Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reviews - Selfie and Manhattan Love Story

Just a little note before we move onto the reviews:  a very savvy friend of mine gave me a great idea - after I give my familiar BOTTOM LINE closing, I'm going to give each show's watchability a TV star rating, four TVs being must-see, three TVs being worth-checking-out, two TVs being watch or don't watch but ok to miss, and one TV being skip it completely.  Let me know in the comments if you like this.

Now, on to the reviews!

ABC premiered two of its new sitcoms tonight, Selfie and Manhattan Love Story.  Without knowing too much, these seem like a good pairing, both seemingly cute, lighthearted series.  So how are they?

First there was Selfie, which stars two actors I really like:  Karen Gillan, who I was first introduced to as Amy Pond, one of the most popular companions on BBC America's Doctor Who, and John Cho, who has done everything from American Pie (he was one of the "MILF!" guys) to the Harold & Kumar movies to the Star Trek reboot (he's Sulu) to most recently FOX's Sleepy Hollow.  So my hopes were high.  I also liked the concept going in:

Selfie is about a young woman, Eliza Dooley (Gillan), who is obsessed with social media.  Her life revolves around her web presence (263,000 followers and counting) and persona, marking virtually every moment of her life with posts, tweets and selfies.  But when reality hits - that being "friended" is not the same as having actual friends - she enlists her co-worker marketing guru, Henry (Cho), to 'rebrand' her self-involved reputation and teach her how to connect to the world and the people around her.

Of course this is a new take on the classic Pygmalion/My Fair Lady (even going with Dooly/Dolittle and Henry, as in Higgins).  Once again we have a voice-over giving commentary throughout (seriously, like EVERY sitcom has this now!! - this particular one reminds me of Carrie on Sex and the City).  Right off the bat this is, as a friend rightly put it, is a woman you want to punch in the face. Hard.  But that means Gillan is doing her job (and decently hiding her natural Scottish accent behind obnoxious mean girl speak), making you believe this is someone who wouldn't have friends in real life and is oblivious to it.  She pulls off the "it's all about me" attitude, and she does it in just a couple of minutes, before a very public downfall (on a flight, two airsick bags full of puke explode all over her in front of dozens of her co-workers ... following her discovery that the guy she's been sleeping with is married) occurs and you immediately feel sorry for her.


Eliza:  " I spent years laughing at stupid idiots on the internet, and now that stupid idiot was me." she woes, retunring to her seat as everyone snaps photos of her humiliation amid floating social media icons (clever).

Of course the change isn't going to happen overnight, and Eliza is still going to say things and act in ways that spur anything but sympathy, but you know there's the possibility, and that's worth watching.  Cho is a very versatile actor, and I like him in this role (and yay for an Asian leading man!), plus he and Gillan make good comic foils. Just please, writers, do NOT get them romantically involved!  They work just the way they are.

Points for Gillan's decent wig (she shaved her head last year for the role of Nebula in this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy) - I hear they actually made it from her own hair (which is spectacular ... if I could have that color red ...).  Extra points to putting Cho in a bowtie - perhaps a nod to Gillan's former Doctor Who costar Matt Smith, whose Doctor always wore bowties?

I may be biased because I like the cast so much, but I really like Selfie and think it's one of the stronger new shows.

BOTTOM LINE:  #watchthisshow, #selfieisfun, #YTTTGokaysSelfie

Selfie airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.

Manhattan Love Story is "the love story where you'll never ask 'What were they thinking?' because you'll already know."  This romantic comedy stars Analeigh Tipton (Hung, America's Next Top Model) and Jake McDorman (Shameless) as Peter and Dana, a newly dating couple who will expose the differences between men and women through their unfiltered thoughts - and often contradictory actions.  Co-starring Nicholas Wright (Sensitive Skin), Jade Catta-Preta (Califonication) and Kurt Fuller (Supernatural, Psych).

Okay, here we have voice-over,  but not in the usual sense.  As explained above, we're hearing Peter and Dana's thoughts, so there is a lot of reacting by the two leads as we watch them emoting (or fake-emoting) while hearing what they're thinking.  Of course in real life there wouldn't be nearly as much silence during a conversation.  It's all about the gimmick here. There is interaction with other people that is not in VO, but we hear Peter and Dana's thoughts there, too.  It's not as annoying or distracting as I thought it would be, and at least it's a different take on the VO I've been hoping for.

Where I think the show goes wrong is pigeonholing the thoughts men and women have.  Peter walks down the street and of course mentally yays and nays the women passing by him that he'd sleep with.  Dana walks down the street mentally ogling purses.  Indeed these are thoughts men and women have, but it's not ALL that's thought about ... right?  The trap here is that while we are focusing on just these two people, these are the thoughts we're hearing, and they're just so ... expected.  Stereotypical.  I kind of wish the writers had surprised us with unexpected thoughts.  Really wonder how the great Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally) would have written this.

The pilot grew on me as it went on, and the leads are likeable, especially Dana, who you root for as she tries to acclimate to the major life change she's just made - new city, new job - and the animosity she receives by her new co-workers.  You can probably guess that this relationship is going to have the usual ups and downs, humorous, awkward discoveries of bad habits, fights and make-ups, etc.  It is, after all, called a love story.  But while I respect a new approach to a show, I wonder if this is one that can go on for many seasons to come.  Remember Mixology?  Of course not ... interesting idea, no chance for longevity.  I think it would work better if it was just going for a one-shot, 13-ep run.  Guess we'll see.

BOTTOM LINE:  Moderately wooed, but not thoroughly swept off my feet.  


Manhattan Love Story airs Tuesdays at 8:30pm on ABC.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review - black-ish


When black-ish was first announced during the Upfronts earlier this year, I admit I cringed a little - it sounded a little offensive, and I'm Caucasian!  But as it got more positive buzz, I knew I had to look deeper and understand exactly what the show was going to be about.   

Anthony Anderson (Guys With Kids) stars as Andre 'Dre' Johnson, a very successful man with a great job, a great family and a great home in the suburbs - the white suburbs.  He begins to notice that said family doesn't really embody, embrace or celebrate their Black heritage, but rather has vastly assimilated to the predominantly white society around them.  Enlisting the help of his dad (Laurence Fishburne, Hannibal), he sets out to establish a sense of cultural identity that honors the past while embracing the future.

Co-starring are Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends) as Dre's wife Rainbow, Yara Shahidi (below, seond from left) as daughter Zoey,  Marcus Scribner (below, third from left) as son Andre Jr., Miles Brown (front, left) as son Jack, and Marsai Martin (front, right) as daughter Diane.


Going in, I'm reminded of another sitcom from many years ago that featured a prominent, successful Black family at the heart of the show - The Cosby Show, to date one of the most perfect TV shows ever to air.  The difference from black-ish is that the Huxtables didn't make the whole of their existence about being Black.  The just presented and dealt with issues and situations any family, regardless of race, would face.  Not that they ignored it - Black heritage and pride were celebrated often, they just weren't made the focal point of the whole show.  We just saw them as two incredibly successful parents and citizens that happened to be Black.  And it was beautifully, masterfully and hysterically done.

But black-ish is making the point that success has pretty much acclimated the family too much into the white world and its trends, products, celebrity idols, etc., and patriarch Dre wants to bring them back to their roots.  This is a much better concept than the very original pitch presented earlier, which just seemed at the time to be a bunch of poorly chosen racial jokes.

 Here is yet another show featuring lead character voice-over - man is that done A LOT! - to fill us in on backstory, thoughts, etc.  I understand its effectiveness, but it would be nice to see a show come up with a new way to do it (like Modern Family did with their "confessional" format).  I understand Fishburne's Pops character is meant to be the voice of the true Black man, but I think they overdo it (it's like almost every line or comment he makes).  Actually, the majority of the pilot is about focusing on distinguishing between "us" (white people) and "them" (black people).  They kind of hit you over the head with it.  Yes, it's the first episode and they have to set up their voice, story, point of view, etc. but honestly, I didn't find it funny.  It may be that I'm way over-thinking it and not just letting it live, but I can only feel what I feel, and what I felt was uncomfortable. 

Of course there was going to be a reference to Obama, but when questioned whether they knew that he was the first Black President, the kids answered "I guess".  That to me is not just portraying racial ignorance, it's portraying straight-up ignorance, given the historical nature of the election for the whole country, regardless of race, that every student should be taught and know.  Again, maybe I'm looking for fault where there may not be, but it made the kids seem dumb, and overall I just didn't appreciate what the creators are obviously trying to put forth.

BOTTOM LINE:  Seek out and watch The Cosby Show instead. 

black-ish airs Wednesdays at 9:30pm on ABC.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Thursday - Welcome to Shondland! (plus Review - How to Get Away With Murder)

ABC launched its new Thursday with two returning dramas and the premiere of a third.  What it really is the night of Shonda Rhimes, as she is the mother of all three.  Is it too much of the same thing in one night?  Not for me - this woman knows how to deliver great TV featuring some of the most racially diverse casts and an abundance of strong female characters.


I'm a long-time viewer of Grey's Anatomy, and the 11th season premiere was solid and entertaining.  Nothing outrageous or shocking, but not every season premiere has to be such.  Yes, Sandra Oh's Yang is missed, but I think the cast is pretty solid and its storytelling is still good even after all these years, at least for me. Geena Davis made her debut quietly (she's going to have an arc this season) and it's funny how much she towers over everyone.  The big questions this season are whether Derek (Patrick and Dempsey) and Meredith's (Ellen Pompeo) marriage will survive, how new doctor Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary, Emily Owens, M.D.) - who unknown to Meredith is her half-sister, the love child of Ellis Grey and Richard Webber (James Pickens' Jr.) - will fit in (it took Meredith's other half-sister Lexie (Chyler Leigh) years to have her sis warm up to her - and then she died), and who will in fact get Yang's vacated board seat:  Bailey (Chandra Wilson) or Karev (Justin Chambers).

Next came Scandal, which I binge-watched last year and got immediately hooked.  This is one crazy ride into Washington's deep, dark and dirty - it's an appropriately titled show, as Olivia Pope, played brilliantly by Kerry Washington, makes it her life mission to get power players out of sticky - and often deadly - situations, all while having an on-again-off-again affair with the POTUS (Tony Goldwyn).  

At least that's how it was last season, until everything went to hell, leaving Olivia to flee the country with other-on-again-off-again lover Jake (Scott Foley).  The show is as fast-paced and crazy train as ever - love it! - and Olivia is barely back in town for former Gladiator (that's what she called her once associates) Harrison's (Columbus Short) funeral (he was killed off last season) when she is sucked back into a brand-new scandal.  Does this mean she's back?  Can she pull her team back together and get back to doing what she does best?  Will she resume her affair with the Pres? (Duh!)  So many questions ... so much juicy, racy, nutty fun to come this season!  (Note: just like Grey's Davis, Scandal's big recurring guest star, Portia de Rossi, was abruptly and briefly introduced - can't say Rhimes isn't consistent!)


Then there's the new kid on the block - How to Get Away With Murder, starring Academy Award-nominee Viola Davis.

Davis plays Annalise "The Shooter" Keating, a pulls-no-punches criminal law professor who teaches a class she calls “How to Get Away with Murder.” She's brilliant, passionate and tough - traits she applies daily in her other job as a defense attorney.  Each year Keating selects a group of her smartest and most promising law students to come work at her firm and challenges them to apply what they learn from her to real life cases.  This is being called a "masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller."  So how was episode 1?

First - though this show is supposed to take place in Philadelphia (the fictional Middleton University), it is CLEARLY UCLA!!  Wonder if they'll have any eps airing in wintertime ...

Onto the show.   Keating's is one hard-core class - right off the bat she fiercely fires questions at the students and heaven help you if you got the answer wrong or worse, stole the opportunity to answer away from another student (which actually turns about to be a good thing ... shows balls, which you just know Keating respects).  She introduces a murder case to them, then reveals that it's an actual case she's working on.  This is their audition to be the Final Five, which ends up being Alfred Enoch (the Harry Potter films) as the naive but clever Wes Gibbons, Aja Naomi King (Black Box) as the snooty but brilliant Michaela Pratt, Jack Falahee (Twisted) confident and closeted Connor Walsh, Matt McGorry (Orange is the New Black) as the egotistical Asher Millstone), and Karla Souza as the quiet but savvy Laurel Castillo. 

The aforementioned test the following day had each student presenting their defense in 60 seconds.  Those who impressed Keating moved on to the next round.  When it was over, Keating laid it out for them:

"Congratulations to those who managed to keep your seat.  That said, none of you beat my approach, which goes as follows:  Step 1 - discredit the witnesses.  Step 2 - introduce a new suspect.  Step 3 - we bury the evidence.  We throw so much information at the jury they walk into the deliberation room with one overwhelming feeling:  doubt.  That's how you get away with murder."

I got chills ...


Davis commands the screen and is perfectly cast.  You know she's outstanding at her job, but what's shocking to learn is that she has a potent emotional detachment from her clients - she doesn't care whether they're guilty or innocent.  This probably enables her to excel at getting them acquitted, but as a TV character, does it make her likeable?  Does she even have to be likeable?  She reminds me some of Sandra Oh's Yang on Grey's - a woman so focused on being the best surgeon, the best doctor, that it hardened her, made her unsympathetic, cold ... until something happened to her to humanize her.  That kind of happened in the pilot, when it was revealed (Gibbons caught her, actually) that she is cheating on her husband (Tom Verica, The Nine, American Dreams).  But later, when she confronts Gibbons and tearfully reveals that trying for a baby has put a great strain on her marriage, it threw me - it was just such a sudden 180.  I kept waiting for her to change back and reveal that she was just testing him - like showing him how many of her clients use such tactics to enact their innocence - and then scare him into keeping her secret.  But instead she ran her hands on his chest rather seductively, making him (and me) uncomfortable and chasing him from the room.  It was too jarring a change.  Plus, you have to wonder if - despite her telling him that he got it on merit - Gibbons got the job because of the secret.  Guess we're supposed to wonder.  

We also see the lines Keating's willing to cross, laws she's willing to bend to get the job done.  Will this also be an alienating trait for viewers?  Because of the strength of the rest of the episode, I'm willing to forgive it - for now. 

Something I liked:   I think the costume department is taking a page from First Lady Michelle Obama's fashion book, opting to forgo the usual, expected legal attire and boldly dressing Davis in leather suits in class and short sleeve and sleeveless dresses in court.  Kinda cool.

Something I didn't like:  there was a strange side-plot going on where you're meant to believe four of the Final Five (minus Millstone) have gone on to commit a murder themselves, but knowing these are the stars of your brand new show and it's only episode one, you don't believe it and know there's a twist afoot, right?  Like they're re-enacting how to cover up a crime for practical knowledge?  NO!  It was revealed that they actually did likely kill someone ... Keating's husband!  WHAT??  Remember that whole they'll-put-to-use-what-they-learn thing?  Bazinga!  Doesn't say much for the longevity of these supposed lead characters, does it?

The pilot certainly wasn't perfect - I think they tried to pull a Scandal and throw a lot of balls into the air at once, but unlike that show it didn't work quite as well, especially that whole group murder-thing. But because I'm a Shondaland fan, I'll give it another couple of episodes.

BOTTOM LINE:  Willing to give this new drama a longer trial period to see where it goes.

How to Get Away With Murder airs Thursdays at 10pm on ABC.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review - Gotham


One of the new TV season's most anticipated new shows premiered last night, adding another comic book-focused program to the popular trend (see Arrow, The Flash, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)  FOX's Gotham is different in that it's not telling the story of one of the legendary city's characters (you know who) so much as the origin of a different urban hero - Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, Southland, The OC). 

Gotham follows Gordon's rise from rookie detective to Police Commissioner and how he navigated the multiple layers of corruption that secretly ruled the infamous Gotham City, birthplace of not only Batman but also DC Comic's most iconic villains, including Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker.  The series will follow how Gordon walks the tumultuous line between good and evil as he fights to restore his beloved city back to the idealized home he remembers as a child.

Also in the cast are Erin Richards (Breaking In) as Gordon's fiancee Barbara Kean; Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy) as his partner Harvey Bullock; David Mazouz (Touch) as a young Bruce Wayne; Sean Pertwee (Elementary) as Bruce's loyal butler Alfred; Jada Pinkett Smith (HawthoRNe) as Fish Mooney, and local gang boss; John Doman (The Wire) as mob kingpin Carmine Falcone;  Playing soon-to-be-super villains are Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle/Catwoman; Robin Lord Taylor (The Walking Dead) as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin; and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma/The Riddler. 

Of course, you can't do series about Gotham City without greatly incorporating Bruce Wayne's story and his eventually rise to become the Dark Knight.  The pilot did feature the infamous murder of his parents, and just like in Batman Begins, we see Gordon comforting the young orphan.  The new twist here is that Gotham promises to develop a growing friendship between Gordon and Wayne, incorporating the older man into the younger's life more than he has been in past re-tellings of the story, and may even play a great part in Wayne fulfilling his cowled destiny.  

Gotham looks great - the cinematographer definitely captures the look of Gotham City with its rich darkness and many shadows.  They've created the grittiness and weight we've come to know it to carry throughout its rooftops, back alleys and shady hangouts.  There are a few curious filming choices (in chase scenes, we have a camera angle that looks like the actor is holding the camera on them - action-selfie, if you will) that's a little weird, but I appreciate the world they've created.  McKenzie greatly reminds me of Russell Crowe in his role as Detective Bud White in L.A. Confidential (a must-see movie, BTW).  It's interesting to know we'll be following someone who has no superpowers, so gadgets, just their own strength and gumption to take down the worst of the worst.  I'm guessing we won't actually be seeing any of the typical Batman villain antics since these are their origin stories as well, but if the show goes for several seasons, that may change.  But until then, will this series fly as is?  In the meantime, the actors seem to be relishing their bad guy roles, particularly the Smiths (Jada and Cory Michael).

I'll admit while I liked the pilot a lot, I wasn't blown away.  I see the potential here and I think it's well cast (with the exception of Richards, whose acting I think is a little thin), but I think many viewers are gonna want more than this slow-burn of character development.  For them - the ones that want more comic book than gritty drama - I can highly recommend Arrow, S.H.I.E.L.D and The Flash, which I'm greatly anticipating.  But for those willing to taper the desire to see Batman and his larger-than-life foes and get into what made them tick and what turned each of them, I think they could enjoy this.

 BOTTOM LINE:  Worth taking up residence in for at least a couple more episodes.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8pm on FOX.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review - Madam Secretary


I'm never been the biggest fan of politics-central shows, but having gotten thoroughly hooked on ABC's Scandal, and seeing preliminary footage of this new CBS drama, I was looking forward to its premiere.

In Madam Secretary, Tèa Leoni (The Naked Truth) stars as Elizabeth McCord, a former college professor and CIA analyst who has been newly appointed as Secretary of State to President Conrad (Keith Carradine, Fargo) after the current one dies in a plane crash.  In her demanding new position, she utilizes her many strengths - including a flair for languages, an extensive knowledge of the Middle East and an ability to not just think outside the box but to ignore that there even is a box - must handle international diplomacy, battle office politics and circumvent protocol while negotiating global and domestic issues both at the White House and at home. 

The cast includes Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers) as Chief of Staff Nadine Tolliver;  Geoffrey Arend (Body of Proof) as speechwriter Matt Mahoney; Patina Miller (All My Children) as press coordinator Daisy Grant; Erich Bergen as Elizabeth's assistant Blake Moran; Zelijko Ivanek (True Blood) as Chief of Staff Russell Jackson; and Tim Daly (Private Practice, Hot in Cleveland) as her husband Henry.


The pilot wastes no time getting right to McCord's very quick appointment to the position as Madam Secretary.  Leoni is very believable as a woman who would be chosen for the job - she has a natural strength and respectability, plus a sass and edginess that is very likeable.  This is not a woman whose time you'd ever want to waste.  This is set up very well by having the POTUS himself come to ask her in person to take the job.

We then jump ahead two months later, when McCord is submersed in the job. I like that instead of showing us the discussion with her family as to whether she should do it or not, we instead see how the family is coping with the change to their lives.  Her husband supports her - yay!  I also like how we just jump right into her at work.  It's so great to see another strong, confident female character who takes command of every meeting, every strategy, and how the people around her listen to her (Scandal's Olivia Pope and The Good Wife's Alicia Florrick would be proud).  Equally done well are conflicts she faces with coworkers, plans of action, and sometimes her own family.  Her husband is a great sounding board for her; when she's unsure of herself, he helps her figure out what she needs to do without directly telling her ... the mark of a great partner. 

The writing is intelligent but not so highbrow that you can't follow it, and I love moments like when Jackson sends a stylist to change McCord's look (she loves herself a pantsuit - a nod to Hillary C.?) and is told she doesn't have a choice in the matter, McCord simply replies "See, here's the problem:  I've never met a situation where I don't have a choice in the matter."  Even though she eventually did change her look (a temporary strategic move), it was on her terms to serve her own needs and not because someone told her to because she's supposed to look a certain way.  You go, lady!

I also love lines like this that show just what this woman is made of:  "What if I'm grateful for the opportunity to expose the world to a variety of cultural differences as we move toward a more global-thinking society." Thank you writers!


This show is off to a really good start thanks much to Leoni's character and how she's been developed, which you can see even in just this first episode - that's the mark of a great pilot.  I also appreciate another show that has great diversity of race without signposting it.  I know there's going to be a crisis-of-the-week format moving forward, but what's going to be fun to watch is seeing McCord deal with them in her own, atypical, balls-to-the-wind way (she totally kicks ass at her first state dinner!)  I sure wish we'd have more women like this in positions of power.

BOTTOM LINE:  I vote for this show to continue for many episodes to come.

Madam Secretary airs Sundays at 8pm on CBS.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reviews - Red Band Society and The Mysteries of Laura


Yes, Fall TV Season begins this week as several shows make their debuts and returns.  I've got my work cut out for me, but I'll try to review and comment on as many shows as I can over the coming weeks, starting tonight with the premiere of two new shows:  FOX's Red Band Society and NBC's The Mysteries of Laura (which technically premieres Sept. 24, but the net gave us a preview tonight).

"Everyone has two stories: the one they want you to know, and the one they don't."

Red Band Society is FOX's new dramedy about a group of rule-bending friends and the adults who mentor them through the ups and downs of adolescence in Los Angeles' Ocean Park Hospital, which the net describes as "provocative, unconventional and unique."  
The series stars Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help), Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters, 666 Park Avenue) and - in the FOX tradition of launching fresh new stars, a la Glee and Beverly Hills, 90210 - a collection of charismatic young actors including Griffin Gluck (Back in the Game) as Charlie, a 12-year-old coma patient who acts as narrator for the series; Nolan Sotillo as Jordi, who comes to the hospital seeking treatment for his illness; Charlie Rowe as Leo, the group's charming leader;  Astro (The X Factor) as Leo's best friend, the rebellious Dash;  Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush) as Emma, Leo's sometimes girlfriend who is battling an eating disorder (though she looks really healthy, but picky picky); and Zoe Levin (Arrested Development) as Kara, resident mean girl who may soon have a change of heart - literally and figuratively.

Spencer plays Nurse Jackson, who heads up the children's ward of the hospital and rallies the kids to make the most of their lives, and Annable plays Dr. Jack McAndrew, a top pediatric surgeon treating the young patients. The series' title comes from the red bands the patients wear in solidarity and support of each other and their shared situation.


I was giggling right from the start, which was a good sign, especially since we're dealing with sick kids here. Really great intro to the characters - you got a sense of who they are right from the start and, for those who seemed like horrible people, they made you look forward to their journey to hopefully become better ones.  There's great diversity of race in the cast, but they don't focus on it - nicely taking a page from Shonda Rhimes' playbook (see Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and the soon-to-premiere How To Get Away With Murder).  I think maybe the creators (from Amblin Entertainment - yep, Steven Spielberg's production compnay) are fans of Grey's ... a volunteer (Thomas Ian Nicholas, American Pie, Rookie of the Year), who comes to serenade the kids, played "How to Save Life," GA's anthem.  

The use of voiceover in a series is certainly nothing even remotely new (the aforementioned Glee used it throughout their first season), but I don't mind it here, especially since the narration is coming from a boy who isn't even conscious (for the most part - there do seem to be moments when they work him in awake, like in dream states).  I wonder how many episodes it will be until he (inevitably?) wakes up, and if he does, if he'll continue to narrate (Glee eventually tapered the voiceovers off).

What didn't work for me so much was how the director/cinematographer chose to frame certain shots.  I'm all for originality in filming, and FOX's series tend to have a certain unique look, but RBS way overdid it and too many times it just looked like maybe they didn't know how to properly frame the actors in the shot (off-center, too much space around actors' heads, etc).  It was more often distracting than clever, especially since they did it soooo much.  

I love the fictional hospital setting - if I had a kid who gods-forbid got sick, I would hope they would be treated in a place like this, where the patients could make the rooms their own, really cutting down the look and feel of a hospital.  Plus they seem to be in really good hands (Spencer's character is tough and brash but man, you know she's do anything for these kids).  There's a nice appearance by Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London).  Hope they bring him back.


RBS has nicely and realistically represented the many typical adolescent types:  the bitchy cheerleader, the prissy intellect, the shy new guy, the cool leader (nice commitment by Rowe, who looks to have shaved his head - though not his eyebrows, which chemo would likely have taken, but more picky picky - for the role of cancer-stricken Leo; the character also has one leg, so the actor has that to play with as well).  Though early, you know going forward this group is gonna be a solid unit, like a medically-focused Breakfast Club. 

BOTTOM LINE:  This show has heart and is off to a really solid start.  Sign me up to be a privileged member of the RBS!

Red Band Society airs Wednesdays at 9pm on FOX.

Debra Messing returns for her third NBC series (she previously starred on Will & Grace and Smash) playing the title role of Laura Diamond, a brilliant NYPD homicide detective who fights to find balance between her day job on the streets and her personal life as mother of unruly twin boys (Vincent and Charles Reina) and a cop husband (Josh Lucas, The Firm) she wishes to make her ex, a desire he definitively does not share.
 A proclaimed dramedy, lighter moments come from Laura striving to wrangle - often not to the most success - the many challenges that come from being a modern-day working mom juggling home and work life.  The series co-stars Laz Alonso (Deception) and Janina Gavankar (The Vampire Diaries, The League).

Messing was on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the other night and they showed a clip from the pilot.  Now, I think she is a very funny comedienne who did fantastic work on W&G, and I think she was good on Smash, but from those few moments I saw with her playing a tough-as-nails detective, going in to the show tonight I was cringing.  Castle's Stana Katic plays a believable cop.  So does Law & Order: SVU's Mariska Hargitay.  Ditto for Rizzoli & Isles' Angie Harmon.  But with Messing, I was waiting for her character to break up into snickering after cornering a suspect and threatening to shoot him, as though she were just playing a badass.   I mean, of the two pictures below, which do you buy more?

But I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt by watching the whole hour - even though no active detective would carry a humungous purse while on duty. I appreciate the attempts at humor - example:  Laura gets a 911 call and races to the scene of a crime, where she bitingly dresses down and threatens unimaginable punishment to the perps - her boys, who had covered their classroom walls - and themselves - with pink paint.  But overall the mom moments suit Messing better than the actual crime-solving ones.  The hand-held cam, which is clearly used to create dramatic realness, along with Messing's missing-the-mark delivery of cop talk and gun handling, just make this look like a spoof of cop shows (think Police Squad!)  If this show had gone that route more, I think it would work better.  But because they obviously want us to buy Messing in this role, it doesn't.  Nothing against her; I'm all for actors stretching into new and different types of roles.  Here, I just think she's miscast.  But nice appearance by Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars).

I also don't quite get the title.  The Mysteries of Laura?  I read that this is supposed to be likened to Columbo (hell, Messing wears a trenchcoat and her partner even calls her Columbo), which did have Peter Falk's character being kind of both cop and private detective and solving crimes that were more mystery-oriented, but his crime-solving technique was unique and therefore worked for that kind of setup.  Laura doesn't seem to display anything really original in her technique, so I don't think the title works.  But that's just the tip of what doesn't work for me regarding this show.

BOTTOM LINEGot slightly better toward the end and scenes for the upcoming season look okay, but ultimately failed to arrest my interest to continue watching.

The Mysteries of Laura airs Wednesdays at 8pm on NBC starting Sept. 24.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The New View


The View, ABC's long-running morning chat show featuring women form different backgrounds having discussions, talking about Hot Topics, etc., returned today for its 18th season, and for weeks there's been word of a huge revamping of the program, which comes on the heels of executive producer Barbara Walter's retirement and the departure of hosts Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy.

I can confirm:  this is a whole new View

The table now consists of Whoopi Goldberg (above, 3rd from right) - the only host to return from last season - and new co-hosts Rosie O'Donnell (above, second from left), who returns to the show, having left years ago after just one season following a very heated on-screen argument with then-co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck; actress Rosie Perez (above, far left), who was a surprise choice for me, but I guess she successfully guest-hosted earlier this year; and Nicolle Wallace, a former White House advisor under George W. Bush and who notoriously worked on the McCain/Palin campaign (she was portrayed by Sarah Paulson in the HBO movie Game Change).

Also gone is long-time producer Bill Geddie and any remnants of the old set.  In is a much brighter, whiter set, bigger, cushy chairs and a smaller table.  The premiere had the usual round of Hot Topics, but mostly it focused on introducing the new co-hosts and learning more about them (which was most relevant in Wallace's case).  I wondered how Rosie O'D. would do not being the moderator (she was during her tenure) but she was fairly reserved, though she was still Rosie - loud, letting zingers fly, etc.  I've never been able to listen for Rosie P.'s voice for very long, but it was rather toned down, and she did well.  Wallace seems to be the one most out-of-place for me, not because she didn't hold her own, but she just didn't seem to fit the tableau.  But they needed a Republican on the panel so that all political views are represented, and she is intelligent and well-respected ... and has all those fantastic Palin stories ready to be shared.

There was a weird new segment called "Ro or Ro?", where the two Rosies quiz an audience member on which Ro did what.  I'm hoping this is not a regular feature.

They also did a tribute to Joan Rivers, who appeared on the show 34 times, so that was fitting,  They made mention of Robin Williams, and Rosie spoke briefly about him and depression, but I was surprised not more was said.  But Billy Crystal is set to be on later this week, so I'm sure he an Whoopi will talk more about him.

Basically, I'm not really feeling this new View.  I'm hoping it doesn't continue to focus so much on the co-hosts and gets back to its usual basic format, and I'm sure it will once we get past this first week.  It's just such a radical change, I suppose I just have to get used to it.

The View airs Monday through Friday at 10am on ABC.