, or Gotham), it has been changed so much to fit into Thomas's oeuvre that it feels like a completely different animal, and not always for the better.

Pilot Review: One Big Happy

One Big Happy (Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC)

It's a shame when bad shows happen to good people. With such likeable personalities as Elisha Cuthbert and Nick Zano in front of the camera, and everyone's favorite dancing talk show host Ellen Degeneres working behind it, you would think NBC's latest offering would be, at the very least, enjoyable. But One Big Happy can't even manage that.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pilot Review: American Crime

American Crime (Thursdays at 10:00 on ABC)

American Crime is often an uncomfortable show to watch. It's unafraid of throwing hard issues in its audience faces, the exact kind of issues we typically try to avoid talking about: race, class, gender, addiction, poverty. It's the kind of show that aims to start a conversation, to put an intelligent, semi-balanced face to abstract but emotional ideas about how society shapes our views of ourselves and everyone around us. It will make you angry; it will make you sad; it will annoy you and piss you off. But it will, undoubtedly, make you feel something.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pilot Review: CSI: Cyber

CSI: Cyber (Wednesdays at 10:00 on CBS; Premieres March 4)

These long-running CBS franchises that continue to be expanded (both NCIS and CSI have spin-offs this year, and Criminal Minds has had one in the past and another on tap) are not exactly brain food. They don't challenge audiences; they don't make you think. It's why they're so damn popular. People can relax in bed or curled up under an electric blanket and check their e-mail, read a magazine, eat dinner, talk on the phone, or doze off and not really miss anything. And if you do miss something important? Meh, there'll be another episode just like that one on next week, so it's no big deal. But they're just entertaining enough, just the right amount of bland and fun, that they make for great background noise or detached, casual viewing. CSI: Cyber is no exception to this formula.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pilot Review: Battle Creek

Battle Creek (Sundays at 10:00 on CBS)

Welcome to CBS's newest (well, most recent, considering this pilot was first written over a decade ago) exercise in pointless mediocrity, Battle Creek: a show that blends some wonderful creative talents with a great, quirky cast and yet somehow still ends up feeling like the Dullest Dullard in Dullsville.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pilot Review: Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies (Sundays at 9:00 on ABC)

If there's one genre I want to see die out, it's the "dead kid mystery" genre. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It began a few years ago with The Killing, found its way overseas to Broadchurch, came back to the States as Gracepoint, and was most recently explored on the new Amazon streaming series Bosch. Now we get Secrets and Lies, a remake of an Australian miniseries and one of the duller entries into the field, despite some good moments and some decent performances.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pilot Review: The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)

CBS's remake/update of The Odd Couple is a lot of things: deluded, lazy, crass, offensive. One thing it's not is funny.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat


Fresh Off the Boat (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC)

A show like Fresh Off the Boat should be heralded simply for existing. Believe it or not, the last time a series aired on broadcast television with an entirely Asian American cast was over twenty years ago; Margaret Cho's All American Girl aired for nineteen episodes on ABC in 1994 and 1995, and it resulted in a strained attempt at integrating the Korean Kim family into an almost entirely white landscape. The problems that arose from that series (a lack of original plotlines, relying on stereotypes for laughs, and objectification of the leading characters) are strangely still mostly present in the pilot of Fresh Off the Boat, resulting in a strange, uneven, uncomfortably old-fashioned kind of show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Amazon Comedy Pilots - January 2015

With Transparent garnering rapturous reviews and already racking up some love from awards groups (including a Golden Globe win for Best Comedy Series), Amazon has released a new assortment of pilots for its users to watch and rate, in an effort to help decide what will go to series in the future. So far, Amazon has only dabbled in comedy (though that changes in a few weeks when Bosch releases), so that's where I started my viewing binge with this latest crop of shows, and it was an easy start since there are only two in consideration, as opposed to four dramas.

Click through for my reviews of Down Dog and Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pilot Review: Backstrom

Backstrom (Thursdays at 9:00 on Fox)

Stop me if you've heard this one before: an unlikeable narcissist storms around his workplace insulting people and making a fool of himself, but he gets to keep his job because he's also something of a genius. The anti-hero trend is still in full force, especially on Fox; Backstrom is just the latest, following last year's epic failure Rake. The show's title character is yet another quirky, somewhat obnoxious leading player a la Bones, House, The Finder, and others. There are probably about a dozen shows you could compare Backstrom to, and I guarantee they're all better than it is.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Midseason Schedule: The CW

Better late than never, The CW has, at last, finalized its midseason plans.

Monday

8:00 - The Originals
9:00 - Jane the Virgin

No changes to the Monday night schedule, which hasn't exactly been lighting up the ratings, but critical darling Jane the Virgin will soon be getting some exposure after its featured on the Golden Globes (with many even predicting leading lady Gina Rodriguez to win) this weekend.

Tuesday

8:00 - The Flash
9:00 - Supernatural
9:00 - iZombie (NEW - beginning March 17)

The newest DC comics adaptation, iZombie, will be following the hit DC comics adaptation The Flash. Will having three comic book shows on the air on back-to-back nights be a windfall or a detriment for The CW? We'll find out in March.

Wednesday

8:00 - Arrow
9:00 - The 100
9:00 - Supernatural (beginning March 18)

After The 100 wraps its second season on March 11, Supernatural, the CW's ultimate utility players, transfers over to Wednesdays.

Thursday

8:00 - The Vampire Diaries
9:00 - Reign

Despite being one of the lowest-rated dramas on the network currently, Reign stays put on Thursdays.

Friday

8:00 - Hart of Dixie
8:00 - Cedric's Barber Battle (beginning April 10)
8:30 - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (beginning April 10)
9:00 - Repeats through April 3
9:30 - Masters of Illusion
9:00 - The Messengers (NEW - beginning April 10)

I was holding out hope that The Messengers would be good, but apparently not: it gets a terrible, throwaway timeslot and debuts very late in the season so that nearly half its episode will air in the summer. It's all but dead already. And the network's newest reality series, Cedric's Barber Battle, could not sound worse: "Each week, the show will visit different barbershops in cities, including Los Angeles, Queens, Harlem and Austin, where the best barbers will go head-to-head in a hilariously unfiltered, no-holds-barred arena.  Creating hair sculptures that feature elaborate designs ranging from images of a person’s face to grand cityscapes, the barbers will use nothing more than their clippers and a few coloring tools to create intricate works of art that are both imaginative and location-centric." No, thank you.

This leaves only Beauty and the Beast, returning for its third season, without an airdate, which will likely be sometime this summer as it was last year (along with the new seasons of Masters of Illusion and Penn & Teller: Fool Us).

For descriptions of The CW's new shows, see the 2014 schedule announcement from upfronts in May.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pilot Review: Empire

Empire (Wednesdays at 9:00 on Fox)

This has been an incredible year for diversity on the broadcast nets. The biggest show on network television has a black female lead (Scandal), and the biggest new show of the year does as well (How to Get Away with Murder). The biggest new comedy of the year is about an all-black family (Black-ish), and now you have Empire, with its entirely African American or Latino cast, sweeping in to tie How to Get Away... for the biggest premiere of the season. And the best part about all of this? Each of these shows is actually good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pilot Review: Agent Carter

Agent Carter (Tuesdays at 9:00 on ABC)

Agent Carter is, in almost every way, the exact opposite of Marvel's other television series, Agents of SHIELD. Whereas that series started with a massive bang (and a budget to match), focusing on visual effects and extending the sensibility of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen with its ensemble cast, Agent Carter enters the field with little more than a murmur: it's a relatively quiet (by comic book adaptation standards) period piece more interested in creating dynamic characters than dynamic explosions. Not everything works, but what does is a huge step up from the misfire that SHIELD turned into after its entertaining pilot.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Midseason Schedule: NBC

Updated December 21. Say goodbye to NBC's Thursday night comedy block, because for the first time in almost 40 years, NBC will be airing three dramas on Thursdays.

Mondays

8:00 - The Celebrity Apprentice (Beginning January 5)
8:00 - The Voice (Beginning February 23)
10:00 - State of Affairs
10:00 - The Night Shift (Beginning February 23)

With The Blacklist moving to Thursdays and State of Affairs only producing 13 episodes this season, last year's surprise summer hit The Night Shift makes the move to the regular season, and with a great lead-in from The Voice no less. The Celebrity Apprentice gets the burn-off treatment, airing 14 episodes back-to-back, with a special premiere on January 4 and then six weeks of two-hour blocks on Mondays (no surprise given that the show completed filming nearly a year ago).

Tuesdays

8:00 - Parks & Recreation (Beginning January 13)
8:00 - The Voice (Beginning February 24)
9:00 - Undateable (Beginning March 17)
9:30 - One Big Happy (NEW - Beginning March 17)
10:00 - Chicago Fire

Parks & Rec airs its final season in one-hour increments for seven weeks, ending with a finale on February 24 at 10:00. The premiere comes on the heels of the Golden Globes, which Poehler is once again hosting with Tina Fey, to maximize the show's exposure. After The Voice cuts back to one hour, another summer series, Undateable, gets its sizable lead-in when it leads off a new multi-cam comedy block with the Ellen Degeneres-produced freshman, One Big Happy. Marry Me and About a Boy will air in January and return later in the season, likely summer.

Wednesdays

8:00 - The Mysteries of Laura
9:00 - Law & Order: SVU
10:00 - Chicago P.D.

No changes for one of NBC's more stable nights (thought not necessarily highly-rated).

Thursdays

8:00 - The Slap (NEW - Beginning February 12)
9:00 - The Blacklist (Beginning February 5)
10:00 - Allegiance (NEW - Beginning February 5)

The Biggest Loser, Bad Judge, and A to Z all finish their runs in late January. Then The Blacklist makes it big move, potentially boosted by its post-Super Bowl airing on February 1, followed by the premiere of Allegiance.

Fridays

8:00 - Constantine
9:00 - Grimm
10:00 - Dateline

Constantine shifts to the 8:00 time period, which seems odd for a couple reasons: 1) its dark tone and violence seems better suited to 10:00, and 2) it reads like a last ditch effort to get new eyes on the show. Perhaps it's not as dead as not receiving an order for additional episodes implies. Still, it's strange to shift Dateline back to 10:00 and then move it to 8:00 again when something else debuts at 10:00 (like Hannibal, which was not part of the schedule announcement but will be returning sometime in the coming months). So is it possible that Hannibal will take up residence elsewhere on the schedule and something unexpected will air on Fridays at 8:00? Or will Dateline just hop around the Friday night schedule for the rest of its life?

Sundays

7:00 - Dateline (January 4, 18, and 25)
9:00 - A.D. (NEW - Beginning April 5)
10:00 - Odyssey (NEW - Beginning April 5)

NBC hasn't set any programming for Sundays at 8:00 after January, when both football and the special airings of Dateline end. Then A.D., the miniseries sequel to History's The Bible, will premiere on Easter Sunday, followed by Odyssey. NBC didn't have a lot of luck with scripted drama programming on Sundays last season, but A.D at least has the potential to garner viewers.

This leaves comedy Mr. Robinson and dramas Aquarius and Hannibal without air dates. With The Night Shift and Undateable moving to the regular season, could Mr. Robinson and Aquarius move to summer? It's possible, though Sundays at 8:00 and Fridays at 8:00 or 10:00 will be open around February sweeps, as well as Thursdays at 8:00 following The Slap's eight-week run (which should end on April 2, leaving 7-8 weeks of the regular season remaining). Heroes Reborn is also slated for summer, and Hollywood Game Night is on deck as well.

For descriptions of NBC's new shows, see the 2014 schedule announcement from upfronts in May.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Golden Globes 2015: TV Nominations

I've never commented on the Golden Globes on this blog, mostly because I think their film awards typically carry more weight than their television ones. (Can you even remember what won Best Comedy Series last year? It was Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which was an out-of-left-field choice and one that hardly made any waves given that it didn't translate to the Emmys or the ratings.) Even their film nominees and winners have a history of catering to popularity over art, but this year the Hollywood Foreign Press seemed to want to go legit by nominating a host of new, acclaimed series and stars. The nominees are:

Best Television Series - Drama

Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Game of Thrones
The Affair

The first thing the Globes have in common with the Emmys here is the lack of love for broadcast dramas. Despite Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder topping the ratings and many viewers' favorites lists, CBS's The Good Wife is the only drama on a broadcast network to receive a nomination in the top category. It's also nice to see Showtime's critically-acclaimed but underwatched new series The Affair slip in.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Television Series - Drama

Kevin Spacey - House of Cards
Liev Schrieber - Ray Donovan
Dominic West - The Affair
James Spader - The Blacklist
Clive Owen - The Knick

Cinemax enters the fray for the first time ever with a major nomination for its new series The Knick. Schrieber, Spacey, and Spader all repeat from last year, but with 2014's winner (Bryan Cranston) now out of the picture and Masters of Sex's Michael Sheen failing to repeat, Owen and West were able to secure nods.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Television Series - Drama

Robin Wright - House of Cards
Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife
Viola Davis - How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Danes - Homeland
Ruth Wilson - The Affair

Homeland is going through a bit of a revival with a strong fourth season (following the abomination that was season three), so it's good to see Danes' name back on the list after missing out last year. Davis secured her second major nomination for the fall's highest-rated new drama, following a SAG nomination yesterday, and she looks well on her way to an Emmy nomination later in the year. Margulies has been nominated every year The Good Wife has been on the air but only won once, in 2010; on the heels of her Emmy win, will she get another one here?

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Girls
Orange is the New Black
Transparent
Jane the Virgin
Silicon Valley

This is a really interesting category. Gone are former stalwarts Modern Family (which was completely shut out for the first time in its five year history) and The Big Bang Theory, as well as last year's winner, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. So no matter what, a first-time winner will be crowned in this category. Orange is the New Black was categorized as a drama in 2014, and it competes for the top prize for the first time this year. And let's all welcome The CW and Amazon to the awards-season fold! Amazon had a great year with its first adult series, Transparent, garnering rapturous reviews and now some awards love as well. And The CW seems to have finally crossed over from the narrow appeal of its target demographic (comic book fans and teenage girls) with Jane the Virgin garnering the network's first major nominations in its eight-year history.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Don Cheadle - House of Lies
Ricky Gervais - Derek
William H. Macy - Shameless
Louis C.K. - Louie
Jeffrey Tambor - Transparent

Cheadle is the only returning nominee in this wide-open category, which includes Macy for the first time since Shameless switched from competing as a drama to a comedy this season. And despite poking fun at HFPA for years, Gervais managed another nomination for his Netflix show, proving that the group behind the Globes doesn't take itself too seriously and can take a joke without taking it too personally.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy

Lena Dunham - Girls
Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Veep
Gina Rodriguez - Jane the Virgin
Taylor Schilling - Orange is the New Black

Schilling was nominated last year when Orange competed as a drama (the show's sole recognition), but she'll have just as tough a time of it this season with competition from Louis-Dreyfus, who now has three consecutive Emmys for Veep but has never won the Globe.

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Olive Kitteridge
The Normal Heart
True Detective
Fargo
The Missing

After competing (and mostly losing) at the Emmys as a drama series, the Globes recognize True Detective for what it is: an anthology mini-series. It will go head-to-head with Fargo for the first time at a major awards show.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Matthew McConaughey - True Detective
Woody Harrelson - True Detective
Martin Freeman - Fargo
Billy Bob Thornton - Fargo
Mark Ruffalo - The Normal Heart

For my money, this one is McConaughey vs. Thornton.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jessica Lange - American Horror Story: Freak Show
Frances O'Connor - The Missing
Frances McDormand - Olive Kitteridge
Maggie Gyllenhaal - The Honourable Woman
Allison Tolman - Fargo

Will Tolman win the Globe after many felt she was robbed of the Emmy?

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jon Voight - Ray Donovan
Matt Bomer - The Normal Heart
Bill Murray - Olive Kitteridge 
Colin Hanks - Fargo
Alan Cumming - The Good Wife

After Voight's surprise win last year, I won't count him out this time. But I sincerely hope the Globes can do some justice by Matt Bomer, who should have taken home the Emmy in September.

Best Supporting Performance by an Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Allison Janney - Mom
Uzo Aduba - Orange is the New Black
Kathy Bates - American Horror Story: Freak Show
Michelle Monaghan - True Detective
Joanne Froggatt - Downton Abbey

Janney, Aduba, and Bates all won Emmys in September (though Bates' was for Coven, whereas her nomination here is for Freak Show), so this category is pretty open. Of note is that this is the first year since its debut in 2009 that Sofia Vergara has not been nominated in this category (even crazier: two-time Emmy winner Julie Bowen has never been nominated).