Tuesday, 6 December 2011

TV by Politics

I came across this post from Entertainment Weekly today about the TV preferences of Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans (categorically), and it made me chuckle. Not that it's any of your business, but I would consider myself a moderate Republican, right-leaning on fiscal and defense policies, and left-leaning on education and many social issues.

Apparently, though, I watch TV like a liberal Democrat. According to the survey cited by EW.com, left-wing Democrats tend to like "'sarcastic' media-savvy comedies and morally murky antiheroes", while these shows tend to turn off right-wing Republicans, who generally favor "serious work-centered shows" and reality shows instead. EW doesn't provide a link to the Experian-Simmons survey in the post, but I would also be curious to know the ages, income, and education levels of the participants. The categories are pretty black and white, but it's still interesting nonetheless to see where one's preferences tend toward.

Among the shows used as examples of Democrat-friendly fare are 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation (two of my favs!), The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Treme, The Office, and even Parenthood; while the examples of Republican-friendly shows ranged from The Deadliest Catch (one of my parents' personal favorites) to Dancing with the Stars to crime procedurals like NCIS and Castle.

My preferences land mostly with the Dems on this one. Give me something I can bite into: a sarcastic comedy sans laugh track, or a drama with lots of gray areas. A good anti-hero has more to teach me about the life, humanity, and the Divine than a boring archetype, anyway. That's what art should do, right? I would like to note, though, that like my Republican counterparts, I have a very strong dislike of Treme, Weeds, and The Big C, which can only be explained as an aversion to premium cable shows that make me feel icky.

Out of curiosity, reader, where do you land on the not-so broad spectrum painted out for us here?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

When Bad Writing Happens to Good Shows

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the departure of Aaron Sorkin at the end of season four of The West Wing, midway through the Zoey Bartlett kidnapping. Although we're both diehard WW fans (he's in love with Ainsley Hayes; I heart Josh "Lemon" Lyman), we both agreed that it wasn't the show at it's best. For a show that made political action narrative action, the kidnapping plot seemed out of place: a soapy, emotionally manipulative way for the show to scoop up ratings as the show was starting to lose viewers (Rob Lowe left that season, and it dropped 5 million viewers as a result! Dear Rob Lowe, don't ever leave Parks and Recreation. Thanks).

Not that it wasn't fun to watch. It totally was! It was just...wrong for that show.

So that got me thinking about other great shows that suffered the occasional writing misstep. I'm not talking about shows that are already pretty bad, like One Tree Hill and Grey's Anatomy. Bad writing happening to good shows is a special kind of bad writing because it's only bad due to the fact that it's weirdly affecting a good show. Here are some classics:

5. "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense" on Millennium, season 2.
It pains me a little to include this because Millennium was such a great show, and I would venture to guess that many of you have never seen it. Let me just remind you that this post is about bad writing happening to good shows, so you really should watch it if you haven't seen Chris Carter's Millennium. It's freaking cool. That said, its second season had some bumps. I have absolutely no problem with genre shows oscillating between episodic and serial episodes to try to build an audience of geeks. In fact, I welcome it. But I really hated those Jose Chung episodes that Darin Morgan and Chris Carter felt like we needed to see on this and their other big show The X-Files. On Millennium, it halted the movement of the season by altering the ambiance in a distracting and self-indulgent way. It wasn't quite as dramatically jarring on The X-Files, where the Jose Chung episode took place during the unsteady first season of the show, but it wasn't exactly a shining moment either. If you watch Millennium, as per my sage advice, you won't miss anything if you skip over this particular episode.

4. Scrubs: The New Class, seasons 8 and 9. This was a simple case of a great show refusing to go out on a high note, and it was not entirely the fault of the showrunners. Scrubs found itself perpetually in danger of cancellation, and at the end of its seventh season, NBC finally pulled the plug. Both creator Bill Lawrence and star Zach Braff said that the seventh would be its last season. Then, through a series of weird happenings and threatened litigation, ABC ended up picking it up for an eighth season of 18 episodes, in which most of the leads would return at least on a temporary basis. The seventh season finale was pitch perfect as a finale, with JD imagining a happy ever after with Eliot, as he left the hospital. Bringing back these characters for another two seasons, along with new characters that were funny enough, but not the cast we had grown to love, felt like an unwelcome, two-year epilogue. As far as I'm concerned, Scrubs ended on NBC.

3. Lorelai and Christopher hook up and get married on Gilmore Girls, seasons 6 (finale) and 7. Okay, I get why Luke and Lorelai had to break up in season 6. They had legitimate communication problems that centered on Luke being a curmudgeon. What I didn't care for, however, was Lorelai immediately jumping into bed with Christopher the same night she and Luke broke up. Lorelai didn't always make great decisions, but it was a stretch to believe that she'd do something that self-destructive at the expense of slow-moving Luke potentially instigating a reconciliation. I just don't buy it, and I think this was the moment that the usually delightful Girls went a little off the rails. At the time it felt like a big middle finger from departing creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and it still feels that way.

2. The Mexico foray on Big Love, season four.
I'm still not sure how we got to that point on Big Love. From the first season, the elements of the show that frequently proved the most compelling centered on Bill and the wives, their relationships with one another and with the family. Whenever the show drifted too far outside of this nucleus, particularly with Bill's random business ventures and all the compound drama, it lost some of its initial zing. I think this is what happened during season four: it just seemed like Bill was juggling too many balls in the air, and while this was a recurring theme throughout the show (e.g., overworked, stressed out, power-hungry Bill), for the whole of this season, I felt like I was being overworked as a viewer. We should have known something was going to be off this season, when the premiere gave us a literally frozen Roman Grant being transported to the Henricksen's new casino. WTH?? The heights of this season's weirdness, though, came when Bill drove to Mexico to rescue his kidnapped eldest son, crazycakes mother, and SOB of a father, culminating in a bizarre standoff with one of the ruling FLDS clans, in which Lois cuts off a dude's hand. Season five was thankfully better.

1. The Landry-Tyra murder plot on Friday Night Lights, season 2. Ah, season two, the season otherwise known as the season that FNL fans warn their FNL-virgin friends about before they start watching. For the most part, the season was just...off, and the murder plot was a microcosm of where it went wrong. FNL was at the height of its creative powers when characters were allowed to develop through everyday situations. The forced intensity of a murder was too sensational, too unreal to happen to our characters in Dillon. It remains the quintessential example of bad writing happening to a good, nay, great show.

Honorable Mention: Mr. Eko on LOST; the "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" episode of The X-Files (see above); the will they or won't they ridiculata with Joey and Rachel on Friends.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shows I'm Most Thankful For

AOL TV did a list of shows they're most thankful for this year (spoiler: their choices are awesome), and it got me thinking about my favorite shows still on air. I've spilled much ink (figuratively speaking -- it's a blog, right) on my sadness about the departure of three of my three favorite shows in the last year and a half (in death march order: LOST, Big Love, and Friday Night Lights).

Even though two out of three of those weren't surprises, it still stings to lose a favorite. One of the things I love about a good show is the way you're allowed to get invested in characters for several years, as opposed to just a couple of hours in a movie. Friday Night Lights, in particular, told lots of stories, but held true to whom these people were throughout. I feel privy to a large chunk of Coach and Tami's story, not just an event in their "lives".

Anyway, with the departure of those favorites, I've begun to revel in the new stories to be told, compiling a new list of favorites. So here's a list of the shows I'm most thankful for this year.

1. Parks and Recreation. I chose this one over the dramatic and consequential Homeland because I've just fallen head over heels for Leslie and the gang over the last two and a half seasons. The show's innate optimism makes the characters easy to care about, which is, believe it or not, not always easy to do on a comedy show, where it's easy for characters to turn into cartoon characters. Usually I'm a fan of serialized drama shows and episodic sitcoms, but Parks and Rec works in both cases. The six-episode build up to the Harvest Festival at the beginning of last season was note-for-note perfect, combining the best elements of stand alone and continuing storylines. I can't imagine liking a comedy show much more than I like this sweet little show.

2. Homeland. Man, oh man. This show knows what it's doing! When a show commands, no, demands your undivided attention throughout, you're either stuck with a complicated plot-driven show, where anything you missed while you were surfing the internet, cooking dinner, or writing a paper (my life) could turn into a confusing hour for you, or you're blessed with a show that has actors who know how to make you question them, and think about what they might possibly be thinking. This is what I love about this show: the layers. So. Many. Layers. The episode "The Weekend" is the first A+ episode of any show this season because of the web it wove in all three storylines. TV doesn't get much better than that episode, folks.

3. Southland. Southland's long hiatuses kill me, yo! Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful that when NBC gave this show the old premature farewell, TNT rode in on a white horse to rescue it from cancellation obscurity. But, man, these six-episode seasons are not enough. In all fairness, I'm being a little dramatic: season three had ten episodes. My point, however, is that shows like this get relegated to shortened seasons on cable, while shows like Law and Order: SVU make 24 episodes a year of the same, predictable formula. It's sad. Southland stands on its own feet, though, even without many episodes in which to do so. "Code 4" from last season was another perfect episode of TV. [SPOILER!] Nate's death was one of the most disturbing TV deaths in a long time, in part because it was based on a real incident, but also because of the way it was so beautifully written. Southland is consistently shockingly good, and I would take it to the mat for this show being one of the most quality dramas on TV.

4. Happy Endings. This was another comedy that came out of left field, but has delivered hilarious stuff every week. There's no question about the talent-level of the cast. The most surprising thing about it, though, is how funny it was from the beginning because of how well the cast managed to build a believable chemistry. Ensemble comedies rise and fall on the chemistry of the cast, since comedy relies so much on timing, and this cast figured out pretty early how to work well off of each other. The result is that it's only a few episodes into its second season (coming off of a short first season), and it's already sharp. I'm glad ABC has stuck by it this season (where the H is Cougar Town, ABC??), and I really hope it's able to build and maintain an audience.

5. Fringe. There's some stank talk of season four being Fringe's final season, but I don't wanna talk about it. As it now stands, Fringe has solidified itself as one of the most compelling serial dramas on TV, combining excellent characterization with an X-Files-worthy mythology and philosophical depth (don't believe me on the last point? I dare you to read NT Wright's Surprised By Hope without thinking of Fringe. Chills). To add to all the goodness, it's such a treat to watch Anna Torv and John Noble act every week. It's truly a Lauren Graham on Gilmore Girls-sized tragedy that Torv hasn't been recognized for her work on this show because of its genre. Oh well, though, while I do find it discouraging that this show hasn't managed to build the mammoth-sized audience that The X-Files once had, I have to admit that if it was too populous, I probably wouldn't root for it as hard. For now, I'm thankful to be one of the devoted few that adores it.

6. Parenthood. I thought for a while that Parenthood was going to be FNL's successor in my affections. It hasn't turned out that way, mostly because sometimes the plots seem a little contrived sometimes, but I've got to give it up for this show nonetheless. Like with Fringe, I also find it slightly depressing that a show this good could have a difficult time finding an audience. All of these actors are so good at what they do that I'm not really bothered by its emotionally-driven storylines. It's managed to not let itself become a soap because the acting is so good, and because everyone has such excellent chemistry.

7. Cougar Town. The cul-de-sac crew has gotten lots of critical love, but, again, not a lot of viewer love (I'm sensing a theme on my list, here), which is a real shame because along with Parks and Rec and Happy Endings, Cougar Town is one of those shows that makes me laugh out loud every single week. What started as a tongue-in-cheek Courtney Cox vehicle quickly became a great ensemble comedy that works like a lady version of Scrubs, and as far as I can tell it's only detractor is a silly title that no one who watches the show cares about anymore. It's terrible that ABC hasn't announced a return date for the comedy, but I'm sure that when it finally does return for its third season, it will be just as delightful as ever.

8. Once Upon a Time. I'm still settling into this show and where it's going, but I've been loving the ride so far. A friend of mine pointed out that the show would probably be more compelling if the "mythology" wasn't so well-versed in the Disney versions of the fairy tales, but I understand the impulse to make it more accessible to a large audience at such an early stage in its "life". It would be really cool to see it go darker by doffing its Disney chains and diving into the real fairy tales, but given the fact that it's an ABC show, I'm not holding my breath. For now, I'm delighting in a fun, creative show with fantastic potential, come what may.

9. The Vampire Diaries. You guys, I LOVE The Vampire Diaries. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it still manages to keep the stakes high every single week. Vicki's shocking death in season one was enough to keep me on my toes for that season, and it's been really fun to admit that the tension hasn't really died for me. Never a dull moment in Mystic Falls!

10. American Idol. If I'm being honest with myself, Idol is so much more than my tenth favorite show. It's definitely my favorite reality show on TV, and on top of that, the show I look forward to the most in the month leading up to its premiere. I love going along with its shenanigans, but still playing "spot the producer conspiracy" every season. It will be hard, nay, impossible for Idol to ever live up to season 7 again (the Davids + Carly Smithson + Brooke White [whose 'High Hopes and Heartbreaks' record is a gem! A real grower!] + Michael Johns + Jason Castro + the best theme nights Idol has ever managed to pull off + the introduction of contestants playing instruments on the main stage = DREAM SEASON), but as long as it producers at least one or two deserving underdogs per season (I'm lookin' at you, Haley Reinhart), I will continue to enjoy and obsess over it. Whoop!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

'Prime Suspect' Not Canceled Yet

According to AOL, NBC is shutting down production on their great freshman drama Prime Suspect. This doesn't necessarily mean it's canceled, but the writing's pretty much on the wall. It kind of looks like NBC is waiting to see if any of their midseason replacement shows (especially Smash and Awake -- which both look awesome) will stick before they officially pull the plug, but they're not giving a lot of reason to be optimistic about Prime Suspect's chances.

This news makes me cross.

Gabrielle Giffords ABC Special

Did you guys watch the Diane Sawyer special about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on ABC last night? Often "news" magazine specials on the major networks emphasize the sick and tawdry details of stories that have made the news for whatever reason. While these specials always tend to at least end on a positive note (the "hero" finding hope in his/her new lease on life, etc.), many times there's a troubling human tendency to make sure that we the viewers are aware of just how perverse the "bad guy" in the scenario might be -- a pyscho-pop probe into the mind of the people who commit the evil acts. I've got no interest in sensationalist gossip.

It's with this in mind that I found the special on Giffords delightfully optimistic. The killer's asinine smiling mugshot was flashed onscreen briefly in the expository bits, but the focus here was on Giffords and her arduous journey to recovery. The shooting last January was stunning in the worst way, and we're not going to forget it anytime soon. It would have been unnecessary to dwell on the tragedy. The special was thankfully about Giffords, a remarkable person, and the miracle of her life. I loved seeing the speech therapists working with Giffords, the way music helped her relearn how to walk, and the positive outlooks of Mark Kelly and Giffords' mother. Simply put, I love seeing amazing people overcoming difficult circumstances, and Giffords inspires me.

Without getting too sentimental here, one can't help but feel that the shooter sought to symbolically destroy democracy in action, as a congresswoman was nearly assassinated while meeting publicly with her constituents. Seeing that same politician fight against her stacked odds helps to restore faith in what her office stands for. It lets us see that sometimes we do elect outstanding people to public office, and that no matter how divisive the American political stage may seem, there are still strong, righteous individuals working for what they see as a "greater good". Congresswoman Giffords is inspiring.

Did you watch the special on Giffords? If so, what did you think of the way they told the story?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

'Pan Am' Update: It's Gotten Better!

I recently gave the first handful of episodes from ABC's new series Pan Am a pessimistic "C", and while I stand by that initial assessment of the show, I'm excited to report that the show has been showing great strides lately. My problem with it early on was that it didn't seem to know where it wanted to go or what its characters were supposed to be doing. It seemed a little stuck in telling us about various scrapes the Pan Am "stewardesses" manage to get themselves into while in foreign countries, while it should have been focusing on who these women are. It's starting to do that more now, and the last two episodes have been much more fun to watch as a result!

I make no secret of the fact that my decade-old crush on ER's Dr Kovac (aka Goran Visnjic) hardly leaves me unbiased when he's onscreen, but don't you think his turn as Yugoslavian diplomat (Eek! A Communist!) Niko Lonza made Kelli Garner's Kate and her heretofore overwrought CIA job so much more interesting? While I still think the interlinear storytelling on this show is too heavy-handed, it did help display her excellent emotional range in the last episode, "Truth or Dare". I loved the final scene, which had a heart-broken Kate putting on a happy face for the arriving passengers. We've all been there, girl!

I would be remiss to talk about the things Pan Am is getting right without mentioning Gaius Charles' (FNL's Smash Williams back on my TV!) guest stint on last week's episode. 1960s civil rights stuff was bound to come into play sooner or later, especially with a protagonist matched only by Brittany Snow from American Dreams in blonde-haired-blue-eyed-ness. The problem with doing a light show like this set in the 60s is that the big issues like civil rights and gender descrimination always come off a little like your high school social studies class suggested, good versus evil, ignorant versus enlightened, with little gray area. You're supposed to get enraged by the idiot racist, sexist, heavily-accented good ole boy. I've got no problem with shows condemning racism and sexism, but it gets annoyingly heavy-handed sometimes. What I liked about Pan Am's treatment of 1960s racism is that even though it did all of those things I just mentioned, it didn't dwell on it. Charles' character was at least a real character, rather than a prototype, and Laura (Margot Robbie) was able to have a character growth episode. I'm okay with that compromise.

All things considered, I'm actually starting to enjoy this show, so I'm upgrading it to a: B-

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

TV Links of Interest

Rather than writing something longer and somewhat specific, here's a post that reflects my life right now: a little random, a little judgmental, and riding on the shoulders of others.

Mo Ryan insists that the as yet only cringeworthy CBS hit 2 Broke Girls is fixable. Step one: get rid of the racism.

! Ha! Katie Holmes' appearance on this week's HIMYM as the Slutty Pumpkin was a pleasant surprise. Remember when we liked her as Joey Potter?

Pan Am sat better with me this week. I like what's going on with Goran Visnjic's character and what's-her-face, the covert operative. I still don't care about 75% of the show, but a love affair between a Commie and a secret agent from the Company, c. 1960s, is aces. Yes, show: more of that.

American Horror Story got renewed for a second season. It's been delivering killer (heh) rating for FX, so no surprise there. Here's a humorous take on its ridiculata so far.

Name confusion or not, this guy's pretty much the best thing about Dexter this season!

I liked Grimm, didn't love it, but I think it's got potential. Here's a good pilot review.

Sarah and Mr Cyr might be my favorite couple on TV right now (especially since Coach and Tami are no more). This interview with Lauren Graham and Jason Ritter rocks my face off. Is there a campaign for Parenthood to retain Ritter as a full-time cast member? That needs to happen.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Checking Up on the New Season

At the beginning of the season, I posted about which new shows I was planning to tune into this season, so now that just about everything has had a few weeks to settle in, without further ado I give you my mid-season (read: pre-sweeps) report card of the newbies. (I apologize in advance for all of the passive voice you're about to read. I'm tired.)


Once Upon a Time: It's hardly fair to judge a show based on its pilot episode (I learned my lesson with the excellent pilots, but disappointing subsequent episodes of Life Unexpected and V), but for what it's worth, I LOVED this pilot. It had all the things I wanted and more: a compelling underlying mythology, creepy/cool visual effects (seriously, this show was made for the full HD treatment), and characters I already care about (not sure how much I care about Jennifer Morrison's Emma yet, but I'm optimistic). Most importantly, though, it is philosophical and beautiful. It's about faith, hope, and love defeating the curse of death. I'm sold! When this show fails to live up to expectations, I'll eat my words, but for now, the pilot gets an: A.

Pan Am: Last week's episode reached new heights of boring for me, even with the exciting edition of my former ER crush Goran Visnjic. I want to like this show. I really do! Thomas Schlamme's involvement is probably the only reason I'm still watching, but it has yet to suck me in. My biggest complaint is that the show doesn't seem to know what it wants to do yet. Is it about 1950s gender politics? Is it a Cold War espionage ride? Is it a dramedy about the silly things flight attendents can get into in Europe? Ugh, all I know is that if it doesn't figure it out soon, I'm out. This one gets a: C.

Homeland: YES!!! That is all. Read my post about the pilot if you want a fuller view of why I've taken to this show. I'm happy to report that four episodes in, it's still compelling. A!


Hart of Dixie: I like to pride myself on having patience with bad shows, but the first two episodes of this crapfest were painful. I loved Rachel Bilson on The OC and Scott Porter on FNL (obviously!), but life's too short, man. If the show gets legitimately better, reader, let me know 'cause I'm out. For now, that recycled fish-out-of-water, 1990s rom-com ridiculata is beyond my level of tolerance. Dixie gets a: D.

Two Broke Girls: I picked up this show at the urging of friendly recommendations, its early ratings success, and Kat Dennings' awesomeness on The Late Late Show, but after four episodes, it's on probation. My disconnect from the show can be pinned down to Vulture's criticism that it comes across a little too mean-spirited sometimes. Why can't Max just be a little nicer to her roommate? And do I need to even mention the near-Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's-levels of racism? Gross. As single-camera sitcoms have cornered the market on creativity these days, it's going to take a lot more than this to bring me back around to the multi-camera sitcom. It's still a wait and see show, so I'll give it a: C-.


Ringer: I HATED the pilot for this show, but have to admit that it's gotten exponentially better since the first 2-3 episodes. Seriously, if you gave up on it early, you should start watching again because it's become a really fun, soapy hidden identity drama, with a main character that's much more interesting than she was initially. I think it just needed a few weeks to find its footing, and to let its characters figure out who they are. Its stock is rising, so I'm giving it a solid: B.

New Girl: Am I the only who watches this show nervously, thinking it's not going to be funny? Thankfully it has been funny, and Zooey Deschanel's charm has not proven to be overstated. But that nagging feeling that the best jokes have already happened still irks me when I watch it. Of all the shows that FOX could have benched for the World Series, I can't help but feel this show in particular may be the most at risk to lose a little of its early momentum. Hopefully not. I'm still unsure about it, even though it's been pretty good thus far. The first three episodes get an above average: B+.


The X-Factor: Oy. So this one's a train wreck, yes? My sister argues that it takes all of the most annoying qualities from Idol, The Voice, and America's Got Talent (e.g., auditions in front of a packed studio; intrusive swelling soundtrack; over-wrought emotional manipulation for contestant packages; a lot of talk about one pursuing one's "dream"; hyperbolic critiques by "experts"; and on and on...), and combines them for maximum suckage. I couldn't agree more. I'm holding out hope that the finals will be less awful, but to this point, I'm not very invested. Although L.A. Reid is actually a brill addition to the long list of celebrities who can call themselves a "reality show judge", one can't help but feel his particular talents are wasted here. I'm still watching despite my better judgment, so this show gets a pessimistic: C+.

Up All Night: Yeah, this show could be better. Maya Rudolph is legitimately hilarious in the right context, but her character is too zany to be on the same show with the semi-realist (you know, for comedy shows) relationship between Christina Applegate's and Will Arnett's characters. The impulse to make Rudolph's character more prominent, particularly after the success of Bridesmaids, is a good impulse, but something's not quite gelling between the two worlds this show has created. In spite of its structural messiness, though, I've been enjoying this show from week to week, and unlike New Girl, I don't feel an anxiety about its ability to maintain its funny. I'm also glad NBC has found a mini-hit. Up All Night gets a solid, comedic: B+.

Suburgatory: Ah, see? Now here's a comedy that knows which way is up. This has fit right into ABC's excellent Wednesday night schedule, delivering a silly, but not quite over the top suburban parody (I mean that in the best way). And do I even need to mention Alan Tudyk? This show deserves at least an Asian F: A-.

Revenge: Revenge is the new Desperate Housewives: an over the top nighttime soap on ABC that's full of scheming, fashion, and WASPs. Thus far, in spite of the procedural quality of the first 3-4 episodes, it's turned into one of my favorite new shows of the season. I very much like watching shows where I feel like the protagonist is in control, which is the reason only the first season of Prison Break was epic. In this case, Emily Thorne seems to be in control. It's fun watching puppetmasters. For style, ambiance, and some old fashioned suds, Revenge gets an: A-.

American Horror Story: My problem with AHS is the way it's trivializing horror. Horror for horror's sake isn't as scary, entertaining, or, dare I say it, meaningful as horror with a purpose. Here's what I mean: AHS seems pleased with itself every time it pays homage to another 1970s horror trope, but unlike many of the really great horror films and TV shows it's looking up to, like The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, or even Twin Peaks, in AHS, there is no inherent purpose behind its violent and psychologically twisted world. It's just trying to scare you with cheap thrills and characters that aren't recognizable as people. I'm not sure where this show is going, but my problem is that I don't think it does, either. I also made the mistake of reading Mo Ryan's scathing review after I watched the pilot, and now I can't get it out of my head when I watch. AHS gets points for trying, but in spite of my attraction to the genre, I feel it may not be my cup of tea, so it gets a: B-.


Charlie's Angels: Real bad. Which is why it has been cancelled. Fail: F.

The Secret Circle: I know I'm going to get even more crap from my friends and family for watching this show than I do about The Vampire Diaries (well, maybe), but I'm powerless against it. It has all the things that make a teen show great: relatable female lead, love triangle, high school shenanigans, absent/clueless parents, and, my new favorite teen show quality (thanks to the last ten years), an unrealistic, yet high stakes supernatural element. YES! I wasn't optimistic going into the season, but I should learn to trust Kevin Williamson more, because like the recent (AWESOME) Scream 4 for which he was responsible, the dude knows what his audience wants. Yeah, I love this show. Well done, Britt Robertson! You get an: A.

Prime Suspect: Thursday has turned out to bring out the very best and very worst in new shows. Fortunately, Prime Suspect falls into the former category. The pilot was good, but a little silly in places. Would a contemporary police department ever tolerate that much sexism? I think not. Subsequent episodes have toned down the silly misogyny, though, and have allowed Maria Bello to just be awesome -- controversal fedora and all. As crime procedurals go, it's not doing anything revolutionary. It has, however, found a way to play to its strengths. I hope NBC is able to stick with it because I'm giving it a solid: A-.

That covers all the new ones I'm watching this season. Grimm looks kind of fun, but I haven't had time to watch the pilot yet, and I've been all but chided by my parents for not watching Person of Interest. I would definitely watch that one if I wasn't facing the biggest traffic jam of the week on Thursdays at 9/8c, I swear! Maybe I'll catch up with it over Christmas or something. Happy TV watching, everyone! Let me know what you dis/agree with in the comments section below!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

And the Best Pilot of the Season is...

Showtime's Homeland! After reading this post, this post, and this post about the show before it aired, it was wonderful to find that it exceeded expectations, and that people watched it.

The marvelous thing about the pilot is that along with believably presenting a world of the highest stakes (like 24 did in its less nutso seasons), we find ourselves treated to multiple character studies by some really amazing actors. Damian Lewis is better than I've ever seen him in this character, to the point that I can't really imagine another actor playing this role. I'll write more on him in a few episodes. In the best way possible, I can't quite get my head wrapped around him. I also think Morena Baccarin shows here that same dynamism we were treated to in V for two seasons.

Claire Danes is revelatory. She has that same watchable intuitiveness here that she's always had, and she draws you in by passionately leading you to believe that every word she's speaking is true, even though empirical evidence may tell you otherwise. Not to beat the dead horse that everyone's beating, but this quality is what makes My So-Called Life so perpetually terrific: you care about Angela Chase, and Danes pulls you into Angela's emotional world, but you recognize that Angela is an unreliable narrator, a teenage girl figuring it out as she goes.** In Homeland, Danes and the writers bring this to Carrie Matheson, who is damaged, unstable, even paranoid. I love the shades of gray here. I love the jarring wrongness of Carrie trying to seduce Saul in a moment of desperation. I love that Carrie is a little awkward with people, and that she takes anti-psychotics. Most of all, though, I love that she actually could be wrong about this whole thing. Yessss.

I'm beyond impressed with this show's first hour, and I look forward to seeing if it can build on its excellent pilot. I do find myself a bit concerned about long-term potential, and whether the central mystery is enough to sustain it through the whole season, but the strength of the pilot makes me prone to trusting its makers from steering it into another The Killing-level disaster. Watch it if you haven't!

**As a special treat, check out this Vulture article comparing Danes's new character with Angela Chase. 15 shades of awesome. Boom.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Fall TV Schedule Addenda

The new TV season is alive and kicking, and along with the always enjoyable return of old favorites (Parks and Rec, I missed you most of all), the new crop seems to be holding its own nicely. Up All Night, Prime Suspect, and, surprisingly, The Secret Circle are a few of my early favs. I'm not exactly hemorrhaging spare time to watch hours and hours of TV each week, but I've decided to add a few shows to my weekly rota. It's a nice position to be in.

Dexter (Showtime, Sundays @ 9/8c): This summer, when my Slingbox was broken, I started watching Dexter at the urging of TV-watching friends I respect, and, well, I got a little obsessed. Those of you who like it, you know what I'm talking about. Wow, season 4, right?! Granted, I'm invested now. I've gotta keep watching.

Homeland (Showtime, Sundays @ 10/9c):
I posted about this one last year, as I relished Claire Danes' return to serialized TV drama after a ridiculously long absence. It looks perhaps irritatingly political, but I'm interested to see if it's also a character drama. Definitely worth watching the first season, at least.

2 Broke Girls (CBS, Mondays @ 8:30/7:30c): I'm going to be honest with you. Multi-camera sitcoms really bug me these days. The one-two-punchline style feels tired, and aren't we as viewers collectively past the point of needing a laugh track to tell us what's funny? Ugh. With that in mind, Kat Dennings went on Craig Ferguson's show last week and won me over to her new multi-camera CBS sitcom. I should have known that the charismatic heroine from my favorite hipster rom-com (Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. Obviously) wouldn't be on a stinker, but I've just grown so suspicious of CBS sitcoms of late. I didn't watch the pilot, but Ern and Leeard liked it, so I'll give it a whirl.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Why 'Boardwalk Empire' Lost Me Last Season

Here's another post from Maureen Ryan reading my mind about a show. This time, she describes the inherent connection problem that I've had Boardwalk Empire, that is, in spite of seriously gorgeous, near-perfect aesthetics and an undoubtedly cool concept, none of the characters are really worth following. It's pretty, but empty. As Ryan more eloquently puts it:

"It brings me no joy to bail out on 'Boardwalk Empire.' I thought the start of its first season was stylish and promising, but for me to stay interested in a group of people, I need to feel that the show itself is deeply intrigued by them. The problem is, long stretches of 'Boardwalk Empire' feel like a PowerPoint presentation come to life. The information is there, the aesthetic approach is "correct," but too frequently, I remained unmoved and uninvolved."

Yes, yes, and yes.

Those of you who watch it, what do you like about it? Are there certain characters you find appealing?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What 'How I Met Your Mother' is Getting Wrong

If your relationship with How I Met Your Mother is like mine, that is, you affectionately hang on to the show because you still have nostalgia for the glory years, even though it's pissing you off with its stupid gimmick, then you need to read Mo Ryan's recent post about why the "who is the mother?" mystery is everything that's wrong with the show in its current manifestation. Ryan's criticisms are excellent and insightful, and if you aren't a fan, but you love TV as I do, you should read her stuff regularly. In this article, she unpacks the problems with the show's mystery bride concept, and why adding yet another mystery bride to the show is a horrible, horrible idea.

Don't get me wrong: I still find the show really fun, and it's not going anywhere from my season pass list, but it could be so much better because it has been so much better. Come on, HIMYM: without the gimmick, you're so great!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

My 2011 Emmy Predictions

Several months ago, I posted my dream Emmy nomination list knowing full-well that many of my favorite shows were going to be royally snubbed because of their genres (Fringe), networks (Southland), titles (Cougar Town), or penultimate seasons (Big Love). It's okay. I've dealt with it.

When the nominations came out, there was the usual list of overrated critical darlings (Modern Family, Mad Men), fan favorites (Glee, Jim Parsons), and WTH? nominees (Pillars of the Earth = So. Bad.), but there was also a huge mix of pleasant surprises. Although I don't see it winning, how fantastic was it to finally see Friday Night Lights get a Best Drama nomination (a nomination that I like to think honors the show, rather than just the final season -- I'll go to the mat for season 3's ultimate superiority)?! Or what about Cat Deeley's well-deserved (and long overdue) nomination for Best Reality Show Host? YES!

Because the awards are later tonight, I thought I'd post a predictions list just for kicks and giggles. For each major category, I've posted who I think will win (WW), who I think should win (SW), and who I would write on the ballot in a perfect world (WO). I wasn't exactly 100% with my Golden Globe pics, so we'll just have to see how this goes down tonight. Here's a list of nominees for you to reference.

Outstanding Comedy Series
WW: Modern Family
SW: Parks and Recreation
WO: Cougar Town

Modern Family is a fun show, with a great ensemble and plenty of laughs to go around, but it's not as well-rounded as Parks and Recreation, which fires on every cylinder 99% of the time. Every single character on P & R, from Amy Poehler's overachieving B-student-that-could Lesley Knope to Retta's zingy Donna, is nuanced to perfection, and the timing this season was absolutely perfect. I don't know, man. Can you think of another episode of a comedy show more perfect than "Harvest Festival" this season?

Outstanding Drama Series
WW: Mad Men
SW:Friday Night Lights
WO: Fringe

FNL deserves the prize for both its excellent farewell season and its largely unrecognized body of work. Mad Men still bums me out. The other acceptable win in this category is Dexter, which I recently became a fan of, and which is awesome.

Outstanding Miniseries Or Movie
WW: Downton Abbey
SW: Downton Abbey
WO: Eh.

I'm not hugely invested in this category this year. I haven't actually seen Downton Abbey, but my buddy Lizzy tells me its awesome, so I'm taking her word for it that it's better than Pillars of the Earth, which was actually one of the worst TV movies I've ever seen, The Kennedys, which had bright spots (Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper), but would have been libelous if it wasn't so silly, Cinema Verite, which was alright but uneven, and Mildred Pierce, which lost me pretty early on, in spite of a killer performance from Kate Winslet (as ever).

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
WW: Steve Carell
SW: Steve Carell
WO: None. They got this one right.

It's nice to see Louis C.K. get a nomination this year for Louis, which I like a lot. But this year should belong to Steve Carell, who was a bright spot on the last flailing season of The Office.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
WW: John Hamm
SW: Kyle Chandler
WO: Bill Paxton

Paxton should have gotten a nomination this year for his scary-good ability to play a flawed, often unlikable anti-hero on the final season of Big Love, but alas. Kyle Chandler deserves this award for his utterly perfect performance.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
WW: Laura Linney
SW: Amy Poehler
WO: Courtney Cox

This category makes me mad. For one, how does Courtney Cox not have an Emmy nomination yet? There's no reason she shouldn't have gotten one this year for Cougar Town. I'm also going to be very annoyed if Laura Linney or Edie Falco walk away with this. Showtime and HBO's loose definition of "comedy series" drives me a little insane. Both of those actresses are fantastic on their respective shows, but it's a little debatable if either show is truly a comedy show. Can we please just change the category name to "Outstanding Half-Hour Show", because a half-hour show does not necessarily a comedy make. It should be no surprise that I'm rooting for Amy Poehler here. She was pitch freaking perfect in the episode "Flu Season".

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
WW: Elisabeth Moss
SW: Connie Britton
WO: Anna Torv

Anna Torv was a long-shot for a nomination because she's on a sci-fi show (don't even get me started), but I think I convinced myself that she couldn't possibly be ignored again after her season of playing, like, a million characters really well. Sigh. In any case, I think Connie Britton's got the best shot at winning something for FNL, but everyone seems to think Elisabeth Moss will likely win instead. It's a crying shame for Britton because she really deserves an Emmy for this season. I especially love the way she played the rift between Coach and Tami in the last few episodes of the season.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
WW: Chris Colfer
SW: Ed O'Neil, I guess
WO: Nick Offerman

Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness. I think the Modern Family guys are going to split the vote, deferring to Colfer (who, again, probably shouldn't be in a "comedy" category. Mrrr.), but I'm not very invested in this category as it stands. A lot of missed opportunities here.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
WW: John Slattery
SW: Josh Charles
WO: John Noble

Josh Charles strikes me as an understated actor. He didn't really stand out on Sports Night, but he was always a solid backbone to the show. I feel the same way about his performance on The Good Wife: he doesn't get a lot of "big" scenes on The Good Wife, but he's absolutely solid.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
WW: Sofia Vergara
SW: Sofia Vergara
WO: Busy Phillips

I just want to say that I totally called Kristen Wiig's well-deserved nomination in this category. Given Cougar Town's ridiculous Emmy shutout this year, Busy Phillips' snub is unsurprising, but still annoying. I adore Sofia Vergara's performance on Modern Family, and it would be great to see her or 30 Rock's underrated Jane Krakowski take home the statue.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
WW: Margo Martindale
SW: Margo Martindale
WO: KaDee Strickland

Justified fans, I apologize. Your show just doesn't do it for me. Margo Martindale, however, is always superb (remember how I told you I just became a Dexter fan? Her character broke my heart in season 3). KaDee Strickland was also a long-shot for a nomination for Private Practice, a soapy, uneven formula show, but she really rose to the occasion this season in Charlotte's rape plot. Like, wow.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
WW: Amazing Race
SW: So You Think You Can Dance
WO: I'm okay with this list.

Amazing Race always wins. Blah, blah, blah. American Idol reinvented itself this year following Simon Cowell's departure -- pretty successfully I might add -- but it doesn't have the heart that So You Think You Can Dance does. I'd love to see SYTYCD pull out a lovable underdog prize this year. Project Runway should be punished for letting Wretchin' Gretchen win last season.

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
WW: Cat Deeley
SW: Cat Deeley
WO: I'm only invested in one nominee!

I think Cat Deeley's got a shot at this, and I'd really love to see her win. The thing that separates her from other hosts is the way she advocates for all of the contestants, while keeping the show, with its long-winded judges and crazy dancer shenanigans, running smoothly. She's graceful, professional, and personable. There was an episode last year where the sound stopped working in her mic, a contestant got injured, and the music cues seemed to be out of sync, but she powered through and made it look easy. Cat Deeley.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Nostalgia Alert: 'Happy Endings' Gets More Awesome

EW.com is reporting that Fred Savage is set to direct and guest star (as himself!) in the second episode of ABC's Happy Endings this season, with the episode involving The Princess Bride. I know I'm not alone in feeling compelled to let out a loud and girly sqeeeeeal.

The Happy Fate of 'Make It or Break It'

Just yesterday I was lamenting the fact that ABC Family had yet to make a decision about the fate of my favorite teen sports soap opera Make It or Break It, and, as if I were at a restaurant where my food only comes to the table when I get up to go to the bathroom, ABC Family (bless their hearts) announced that MIOBI will indeed be returning for a third season! Hurray! (In my mind's eye, I'm doing a triple front handspring off the balance beam and sticking the landing to celebrate.)

The only "but" in this outstanding turn of events is that Emily Kmetko (played by Chelsea Hobbs) may not be returning, as evidenced by ABC Family's failure to include her in its press release and cast photo. I was very upset with her sudden and unceremonious departure last season. It felt unkind to fans who had invested in the idea of this talented athlete breaking the cycle of her mother's mistakes to then let this character become another statistic. Hobbs' real-life pregnancy seems to have been the catalyst for the show taking that turn, but at the end of the day I found it surprising that they didn't simply shoot around it, as the trend seems to be these days. Yesterday, Hobbs tweeted the following: "For everyone asking if Emily will be back; it's in the producers hands, right now I'm focusing on other work but never say never :)", and later, "As of now though, there are no plans. Ps. I love you all!!! Xo". Bad news for Emily fans.

As the show moves forward, though, building up to the Olympics next year, I for one am pumped to see more shenanigans at the Rock, even sans Emily. Good move, ABC Family!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

ABC Family Cancels 'The Nine Lives of Chloe King'

It seems that we will now never know who died for reals in the finale of The Nine Lives of Chloe King. In news that is the opposite of shocking, ABC family has canceled the low-rated series after only one season.

I will be the first to admit that the series was all kinds of bad, but I still found myself slightly addicted to the silliness. Or maybe it was Grey Damon's smoldering cuteness. It's a shame to see it go because it seemed like a show that was just beginning to find its footing. Oh, well. Chloe's low-rated-ness proves once again that it's difficult to bank on shows with non-vampiric supernatural elements (good luck with that, Secret Circle!), although not for lack of trying.

Now if ABC Family would just make a decision one way or another about Make It or Break It...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

'Revenge': Kindle Pilot Script Review

Confession time: I'm a bibliophile, but I own a Kindle. And it's awesome. I could go on about why it's awesome, but that's not the point here. Let's just say that for an indecisive over-packer like myself, a whole new world has opened up for me when I go places where I'm not sure which book I might want at a given moment. Awesome. Moving on.

As a promotion for their new show 'Revenge' (debuting Wed., Sept. 21), ABC has offered the script for the pilot for free on Amazon Kindle. I find this advertising tool intriguing. It says at least two things: (1) The marketing folks at ABC are trying to do something new and different from their competitors; and (2) They sure do think highly of the writing for their new show.

Well, I really like reading screenplays, teleplays, plays, what have you, so I downloaded the freebie and read through it before bed last night. It's soapy, a bit dated, and trying to do too much too early with the main character. The opening voice over is also pretty freshman comp (it opens with our protagonist Emily Thorne giving us the dictionary definition of "revenge". Oy). But it was mostly a fun, inoffensive read, and the writer (creator Mike Kelley, who also had writing credits on The O.C. and One Tree Hill, to give you an idea of the style) does a nice job creating the kind of ambiance that could make the show stand out (a network show hasn't been this "beachy" since Dawson's Creek).

The series is very loosely based on Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, so if you've read the novel you can understand how updating it and putting it in the Hamptons could become a soap opera -- not that that's a bad thing. It opens with a Labor Day engagement party for our revenger herself and Daniel Grayson, the Ivy League boy next door, at his family's home. But Daniel is no where to be found...until he shows up dead on the beach. (Dun-dun-dun!) The rest of the story is told in flashback, beginning with Emily's move next door to the Graysons at the beginning of the summer. The rest of the pilot chips away at Emily's revenge plot (motives, modus operandi, targets, etc.), and in keeping with every great evening soap where rich people are involved, there are plenty of fancy parties, backstabbing, and class envy, so buckle up.

The bottom line is that the script piqued my interest enough that I will be tuning in on September 21 to see how well it's executed. (ABC, by the way, offers a viewing of the pilot for free on their website, but I'm going to wait for the premiere because I like the buildup to new shows.) In other words, well done, ABC marketing.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Fall TV Extravaganza!

Hello, readers! I must apologize for my appalling failure to check in much this summer. It turned out to be a weird summer for me, TV-wise, with a whole host of technology breakdowns, TiVo rebellions, real-life busyness, and disappointing summer programming, that I didn't feel especially compelled to blog much. I've got a summer wrap party post coming your way soon, along with a fan guide to the complete series of Friday Night Lights (which I watched amid the darkness this summer), so keep your eyes peeled for that (gross expression. Sorry. I won't use that again).

But right now, I'm looking ahead to the dawn of a new Fall TV season, and its many exciting questions. Will old favorites offer new surprises, or continue down the same path of destruction (See: All Shonda Rhimes shows)? How will new castmembers gel with old castmembers (See: Charlene Yi on House; Kelli Giddish and Danny Pino on Law and Order: SVU)? What will win and what will lose in a promising crop of new shows (See: below)? Will departing favorites provide enough finale closure to satiate us (I'm looking at you, Chuck)?

In anticipation of this scintillating (and rapidly approaching -- The CW's new season premieres next week!) autumnal fare, I give you a night-by-night breakdown of what I'm thinking of watching this season (premiere dates are in parentheses). Bare in mind that my TiVo can only get two shows at once, so some shows will lose out this season by default. Plus, grad school's in its 7th year of kicking my butt (I'm in 24th grade. Gross), and I'm cutting out the nonsense, so if I hate a show this year, I'm cutting it out earlier than usual. If you think I'm missing something, sound off below in the comments section, and, by all means, I'll take a look at it. I live to keep you happy, reader. Onward:

Returning favs: TLC's Sister Wives (9/25 @ 9/8c); CBS's The Good Wife (*new night* 9/25 @ 9/8c)

Newbies: ABC's Once Upon a Time (10/23 @ 8/7c) and Pan Am (9/25 @ 10/9c)

Shows I've dropped: ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Desperate Housewives (DH lost me about four years ago, but this past season put the nail in the coffin. Now I'm free!)

I'm most excited about: Sister Wives and Once Upon a Time. The former has managed to do what it set out to do, that is, it has made an unconventional family with a stigmatized lifestyle sympathetic. I'm invested in the Brown family now. Once Upon a Time, frankly, looks really cool! I was a closet fan of ABC's short-lived Happy Town in 2010, and this series is giving me the same kind of vibes, but (*hopefully*) in a more commercially viable kind of way. In the same way that 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip only had one survivor in 2007, there's a good chance the TV-viewing public will only have room in its life for one fable-based TV series, and NBC's Grimm also looks pretty cool. We'll just have to wait and see. In any case, I'd really love to see OUaT live up to the hype.

Actor alert: Once Upon a Time features House's Jennifer Morrison in a well-deserved starring role and Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White; Pan Am's got Christina Ricci; The Good Wife snatched up House's departing Lisa Edelstein for a multi-episode arc.

Of note: I wasn't sure about Pan Am at first. It kind of looks like a gender-reversed, pop version of Mad Men, but I like to believe in the creative power of Aaron Sorkin's frequent producing partner Thomas Schlamme. We'll see.


Returning favs: CBS's How I Met Your Mother (9/19 @ 8/7c); FOX's House (10/3 @ 8/7c)

The CW's Hart of Dixie

Shows I've dropped: The CW's Gossip Girl (it's served its purpose.)

I'm most excited about: HIMYM, I guess.

Actor alert: As mentioned above, House tapped Charlene Yi as a new regular doc; Kal Penn's guest starring on How I Met Your Mother; The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson returns to TV with Hart of Dixie, and is joined by Jason Street himself, FNL's Scott Porter.

Of note:
Have you seen the trailer for Hart of Dixie? It looks real bad. Not just CW bad, but failed 90s rom-com bad. The pilot looks all kinds of predictable, the title is stupid, and the premise appears to be two parts Sweet Home Alabama, two parts Doc Hollywood, with a large serving of cliches thrown in about the generic "South" for good measure. Yikes. However, Bilson was fantastic on The O.C. (even during its weird third season), and because of that, I'm curious to see if this show gets better.


Returning favs: FOX's Glee (9/20 @ 8/7c); NBC's Parenthood (9/13 @ 10/9c)

Newbies: The CW's Ringer (9/13 @ 9/8c); FOX's New Girl (9/20 @ 9/8c)

Shows I've dropped: None

I'm most excited about: Parenthood. The really fantastic finale came too soon last spring, so NBC's making up for it by giving Jason Katims' family drama a week's head start this September (yayness!). As the dangling threads pick up a few months later in the premiere, I'm dying to see where the characters (and actors!) go next.

Actor alert: Jason Ritter returns to Parenthood this season to (presumably) romance Lauren Graham's Sarah some more (glad The Event was canceled for this very reason. [Sidenote: did anyone else think it was fun that two Lauren Graham TV character love interests both ended up on The Event?]) ; Ringer marks Sarah Michelle Gellar's much anticipated return to TV; Zooey Deschanel gives TV a shot with New Girl (She & Him's awesome, btw! Maybe they'll get her to sing on the show!).

Of note:
After two viewings of the teaser trailer for Ringer, I'm not totally sure what's going on there, but maybe that's a good thing because it looks like it may be trying to do too much. I guess Gellar's character is on the lam or something, so she steals her twin sister's identity? I don't know. Worth a viewing, I s'pose. Also, FOX has been promoting New Girl like gangbusters lately, and the more I watched previews of it, the less excited I felt about it and Deschanel's pretty-quirky schtick. Good comedy series usually take about a half-season to marinate before they start getting funny, but there has to be something worth watching in the beginning. This one goes in the "we'll see, won't we?" category for now.


Returning favs: ABC's The Middle (9/21 @ 8/7c), Modern Family (9/21 @ 9/8c), Happy Endings (9/28 @ 9:30/8:30c); NBC's Law & Order: SVU (9/21 @ 10/9c)

Newbies: FOX's The X-Factor (*90 minute performance show* 9/21 @ 8/8c); NBC's Up All Night (9/14 @ 8/7c); ABC's Suburgatory (9/28 @ 8:30/7:30c), Revenge (9/21 @ 10/9c); FX's American Horror Story (10/5 @ 10/9c)

Shows I've dropped: America's Next Top Model (but just for this season -- time conflict); *Possibly* The Middle, but not because of anything its done wrong. It's facing stiff competition from newbies The X-Factor and Up All Night, and I don't feel strongly compelled to tune in from week to week unfortunately; Law & Order: SVU has been demoted to a "watch the first five minutes of each episode and delete if necessary" status.

I'm most excited about: Toss up between Happy Endings and American Horror Story. I can't remember the last time I liked a comedy show so much off the bat (even Cougar Town and Parks and Recreation took 6-8 episodes to find their footings), so I'm anxious to see if Happy Endings can continue what it started (and if it can find an audience!). American Horror Story just looks freaking cool. Also, see actor alert for 90% of the reason why this one is a 10 on my anticipation index scale. The only thing that could ruin it? The weird-a** sensibility that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk brought to Nip-Tuck.

Actor alert: Connie Britton (eee!!!) and Dylan McDermott (I was a BIG fan of The Practice back in the day) are joined by Jessica (Oscar winner!) Lange, Francis Conroy (who always creeps me out), and Life Unexpected's Alex Breckenridge on American Horror Story; Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, and Nick Cannon (you read that right) look hilarious in Up All Night (Arnett is always so much better in ensembles than strait up leading roles, but I'm counting on Applegate [who, btw, was one of the best ever guest judges on So You Think You Can Dance this season] to temper his OTT impulse); Jeremy Sisto and Alan Tudyk rock the suburbs in Suburgatory; Revenge brings Emily van Camp back from Walker hell and Madeline Stowe back from oblivion.

Of note: ABC Wednesdays are where it's at! It would be refreshing if Revenge, with its Count of Monte Cristo premise, indeed turns into the fresh new nighttime soap ABC hopes it could be, filling that 10/9c time slot they've been trying desperately to fill for two years (usually with Shonda Rhimes shows). Also, I think ratings star Modern Family is a little overrated and potentially the weakest link of a very funny block of TV on ABC Wednesdays, so I'm a little annoyed that Cougar Town has been relegated to midseason when it could potentially be a perfect show companion with Happy Endings, but we can't always get what we want! I should also mention The X-Factor, which is going to be huge for FOX in the Fall. Obviously, I'm a massive American Idol fan, so I'll be tuning in to see the reunion of Simon and Paula. I'll probably post more about it later on, but for now I just hope it's better than The Voice.

***I'm stressed out just thinking about TiVo overload on Wednesdays and Thursdays this season. Networks have six nights (Saturday doesn't count) to fit stuff in. Why the Wednesday-Thursday overload? Cruel and unusual!


Returning favs: The CW's The Vampire Diaries (9/15 @ 8/7c); NBC's Parks and Recreation (9/22 @ 8:30/7:30c), The Office (9/22 @ 9/8c); ABC's Grey's Anatomy (9/22 @ 9/8c), Private Practice (9/29 @ 10/9c)

Newbies: FOX's The X-Factor (9/22 @ 8/7c); ABC's Charlie's Angels (9/22 @ 8/7c); The CW's The Secret Circle (9/15 @ 9/8c); NBC's Prime Suspect (9/22 @ 10/9)

Shows I've dropped: None, although I did watch Nikita for a little while.

I'm most excited about: Parks and Recreation!!! It'll be tough to follow season three's total symphony of perfect comedy, but it's ridiculous how much I miss these characters. It's all I can do to not break into a rousing chorus of "5,000 Candles in the Wind" right now, er, most days.

Actor alert: Patricia Clarkson and 30 Rock's Paula Pell guest as Tammy One and Tammy Zero, respectively, on Parks and Rec, which may be the most perfect stunt casting we've seen since Megan Mullally first guested as Tammy Two; The Vampire Diaries welcomes David Gallagher, a.k.a. Simon Camden (right?!), as a guest star this season; The Charlie's Angels reboot stars FNL's Minka Kelly (as a tomboy Angel? Huh?) and Grey's Anatomy's Rachael Taylor (remember the gyno who broke Alex's heart?); Britt Robertson, Lux from Life Unexpected, takes the lead in The Secret Circle, joining Natasha Henstridge and Thomas Dekker (no, not the early modern dramatist Thomas Dekker!), who you've seen in lots of stuff; Maria Bello returns to TV in the US version of Prime Suspect, along with Aidan Quinn and Fringe's Kirk Acedevo.

Of note: A few things to talk about here. (1) I will admit that Charlie's Angels looks like a female version of all the things that annoyed me about the Hawaii 5-0 reboot, but I can't help it. I love seeing girls kicking butt in all kinds of situations. Love it. (2) I'm not really a fan of witch shows, but I want to see how Britt Robertson fairs on a new show, so I'm at least watching The Secret Circle's pilot. Not sure if this show can do anything different than 1996's The Craft (Neve Campbell's golden age), though. (3) Prime Suspect doesn't look amazing yet. Obviously, the UK version is a vehicle for Helen Mirren, and those are some big shoes to fill. I'm curious to see how it's received, and, hey, Peter Berg's involved! (4) Parks and Rec is my number one Thursday night show, but I'm also really excited for Grey's Anatomy to return (I see your judgment eyes, reader). The season finale left us on a huge cliffhanger with both Mer-Der and Christina-Owen. I'm surprisingly anxious to see how they resolve it.


Returning favs: NBC's Chuck (*new, better night*; **final season** 9/23 @ 8/7c); FOX's Fringe (9/23 @ 9/8c); CBS's Blue Bloods (9/23 @ 10/9c)

Newbies: NBC's Grimm (10/21 @ 9/8c)

Shows I've dropped: None!

I'm most excited about: Fringe. The last season and a half have been all kinds of amazing, building to a gigantic finale last May. What happens now?!

Actor alert: Seth Gabel has been promoted to a full-time regular on Fringe, giving Fringe fans everywhere more reason to swoon [sidenote: did you know that he's married to Bryce Dallas Howard? I just made you like him more, didn't I?]; The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss will be playing a love interest for Casey on Chuck.

Of note: It'll be sad to see Chuck bow out this year, but I'm glad the show was given enough notice of its ending for producers to craft a farewell season. It should be fun to see Chuck and Sarah fighting crime in a new venue with lots of money! I also predict a series finale with a positive pregnancy test for Sarah, and a happily ever after flash forward for everyone. On the newbie front, Grimm looks pretty cool. On my new show anticipation index, it's not quite at Once Upon a Time levels, but it looks like it's got a clever, mythologically-laden concept, with lots of potential.


College Football Saturday! Go Pokes!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Lucas Scott, Redux!

According to TV Line, Chad Michael Murray is returning to One Tree Hill during the final season! Reader, this news makes me disturbingly jovial, in spite of the fact that Peyton Sawyer was the best thing about whiny (but not quite to Dawson-levels, in all fairness) prettyboy Lucas Scott, and Hilary Burton is not returning. Given Lucas and Peyton's unceremonious drive into the sunset at the end of the sixth season, though, I think I'm excited about, perhaps, a little closure with those crazy kids -- even sans Peyton.

Aww, One Tree Hill, you are so my favorite pair of university sweatpants!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Reason to be Excited about 'House'

Rather than having a love-hate relationship with House, I have what we might call a like-apathy relationship with it, meaning that I mostly stay caught up with it, but it's not usually a show I watch without other distractions (like Southland or the now deceased Friday Night Lights [may it rest in peace. Please let it rest in peace, Peter Berg!]). Its good episodes, though, are really good, and it gets very talented actors creating interesting characters more often than not. Amber Tamblyn's stint as Martha Masters this last season was one of my favorite multi-episode, non-regular character runs since Sela Ward's Stacey Warner back in season two. I also really liked Kal Penn's Kutner, and his seemingly-out-of-nowhere-but-not-when-you-really-think-about-it exit from the show.

Now it looks like the casting directors are attempting to earn more cool points as the show moves into its probable final season sans Lisa Edelstein: Charlene Yi, in all her fantastic hipster awkwardness, will soon be joining the cast! While I'm not totally sure Yi's awesomeness will fit into the House formula (not everyone gets her humor, I think [for a laugh, hunt down clips of her on Jay Leno's show sometime]), I'm excited to watch the attempt.

Monday, 18 July 2011

I'll Miss You, 'Friday Night Lights'

After watching the series finale of my favorite show on TV Friday Night Lights (in a blubbery, teary mess, I may add), I feel satisfied with the way things ended. The series finale that I've been dreading for over a year managed to bring the kind of dramatic closure that seemed nearly impossible to me. [SPOILERS!!] There's a strong sense that several of these characters are going to have a rough road ahead (Vince's relationship with his father is still fractured; Matt and Julie are too young to get married; Luke joined up during wartime; as far as we know, Tim still doesn't have many marketable skills), but we also believe that because these lives were touched by Eric and Tami, these people were given the tools they need to persevere. It was a hopeful ending to a show that never got cynical. Perfect.

The wonderful thing about this show from season one was its ability to depict real relationships and real marriages, while following a satisfying dramatic arch. Eric is the best kind of dramatic hero: an honorable, good man; a "molder of men" and mentor; an imperfect human being, willing to admit his faults to do what's right; an old-fashioned leader in the tradition of Will Kane, Andy Taylor, and Charles Ingalls (yeah, I went there). There aren't many heroes like this on TV, and there aren't many actors that can pull it off with the gravitas of Kyle Chandler.

I'm going to miss this show like mad. I can't complain about its brilliant five-year run, though. Its only real misstep in five seasons was the much panned Landry-Tyra "murder subplot", but every show's allowed to lose itself for a minute as long as it finds its center again. I can't praise this show enough, but Ken Tucker reads it much more eloquently:

"Right from the start, we had two plots that formed the bivalve heart of Friday Night Lights: marriage (family) and football (friendship, spirit). Many of us have said that the reason FNL was never a ratings hit was because it was too real, not escapist enough, for a viewer who just wanted to sit back and be amused. But I think the real reason was because the two elements that made this a great, unique series had not been yoked together in this way before on TV. Purist sports fans found the depictions of the games too brief and technically not very believable. Family-TV seekers were put off by the moral complexity of the show. And, overriding all of this: FNL never had the aura of being cool or gritty or groundbreaking; it didn’t court a cult following like Lost or Buffy did; it didn’t often try to test the limits of TV standards and storytelling the way The Shield or name-your-favorite-HBO-show did. Season after season, it fell between the genre cracks, admired only by those of us who loved – loved – its lack of irony and sarcasm and hip knowingness."

A great show. Nominations are now being considered for my favorite TV drama currently running.

Monday, 27 June 2011

My Dream Emmy Nomination Wish List

We're still a couple of weeks away from the announcement of this year's Primetime Emmy Nominations on 14 July, but lots of TV sites I follow have been posting their nomination wish lists, so I got excited. Here is my dream list of nominations in a few of the categories, with some categories including only a few, or in one case, a single nominee, and a couple categories with way too many nominees (I couldn't choose!). I have no idea what categories people actually submitted themselves for this year (except for Rob Lowe, who famously [and a little pretentiously?] went for a Best Actor nomination this year), so I've put them in the categories I'd like to see them in, again, in a dream world. What do you think? Anyone you're cheering for this year?

Big Love
Friday Night Lights

30 Rock
Cougar Town
Happy Endings
Parks and Recreation

Big Love: "Exorcism"
Friday Night Lights: "Kingdom"
Fringe: "Olivia"
Fringe: "The Plateau"
Private Practice: "Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?"
Southland: "Code 4"
The Good Wife: "Breaking Up"

30 Rock: "TGS Hates Women"
Chuck: "Chuck Versus the Cliffhanger"
Glee: "Britney/Brittany"
Parks and Recreation: "Harvest Festival"
Parks and Recreation: "The Flu"

Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Mirielle Enos, The Killing
Lauren Graham, Parenthood
Regina King, Southland
Julianna Marguilies, The Good Wife
Anna Torv, Fringe
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love

Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Michael Cudlitz, Southland
Shawn Hatosy, Southland
Joel Kinnaman, The Killing
Peter Krause, Parenthood
Bill Paxton, Big Love
Tom Selleck, Blue Bloods

Lisa Edelstein, House
Chloe Sevigny, Big Love
KaDee Strickland, Private Practice
Mae Whitman, Parenthood
Grace Zabriskie, Big Love

Kevin Alejandro, Southland
Michael B. Jordan, Friday Night Lights
John Noble, Fringe
Dax Shepherd, Parenthood
Donnie Wahlberg, Blue Bloods

Courtney Cox, Cougar Town
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Patricia Heaton, The Middle
Lea Michele, Glee
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Heather Morris, Glee
Busy Phillips, Cougar Town
Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live


Ian Gomez, Cougar Town
Ed Helms, The Office
Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation


Mamie Gummer, The Good Wife
Jennifer Love Hewitt, Law & Order: SVU
Martha Plimpton, The Good Wife
Leelee Sobieski, The Good Wife
Evan Rachel Wood, True Blood


Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Seth Gabel, Fringe
Chris Noth, The Good Wife

Jennifer Aniston, Cougar Town
Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock
Mo ("Joan Calamezzo runs this town") Collins, Parks and Recreation
Ruby Jerins, Nurse Jackie
Gwyneth Paltrow, Glee


Darren Criss, Glee
Matt Damon, 30 Rock
John Hamm, 30 Rock
Mike O’Malley, Glee

American Idol
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance

Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance**

**Not a category I’ve ever been too invested in, except when it excludes the wonderful Cat Deeley without cause every year.