Friday, February 28, 2014

Review - Mixology


Welcome to mid-season!  While many cable shows are making their long-awaited returns (among them TV Tour Guide faves TNT's Dallas and Rizzoli & Isles and USA's Suits), the major nets are starting to premiere many new shows, among them ABC's Mixology.


Written by The Hangover's Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and executive produced by many including Ryan Seacrest (yep, yet another job for the man), Mixology takes place in the high-end Manhattan bar, Mix, and follows the exploits and romantic pursuits of ten singles over the course of one night. The 13-episode freshman season stars a cast of relative unknowns:  Blake Lee (Parks and Recreation) is Tom, recently dumped by his fiancĂ©e and out on the town for the first time in a decade with best pals Cal (Craig Frank, 8.13) and Bruce (Andrew Santino, Punk'd); Ginger Gonzaga (Legit), is Maya, an equally beautiful and brutal attorney who’s as beautiful as she is brutal;  engaged (for now) Liv (Kate Simses); aggressive single mom Jessica (Alexis Carra); Jessica’s gorgeous and chic frenemy Fabienne (Frankie Shaw); bubbly cocktail waitress Kacey (Vanessa Lengies, Glee); dark, mysterious bartender Dominic (Adan Canto, The Following); and failed internet entrepreneur Ron (Adam Campbell), who’s having the worst night of his life.

Wow.  Um.  Where to start?  Well, how about the fact that we have a show where the guys are kind-of average joes but all the women are smoking hot?  Yes, it's TV.  Yes, this bar is in Manhattan.  But they couldn't throw a single regular looking woman into the "mix", even in the background?

I'm not a regular bar patron, so I can't say first hand what men discuss while scoping the scene trying to pinpoint who to hit on.  And yes, I know TV dialogue isn't meant to exactly mirror reality, and in most cases I accept that.  It's par for the course, especially in a sitcom.  Friends did it brilliantly in the coffee shop.  And for the ladies, we had Sex and the City, which is still one of my all-time favorite shows (funny enough, both these shows were mentioned in the first scene with our lead guys).    But here, with lines like "kind of want to eat off her butt" and "the higher the heels, the looser she feels" - just creeped me out.  Then there's the reason Bruce has Kleenex strewn all about his apartment.  Not because guys need tissues to blow their noses or for guests.  Nope.  Because he "pops off" everywhere.  Ew.

Side note:  I always wonder why things like this - raunch humor - work so well for me on certain shows (case in point, CBS' 2 Broke Girls) but not on others.  My TV viewing enigma ...

Anyway, back to Mixology.  The show moves very fast, jumping around the bar to hone in on how everyone's night is going.  It's also yet another show that is making use of the narrative voice over (in this case, it's Bruce) and flashback vignettes to fill you in on the characters' pasts, histories, etc.  It's a helpful way to avoid long blocks of exposition, but while I still enjoy this trend on certain shows (ABC's delightful The Goldbergs), and does seem to work here, it's starting to become too common a go-to storytelling device.  For this show, I kind of wish the writers felt they had enough to work with to keep us within the bar, if that is the unique premise I think they want us as viewers to acknowledge - one night, one bar.  But to be fair, that might not be interesting enough to carry through 13 episodes.

Mixology reminded me a lot of the movie Swingers, with Tom here being Jon Favreau's sweet-hearted, broken Mike and Bruce being Vince Vaughn's chauvinistic, womanizing Trent.  There's also the more recent Crazy, Stupid, Love (insert Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling into the roles, respectively).  I love Swingers. I adore CSLMixology ... eh.  I guess with so much to watch these days, it's going to take an amazing show that nabs me right from the jump to win me over.  I may be being unfair to Mixology, but that's how it goes. 

Then again, when I see the show embracing low-brow humor similar to that featured in The Hangover - a movie franchise I really didn't enjoy - like when beer is poured over a baby seconds after it's born, I forgive myself for rash judgment.

Admittedly, I do wonder what's going to happen, being that the show covers just one night.  If it's renewed, will it just each season be a different night with the same people in the same bar - this group's Central Perk - or will it carry on to their ongoing lives stemming from this night forward?

A positive - I do like the last line of the pilot:  "This is the story of 10 strangers, one night and all the ridiculous things we do to find love ... and the night has just begun."

BOTTOM LINE:  I can see Mixology mixing it up with ABC's lineup, but not necessarily with mine.

Mixology airs Wednesdays at 9:30 pm on ABC.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catch Up on ... Sleepy Hollow


Back in September I reviewed the pilot episode of FOX's new supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow.  I liked it, but had so much else to watch that I decided, since it was only going to be 12 episodes, to stockpile the season on my DVR and watch a full run.

So glad I did!

This is a terrific show, combining elements of horror, action, history and comedy with two great leads who have fantastic chemistry, a terrific supporting cast and wicked cool special effects and story lines. 

There are a lot of things in Sleepy Hollow that remind me of other shows:  the partnership between Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie's "Leftenant" Abbie Mills is much like The X-Files' Mulder and Scully or, more recently, CBS' Elementary's Holmes and Watson.  The latter because of the mixture of personalities:  Crane's fish-out-of-water manner (having lived in Revolutionary times, he has been awakened 200 years later into modern day) is similar to Holmes' fish-out-of-water manner - he's just ... eccentric.  Plus you've got the physical similarities - tall men paired with shorter women.


There's also a lot of story elements that I've heard of before on Supernatural, including demons, possession, the Four Horsemen, Devil's Traps, etc.  Supernatural has covered these and more over nine seasons.  Sleepy Hollow has done it in one short season - and really well.


The show throws you right into the battle to prevent the end of days.  Turns out the famed Headless Horseman from the original legend here has been turned into the horseman for Death.  The show keeps a lot of factual things from Washington Irving's story - names, relationships, etc - but it has also taken liberties to heighten the drama and suspense for the sake of the show.  And there are witches!

Sleepy Hollow also has one of the best season finales I've seen in a long time - and it's only season one! I won't give it away, but it felt like something that would end a third season - it was at that level of OMG/WTF?!?  Very exciting.  And very glad there will be a second season, with what they left us with!

Then there's Mison.  He's quite yummy and perfectly portrays a man who is from another time trapped in a world he doesn't comprehend but has to adjust to (this is where much of the comedy comes in).  His voice is like butter and he's quite adept at handling the language/way of speaking that existed in the Revolutionary era. (when he leaves a voice mail, it's versed like he were writing a formal letter).

He and Beharie make a great team.  I love the return of John Noble (Fringe) to the small screen and the supporting cast - Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, John Cho, Clancy Brown - bring a lot to the table. 

It's no surprise I like Sleepy Hollow.  The duo behind it is Alex Kurtzman (L) and Roberto Orci, who have really become faves of mine - and have been for a while without my knowing - having worked on/written for/executive produced show favorites like Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena the Warrior Princess and Alias, and more recently Fringe,  the new Star Trek movies and CBS' Hawaii Five-0.  You go guys!

I highly recommend catching up with Sleepy Hollow before the second season premieres in the fall.  It is available now on DVD through Netflix.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Tonight Show - Goodbye, Jay, Hello Jimmy


I was not a regular viewer of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, but as I do with many monumental television goodbyes, I did tune in for his final week (as I did the last time he left the show ... this time it's for good) and enjoyed a collection of great, funny and touching moments with celebrity guests and finally, a very heartfelt, teary goodbye from the man himself, who was signing off as host for the last time after nearly 22 years (his tenure began on May 25, 1992).

I had the pleasure of seeing Jay and the show live with my dad, and I'm glad to have had that opportunity.  The Tonight Show is moving back to New York after almost 40 years, leaving us LA folks with local, live late night fare from Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Arsenio Hall and Craig Ferguson.

Jay was only the fourth person to host The Tonight Show, following Steve Allen, Jack Paar and the legendary Johnny Carson (who held the position the longest, just shy of 30 years).  Conan O'Brien took over briefly (less than a year) in 2009 when Leno moved his show - unsuccessfully - to 10 p.m.  The following January Leno was back behind the desk.  This time he is leaving for good, and it's been a much more amicable exit, with Leno getting along very well with new host Jimmy Fallon and passing the torch with grace and dignity.

Unlike his fellow hosts, Jay worked solo with no sidekick (Johnny had Ed McMahon, David Letterman has Paul Shaffer, Conan has Andy Richter, Jimmy Kimmel has Guillermo Rodriguez, Jimmy Fallon has Steve Higgins) and was not one for outlandish comedy, like impressions and skits.  He did establish gems like "Headlines" and "Jay-Walking."  But as he said, it's time for the next generation to take over.

As with The Tonight Show, I have not been a regular viewer of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which ended its 5-year, 969-episode run last night.  I did watch his two-hour best-of special and got an idea of the type of comedy his show does.  It's much sillier with lots of sketches, impressions, and music played by Fallon himself (he plays guitar and drums).  He gets his celebrity guests to do a lot of outrageous things and there's no shortage of Fallon cracking up (he was known for doing so a lot on Saturday Night Live).  But he definietly has fun and seems to appreciate his good fortune.  He has also expressed numerous times his gratitude and humbleness over being chosen to succeed Leno, and you can tell he really takes pride in the history of The Tonight Show and vows to carry that on ... bringing back a type of comedy that more closely resembles Carson than Leno (Fallon is even bringing back the word "starring" in the title, as it was with Carson).  I wonder how much of his current Late Night bits he'll bring over (meaning I wonder if NBC will have a say in what stays and what goes).

Fallon's sidekick, as I mentioned before, is Steve Higgins, who I learned while watching the final Late Night episode was a writer/producer on Saturday Night Live during Fallon's tenure.  The man was thrilled to hear Fallon had been chosen to take over LN from Conan and will be moving to TTS -which will tape in the larger studio right across the hall from the current LN one - with him.

In any case, this seems to be a much better transition than the one before (sorry, Conan), and I look forward to seeing how this new late night regime will carry out.

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon premieres Monday, Feb. 17 at 11:30 pm on NBC.