Monday, December 27, 2010

Not Really Doing the Midseason Shuffle: The CW

The CW's midseason schedule provided the fewest changes from the fall lineup, with only one show getting the axe, one show premiering, and one show changing timeslots. The biggest news is from Deadline, who broke that Dawn Ostroff will most likely not be returning as the head of the network for next season.

Monday

8:00 - 90210
9:00 - Gossip Girl

No changes here. I expected 90210 to be gone by the end of the season, but it's been doing surprisingly well in its new slot. Gossip Girl has fallen considerably over the years, yet it is still one of the network's highest performing shows in their target demographic: women 18-34.

Tuesday

8:00 - One Tree Hill
9:00 - Hellcats

This is where the changes happen with Life Unexpected going off the air on January 18, following a double-episode burn off. The show hasn't been officially canceled, but it did not receive a backorder (when all the other series did) and its final episodes are airing before the network's other shows are officially back from hiatus. Plus, Warner Brothers recently announced the release of "The Complete Series" on DVD in April of 2011... so it's pretty much dead. And to take its spot, Hellcats makes the move out of the way of American Idol.

Wednesday

8:00 - America's Next Top Model
9:00 - Shedding for the Wedding

This is actually a very smart night for the CW. With American Idol's peformance shows now moving to Wednesdays, it makes sense to have a night of reality fare up against it. ANTM is the network's best-performing show in all demographics (its finale even beat NBC in November, giving the CW a third-place finish for the hour), so if anything is going to hold up against American Idol, this is it. The CW doesn't have the best luck with other reality shows, however; in fact their track record is downright hideous. So if new series Shedding for the Wedding fails in its timeslot, the network can blame the competition rather than its trite premise of brides losing weight before the big day.

Thursday

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

Again, no changes here. I still am fascinated by the fact that Nikita got a backorder, however; it usually garners about a 1.0 in the adults 18-49 demo, which is better than Life Unexpected's usual 0.7 or 0.8.. but it is also not the CW's target demo. In the women 18-34, the latter has consistently outperformed Nikita, even though neither show's numbers are particularly great (about 1.3. vs. 1.1). But perhaps with Dawn Ostroff out the door, that target demographic is beginning to change...? If so, the backorder for Nikita makes perfect sense: it outperforms at least two other CW shows in A18-49 numbers.

Friday

8:00 - Smallville
9:00 - Supernatural

Smallville enters its final few episodes following the winter hiatus; I'm very curious to see what the CW does with Supernatural now. It was supposed to end last season, according to the creator and his original five-year plan for the show, but was renewed even at mediocre numbers; but following Smallville, it has increased its audience and its demo over last season, when it followed the highly successful The Vampire Diaries. I wouldn't think the CW would want to move it back to that timeslot, but would they want to launch a new show on Friday nights at 8:00? Where else is it compatible?

So even though their midseason schedule is not at all risky or exciting, there are some interesting things ahead for the CW. Will Dawn Ostroff leave? What will that mean for the network's demographic? Which of the new shows will be returning next year, and which of the veterans will get the chop? Something's got to give this year... stay tuned.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Doing the Midseason Shuffle: CBS

In comparison to NBC and FOX, CBS had relatively few changes to its 2011 midseason schedule. Unlike all previous networks whom announced new schedules (including the CW, which I'll get to in another post), CBS canceled no new series, a very good sign for them. A not so great sign? They let go of a veteran series: Medium. CBS also canceled another Friday series last year that was very popular, Ghost Whisperer, and this year they tried out the freshman drama Blue Bloods on Fridays. Perhaps they are looking to get away from programming on that night, however, as you can see in their new line-up.

Monday

8:00 - How I Met Your Mother
8:30 - Rules of Engagement (January 3 through February 14)
8:30 - Mad Love (beginning February 21)
9:00 - Two and a Half Men
9:30 - Mike & Molly
10:00 - Hawaii Five-0

CBS's successful Monday night comedy block will remain mostly intact, with the exception of Rules of Engagement, which will return for just three new episodes in this timeslot and the remainder reruns before being shipped off to a new night. I think this bodes well for newcomer Mad Love and for the veteran sitcom as well, which I'll get to in a minute. Otherwise, this is still as solid a line-up as ever; CBS viewers generally don't care if the show is good or not, as long as it's on after something they like (see: Mike & Molly).

Tuesday

8:00 - NCIS
9:00 - NCIS: Los Angeles
10:00 - The Good Wife

No changes, as expected. This is one of CBS's stronger nights.

Wednesday

8:00 - Live to Dance (January 5 through February 9)
8:00 - Survivor: Redemption Island (beginning February 16)
9:00 - Criminal Minds
10:00 - Blue Bloods (January 19 through February 9)
10:00 - Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (beginning February 16)

So here we have the biggest shake-up, and it's not much of one at all. Blue Bloods is a great performer for CBS on Fridays, so it makes sense for them to want to see how well it will do on a busier night; they could stand to make more money from it that way. Pairing it with Criminal Minds was certainly a good choice, though it may have done better on Tuesday after NCIS: Los Angeles and without Law & Order: SVU as competition. But it's only a four-week test run, and one that probably means good things for the freshman series if it does moderately well. Live to Dance is completely being thrown to the wolves, as it will be up against American Idol. I guess we'll know for sure, though, how many people really did tune in to see Paula Abdul make a fool of herself on that show. I'm not sure how the new Criminal Minds spin-off will do immediately following its parent series, since the two have little in common. If Law & Order: LA taught us anything, it's that that strategy doesn't always work; I mean, look how spread out the many CSI series are.

Thursday

8:00 - The Big Bang Theory
8:30 - Shit My Dad Says (through February 17)
8:30 - Rules of Engagement (beginning February 24)
9:00 - CSI
10:00 - The Mentalist

The only change here is the move from Mondays for Rules of Engagement. Clearly, launching a new series out of The Big Bang Theory's big move from Mondays didn't do Shit My Dad Says any favors (though the fact that it sucks could be a factor in its failure as well). I think that series is probably likely to be canceled, considering there were only five additional episodes ordered (for a total of 17, an odd number for any show) and that it will be off the air come February. Moving a series in its fifth year to this new comedy night will confirm or deny to CBS whether or not attempting a second night of sitcoms was a good idea.

Friday

8:00 - Medium (through January 21)
8:00 - The Defenders (beginning February 4)
8:00 - Chaos (beginning April 1)
9:00 - CSI: New York
10:00 - Blue Bloods (beginning February 11)

Medium gives its swan song in January after seven seasons on the air and a major network change. The Defenders, an underperforming freshman drama, moves from Wednesdays to Fridays to die. This is probably the end for the series (which didn't even receive a back order), which will pave the way for another new series to begin in April, Chaos. I don't think CBS has very high hopes for this new dramedy: it stars no "names" and is debuting in a fashion similar to last season's turkey, Miami Medical. No wonder they want to move Blue Bloods to a better night and away from the wasteland they've created for themselves on Friday nights. Even CSI: NY isn't performing very well anymore on a night where CBS used to actually compete.

Sunday

8:00 - The Amazing Race (beginning February 20)
9:00 - Undercover Boss
10:00 - CSI: Miami

CBS didn't officially confirm their Sunday night plans, so this is what I've gathered from other sources. Undercover Boss got a full season order, but it was for an unspecified number of episodes; it's just a guess that they'll keep it around for the remainder of the season.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doing the Midseason Shuffle: Fox

While not as soul-shaking as the NBC midseason lineup, Fox didn't skimp on the drama when it announced its 2011 plans last month. There are some big changes in store for the network, particularly with their flagship series, American Idol. Let's do it to it.

Monday

8:00 - House
9:00 - The Chicago Code (beginning February 7)

For starters, I think it's interesting that Fox has decided not to order any more episodes of Lie to Me, which will be burned off in January so that The Chicago Code (formerly Ride-a-long) can take over. I've heard lots of positive things about The Chicago Code, though Lone Star was similarly well-received by critics at the start of the season. Regardless, Lie to Me has to be getting expensive as it continues, and it's not pulling great ratings; unfortunately, House hasn't been doing as well this season either. Mondays are looking kind of grim for Fox nowadays, with the declining ratings for House and 24's first replacement being a major bomb. But the good news for The Chicago Code is that it won't have to be a huge hit in order for Fox to consider it a success now that their expectations have been lowered.

Tuesday

8:00 - Glee
9:00 - Raising Hope
9:30 - Traffic Light

Glee is consistently Fox's best performer and one of the best performer's of the entire broadcast week, so it's no surprise that Fox didn't want to mess up a good thing: it was supposed to move to Wednesdays at midseason. Keeping it where it is is a smart decision, especially considering how well new sitcom Raising Hope has done with it as a lead-in. Now that Raising Hope has something of an audience and is doing steady numbers, perhaps it can be used to successfully launch Traffic Light (formerly Mixed Signals). I don't know if it'll happen, considering how poorly Running Wilde did in the same slot... and that show had a couple of recognizable and well-liked stars, which this new series does not.

Wednesday

8:00 - American Idol (beginning January 19)
9:00 - Human Target (until February 9)

8:00 - American Idol (beginning April 6)
9:30 - Breaking In (beginning April 6)

So here's the big switch. American Idol moves its performance show to Wednesday nights for 2 hours throughout February and March, and then cut back to 90 minutes in April. On one hand, I think this spells doom for Human Target, which has fallen this season and is getting a quick burn off in January with 2 episodes per night prior to AI's debut. But I think it's a smart move to cut back by a half hour once the contestants begin to dwindle; it'll make the performance shows move quicker, and it gives Fox the opportunity to try out a new sitcom: Breaking In (formerly Security), which got a late pickup last month after originally being passed over. It'll also be interesting to see how audiences respond to all the changes happening with the panel on AI, including two new judges.

Thursday

8:00 - American Idol (beginning January 20)
9:00 - Bones

So the real winner of this entire switch up seems to be Bones. Fox usually uses the American Idol lead-out to launch a new show, like last year's smash Glee. But this year they're giving one of their old standbys and consistent performers a shot at growth. In the process, though, they seem to have given up on Fringe, which I'll talk about in a little bit. But overall, the American Idol switch up probably won't have much affect on its viewership; if anything, the effect (good or bad) will probalby come more from its changes than from its time shift.

Friday

8:00 - Kitchen Nightmares (beginning January 21)
9:00 - Fringe (beginning January 21)

Kitchen Nightmares should do fine an hour later than usual. It's a reality show, and a seasoned one at that; and if anything is going to succeed on a Friday, it'll be a seasoned reality show. It did fine at 9:00, so I don't see an issue really at 8:00... after all, it only had encores of House to build out of anyway. The real story is Fringe, which is being thrown under the bus by American Idol. Granted, Fringe has tumbled quite a bit in its third season, so it makes sense for Fox to want to try it out on Friday. If it does well there, its outlook for renewal will grow; if it continues to flounder, it will be canceled in May. Fox's president has even said that if Fringe does as well as Friday as it does on Thursday (about 1.8 A18-49) then it will be considered a success... however, since that announcement was made, it has fallen on Thursdays to a lowly 1.6, which is the same as Human Target's lows, a series sure to be canceled in light of its quick burn off. So as of now, things aren't looking to good for Fringe...

Sunday

7:30 - American Dad
8:00 - The Simpsons
8:30 - Bob's Burgers
9:00 - Family Guy
9:30 - The Cleveland Show

I don't really understand why Fox is so supportive of The Cleveland Show and so dismissive of American Dad. The former has fallen considerably since its debut last year, but since Fox decided to renew it for a third season while it was only halfway through the first, I guess they need to find a way to get the most out of it. American Dad, on the other hand, has been holding steady around 2.5 for a while now, and it does well with Family Guy as a lead-in and relatively well on its own. The Cleveland Show, however, depends on Family Guy's audience tuning in early; it doesn't do nearly as well when its parent show is in repeats or preempted. And it looks like Fox is trying to replace American Dad with Bob's Burgers. I don't know how well this new animated comedy will do. Cleveland did so well because it was a spin-off. Sons of Tucson failed miserably, though that was live-action. At least Bob's Burgers fits thematically with the animated family comedy... though it doesn't look very funny. We'll see.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Doing the Midseason Shuffle: NBC

NBC has the most complicated, potentially most destructive, and most strange midseason schedule released so far. To be fair, the only other network to release a full schedule is FOX; but they provided some major shake-ups as well, so it's still quite a feat for NBC to be so confusing.

Monday

8:00 - Chuck
9:00 - The Cape (two-hour premiere on Sunday, January 9 then regular timing January 17)
9:00 - The Event (beginning February 28 with two new episodes)
10:00 - Harry's Law (beginning January 17)
10:00 - Parenthood (beginning March 7)

Okay, so this is a big change. Chuck stays where it is; it's been performing pretty solidly this season, especially compared to the new series. The Cape debuts cold on a Sunday night, with an encore the following night, and then new episodes for six weeks. Harry's Law doesn't get the benefit of a "premiere event," but it's in much the same place as The Cape... and doesn't exactly seem compatible with a superhero show. I can't decide if what NBC is doing with The Cape is smart and shows they have faith in it, or completely stupid and a way of burning off a commitment that should never have happened in the first place. Because The Event is crashing so hard, I'm going to go with the former. I think NBC is hoping that The Cape will draw at least a 2.0 in the demo (not much to ask for, honestly, especially in a relatively easy timeslot) so that they can have new episodes ordered while The Event finishes a rushed run; it's telling that The Event won't be around for February sweeps. Because let's be honest: The Event is this year's FlashForward. It started really strong, faded quickly, and now will be absolutely killed by a very long hiatus. It's not seeing a second season. The strange thing about both The Cape and Harry's Law, though, is that each will only be airing a portion of their produced episodes. I'm assuming NBC is saving them (5 and 6 episodes each, respectively) in case The Event and/or Parenthood performs poorly and they need a boost during May sweeps. After all, Parenthood is now going up against Castle on ABC and Hawaii 5-0 on CBS; it now routinely loses to two of those networks' lowest-rated series on Tuesdays at 10:00... now it's going up against longer-running shows with better ratings. Uh oh.

Tuesday

8:00 - The Biggest Loser: Couples
10:00 - Parenthood (4 episodes in January)
10:00 - Law & Order: Los Angeles (beginning February 8)

Yeah, Parenthood is a goner. It'll be in its regular slot for all of January, then disappear for sweeps in February, and come back in a death-slot in March. Moving the newest Law & Order to Tuesdays is probably a good move; it'll be decent competition for ABC's cop show Detroit 1-8-7, which is pretty low-rated. LO:LA will probably beat it, and it may even beat CBS's The Good Wife as well, unless its recent horrid ratings on Wednesdays at 10:00 is an indication that audiences just don't want it anymore.

Wednesday

8:00 - Minute to Win It
9:00 - Chase (beginning January 12)
9:00 - America's Next Great Resaturant (beginning March 16)
10:00 - Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (beginning January 5)

NBC is so stupid sometimes. They tried SVU at 9:00 last season, and it did not do well. When The Jay Leno Show was canceled and it moved back to 10:00, it soared again in the ratings. Clearly this is a 10:00pm show, and now it's back where it belongs. I don't fully understand why Chase was given a full season order when NBC had (and still has) so many shows waiting in the wings. Its ratings are awful, and now it is officially being euthanized as it goes up against Criminal Minds and American Idol. I think it's actualy smart of NBC to have 8:00-10:00 be unscripted programming as American Idol kicks into full gear in March; nothing is going to show all that strongly against AI, so it might as well be something that doesn't cost you much and that isn't serialized. And SVU is a flagship, so it's not really dependent upon compatible lead-ins. Once Chase is gone, this could be a relatively good night for NBC.

Thursday

8:00 - Community
8:30 - Perfect Couples
9:00 - The Office
9:30 - Parks and Recreation
10:00 - 30 Rock
10:30 - Outsourced

Wow... they did it: a 3-hour comedy block. Thursdays have always been NBC's best night, and I think this new lineup will work out very well for them. Community is probably the only one getting the shaft, since it will still be up against The Big Bang Theory on CBS; but everything else will probably benefit. Parks & Rec should get a nice boost and some new audience members from following The Office. And it makes sense to move 30 Rock, one of the more successful comedies, to the 10:00 timeslot to try out the new third hour. It'll be a nice counterbalance to all the 10:00 dramas. This move will also prove if Outsourced actually has a strong audience or if people just leave the channel on after The Office ends.

Fridays

8:00 - Who Do You Think You Are?
9:00 - Dateline

Okay, nothing to say.

Sundays

8:00 - The Marriage Ref (beginning March 6)
9:00 - The Celebrity Apprentice (beginning March 6)

I think Sundays will be a better fit for The Marriage Ref. It's a night when people really just want to watch something fluffy and entertaining and thoughtless. And let's hope this new season of The Celebrity Apprentice does better than the most recent of the regular The Apprentice.

Leftovers

NBC still has several shows waiting should anything fail tremendously and need immediate replacing, though if Chase can not only avoid cancellation but get a full pick-up, I can't imagine that happening. But Love Bites, Friends with Benefits, and The Paul Reiser Show are all awaiting airtime, though I don't currently see them fitting anywhere until at least May.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pilot Review: Blue Bloods

Blue Bloods (Fridays at 10:00 on CBS)

So I'm not exactly Speedy Gonzalez when it comes to reviewing the new shows this year. Whether it be because I don't know what to make of a show after one episode (The Event, Nikita) or, as in the case of Blue Bloods, I like a show but am not excited by it.

Blue Bloods is about a family of law enforcers, the Reagans. There's retired patriarch Henry (Len Carious); chief of police Frank (Tom Selleck); wild child detective Danny (Donnie Wahlberg); bitter ADA Erin (Bridget Moynahan); and rookie Jamie (Will Estes). That's pretty much the plot: they're all cops, and they don't all get along. The pilot opens with Jamie's graduation from the police academy just as a diabetic girl is kidnapped. The only clue Danny has to go on is a doll left at the scene, which turns out to be a prototype only available to three individuals... so the police procedural/mystery part of the story doesn't really go anywhere, since we're hit with only three suspects in the first fifteen minutes, and it absoultely has to be one of them. I suppose it's a bit more realistic than the long-winded crimes of the Law & Order franchise, but it's still not too exciting for viewers used to that type of format.

But when the focus shifts from the crime aspect of the series to the family aspect, Blue Bloods becomes more interesting. This is clearly a family with some deep and long-gestating issues, so the traditional Sunday dinner scene is the most explosive. Forget the kidnapped girl, the clock ticking on the case, and you have a quietly intense family drama. The chemistry among these actors is extraordinary. I figured there had to be something drawing so many film stars into a television series, and I think the moments when everyone gathers to casually chat is what did it. Sunday dinner turns into a quiet brawl; Donnie Wahlberg does especially good work here facing off against Bridget Moynahan. Tom Selleck isn't much to write home about in an underwritten and underutilized role. Len Cariou will get laughs from the over-60 crowd. But the real surprise is Will Estes, who plays the newly graduated Jamie. His character was on track to become a lawyer with a degree from Harvard when he decided to go into the family business after the murder of his cop brother. He takes grief from his fiancee (Who can blame her? You think you're marrying a lawyer, and now you're marrying a cop.) and, at the episode's end, is approached by an outside agency, who previously worked with his brother, to essentially spy on his coworkers, seeking out who may be involved in a secret society of policemen.

All in all, Blue Bloods is a step up from the usual police procedural. There is the crime-of-the-week, but there is also something more interesting in the family dynamic. It has, unfortunately, taken a backseat to the crime portion of the show for now, but hopefully it will build back up once Jamie's mission is more clearly established. There's definitely potential for greatness at work here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pilot Review: The Event

The Event (Mondays at 9:00 on NBC)

My gut reaction to the pilot of The Event was that it was the best introductory episode I'd seen in many years. The only other pilot I could recall having such an intensely euphoric reaction to was Lost, which debuted six years ago. After watching it again, my excitement was slightly more contained. And after a second episode, I feel like I can talk about it rationally.

So this show is clearly trying to fill the void left by Lost. Unlike other shows that have attempted the same (FlashForward comes to mind), it's starting off successfully. Basically we have a group of concurrent storylines that are beginning to intersect by the end of the second episode. Sean, an everyman, is on a cruise with his girlfriend where they meet another couple. They are convinced to go snorkeling the next day, but Sean's girlfriend is sick and stays behind. When he returns, she's missing and the ship has no record of their ever being on board. Cut to present day where Sean pulls a gun on a flight. Then there's the president of the US, a former Cuban, who is about to release 97 prisoners from a top-security holding place in Alaska. He is celebrating his child's birthday in Miami, when Sean's plane starts heading right for them.

Needless to say, there are several other secondary characters who serve these two main plotlines of the pilot, including the girlfriend's family, the president's head of security, a Secret Service agent, and one of the prisoners. It's a pretty standard "overlapping stories" show, until the last 2 minutes of the pilot. I won't spoil it, but I was completely thrown. It was such an in-your-face way to announce the show's arrival, and it was a fantastic moment. But it left many questions, a few of which were already answered in the second episode. Coming off of Lost, where it took six seasons to answer most of the show's questions, having so many answers so quickly is wonderful and terrible. I can't help but feel like, if this is truly the direction in which the show is moving, that many viewers (including myself) will be upset with the series as a whole. But if the writers are just toying with the audience and getting the obvious theories out of the way now, only to flip everything on its head later, then I'm all for it.

I'll admit that the show isn't terribly original or even all that well done. The constant time shifts were more distracting in the first episode than they were helpful. Since I suspect this timeline will be a major point of focus down the road, I know it must be important. But it was confusing to jump around so much in the opening episode. A lot of the dialogue is also awkward, especially for the girlfriend, Leila. Her character is just a pawn, so the writers just glossed over her part in the script; it doesn't help that the actress playing her has one expression and no depth. Jason Ritter is also forgettable as Sean, even though he is the most interesting and relatable character. He's the Jack Shepherd of The Event, but Ritter is nowhere near the same caliber of actor as Matthew Fox. Blair Underwood, Zelko Ivanek, and Laura Innes are all giving fine performances that are currently a bit shallow, but I can see them developing further; I don't see that same potential in Ritter, unfortunately. However, the performances are not what are going to carry this show. It's the story. And right now they're telling a potentially great story. Only time will tell if they veer off into the wrong direction.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pilot Review: Nikita

Nikita (Thursdays at 9:00 on The CW)

The next few reviews are late entries, because I wasn't sure what to make of just one episode. The first up is Nikita, a reboot of La Femme Nikita (which was itself based on a 1990 French film called... yup, Nikita). It follows a deadly assassin who used to work for a secret branch of the government called Division. She was supposed to be put to death for murdering someone, but Division saved her from that fate and trained to become a spy. Her speciality is being a "ghost," living completely off the map. But a few years after she'd been activated, Nikita fell in love with a civilian. Division had him killed, so she went rogue and has been trying to bring them down ever since.

So that is where the pilot episode picks up: we meet Alex, who is about to face the same fate as Nikita... but then is also saved by Division. So over the next 40 minutes, Alex is thrown into an underground training facility while (what seems like the entirety of) Division hunts down Nikita to stop her from... what, exactly? It's never really made clear what Nikita plans to do that will actually bring down Division. She can't tell anyone. She can't sell her story to the media. Is she just going to kill them all? Then they'll be replaced. Oh, right, she just wants to bring down their leader, Percy, because he's corrupt.

Wait, what? He's corrupt? Isn't the whole damn agency corrupt? That's the whole point! If Division in and of itself weren't corrupt, they wouldn't be a total secret. Whatever, it's a spy show, I'll let it slide.

So basically all of Division - you know, this huge secret spy agency that can basically do whatever they please because they don't officially exist? - gets their panties in a knot because Nikita's being mean to them. So they chase her. But of course she's smarter than them and is always one step ahead! Until she's cornered in an alley and one of the higher-ups at Division has the chance to shoot her and end it all; but she sweets talks him and seduces him with her wiley femininity and runs off.

In case you haven't been paying attention, Nikita is a completely ridiculous show. But as easy as it is to make fun of, it's actually well done. The pilot moved very quickly (almost too quickly, too much was going on) and did an admirable job of setting an interesting groundwork. The action is abundant (and very violent for a show at 9:00), which adds to the great look and feel the show has. Everything's sharp but dark and perfectly moody; this cinematographer deserves a raise. The performances are almost all good as well, with the unfortunate exception of Nikita herself, Maggie Q. She has no emotional depth, which is fine for a lot of Nikita's scenes since she is supposed to be empty on the inside from losing her lover. But in the scenes where she had to play emotionally (like the retelling of her lover's murder, her confrontation with her abusive stepfather), it came across as cold and shallow. We have to want to root for Nikita, but we're not going to root for someone who seems like a stone-cold bitch with no emotional connection to anything. The performances from Lyndsy Fonseca (Alex) and Shane West (Michael, the operative who gets Nikita cornered and then wimps out) are strong enough to cover Maggie Q's shortcomings. Fonseca is the most memorable actor and character on display, and West broods with the best of them.

All in all, it's a fun waste of time. Each episode thus far has been pretty much stand-alone, with a new crime being committed by Division introduced at the start, Nikita interrupting it, Division hunting her down, and Nikita escaping with the help of her mole (a shocking revelation at the pilot's end, and the episode's greatest moment). So each episode is like a short action film, and I can deal with that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pilot Review: $#*! My Dad Says

$#*! My Dad Says (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)

Now, I haven't watched every new pilot this season (nor do I plan to), but of the ones I have seen this is the worst by a long shot. Actually, I can't imagine any of the other shows yet to premiere will be able to be worse.

Let's start by getting this out there: this show has nothing to do with "Shit My Dad Says," the hysterical Twitter feed and subsequent book on which it is supposedly based. Fans of that father know the reason it's funny is because he is completely honest but also completely crass. CBS isn't going to have William Shatner screaming jokes about "fucking" his wife or cursing up a storm, even though that is what the source material is. So that's the first roadblock. Then you have the fact that none of the new jokes in the pilot script are funny within the context of the show; I laughed once in the half-hour, and it was at a joke which had nothing to do with the story (it was a jab at Shatner impressions). The two leads, Shatner and Jonathan Sadowski as the son, are both hams with no sense of character. Sadowski is especially awful in his line delivery, breaking up sentences and emphasising every other word he speaks, probably because that's what he was taught at his acting summer camp as a kid (I mean, come on... his biggest credits are small roles in She's the Man and the remake of Friday the 13th). He is never funny, though he did garner the most noise from me: I groaned just about every time he opened his mouth. The only decent actor on display here is Nicole Sullivan as Shatner's daughter in law (see, I don't even know the character names); she has good comedic timing and an amiable presence... she's the one thing I didn't completely hate (and an amusing cameo by Tim Bagley).

I just expected so much more from this. Aside from the stupid new title ($#*! My Dad Says, pronounced Bleep My Dad Says), I thought with Shatner on board and the wonderful team behind my all-time favorite sitcom Will & Grace (creators David Kohan & Max Mutchnick and director James Burrows), this would have turned out better. But it's a mess from beginning to end. I'll try to give it another chance next week, but I think this will be the first new show of the season to get dumped from my DVR.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pilot Review: Hellcats

Hellcats (Wednesdays at 9:00pm on CW)

Well, there's no denying that this a vast improvement over the same time slot last year when TBL: The Beautiful Life massively tanked. Hellcats isn't the type of show that will be well-represented at the Emmys next season, or even the type of show you'll go into work the next today excited to discuss. It's pretty stupid and extremely formulaic (nothing about the pilot was surprising or interesting), but for some reason... I loved it.

Hellcats is about Marty, a hard-working girl from Memphis who has lost her academic scholarship at Lancer University to study pre-law. She lives off-campus in a small apartment with her hot mess of a mother, who just so happens to work at the college's on-campus diner. Marty has spent her entire life cleaning up her mother's messes and supporting the two of them just so she could someday get out, and now it may all be for naught. Then she finds out that the cheerleaders get a full scholarship and free housing, so when one of the flyers is sidelined, Marty tries out; obviously, she makes the squad. The rest of the cast are predictable, generic archetypes: slightly insane captain, jealous injured girl, hunky guy, best guy friend who may be more than a friend, struggling coach, tough love administrator, etc.

There are so many "been-there, done-that" stories at work here, it's almost mind-boggling. The thing is, though, the creative team knows it. Before anyone knew anything about this show, it was being compared to the film Bring It On; that movie makes an appearance not 10 minutes into the premiere as Marty looks for inspiration for her tryout. Beyond that, it's a simple rags-to-riches story, with the overbearing alcoholic parent and snobby popular girl getting in the main character's way. But let's be honest, we can't expect much originality from soaps, which is essentially what Hellcats is. So we just look for fun, which this show has an abundance of. It's about on-part with the intelligence of the CW's other soaps (Gossip  Girl, 90210 and One Tree Hill in particular), so it should be easy to swallow for their target audience. But for the rest of us? The script was poorly written, the direction was all over the place, the characters are tired retreads... what is there to love? Well, the choreography for starters. Marty's character has grown up poor and was "raised on the streets" (Do these Hollywood types even know what that means? How many white girls from the streets do we really need in dance-genre films and series?), so she brings an edge to the Hellcats; the dance sequences produced are enjoyable and entertaining as a result. The cast is also surprisingly deft, beginning with the magnetic Aly Michalka as Marty. I don't know who this chick is, but I'm glad she got this job. She's perfect for the role, both in terms of talent and looks; she's beautiful but still edgy, plus she's funny. Ashley Tisdale actually shows some good comedic timing, even if she is rather stagnant at times. Sharon Leal does what little she can with a terribly written character (the coach), and D.B. Woodside adds some interest as her doctor boyfriend. Heather Hemmens walks the fine line between deliciously evil and overacting mess as the jealous injured cheerleader Alice, but she is mostly successful.

So Hellcats is something that I'll continue to TiVo. I don't expect groundbreaking things from it; I don't even really expect it be all that interesting. But it'll hold a special place as yet another guilty pleasure of mine, right up there with Jerseylicious, Jersey Shore and The Rachel Zoe Project.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pilot Reviews: Mel B., Thintervention, Jerseylicious S2

The new season kicks off this week, the first full week of September. The CW generally gets things going the week of Labor Day, but a few new series began already the day before and the day of.

Mel B.: It's a Scary World (Sundays at 9:00pm on Style)

Style Network has a habit of giving semi-celebrities we don't really care about reality shows. Nothing particularly outrageous or interesting happens in the series premiere of this latest Style incarnation, starring Mel B. of the Spice Girls. In the first episode, Mel B. introduces us to her family: husband Stephen and daughters Angel and Phoenix. We see her go through rehearsals for a gig with the Pussycat Dolls Burlesque something or other and deal with the drama of reconciling with ex-boyfriend and father to Angel, Eddie Murphy. This is the interesting and juicy part of the show, since her separation from Murphy was so heavily publicized and so ugly. But the reconciliation has already occurred as of this episode, so there's no real drama; the decision Mel faces is whether or not to finally make the reconciliation public by showing up at the premiere for Murphy's new film.

I don't know if the remainder of the season will hold any excitement, but if the rest of the episodes are as tepid as this one then I don't see the series lasting too long. There's not enough happening to be of interest to viewers, and let's be honest... Mel B. is not the Spice Girl we really care about following around on a daily basis. As of now, the show's best moment occurs when Mel and her husband spend a good 3 minutes of screen time screaming at a voice-activated alarm clock. Make your own judgment.

Jerseylicious, Season Two Premiere (Sundays at 8:00pm on Style)

You can go back a few entries and read what I wrote about the series premiere of this strange slice of Jersey reality, but my opinion hasn't changed much. I continue to watch this show because it's a trashy guilty pleasure, but I'm well aware of the fact that these people are clearly acting and being set up. This season, the Gatsby Salon manager Christy is pregnant; Alexa's business is booming and she's practically stealing Olivia from the salon; Olivia has lost her car and is struggling to make ends meet; Tracy has graduated from beauty school but is still a heinous bitch; Anthony's salon is nearly ready to open; and Gigi has changed her hair color and lost some weight. It's still not terribly exciting, but the manufactured drama is hysterical. Clearly these girls are being fed one-liners during their private interviews (including some ripped right out of The Real Housewives of New Jersey); parking lot arguments are being scripted, etc. Because if this were actual reality, Olivia would have been fired by now. She constantly shows up to work late; she chooses Glam Fairy business over Gatsby business; and she fights with Tracy on a daily basis. No business person would put up with that type of behavior.

Still, this is a truly entertaining show. Just watching Tracy attempt to be witty while fighting with Olivia (calling her a "cabbage patch kid" as an insult) and watching Olivia come up with new ways to lovingly put down Jersey ("You never know what goes on in used cars; they don't call us Dirty Jerz for nothing.") is pure ridiculous fun. Just don't expect anything more than stupidity from these people.

Thintervention with Jackie Warner (Mondays at 10:00pm on Bravo)

This is definitely the most interesting of this group of premieres and probably the most interesting weight-loss/motivation show on television. Unlike the bullshit of The Biggest Loser, Jackie is teaching these people how to live healthy lifestyles in their own homes, not just putting them through an extreme diet and workout plan on a ranch somewhere; they complete intense workouts, diet, and spend time in therapy to figure out why they overeat and what they can change. Speaking of Jackie, she comes across much better on this show than she did on her previous Bravo outing, Work Out, which was canceled after three seasons when Gatorade stopped sponsoring the show due to Jackie's disrespect toward a client suffering from breast cancer. She is much more supportive of these clients than she seemed to be of her staff on Work Out. The clients themselves are a personable bunch; many of them are downright entertaining (Brian and Nikki are already favorites of mine), including a former Playmate and star of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Jeana Keough. I find it especially fascinating finding out the reasons these people want to lose so much weight (some up to 50 pounds), and it's absolutely depressing: most of them said they don't like the way they look or feel that others find them unattractive. These people are passionate, funny, loving people and they want to drastically alther themselves so that others feel better about them. Crazy. The therapy portion of this show should get interesting

But the bottom line is that this show is entertaining, and even kind of motivational. Jackie doles out tips for easy cutbacks (drink water rather than cocktails when dining out, or just drink one cocktail instead of three) and seems genuinely interested in helping these people. This should turn out fairly well.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The End of Summer Television

With the summer television season coming to an end next week and the new season starting soon after with the premiere of The CW's Hellcats on September 8, I thought it would be fun to take a look back on some of the ups and downs of the 2010 summer television season.

Many believe that summer is the dumping ground for television, and to some extent that's true. Unsucessful series which are pulled from the schedule are usually aired in the summer months to fulfill contract obligations without losing as much money as they would in the regular viewing season (for examples from this summer, see Sons of Tucson, The Forgotten, Past Life, etc.). But this summer, many of the broadcast networks tried to schedule brand new, scripted programming; it was mixed in with the usual reality offerings and cable shows.

Best New Scripted Show, Broadcast Networks: Rookie Blue on ABC

This new series is a pretty standard police show, this time focusing on a newly graduated class of rookie cops in an unknown city who are thrown into the realities of the job immediately. The storylines are formulaic, but it's entertaining. Missy Peregrym brings a lot of depth to the lead character, a young woman who struggles when her personal relationships with a detective and her training officer overlap with their professional relationships. There are enough personal storylines to make you care about the characters, even though it follows a standard procedural format of introducing a new crime each week and solving it by the episode's end. It's also the best-performing new scripted show on any of the big broadcasters and has already been renewed for a second season.

Best New Scripted Show, Cable Networks: Huge on ABC Family

It's wonderful (and even necessary, I think) to finally have a show that doesn't have a cast of models and size zero teen beauty queens. This shameless new series follows a group of teens at a fat camp for the summer, as they struggle with their weight, romance, parental pressures, and accepting themselves. It stars Nikki Blonsky as a girl whose parents sent her to the camp because they are embarassed by her weight; but she loves her body and is determined to actually gain weight over the summer. She starts to come around to the plight of people her size as she overcomes "thinspiration," binge eating, and teenage love. Huge is smartly written, perfectly acted by a large ensemble cast, and it provides a nice counterpoint to all of the ridiculous modeling competitions and even weight-loss reality shows that are completely unrealistic in portraying a healty lifestyle.

Worst New Scripted Show: Persons Unknown on NBC

I had high hopes for this series about a group of strangers who wake up in an abandoned town with no recollection of how they got there. It started strong with an interesting core of mysteries, but as they began to reveal who the strangers are and who has placed them there, it became much less interesting and entertaining. It should have been better, coming from Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie, but it's just tedious now. I'm not the only who feels this way, as it performed so terribly (even for a summer show on NBC) that it was moved to Saturday nights at 8:00. The finale aired tonight, August 28; perhaps the final few answers will redeem this show a little, but as of now it was just an attempt to fill the void left by Lost, and one that failed.

Best New Unscripted Show: The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green

At first glance this series seems to only appeal to niche audience: it follows the lives of two gay men who used to live in Manhattan (one a former drag queen and the other a former health expert for Martha Stewart) and bought a large farm in upstate New York as they attempt to make a living on the products produced on their land. The struggles were often hilarious (killing their own turkey for Thanksgiving, birthing baby goats, fulfilling thousands of orders of goatmilk soap without outside help) and often heartwarming (throwing the perfect wedding, dealing with the difficulties of one partner being in the city all week), but always entertaining. These boys know what makes for good television; in many ways they reminded me of a gay, modern-day sitcom duo like Lucky and Ricky Ricardo. They bicker, they fight, they argue, they work hard... and they know that with perseverance and love, they can make it through the day.

Worst New Unscripted Show: Downfall on ABC

Not only is this one of the most confusing game shows I've ever watched, it wasn't even all that entertaining. The host is a former professional wrestler, and people compete for money for prizes that slowly creep toward the edge of a tall building on a conveyor belt. If they don't answer enough questions correctly before the prize and/or money gets to the edge, it falls over and they lose it. But what's the worst part is that each contestant comes with a friend or spouse and they can replay the round but with that person at the end of the belt; so if they miss the questions, their partner is dropped off the side of the building.

Exactly. It was confusing, stupid and mostly boring.

Best Format Change of a Returning Show: Project Runway on Lifetime

As Project Runway entered its eighth season (third on Lifetime), the formula had gotten tired. The format has been ripped off endlessly with a wide variety of skills, but as the pioneers, the producers had to do something to set the show apart. So this summer we were introduced to the new, extended format of Project Runway. Episodes are now 90 minutes, giving the viewer extra time to focus on the skill of the individual designers and the judging process. It gives the viewer a better base of judgment to see the outfits more fully and to understand where the judges are coming from in deciding who moves on and who goes home. The extended judging has also led to an increase in crazy dramatic tension, as evidenced in the most recent episode, and runway meltdowns. Thank you!

Worst Format Change of a Returning Show: So You Think You Can Dance on Fox

This season saw the judges pick only 10 dancers to compete, rather than 20. They were each paired with a returning member (deemed an "All Star"), and they danced in the returning member's genre. It started out fine, but with only one dancer being eliminated each week and no rules on what gender that dancer had to be, it quickly dissolved into chaos. Well, it actually started there. First of all, long-time judge Mary Murphy was eliminated from the panel and they set up Mia Michaels as a new permanent judge, also eliminating the weekly guest judges. Then, the judges didn't follow their own rules and actually cast 11 dancers (6 boys, 5 girls); then the girls were picked off one-by-one until only one remained with four males. It forced the choreographers to work with same-sex couples, a first for the show, to varying degrees of success. Then with the All Stars' schedules, it became difficult to work in many dancers, as they are professionals who are constantly taking on new jobs or finishing out previous committments (Mark was on tour with Lady Gaga, etc). After three dancers injured themselves, it became clear that this was not a format change that was working. Many viewers must have felt the same, since the ratings fell significantly versus last summer.

Of course there are other noteworthy shows that came into or returned to our lives this summer: Jersey Shore, which continues to break ratings records (and whose move to Miami makes its title meaningless); True Blood, which continues to be HBO's strongest performer and has moved past its humble beginnings to full-on cult status; The Good Guys, which Fox had debuted in the summer in hopes of gaining interest when it returns to the regular season line-up... and has consistently underperformed; The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which has shot into the stratosphere with the infamous hair-pulling incident and become Bravo's most-watched and highest-rated series; Hot in Cleveland, which brought Betty White back to starring status in a sitcom and broke cable records upon its premiere on TV Land; and many others. While I'm sad to see summer programming go, there's a lot to look forward to this fall and beyond. Here's to hoping for an even better summer 2011.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Emmy Predictions - Comedy Categories

Outstanding Comedy Series

Probable Win: Modern Family
I'd Pick: Glee

The only thing that's for sure here is that 30 Rock will not win for the fourth year in a row. Both Modern Family and Glee are strong new entries, and one of them will surely win. The former is a throwback to old-time family sitcoms but with a modern sensibility that should appeal to voters and has already appealed to audiences. Glee had a rocky go of it during the second half of its first season, but they have submitted only the best episodes to be considered (Pilot, Wheels, Sectionals, The Power of Madonna, etc.). A win for Glee would prove that the Emmys don't always reward the snobby, most critically-acclaimed-but-least-watched show. And it would make up for the fact that the popular choices probably won't be winning anything in the drama categories.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Probable Win: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
I'd Pick: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

It's a crime that Jim Parsons has not already won for his performance on the most-watched sitcom on television. He broadcasts a wide range of comedic abilities and perfect timing, and his is the only real good-old-fashioned comedic romp: his submitted episode is the one where he ends up drunk and in his underwear accepting an award.

Should Have Been Nominated: James Roday, Psych

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Probable Win: Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
I'd Pick: Toni Collette, United States of Tara

I don't find Nurse Jackie funny, especially not Edie Falco's titular character. In fact, I hated her character so much that I stopped watching the show after about four episodes. But Jackie has a lot going on, and Falco gets some fun one-liners. But there's nothing all that funny about her performance. Toni Collette, on the other hand, gets to play a woman with multiple personalities; the role is awards bait, especially the submitted episode, in which she plays all of her personalities in one scene. But once again, there aren't very many exciting nominees in this category.

Should Have Been Nominated: Portia de Rossi, Better Off Ted

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Probable Win: Ty Burrell, Modern Family
I'd Pick: Chris Colfer, Glee

Ty Burrell's character is a favorite for most everyone who watched Modern Family, and I think he has the best shot at winning just based on that fact. Chris Colfer is probably the most deserving, since his submitted episode contained comedic and intense dramatic moments, as well as a performance of "Rose's Turn," every gay teenager's dream role. But his age is a problem, and he's up against a lot of other respected and/or admired actors.

Should Have Been Nominated: Justin Kirk, Weeds

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Probable Win: Jane Lynch, Glee
I'd Pick: Jane Lynch, Glee

After a surprising loss at the Golden Globes, I'm a little hesitant to pick Jane Lynch here. But as of the Globes, her submitted episode hadn't aired yet. She submitted The Power of Madonna, an inspired choice seeing as she gets the episode's best one-liners and recreates the entirety of Madonna's "Vogue" music video to boot, including some hilarious improvised dancing.

Should Have Been Nominated: Dianna Agron, Glee

2010 Emmy Predictions - Drama Categories

Outstanding Drama Series

Probable Winner: Mad Men
I'd Pick: Lost

Lost was consistenly one of the best shows on television throughout its six-year run, but it only won for Best Drama Series for its first season. This is the last chance they have to reward the show that changed the landscape of television, and despite the fact that the final season was a bit rocky, the submitted episodes were all of the season's best. It'd be my pick, but with so many nominees I could justify winning for one reason or another, it seems likely that Mad Men will just take it again.

Should Have Been Nominated: Southland

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Probable Winner: Michael C. Hall, Dexter
I'd Pick: Matthew Fox, Lost

Matthew Fox gave one of the greatest performances of the entire series in Lost's finale, but I don't think he'll win due to how little screen time he has in the entirety of the 2-hour finale (a boon for the leading category). And Michael C. Hall has Golden Globe and SAG awards already, plus the sympathy vote. Look for him to add an Emmy to his collection.

Should Have Been Nominated: Timothy Olyphant, Justified

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Probable Winner: Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
I'd Pick: Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU

Julianna Margulies has swept all the major awards, so she'll probably pick up the Emmy as well. Mariska Hargitay's submitted episode may have been one of the only good ones of the season, but that's the beauty of choosing your consideration material. And she chose well. Unfortunately, this is a pretty bland category; I didn't find any of these performances particularly exceptional or even all that interesting.

Should Have Been Nominated: Anna Paquin, True Blood

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Probable Win: Terry O'Quinn, Lost
I'd Pick: Michael Emerson, Lost

This category is pretty open, but I think Terry O'Quinn has the best shot. He got to play two drastically different versions of Locke this season (three, if you include the corpse), and both performances were at their strongest in "The Substitute," his submitted episode. I just felt more for Emerson's Ben Linus in his submitted episode ("Dr. Linus"), one of my favorites of the season. The final scene of the episode really solidifies his character's arc, and he benefits from being the main focus of the episode, whereas Sawyer also played a large part in "The Substitute."

Should Have Been Nominated: Nestor Carbonell, Lost

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Probable Win: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
I'd Pick: Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Supporting categories, at all awards shows, are notorious for rewarding bodies of work rather than a single performance; with that reasoning, I think Elisabeth Moss will win. She's been nominated for this role before (in leading), but now has a chance to get it as her character has grown. Christine Baranski is always a solid performer, and I enjoy her immensely. That's the only reasoning I have behind my choice, since none of these nominees are truly exciting.

Should Have Been Nominated: Michelle Forbes, True Blood

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Town, Unhappy Ending (Spoilers)

Let's talk about Happy Town. You don't know what that is, you say? I'm not surprised.

Happy Town debuted back in April on ABC, taking over the 10pm slot on Wednesdays after Ugly Betty finished its run. And it failed miserably. It was pulled from the schedule after 3 episodes for the remainder of May sweeps and then again after another 3 episodes aired in June. But the final 2 episodes are now available online at ABC.com. So let's chat about this little turd, shall we?

Happy Town is not a good show. But it's a good show. You know what I mean? It's not particularly well-done; the plot is all over the place, some of the acting is a bit suspect, the pace is so slow at times that you want to fall asleep but so fast at other times that you feel like you missed an episode somewhere, and it's a fairly generic "how are they all connected?" mystery. It's basically ABC's version of last summer's awesome CBS flop Harper's Island. It's about a small town in Minnesota named Haplin, but commonly referred to by the townspeople as Happy Town. But obviously things aren't so happy there. Several years ago a man abducted several young people, and no trace of them was ever found again; among the kidnapped was a young girl whose family basically runs the town and has more say than law enforcement. All of a sudden there are new clues pertaining to the Magic Man (as the kidnapper is called, referring to how easily the victims disappeared), the town sheriff goes batshit, and his inexperienced son must takeover. Strangers arrive with unknown motives, severed hands pop up more than once, people are murdered, old murder weapons turn up mysteriously, a new kidnapping occurs... basically Haplin goes to Hell.

It was interesting enough, as you can probably tell from that description. A lot happens, and it happens fast; but whenever something isn't happening, everything comes to a crashing halt. The characters themselves are not the least bit interesting, and the only reason we care about any of them is to see how they tie into the bigger mystery at hand. Frances Conroy lends some creepiness (and a gross milky eye) as the town's First Lady and real power, Peggy Haplin. Amy Acker tries her darndest to make her role into something, but it's just not meant to be; her character is most interesting after she goes missing. Sam Neill is kind of awesome, but his character is just a confusing red herring and he thereby feels worthless by the end of the series' eight episodes.

But what I really want to talk about is the finale. The final two episodes, as previously mentioned, are available for your viewing pleasure (along with the others, I'm sure) over at ABC. If only every episode had been as tense and mysterious as the finale, this show might have stood a fighting chance via word of mouth. Because this episode really had very little to do with the rest of the series; everyone's motivations changed, everyone's previously established characters were thrown out the window, everything we knew about Haplin and the people in it was flipped on its head. We are finally told who the real Magic Man is (thankfully it was not the character whom they'd been setting up since the second episode), and it's a crazy reveal. I don't really understand where it came from or how the writers planned on moving forward, but it was pretty cool.

Which brings me to the problem. ABC only ever ordered 8 episodes of Happy Town. That, to me, screams "mini-series," similar to Harper's Island and this summer's Persons Unknown. The writers had to know that this show had to be a runaway hit in order to justify a second season. After all, how often is a show committed for 8 episodes? I can't think of any other examples, outside of maybe reality shows on Bravo. So I don't really understand why the writers left so much open-ended. Who is Henley really? What is her connection to the Sheriff? Why did Rachel think she seemed "familiar?" How is Alice still alive? Where are the other victims? What was the film Peggy showed her grandson? What is the relationship between Merrit and Dan? Between Merrit and Henley? These are important questions, and even though we know who the Magic Man is... it kind of doesn't matter, but the other questions are just as pressing.

So perhaps this should serve as an open letter to all television writers. If you are writing a mystery, always have a way to wrap up the series after your initial order. Because you may not get any more than that. And then you have people angry at you. People like me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ungleeful: Bullies and Freaks in Glee

I'll start off by saying that I think Glee is great. It is exposing the world of theatre to an enormous audience, and, along with the High School Musical franchise, it is helping to preserve the art of musicals and once again popularize them. I also enjoy that it focuses on a group of outcasts, rather than on a group of popular and beautiful kids; most high school set shows don't tend to be very realistic, with everyone fitting into a size zero and possessing perfect complexions, not a hair out of place. That's not the real world. Glee is a little closer to the real world, in terms of its character types. Sure, they're still mostly stereotypes; but the oft-ignored stereotypes, and I can appreciate that. But sometimes I'm bothered by this show as well. The writers have a very large fanbase watching their show religiously. They have the opportunity to reach an unparalleled number of young people and expose them to issues they may be facing, and then in turn educate them on these problems. This is why I've always loved the character of Kurt; he's a walking stereotype of young gay men, which can be a good thing if the writers play their cards right. It opens the floor for stories about Kurt's dad coping with his coming out (which the writers did), Kurt struggling to fit in (which they've somewhat touched upon), Kurt looking for a relationship in a place he may never find it (which has been done, but in a hurtful way with him falling in love with a straight character), and Kurt dealing with the inevitable bullying for his flamboyance. Which brings me to my argument.

The writers of Glee have pulled a fast one on us. There is an intensely beautiful moment in the episode “Theatricality,” in which Kurt’s father absolutely reams Finn for using the word “fag” around his gay son. The wonderful relationship these two characters have been building, at Kurt’s expense, is shattered with one word, and that gorgeous moment of true support between father and gay son was finally achieved. It was a groundbreaking moment for many a gay person watching: finally, a moment of true acceptance for the frequently put-down gay character! Finally, sensitivity toward the very real issues plaguing the young gay community.

But what this moment did, even in its beauty, was mask the bigger issue at work toward the young gay community: bullying. For the first time, the “dumb jocks” of the show get more than a few lines designed to make them look inferior to the intelligent leading players. They get multiple scenes of bullying the “freaks” of the glee club. We see them insulting Kurt for being gay, wanting him to keep his homosexuality to himself or else they will attack him. And it seems like they’re going to for a minute. Why? Because Kurt tells them it’s fine. “If you want to hit me, beat me up, go ahead. But I swear to you I will never change. I’m proud to be different. It’s the best thing about me. So go ahead, hit me,” he says. On some level, this is actually not so bad a thing for Kurt to say. He defies normalcy everyday, in this particular episode choosing to dress as a girl (complete with heels and a wig). But he welcomes the insults, the physical beatings. He sends a message to these bullies that what they’re doing is okay. “Go ahead, hit me.” What kind of message is this sending to the young audience watching? A character who is so strong in many aspects, defying typical gender roles and expressing his sexuality without fear or shame, is reduced to a punching bag by choice. The writers are still sending a message that the gay character is weak; he invites the beating because he can do nothing to change it. He can’t stand up for himself. Moments later, just as the bullies are about to start hitting Kurt, he is saved by a repenting Finn. He is rescued by this masculine figure, ironically also dressed in typically female clothes and makeup. So the bullying turns toward the masculine character as well, simply because he is dressed femininely. The bullies promise to return to attack all of the glee members, the “freaks.”

I guess what I’m trying to ascertain is why the glee club members are still being degraded as "freaks." So they dress outside the norm for a small-town in Ohio. They are talented kids with big personalities, and in a world which applauds freakishness so often, I don't understand why these kids are still being punished. The glee clubbers picked a great role model to demonstrate the fact they aren’t truly freakish (Lady Gaga), and they seemed to learn the lesson well that they are “all freaks together, and shouldn’t have to hide it,” but what good are they doing themselves? The bullies promise to return with more bullies, so where is all of this self-expression getting them, except into a place of torment? The problem isn’t going away, it’s being compounded. But if this strength in numbers would’ve been strength in individuality from the beginning, the problem could’ve been diminished instead.

“So go ahead, hit me.” I’m challenging you, Glee writers. Hit me. Make me wrong in my assessment. Prove that you’re doing some good here. Let these characters have individual voices. Show me that a solo can be as loud as a chorus, because I don’t think you believe in your characters individually as much as you should. You've got a few months before the new season to fix this.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What I'll Be Watching This Fall

I was surprised by alot of what went down at the upfronts this year. First of all, there were all the early announcements of renewals, cancellations and pick-ups. There were few surprises in that sense; the real surprises were in what shows got the axe and what pilots were ordered to series. There were a lot of missed opportunities this year, particularly from The CW. They had a lot of promising pilots with a lot of buzz (the scripts for Nomads and The Damn Thorpes both had rave reviews from unbiased insiders online); and why would they not capitalize on the popularity of supernatural shows by putting Betwixt after their huge new hit The Vampire Diaries? Clearly there is a market for these shows, and the CW realized it by renewing Supernatural beyond its original five-year intended run. But they dropped the ball with Betwixt. Even if the pilot wasn't great, there is time to reshoot and rework the series into something different and better... and even if it sucked, the CW's target audience would probably still watch it and fall in love with it. Instead they only picked up 2 pilots: Hellcats and Nikita. A cheerleading show (which has promise if it's anything like Bring It On) and yet another remake of an old TV show. Did they learn nothing from the failure of Melrose Place and the decline in second-season ratings for 90210? And without any midseason replacements, what will they do if either series fails? They clearly learned nothing this year when The Beautiful Life and Melrose each failed, but there was nothing but reruns to replace them with... or even-worse rated reality shows. Bad, bad move.

I'm also shocked by the number of veteran series canceled this year, especially by NBC. They took a risk and picked up eleven (!!) new series this year, trying to shake the bad taste leftover from The Jay Leno Show. But the bottom line is that NBC has fallen mightily; they are the lowest rated broadcast network
other than the fledgling CW. To try and fix that, they are banking on a lot of new shows to carry them through next season. Is it a smart move? Who knows. But there were some pretty crazy casualties along the way: Law & Order and Heroes especially. Then you have CBS sticking a fork in Friday-dominator Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine; audience favorite Ugly Betty, veteran comedy Scrubs (which should have gone last year), and the started-strong-but-faded, once-hopeful-Lost-replacement FlashForward disappearing from ABC; and ratings giant 24 finishing up at Fox, along with the interminable sitcom 'Til Death (thankfully it was finally put down).

Having said all that, here's what I'll be watching in the fall, in some form or another:

Monday

The Event (NBC, 9:00 - NEW)
Gossip Girl (CW, 9:00)
Castle (ABC, 10:00)

Tuesday

Glee (FOX, 8:00)
No Ordinary Family (ABC, 8:00 - NEW)
Life Unexpected (CW, 9:00)
Running Wilde (FOX, 9:30 - NEW, formerly Wilde Kingdom)

Wednesday

Undercovers (NBC, 8:00 - NEW)
Survivor: Nicaragua (CBS, 8:00)
Hellcats (CW, 9:00 - NEW)

Thursday

The Vampire Diaries (CW, 8:00)
My Generation (ABC, 8:00 - NEW, formerly Generation Y)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00)
Shit My Dad Says (CBS, 8:30 - NEW)

Friday

Human Target (FOX, 8:00)
Blue Bloods (CBS, 10:00 - NEW)

I'm much more excited about the midseason prospects for these networks. We'll get The Cape and Harry's Law from NBC; new series Mr. Sunshine and the return of V at ABC; and the new animated comedy Bob's Burgers and the epic Terra Nova on FOX.

While I will be watching many of these new shows, I'm not expecting much out of them. A lot of them seem rather formulaic, but have casts or creative members whom interest me (Blue Bloods, My Generation, Running Wilde). We'll see how it all turns out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The 2010-2011 Broadcast Season: Early Surprises

Word has come out in the past day or so about early renewals, cancelations, and series pick-ups from NBC, FOX and ABC. You can scroll down a couple posts to where I mentioned a few of the pilots I was hoping would be picked up; some have already made the cut, and hope is waning for others.

So far NBC has been leading the early announcements. Perhaps because their network is floundering (and to avoid a backlash similar to last year when they announced that Jay Leno would be taking up five primetime hours), or perhaps because it's just extra publicity to make individual announcements across several days, NBC has (formally) announced series pick-ups for six new shows, four hour-longs and two half-hour comedies:

Chase
The Event
Love Bites
Undercovers
Outsourced
Perfect Couples

These particular pick-ups mostly surprise me. NBC seems to be banking on the need for Americans to fill the void to be left by the end of ABC's Lost by offering a new series from that show's creator (Undercovers) as well as a similarly-plotted show full of conspiracies and mysteries (The Event). Love Bites seems similar to Sex and the City, still popular years after ending its HBO run with two blockbuster films. But the orders for Chase, Outsourced, and Perfect Couples surprise me. Jerry Bruckheimer (executive producer of Chase) created a very successful television franchise with CSI, but he has not been so lucky lately: The Forgotten, E-Ring, Miami Medical, Justice, Eleventh Hour, and others have failed on each of their respective networks. Chase follows the same old Bruckheimer procedural, which is clearly getting tired: Cold Case has not performed well this season and CSI has falled behind NCIS as the top police franchise. So the choice to pick up Chase is strange to me. Then Outsourced may fit well with NBC's Thursday night lineup, but it doesn't sound particularly interesting and doesn't feature any "names." Perfect Couples is generic as well. But these two pick-ups mean that less generic pilots will probably be left behind: Nathan vs. Nurture and Beach Lane, specifically.

Then Fox announced that it will renew two of its dramas, Lie to Me and Human Target, in addition to picking up five new series, two dramas and three comedies:

Ride Along
Lone Star (formerly Midland)
Wilde Kingdom
Traffic Light
Keep Hope Alive

I had hoped that Wilde Kingdom would be picked up (although it would probably be better suited to NBC, where the show's star, Will Arnett, originated on SNL and whose wife's show will be playing its third season, Parks and Recreation). It will probably end up being the only comedy pilot I wanted to see picked up actually ordered to series, since NBC's Outsourced is eerily similar to Fox's Nevermind Nirvana. Though there is still hope for Security, since Fox would probably need a fourth comedy to pair its shows off evenly; and this year's experiment of dropping a live-action pilot in the middle of Animation Domination Sundays was a huge failure. I don't remember reading much about Traffic Light or Keep Hope Alive, so their premises and casts probably were not too interesting to me upon first inspection. And I was absolutely not thrilled with any of Fox's drama pilots, and apparently neither were they: renewing both Lie to Me and Human Target is telling, considering neither is a strong performer (though Human Target routinely won its timeslot, it was never with high numbers). Fox's schedule is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing next week though, if only to know whether they attempt another fall season of So You Think You Can Dance or fill those three hours with new programming. At this point, it could go either way (all renewals and pick-ups were for 13 episodes, so any could be pushed to midseason).

But perhaps the most exciting news, to me anyway, was yesterday's announcement that ABC had ordered No Ordinary Family to series. This is the cast I was most excited to see and one of the more interesting premises this pilot season. There are many different directions in which to take the material about a family who discovers they have superpowers: will it go the comedy route, a la The Incredibles? Or more like a family-style Justice League? I'm intrigued.

Full season schedules will be announced next week, but as of now there won't be much news. But we'll know more soon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

V Series Re-Premiere Review

What did they do to this show?

V premiered back in November with huge numbers, but even before the first episode the show had gone on hiatus to fix production issues. It sounded like code for "our show sucks and we want to try to fix it before it's too late." But then the first four episodes aired, and they weren't bad at all; they were sleek, moderately paced, and interesting. There was enough drama to balance out the action, and the characters were being painted as "real" so that we'd care about them.

Now fast forward four months to the show's return (but there were so few episodes and so much time in between that it really should just be called the second season or the re-premiere or something), and I'm utterly confused about what has happened. This is clearly not the same series that we were given back in November. It's so insanely fast-paced and quick that I can't tell you a single thing that happened in the episode; it felt like I was watching images as I passed them in a car going 80. I think the resistance recruited some new guy, who the Vs have some sort of connection to (I think? Either way, they framed this guy for the R6 explosion); I think Erica's son spent the entire episode in a memory machine; and I think Val tried to eat a dead rat at some point too. Oh, and Anna had really weird sex with a meathead V before eating the camera.

Speaking of the camera, this episode's director should be fired immediately. His style consisted of exactly two shots:

1) Extreme closeups. And I mean extreme. They were so close you couldn't tell who was speaking; they were no more than a nose and a mouth, and maybe one eye.

2) Spinning shots. As in the camera did not stop spinning in circles. I swear I got motion sickness about 15 minutes in to the episode. And it didn't help that half the spinning shots were clearly of a green screen with the V ship added in post production.

But my biggest problem is with the characters. Erica is suddenly Buffy, beating the shit out of a V who attacks her in her home; Jack is nothing more than a sweating, panting mess; and Chuck is a pushover, not even trying to fight Anna anymore.

The characters and plot have now taken a backseat to the special effects and action scenes, of which there are plenty. This new style of V makes the show seem like it was designed for an audience with a 5 second attention span.

Oh, right. That would be most of America, wouldn't it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Best Shows You're Not Watching

1. Mercy (Wednesdays at 8:00 on NBC)

This show started off very weak, both commercially and critically. Its main charcter, Veronica, was hard to like in the beginning; she has just returned from Iraq to find her marriage in shambles, her army boyfriend following her back to New Jersey and her father developing Alzheimer's. Understandably, she was portrayed as distant and cold, but that's not what an audience wants. We need a loveable main character, especially if that character is female.

However, Veronica started to grow up and the supporting cast began to shine. The storylines became more engaging (a recent episode featured Veronica murdering a burglar while she is preparing for a date, and the effects of the murder on her PTSD), and the tone became more even. It developed itself into more of a relationship drama (that of friends, family and lovers) rather than a medical drama. Then James Van Der Beek came on board as a cocky new doctor with a dark secret, and the whole thing sort of gelled. Mercy is now one of my favorite shows on the air, which is a shame considering it is very likely to be canceled by May.

2. RuPaul's Drag Race (Mondays at 9:00 on Logo, with repeats Tuesdays at 9:00 on VH1)

I'll say it: this is the best reality show on television. It so perfectly blends elements of successful competition shows (Project Runway, America's Next Top Model) while simultaneously mocking them. For example, the contestants (all aspiring drag queens) receive She-Mail instead of Tyra Mail. The results are stunning: the challenges are always perfect, especially considering these queens are competing to basically be the next RuPaul. Why wouldn't Ru model the challenges after her own career? Past ones have included singing live in a rocker chick getup, making a dress out of curtains (a la Gone With the Wind), playing both the bride and groom in a drag wedding, and impersonating celebrities on a brilliantly kitschy game show called Snatch Game.

There are dozens of laughs in any given episode as Ru (out of drag) mentors the queens and later judges them (in drag), along with a panel of absolutely amazing guest judges; past guests have included Kathy Griffin, Jackie Collins, Henry Rollins, Terri Nunn, Dita Von Teese, Martha Wash, Alec Mapa and Kathy Najimy. And next episode's guest judges are (shut the hell up) Cloris Leachman and Debbie Reynolds! The pure joy this show illicits from me is incomparable and contagious. It's campy, cheesy, fun and really... what more do you need in a reality show? Tune in, you won't be disappointed.

3. FlashForward (Thursdays at 8:00 on ABC)

At this point, there's probably no saving this show either. It started strong with the biggest scripted premiere of the season, but its ratings quickly fell when the storyline got boring. Luckily the 3 month hiatus the show took has been for the better so far. Questions are finally being answered, the action sequences are back and that sense of urgency that made the first few episodes sizzle has returned.

Granted, we aren't much closer to figuring out what the blackout was and who caused it (since the first episode back pretty much put the kabosh on the "big reveal" in the season's first half of Lloyd and Simon being the cause), but the journey is getting a bit more exciting. The writers also seemed to remember the fact that there once was a character named Al on the show who broke all the rules, so they've stopped ignoring the fact that the flash forwards really don't necessarily have to happen. That has added yet another layer of drama which was sorely missing while Mark and Demetri were chasing sketchy leads in Hong Kong and Bryce was whining about true love. This was supposed to be the kind of mindfuck show that could ultimately replace Lost, but it's only now beginning to build toward its potential. If you jumped ship when it got sappy and slow, give it another shot.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mini Pilot Reviews: Sons of Tucson, Justified, Life, Jerseylicious

Sons of Tucson (Sundays at 9:30 on Fox)

What a terrible, terrible show. This sitcom tries so hard to make you laugh, but it's just painful. Three young boys are in need of a father figure, as their real father has just been sent to prison and their mother is MIA. So they ask the desperate loser working at the local sporting goods store to pose as their father so they can enroll in school. Oh, and they pay him.

What the hell? You need a father, so you go enlist the help of the biggest douche you can find? The guy lives out of his car and works 20 minutes a day selling balls. Sure, that's a great idea! To top it all off, this guy has money problems and owes some dangerous people a few grand... great paternal role model! Seriously though, sitcoms don't have to make sense. They just have to be funny. Unfortunately, this one doesn't make sense and it's not funny. Tyler Labine is playing the same character as he did on Reaper, except he's much more annoying when he's the constant center of attention. Actually, annoying is the perfect word to describe this entire show. Hopefully Fox will do better next season, because Sons of Tucson is a turd.

Justified (Tuesdays @ 10:00 on FX)

This isn't typically the kind of show that I gravitate toward, but I had room on my TiVo to record so I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because this intense little show is great. Timothy Olyphant is so powerful on screen; as Raylan Givens, he doesn't even need to speak to let you know he means business, and that opening scene at a Miami restaurant was proof of it. Olyphant spoke maybe 6 lines in the entire scene, but just seeing him stare at his victim like an animal about to attack its prey was perfect. And without Olyphant, I don't Justified would be as successful as it is.

It's a fairly simple plot: a US Marshall gets into trouble for killing a criminal at a crowded restaurant and is punished by being assigned to a small town in Kentucky, which just happens to be near his backwoods hometown. I fear that this series may become a bit boring over time, especially if it falls into the trap of being a basic procedural. The writers did plant some seeds that bear further scrutiny as the series progresses (Raylan's relationship with his father, his relationship with his old friends, etc) , and I hope they turn into a serialized arc rather than elements of continuity in a season full of otherwise stand-alone episodes. Because there is definitely something special boiling here. The pilot was exciting... hopefully there is more to come.

Life (Sundays at 9:00 on Discovery)

Having never seen Planet Earth, I didn't really know what to expect from this series other than pretty pictures. What it actually is... is BREATHTAKING pictures. But there is also a very clever throughline to each episode; the first episode touched upon the challenges of life that every creature faces, both big and small. Sure, it helps that the camera work is impeccable and the baby goats are cute; but at its heart this show really is about life: the beautiful, the ugly, the heartbreaking, the challenging, the strange. Everything on earth is connected, and seeing these amazing creatures face adversity and adapt to their surroundings gives Life a feeling of importance beyond the pretty pictures.

Jerseylicious (Sundays at 10:00 on Style)

I like my reality shows real. I don't want to feel like I'm watching a giant setup or a bunch of terrible actors reciting clearly scripted one-liners. Unfortunately, that's what Jerseylicious is. Obviously meant to capitalize on the success of Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, this show continues to exploit my home state by introducing us to a group of women working at a hair salon. The setup is obvious as the main cast member, Olivia, interviews for a makeup artist position at the Gatsby Salon and receives a callback for the night after. She "inadvertently" runs into her arch nemesis in the lobby, who just so happens to be applying for a hairstylist position at the same salon. She also gets a callback for the next night. And guess what? THEY BOTH GET HIRED! I know, you didn't see it coming, right?

The whole thing reeks of falsehood; the setup is as fake as Olivia's tan, and the confessional interviews seem to be more scripted than most sitcoms. Jerseylicious is just trying too hard to fill the void left in viewers' hearts since Jersey Shore went off the air two months ago, but it was the fact that those people had no idea what they were doing and saying was ridiculous; they were just being themselves, living their outrageous lives. But the girls of Jerseylicious are all too conscious of the fact that they are starring on a reality show and are on a mission to become the next Snooki.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Most Interesting Pilots: Dramas

Unfortunately for us, the viewers, there are many new drama pilots in development for the fall. I say "unfortunately" because most of them are either police procedurals (187 Detroit, Body of Evidence, Boston's Finest, Edgar Floats, The Gates, True Blue, Hawaii Five-O, I Witness, The Odds, Reagan's Law, Breakout Kings, Ridealong, Prime Suspect, The Rockford Files, The Quickening, Uncle Nigel, the Criminal Minds spin-off) or legal dramas (The Whole Truth, Defenders, Pleading Guilty, Kindreds, Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, Rough Justice, Facing Kate, Franklin & Bash). There are, however, some interesting ideas that stand apart from the pack.

DRAMAS

1. The Cape (NBC)

I love superhero-themed shows, and this one should be no different. From the sound of it, the tone will be pretty dark and probably have more of a "graphic novel" feel than a comic book feel. As in, this is about a guy who masquerades as a vigilante in order to clear his name of a crime he didn't commit; he's not running around showing off superpowers. I'm thinking more along the lines of The Dark Knight rather than Superman. Plus, this would be a great replacement for Heroes if NBC decides to can it. And Summer Glau, the reigning queen of the genre television series, was just cast. I'm there.

2. The Event (NBC)


This one sounds like a mix of Lost, Flash Forward and The Nine. It tells the story, from multiple perspectives, of a man fighting mysterious circumstances which become part of a larger conspiracy. Vague, but intriguing. Throw in the fact that it has one of the best ensemble casts of any pilot this season (Blair Underwood, Jason Ritter, Scott Patterson, Wes Ramsey, Emmy-nominee Laura Innes, Emmy-winner Zeljko Ivanek and many others), and I'm hooked.

3. Betwixt (CW)


Obviously planned as a potential companion for their hit series The Vampire Diaries, this show is also based on a young-adult book; this time around, the teens are changelings (children of fairies) with intertwined destinies who are just discovering their true nature. It sounds silly, and it probably will be; but I'm glad the CW is still catering to its leftover WB audience members with these series. With Supernatural and Smallville likely entering their final seasons this fall, Betwixt and The Vampire Diaries seem like perfect cult-show replacements with which to begin building a new paranormal audience.

4. Hellcats (CW)

Finally someone is bringing Bring It On to television. This seems like a really "duh" idea: a series about the inner-workings of college competitive cheerleading. There's plenty of opportunity for drama, comedy, sports action, everything. There is clearly a market for this type of show, as direct-to-DVD sequels to Bring It On continue to rake in money, and the CW is the ideal network to launch something along those same lines but with perhaps just a little bit more intelligence and edge (which would be more in line with the original film than with its silly sequels). Regardless, I loved Bring It On so I'll probably love this show as well.

5. Generation Y (ABC)

From the creator of last season's extremely underrated police dramedy The Unusuals, the details of this series are sparse. It's about a group of adults in Austin whose life stories are told in both the present and 10 years in the past. It's another ensemble drama, and while it may not have the star-power of The Event, it may make up for that fact with more interesting characters (the best part of The Unusuals) and a more emotional impact. I'm curious to see how it unfolds.

6. Matadors (ABC)

So this could be classified as one of those abhorrent "legal dramas" I mentioned earlier, but I'd like to think that this one has the most promise. It's about two long-feuding, powerful families in Chicago: one associated with the DA's office, and the other populates the city's most influential law firm. I hope, however, that this series will stay away from the courtroom drama and focus more on the family aspect of the show; tense relationship dramas are always more interesting than retreads of Law & Order. The producers have already taken a step in the right direction with the cast, which includes David Strathairn and Jason Behr.

7. No Ordinary Family (ABC)

Despite a truly awful title, I'm intrigued by this pilot. It will be duking it out with The Event for best ensemble cast (this one has Golden Globe and Emmy-winner Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Kay Panabaker, Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser), and it's also tinged with a bit of the unusual: it's about a family who discovers they have special abilities. It could go the route of the WB's failed Birds of Prey, or it could go the way of Pixar's wildly successful The Incredibles. Again, not much is known about this one, but with such an exciting cast and such an exciting creative team (Greg Berlanti, Jon Harmon Feldman and David Semel) there can only be good things in store for this one.

8. Cutthroat (ABC)

So this one is basically Weeds but more of a drama and on network TV: a single mother in Beverly Hills runs an international drug cartel. I'm not familiar with anyone in the cast, but I expect good things from creators Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters (Reaper).

9. The Miraculous Year (HBO)

There is nothing not right about this pilot. It's being directed by the first ever female Best Director Oscar winner, Kathryn Bigelow, and it tells the story of a self-destructive Broadway composer and his family. A brilliant director + a unique storytelling device + musicals + HBO = my most anticipated pilot of the year.

10. The Untitled Wyoming Pilot (CW)

Even though it it currently titleless and seemingly boring, this pilot about a horse trainer who takes over a Wyoming ranch and becomes the caretaker for his younger siblings has potential for greatness. It sounds like a loving throwback to ye olde WB shows like Gilmore Girls and Everwood, and I'm a sucker for a touching family drama. Plus it stars one of my favorite character actors, Alan Ruck, and the always-solid young actor Sean Faris. There's something potentially profound brewing here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Most Interesting Pilots: Comedies

All across America hopeful young actors and actresses are gearing up for their first tastes of pilot season. In any given season dozens and dozens of drama and comedy pilots are greenlit by the networks before the big guys ultimately decide whose dreams of becoming a TV star come true and whose fizzle out until next March and April.

This season there are decidedly fewer pilots in production and even fewer interesting pilots in production. I guess even the major networks are feeling the heat of the current recession. But I've gone through the descriptions of the pilots currently greenlit, and here are ones I think have promise.

COMEDIES

1. Shit My Dad Says (CBS)

If you've read the Twitter feed of the same title, you know why this show will be funny. The only hesitation I have is that it seems a little raunchy for network television, where the language will need to be toned down considerably and therefore so will a lot of the humor. But I have faith in William Shatner as the straightforward father, so we'll see.

2. Open Books (CBS)

Patti LuPone and Laura Benanti, both Tony winners for the 2008 Broadway revival of Gypsy, are teamed once again as mother and daughter. The pairing proved fortuitous once, and I can't imagine it not working again. Plus it has a decent couple from the Will & Grace team behind it (director James Burrows and writer/producer Gail Lerner); so if this show about a book editor and her friends is anywhere near as funny as that one then we're in for a huge treat.

3. Wright vs. Wrong (ABC)

Debra Messing back in a half-hour sitcom. As a Republican pundit. With an assistant named Crystal Ball. Count me in.

4. It Takes a Village (ABC)

ABC seems to be looking for a companion to its new monster hit Modern Family with this pilot order. With Cougar Town disappointing lately (ratings-wise) off of its Modern Family lead-in, it seems like this new sitcom would be a perfect fit for its slot. It's about a former couple trying to raise their 15 year-old son. Both the mother and father have moved on: she to a new sports fanatic husband, he to another man (the incredibly hot Cheyenne Jackson). It's high-time that we have more gay characters on television, and pairing one gay-friendly sitcom with another makes sense.

5. Nevermind Nirvana (FOX)

For once, Fox's comedy pilots seem far more interesting than their drama pilots; they are also far more numerous than their drama pilots. Nevermind Nirvana takes the "fish out of water" concept and applies it to the Middle East, where we are given the story of two Indian brothers: one who angers his family by dating a white woman and the other who enters an arranged marriage. It doesn't particularly sound like fodder for a sitcom, but if this is a half-hour each week of Koothrapali-esque comedy then I'll be watching for sure.

6. Security (FOX)

The world of computer hacking, normally only found in spy thrillers and action films, is given a comedic twist here. It sounds like Fox's response to the wildly popular CBS show The Big Bang Theory, but with genius hackers instead of genius scientists. It's created and produced by Adam F. Goldberg, writer of the hilarious and geektastic film Fanboys, and it stars Reaper's wonderful leading man Bret Harrison. It definitely has potential to go places.

7. Wilde Kingdom (FOX)

Will Arnett is too funny to not be on television anymore, and playing a rich Beverly Hills jackass is right up his alley. Casting Keri Russell as his outlandish character's foil (a charitable tree-hugger) is just too good to pass up.

8. Beach Lane (NBC)

Matthew Broderick stars in this pilot about a celebrity author living in the Hamptons who is approached by his irresponsible millionaire neighbor to run the town's struggling newspaper. It doesn't sound like a laugh-riot, but Matthew Broderick has never starred in his own TV show and has only had a handful of guest appearances in his entire career. I'm intrigued as to why he picked this particular pilot as his starting point. So I have faith that he chose wisely and that there's something there that just isn't evident in the initial synopsis.

9. Nathan vs. Nurture (NBC)

The star of ABC's criminally underwatched gem Better Off Ted, Jay Harrington, stars alongside Bill Pullman as a heart surgeon who decides to find his biological parents 35 years after being adopted.... only to find they had 3 other kids and kept them. There is some opportunity for extremely funny and extremely awkward situations here, and I can't wait to see Jay Harrington back in action playing those scenes.

10. The Pink House (NBC)

I can't decide if I think this is a really good or a really bad idea. Two friends take the next step and move to Los Angeles to begin their post-college lives. It's a pretty vague premise, and I'm assuming most of the show's humor will come from the fact they will (presumably) be living in a pink house and therefore be thought to be lovers. It could either be really funny or really offensive.