Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reviews - Grandfathered and The Grinder

FOX premiered two new comedies tonight, Grandfathered and The Grinder. Is this double dose of G-named shows a hoot or should one or both be given the boot?

What’s the fastest way to put the brakes on a cruise-controlled bachelor lifestyle? Fatherhood? Guess again. Television icon John Stamos (“Full House,” “ER”) stars in a new comedy about the ultimate bachelor who discovers he’s not only a father, but a grandfather.
Successful restaurateur and man-about-town JIMMY MARTINO (Stamos) is used to being the most suave, most handsome and most single person in the room. All that changes with the surprise appearance of Jimmy’s adult son, GERALD (Josh Peck, “The Mindy Project”), and his baby daughter, EDIE. Now Jimmy has to unlearn a lifetime of blissful selfishness and grapple with the fact that he went straight from single to grandfather in six seconds flat.
Keeping tabs on Jimmy is Gerald’s mother and Jimmy’s former girlfriend, rocker chick-turned-mother SARA (Paget Brewster, “Criminal Minds,” “Community”). Equally concerned about how Jimmy will manage these new developments is Jimmy’s restaurant family, especially assistant manager ANNELISE (Kelly Jenrette, “Audrey”) and chef RAVI (Ravi Patel, “Super Fun Night”).
- See more

Kudos to FOX for putting two men who seemingly never age and who have had great staying power on the small screen over the years back-to-back in two comedies that have both received very positive early reviews and buzz.  John Stamos and Rob Lowe have worked in both comedy (Full House, Parks and Recreation, respectively) and drama (ER, The West Wing and Brothers & Sisters, respectively), so there's no lack of swagger and experience heralded by both leading men.  And did I mention both have aged so well?  So how are their new shows?

Successful restaurateur and man-about-town Jimmy Martino (Stamos) is used to being the most suave, most handsome and most single person in the room.  All that changes with the surprise appearance of Jimmy's adult son Gerald (Josh Peck, The Mindy Project) and his baby daughter Edie.  Now Jimmy has to unlearn a lieftime of blissful selfishness and grapple with the fact that he went straight from single to grandfather in six seconds flat.  Co-starring Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds, Community) as Gerald's mother Sara, Kelly Jenrette (Frisjy Dingo) and Ravi Patel (Super Fun Night) as Jimmy's co-worker's Annalise and Ravi, and Christina Milian (East Los High) as Edie's mother Vanessa. (Synopsis courtesy of FOX.com).

Stamos will always first and foremost be Uncle Jesse from Full House to me - and coming next year I get to see him in the role once again when Fuller House debuts on Netflix - and it's funny that once again he's playing a character that suddenly has an instant family thrust upon him.  He's of course, reluctant at first, but undoubtedly he'll warm up to the idea over time.  It may take longer now, being that he's learned he's not just a father, but a grandfather (a GILF, as many, many ads and promos have touted). This is a man who plucks out grey hairs by the strand and is a hit with the ladies young and old alike, definitely a happy-to-be-single bachelor.  

There were some funny bits - an employee called Jimmy grandpa and was immediately slapped; the house band broke into "Cat's in the Cradle" upon father and son's first meeting; Sara's line "You look great, by the way. Deal with the Devil really paid off."; and a disastrous first foray in babysitting.   There is charm in this show, and Stamos plays discomfort well without it being too offensive or even unlikable.  You're rooting for him to come around and embrace his new family.  With Brewster, it took me a while to warm up to her doing comedy - she was so good on Criminal Minds that the jump to Community was a jolting one for me - and it may take a bit here, too ... she's just not a comedy actress to me. This less-punchy role seems a better fit for her, though, and I like the cast overall (and man, is there a lot of background work - Central Casting, call me!).  Not a bad start.

This new comedy follows two brothers: one a spotlight-grabbing actor who plays TV’s most popular lawyer and the other, a real-life, small-town attorney who has yet to find his spotlight.  Dean Sanderson, Jr. (Lowe) spent eight seasons playing the title role on the hit legal drama “The Grinder.” When his series ends, he decides to move back to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, where his brother, Stewart (Fred Savage, The Wonder Years), is poised to take over the family law firm. Despite having no law degree, no license to practice and no experience in an actual courtroom, Dean’s charisma and flair for the dramatic make him absolutely certain he has something to contribute to the firm. Co-starring Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as Stewart’s wife Debbie, Hana Hayes and Connor Kalopsis as their kids Lizzie and Ethan, William Devane (24: Live Another Day) as Dean and Stewart’s father Dean, Sr., and Natalie Morales (Parks and Recreation) as a counselor in the firm. (Synopsis courtesy of FOX.com).


Let me first add a "welcome back to acting, Mr. Savage."  Savage has spent most of his adult years behind the camera as a director (2 Broke Girls, Modern Family), but a conversation with another father at his daughter's school led to an invitation to step back in front of the lens, and it's a fun role for him - he's plays uptight and stressed really well and very comically. And Lowe is perfect as an egotistical, overconfident blowhard.  He really developed his comic chops on P&R, and he wears this new role like a well-tailored suit.  I love the relationship of the brothers and enjoyed the pilot very much.  Gotta feel for Stewart, who is clearly #2 in his father's eyes.  I hope he gets moments to shine out of the shadow of his brother and prove he's the real deal.  

Both shows give you people to root for, which is always something good for new programs.  Women do take a backseat in both shows, delegated to supporting characters, but it is what it is.  These shows center on these particular men, and I think it's a strong pairing that I hope FOX keeps together for the duration of the season.  I'm on board for both.

BOTTOM LINEGrandfathered and The Grinder are GO!


Grandfathered and The Grinder air Tuesdays at 8pm and 8:30pm on FOX.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reviews - Blood and Oil and Quantico

ABC premiered two new dramas tonight, Blood & Oil and Quantico, launching them after the return of the fantasy drama Once Upon a Time.  Are both worth adding to your DVR season passes?

Billy and Cody Lefever (Chace Crawford, Gossip Girl, and Rebecca Rittenhouse, Red Band Society) dream of a new life and move Bakken, North Dakota, the home of the biggest oil discovery in American history. They’re soon pitted against a ruthless tycoon Hap Briggs (Don Johnson, Miami Vice) and his wife Darla (Amber Valleta, Revenge), who force them to put everything on the line, including their marriage. Co-starring Delroy Lindo (The Chicago Code) and India de Beaufort (Jane By Design, One Tree Hill).(Synopsis details courtesy of ABC).

Bakken may be the hottest boom town - where "you either have two jobs or two homes" - but it's not without it's tensions, danger and debauchery.  The Lefevers are definitely fish out of water that are going to have to learn to bite very quickly to survive and thrive, especially against the Briggs family, which includes son Wick (Scott Michael Foster, Chasing Life), who has a hot head, a screw-you attitude, hates stepmom Darla and is a lifelong disappointment to his father.


When they began promoting B&O, I was sure this was going to be the new Dallas (or new new Dallas - really liked the return they did a couple of years ago that ended too soon and with no proper ending) with warring families, wealth from oil, lots of sex and sneering, but it's not.  Dallas was bigger, this is grittier.  And Johnson ain't no J.R. Right away he doesn't seem like the bad guy.  He seems to genuinely care about the oil business and doing it right and not so much about amassing crazy money.  But that is just my first impression.  I won't be surprised if that changes.  Too bad the show doesn't take place in Texas - Crawford is making the most of his natural Lubbock accent. Valleta made me feel like she is trying to channel Robin Wright's House of Cards character (her look, too), but with none of her bite.  Foster plays the bad boy well enough, if not a little too strong and predictable.

Promotion has said B&O will help fill the void left by last year's Revenge finale for those of us her were fans, but I'm not there right off the bat with this show as I was with Revenge, which had a great start right out the gate.  This pilot is a slower burn, which isn't a bad thing. Definitely not what I expected going in.  Had some plot points that I called a mile away, which always disappoints (Billy and Cody are buried in debt, are risking everything, so of COURSE she learns she's pregnant), but the ending had some spark. Ultimately I'll probably give it a handful of episodes before committing or dumping, but it didn't wow me.   

BOTTOM LINE:  Could be slicker.

Meet the FBI's newest recruits - including Alex Parrish (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra), Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin, Believe), Nimah Anwar (Yasmine Al Massri, Crossbones), Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy, UnREAL), Simon Asher (Tate Ellington, The Mindy Project) and Caleb Hass (Graham Rogers, Revolution) - entering the intense training program at Quantico. They are the best, the brightest and the most vetted, so is it possible one of them could be the mastermind behind the biggest terrorist attack on NYC since 9/11? Co-starring Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis, NCIS: Los Angeles). (Synopsis details courtesy of ABC).

Unlike its lead-in, Quantico had a great start with a really strong introduction of its various lead characters, especially Chopra, who was given a fantastic monologue showing off her character's incredible profiling ability.  The pilot jumps back an forth from the present day explosion at the fictional Grand Central Terminal in downtown New York to the first day of training in Langley nine months earlier.  The show sets up the conspiracy chasing right away, with Parrish being called on to give intel on her classmates to determine the terrorist within her own.

This show is a little Grey's Anatomy, a little Rookie Blue, probably a mutt of several other ensemble procedurals.  There's a nice, diverse balance of men and women leads, and how cozy that their characters live in coed dorms at Q - no chance there's going to be any hooking up this season, is there? (Check the first one off - Parrish and Booth got it on big time in his car just an hour or so after meeting). There was a fun montage of each recruit - per an assignment from their instructors - investigating each other, from searching each other's rooms, to calling various sources to, checking them out on social media. I particularly like the motivation behind the Wyatt character - her parents were on one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 and she carries a piece of the plane with her everywhere.

And of course they teased that each may have something to hide - that is, after all, the key plot point.

We've seen Quatico portrayed in snippets before in movies like Silence of the Lambs and Rush, but it's cool to spend more time with the recruits as they are trained over a period of time.  I understand the need for the attack and the conspiracy - it raises the stakes - but I think I'd like the show if, like Grey's Anatomy, we just followed the training and all the relationships, challenges, successes and failures that happen within the Q walls.  But so far I like the show - hell of a twist at the end of the first episode - and am interested to see where it leads and who the bad guy or gal turns out to be (and if it will be by season's end).

BOTTOM LINE: Has arrested my interest.

Blood & Oil and Quantico air Sundays at 9pm and 10pm on ABC.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review - Scream Queens


The latest show from Ryan Murphy - the man behind the most diverse roster of shows, from Popular to Nip/Tuck, The New Normal to Glee, and American Horror Story, which debuts AHS: Hotel next month - is FOX's Scream Queens, featuring an impressive cast, including one of the most famous screen SQs, Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Emma Roberts (an AHS alum), Lea Michelle (a Glee alum), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), and Oliver Hudson (Nashville, Rules of Engagement), among many others. It's been promoted as a horror-comedy, but does the pilot slay the competition in this new TV season?

The girls of Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority at Hollace University, is dying for new pledges, but only the silver spooned elite are considered.  Not if Dean Cathy Munsch (Curtis) has anything to say about it.  She is determined to force Kappa to consider all campus girls, much to the chagrin of Kappa leader Chanel Oberlin (Roberts), who rules her house and sisters with a designer-dressed fist.  Both and all are about to get a rude awakening as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc across campus. Created by Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. (Synopsis details courtesy of Fox.com).


I'm glad Curtis still embraces and revisits the horror genre after all these years (loved that she did the original Halloween, then returned 20 years later in Halloween H20 to battle Michael Myers once last time).  And Roberts has made quite a career of playing the ultimate mean girl (eat your heart out, Regina George!). Both leading ladies come from acting pedigree (Curtis' parents are Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Roberts' dad is Eric Roberts, and of course there's Aunt Julia), but it's nice how they've made names for themselves on their own.

Now, onto the show, which Fox premiered in a two-hour debut. Loved it! It's sharp-tongued, well-shot, moves at a great pace and features really great performances, establishing well-rounded characters from all classes. It feels like an amalgam of the creators' various shows, particularly Glee and AHS, but also feels like it drew inspiration from classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Mean Girls and Heathers (less classic but still entertaining, Jawbreaker).


Roberts really has the uber-bitch persona down - she puts Cordelia Chase to shame.  And how the hell does she spout dialogue that fast?

Her minions (The Plastics, who?), including a nice bit of stunt casting in Grammy winner Arianna Grande, are vapid, glorious Stepford sisters.

I like that Michelle isn't playing another Rachel Berry but is now a neckbraced nerd. Everyone plays their parts to perfection, from the dredges of the pledges to ludicrous family members. There isn't much racial diversity in the cast but there is some, including Niecy Nash (Reno 911!), Nasim Pedrad (Saturday Night Live) and Keke Palmer (90210).  The girl destined to challenge Chanel the most is Grace Gardner, played by Skylar Samuels (The Nine Lives of Chloe King).  Should be a true battle royale as the season progresses.


Did I mention how I love the cinematography?  As expected, there's no lack of death in the premiere and to be sure they are both funny and jaw-dropping, with plenty of screaming girls to go around. Bloody good fun!

Bottom Line:  This killer new horror-comedy is a Scream.

Scream Queens airs Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.

The girls of Kappa House are dying for new pledges. SCREAM QUEENS is a new killer comedy-horror series from award-winning executive producers Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), Brad Falchuk (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) and Ian Brennan (“Glee”).
Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority for pledges, is ruled with an iron fist (in a pink glove) by CHANEL OBERLIN (Emma Roberts, “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” “Scream 4”). But when anti-Kappa DEAN CATHY MUNSCH (Jamie Lee Curtis, “Halloween,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” “True Lies”) decrees that sorority pledging must be open to all students, and not just the school’s silver-spooned elite, all hell is about to break loose, as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc across the campus.
An over-the-top, biting satire, SCREAM QUEENS is part black comedy, part slasher flick and a modern take on the classic whodunit, in which every character has a motive for murder…or could easily be the next victim.
SCREAM QUEENS has an all-star cast, including Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee Lea Michele (“Glee”), Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Zombieland,” “August: Osage County”), Nasim Pedrad (“Mulaney,” “Saturday Night Live”), Oliver Hudson (“Nashville,” “Rules of Engagement”), Skyler Samuels (“American Horror Story: Coven”), Keke Palmer (“Akeela and the Bee,” “Masters of Sex”), newcomer Billie Lourd, Diego Boneta (“Rock of Ages”), Glen Powell (“The Expendables 3”), Lucien Laviscount (“Episodes”), Niecy Nash (“Getting On,” “The Soul Man”), pop superstar and actor Nick Jonas (“Kingdom”) and Grammy Award nominee and actress Ariana Grande.
- See more at: http://www.fox.com/scream-queens#sthash.z0pdpguU.dpuf
The girls of Kappa House are dying for new pledges. SCREAM QUEENS is a new killer comedy-horror series from award-winning executive producers Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), Brad Falchuk (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) and Ian Brennan (“Glee”).
Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority for pledges, is ruled with an iron fist (in a pink glove) by CHANEL OBERLIN (Emma Roberts, “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” “Scream 4”). But when anti-Kappa DEAN CATHY MUNSCH (Jamie Lee Curtis, “Halloween,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” “True Lies”) decrees that sorority pledging must be open to all students, and not just the school’s silver-spooned elite, all hell is about to break loose, as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc across the campus.
An over-the-top, biting satire, SCREAM QUEENS is part black comedy, part slasher flick and a modern take on the classic whodunit, in which every character has a motive for murder…or could easily be the next victim.
SCREAM QUEENS has an all-star cast, including Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee Lea Michele (“Glee”), Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Zombieland,” “August: Osage County”), Nasim Pedrad (“Mulaney,” “Saturday Night Live”), Oliver Hudson (“Nashville,” “Rules of Engagement”), Skyler Samuels (“American Horror Story: Coven”), Keke Palmer (“Akeela and the Bee,” “Masters of Sex”), newcomer Billie Lourd, Diego Boneta (“Rock of Ages”), Glen Powell (“The Expendables 3”), Lucien Laviscount (“Episodes”), Niecy Nash (“Getting On,” “The Soul Man”), pop superstar and actor Nick Jonas (“Kingdom”) and Grammy Award nominee and actress Ariana Grande.
- See more at: http://www.fox.com/scream-queens#sthash.YzKnqUEs.dp

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review - Life in Pieces

CBS premiered its new ... sitcom (?) ... Life in Pieces tonight, giving it the very coveted post-Big Bang Theory time slot.  It's got a terrific cast and promotes the comedy of  a quirky family dynamic, but how was it?

One Big Family. Four Short Stories.  Life In Pieces introduces the Short family (get the pun?) and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members, including middle sibling Matt (Thomas Sadoski, The Slap, The Newsroom), who may have found true love in co-worker Colleen (Angelique Cabral, Enlisted); youngest brother Greg (Colin Hanks, Dexter) and his wife Jen (Zoe Lister Jones, New Girl), who are overwhelmed by the birth of their first child; and eldest sibling Heather (Betsy Brandt, Breaking Bad) and her husband Tim (Dan Bakkedahl, Veep) who are facing a bad case of Empty Nest Syndrome. Their parents are smother-with-good-intentions Joan (Dianne Wiest, Law & Order) and John (James Brolin, Castle, Hotel), the gregarious patriarch who's searching for ways to soften the blow of turning 70. As the family's lives unfold in four short stories each week, they try to savor these little pieces of time that flash by but stay with you forever, because these moments add up to what life's all about.(Synopsis details courtesy of CBS.com)


When I first started watching the pilot, I immediately thought "wow, this kinda looks and feels like Modern Family." Apparently I'm not alone: when I googled the show to see if it's by the same creators (it's not), I found that many, many others feel the same thing, except that this isn't as funny or good.  I'm not a fan of Modern Family - though I do appreciate that it's a very good and popular show - so I started doubting that I'd care for LIP.  But I came around to Parks and Recreation having not liked The Office, which to me felt like similar shows, so I continued to watch with an open mind.

Nice always to see Hanks, especially since he's resembling his awesome dad more and more, but they're playing their characters very broadly with a lot of big, exaggerated and a bit too much facial expressions.  Though I did appreciate their story, which covered what happens the days after you give birth - the destruction of the woman's nether-region, the lingering pain and a clever remedy.  But just as you start to get into the story, it's gone, not to be seen again this episode.  Being only a 30-minute comedy, you're just getting a quick five-minute taste - great for those with short attention spans but not for me.  I'd rather know we'd revisit at least once more per episode.

I'm glad Brandt gets to loosen up and have some fun, having run the dramatic gauntlet handed to her throughout Breaking Bad's run.  It was an interesting premise to have John celebrate his 70th birthday by throwing a funeral for himself.  Nice to have Brolin back on TV - kind of the reverse-Hanks, here the father instead of the son (Josh).

There were some really good minor characters, including Susan Park, Greg and Jen's doctor, and Riley Bodenstab, Heather and Tim's son's (Niall Cunningham) college-visit buddy.  I assume in future episodes various family members will cross over into each other's stories as they did in the funeral scene, but it's possible it may only happen in the fourth story.  Not sure I'm willing to come back to find out.  Didn't love it, didn't really like anyone, which does not make for a long-viewing relationship.  Actually just makes me miss Parenthood - which I highly recommend watching on Netflix.

Bottom Line: My like for this new comedy is short. Very short.

Life in Pieces airs Mondays at 8:30pm on CBS (until NFL football is over, then it moves to Thursdays).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Emmys 2015


The 67th Emmy Awards were held tonight with some new winners that well-deserved the prize (Jon Hamm, Mad Men, Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer) as well as some previous winners taking home additional trophies to great glee (Allison Janney, Mom, Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black - for which she is only the second person in history to win Emmys in two categories (comedy, drama) playing the same character; Ed Asner was the first for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant).  There were a few not-unexpected disappointments (Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, Amy Poehler for Parks and Recreation), but overall it was a very satisfying range of winners.

The evening saw a nice first hosting by Andy Samberg, including a brilliant opening musical film about his catching up on all that is on TV (welcome to my life and love!) and later a clever spoof of a key Mad Men moment.  And it was so great to see Tracy Morgan's return - predicted by Jimmy Kimmel at last year's Emmys. HBO and cable in general were big winners.  A few quick comical bits added some chickles to the awards show, but the montage of shows that ended this year was devastating given that it showed pretty much the endings to all of them - spoiler alerts, people!!

Anyway, congratulations to all the winners!

Drama Series - Game of Thrones (HBO)

Comedy Series - Veep (HOB)
Limited Series - Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
Variety Talk Series - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Variety Sketch Series - Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
Reality-Competition Program - The Voice (NBC)

Lead Actor in a Drama - Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)
Lead Actress in a Drama - Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
Lead Actor in a Comedy - Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
Lead Actress in a Comedy - Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
Supporting Actor in a Drama - Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)
Supporting Actress in a Drama - Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Supporting Actor in a Comedy - Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
Supporting Actress in a Comedy - Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie - Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie - Regina King, American Crime (ABC)

Directing, Drama Series - David Nutter, Game of Thrones (HBO)
Directing, Comedy Series -Jill Soloway, Transparent (Amazon)
Directing, Variety Series - Chuck O'Neil, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Directing, Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special - Lisa Cholodenko, Olive Kitteridge (HBO)

Writing, Drama Series - Game of Thrones (HBO)
Writing, Comedy Series - Veep (HBO)
Writing, Variety Series - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome to Fall TV!

Hideeho, Tourists! I'm baaaaaack!

I took the summer off and caught up on a lot of shows id heard much buzzing about, including Empire and Daredevil, and also caught up on the new season of Orange is the New Black and enjoyed new seasons of summer fare like Suits, Rookie Blue, Rizzoli & Isles and Under the Dome (farewell, Domesters).

So I welcome you all back with my first review of the new season, tonight's premiere of the new NBC variety series Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris.

Five-time Emmy Award and Tony Award-winner Neil Patrick Harris hosts this live one-hour variety show where anything can happen. Week to week the show will feature appearances by A-list stars, stunts, comedy skits, incredible performances, mini game shows, audience giveaways and hidden camera pranks.
Based on the wildly popular British hit Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, this genre-busting format and its fearless star will make for one of the best nights ever on TV, week after week.

Now I love me some NPH.  He is a singular talent and can host pretty much anything.  I'm not the biggest fan of variety shows, though, certainly not for a whole hour.  It's clear Neil is having a blast and he's got the clout to get pretty much anyone to come by.  Episode one featured Reese Witherspoon, Gloria Gaynor and Carson Daly and had Neil going undercover to prank the judges of The Voice in a segment called "Undercover."  He and Reese went head-to-head in a climbing competition 15-stories high that ended in a zipline to the finish in a segment called "Neil vs. ...". The audience joined in the fun as Neil played with them in video segments, a nationwide karaoke sing-along and an in-studio game show with amazing prizes.

We know Neil is an amazing magician, but I get frustrated when I don't know how they do the tricks, so I was indeed frustrated how he managed to seem to appear at a football game and the WEDDING of a chosen couple in the audience - a couple who later were presented with a fantastic honeymoon to Antigua.  Even more frustrating? They weren't seemingly ecstatic.  More like "Oh, that's neat" was their reaction.  Same with a lucky audience member who was "randomly" selected to play a fast-paced trivia game with the chance to win up to 16 prizes including a new car and other great stuff.  When she won 7 awesome prizes - including the friggin car - her reaction  was "Yay."  I mean, I've seen people react with more enthusiasm, excitement and gratitude on Ellen.  So what's the real story?  How much is pre-planned? Guess that's the magician's secret. Also, when he was in disguise on The Voice, he didn't really change his voice so it still sounded like him, and the wig and beard hid him somewhat, and he even sang and, while faking bad singing, still sounded just like himself ... and all the judges (Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton) didn't recognize him?  Uh huh.

Basically, not a big fan of BTE.  It's quite a hodgepodge of stuff, ending with a grand production number that is just too much.  I appreciate that Neil has a great showcase for himself and his awesomeness, but I would rather see him back on a scripted show and back to hosting award shows.

Bottom Line:  Not the best viewing time ever for me.

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris airs Tuesdays at 10pm on NBC.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I'm On Board with Empire


Though summer means many of my shows are gone for months, it does allow for the opportunity to catch up on ones that were missed in the vast ocean of programming.  One such show I've been binge watching this week is FOX's breakout hit Empire.


Music titan Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard, Wayward Pines, Law & Order), diagnosed with a debilitating disease, is determined to groom on of his three sons - Andre (Trai Byers, 90210), Jamal (Jussie Smollett, On Our Own), and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) - to take over and run his multi-tiered company, Empire (think a modern take on King Lear).  He must also contend with the return of his wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson, Person of Interest), who has been released from prison after serving 17 years for drug dealing. Cookie wants her cut and to be a part of her sons' lives once again.

This show is definitely engaging with plenty of drama, back-stabbing, infidelity, homosexuality, intense relationships, and definitely sass.  Henson is fantastic as Cookie, a woman who can elevate you to your best if she's on your side and cut you down if she's not. 

Howard and Henson have great chemistry, both when they/re loving and fighting. The supporting cast is also quite good, particularly Byers, Smollett and Gray - very believable as brothers.

Also fantastic is the music.  Rap and hip hop are not my usual cup of tea, but I definitely am looking to download some of the songs featured.  I like that the television landscape includes shows like Glee (sadly, now gone), Nashville and Empire that weave new music seamlessly into the storytelling.

Empire's pace is fast and a lot happens in each episode, which I like a lot. There's a great twist at the end of the season that changes the game and sets up an interesting future.  Empire has great guest stars, including Judd Nelson, Naomi Campbell and Gabourey Sibide, and looks to feature many music artists (Courtney Love had a nice two-ep arc; Snoop Dog also dropped in) in seasons to come.

I'm glad I gave Empire a look and will greatly anticipate its second season.

Empire returns to FOX this fall and is currently available on Hulu.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Farewell, Glee


Alas, another of my series leaves the airwaves.

I loved Glee right from the start.  It had a great pilot episode, was well cast, covered a terrific variety of songs from all genres (including some amazing mash-ups), and really captured realistically much of the issues and angst felt by teenagers, both who do and don't fit the norm. 


Overall, Glee had a strong run, adding in along the way talented new regulars like Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet, though it weakened when the original kids graduated from the fictional McKinley High in Lima, Ohio and a group of new kids were brought in to carry on the show choir torch, still led by choir director Will Schuster (Matthew Morrison) and tormented by perpetual villain Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).  The new kids were talented, for sure, but just like Saved By The Bell: The New Class, they just didn't capture the magic and gelling of the originals. 


The show then tried to live two lives by following primary characters Rachel (Lea Michelle), Artie (Kevin McHale), Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Mercedes (Amber Riley) on their adventures in NYC, while still keeping roots in Lima

Eventually for its final season, almost all of the original cast - including Santana (Naya Rivera), Brittany (Heather Morris), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Puck (Mark Salling) and Quinn (Dianna Agron) appeared throughout, wrapping up by bringing us full circle in last night's series finale: hour one took us back to the formation of the original glee club and showed us how this group of misfit kids came together despite their differences and perceptions of each other (six years later, the now-adult actors actually pulled off playing their younger selves really well).  Hour two took us to the future to see where they ended up five years later.

I appreciated how Glee tackled issues like bullying, homosexuality, low self-esteem, cliques, and death, among others.  Especially poignant was how the death of star Cory Montieth was handled following his passing from drug abuse.  It was a fitting, touching tribute to the young actor. I always wrestled with the Sue character - how truly hateful and monstrous she could be and wasn't even a character you loved to hate, but they would throw in occasional moments that showed she did have a heart, so I overall felt divided with her.  But there were enough positives to make you accept any negatives that come with any long-running series.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this show and I will truly miss it.   Its characters, its music ... its glee.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review - iZombie


I preface this review with saying I am a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, two shows the CW's new series iZombie has been compared to early on.  Is it as fun and entertaining as those predecessors? Let's see ...


iZombie, developed by Rob Thomas (creator, Veronica Mars) and Diane Ruggiero (writer on VM)  is a loose adaptation of thecomic book series of the same name created by Chris Robertson and Michael Allred and published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. It stars Rose McIver (Masters of Sex) as Olivia "Liv" Moore, a medical student who, in a wrong-place-wrong-time scenario, becomes a zombie during an outbreak at a party.  Her new hunger for brains comes in handy when she finds she's able to see the memories of those she consumes, as well as the skills and abilities they possessed in life - a talent she uses to help solve their murders with the help of the medical examiner Ravi (Rahul Kohli) and police detective Clive (Malcolm Goodwin, Breakout Kings). Also stars David Anders (Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, Alias) and Molly Hagen (Herman's Head).


First, this show has an awesome opening title sequence that brilliantly compartmentalizes Liv's zombie origin and current position in life, done in comic-book graphics.  Second, even though this is yet another show with much voice-over by the lead character, it's not surprising here, given that Thomas did the same thing with VM.  It works strongly in both cases since both female leads have such a sassy and snarky disposition. 

The similarities between iZombie and Veronica Mars are actually numerous: the aforementioned spunky, intelligent, sleuthing lead female, the terrible-thing-happening-at-a-party (SPOILER!! - Veronica was drugged and raped at a party she went to; Liv ... was killed and became a zombie), the pop culture references, the fast, quippy dialogue ( love the line "So you are what you eat isn't just a bitchy thing my mother says about fat people").


I like the physical transformation they've created for Liv, from normal, healthy-palor and dark blond hair to albino-like white hair and colorless skin (above is just post-death).  It's weird to her family and friends but not so weird you'd suspect she's the living dead.  Unlike the typical zombie we've some to know from Romero films, The Walking Dead, etc., Liv is fully functional, has all her faculties and fits in to society like a normal person ... she just happens to live for brains (hey, at least she mixes them with noodles and hot sauce).

I really liked the pilot and this show definitely fits into the CW's landscape, which features other other-wordly creatures like angels, demons and monsters (Supernatural), vampires (The Vampire Diaries), superheroes (Arrow, The Flash) and virgins who get pregnant (Jane the Virgin).  Tee hee.

Having Liv work in a morgue is a smart move, giving her an endless supply of food and also a convenient outlet for her new gift. The supporting characters are ok, but it's McIver's show, hands-down, though I anticipate more of Anders, who I hear is going to be the Spike of this show (loved his arc on Buffy).  I'm definitely on board for more iZombie.

BOTTOM LINE:  This show has bite!

iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9pm on the CW.