Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pilot Review: Manhattan Love Story

Manhattan Love Story (Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC)

ABC has the two smartest sitcoms of the season in Black-ish and Selfie. They have gone above and beyond the typical comedy setups of "a bunch of friends looking for love" or "dysfunctional family" and crossed over into social commentary and satire. Why, then, is ABC airing Manhattan Love Story, the worst kind of trite, oversimplified, offensively dumb show: the gender roles comedy? They are clearly capable of doing much better, of proving viewers with thoughtful humor, but you were never guess it after subjecting yourself to just a few minutes of Love Story.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pilot Review: Selfie

Selfie (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC; Premieres September 30)

What if Eliza Doolittle were a character in an Amy Heckerling film in 2014? That seems to be the question Selfie creator Emily Kapnek asked herself when developing the new ABC comedy based on George Bernard Shaw's classic 1912 play Pygmalion (and subsequent musical adaptation My Fair Lady). There's a surprising bite to the comedy here, much as there was over a century ago when Shaw debuted his play, despite some shortcomings. But the overall concept of mixing the feeling of Clueless with My Fair Lady comes across better than one would think, thanks to some sharp social commentary.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pilot Review: How to Get Away with Murder

How to Get Away with Murder (Thursdays at 10:00 on ABC)

Much has already been made of the new series from Shonda Rhimes' production company, Shondaland, thanks mostly to a clueless, shit-stirring feature in The New York Times. A lot of the hype is justified, because How to Get Away with Murder is exactly what ABC has been promising in its heavy promotion: instantly addictive, fast-paced fun.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pilot Review: Black-ish

Black-ish (Wednesdays at 9:30 on ABC)

Jokes about race are lazy. They're about equivalent to jokes about farts, pooping, penises, and getting high. So when Black-ish was announced, I assumed we would be getting a thirty-minute exercise in immature humor and lazy punchline writing. Imagine my surprise when a totally coherent and very intelligent show about the construction of identity emerged on ABC's Wednesday night lineup.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pilot Review: NCIS: New Orleans

NCIS: New Orleans (Tuesdays at 9:00 on CBS)

I've never watched a single moment of any previous NCIS series, so I don't know how the New Orleans extension compares to the others. But as a freestanding pilot, NCIS: New Orleans is almost a total failure. But then again, CBS probably isn't too interested in gaining new viewers with this spin-off, but rather pleasing old ones and hoping their eyes stay glued to the TV after the NCIS mothership ends at 9:00.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pilot Review: Scorpion

Scorpion (Mondays at 9:00 on CBS)

Scorpion begins with a title card: "Inspired by a true story." I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the scene of a car chasing a low-flying plane across the runways of LAX, with the pilot hanging from the landing gear and an American Idol runner-up standing up in a speeding Ferrari while they pass an ethernet cable back and forth, isn't included in that disclaimer. That's just one in a long string of ridiculous scenes that comprise this utterly stupid pilot about, ironically, a group of super-geniuses.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pilot Review: Gotham

Gotham (Mondays at 8:00 on Fox)

Do you really need me to tell you whether or not to watch this show? You've definitely already decided by now if you're going to give it a shot (you have possibly even decided whether or not you will hate it or love it), so I'm sure this review is more of a formality than anything that will change your mind one way or the other.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pilot Review: Madam Secretary

Madam Secretary (Sundays at 8:00 on CBS)

Madam Secretary is the type of pilot that is going to be absolutely golden for a certain sect of viewers. It's about politics; it's competently written and shot; and the cast is full of recognizable Tony, Emmy, and Oscar winners. It has the walk-and-talk beats of The West Wing, the female empowerment of The Good Wife, and a likeable, beloved leading lady in Tea Leoni. It's also almost sickeningly sunny and upbeat for a show about the harsh world of governmental politics, and that's where the disconnect comes in for me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pilot Review: Forever

Forever (Tuesdays at 10:00 on ABC; Premieres September 22)

It's really hard to watch thoroughly mediocre television. If something is great, it's enjoyable. If something is utterly terrible, that can be enjoyable too, in a totally different way. But it's all the series that fall in between those two poles that are painful to sit through: the ones that are shameless rip-offs of better shows; ones that are unremarkable cop procedurals in a new city but with the same boring cast of stock characters; ones that are remakes of foreign shows no one cared about in the first place; etc. Forever is of the first type, a mediocre show that is a shameless rip-off of a bunch of better shows.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pilot Review: The Mysteries of Laura

The Mysteries of Laura (Wednesdays at 8:00 on NBC)

The biggest mystery in The Mysteries of Laura is why Debra Messing, an Emmy winner for Will & Grace (and a nominee for The Starter Wife, her first television foray after that sitcom ended in 2006), has chosen to attempt another NBC comeback with this particular show. Is this really the best the broadcast network had to offer her? Or was there something in the writing which sparked Messing's interest, only to be lost in translation to the pilot? Perhaps she just wanted more screen time after being one of three female leads on Smash? Whatever the reason, it's certainly not that The Mysteries of Laura is a strong show.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pilot Review: Red Band Society

Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9:00 on Fox; Premieres September 17)

As anyone who's read or seen the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars can tell you, teenage angst has reached new heights: cancer. Yes, cancer is the latest fatalistic storyline thrust upon teens in an attempt to garner tears, empathy, and even laughs. And it's working, because John Green's novel has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for 93 weeks, and the film adaptation made $125 million at the American box office earlier this summer. Teen cancer is hot right now, so no doubt Red Band Society's creator Margaret Nagle (adapting the Catalan series Polseres vermelles) is trying to cash in. It's a nice show with a big heart, though it's not without problems.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 Emmy Predictions

The Emmys are, more so than any other awards show, notoriously difficult to predict. There are always out-of-left-field nominees and winners (see: Jeff Daniels' win last year for The Newsroom), so these predictions are more for fun than anything else.

Miniseries and Television Movie

Writing, Movie/Miniseries: Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart
Directing, Movie/Miniseries: Adam Bernstein, Fargo
Supporting Actress, Movie/Miniseries: Allison Tolman, Fargo
Supporting Actor, Movie/Miniseries: Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Lead Actress, Movie/Miniseries: Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Lead Actor, Movie/Miniseries: Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
Television Movie: The Normal Heart
Miniseries: Fargo

These categories will likely flip-flop between The Normal Heart and Fargo throughout. Lead Actor is a horse race between Thornton and Mark Ruffalo, and so is Supporting Actress between Folman and Julia Roberts. I wouldn't be surprised if, in any category above, the other of Fargo or The Normal Heart wins (or if Jessica Lange manages to eke out a win for being the only thing about American Horror Story: Coven that was good in every episode).


Writing: Louis C.K., Louie ("So Did the Fat Lady")
Directing: Jodie Foster, Orange is the New Black ("Lesbian Request Denied")
Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, Mom
Supporting Actor: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lead Actress: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Lead Actor: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Comedy Series: Orange is the New Black

I sincerely hope this is the year Modern Family's reign ends, and it seems it will be likely with Orange is the New Black becoming a cultural phenomenon; the only thing working against it is the fact that it's competing as a comedy rather than as a drama. Allison Janney already won an Emmy last week at the Creative Arts ceremony for her guest spot on Masters of Sex, but I don't think that will stop her from taking home another (this time in a comedy category) for her scene-stealing role on CBS's underrated rising sophomore Mom. I've also predicted a win for another new comedy series with Andre Braugher in Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the most consistently funny thing about the sometimes-uneven show; but Veep's Tony Hale could just as easily take home a second Emmy for his brilliant work on the HBO show. All in all, though, this could shake out to be a big year for the comedy categories, with a lot of strong new contenders to take away the aging Modern Family's thunder.


Writing: Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad ("Ozymandias")
Directing: Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective ("Who Goes There")
Supporting Actress: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Supporting Actor: Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Lead Actress: Robin Wright, House of Cards
Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Drama Series: Breaking Bad 

I think Breaking Bad will take away one final Emmy for Drama Series, but this was a strong year all around for other dramas, so I don't see it sweeping again. Of course, that could always happen considering this will be the last chance the Academy gets to honor the show... so seeing Aaron Paul and/or Bryan Cranston walk away with yet another (final) win under the belts wouldn't shock me. I predicted Josh Charles' win using the same logic: he played a beloved character on The Good Wife and was dispatched of in a shocking manner that everyone in the country, even those who don't watch the show, were talking about the next day; he's also been nominated once before for this role but didn't win, so this could be the chance to reward his work. But Aaron Paul is a critical and audience favorite for his Breaking Bad character, so a third win for his role as Jesse Pinkman is just as likely. The only sure thing in these categories seems to be a win for True Detective in Best Directing for a gem of an episode containing an eight-minute, tension-filled long take.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pilot Review: Finding Carter

Finding Carter (Tuesdays at 10:00 on MTV)

Finding Carter is a bit of a strange fit at MTV, home to quirky teen comedies (Faking It, Awkward., etc) and Teen Wolf, not to mention the plethora of ridiculous reality shows that have little-to-nothing to do with the channel's musical roots. It's the kind of show that would better fit into the melodramatic teen angst on ABC Family, if it weren't for the adult edge and slightly more mature tone it's got going. As it stands, Finding Carter lives up to its own name in its pilot: much like the crisis of not fitting on its own network, the new young adult drama struggles to find a consistent tone and balance of too many characters.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Brief Reviews: Power, Murder in the First, Dominion

I don't have much to say about the first round of new summer programming: some of it is fun, some of it is downright terrible, and none of it is good enough for me to care very much about it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pilot Review: Halt and Catch Fire

Halt and Catch Fire (Sundays at 10:00 on AMC; Premieres June 1)

I'm hard pressed to think of something I'd rather watch a show about less than someone programming and reverse engineering a computer. And despite some stylish direction in the engineering sequence, Halt and Catch Fire can't make this concept interesting. It's a well-acted and directed show, but it's just hard to care about something so esoteric.