Monday, October 13, 2014

The New TV Season So Far

Greetings, TV Tourists!

So we are several weeks into the new TV season and most of the new shows have premiered and are at least a couple of episodes in.  I've been able to watch most of the pilots and first eps and surprisingly I'm actually sticking with a great deal of them as they continue to draw me into their onscreen families and storylines.

Stand-outs for me include:

 

Also still-worth-coming-back-to:


 

Then there's one losing ground with me:


 

Had high hopes, but when I'm writing or doing other stuff while it's on, it's never a good sign.

And I've dropped:


 

Not that it's not good, and I am a big Shonda Rhimes fan, but with all I'm watching, something had to go, and this was the first one I felt no pangs over missing.

Of course, I still have all the shows that have returned!  Just a few include:



 

And more.
Yeah.
I watch a LOT of TV.
But hey, at least I get to share it with you!

Happy continued viewing, Tourists!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review - American Horror Story: Freak Show

 

Just in time for Halloween, the latest incarnation of FX's American Horror Story saga has premiered, and man, whoever thinks this anthology series can get any more twisted, cross any more lines of insane freakiness or just get any more f**ked up doesn't know this show's pedigree ... or penchant for addictive viewing.


THE LOWDOWN


Like its predecessors,  American Horror Story: Freak Show focuses on a specific group of people in a particular place and time (well, actually Asylum covered two time period, but some of the same characters in each, but I digress).  Here it's 1952 in the sleepy hamlet of Jupiter, Florida.  We're taken into the world of a small time carnival, run by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and its assorted attraction of "curiosities", including a two-headed woman (Sarah Paulson), a three-breasted woman (Angela Bassett), a bearded lady (Kathy Bates), a strong man (Michael Chiklis, The Shield, No Ordinary Family), and others.  Their arrival in town coincides with the strange emergence of a dark entity that savagely threatens the lives of townsfolk and freaks alike, embarking them on a desperate journey of survival amidst the dying world of the American carny experience. 


With each of the AHS series, one thing I've always loved - and envied - is that the same actors get to return each time to play entirely new characters.  It's an actors dream, like a nationally televised community theatre troupe.  And those actors are among some of the best, embracing full force whatever is thrown at them.  I mean, do you think Paulson would ever have imagined she'd play a woman with two heads?  But I have no doubt these folks are having a blast.  This season is rumored to be Lange's last, but how can she walk away from a show that allows her to be such a broad array of characters - it's seriously never the same show twice ... except in its aforementioned twisted sicky goodness.

Additionally returning for another round are AHS first string players Evan Peters, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) and Emma Roberts, with others who could pop up unexpectedly.  

 

And joining the Freak Show cast - appropriately so - is 20-year-old Indian actress Jyoti Amge, who is the world's shortest woman, standing a mere 2'6" tall.  

From moment one Paulson's dual-headed character says it all:

"Dear Diary:  it was a Saturday, the third of September that the world as I had known was forever doomed.  The shadows that had sheltered me were banished by the blinding light of scrutiny.  I knew I was about to enter the gates of Hell, but like the inescapable pull of gravity, there was nothing I could do about it." 

*insert shudder here* 

I really liked the original AHS, didn't care for the second, Asylum, and my favorite was the last, Coven.  I both know what and what not to expect from the series, and so far I'm intrigued by Freak Show, especially watching the actors embrace their respective oddities, which so far are created masterfully by both make-up and CGI.   The cinematography is very Kubrick-esque, which definitely works for the genre.  I particularly like how a split-screen is used to differentiate which Paulson sister we're focusing on, and Paulson's brilliance at making them so distinct in their differing personalities (but it looks like it was rather uncomfortable for her, having to slant her head to the side much to accommodate the addition of a second head ... even writing that is so WTF!)  

As always, you can count on the opening title sequence to be unsettling, and this gets that job done in spades.  The score is equally chilling and includes a lot of maddening, taunting versions of carnival music.  And naturally you have to have a killer clown.  A creepy, dirty, horrifying, disturbing, frightening, did I mention creepy? clown.  I hate clowns, and now I really, REALLY hate them.  This guy is terrifying and I am so very very glad he's not chasing me (though he might be tonight in my nightmares).

*insert really big shudder here*

I'm not going to say more ... this show definitely can speak for itself and frankly, I don't have the words.  All I can say is, it's wicked creepy good viewing - with the lights completely on!

BOTTOM LINEBe afraid, be very afraid ... of missing this show!


 American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review - The Flash

 

The CW's The Flash is one of the new shows I have been anticipating the most.  The Flash is my favorite DC character (Must See:  the animated show Justice League, with Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum perfectly voicing the character).  Plus this particular Flash was cleverly and well introduced last season in an episode of Arrow, another great CW show which begins its third season tomorrow.  And its been getting great buzz.  So does it live up to the hype?

THE LOWDOWN



The Flash tells the story of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, Glee, 90210), a brilliant but awkward CSI investigator in Central City who while on a visit to S.T.A.R. Labs gets struck by lightning while standing next to a particle accelerator.  The result:  he is endowed with super speed.   His life is saved by S.T.A.R. Labs scientists Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker, Justified, Necessary Roughness), Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and lab boss Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh, Trust Me, Eli Stone, Ed).  Together they help Barry begin his rise to becoming his city's masked guardian/protector.

Unlike his green hooded neighbor, Barry doesn't become a brooding vigilante, but rather embraces his new powers with enthusiasm and joy and has hope that he can make a positive difference (he and Batman would so not hang out together socially). 

Of course, this is a superhero origin story, so there almost always has to be some element of tragedy, and so goes it here - Barry's mother was murdered when he was a boy and his father Henry (clever casting:  John Wesley Shipp, who played The Flash on TV in the early 90s) has been falsely accused and imprisoned for the crime.  


Barry was raised by his foster father, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin, Smash, Law & Order) and foster sister Iris (Candice Patton, The Game).  Interesting fact:  there are two main Flashes in the DC universe, Barry Allen and Wally West.  To see Barry's foster family is named West makes me wonder if Wally will be worked in somewhere down the line (Wally was the Flash featured in the animated Justice League).


The Flash still has the snazzy red suit, though it more resembles Daredevil's in color.  Alas, another voiceover narrative - just gonna be a given with most shows now, huh? - but I do appreciate Gustin's gusto (heh) in telling his character's story.  I kind of see Barry as the Peter Parker of the DC world, a nerdy, awkward, super smart science geek misfit, least likely to become a superhero, but does, and an awesome one at that.  I love the pacing of the banter, delivered so naturally by the cast.  Gustin is adorable and immediately likeable and credible in the lead role.  The fact that he has a crush on his foster sister could be creepy if done wrong, but here it's done right because Iris senses it but doesn't call him on it or make him feel bad, she just supports him and treats him with sisterly love and respect.

The pilot reshows Barry's accident that we watched on Arrow last season early on, then immediately and seamlessly jumping ahead nine months to the moment he wakes from his coma.  Again, the pacing here is excellent as Barry is quickly filled in on what happened to him and others around him (the storm cloud that struck Barry also struck others, hence - like the meteor shower on Smallville (another great CW show ... man, I've loved so many of the net's programs!) - leading to the creation of other superbeings, many of which will become Barry's future nemeses. 

I liked watching Barry's reaction to his new powers - he freaks out at first, takes a quick run, then simply says "Awesome."  He's okay letting his new lab friends right in on the news and enlists them to help him find out just what he can do.  It's refreshing ... the hero having a support time right off the bat instead of the drawn out who's-gonna-discover-the-secret-first? scenario.  The effects are done really well, opting to use slow-motion as the way to show us Barry's point of view (everything slows down for him, even though he's moving hundreds of miles per second).  And did I mention Gustin's adorable? There's also a very "cool" cameo by Arrow's Stephen Amell ...

I don't want to give away too much more, because I think you should check this fun, funny, action-packed series for yourself.  Yes, I know, there are a lot of comic hero shows on right now, but this is a great addition to that, and I think the CW was smart not to overload one night with both this and Arrow, but rather makes The Flash the new lead-in for Supernatural, leaving The Originals to lead in to Arrow on Wednesdays, again not overloading like shows on the same night, but keeping the other vampire show, The Vampire Diaries, on Thursday.  What can I say ... I think the CW gets it right a lot. 

BOTTOM LINE:  New episodes of The Flash can't air fast enough for me!




The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on the CW.

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Almost Here ... Supernatural Season 10!

 

You should know that as I write this, I have a very big smile on my face.  To think that my most favorite show is going into its tenth season ... squee!  Plus I'm watching an awesome retrospective/recap special - aptly titled A Very Special Supernatural Special - on the CW. 

QUICK LOWDOWN

Supernatural was born a horror story and has become so much more.  Ultimately it's about the Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) and Dean (Jensen Ackles, Dawson's Creek, Smallville), and their never-ending battle against evil.  Over the years they have fought demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, a lot of urban legends, and even each other.  They've both died and come back countless times, they've been to heaven, hell, and purgatory.  It's been equally scary, dramatic ... and hysterical.  Supernatural has some truly funny episodes, especially the meta ones (where real-life stuff is worked in, like the Supernatural conventions that take place around the world, or when Sam and Dean are sent to an alternate universe where they are seen by everyone as the actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles). 


All of these elements wouldn't be as amazing as they are without those guys, who have fantastic bro chemistry on and off screen (they're both Texas boys).  Throw in a fantastic roster of characters played by gem actors like regulars Jim Beaver, Misha Collins and Mark A. Sheppard and guests like Felicia Day, Richard Speight, Jr., Osric Chau, Rob Benedict, Chad Lindberg, Marc Pelligrino, Sebastian Roche, James Patrick Stuart, Lauren Cohan, Alaina Huffman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Curtis Armstrong, Kim Rhodes, Kurt Fuller, Mitch Pileggi, Alona Tal, Julian Richinsgs, DJ Qualls, Fredric Lehne, Travis Wester, A.J. Buckley, Steven Williams, Alaina Huffman, Katie Cassidy and Genevieve Padalecki (yep, true love - and later two boys - was born behind the scenes of the show), and you've got a formula for greatness.

Let's not forget one more very important character: 

  Dean's 1967 Chevy Impala.

I have been with show since day one.  After I saw a terrific pre-series teaser on the KTLA Morning News, I knew it was a show I had to give a look at.  I liked it for the first few episodes, but it was a little episode called "Home" that made me a bonafide fan - and forever Dean Girl (more on that in a minute).

Those first few season renewals were nerve-wracking.  Sometimes it wouldn't be renewed until the very last minute, and it was agonizing.  But the WB and later the CW kept it alive, and THANK YOU for that.  Then there was regular talk that creator Eric Kripke had a five-year plan for the show and was likely leaving after that fifth season.  So whether the show would continue on beyond him was, again, sweat-inducing.  But it did continue.

What followed were a few seasons with some very strong storylines and episodes but also quite a few not-so-much.  The show got to be very angel heavy, the Winchesters were fighting and defeating some incredibly big bads a little too easily, and I, a true fan, began to waiver ... and hated myself for it.  But I stayed loyal and true and had faith that my beloved show would find its way again.

And I think it has, if last season's finale is any indication.

Two words:  Demon Dean.


I've watched a few sneak peeks and promos and the Supernatural panel at this year's Comic-Con gave us a full exclusive clip of an advanced episode (directed by Ackles, who has directed three previous episodes), and all of it has made me so friggin excited for the new season.  It's looking to completely reinvigorate the series and take us on an awesome - and knuckle-clenching - new ride. 

I'm so psyched!!  Is it tomorrow yet??

Supernatural Season 10 premieres tomorrow in its regular time slot, Tuesdays at 9pm on the CW.

And, a little postscript ...


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reviews - Scorpion and Stalker

CBS has two new dramas on the air:


Scorpion actually premiered last week, so apologies for the delayed review.  So what are we looking at here?

THE LOWDOWN
Inspired by a true story, Scorpion is a high-octane drama about eccentric genius Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel, Body of Proof) and his team of brilliant misfits who comprise the last line of defense against complex, high-tech threats of the modern age. As Homeland Security’s new think tank, O’Brien’s “Scorpion” team includes Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas, How to Make it in America), an expert behaviorist who can read anyone; Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong, Being Erica), a mechanical prodigy; and Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham, Huge), a statistics guru. These awkward geniuses finally find the perfect job when they are recruited by federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick, True Blood, The X-Files)  - who once worked with O'Brien, the outcome of which was "most unfavorable" - to solve the nation's most intricate crises. Their liaison to the "normal" world (O'Brien admits that he and his team are indeed "a million miles from normal.") is Paige Dineen (Katharine McPhee, Smash) and her gifted son Ralph (Riley B. Smith), who helps them fit in and finally feel like they belong.

The previews for this series looked really fun, and I loves me a good ensemble crime-fighting show (ironically, many are on CBS, including Hawaii Five-0 and Criminal Minds).  It also looked to have a caper-type feel, which I also like.  So I greatly anticipated this debut.  Misfits is definitely the right word for these folks.  To say they are socially awkward is an understatement - O'Brien actually drafts a document to layout the emotions his soonto-be-ex-girlfriend will feel as he's breaking up with her.

It's also funny that these geniuses can't even make a decent living, despite being in business together for nearly two years:

O'Brien:  "We have a combined IQ of nearly 700 and we can't even pay our bills."  Ah, irony. 

How perfect then that Gallo comes into their lives to change everything for the better.  Patrick never fails to be a convincing authority figure.  He gives them a doozy of a first crisis:  LAX's control tower was hacked and communications between local airports has gone down, leaving 56 planes en route with no way of receiving landing instructions and limited fuel to keep them airborne.  Can you say mega-disaster? O'Brien is ready to say no ... until Callo offers each team member $50,000 to do the job.  Cha-ching!  It's not without its complications and pressure (Gallo makes no bones pointing out that the many passengers' lives are in their hands), but that seems to bring out the team's best.


Remember how fun Seth Green's character in The Italian Job was?  Imagine four of him, all in sync with each other, all anticipating each other's expert moves - yet constantly (and humorously) bickering with each other.  It's pretty entertaining.  CBS is the king network when it comes to procedurals, and I think Scorpion and its clever and quirky twist on the genre is a nice fit.  You can tell O'Brien and Paige are meant to be romantic foils (think Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt's characters in As Good As It Gets).  He may irritate her, but his ability to point out to her just how truly special her son is and how she can connect with him (he's autistic) is magic to her. She in turn puts him in his place in a way that actually helps his own disconnect with others.  It's a good pairing.

Overall I think Scorpion is well cast, well-written and well-executed  .  It has a great soundtrack that compliments the action, of which there's plenty (that plane-Ferrari sequence?  AWESOME!)  Imay not follow all the tech speak, especially when it's spoken at light-speed, but I don't care, I'm engaged nonetheless.

BOTTOM LINE:  Scorpion has bite, and I'll definitely be back for more!


Scorpion airs Mondays at 9pm on CBS.


Stalker premiered tonight, properly paired with the equally dark procedural Criminal Minds.  Does it have staying power?

THE LOWDOWN
Stalker is a psychological thriller about detectives who investigate stalking incidents – including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation – for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. Det. Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story, Hostages) is a recent transfer to the Unit from New York City’s homicide division, where he wasn't a model employee, but his past behaviorial issues may prove valuable in his new job. His boss, Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q, Nikita), is strong, focused and an expert in the field, driven by her traumatic personal experience as a victim. With the rest of their team, young but eager Det. Ben Caldwell (Victor Rasuk, How to Make it in America) and deceptively smart Det. Janice Lawrence (Mariana Klaveno, Devious Maids), Larsen and Davis assess the threat level of cases and respond before the stalking and intimidation spirals out of control, all while trying to keep their personal obsessions at bay.

I have to start by saying I loved Maggie Q in Nikita, so I'm going to be hard-pressed to watch her in something else so soon.  McDermott seems to love the dark stuff as of late, so he's staying where he's become comfortable. The show is created, executive produced and co-written by Kevin Williamson, whose recent work has included The Vampire Diaries and The Following (he proudly admits "I enjoy scaring people."). 

Scary is right.  The pilot kicks off with a brutal murder, followed by a chilling run down of national stalker statistics and characteristics delivered by Davis an a lecture.  It's amazing to learn that celebrity stalkings only make up 10% of the cases.  Who knew?  Those are the ones you ever really hear about.

McDermott makes a very convincing dick, but Q goes toe-to-toe with him and you're just dying for her to knock him down some pegs (again, residual Nikita love).  I'm happy to add her to the growing field of believable power women (Castle's Stana Katic, Hawaii Five-0's Grace Park, Madam Secretary's Tea Leoni, Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook, among others).

This is a solid show, a a clear choice for CBS.  As I mentioned, it's a natural pairing for Criminal Minds, though it makes for a rather dark Wednesday night (thank goodness for the Survivor lead-in!).  It's not a stand-out on the TV landscape, but being the type of show it is, CBS should be sticking with it for a while.

BOTTOM LINE:    I have passing interest, but I won't necessarily be stalking it myself long term (though Maggie Q is awesome!).


Stalker airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on CBS.