Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So Who's Been Watching What?

Many thanks to Entertainment Weekly online ( for compiling a wrap-up of the most-to-least watched network (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and The CW) programs of the fall (September to December). 

Alas, my fave network, the CW, rounds out the bottom, but that won't stop me watching its awesome shows (of particular note, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries and Nikita).

Other shows I recommend:  Hawaii Five-0, Criminal Minds, How I met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Suburgatory, Castle, Big Bang Theory, Ringer, Revenge, Glee, Body of Proof and Parenthood.

So where do your fave shows rank? (shows in red are cancelled)

1. NCIS (CBS, 21.4 million)
2. Sunday NFL Football (NBC, 19.9)
3. Two and a Half Men (CBS, 18.9)
4. Dancing with the Stars (ABC, 18.5)
5. NCIS: LA (CBS, 17.4)
6. DWTS: Results (ABC, 16.65)
7. Big Bang Theory (CBS, 16.61)
8. Modern Family (ABC, 15.066)
9. NFL Pre-Kick (NBC, 15.063)
10. 60 Minutes (CBS, 14.67)
11. Mentalist (CBS, 14.6)
12. Criminal Minds (CBS, 14.4)
13. The OT (Fox, 14.0)
14. 2 Broke Girls (CBS, 13.6)
15. Mike & Molly (CBS, 13.56)
16. Unforgettable (CBS, 13.532)
17. Person of Interest (CBS, 13.531)
18. Hawaii 5-0 (CBS, 13.4)
19. CSI (CBS, 13.2)
20. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 13.1)
21. Blue Bloods (CBS, 12.9)
22. X Factor Wed (Fox, 12.5)
23. Survivor: South Pacific (CBS, 12.5)
24. X Factor Thurs (Fox, 12.3)
25. Castle (ABC, 12.2)
26. Once Upon a Time (ABC, 12.0)
27. Good Wife (CBS, 11.9)
28. How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 11.5)
29. Last Man Standing (ABC, 11.47)
30. Rules of Engagement (CBS, 11.45)
31. CSI: Miami (CBS, 11.42)
32. CSI: NY (CBS, 11.34)
33. Football Night in America 3 (NBC, 11.1)
34. Amazing Race 19 (CBS, 11.05)
35. Body of Proof (ABC, 11.03)
36. Desperate Housewives (ABC, 11.0)
37. Bones (Fox, 10.2)
38. New Girl (Fox, 10.0)
39. Terra Nova (Fox, 9.98)
40. Glee (Fox, 9.90)
41. Revenge (ABC, 9.8)
42. Middle (ABC, 9.82)
43. House (Fox, 9.7)
44. Law & Order: SVU (NBC, 9.1)
45. Suburgatory (ABC, 9.0)
46. Harry’s Law (NBC, 8.99)
47. Private Practice (ABC, 8.98)
48. How to be a Gentleman (CBS, 8.6 million)
49. A Gifted Man (CBS, 8.5)
50. Fear Factor (NBC, 8.5)
51. Pan Am (ABC, 8.2)
52. Simpsons (Fox, 7.77)
53. Happy Endings (ABC, 7.70)
54. Hell’s Kitchen Mon 9 (Fox, 7.4)
55. Hell’s Kitchen Mon 8 (Fox, 7.3)
56. Office (NBC, 7.29)
57. Family Guy (Fox, 7.26)
58. Parenthood (NBC, 7.1)
59. Grimm (NBC, 7.0)
60. Charlie’s Angels (ABC, 6.919)
61. Man Up (ABC, 6.915)
62. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC, 6.8)
63. Biggest Loser 12 (NBC, 6.7)
64. Raising Hope (Fox, 6.6)
65. Sat. Night College Football (ABC, 6.30)
66. Up All Night (NBC, 6.14)
67. Prime Suspect (NBC, 6.12)
68. I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox, 6.0)
69. Football Night in America 2 (NBC, 5.97)
70. Dateline Fri (NBC, 5.93)
71. American Dad (Fox, 5.7)
72. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, 5.77)
73. 48 Hours Mystery (CBS, 5.75)
74. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition 9 p.m. (ABC, 5.4)
75. Whitney (NBC, 5.3)
76. Playboy Club (NBC, 5.2)
77. Sing Off (NBC, 5.17)
78. Cleveland Show (Fox, 5.14)
79. 20/20 Friday (ABC, 5.10)
80. Cleveland Show Sunday 8:30 (Fox, 5.07)
81. You Deserve It (ABC, 5.03)
82. Crimetime Sat 9 p.m. (CBS, 4.5)
83. Middle Tuesday (ABC, 4.48)
84. Allen Gregory (Fox, 4.45)
85. Parks and Recreation (NBC (4.42)
86. SVU Saturday (NBC, 4.3)
87. Kitchen Nightmares (Fox, 4.29)
88. Prime Suspect Sat. (NBC, 4.26)
89. Sat. Football pregame (ABC, 4.22)
90. COPS Sat. 8:30 (Fox, 4.19)
91. Community (NBC, 4.18)
92. Fringe (Fox, 4.10)
93. Rock Center (NBC, 4.01)
94. Free Agents (NBC, 3.9)
95. Chuck (NBC, 3.888)
96. Suburgatory Tues. (ABC, 3.886)
97. COPS Sat. 8 p.m. (Fox, 3.77)
98. Up All Night 8:30 (NBC, 3.72)
99. Comedytime Sat. 1 (CBS, 3.6)
100. Harry’s Law Sat. (NBC, 3.5)
101. Comedytime Sat. 2 (CBS, 3.3)
102. Vampire Diaries (CW, 3.1)
103. Terra Nova Sat. (Fox, 2.5)
104. America’s Next Top Model 17 (CW, 2.37)
105. Secret Circle (CW, 2.34)
106. Supernatural (CW, 2.25)
107. Hart of Dixie (CW, 2.1)
108. Nikita (CW, 2.06)
109. Ringer (CW, 2.02)
…112. 90210 (CW, 1.7)
113. Gossip Girl (CW, 1.68)
114. Bob’s Burgers (Fox, 1.65)
…120. H8R (CW, 1.2)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Revisit This Show - Battlestar Galactica (2004)

I have to confess, it took me a long time to give this show a chance.  When it was first announced that an updated remake/revisioning of Battlestar Galactica was being done and that it was going to be a much different show, I didn't know how to feel. Sure, they were keeping most of the character names and the look of the ship was going to be similar, but just how different was it going to be?  I was a huge fan of the original - still am - so I wasn't sure how I felt.

What eventually made me literally boycott the new series at the time it premiered was all the trashing of the original 1978 series that followed.  I mean, you'd have the thought the old series was pure crap, had absolutely no merit and should be utterly dismissed in lieu of the new.

The original, for me, was thrilling, had great characters, told a terrific story and I loved it.  Was it ground-breaking, critically acclaimed TV?  No.  But that didn't mean it wasn't a good, fun show.  Many say it was a direct rip-off of Star Wars, which had come to theaters just the year before.  For me - also a huge fan of the Wars - aside from the fact that both had individually piloted ships (X-Wings for SW, Vipers for BSG) and a couple of hot heroes, I see very little direct similarity.  Of course, this point can be debated extensively, I'm sure ... let's not do that here.

Suffice to say, when the new series premiered, with all the bad-mouthing about my Galactica that had taken place, I had a hard time giving it a chance.  But, as a dedicated TV watcher, I committed to watching the pilot miniseries.  I did had a hard time with it, particularly with the way it was filmed (that flash-zoom, docu-cam style is not a favorite of mine) ... and the fact that Starbuck, my favorite character (still crush on Dirk Benedict to this day) was turned into a woman! (though I cared less about the same thing being done to the character of Boomer ... go figure).  So I didn't watch beyond that.

Recently, having had enough distance in addition to having heard so many incredible things about the revamped series - and the fact that the entire series is available through Netflix streaming - I was able to go back to it with a new perspective, and I am so glad I did.  Having just finished the last episode, I can say now with hearty confidence and no malice, it is a truly outstanding piece of cinematic work and I am a bonified fan.

BSG has some of the richest, meatiest, fully-rounded characters and were portrayed by a cast of extraordinary actors, not just the main stars but down to ones who were only in a few episodes, and that's saying something.  Plus the fact that many of those smaller, less assuming characters - Cally, Dualla, Gaeta - later became such pivotal players in the overall story is a testament to the writers, the actors and the show itself.

I can't even begin to go into detail about the overall story and all its intricacies - how could I with so much that happened over the four (was that it?) seasons - and I don't want to.  Unfortunately, due to my withholding watching for so long, I happened to accidentally learn of certain plot elements over the course of the original airing and since then (big reveals, character deaths, etc.), which didn't ruin the overall viewing for me but did disappointment a little, and I wouldn't dare do that to those of you who haven't seen it but plan to (In case I haven't made it clear, PLEASE DO!)  Believe me, there were more than enough other "OMG!" shocking moments and developments to go around.

The show's premise is this: The world ended with no warning, and all that was left … was hope. Cylons were created by the humans of the Twelve Colonies. Intelligent robots, they were used as slaves and soldiers to fight humanity's wars. But the Cylons became sentient and they rebelled. Man and machine fought to a bloody stalemate, then the Cylons withdrew to a remote region of space.

A tense, quiet truce between the two races lasted 40 years until the Cylons launched a genocidal attack on the colonies, all  but eradicating the human race and leaving to 50,000 odd survivors to abandon their homes and flee into deep space aboard a rag-tag fleet of ships led by the lone surviving Colonial warship, the battlestar Galactic.  Driven by the prophetic visions of the Colonial president and in desperate need of a new home, the fleet sets upon a quest that will take it into the farthest reaches of unexplored space … in search of the mythical, lost "13th colony" — Earth.

There were some standout performances that I do have to note.  James Callis is perfection as the tortured, sorely misguided Gaius Baltar. Played with menacing delight by the late John Colicos in the original series, this new Baltar was disturbingly, hopelessly flawed, often hateful but at times sympathetic.  His journey is an incredible study in human behavior when one makes the wrong choices and doesn't know how to reconcile them.  There should have benn some Emmy love for this guy.

Katee Sackhoff is a fully-cocked pistol as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace.  Remember, I myself had to come to terms that my beloved handsome rogue was now an oft-cursing, angry, self-destructive bitch, but hers is also an amazing journey to watch.  You want to both clock her and root for her, often multiple times within a single episode, and Sackhoff's commitment to the role and all the levels it tasked her to play is magnificent to watch.

It was fun to see actors that I have watched in other programs show up here (though for many, they appeared in BSG first), particularly Grace Park (Sharon "Boomer" Valerii), who I currently enjoy as Kono on Hawaii Five-0 (funny thing, Park again plays a character who was originally male).  I had seen Tahmoh Penikett (Karl "Helo" Agathon) on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, Michael Trucco (Sam Anders) on USA's Fairly Legal and Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin) on, oh take your pick - X-Files, Firefly, Supernatural.

In fact, a great many people who were on BSG have since been on Supernatural - Sheppard, Samantha Ferris, Rheka Sharma, Michael Hogan.  Not surprising since both are genre shows that were/are shot in Vancouver, which uses many of the same actors.  I don't doubt that fans of one show are fans of the other.  On a side note,  Supernatural being my favorite show, I have to give a hearty "WATCH IT!"

While I did love Lorne Greene as the original Commander Adama, Edward James Olmos brought much to his Adama, a man dealing with so many ongoing crises and tragedies, you wonder how he doesn't just blow himself out the nearest air duct.  But he deals, and watching Olmos do it with all his power and  presence is masterful.

Having been a big Xena fan, it was nice to see Lucy Lawless again, this time as a completely different kind of character.  Sometimes it's hard for me to follow an actor who has played such a distinctive character for so long to another role, but Lawless made it easy, and she got to use her real accent to boot! (Another case in point, albeit unrelated: see Michael C. Hall as both David Fisher on Six Feet Under and as Dexter Morgan on Dexter).

I was pleased to have this new series give frequent nods to the original, sometimes using the original, iconic theme music, sometimes onscreen appearances by the original Cylon centurians.   Guess the old show couldn't have been that bad, huh?  And kudos for giving a juicy role to the original Apollo, Richard Hatch (Tom Zarek).

About BSG, there is so much more to say but I don't quite know how to without giving anything away, so I'll leave it at this: this is a terrific, engaging saga with outstanding characters, intellectual themes, extraordinary writing, compelling storytelling and is racked with emotion, power and heart.  It was great to be able to watch the whole series start to finish in a short time frame - helped keep the flow of the story.  And don't discount the original 1978 series - it really was pretty darn cool!

Both the 1978 and 2004 versions of Battlestar Galactica are available on DVD and are currently streaming on Netflix.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Game of Thrones - Season Two Trailer

I'll admit, I have not read the Game of Thrones book series, but the HBO series based on it is more than enough to satisfy me.  I was eager to watch when it premiered, and it took a few episodes for me to get all the many characters straight and how they connect/relate to each other, but before I knew it, I was enthralled and hungry for more.  And then suddenly, season one was over and I was left to anticipate with everyone else the next installment.

Fortunately, HBO has been kind enough to provide a trailer for Season Two, due in Spring 2012.  Enjoy it here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Prime Suspect Shuts Down Production

Actually one of the good ones ...

Can't say I understand what's going on over at NBC.  Shifting a good portion of their schedule around, tabling new previously-planned pilots, etc.  Their latest move is shutting down the Thursday drama Prime Suspect, starring Maria Bello

Granted, the show hasn't been a runaway hit (averages approx. 5 million viewers), but it is a decent program with a strong lead character.

The show hasn't officially been axed, but this isn't a good sign.

Do you watch Prime Suspect?  Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time for the People to Speak!

Greetings, Tourists!

It's time for the People's Choice Awards.  Time for you to cast your vote for your favorite TV shows (movies and music, too).  Be it Drama, Comedy, Reality Competition  along with Actors, Actresses and Personalities...tell us who your favorites are.

Vote for any or all here:

Me?  I'm voting for Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother and Revenge, among others.

You?  Comment below and tell me who and what you support!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review - Once Upon a Time

"There once was an enchanted forest filled with all the classic characters we know.  Or think we know.  One day they found themselves trapped in a place where all their happy endings were stolen.  Our world."

This is how ABC's new fantasy-drama series Once Upon A Time begins, along with breathtaking scenery (if CGI, very seamlessly created) and one of the most famous kisses of all time.

Fairy tales go head to head this season, with NBC debuting Grimm next week.  But Once Upon A Time is off to a promising start, offering a well-paced, beautifully shot pilot that masks the necessary setting-up-the-premise exposition with, and I must quote Disney's Beauty and the Beast here, "Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince - or rather, an entire cast of characters - in disguise.

**Episode Details Follow**

Once Upon A Time focuses primarily on Snow White (Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas, Hawaii Five-O), who, in keeping with the traditional story, have pissed off the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla, Miami Medical, Swingtown) with their perfect beauty and happiness.  She takes revenge by placing a curse on the entire kingdom, vowing that the only happy ending anyone will ever have ever again will be hers.  Before the curse, delivered via an all-encompassing black cloud, Snow gives birth to a daughter, Emma (Jennifer Morrison, How I Met Your Mother, House), who will eventually be the key to ending the curse and setting everyone free.  Placed in a magical wardrobe, Emma is transported to real-world Boston, where she grows up part of the foster system and in adulthood becomes a bail bondsman, or "bondsperson," as she calls it.

On Emma's 28th birthday, ten-year-old Henry Mills (Mad Men's Jared Gillmore) knocks on her door and informs her that he is the son she gave up for adoption a decade before.  He then tells her that she must come back with him to his home, Storybrook, Maine.  Turns out Henry, who is in possession of a book full of all the fairy tales, knows Emma's true destiny and bluntly tells her so.  Emma's response?  "Kid, you've got problems."  Henry confidently rebuts "Yep, and you're gonna fix them."

In Storybrook, time is frozen, no one remembers their true selves and bad things happen to anyone who tries to leave.  Snow is now a school teacher, Charming is a comatose John Doe and the Evil Queen is mayor.  Other citizens include Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle, SGU Stargate Universe), who owns Storybrook and in his other identity is the scheming, manipulative Rumplestilskin (his intro is quite reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs); Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge, Prison Break, 24), a.k.a. Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket and Henry's therapist; Granny (Beverly Elliott, Harper's Island), who runs the local boarding house; and Ruby (Meghan Ory, True Justice, South Beach), a.k.a. Red Riding Hood and a fellow boarder.

The series frequently transitions back and forth from the fairy tale kingdom to the real world, but it's not distracting since they are distinctly their own entities.  Goodwin, with her ivory skin and sweet but strong demeanor, makes for a convincing Snow and Parrilla offers plausible bite and chill to her Queen.  Morrison's tough snark plays for the resistant Emma and you can tell she's going to be a force for the Queen to reckon with.  It's strange to hear characters from stories known for decades have real conversations wrought with conflict and emotions and deal with real problems just like regular folk.  The series has included characters from many different stories and united them together in one realm, as the Shrek film series did, but it works. 

And with messages like "Believing even in the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing," you can't help but root for good to triumph and embrace the grand adventures to come.

Bottom Line:  Dare to believe in this enchanting series.

Catch Once Upon A Time Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Going, Going ... Gone.

Can't say I'm surprised with the latest TV casualty.  Read my previous review and you'll see why.

So long ...

Charlie's Angels (ABC)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Revisit This Show - Three Rivers

I love it when I discover an actor I hadn't watched much of before on one show and like him/her enough to check out other projects he/she has done.  Such is the case with Alex O'Loughlin, who I am thoroughly enjoying as Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett on CBS' current hit Hawaii Five-0, a show I already highly recommend.

O'Loughlin is well-known for the vampire series Moonlight, which I will be checking out next thanks to an upcoming marathon on the SyFy network.  But after that he starred as a transplant surgeon on the CBS series Three Rivers, which only lasted 13 episodes.

That's a shame, because the series, which is currently streaming on Netflix, is really good.  Beautiful production value, a good, cohesive cast and compelling stories.  I wasn't sure I was going to buy O'Loughlin as a soft-spoken doctor given the rough-and-tough Navy SEAL he plays on Five-0, but I was quickly impressed and on board for the show.

 Three Rivers follows the lives organ donors, doctors and transplant patients at Pittsburgh's acclaimed Three Rivers Medical Center.  O'Loughlin plays Dr. Andy Yablonsky who leads a team of top medical personnel in the quest to save lives through organ donation.  The series co-stars Katherine Moennig (The L Word, Young Americans) as Dr. Miranda Foster, a woman with a rebellious reputation strives to live up to her father's legacy; Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Dr. David Lee, the swoon-worthy surgeon heartbreaker; Christopher J. Hanke (Big Love) as Ryan Abbott, the new transplant coordinator with little experience but a flair for acquiring and transferring organs to the patients; Alfre Woodard (St. Elsewhere, Desperate Housewives, Memphis Beat) as Dr. Sophia Jordan, the head of organ surgery; Justina Machado (Six Feet Under, ER) as Pam Acosta, Yablonski's operating assistant and best friend; and Amber Clayton as Dr. Lisa Reed, a beautiful young doctor who wears her heart on her sleeve and gets Yablonsky's heart racing.

Unlike shows like Grey's Anatomy, which focus more on the interpersonal (i.e. romantic) relationships between the doctors, Three Rivers is more about the patients and how donors and recipients tie together. The pacing works well in stressing how vitally important every moment is in delivering and transplanting organs - I was glad to learn more about this amazing field of medicine, even if through a television drama -  and the show isn't afraid to have losses as well as wins. The stories are compelling, touching and will pull on your heartstrings in that good way good storytelling does. 

One storyline that carries through the short-lived season is that of Kuol (Owiso Odera), an African man who has fought to survive his entire life and now fights to live long enough to receive a new heart. And a can't-miss episode features Mandy Patinkin (Chicago Hope, Criminal Minds) as a terminal ALS patient who chooses to die sooner so that seven people can receive his organs and live.  The series had great promise and I'm glad I was able to enjoy it, short-lived as it was.

Transplant Three Rivers to your viewing queue today.

Review - American Horror Story

A foreboding house.
A creepy young girl with an ominous warning.
A dark basement filled with jars holding you-don't-want-to-know-what.
The violent murder of two twin boys under mysterious circumstances.

Quite a killer beginning to a new series.  Where American Horror Story goes from there is, I have to admit, incredibly difficult to put into text.  But maybe that's the point of this intriguing, unsettling, albeit baffling new show about a family, their new home and a plethora of issues old and new.

This new FX series from Ryan Murphy and Brad Fulchuk, creators of Nip/Tuck and Glee (a far cry from the latter but as envelope-pushing as the former) stars Dylan McDermott (The Practice) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) as Ben and Vivian Harmon, a couple looking to make a fresh start while trying to repair their relationship after Ben's extra-marital affair.  Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of Academy Award nominee Vera Farmiga) plays daughter Violet, a tough-skinned teenager with self-harm tendencies.

A recurring cast of unnerving characters includes Academy Award winner Jessica Lange as imposing neighbor Constance, who has a penchant for repeatedly letting herself into the Harmon household; Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as housekeeper Laura, who may or may not be deceased; and Evan Peters (One Tree Hill), as Tate, a disturbed young patient of Ben's with confessed homicidal fantasies.

I honestly don't know quite what to make of this show.  The pilot featured a distinct filming style - jump cuts, quick zooms, did-you-see-that? images - and it definitely has a high creep factor that draws you in and makes you feel like watching it with the lights off to get the full effect. There were some usual horror-story setups (like "Is there someone in the house?"), but they were made effective by the absence of a music soundtrack, leaving you to listen for every distant sound and hear every creak of the floorboards.

**Episode details follow**

The family's back story is thus:  Vivian delivered a stillborn baby son.  In her grief, she shut Ben out, which led to his having an affair with a student.  Looking to start over, the couple relocates to their current home, the same house where the twin boys met their violent end decades before - a house with apparently a long history of tragedy of death.  Ben is sexually frustrated (Vivian has denied him for nearly a year), so it's no surprise he finds himself disturbingly aroused by Laura, who he sees as a hot young woman and not the elderly matron Vivian sees (Conroy).  After the couple finally reconnects physically, Vivian is later approached by a figure in full S&M rubber, mask included, and proceeds to go for "round two" with him, believing he is Ben but not realizing it's not.  Later she discovers she's newly pregnant.  So who's the daddy?

Still with me?  Yeah, I know.  I'm still processing it myself.

Other twisted moments included Violet - with Tate's help - getting payback against a bullying schoolmate in the afore-mentioned basement (strobe effect and a fanged, gender-ambiguous attacker make for a disturbing sequence); ghostly images of the slaughtered twin boys behind an unsuspecting Vivian; and Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), a Down Syndrome girl who as a youngster warned the twin boys that they would die in the house and now taunts the Harmons that they'll suffer the same fate.

I appreciate the shock value American Horror Story is going for - there's certainly not a lack or language, sexual situations and violence - and it has found the right home on FX, the network known for other twisted series like Nip/Tuck and Wilfred and gritty, hard-edged series like The Shield and Sons of Anarchy.  The preview tagged onto the end of the pilot gave a glimpse of what is to come and it definitely looks to be both gruesome and chilling.  I'm game to give it another go.

Bottom line:  A tale of terror poised to take you down an unpredictable road ... kind of refreshing.

Catch American Horror Story Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two More Bite the Dust

Hello fans.

Two more shows have been dropped like hot potatoes (sorry cast and crew!).  Hope you weren't into:

Free Agents (NBC)


H8R (The CW)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First Cancelled Show of the Season

Well, the inevitable first cancellation of the new season has been made:  Rest in peace ...

The Playboy Club (NBC)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review - Terra Nova

Hours before the premiere of FOX's Terra Nova, which I was looking forward to, I found myself asking one basic, logical question:  the premise of the show is to save the human race from a self-destructive future by starting over in the past.  So why would you go to a time period - the Jurassic era, the age of the dinosaurs - you KNOW was wiped out by an extinction level event (most likely a meteor)?  Just saying...

Anyway, I can see the appeal of picking this show up, especially by FOX, a network that has a track record going with similar sci-fi genre shows (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fringe).Not to mention the fact that Steven Spielberg is behind this new venture, and we know he can do dinosaurs right.

The premise - not unlike that of Firefly, Earth 2 and the Lost in Space film - is set up clearly in the opening of the pilot:  "At the dawn of the 22nd century (2149 to be exact), the world is on the verge of environmental collapse.  Mankind's only hope for survival lies 65 million years in the past."  (But again, see my initial question...)

The series makes no bones about telling us where we're clearly headed: a world with no sunlight, breathing masks needed outside at all times, population control (having more than two children is illegal), eventual end of life as we know it.  But unlike this show, we don't have a magical portal offering possible salvation.  At least, not yet ...

Terra Nova focuses on the Shannon family:  father Jim (Jason O'Mara, Life on Mars, Men in Trees), a Chicago narcotics detective who went to jail for two years after striking a population control officer who discovered the family's secret third child, Zoe; mother Elizabeth (Shelley Conn, Marchlands, Mistresses), an exceptional doctor who was hand chosen for the "10th Pilgrimage; son Josh (Landon Liboiron, Degrassi: The Next Generation), loyal to his family but not without anger issues, particularly for his absentee father; and elder daughter Maddy (Naomi Scott, Life Bites), smart like her mother but still a teenage girl finding her place.  Jim escapes from prison and reunites last minute with his family at the portal (very Stargate-like), making a mad dash for the new world as the authorities close in.

Upon arrival at the Terra Nova settlement, which looks a lot like Jurassic Park with tall, iron gates surrounding the compound (though not electrified here - defense comes in the form of sonic guns which drive away the animal inhabitants), we are introduced to leader Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang, bad guy soldier in Avatar),  a seven-year Novan who pep talks the new arrivals with a speech about how greed, war and ignorance destroyed their home and how they've been entrusted with a second chance, "the chance to get it right."  Listening to him, watching him in the scenes to follow ... it may be because of the nature of his past roles (many bad guys), but Lang's Taylor is someone you just feel may be not quite on the up-and-up.  

Taylor and Jim butt heads from the get-go, but later team up to deal with various threats to Terra Nova, which in addition to the dinosaurs include a rogue sect of settlers, known as "Sixers" (named for the 6th Pilgrimage they came through on) - think "The Others" on Lost - who broke off shortly after arrival and frequently pilfer Terra Nova and cause violent conflict.  The Sixers are led by Mira (Christine Adams, The Whole Truth), a tough lady who has control of the local quarry filled with meteoric iron, the currency of the land, and who clearly looks out for her own.  My instinct tells me she may ultimately be more trustworthy than Taylor. We'll have to see.

The real action begins when Josh goes "OTG" (outside the gates) with new friend Skye (Allison Miller, Kings) as they run into the creature dangers lurking in the jungle.  The show looks decent for having to rely on a television budget.  It's clear when the actors are standing before a green screen, and the dinosaurs don't have the realism and tangibility they had in Jurassic Park, but if you can accept that and let yourself be submerged in the world of Terra Nova, you're in for an engaging ride.  The physically real compound sets look great and a solid effort is made merging in the CGI - including a very JP scene of a little girl feeding a "veggisaur" (brontasaurus) - and the live action.  I say, concentrate on the characters, the story and the action and you'll enjoy the show.

The last minutes of the pilot set up - as a good pilot should - some dark, ominous plot points and mysteries to unfold to lure you back for more. My curiosity is peaked.

Bottom line: "Terra" should be more viewing of this series in your future.

Catch Terra Nova Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review - Pan Am

"Buckle up. Adventure calls!"

My mother was a flight attendant for TWA in the 60s (they were called stewardesses back then) so I have been looking forward to seeing this new series hoping to get a little insight into her world before I came along.  Of course I know, being a television drama, it will be more about telling stories of romance, scandal, trysts - think Grey's Anatomy in the sky - but within the first five minutes of tonight's premiere, I do have an appreciation of certain rules and standards my mother definitely had to follow - maintaining weight and perfection of appearance, quality of on-board service, a respectable reputation.

The 60s was the Golden Age of Travel.  Flying was an event:  exciting, elegant and glamorous and without the restrictions and precautions we have today in the post-9/11 world.  As for Pan Am, it was the premiere airline of the time, the flagship carrier for the U.S. that flew only international flights.  On board you were personally escorted to your seat. Food, cocktails, pillows and magazines were complimentary and every passenger was treated as first class.  Pan Am stewardesses in particular were deemed feminine icons of the time, turning heads as they walked throughout the terminals to the planes in their pristine, bright blue uniforms and white gloves (this image was also featured in the film Catch Me if You Can, the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose many false identities included impersonating a Pan Am pilot). Back then, being a stewardess was one of the few career opportunities for women that allowed them to see the world.  As said in the pilot episode (pun appropriate?), they were "a new breed of woman."

Pan Am is stylish, looks great and has an ease of storytelling about it.  Solid introductions are made of the recurring in-flight crew, which includes Maggie (Christina Ricci, Saving Grace, Ally McBeal), an independent lady who believes she needs to see the world in order to change it; Kate (Kelli Garner, My Generation), a veteran stewardess with a new secret agenda; Laura (Margot Robbie, Neighbours), Kate's younger sister who ran out on her wedding, followed her sister into the friendly skies and now has sudden fame as the face of the Jet Age thanks to a Life magazine cover; Collette (Karine Vanasse, October 1970), who took the term "layover" literally, having had a relationship with a passenger she now has learned is married; Dean (Mike Vogel, Miami Medical, Grounded for Life), newly promoted captain involved with stewardess Bridget (Annabelle Wallis, The Tudors), who has a secret of her own; and fellow pilot Ted (Michael Mosley, Justified, Scrubs), who definitely has an eye for the ladies in blue.

Backstories for each character are told through flashbacks, giving just enough information to relate to what is happening before, during and after the flight featured in the episode, which I'm guessing is how each will play out during the season.  It's early to tell if the series will get any darker as it goes on or if it will stay in the  moderate drama zone like its time-slot predecessor Brothers & Sisters, which would justify Pan Am's pairing with lead-in Desperate Housewives.  A natural match, too, being that both series focus mainly on the female lead characters.

With beautiful sets, an attractive cast, a terrific soundtrack and nostalgia for an intriguing era, Pan Am is easy to watch and has made a promising debut.

Bottom line: Book your ticket for more flights of fancy on board this series.

Catch Pan Am Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC

Is There Anybody Out There ... Watching?

Well, ratings for the past week have come in and I have to wonder, what's happening?  Seems like nearly every show lost viewers either from last season or the previous week with very few exceptions.  It could be that there is just too much on all at once, but that's what DVRs are for and I think networks are trying to figure out some kind of ratings/tracking system for shows that are watched after their actual air times - a very common practice nowadays. 

Personally, I've never had confidence in the Nielson Ratings system.  I have never in my lifetime met someone who has had a Nielson box in their home or known anyone else to have either.  I know that I personally fall outside of the demographics range given to many shows that I watch (18-34), as are likely countless others, but that fact will never be known because my habits aren't being tabulated.  Question is, who ARE these Nielson families?  WHERE are they and what the heck ARE they watching?

Well, according the afore-mentioned ratings for this past week, these are the winners:

Two and  Half Men - heaven knows they promoted the season premiere enough and had a big enough watch-worthy event - the replacement of Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher - so it's no surprise.  We'll have to see what happens next week.

Another non-surprise - Modern Family.  This is the steamroller of the TV landscape.  Seems it can do no wrong, Emmys sweep and all.  I have not watched the show yet only because I've always had viewing conflicts on that night but I believe it when I'm told how good it is and I'm looking forward to catching up with it when it inevitably comes to syndication.

Happily New Girl also had a big opening week.  I'm a fan, so I was pleased to hear it.

Strong but not stellar debuts/returns included How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, Revenge and Raising Hope. Less than stellar but somewhat solid were the debuts of Charlie's Angels and Prime Suspect (I recommend watching the latter FAR more than the former...).

But the amount of series that all dropped in their numbers is staggering, even shows that have been considered mega-hits, like The Mentalist, Glee, Parks & Recreation and Dancing With the Stars.  And it doesn't seem to matter if the shows are on Monday, Wednesday or the dreaded Friday (which I think has the strongest lineup of shows in years, with Supernatural, Fringe and Nikita), or what network - all seemed to take hits.

Here are some other dippers:

Kitchen Nightmares
Blue Bloods
Hawaii Five-0
The Biggest Loser
Up All Night
Harry's Law
America's Next Top Model
The Office
Vampire Diaries
The Secret Circle

So what, pray tell, is everybody/anybody watching out there?  Please leave comments below and let me know what's in your To-View list.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review - Charlie's Angels

Wow.  I mean ... wow.  There is bad TV and then there's ... this.  I had heard about the retooling.  I had heard about rewrites and other problems.  But I thought, Drew Barrymore is involved and I actually liked the movies.  They were fun, delightfully silly, the cast didn't take themselves too seriously and embraced suspension of disbelief with over-the-top fervor, and it worked.  They were escapist entertaining.  Also, this show is by the same guys that did the long-running, excellent Smallville.  So I went in to this pilot thinking, "How bad could it really be?" 

Oh, dear ...

More often than not, remakes of old series haven't worked - The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider.  Sometimes it's done with stellar execution - Hawaii Five-0Charlie's Angels is definitely of the former.  Where do I even start?  Okay, let's go with the cast.  Acting this bad should be illegal.  Rachael Taylor (Grey's Anatomy - she bothered me on that show, too) is by far the worst.  It's like every line delivery, ever look, every gesture has been premeditated and calculated and comes off not at all natural or likable.  In fact, these are some of the most unlikable characters I've seen in a long time.  The other Angels are Annie Ilonzeh (Melrose Place) and Minka Kelly (Parenthood).  There is zero chemistry between these actresses and they just don't make you care what happens to their characters (Abby, Kate and Eve, respectively), a crucial component of a show necessary to make you want to come back watch them week after week. 

We're supposed to believe these gals are like sisters to each other, yet, when one of the trio introduced in the teaser is killed off in the teaser, I felt nothing.  I couldn't have cared less.  And despite the tears and declarations of "I didn't think my heart could hurt this much" (yep, that's just a sample of the dialogue, but we'll come back to that in a moment), it's so painfully unbelievable, I actually cringed.  Hell, I cringed throughout the whole, agonizing thing.  These women are supposed to be tough, bad-ass, but I wanted to laugh every time they got in someone's face or spoke with the intention to intimidate.  I would have laughed too, if it weren't so damn sad. 

And to believe these women would work for a man they'd never see?  "All Angels get zero face time with the boss," Bosley (The Wire's Ramon Rodriguez - the once father-figure character is now a young, hot Latino and is more like a fourth Angel) instructs new recruit Eve.  The gimmick worked in the original series because of the era and the campiness and in the films because, again, it played into the absurdity (and you had John Forsythe's smarmy, velvet delivery in both cases).  Here?  This show clearly wants us to take it seriously as a drama, so the unseen big-man-boss-thing just doesn't fly.  And not five minutes after Bosley's telling of Rule #1, the Angels playfully coo "Any chance you'll be dropping in on the party, Charlie?"  Gag.  Robert Wagner was originally cast to be Charlie but had to bow out.  Wise choice, sir.  The new Charlie is more of a presence in this series, collaborating with his Angels (via a futuristic looking speaker) whereas before he just bookmarked each episode's beginning and end.  Like his cast mates, when he delivers the line post Angel-death, "Thank God you're okay," it's so flat, so emotionless.  He doesn't seem to care either.

Guess this is as good a time as any to tackle the dialogue.  I think I'll just share a few choice lines and let it set:

"Gloria waved goodbye to that life when she enlisted with Uncle Sam."
"Ding ding!  Love a catfight, but ladies, please, back to your corners."
"Abby puts the cat in cat burglar."
"We're Angels, not saints."

Now for the action ... well, let me say this.  You want action sequences and fight scenes that are amazing and breathtaking and have you on the edge of your seat?  Tune into Hawaii Five-0.  It's perfection.  And Grace Park could kick these ladies' asses with her arms tied behind her back.  More strong women who are believable kicking butt?  Check out Piper Perabo on USA's Covert Affairs or Maggie Q on the CW's Nikita.  Or go back and watch Jennifer Garner on Alias or Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  These ladies?  Not even in the same universe.

I could go on but frankly, I've wasted enough time on this dismal, awful show.  Every commercial break featured a Drew Barrymore Cover Girl ad and I just had to ask her "Why, Drew?  What happened?"  For innocent campy fun, check out the original series or the films - those chicks had chemistry in spades.

Bottom line:  Pray for a quick series demise for these Angels.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review - The New Girl

Quirk is definitely the new cool.  This terrific new comedy premiered tonight on FOX and earns an immediate place as one of the best new comedies of the season.  TV Guide nailed it when they dubbed star Zooey Deschanel "adorkable" and she'll have no trouble sharing the FOX spotlight with big sis Emily (Bones).

Deschenel plays Jessica Day, an overall-wearing, Dirty Dancing-loving, Lord of the Rings-referencing, marching-to-her-own-drummer gal who finds herself newly single after - yep - finding boyfriend Spencer with another girl.  Suddenly homeless, it's Craig's List to the rescue, leading Jess unknowingly to the abode of three single guys (their ad, which used words like "sun-soaked" and "beige-y" was misleading):  Nick (Jake M. Johnson, fairly new to TV), a sweet soul dealing with his own breakup issues; Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr., Happy Endings, My Wife and Kids and the pedigree of being a Wayans), who has no knack for talking to the fairer sex; and Schmidt (Max Greenfield, already a TV veteran with roles on Raising the Bar, Ugly Betty, Greek and Veronica Mars), who single-handedly keeps the trio's "Douchebag Jar" in healthy abundance of cash.

Deschenel is delightfully, playfully awkward and weird as Jess, who admittedly "can't hide the crazy."  She infuses cooky voices in her conversation, dances inappropriately and constantly sings outloud to herself, even making up her own theme song on the spot to pump herself up to start dating again (the ditty is actually used for the series' title sequence with a cute homage to Marlo Thomas' That Girl).  Ally McBeal once went in search of her theme song ... Jess has it covered.

Quite the motley crue this foursome makes, but it works.  The characters compliment each other nicely and you can't help but fall in love with the dudes when, learning that Jess is being stood up on her first date back out there, serenade her - badly - at the restaurant with "I've Had the Time of My Life."  The show doesn't end the number with the stereotypical group applause but instead has the quartet kicked out of the place ... and you thank them for it, cause that's this show.  Nobody puts these guys in the corner!

Bottom line:  These misfits fit right in.

Catch The New Girl Tuesday's at 9 .m. on FOX.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Make Your Monday with Great TV

Set your DVRs for some terrific viewing tonight as these great shows make their returns:

This funtastic CBS comedy is back for its seventh season to tease audiences with more "is she or isn't she the Mother" antics (show is signed for two more seasons so I'm guessing more "isn't" than "is") with lovelorn romantic Ted (Josh Radnor).  This season also celebrates the pregnancy of Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), new romantic and professional pursuits of Canadian darling Robin (Cobie Smolders) and the wedding (say what?) or eternal womanizer Barney (the masterful Neil Patrick Harris).

Check out How I Met Your Mother on CBS at 8 p.m.

Then tune in at 10 p.m. for the return of two great partner-centric cop dramas, CBS' Hawaii Five-0 and ABC's Castle (they go head-to-head, so choose one for live viewing, one for DVR, but don't miss either).

Both shows had shocking finales that shook up the characters' lives and careers last May:

On Five-0, Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) was arrested for the murder of the Governor Pat Jameson (Jean Smart) by the cold and cunning Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) while rookie Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) was suspended for suspicion of the theft from the drug forfeiture locker (sorry to say, she's actually guilty, along with her task force teammates), leaving Detective Danny Williams (Scott Caan) to clear their good names while trying to make sense of the apparent abandonment of the fourth member Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), who went back to the Honolulu PD just in time to arrest McGarrett.  Fortunately, the team will have help with their precarious situation as Lt. Commander Joe White (Terry O'Quinn, reuniting with Lost alum Kim) - McGarrett's former SEAL training officer - comes to the Aloha State to lend a hand for at least six episodes. 

Hawaii Five-0 has lined up an impressive guest cast for their sophomore season, including O'Quinn, Peter Fonda, Patty Duke, Tom Sizemore and more. Surf's up for Season Two!

Over on Castle, we were left with the shocking shooting of Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) at the funeral of Captain Roy Montgomery (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), who was killed after it was revealed he hadn't been the cleanest cop in his early career and whose past caught up with him at last.  Turns out Montgomery was fighting to protect Beckett from imminent danger brought on by her investigating her mother's murder, fearing she was getting too close (guess so, giving the shooting).  By her side is the ever-charming Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), successful mystery novelist-turned-unofficial police detective/comic foible/potential love interest for Beckett (think David Addison and Maddie Hayes on Moonlighting), who finally confessed his love for Beckett after the shooting (too bad she was unconscious).  Will this be the season that end the "will they or won't they" tug of war the show's been teasing for three seasons now?  Wait and see ...

Catch Hawaii Five-0 on CBS and Castle on ABC at 10 p.m.

If you like the actors on these shows, catch them on these other shows:

Josh Radnor - The Court (may be hard to find)
Jason Segel - Freaks and Geeks (on DVD)
Alyson Hannigan - Buffy the Vampire Slayer (on DVD, Chiller channel)
Cobie Smolders - The L Word (on DVD)
Neil Patrick Harris - Doogie Houser, M.D. (on DVD)
Alex O'Loughlin - Three Rivers, Moonlight (on DVD, Rivers streams on Netflix)
Scott Caan - Entourage (on DVD, HBO repeats, syndication)
Daniel Dae Kim & Terry O'Quinn - Lost (on DVD)
Grace Park - Battlestar Galactica (2005) (on DVD, streaming on Netflix)
Nathan Fillion - Firefly (on DVD)
Stana Katic - Heroes guest star (on DVD)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recap - The Emmys

FOX played host to the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, or, as appropriately dubbed by hostess/nominee Jane Lynch (Glee), "The Modern Family Awards" (the show picked up five awards, including Comedy Series, Supporting Actor and Actress).  The show came in at just the 3-hour mark and was paced well with few awkward moments (most of the category intros were presented well, most especially by late night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, who physically tusssled when the former called out the latter for claiming not to have written an acceptance speech in  lieu of The Daily Show's inevitable win (it did) but in fact had.  The bit was pulled off by the two Jimmys with great comic flair.   

Charlie Sheen presented an award and wished the upcoming season of Two and a Half Men well.  Was it sincere?  Little hard to tell, but all was good later when stars Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher presented together with Ashton assuring his new costar that he is not a troll.

The evening opened with a pre-recorded musical number, "TV is a Vast Wonderland!" (couldn't agree more) featuring Lynch first being directed by Leonard Nimoy (Fringe guest star), then walking through the respective sets of and encountering stars from Entourage (Jeremy Piven and Rex Lee), The Big Bang Theory (cast members Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar), Grey's Anatomy (Eric Dane), Weeds (Kevin Nealon), and Mad Men (John Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery and Vincent Kartheiser). 

Perhaps the biggest LOL moment was when the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category came up.  Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) was the first name read and she promptly walked up on the stage and waited.  At first you thought it was just a "yeah, I'm taking the award no matter what" gag, but as each actress called after that, Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Laura Linney (The Big C), Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), came to the stage, you realized it was more an homage to the Miss America pageant, each lady holding hands with the others waiting to be crowned.  McCarthy took the prize and was given a tiara, roses and her Emmy.  Never knowing if it was a pre-planned bit until the end, it was truly a moment.  Well played, ladies!

Little less funny but still well-intentioned were The Emmy Tones, an acapella group who intro-sang each genre of television.  Singers included Zachary Levi (Chuck), Cobie Smolders (How I Met Your Mother), Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story), Kate Flannery (The Office), Wilmer Valderama (That 70's Show) and Joel McHale (Community).

Several pre-recorded bits were intermixed throughout the ceremony, including a humorous segment featuring"Why I don't like my job" direct-to-camera-confessions a la The Office featuring a slew of TV stars.  There was also a musical performance by The Lonely Island (the group oft featured in Saturday Night Lives digital shorts with Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake, though Justin was not present).  Michael Bolton joined in the fun.

One of the better Emmy Award ceremonies but sadly, too few pleasant surprises in the wins.  Judge for yourselves:

And the Emmys went to ...


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Jim Parsons, CBS' The Big Bang Theory (3rd nomination, 2nd win)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Melissa McCarthy, CBS's Mike & Molly (1st nom and 1st win)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell, ABC's Modern Family (2nd nom, 1st win)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Julie Bowen, ABC's Modern Family (2nd nom, 1st win)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kyle Chandler, NBC's Friday Night Lights (3rd nom, 1st win)

Outstanding Lead Actress ion a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, CBS's The Good Wife (8th nom, 2nd win)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Peter Dinklage, HBO's Game of Thrones (1st nom and win)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Margo Martindale, FX's Justified (1st nom and win)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Barry Pepper, Reelz's The Kennedys

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries of Movie
Kate Winslet, HBO's Mildred Pierce

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Guy Pearce, HBO's Mildred Pierce

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Maggie Smith, PBS' Downton Abbey


Outstanding Drama Series
AMC's Mad Men

Outstanding Comedy Series
ABC's Modern Family

Outstanding Reality/Competition Show
CBS' The Amazing Race

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
PBS's Downton Abbey

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Martin Scorsese, HBO's Boardwalk Empire

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Michael Spiller, ABC's Modern Family

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
Brian Percival, PBS' Downton Abbey

Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live


Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Jason Katims, NBC's Friday Night Lights

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Steven Lavitan & Jeffrey Richman, ABC's Modern Family

Outstanding Writing for  Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
Julian Fellowes, PBS' Downton Abbey

Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music of Comedy Series
Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review - Up All Night

Up All Night has one of the strongest casts of the new shows this season, heralding three true comedy veterans: Christina Applegate, who has been starring on television on and off since she was a teenager (you may not know that Married With Children was not her first regular series role: she previously co-starred on the ABC drama Heart of the City).  Later series included NBC's Jesse, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy-winning guest stint on NBC's Friends and most recently the ABC series Samantha Who?, for which she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and 2 Emmy Awards.

Co-starring alongside Applegate is Will Arnett (husband of Parks & Recreation's Amy Poehler).  Best known as George "Gob" Bluth II on the critical and fan favorite FOX series Arrested Development, Arnett has also leant his voice to the animated series Freak Show (Comedy Central) and Sit Down Shut Up (FOX), guest starred as Alec Baldwin's nemesis on NBC's 30 Rock and most recently starred opposite Keri Russell on the FOX series Running Wilde.  

Joining the couple on screen is Saturday Night Live alum Maya Rudolph, coming fresh off the hilarious summer blockbuster Bridesmaids. Rudolph also played a nurse on two CBS series, Chicago Hope and City of Angels and co-starred on the NBC series Kath & Kim.
Applegate and Arnett star as Reagan and Chris, 30-something parents to new baby Amy who find parenthood to be far more than they ever bargained or prepared for.  Very 2011 is Reagan being the breadwinner of the family - producer for a talk show - while Chris is a stay-at-home dad, a common trend of today's modern families. Real-life parents themselves, both stars no doubt have a lot of personal experience to draw on for their characters.

As for the characters, they are very credible and their dialogue feels like actual conversation as opposed to setup-punch-setup-punch.  It feels like you are looking into a real home with real people having real discussions, from finding out they were having the baby to Reagan's going back to work vs. Chris' staying at home to arguing about who has stayed up more with the baby at night.  "At least you don't have to work," comments Reagan.  "Yeah, cause raising a human's no work at all," retorts Chris.  I'm sure stay-at-home parents raised an "amen" to that zinger. 

Rudolph's Ava - Reagan's Oprah-esque boss - is a great catalyst to the couple, especially her inability to relate to their new parental existence.  She often shows up to their home bright-eyed and bushy-haired, ready to party, while Reagan and Chris barely cling to sanity due to lack of sleep.  She gets to be the larger-than-life character, giving nice balance to the trio.

From a Matt Lauer cameo (Reagan believes he's talking to her through the TV) to bleeped-out swearing (making the couple realize they should probably curb the cussing) to a wrestling match with the scarily strong infant, Up All Night is charmingly humble, offering a refreshing, chuckle-worthy perspective to the standard family sitcom landscape.
Bottom line:  Straight "Up" good viewing fun.

Up All Night airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Night TV - 90210 & Ringer

Fall TV officially kicked off for me tonight with the return of the deliciously unrealistic 90210 and the premiere of the noirish drama Ringer, which brings fan favorite Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) back to the small screen.

Say what you will about 90210, it doesn't shirk from tackling a slew of plot points at breakneck speed: college (Naomi, Annie), marriage (Raj and Ivy), proposals (Liam to Annie - twice), cancer (Raj), homosexuality (Teddy), marijuana (Naomi's new pad), love (all), hate (all) and, of course, ridiculous wealth (again, all).  No signs of a recession in these pretty people's lives.  Never ceases to amaze me the copious amounts of alcohol these underagers have access to.  Liam even manages to BUY HIS OWN BAR!  But where there is bad, there is also good: When Teddy struggles to come out to his father, Silver wisely tells him not to apologize for who he is.  Am I actually defending this show?  Well, that's what guilty pleasures are for.  And nice to see Matt Cohen (young John Winchester from Supernatural) working.

One of the more anticipated series this fall is this film noir-esque drama about twin sisters and their many, many secrets.  Sarah Michelle Gellar pulls double duty as Bridget, a recovering addict who is poised to testify against a mob crime boss, and Siobhan (pronounced Shivan), a wealthy New York socialite in a loveless marriage. 

**Episode details follow**

When Bridget takes off on her FBI protector Victor (Lost's Nestor Carbonell), she comes to Siobhan, whom she hasn't seen in six years.  Apparently something bad happened to Siobhan's son Sean years ago with Bridget seemingly to blame, but Siobhan assures her sister that all is forgiven.  Out for a boat ride to catch up, Bridget wakes up hours later to find Siobhan gone, only her wedding ring and an empty pill bottle left behind.

Believing her sister has killed herself, Bridget sees a way out and takes it, despite her own admission that "every time I clean up a mess I end up dirty." She soon finds she has taken on more than she bargained for: an emotionally distant husband (Ioan Gruffudd), a persistent lover - and Siobhan's best friend's husband (Kristoffer Polaha), an angry step-daughter, a surprise pregnancy and, at episode's end, a life-or-death struggle with a masked attacker Bridget thinks is after her, but is actually out to kill Siobhan, who we learn is actually alive and hiding out in Paris.

Pay particular attention to the use of mirrors throughout the show - they are EVERYWHERE - a clever metaphor for reflecting each character's duality back on them.  And, of course, they can't help but think of the other every time they look at themselves - the faces are the same, after all.  But what lies behind each face - the secrets, the lies, the betrayals - is sure to be revealed as the show progresses.

Bottom line:  An intriguing series worthy of a second look...

Catch Ringer on the CW Tuesdays at 9 p.m., immediately following 90210 at 8 p.m.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review - Person of Interest

 I was excited to have the opportunity to see the pilot for Person of Interest before its premiere.  Another brainchild of master-of-intrigue J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost), you know it has to have kick right from the start.

**some slight pilot details ahead, fyi**

The cast is strong, with Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) as John Reese, a former CIA hitman who lives an anonymous existence on the streets of New York.  After he is attacked on a subway - a fight he easily wins - Reese is approached by a billionaire scientist (Lost's Michael Emerson), known only as Mr. Finch, who says he's been watching him for a while and has an intriguing proposition for him: the chance to stop crime before it happens by tracking down the man or woman - i.e. "person of interest" - who tops a list compiled randomly by a machine Finch created, the only input being the person's social security number.  They could be the victim, they could be the perpetrator ... it's initially unknown.  Finch's offer to Reese includes unlimited resources, a slew of identities and most of all, a renewed purpose in life.

It's a lot to lay out in the debut episode, and Reese's acceptance of the job, which he jumps heartily into, happens a little too easily in my book, but the series does grab you from the jump with an intriguing premise: fighting crime in a post-9/11 world where "10,000 eyes and a million ears" keep tabs on everything and everyone (scenes transition cleverly by teasing you with snippets of urban surveillance footage).  The pilot also introduces the series' first (of many more to come, no doubt) raw, hard-hitting action sequence - Reese takes out a gang of thugs to acquire a small gun arsenal - leaving one crony to ask the penultimate question: "Who the hell was that?"

Throughout the episode, watching the interaction between Reese and Finch, one comparison kept jumping into my head, that of Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix. Finch introducing Reese to his New York and its eyes-on-all underworld likens to that of Neo's introduction to the Matrix post red pill-ingestion. Reese definitely seems to be "The One" in Finch's eyes.

There is also, for me, a little similarity to the Clark Kent-Chloe Sullivan relationship on the now-retired Smallville:  Reese taking action out in the city while Finch guides and advises from a command center is liken to Clark fighting the good fight as Chloe guided and assisted him from "Watchtower."

Threads to watch for throughout the season for me will be the reveal of Finch's personal agenda - why he's in on this fight - as well as his physical ailments, including a severe limp and what appears to be a spinal injury; what happened to Reese's girlfriend Jessica, who we learn was killed while Reese was "half a world away;" and Reese's own journey - how far he's willing to go in this fight.  After all, as he says quite matter-of-factly, "I don't particularly like killing people, but I'm very good at it."

Bottom line: worth keeping eyes on ...

Person of Interest premieres on CBS Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review - 2 Broke Girls

At the PaleyFest Fall TV Preview Party for CBS last week, I was able to view the pilots for two of the network's new shows, the working girl sitcom 2 Broke Girls and the highly anticipated drama Person of Interest.


From executive producer Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) and co-creator Whitney Cummings (whose other sitcom Whitney premieres on NBC), 2 Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings as Max, a sassy, street-smart waitress/nanny, and Beth Behrs as Caroline, a privileged uptown girl who loses everything when her father is indicted and her assets are frozen.  Taking on her first job at a Brooklyn diner, Caroline is reluctantly taken under Max's wing, but the two become fast friends, end up rooming together and set out to raise $250,000 and establish a cupcake business.

I don't currently watch many sitcoms - I do seem to like CBS's shows, including How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory - but I have put this one on my list as one to check out.  I'm glad I did.  2 Broke Girls builds on a good foundation ... the Odd Couple scenario is tried and true when it comes to comedy. Its leading ladies are well cast and effectively deliver their dialogue and quips.  The writing is strong, but be prepared for a slew of pop culture references - at least half a dozen in the pilot episode alone, including Jersey Shore, Bravo and "Brangelina." So far it works.

The cast is a racially diverse one, including African-American Garrett Morris (Saturday Night Live) and Asian Matthew Moy (Scrubs). Unfortunately, their characters at the jump embody some of the less-flattering stereotypical traits of their races (attitudes, accents, etc), clearly shooting for the comedy, but it made me cringe a bit.  Will have to wait and see how they further develop.

I'm pleased that Caroline is more Ivanka Trump than Paris Hilton. The character is clearly intelligent, a graduate of Wharton business school, and has morals, resisting the skeevy advances of Max's boyfriend and immediately telling her new friend that she deserves better. It's a classy move and makes you root for her to be accepted and trusted by Max.

Max projects a tough, hard exterior, but you can see that she's going to soften up through her friendship with Caroline, a nice evolution worth watching throughout the season.  She in turn will help Caroline adjust to her new financial circumstances.  It's a setup reminiscent of the beginning of Friends, liken to the relationship between Rachel and Monica.  Not quite as funny as that premiere episode was - Friends' first season was near perfection in my book - but it's a promising start.

Each episode will seemingly be capped off with a tally of the girls' earnings as they strive for their quarter-million-dollar goal, a nice, signature touch.

2 Broke Girls is fast-paced, quippy, has two likable female leads and is definitely worth checking out.

Check back later for my review of Person of Interest ...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Criminal Minds Panel at PaleyFest CBS Premiere Party

Tuesday night I attended the PaleyFest Fall TV Preview Party for CBS's new shows and though I was shut out of the main theater, I had the pleasure of watching the festivities in hi-def, under the star,s on the roof of Beverly Hills' Paley Center.  The evening kicked off with a terrific panel featuring the entire cast of the net's hit procedural drama Criminal Minds, which returns for season 7 Wednesday, Sept. 21.

It was especially cool for me, a kind of unofficial reunion - I co-starred on a Season Four episode. :)

It was great to see previously let-go stars A.J. Cook (Jennifer "J.J." Jareau) and Paget Brewster (Emily Prentiss) back with their on screen family, as was expressed by all repeatedly.  Star Joe Mantegna (David Rossi) tweeted recently about how "the band's finally back together again," adding that in this new season, the "bad-assery is at a new level."  Executive producer Erica Messer was also on hand, sharing that the new season will explore the intricate layers of our heroes more than ever before.

Commenting on what makes their show such a success, Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan) said "You've got seven people that are very different, but we all come together so well .. The chemistry you see here (gesturing to his castmates) is what is put up on the screen."  Added Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia) added, "So many lemons happened ... the testament to everything is how much lemonade is getting made from all of those lemons."  "So this messing with a good thing that happened actually kind of worked," capped Thomas Gibson (Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner).

After being let go, Brewster let it be known that she was going to do a pilot, from which she was advised by the CM powers-that-be that maybe she shouldn't. Her answer? "Well, you kinda broke up with me, so I'm gonna go out there and see what's going on."  Fortunately for the show, the pilot was not picked up, allowing for Brewster's return, making her realize that she'd missed it far more than she was prepared for.  Brewster also commented on how fans' reaction to Prentiss' "death" was overwhelming.

When the show returns, time will have passed - about seven months - and we'll be privy to what the various characters have been up to: J.J. is now a full profiler, Hotch has been in Pakistan, Rossi's been on a book tour, Reid has been dealing with his mother and Morgan has been working to "get redemption for his friend," going after big bad Ian Doyle (Timothy Murphy), having taken Prentiss' death very hard.  Then, of course, there's the return of Prentiss.  Messer, when faced on how to stage/write each character's reaction, rather than dictate what they would do, ultimately she decided to just "sit back and let them react." The result is apparently quite powerful.  "There so much about our show that's done in the silences," commented Moore.

The upcoming season will introduce viewers Rossi's first wife, played by Isabella Hoffman (Dear John, Homicide: Life on the Street).  We may also deal more with (Spencer) Reid's headaches, introduced last season, and maybe a girlfriend? "I don't know," confessed portrayer Matthew Gray Gubler. "I'm always like the last to know."  "They want to know about real life," teased Moore. Gubler: "I got nothing."  Moore: "You're a good actor and a shitty liar."

More teasing occurred when Gibson's recent beard was addressed (and written into the show).  Sporting a healthy 5 o'clock shadow, Gibson stated "I shaved this morning," to which a fully-bearded Mantegna topped "I shaved five minutes ago!"

Garcia will retain her promotion from last season, being the point person for presenting the cases to the team. Happy to have those scenes because it allows her to work with her castmates, she admits that "it's like a festival of inside jokes that I don't know. And they're all laughing, so I'm like, 'What happened?' and then I catch up and then I'm gone again and it's like the first day of school over again."   

The panel ended with a round-robin question posed to all: What character are they jealous of or who would they most like to play?

Vangsness:  It's a six-way tie, but Prentiss is first cause "she's such a bad-ass."
Cook:  Dr. Reid, cause "he's such a nerd.  A nerd and a bad-ass."
Gubler:  Believes he was born to play an unsub (unknown subject, the big bad of each episode). Because the skin under his eyes is dark, he's often mistaken as the unsub by guest stars to the show.
Moore:  "We play the characters we're supposed to play."  Though he believes the coolest parts are the victims and the unsubs.
Brewster:  Often when tweeting, she pretends to be Moore.  Example?  "Yo yo yo, you know what freaks me out? Owls!"
Gibson:  "Anybody without a tie."
Montegna:  SSA "Buffalino" (not sure of spelling, sorry), the agent whose picture hangs in the BAU above the coffee maker.  Apparently he's been on leave for five years...

One more cool fact: the "Wall of Fallen Agents" hanging in the BAU consists of photos of the writers and crew of the show, past and present.

Check out the season premiere of Criminal Minds Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

And check out the Cast's awesome new music video: