Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pilot Reviews: Blood & Oil and Quantico

ABC's new Sunday night lineup is about as melodramatic as you would expect, considering the timeslots its two new shows, Blood & Oil and Quantico, have inherited: times formerly occupied by such shows as Desperate Housewives, Revenge, and Brothers & Sisters. There's no worries for fans of ABC's past soap successes on the night, as both shows, for better or worse, follow in the soapy, excessive footsteps of their predecessors.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pilot Review: The Player

The Player (Thursdays at 10:00 on NBC)

When a drama doesn't pretend to be anything more than it's supposed to be, I can appreciate it. If it doesn't take itself too seriously or have delusions of grandeur, I can at least have a little bit fun along with the creators. Sometimes shows are unabashedly silly and over-the-top (think Revenge or early episodes of Glee), and that can translate to an enjoyable, if unimpressive or stimulating, hour of viewing. The Player looks like it will fit quite nicely into this television niche.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pilot Reviews: Limitless & Rosewood

I've decided to put my reviews of these two new shows, CBS's Limitless and Fox's Rosewood, in one article for a few reasons. They actually share more in common than meets the eye: both are procedurals; both feature an ingenious lead who solves crimes (one through the use of a mind-enhancing drug, the other just through charm and knowledge); and both are a huge bore.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pilot Review: Scream Queens

Scream Queens (Tuesdays at 9:00 on Fox)

If you're a fan of Ryan Murphy's previous forays into quirky, off-kilter television (Popular, Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story), then you know what to expect from Scream Queens. The new Fox horror-comedy shares quite a bit of DNA with all of Murphy's prior shows, especially his two most recent creations, all mashed up into one bloated, offensive, messy piece of television.

Pilot Review: The Muppets


The Muppets (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC)

I have to admit that I've never truly understood the Muppet craze. I grew up with them, like seemingly everyone else aged 2-70; I had a Kermit bedside lamp and a stuffed Fozzie. But I have never held them in such reverential esteem as many millions of others have and do. So I was not surprised to find myself merely bearing with this latest incarnation of the Henson puppets and their adventures. Diehards may find more to love in this more grown-up version of their favorite felt friends, but only casual fans and those young enough to be tuning into their antics for the first time will likely have to find comedic fulfillment elsewhere.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pilot Review: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces (Mondays at 8:30 on CBS)

It's so rare with sitcoms that the concept and comedy feel fresh. When it happens, the feeling is electric; think of the first seasons of Modern Family and Glee for a couple of recent examples. The comedy landscape is so well-trod that all it takes is a slight format change, a strong cast, and a little truth to the jokes to make it work. Life in Pieces is the first show in some time to get it all right and elicit that elusive response.

Pilot Review: Minority Report


Minority Report (Mondays at 9:00 on Fox; Premieres September 21)

I know I said just yesterday in my review of Blindspot that it's not always a bad thing to have preconceived notions of what a show is and to compare it to what came before. And that's true for that particular show; the comparisons it will draw to similarly plotted and themed films, shows, and novels are just comparisons. But with Minority Report, we have a show that is an extension of an existing format: the 2002 Steven Spielberg directed hit which starred Tom Cruise (prior to his very public meltdown and decline in popular opinion). The comparisons between movie and series are not only inevitable in this case but necessary, and it's hard to separate the two when watching Minority Report's pilot. It's something that works completely against Max Borenstein's attempt to extend the story of the police force in future Washington, D.C.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pilot Review: Blindspot


Blindspot (Mondays at 10:00 on NBC; Premieres September 21)

The comparisons to a myriad of previous shows and movies, from the Jason Bourne series of novels and films to NBC's own former Monday night success The Blacklist, are inevitable with Blindspot. It's an action series that's also a procedural, a show heavy with shootouts, fight choreography, and conspiracies. But despite all this, Blindspot does still carve out its own niche in the broadcast landscape (there are bevy of other procedurals for audiences to choose from, including this show's direct competition on both ABC and CBS, but nothing else with the same popcorn-flick feel) and manages to be a bit smarter and cooler than one may expect based on the shoot-'em-up promotional materials currently in mass circulation.

Friday, September 18, 2015

2015 Emmy Predictions

I (and most others) pretty much suck at predicting the Emmys, because rarely do they make sense. How anyone but Cicely Tyson won this year's dramatic guest actress statue, or how Martin Freeman could beat Matthew Bomer last year, is beyond my comprehension. So I never really take my predictions seriously, not like I do for the Oscars anyway.

Miniseries and Television Movie

Writing, Movie/Miniseries: Jane Anderson, Olive Kitteridge
Directing, Movie/Miniseries: Lisa Cholodenko, Olive Kitteridge
Supporting Actress, Movie/Miniseries: Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Freak Show
Supporting Actor, Movie/Miniseries: Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge
Lead Actress, Movie/Miniseries: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
Lead Actor, Movie/Miniseries: Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall
Television Movie: Bessie
Miniseries: Olive Kitteridge

I'm not going to pretend like I know what the hell the Television Academy will do in these categories (honestly, I'm still scratching my head over Kathy Bates winning last year over both Julia Roberts and Allison Tolman). So these are guesses. Olive Kitteridge was rapturously received by all, and it's already cleaned up at a host of other ceremonies, so when in doubt I went with the HBO mini. Freak Show is mostly disliked among fans of American Horror Story, so its enormous amount of nominations probably speaks more to a lack of eligible, prodigious projects than true quality; however, I can see Paulson winning for her dual performances as conjoined twins. Queen Latifah could upset McDormand for Bessie (and I wouldn't be shocked by a win for Mo'nique over Paulson, either). David Oyelowo has a good shot for winning lead for Nightingale, but I just personally feel like the overall strangeness of that film may turn voters off and push them to vote for a more traditional winner like Rylance. Oh, and I really hope that if American Crime gets anything, it's for John Ridley's brilliant pilot script.

Comedy

Writing: Jill Soloway, Transparent ("Pilot")
Directing: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, The Last Man on Earth ("Alive in Tucson")
Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, Mom
Supporting Actor: Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Lead Actress: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Lead Actor: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Comedy Series: Veep

I think it would be ridiculous for Modern Family to win again, but you can never rule anything out. My heart wants to pick Transparent for almost everything, including best series, but I just don't know if it's the kind of show the Television Academy would fully embrace in that way. Instead I'm predicting Veep, which probably should have already had at least one of these awards already. I think Transparent has the best shot at winning for writing and actor, though I wouldn't rule out a win for directing as well (or series, if the voters are as progressive as I hope). For the first time in five years, Modern Family is not nominated for directing, so something new will win there; I went with the fun, unique pilot of The Last Man on Earth, but both Veep and Transparent have good episodes nominated (and Transparent's is the episode for which Bradley Whitford already won the Emmy for guest actor, so perhaps that's a sign of the episode's reception among voters). Regardless, I'm predicting and hoping for a Modern Family-less winners list in the major comedy categories.

Drama

Writing: Matthew Weiner, Mad Men ("Person to Person")
Directing: Steven Soderbergh, The Knick ("Method and Madness")
Supporting Actress: Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Supporting Actor: Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Lead Actress: Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Lead Actor: Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Drama Series: Mad Men

Again, a lot of question marks in these categories. This is Mad Men's last year of eligibility, and the show hasn't won the top honor since 2011, so I expect them to get one last statue as a parting gift. Ditto to Hamm, who has nominated eight times now for the show but never won. Actress is a rat race between Davis and Taraji P. Henson, both of whom are critic and fan favorites, and Tatiana Maslany, who's had a huge fan campaign behind her for years now. Aduba could take home her second award for playing "Crazy Eyes," even though her win last win was in a completely different category (comedy guest), or Christina Hendricks could finally win for Mad Men after receiving six nominations. Or Lena Headey could come out on top for Game of Thrones. Speaking of, Game of Thrones has the possibility of winning in many more categories than I predicted: writing, directing, supporting actress, and series. But because of the intense backlash from a lot of this season's episodes, I went conservative with other nominees.

The Emmys air Sunday night, September 20, on Fox.