Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review - Elementary

For years CBS has been the king network of the procedural genre.  So it was just a matter of time before they brought the original top investigator to the airwaves.  And they've done it well with Elementary.

Mind you, this show about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes set in modern times is coming out in the shadow of the incredibly popular BBC series Sherlock, but since I've never seen that show, I get to come into this premise fresh.  Not to mention I'm a fan of both leads.

The lowdown:  In present day New York, Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller, Eli Stone, Dexter) works as a consultant for the police, solving crimes with his mastery for seeing what others can't.  As he puts it, "I don't guess, I observe and I after I observe, I deduce."  The rub is that he's a recovering drug addict fresh out of rehab and has the tendency to be short-tempered, antsy and at times a bit unstable.  Enter Joan Watson (Lucy Liu, Southland, Ally McBeal) - yep, Holmes' sidekick is now a woman - a "companion" assigned to live with Holmes for six weeks to help he re-acclimate into his life and society.

Holmes immediately starts deducing things about her - her past, her personal demons and especially why she's no longer a surgeon - putting her on the defense but intriguing her at the same time.  How could he know so much about her?  In traditional fashion, Holmes walks us through how he comes to his conclusions, detailing what he sees and how the clues come together to create the whole picture.  He is reluctant to have Watson along and yet, when he challenges her too much and she walks, he realizes that he didn't mind having her around so much, especially when she displays a talent for deduction of her own.  When they solve the crime-of-the-week together, a beautiful partnership is born and an interesting new series is born.

Elementary is a very intelligent show without being too high-brow.  It's a series that's clearly going to be about the cases, the clues and how Holmes and Watson work together to solve the mystery and work out their relationship.  This is not going to be a romantic show, a la Moonlighting or Castle - at least I hope it isn't - and I'm glad.  I like the way Miller and Liu play off each other - reminds me of The X-Files' Mulder and Scully.  They're equals, even if Holmes' ego may at times make him deem himself slightly above her in status.  The beauty is that Watson isn't going to take that from him, and that's a tribute to Liu's portrayal.  I buy her in the role and I am pleased with Miller's Holmes.  Not to mention he finally gets to use his natural British accent!

I think this show is a nice addition to the CBS lineup.  I appreciate the filming style, it has moments of humor, a great cast and the pilot impressed me.

Bottom Line:  Elementary, my dear Tourists!  Watch this show.

Elementary premieres tonight, Thursday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. on CBS

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reviews - Vegas and Made in Jersey

At the CBS Preview Party hosted by the Paley Center for Media, I was able to see two of the network's new procedurals - I call them that not because they necessarily exactly fit that genre of show but enough so in that they look like they will be featuring a case-of-the-week format - Vegas and Made in Jersey.

I didn't love either show tremendously, but didn't dislike them either.  Here's my take:

This new show starring Harrison Ford ... sorry, I mean Dennis Quaid, who was SO channeling Ford (if you watch the pilot this week, you'll see what I mean) - this is his first TV series - is based on the life of Ralph Lamb, who was a soldier-turned rodeo cowboy-turned rancher-turned sheriff in Vegas in the 60s.  Michael Chiklis (The Shield, No Ordinary Family) co-stars as mob kingpin Vincent Savino, whose dealings were thwarted by Lamb's efforts.  Vegas also stars Carrie-Anne Moss (Chuck) as Assistant D.A. Katherine O'Connell and Michael O'Neill (Necessary Roughness, Grey's Anatomy) as Mayor Ted Bennett, who knows Lamb from their military days and ultimately recruits him after the current sheriff is murdered.

I have to be honest, while I like Quaid a lot (catch him when he's on Ellen - they have a running bit that is hysterical), I found myself tuning out and thinking about other things halfway through the pilot, which is never a good sign.  The pilot episode didn't feel like a first episode, but more like a 4th or 5th.  Plus I didn't get why someone would choose to tell this man's story.  Not knowing anything about the real Ralph Lamb, the pilot didn't really intrigue me enough to watch more and find out.  The episode did have a cool few moments - Quaid's Lamb plays a very cool game of chicken with a car - and you know his play-by-his-own-rules, do-things-his-own-rough-and-tumble-and-others-be-damned way is sure to create dramatic tension and interesting showdowns down the road, I'm gonna pass on adding this show to my DVR Season Pass lineup.

That's not to say it's a terrible show.  It's not.  It's just not for me.  Justified is much better.

Now this show I went into with the lowest of expectations.  I mean, I am SO over the portrayal of my home state on TV - Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jerseylicious - just typing these titles makes me cringe.  So when I first read about this show and the description of lead character Martina Garetti (Janet Montgomery, Human Target, Entourage) - heavy accent, big, loud family, in-your-face attitude - and saw that Snooki-esque hair bump atop her head, I thought, here we go again.

But as the pilot episode went on, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself liking it.  I like that Martina is an underdog who fights with real smarts.  She's intelligent and savvy and rather likeable in a grows-on-you kind of way.  You want to root for her.  The show co-stars Kyle MacLachlan (Desperate Housewives) as Martina's boss and Donna Murphy (Trust Me, Hack) as her mother.

To be honest, a similar show that I really like and would recommend more is USA's Fairly Legal starring Sarah Shahi.  She, too, is a pistol who fights with cleverness and sass, does things her own way and is often annoying to her coworkers but endearing to us.  It's a better show, but I liked the pilot for Jersey and would give it another look if it weren't in direct conflict with two other shows I love and am committed to:  FOX's Fringe and the CW's Nikita.  Maybe online ...

Bottom Line:  Wouldn't bet on Vegas but make a plan to catch Made in Jersey.

Vegas premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on CBS
Made in Jersey premieres Friday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on CBS

Saturday, September 22, 2012

LifeBites Emmy Commentary

Hey Tourists!

Your TV Tour Guide has done her very first video entertainment segment!  It's for LifeBites LIVE and it's all about the Emmys, which air this Sunday, Sept. 23 at 8p EST/5p PST on ABC.

Check it out!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review - Partners

The CBS Premiere Party at the Paley Center for Media featured a screening of this new sitcom followed by a panel with the cast and creators, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the same team behind Will & Grace.

W&G was loosely inspired by an event in Kohan and Mutchnick's life and led to eight nearly-always hysterical seasons (show featured a terrific cast including Eric McCormack as Will, Debra Messing as Grace and the magical comic duo of Jack, played by Sean Hayes, and Karen, played by Megan Mullally).  Trying for years to put more of their real-life, decades-long friendship on screen, Kohan and Mutchnick finally have in Partners.

If only it was as funny as W&G.  It's not, at least the pilot isn't.
The creators said in the panel that they are not trying to make any political statements with their show - which follows the relationship between straight man Joe (David Krumholtz, Numbers) and gay man Louis (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty) and their respective mates Ali (Sophia Bush, One True Hill) and Wyatt (Brandon Routh, Chuck) - like, say, The New Normal may be doing.  "We just want to entertain as many as we can;  no teaching, just hopefully making people laugh," said Mutchnick.

I didn't laugh.  I barely chuckled.  And being that W&G was a show I consistently laughed at, that's a shame.

So what's the problem?  I think maybe, at least in the pilot, they're trying way too hard.  I swear, when the characters were talking and came to the joke - which they seemed to do with almost every line - the actors actually paused and gave a "look" ... you know, like "insert laugh here" or the way Ricky blatantly reacted to Lucy in I Love Lucy.  It worked then.  Now, it's just obvious and a little sad. 

There's a supporting character, Joe and Louis's assistant in their architecture firm (didn't catch her name), that portrays the worst of the Latino stereotype with the super-heavy accent and, I kid you not, she actually used the line "I will cut you" when putting the guys in their place.  Later there was an actual boob-smoosh - no doubt an homage to Jack and Karen.  Doesn't replicate here at all.

Then there's Ali, Joe's girlfriend, who's beautiful, successful and clearly wrestling with the fact that she has to share Joe with Louis (with whom she reluctantly does yoga). Nothing new there ... I mean all of Will and Grace's love interests had to deal with the same issue, but with them it was funny, it worked.  Here - and to be fair I've only seen the one episode - not so much.

And we have Routh's Wyatt, who is Louis' boyfriend.  He's a male nurse, a profession Wyatt's proud of but Louis has a problem with - it's embarrassing to him.  So we'll get jokes about that but not enough to sustain the funny.  I appreciate Routh wanting to do comedy.  He said at the panel that that's what he loved about playing Clark Kent in Superman Returns.  Can he pull it off?  Only time will tell ... hard to say from the pilot since he didn't have that much to do.
The end of the episode had the quartet sitting together with Ali stating what is clearly the heart of the show:  there are four people at the table but three couples.  The series will undoubted play off this premise and explore those relationships, the subsequent conflicts, etc. The creators said they will incorporate things that happened in their own friendship, so that could be interesting. Maybe it was just a weak pilot and the show will get better.  But other ensemble sitcoms have been hysterical right from the start, including other CBS fare How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls.

And of course, Will & Grace.  See where I'm going with this?  If you want a funnier show with this relationship premise and a quartet of comical characters, go with that one.

Partners premieres Monday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review - Revolution

Okay, I have to confess I went into the pilot of this new NBC fantasy drama a bit biased.  How could I not when it comes from a trio of creators I have incredible respect for:  J.J. Abrams (executive producer), who has been behind some of my favorite series including Fringe, Alias, Lost and Felicity; Jon Favreau (executive producer and pilot director), who I like both as an actor and director; and last but certainly not least, Eric Kripke (series creator), who brought forth my very favorite series, Supernatural.

So to say I had high hopes for Revolution is an understatement.  But I had to also remind myself to look at the pilot as its own entity and determine if it's going to be a show I'll want to stick with.  It is, at least for a while.

The lowdown (SOME MILD SPOILERS AHEAD):   On an ordinary evening, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee, The Good Wife, Lie to Me) rushes home in a panic and tells wife Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost, V) to get things ready to go. "It's happening, isn't it?" she asks, terror in her eyes.  The "it" she's referring to is the mysterious, sudden and complete loss of every single piece of technology - computers, planes, cars, phones, even lights, all electricity on the whole - across the globe.
Jump to 15 years later and a world that has emerged without modern conveniences which we have become so incredibly dependent on (looks very much like I Am Legend).
What follows is a journey of hope and rebirth seen through the eyes of strong-willed daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos, Being Human) and quiet son Danny (Graham Rogers, Memphis Beat).

After Ben is killed (mom passed years before) and Danny is kidnapped by militia leaders - led by Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) under the orders of General Monroe (David Lyons, The Cape) - Charlie heads off with family friend Aaron (Zak Orth, 30 Rock, Fringe) and town doctor Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips, Animal Kingdom) to get help from estranged uncle Miles (Billy Burke, Rizzoli & Isles, 24), a former U.S. Marine living a reclusive life.

Turns out Ben was directly involved in what caused the global blackout and Miles may have knowledge about it and may be the key to getting the power turned back on.  The "actual" key to doing so seems to be a fancy flash drive Ben entrusted to Aaron before his death.
And it's not the only one.  Grace (Maria Howell, The Vampire Diaries, Army Wives), a woman who helps Danny during a brief escape attempt, also has one.  So one mystery for the series is established - just how many of these drives are out there, how do they work and are they truly the answer to bringing back the power?

Thus Revolution follows Charlie and her rogue band of survivors as they set out to rescue Danny, overthrow the militia and ultimately re-establish the United States of America while exploring the enduring mystery of why the power failed, and if - or how - it will ever return.

Obviously this is a very ambitious premise to undertake, and such a one has been tried before with great success (Lost), with some early success (Heroes) and with not-so-much success (Flash Forward, The Event).  I suppose the series life of Revolution will depend on if they can keep the preliminary momentum established going without getting too bogged down in subplots and heavy-handed mythology, as has happened with some of those other series.
As for the cast, Spiridakos is a new face for me.  I can see the producers establishing her as liken to Katniss from The Hunger Games (right down to her bow and arrow) - a fighter, independent, a survivor.  She didn't hit it out of the park for me in the pilot, but since the story centers around her, I'll give her a chance to grow on me.  Burke is good as Miles - surly, bittter, and one who definitely kicks ass (there's an awesome fight sequence in the third act not to be missed).  Orth should provide some nice comedy as quirky billionaire (thanks to Google) Aaron who would gladly trade his nest egg for a decent roll of TP.  And I like Mitchell and will look forward to seeing her in flashbacks that will surely help fill in the story of what happened to this family directly following the blackout and the years following.

The story itself does make you think.  Just look around your life, the things in your home, things we all take for granted.  How many times have you forgotten your cell phone only to wonder what the hell you were going to do?  Imagine no medical tech, no air conditioning, no microwave and, for people like me, no TV!!  It's a scary thought.  The question is, how realistic is this premise?  Remember the panic before Y2K?  Certainly something to think about, discuss, debate and now, to watch, at least through the eyes of the powers behind Revolution.

I would definitely give the show a view.  Not sure it's for everyone, but if you are a fan of the overcoming-global-catastrophe genre, then this is one for you.  As for me, I'm gonna have to find a way to watch it online or after the fact, as it goes head-to-head with two of my favorite returning series, Hawaii Five-0 and Castle.

Bottom Line:  Power up for the Revolution.

Revolution premieres on Monday, Sept. 17 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review - The New Normal

First let me start off by saying kudos to the nets.  I am thrilled that today's television landscape is including programming that represents what the increasingly typical family model is today:  a unit consisting of a mix of people from previous marriages or by race, by age or sexual orientation, or a combination of these and more, like ABC's appropriately named Modern Family

NBC this fall has The New Normal, with two gay men at the heart of the show who are trying to have a baby.  Naturally there's been flack by conservative parties speaking out against the series, but I applaud the network for the effort.

Now if only I could say I love the show.  Alas ...

I'm a fan of the man behind this series, Ryan Murphy.  I was on board with FOX's Glee from day one (though I'm wary about the upcoming season, but more on that another time) and FX's American Horror Story was some super-twisted fun and looks to be again with the upcoming AHS: Asylum (could these shows BE more different??). 

But here, perhaps the most mainstream of the three, I think it's almost trying too hard.  It has a likeable enough cast and a good premise, and they certainly set up the story in the pilot episode well enough, but between hitting you with  blatant affirmations and perhaps one of the most unlikeable characters on TV (Ellen Barkin's Nana makes Glee's Sue Sylvester look like Polyanna), it just didn't grab me.
Here's the scoop:  Bryan (Andrew Rannells, hot off The Book of Mormon and HBO's Girls) and David (Justin Bartha of The Hangover films) are a successful L.A. couple who have almost everything - careers, home, love - except a baby, which they begin pursuing via a surrogate in the pilot episode.
 Enter Goldie (Georgia King, Sugartown), a broken-down waitress and single mother who decides she needs to change her circumstances for her daughter Shania's (Bebe Wood) sake.  She also desperately needs to get out from under her judgmental, bigoted grandmother (the aforementioned Nana). 
Goldie is introduced to Bryan and David through a surrogacy service called Expanding Families - run by Gary (Michael Hitchcock, Men of a Certain Age, The United States of Tara) after the couple goes through a challenging narrowing-down process that included a womb-blackmailing nightmare and a surprise cameo by Gwyneth Paltrow (she's an old friend of Murphy's, having done a wonderful turn on Glee).  On insemination day, Nana tracks down Goldie and expresses her disapproval with a rant of the most un-PC content I've heard in a long time.  Seriously, there's is nothing to like about this character.  At least Sue Sylvester has moments of sympathy and heart.  Not this woman.  I see nothing redeeming, and it's not funny.

That's one of the enigmas of this show.  It's classified as a comedy, but that really doesn't fit here.  Definitely not a laugh-out-loud program ... I didn't even chuckle.  I'd call this more of a "life study" if there were to be such a genre.  The comedy I suppose will come from Rocky, played by Nene Leakes (The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Celebrity Apprentice and most recently ... you guessed it:  Glee), who is doing what she does best - playing a speak-your-mind, brazen, confrontational woman who will obviously have many face-to-face-offs with Nana, and Shania, a 30-year-old in the body of an eight-year-old.  She's a precocious one, but nothing we haven't seen before.  And the Twitter references are gonna get old real fast.

Rannell's Bryan isn't as ... flamboyant as say, Sean Hayes' Jack on Will and Grace was, but he's definitely the wife in the marriage.  He has a sweet face, you do buy his desire to be a parent and the two male leads make a nice couple.  King is also sweet, but seriously, between her wide eyes and gentle voice and her affirmation-spouting nature, it's too much.

  • When Nana asked what Goldie's daughter could learn from her mother doing this, Goldie replies "That you can be whatever you want to be no matter how many people tell you you're nothing."
  • Another winner:  "I need to help these guys ... and myself."
  • And:  "A family is a family.  Love is love."
  • Let's not forget:  "Abnormal is the new normal."
  • Not to be outdone, David had one of his own:  to Goldie, "You gave us ... you gave me hope.  We want to help make your dreams come true because you're helping us with ours."
I think I got a cavity after this episode.  Look, I'm all for positivity and happiness for characters, I just don't want to be hit over the head with it so blatantly in 22 minutes, you know?
I also wish Goldie and the guys had met differently, by chance.  The fact that it was through the agency just didn't seem creative enough for me.  Would another way have been more contrived or unoriginal, maybe, but I still would have preferred it.

I may give the second and third episodes a chance, just because I want to support (without getting to political) a program that does celebrate the freedom to be together regardless of what conservative society dictates.  But the Nana character is a problem.  I'm sure the writers are counting on using Rocky to put her in her place as often as possible, but you can't rely on that in the long run.  And whether this will find its identity as a "comedy" remains to be seen.

Bottom Line:  I can neither recommend nor condemn ...

The New Normal premieres this Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 9:30 p.m. PST on NBC

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One Actor - Two Substantial Roles Part Three

Hello again!  Here is the final part of my feature about one actor playing two significant roles they will likely be remembered for.  Please do weigh in on which part YOU think is more memorable in the comments below!

Alex O'Loughlin - Mick (Moonlight) or Steve McGarrett (Hawaii Five-0)?

Daniel Dae Kim - Jin (Lost) or Chin Ho Kelly (Hawaii Five-0)?

Grace Park - Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Battlestar Galactica) or Kono Kalakaua (Hawaii Five-0)?

Lucy Lawless - Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess) or Diana (Battlestar Galactica)?

Marcia Cross - Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Melrose Place) or Bree Van de Kamp (Desperate Housewives)?

Come back for my upcoming reviews of The New Normal, Revolution and my coverage from the PaleyFest Fall TV Preview Parties!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Actor - Two Substantial Roles Part Two

Welcome back, Tourists!  Here is Part Two of my series profiling one actor portraying two significant roles.  So once again, let us know which you think they'll be remembered for more!

David Boreanaz - Angel (Angel) or Agent Seeley Booth (Bones)?

Nathan Fillion - Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly) or Rick Castle (Castle)?

Adam Baldwin - Jayne Cobb (Firefly) or John Casey (Chuck)?

Ian Somerhalder - Boone (Lost) or Damon Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries)?

Thomas Gibson - Greg (Dharma & Greg) or SSA Aaron Hotchner (Criminal Minds)?

Leave your comments below and tune in tomorrow for Part Three!

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Actor - Two Substantial Roles - Part One


Pursuing an acting career is no easy feat - most actors are lucky to work at all.  When one has successful and varied career, they'll have the opportunity to play many different people.   Then there are those who create a character that becomes a legacy for them - Jaleel White's Steve Urkel, Bill Cosby's Cliff Huxtable, Telley Savalas' Kojak ... they may play other parts, but when you say their name, your mind instantly goes to that signature character.

But some actors actually strike lightning twice, portraying two distinct characters that, thanks to the actor's talent, are different enough to warrant a debate: which role will they be remembered for more?

Now you can judge for yourself!  Over the next few days, I'll be listing a series of actors and their two signature roles.  Let me know in your comments which you think is their more memorable character and why!

Michael C. Hall - David Fisher (Six Feet Under) or Dexter Morgan (Dexter)?


Alyson Hannigan - Lily (How I Met Your Mother) or Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)?

Callista Flockhart - Ally McBeal (Ally McBeal) or Kitty Walker (Brothers & Sisters)?

 Joshua Jackson - Pacey Witter (Dawson's Creek) or Peter Bishop (Fringe)?

Larry Hagman - Major Tony Nelson (I Dream of Jeannie) or J.R. Ewing (Dallas)?

Leave your comments below and tune in tomorrow for more!