Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 6, Episode 6 “A Shoe for a Shoe” (B)

Man, this show is wacky. I go back and forth every week on whether it works or it doesn’t, and I think this episode was fun but not entirely functional. It does move the plot forward, but I’m not sure that Nancy deciding that she’s done with Esteban and Spanish means that she’s actually going to be rid of them. She’s also being investigated by the authorities, so even if she wants to move on, a whole lot of people probably aren’t going to let her. It’s good to leave their current location behind, however, because both Silas and Andy have managed to plant some rather unfortunate roots that may well come back to haunt them. If Nancy used to be the biggest Botwin badass, that mantle has now officially gone over to Shane, who, after killing a woman with a croquet mallet to protect the family, takes a gun pointed at someone’s balls (“Inglourious Basterds,” anyone?) and decides to become the one making threats. Ignacio is definitely an insane guy, and having him at the same table as the feverishly hungry and despaired Doug makes for a pretty silly episode. Nancy’s simultaneous showdown with Cesar also proved interesting, though it does become hard to take this show seriously. The future is now completely unknown, and a new location and new life for the Botwin-turned-Newman family should mean the opportunity for intriguing new guest characters in the back half of this season, or at least I can hope it will.

Round Two: Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0: Season 1, Episode 2 “Ohana” (B)

After a strong, fun-filled start last week, I’m not surprised that the secondary installment isn’t quite as good. It’s not bad by any means; I’m just starting to think that it’s a show I don’t really need to watch. The appeal of seeing actors formerly from “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” isn’t terribly fulfilling since Chin and Kona are no Jin and Boomer. The roles aren’t nearly as challenging, and while that’s hardly to be expected on a procedural, not to mention a remake of a procedural, it’s still somewhat disappointing. Steve and Danny, or rather, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, do make a good pair, and they’re definitely the most entertaining part of the show (and the best reason to watch). Yet the show’s plotlines seem to be a bit too grandstanding, following the “Rizzoli & Isles” style of having the most sensational cases possible rather than regular, run-of-the-mill crimes. Sure, these guys are part of a special task force, but I still think it’s a bit far-fetched to follow these criminals, who seem almost as thinly-developed as the bad guys on “The Good Guys.” Having Peter Stormare of “Fargo” terror guest star on this show was a pretty big score, and it’s a shame he wasn’t put to better use. I was also hitting myself for not realizing until he was already off screen that Martin Starr, recently seen on “Party Down,” was playing the hacker. I’m not sure if I want to keep reviewing this show since it’s very much like “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” – loads of fun but not terribly interesting to review. Thoughts either way?

Round Two: Lone Star (Last Episode)

Lone Star: Season 1, Episode 2 “One in Every Family” (C)

I figured it was worth covering the second episode of this show since the prognosis on its life expectancy is very grim, and wouldn’t you know it, before I even got a chance to write the review, the show has been officially cancelled. I would like to note, before addressing the show’s quality, that axing a show after only two airings is hardly ever justified. It happened to the CW’s “The Beautiful Life” last year, which sort of deserved it, and a few years back, ABC cancelled the Heather Graham starrer “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” after only one airing, taking “Jake in Progress,” which had aired just the premiere of its second season, with it. I disagree with this practice simply because it’s (usually) impossible to know how well a show will be able to develop if such a slim chance is given to test it out. In the case of “Lone Star,” its death is mainly due to the fact that no one watched it, and I would posit that “The Event” will soon lose favor and viewers, and then FOX will have lost one of its programs for nothing. Now, I’m not the biggest proponent of this show, and therefore its defense would better be left to G1000 or most critics who loved the show. I think the series was deeply flawed, and it’s a premise that never could have really worked that well (again, see the comments; I’m sure G1000 can muster a strong argument for its validity). Episode two showed signs of trying to move too fast by threatening Bob’s plan in so many ways, by having him run into someone he conned, having his sister-in-law find his phone, having his new wife call his high school to check up on him, and having his dad hatch a plan to bring down his operation. Though I imagine a DVD release will eventually happen, I’m having a hard time believing that this show could have managed for an entire season, let alone longer than that. If you believe otherwise, please, take to the comments!

Round Two: The Event

The Event: Season 1, Episode 2 “To Keep Us Safe” (C+)

The second installment of a show that only really had a compelling “event” in its final two minutes the first time around offers pretty much the same dosage. I still don’t understand why Jason Ritter’s Sean Walker (any relation to Sarah?) is the protagonist of this series, since he doesn’t seem to be terribly bright and has no real knowledge of anything that’s going on at all. All of the flashbacks to his time spent with Sarah and her abduction aren’t all that informative, and just indicating that Sean was being framed for the murder of the boyfriend would have been enough. What’s mysterious to me is why the boyfriend needed to be killed at all – shouldn’t he just have been in on the evil plan? That would make too much sense, and it wouldn’t be shocking. Instead, the need to bring in D.B. Sweeney as a torturer extraordinaire (see “24” or “Jericho” for proof of his experience) is created, and that’s not something I’m going to argue with since I think he’s awesome. I’m baffled that Scott Patterson’s Michael Buchanan is dead since I had thought he was going to be a main character. The somewhat obvious revelation that Simon is in fact an alien was a good twist, and showing him rip that tube out of his arm was about as much proof as we were going to need. All the techno-babble about the “1% difference” was pretty ridiculous, and I think that this show still needs considerable improvement if it’s really going to work.

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 2 “Chuck Versus the Suitcase” (B+)

This episode is stronger than last week’s start because it packs in a whole lot of action and character development all around, giving us more of a sense of where this season is heading. The mysterious Bartowski mother wasn’t even featured in this episode, and at this point she’s still enough of an enigma that her eventual appearance in at least one of her children’s lives will be more than anticipated enough given Ellie’s meditation on their time spent together, following Chuck’s own investigation last week. Now, Ellie is beginning to have a bigger role as Awesome prepares a little too much for the arrival of their baby. Ellie is a character who’s never quite been featured prominently, save for the tail end of last season, and I would enjoy seeing her interact a bit more with everyone. Now, of course, Morgan has managed to transform the Buy More back into what it once used to be, bringing back slacker employees Jeff and Morgan to help lighten the load for both the Buy More and the show and give it a comedy edge to balance out the tone of the show. Chuck and Sarah’s relationship is also providing some of that, as their mission this week finds Chuck fighting a naked woman and Sarah yelling at her to put on her clothes. Their relationship certainly doesn’t need another reason for Sarah to think about bolting, but Chuck’s dreams of a perfect union are endearing. We’ll see where it’s all headed soon, and the inevitable reappearance of Chuck’s mom is sure to shake things up in a big way.

What I’m Watching: Eastbound & Down (Season Premiere)

Eastbound & Down: Season 2, Episode 1 “Chapter 7” (B+)

Is there any other show like this on the air? Part two of the fantastic new Sunday night HBO comedy pairing is back for its second season after a short six-episode run way back in the winter of early 2009. The difference between this show and lead-in “Bored to Death” is that I didn’t actually get a chance to cover this series on TV with Abe at all because I was out of the country and not watching live. I also neglected to rank it in my Top Ten New Shows of 2009 series, though it would certainly have placed high had I remembered to include it. This is a wildly original show that has much to offer than might be apparent on the surface. Now, in its second season, most of the original cast has been dropped with only the incomparable Danny McBride leading the way as temper-prone Kenny Powers. I cracked up every time Kenny started whining about the “language barrier” keeping him out of a conversation because he was in Mexico and refused to even try to learn the language. He’s managed to accumulate new disciples who are just about as ridiculous as his unwitting helper from last season. That scene at the end of the episode where he gave the lengthy speech on the baseball field was absolutely terrific, and on any other show it would seem wholly preposterous. Yet this show has always been more than a bit offbeat, and I’m so very eager to see where the wild and crazy Kenny Powers takes us this season.

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death (Season Premiere)

Bored to Death: Season 2, Episode 1 “Escape from the Dungeon” (B+)

Part one of the fantastic new Sunday night HBO comedy pairing is back for its second season after an eight-episode run last year that started out a bit shakily but quickly became one of the most dryly entertaining shows on television. It’s clear that season two is going to be even more of a wacky blast, if this first very funny episode is any indication. Jonathan teaching a class about writing is a recipe for amusing scenarios, and the assortment of students he has, only one of whom has, rather obsessively, read his book, is quite clever. I enjoy the fact that Jonathan, Ray, and George all hang out together regularly now, although George may have to cut back on some of his expenses, especially now that Jonathan has come in screaming with a hood locked onto his head while his clients were in the middle of a prayer. Jonathan’s investigation was typically foolhardy – he accomplished his objective yet still stayed behind to participate in the disturbing activity that ensued. I love the fact that the woman wanted to exchange services with him and have him help her with his book – only on this show would something like that seem reasonable. For those who thought the horse-bound cop looked familiar, Lenny Venito usually plays tough guys, as he did in an episode of “Flight of the Conchords,” on a few episodes of “The Sopranos,” and in the short-lived series “The Knights of Prosperity.” He did fine in this role, and contributed to a very fun first half-hour of the season.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 10 “Hands and Knees” (B+)

There are few things in this world that can make Don Draper quake in his boots. The threat of someone discovering his true identity and his desertion past, it turns out, is one of them. Seeing him nearly have a heart attack when he thought the men in the hallway were there to expose him was frightening, considering the fact that, alcohol addiction and all, he’s still usually quite put-together. The way he talks about it with the one coworker that knows his secret, Pete, is especially interesting. He’s just as condescending as usual, and though he defends the loss of the account to Roger and crew, he doesn’t really come to Pete’s defense at all and lets him take the blame almost completely, even though Pete isn’t nearly as scared or unnerved as Don about the possibility of his past being brought to light. Don’s readiness in sharing his secret identity with another person is surprising, and it’s good that he is about to show his true self to someone else. Betty getting paid a visit by government men reestablishes her presence and even existence on this show as a mere extension of Don, and their phone conversation, first open and honest and then carefully secretive, was particularly fascinating. The relationship between Joan and Roger is fantastic and is truly bringing out the best from both Christina Hendricks and John Slattery. Roger’s unfortunate business meeting could be good news for fans of Sal is Don is together enough to remember that the fabulous art director might now be able to come back to work for their newly independent company. Most interesting in an episode where a main character (Peggy) is completely absent is the unusual focus on an underdeveloped man of mystery: Lane, whose relationship with his father is absolutely destructive and insanely interesting to watch. Hopefully he’ll be able to break free after spending some time at home, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce won’t have to say goodbye to him for good.

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives (Season Premiere)

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 1 “Remember Paul” (B+)

For the most part, this episode is actually a pretty decent fresh start for this once-brilliant show now entering its seventh year. As this past Sunday night was approaching, I was realizing just how much programming there was to watch and had seriously considered giving up on this show. But this installment makes me pause to consider whether this show might just be experiencing somewhat of a creative renewal. The return of two old characters and their intersecting plotlines is an interesting device, and it’s even rarer considering how actors are often unavailable so many years after they first starred on a major show. Fortunately, terrific thespians Mark Moses, who spent some of the interim guesting and trying to defecate on “Mad Men,” and Harriet Sansom Harris are back as they help to reinvigorate the darker side of this show. Everything Paul says and does is fairly creepy, and I love the way that Felicia delights at telling her roommate that she has a friend on Wisteria Lane (Keith? Renee?). It’s fantastic to see Vanessa Williams back on television in a role fitting of follow-up to Wilhelmina Slater, and while Renee isn’t quite as evil, she’s still plenty snarky and mean enough. Renee’s presence should help to enhance the otherwise repetitive Scavo family drama. Susan’s new work shouldn’t last long, and the secrets that both Solis parents are holding create an interesting dynamic for the future. Brian Austin Green should prove to be a fun addition for both the show and for Bree, and much as I love the incomparable Kyle MacLachlan, good riddance to a ruined character, that of Orson. Let’s hope season seven is strong and reminiscent of the show’s fabulous first season!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Round Two: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Ivory Tower” (B/B+)

Man, this show is dense. Even the title of this second installment, appropriately enough, feels impenetrable. The fact is that, like shows before it such as “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos,” it’s hard not to feel awed by most of the events transpire. I’ll admit that I’m still somewhat hopelessly confused about the identities and relationships of some of the characters, and having a bit of trouble keeping all of the plotlines straight. I’d like to acknowledge, and not necessarily comment on, the fact that Chicago and its big ringmaster Arnold Rothstein, played by the pretty awesome Michael Stuhlbarg who forces men to choke to death just for his own amusement, seems to be an awfully big part of the show, sort of like how the New York mob was central to “The Sopranos” in its later seasons. The double life of Jimmy is probably the most fascinating element of this show, and the occasional name dropping of current nobody and loose cannon Al Capone helps ground this show in an interesting historical way. Nucky’s conversation with lead cop Nelson Van Elden was very interesting, and the way that Margaret Schroeder (I’m having to look up all these names as I’m writing this) is being dragged into a web of lies and deception is both riveting and horrifying. The way Nelson describes Nucky’s operation is particularly damning, and Nucky is certainly one of HBO’s finest and most compelling antiheros to date. Within the last week, this show has already been renewed for a second season, so get ready to get to know Nucky and his crew a whole lot better.

What I’m Watching: Dexter (Season Premiere)

Dexter: Season 5, Episode 1 “My Bad” (B/B+)

I’m torn about what grade to give this episode since it’s a truly intriguing hour but just doesn’t have the same appeal and magic of previous “Dexter” season premieres. Like its main character, the show is in a state of shock: where do things possibly go from here? At the end of season three, Dexter was seen bleeding while dancing with his new bride, indicating that it would be difficult for him to merge his serial killer lifestyle with having a family. Now, he’ll likely has custody of at least one and probably three kids, and though he told Rita that he liked kids, he’s not up for the task. Much of Dexter’s anger in this episode stems from the fact that he’s lost control of his situation, and there isn’t anything he can do to bring Rita back or set things right again. This episode was interesting because much of it was spent memorializing a character that was pretty much universally hated, and it’s clear after this hour that Rita was important to Dexter, even if he wasn’t capable of showing it or admitting it. She helped to humanize him, and without her, he’s just a monster saddled with raising three kids. This episode is very much an “aftermath” installment, and therefore doesn’t introduce any of the many guest stars previously announced on this season, and with the exception of Quinn doing some dogged digging, Quinn and Deb having sex in the middle of a crime scene, and Angel and LaGuerta failing to communicate, it’s unclear at this point what will happen this season. I’m sure it will be great though; this show is usually pretty fantastic. What did you think of the premiere?

Pilot Review: Blue Bloods

Blue Bloods (CBS)
Premiered September 24 at 10pm

This show definitely had one of the strongest series openings I've seen in a while, establishing a distinct mood before the first line of dialogue with the smart use of “New York, New York.” This is a cop show about through-and-through New Yorkers, and in this case the entire family is just as connected to the police department as they are to their home city. At first, this seemed like an ordinary procedural that accomplished what it set out to fairly well. By episode's end, however, I was feeling inundated with all of the exposition establishing the family roles. Over the course of the episode, there were additional twists I didn't really buy. The incorporation of the police brutality, toilet style is hardly something original, and Danny's ambivalence to the whole thing, coupled with Erin's fury about it, diminishes the strength of the show, in my opinion. The police secret society plotline also doesn't much intrigue me, and I would posit that it is possible to create a new generic cop show without these kinds of modifications and still have it be good. I would have said that any cop show starring Donnie Wahlberg doesn't need much else to intrigue me since I can still remember how awesome the short-lived “Boomtown” was, but this show doesn't impress me anywhere near as much. Casting Len Cariou as the eldest member of the Reagan family also seems very appealing, and it would be nice if he had more to do. I don't feel particularly strongly about Tom Selleck either way, and thus far I'm not very taken with either Will Estes or Bridget Moynahan. This show isn't that bad, but it needs to improve a bit before it's really going to be able to work. I will say that I did like the intense music as the show went to commercial.

How will it work as a series? There are certainly enough characters to write stories about related to their police work and their family dynamic. Having Selleck's character hold such a high office while one of his sons will likely be working undercover to unmask corruption in the police force, so that should create an interesting plurality of plotlines to epxlore each episode.
How long will it last? Even though it may not be wholly original, shows like this often do attract big audiences. This pilot certainly did, rankings as the most-watched show of the night and trouncing its main competition, NBC's “Outlaw.” It's a good follow-up to “Medium” and “CSI: New York,” and therefore this one will likely go far.


What I'm Watching: Smallville

Smallville: Season 10, Episode 1 "Lazarus" (C+)

When this episode started, I thought perhaps that this final season might be really great. By the end, however, I wasn't so sure. After a strong opening, it became clear that since this is the final season, things might be very exciting. The major problem, however, is that the show is trying to incorporate a major element of the classic Superman mythology - Lex Luthor - without having the actor who originated the role on this show. The fact is that Michael Rosenbaum used to be the best part of this show, and to try to bring Lex back without having Rosenbaum just doesn't work. As one of his clones says, there's only one Lex, and it definitely isn't the guy who played him in this episode. The idea that Clark is his own worst enemy isn't great, so hopefully this season can focus on more compelling villains. Watching the opening credits, I thought that Chloe was gone from them, but it turns out that now she's earned the coveted "and" credit. The cast really is a skeleton crew at this point, with a mere five players - Clark, Lois, Oliver, Tess, and Chloe. It's pretty big news that Lois finally knows, and like the way that both Lana and Chloe found it, it's not actually as a result of Clark telling her. That should prove interesting for a bit, and I'm intrigued to see how he'll figure out that she knows. Some of this episode's lines are a bit grandstanding: "I'm not guilty of anything except for trying to save the world" / "You may not see me as a hero, but the rest of the world does." With a pep talk from fan favorite John Schneider, Clark is off to a very superheroic start for the final season. And though the show really is going off the air at the end of the year, it's worth noting that the new duo of "Smallville" and "Supernatural" managed to score third place in the ratings, beating both FOX and ABC, which is huge news for the network.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pilot Review: Outsourced

Outsourced (NBC)
Premiered September 23rd at 9:30pm

I expected this show to be offensive. In fact, The Telefile has compiled a list of the 8 Most Racist Jokes from the pilot. What I didn't expect, however, was for this show to be the most boring half-hour of television I've watched in a long time. It's likely that transplanted office manager Todd will be bored to death in his new job, but that doesn't mean the viewers of this show should be as well. I tried my hardest to give this show a fair shot, but it didn't present anything worthwhile in its defense. In fact, the tasteless, offensive moments were the only interesting parts of the whole show! I couldn't possibly cite back to you the names of any of the characters on the show, and that's not because, as the show would stupidly have you believe, they're not American names. It's due to the fact that there's not one compelling character on this entire series. NBC used to premiere at least two new shows every season in between their Thursday night Must See TV stalwarts, and this seems like it has to follow in the trend of dying a quick death that shows like "Coupling" established. That's actually nothing else to say: this show is an embarassment on many levels and shouldn't really be watched by anyone. I certainly couldn't stomach any more of it.

How will it work as a series? Hopefully we won't have to find out. There's plenty of insensitivity left for Todd to dish out to his unenthusiastic employees, and for anyone who enjoys that kind of thing, this show could be somewhat interesting; for anyone else, the rest of the show should just be more of the tasteless same.
How long will it last? Mystifyingly, this show was watched by more people than those who watched "30 Rock" and fan favorite "Community," likely due to the fact that NBC now incessantly counts down the minutes until the next program during its shows. Still, NBC can't possibly hold on to this stupid show for long, and I imagine it will be replaced by some midseason entry by 2011, if it lasts that long.


Take Three: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 3 "Kill Jill" (B)

I'm feeling a bit schizophrenic reviewing this show since this episode feels a whole lot more like the first than the second did. If this had been the pilot, I doubt I would have been as impressed, but it does instill in me some faith about the potential of this show in the future. While it's fairly repetitive to have Nikita tracking and coming into contact with Division every single episode, it does give everyone something to focus on in common. The revelation that Nikita planted a tracker in Birkhoff's mouth as a decoy is smart, and it's also good to have Alex operating to help her on the inside when things go awry. I could live without the rivalry between Jaden and Alex and their constant fighting, and it would be better to feature Thom and especially Amanda much more prominently. I do like the structure of this episode, centering on a civilian caught up in something they're not fully prepared for, rescued and helped out by Nikita. I'm not sure how sustainable that will be every week, and as others have suggested, it would be good for Nikita to be up to other things, like side projects, rather than tracking Division's moves so closely. They're going to get suspicious soon, and that could seriously upset things and change the dynamic of the show way too soon. Maybe it would be a good idea to have Nikita make a few contacts on the outside who could become recurring characters; otherwise, this show is going to get very, very cyclical.

What Andy's Watching: Survivor

Guest critic Andy offers his thoughts on this season of Survivor. Apologies for the out-of-order posting.

Survivor: Season 21, Episode 2 "Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All" (B+)

Sometimes I feel that the hardship of participating on Survivor are often overlooked by viewers by the way that the episodes are edited. I wish that more time would be spent showing up just how sucky it is to be out in the wild.

These are people who have slept in comfortable beds their entire lives, and now they are sleeping on the floor outside. They are used to having food readily available. Now they don’t.
Watching someone having a nervous breakdown kind of lets the reality of their situation show through a bit. Holly spiraling into a mode of craziness definitely shows just how taxing the experience can be.

Ok, she went a little nuts and hid Dan’s shoes. I can understand that. However, admitting that she hid the shoes is probably one of the stupidest things she can do. When Russell used to sabotage his tribemates (destroying shoes, emptying water containers, hiding the knife), he never owned up to it. And even though he was probably suspected, there never was evidence to definitively point the finger at him.

Why Jimmy Johnson still has faith in Holly is beyond my comprehension. Probably because he is an idiot too.

It’s weird that these tribes even have real names, because Probst just refers to them as the younger and older tribes. For the record, the names are Espada and La Flor.

La Flor always marching in with a beat is really funny. Sure it didn’t help them win, but it shows that they are having fun and enjoying themselves. It will be interesting to see if they keep up the spirit with this weeks devastating loss and explosive, tribe dividing tribal council.

Regarding the Medallion of Power – I don’t think it made such a big difference in the outcome of the challenge. Based on how awesome Tyrone (old tribe) was doing, and how terrible Benry (young tribe) was, I think the old tribe was going to win either way.

Tribal Council for the young tribe was as intense as heck. It’s very interesting that the first decision on who to vote out was between two strong players, because usually the first ones to leave a tribe are the weak, and it a decision about which person is weaker.

While I think Shannon would have proven to be a very interesting player and it is a shame to see him leave, he is kind of a homophobic asshole. His attack on Sash was not so surprising, but totally unnecessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what cause both Benry and Kelly B to turn on him. (I’m sure they had their doubts going into Tribal Council, but his remarks might have been the final nail in the coffin).

Judd blurting out "can we vote" during Tribal Council is hilarious. As stupid as he may seem, he definitely provides the most entertainment value. He is probably is going to screw up his alliance's plan somewhere down the line, and then that happens, its going to be great.

What I'm Watching: The Office (Season Premiere)

The Office: Season 7, Episode 1 "Nepotism" (B+)

I read (and even wrote) so much about how bad last season of this show was that I hadn't bothered getting excited about this season too much. Fortunately, I was in for a pleasant surprise starting with the fun lip-syncing opening sequence, followed by a new set of opening credits with fresh images but still crediting only Andy and Ryan (still?) along with the core four members. The revelation that Gabe is dating Erin is somewhat of a shock, but it should give Andy some good motivation for plotting revenge against the peculiar Sabre employee. I enjoyed the introduction of the much-hated new assistant, played by Evan Peters from "Invasion," especially when it came to Darryl's reaction. Finding out that he was Michael's nephew made it much more interesting, leading to a spanking scene that was about as awkward as this show likes to get. I do love Jim's looks and commentary when Michael says ridiculous stuff, and his note that he's had the busiest summer of his life since Dwight bought the building was great. This episode showcased an absolutely wonderful performance from Jenna Fischer, and I'll heartily defend Pam being married to Jim as a fantastic route for this show to anyone who thinks otherwise. Kelly thinking she's smart now is pretty hilarious, and I hope that she, along with some of the other supporting characters, are featured prominently this season. Two other terrific tidbits: Michael talking about the Blair Witch Hunt Project, and Creed explaining that he follows Luke on Twitter because he doesn't talk about Betty White all the time.

Pilot Review: Shit My Dad Says

Shit My Dad Says (CBS)
Premieres September 23 at 8:30pm

Title issues aside, this show has other problems. Like "Running Wilde," it's a series crafted around one actor that doesn't have a leg to stand on - except for that actor. That means, more crucially in this case than FOX's new Will Arnett comedy, that the rest of the show and the supporting characters are hopelessly underdeveloped. Fans of "Boston Legal," "T.J. Hooker," "Star Trek," or just the big guy himself may enjoy seeing William Shatner do just about anything, and this show isn't quite as terrible as it could when looked at through that lens. Calling it funny would be a stretch, but Shatner does have some decent comic timing, and succeeds marvelously at dishing out insults. The trouble is that the style of comedy is modeled after something like "Two and a Half Men," where jokes are made to be as vile as possible while still being appropriate for broadcast television before 10pm, and as a result it often feels like sitcom quip overload. The laugh track is fine here considering it's helpful to laugh along with others at anything that comes out of Shatner's mouth. This show is based on a Twitter account where someone tweeted all the ridiculous things his dad said, and therefore it's understandable that anyone but Shatner is hardly as interesting. Unfortunately, they're completely and totally uninteresting, and this series might work better as a one-man show with Shatner just putting people down for the entire half hour. CBS has found success with ensemble comedies, including this show's lead-in, "The Big Bang Theory," and therefore it's odd to have this lone duck series which only has one thing to recommend. That one factor can also only go so far, and while this review is more positive than I expected it to be when I started writing, it should mainly be taken as saying that it's not as awful as it could be.

How will it work as a series? Shatner will do fine, but I can't imagine that anyone is actually interested in what happens with his relationship with either of his sons. Tim Bagley (Harold Crenshaw on "Monk") sparred well with him in the pilot, but I doubt anyone else can do as well in the coming episodes.
How long will it last? CBS is the place to laugh track sitcoms, and therefore this show might enjoy a longer life than it would on another network. This is pretty much the first time that "Survivor" has been evicted from the Thursday at 8pm time slot, and "The Big Bang Theory" and this show performed commendably, so this one may even last the entire season.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

What I'm Watching: 30 Rock (Season Premiere)

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 1 "The Fabian Strategy" (B+)

This show is off to a strong start and on my good side with this funny premiere full of very quotable lines. Perhaps it's how intelligently self-referential this show is: after last year's season opener was actually called "Season 4," this one is a bit subtler and has Liz announcing "Season five, here we go" right before the opening credits and features constant congratulatory references to the fact that they've made it this far. If this premiere is any indication of what the season to come is like, then that's a great thing, even though I know that the quality and enjoyability of this show does tend to ebb and flow. Returning to positives, however, I loved the fact that Liz could hear that Jack had a beard over the phone, and him buying out all the hotel rooms to force Carol to stay with Liz was pretty terrific and singularly typical of his character. Jenna's ridiculous conditions turned out to be pretty funny, and I liked the way she worked herself out of the job, which presented some hilarious desperate offers from the underused character of Pete. The comment that all the internal memos were being printed on the back of Pete's kids' art was also a funny line just tossed in there and quickly glazed right over. Tracy's hallucinations of Kenneth weren't overly distracting and actually turned out to be pretty amusing. The best line of the episode comes from Carol, a.k.a. guest star Matt Damon: "Emotions just happen to someone who changes altitude four times a day."

Pilot Review: My Generation

My Generation (ABC)
Premiered September 23 at 8pm

The promos that I’ve seen endless times in theatres before movies for this show purport that there’s never been anything like it: a documentary-style, completely scripted series about a high school class reuniting after a number of years. First of all, that’s not true. There was a show on FOX back in 2005 called “Reunion” that had exactly the same premise, centering on six friends rather than nine randomly selected students. That show got the axe before it could finish its twenty-episode arc, and only nine out of thirteen produced episodes even made it to air. Though beginning with a charge of plagiarism is not a great recommender for a new series, it’s hardly a detractor unique to this one show. What’s more problematic, however, is the stark casting of each character as a defined, extreme archetype. These nine characters are universally grating and highly stereotypical rather than three-dimensional and genuinely interesting. “Reunion” may have been too dark and preoccupied with solving a murder for its own good, but it had much better characters around which to anchor its stories. Unlike a show like “The Office,” the cameras are almost always acknowledged, and in the case of many flippant gestures, it’s clear that they aren’t wanted. If the audience isn’t interested in following these characters either, this show is going to have its work cut out for it. The incestuousness of these people is simply baffling, and from the looks of things the webs are only to become more tangled as the show continues. The attempts to recreate the year 2000 and highlight the time in between then and now are irritating, and the music choices are especially bothersome. If these character tropes didn’t seem so fabricated to help engineer the storyline, this show might have a better chance at success. Still, this is simply a case of unoriginal ideas being wrapped up in what’s being falsely marketed as a novel concept. None of the performers impress (Kelli Garner is particularly annoying), and while the dialogue isn’t quite as bad as it could be, the plot is.

How will it work as a series? The writers have created nine characters with interlocking stories and additional stories of their own, so the possibilities are generally a bit endless, even though I can pretty much predict where all of the arcs are going to head at this point. The camera crew aspect of it all might have to be ditched eventually if this show makes it to a second or third season, but as far as material goes, the well won’t dry up anytime soon.
How long will it last? Last year, ABC premiered a complex drama that necessitated weekly viewing in this timeslot. “My Generation” is definitely a better fit than “Flash Forward” to go along with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.” Sadly for this show, however, the ratings were considerably lower than those of the future-seeing show last year, and this one may well wrap even quicker than “Reunion” did. I’d give it until December.


Pilot Review: The Defenders

The Defenders (CBS)
Premiered September 22 at 10pm

Both watching this and writing this review right after doing the same with "The Whole Truth," I'm once again thinking that this show isn't quite as bad as "Outlaw," but it does come a little closer than ABC's Wednesday night legal offering. The main problem is the pairing of Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell. Only the longtime star of the critically-reviled "According to Jim" could make the absurd O'Connell look a little less ridiculous. O'Connell does just fine for the first few minutes, introducing a new legal aide as a judge and leaving her to fend for herself with a client, and it's only when Belushi begins moaning about how he's discovering that his ex-wife is cheating on him does O'Connell start to look like the sane one. This show is of course designed to be ridiculous, and so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. To pay a rare compliment to "Boston Legal," this show is hardly the caliber of that show in terms of zaniness and potential humor (I try not to crack a smile when I accidentally come across the James Spader series). Belushi's Nick Morelli does things like spilling water on an epxert witness in the middle of court, and this show hardly seems like it's supposed to be a drama. Unfortunately, it's not funny or interesting enough to be a comedy, and for some reason, the Vegas factor is used to absolutely zero effect, which is just puzzling. Jurnee Smollett's fight to be taken seriously mirrors this show's fight t be taken seriously: neither one is going to go well. The do-gooder newbie fighting her stubborn bosses has been seen on so many other shows, and no new ground is going to be covered here. I was surprised to find that the amazing Natalie Zea, who was hands-down the best part of the pilot, is only a guest star, but I suppose that's good so tht she can easily get a new part when this show gets cancelled pretty soon. Zea isn't the only one being squandered here - Gillian Vigman, onetime star of the fantastic but short-lived "Sons & Daughters," is wasted as Nick's ex-wife. What a pity.

How will it work as a series? We've only grazed the tip of the iceberg regarding the lengths Nick and Pete will go to in their efforts to win cases, and therefore it's reasonable to expect future episodes to show them doing even crazier and more deplorable things. It would also make sense for Las Vegas to become much more integrated with their cases in the future.
How long will it last? Though I would be tempted to cancel it immediately, this show may have a longer life than CBS' previous ill-fated foray into non-CSI Vegas, the Rob Lowe show "Dr. Vegas." The show trounced "The Whole Truth" in the ratings, and until it goes up against "Law & Order: Los Angeles" this coming week, it's looking pretty good to finish out the season, at the very least.

Pilot grade: F

Pilot Review: The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth (ABC)
Premiered Sep 22 at 10pm

Anyone looking for a new legal drama can breathe one sigh of relief: this show isn't nearly as bad as NBC's "Outlaw." That's about the only compliment I can pay it, however, considering how dull and uncreative it is. The hook here is supposed to be following both the prosecution and the defense, as evidenced by the very blatantly spelled-out titles used during the episode. Cutting back and forth between opposing sides is more than a bit frantic, and it makes the trial feel even more disjointed because of the need to constantly pull out opposite pieces to make it all the more thrilling (not quite the effect). The unnecessary use of flashbacks to pieces of the trial that we saw only moments ago is one device I disapprove of wholeheartedly, and its use here was extremely disappointing. The awkward mid-sentence cuts from closing statements into the testimony of witnesses also feels horribly uncomfortable and jagged. The format does manipulate emotions considerably when the verdict comes in because you can only be half-happy since you've been heavily briefed on both sides of the case, but the only thing I felt was apathy. I was also unsure of what the end reveal was supposed to prove, and why viewers are supposed to case. There are no standouts in terms of characters from either legal team, since it's really just about the two leads, though the show doesn't seem to know that. The casting of Eamonn Walker, formerly of "Oz," in a tragically wasted supporting role is clear evidence of poor casting decisions and character creations. Maura Tierney is also sadly without much to do here besides appear unlikeable, and she's demonized to a pretty unbelievable extent while Rob Morrow is portrayed as the rugged hero. His performance can be summed up by noting that he's just as excitable as he is bearded, and he's too much of a loose cannon. The pairing of the two of them just isn't all that interesting, and this show ends up without any real appeal.

How will it work as a series? A legal drama is one genre without a shortage of plots, and the chance to show both sides of every case should present writers with many possibilities. More effort should be spent on crafting the dialogue and structure of each episode rather than just the premise if this show is going to succeed.
How long will it last? Probably not too long. While it could have stuck around for a while, as both leads' previous shows did, this series premiered to ratings worse than last year's "Eastwick," which didn't last long in this time slot. On top of that, the competition is two other law shows: "The Defenders" and "Law & Order: Los Angeles," so this one likely doesn't stand much of a chance.

Pilot grade: D+

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I'm Watching: Modern Family (Season Premiere)

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 1 "The Old Wagon" (B+)

I'd like to officially welcome back last season's best new comedy, which deservedly won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series (the DVD of the first season just arrived in my mailbox!). The second season is off to a great start, focusing once again on family familiar tropes, like broken-down cars, construction projects, and jealous mothers. Though all of the plotlines were top-notch, I'm a sucker for anything involving Phil, especially since it was at this time one year ago that the brilliant Ty Burrell first wowed me (and others) with his hilarious performance of the wacky Dunhphy patriarch. His best moment on this episode was jumping on the hood of the rolling car, prompting exclamations of "What's the plan, Phil?" from Claire and others, though it's also worth pointing out his presentation of the retooled car ad. Mitchell getting stuck in the playhouse was very funny, and I loved his taunt of "enjoy your light beers," which resulted in Cameron's clarification that they only have light beers. Gloria/Sofia Vergara is just wonderful, and the way she talks about being a Colombian mother is great. I must say - this idea of salt and chocolate milk seems terrifying to me, but maybe it's good? The strongest part of this episode, as it often is of the show, is the surprisingly and surprisingly effective dramatic ending of the episode, linking together all the threads and noting that it is often tough to say goodbye. I can hardly wait for episode two.

Pilot Review: Better With You

Better With You (ABC)
Premiered September 22 at 8:30pm

And here it is, the show that will join ABC’s highly successful Wednesday night lineup from last year that marked the network’s return to prominence in the area of half-hour comedies. Hopefully it will have a better fate than last year’s fourth wheel “Hank” or the many shows that premiered and died on NBC’s Must See TV Thursday night throughout the years. I say this mostly because I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this generally formulaic pilot. Spotlighting three different couples is something that’s been done time and time again, and I don’t have good memories of the last show on which Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finnigan played a couple on NBC’s “Committed.” Fortunately, the results here are much better. There’s the puppy-love couple – Jake Lacy and Joanna Garcia, in a much better role than she had on “Privileged”) – and the unmarried duo that have been dating for nine years – Cooke and Finnigan – as well as the parents of the two girls, played by Kurt Fuller, most recently seen recurring as the coroner on “Psych,” and Debra Jo Rupp, best known as matriarch Kitty on “That 70s Show.” The relationships are presented as diametrically opposed to one another, and the comparison is much more effective (and fresh) than one might expect. The existence of the laugh track isn’t necessarily a benefit, but it feels somewhat appropriate since this show probably wouldn’t work without it. I will confess that I was laughing out loud for a good minute or so at one point, prompting my less amused friend to glare at me during a pilot screening I attended a few weeks ago. There are a number of laughs in the pilot, and both Garcia and Cooke are very well-suited for their respective roles. Finnigan is a bit shrill, while Lacy hardly seems qualified for his slacker part (that may be the point). Fuller and Rupp are particularly entertaining, and their relationship may be the funniest of the three. I’m not sure how sustainable this show is, but the pilot had me cracking up a whole lot more than I had expected.

How will it work as a series? The hasty engagement of the youngest couple could quickly unravel, but the setup of the show as telling the stories of three couples suggests that Lacy’s Casey isn’t going anywhere. It’s possible that the jokes about different types of couples could become tired very fast, and it will be up to the cast and the episodic plotlines to pick up the slack. I fear this could be just like “Cougar Town,” where the pilot was strong but the show took a dive right after that. At least this title should remain applicable.
How long will it last? Again, hopefully longer than “Hank” did last year. It would certainly be a positive thing for ABC to have four comedies to air new episodes of each week rather than only three, so I imagine they may give it a bit of a chance. It’s too early to tell, but sadly, I don’t think this one will last past this season (though it might be okay until that point).


Pilot Review: Undercovers

Undercovers (NBC)
Premiered September 22 at 8pm

I wasn’t so sure about this show at the beginning of the premiere, but it quickly won me over and ranks as one of the strongest pilots for the 2010-2011 season I’ve seen yet. Most importantly, it’s also probably the show that has the best sustainability potential, having crafted a smart premise and made an introductory episode that can segue perfectly into a highly enjoyable series. I was initially mystified by the choice of two essentially unknown, non-American stars since they don’t seem terribly dynamic, but as the pilot went on, it became clear that they are a lot of fun together, and their banter is highly entertaining. Gugu Mbatha-Raw certainly knows how to be seductive and funny, and I especially loved the smooth Boris Kodjoe’s delivery of “I know what she said!” followed by “This is not the end of the conversation!” They make a fantastic pair, and they handle action scenes very well together. Ben Schwartz’s sidekick Bill Hoyt is annoying but not too annoying, and I think the part will be a good amount of fun. The other agent slash suspected traitor Leo Nash is a bit more comical and definitely trying to steal some scenes, and I’m not sure how and to what extent he’ll be incorporated in the future. Gerald McRaney sure isn’t energetic at all, and it’s fine for this role even though his talents were much better used in the unfortunately cancelled “Jericho.” I liked the cool title cards detailing the locations and the show certainly succeeds with the use of dramatic music and flashy cinematography. The focus on their spy lives rather than the I’m ready to call this one a hit, and unless next week really cancels out the awesomeness of this premiere, I’ll look forward to watching this show for a while.

How will it work as a series? I’ll have to wait until next week to officially make that call, but I think it will be very enjoyable. The two main characters are fantastic, and there’s just the right amount of support and possibilities for villains that this show could work pretty well for a nice long time. I’m not yet sure whether it’s going to be a larger-arc kind of series or whether it’s going to focus on different villains every episode; either way, I think it can work marvelously.
How long will it last? Well, the ratings weren’t any better (or much worse) than those of the pilot of the now-defunct “Mercy” in this time slot last year, but I suspect that NBC will want to hold on to what could be their next big hit. “The Event” isn’t a slam dunk and it’s definitely not going to be “Outlaw” or “Outsourced” (perhaps the prefix is the damning factor), so I think they’ll stick with this one, and they’ll likely renew it if the ratings improve.


Pilot Review: Detroit 1-8-7

Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC)
Premiered September 21 at 10pm

Every season, networks offer up new cop shows often with no more than a few small tweaks on the procedural format. This particular program is going for a small number of modifiers but ensuring that they’re all big. Along those lines, this show is extraordinarily bleak, especially with the devastating end of the episode featuring the downed cop’s annoying cell phone ring tone. Think of it as ABC’s response to “Southland” that isn’t nearly as effective at being as dark as it’s trying to be (even though I didn’t like the NBC-turned-TNT show either). The bleeping out of expletives to give the show an edgier feel also fails because it turns the scenes into awkwardly comic interactions. Detailing the number of years each cop has put in on the force is supposed to highlight the differences between them, but unfortunately they just end up as overly defined stereotypes. Michael Imperioli is in the lead role as the stoic detective who literally gives a suspect the silent treatment until he gets so agitated that he confesses (after a mere minute or two, no less). Imperioli’s Detective Louis Fitch may be in Detroit, but you wouldn’t know it from his devastatingly strong New York accent. It’s a more focused role than the cop parts he had on “Life on Mars” two years ago and in the “The Lovely Bones,” but having him actually call his new partner on a cell phone rather than speaking to him when they’re right next to each other is pretty stupid. No one else in the cast is worth mentioning, and the show just is too interested in being dark and dreary to be legitimately intriguing. Don’t bother visiting Detroit.

How will it work as a series? Like any other cop show, there shouldn’t any shortage of potential plotlines. One veteran detective has his dream retirement home, but at this point, most of the other characters, especially those like Fitch that don’t wear their emotions on their sleeves, there are plenty of back stories to be developed.
How long will it last? It doesn’t have that much competition (just “Parenthood” and “The Good Wife”), but I still don’t see this one sticking. The ratings are a bit below those of the premiere of “The Forgotten” that held this time slot last year, and that show bit the dust by the end of the season. I’d give this one about a season.


What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 2 “No Good Deed” (B)

I’m having a bit of a problem adjusting to the relatively comical, unserious tone of this show this season. It makes it especially jarring when a dramatic scene like the explosion of emotions between Sarah and Adam at the end of the episode occurs. I think a big part of the problem I’m having is the presence and screen time devoted to Adam Baldwin’s character. It’s not necessary to see Sarah giving a steady job a try, especially since it takes her away from her very entertaining daughter, who only gets a few memorable lines in this episode as a result after having been nearly invisible last week. Now it’s Sarah’s turn to be invisible at home, and Adam seems to have a similar problem. When he opens his door, things have become so chaotic that he can’t even will himself to enter his house, a powerful moment. Though it seems more than a bit unbelievable, not to mention inconsiderate, of Jasmine to once again jet off to some faraway place without thinking of how it might affect Crosby and his relationship with Jabar, Dax Shepard does continue to do a terrific job of playing this character, and it creates some interesting scenes between Crosby and Jasmine. I also loved Crosby’s quip unifying the two major plotlines of the episode: “It’s convenient that you two are working together, because it saves me a lot of time.” The least compelling sibling plotline of the week: Julia struggling to navigate elementary school politics.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 3, Episode 3 “Home” (B+)

The most important development is this episode is the fact that Tara, however inadvertently, has now crossed the line from being influenced by the violence of SAMCRO to dishing it out herself. Tragically and ironically enough, it’s her compassion that provokes the act, as she seems horrified by the treatment of their captive by Gemma, and it’s purely an accident that serves as the fatal deed. Yet just like that, Tara is now officially a killer, and she seems woefully unprepared to deal with the repercussions of her actions, as evidenced by her questions to the cleaner after he did his job. For all the discussion of being open and honest with old ladies, there’s an awful lot of secret-keeping on all sides of the Teller-Morrow family, as Jax and Clay will never learn of the caretaker’s death and Gemma is still in the dark about Abel having gone missing. It’s continually distressed that the club still knows so little about Abel’s whereabouts, and Jax doesn’t seem to be the only member of the club who is acting unhinged (following Opie’s costly outburst). The threat of incarceration for the majority of the members of SAMCRO ensures that Zobelle’s influence in Charming is still felt even after his departure. It would definitely be much better for the club to have Elliott in charge of thee town that Hale’s older brother, and it’s just another problem that the club didn’t see coming and most certainly doesn’t need to have in this coming season.

Pilot Review: Running Wilde

Running Wilde (FOX)
Premiered September 21 at 9:30pm

This is the Will Arnett Show. It’s sort of like a form of the Betty White Effect – whenever Arnett appears on screen and does pretty much anything, it’s as if the whole world stops and this is the greatest thing anyone has ever seen. The rest of “Running Wilde” might as well not exist because Will Arnett is the star, and that’s about as good a reason as any for many people to tune into this wacky FOX comedy. It’s certainly a beast of its own, though “Arrested Development” fans should be pleased about the irreverent tone and style of the show. David Cross is even present in the pilot just to drive home the fact that, while some cast members are present, this idea is nowhere near as brilliant as most consider AD to be. I remember despising Keri Russell’s guest appearance on the sixth season of “Scrubs,” so I’m pleased to report that she’s appropriately cast here and isn’t nearly as irksome ever time she speaks or, more often, delivers a blank stare. Like its central character, “Running Wilde” goes for broke every time – all the jokes are big and over-the-top, and immense effort is put into making the characters as hilarious as possible. The result is a wildely uneven show that has glimmers of brilliance but can’t quite hold it together. It’s not a show that’s meant to be taken seriously since it doesn’t really follow a coherent plotline, and therefore it’s up to Arnett (and the gang might seem like the proper thing to add here, but not in this case) to pick up the slack. How many people might feel is that Arnett is deserving of his own show but this just isn’t the vehicle for him. It’s loud and entertaining, and even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense some of the time, this show is all about being broad and most importantly being a soapbox for Will Arnett to act as crazy as can be.

How will it work as a series? Promos seemed to indicate that Russell’s “eco” would be paired with Arnett’s “ego,” and that’s probably close to what the episode-by-episode framework of this show will be: Russell’s Emmy trying to cure Arnett’s Steven of at least one bad habit every week. It will likely be hit or miss based on the episode’s plot, but quick cuts to random, laugh-out-loud flashbacks should help enliven the dull installments.
How long will it last? I couldn’t imagine watching promos for season two of this show just because I don’t think that the premise can be sustained, or the audience entertained, for that long. The ratings were somewhat on par with lead-in “Raising Hope,” which I despised, and therefore FOX may be inclined to test its success at having a comedy block for the rest of the season.


Pilot Review: Raising Hope

Raising Hope (FOX)
Premiered September 21 at 9pm

If nothing else, this is the most appalling new show of the season. The events that occur in the first episode – which include a baby watching an execution and being forcibly thrown from the backseat to the floor of a car – are simply mind-blowing and unfathomable. The show as it stands is a completely crazy exercise in getting away with as much as humanly possible, going for broke in every possible arena. The characters are absolutely ridiculous, and the attempts to drive home a bit of drama at the end of the episode come way too long after the show has officially gone nuts (roughly ten minutes in). It’s definitely more bizarrely entertaining than some of FOX’s worst misses, like “Free Ride,” but it’s not actually a better show. The presence of talented actors like Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt shouldn’t be mistaken as reasons to watch the show, and Cloris Leachman in particular should be scolded for playing a frequently unclothed great-grandmother in what has to be the low point of her career. It took me a while to recognize poor Shannon Woodward, who was so excellent as duplicitous daughter Di Di on FX’s short-lived “The Riches,” as a supermarket employee so bored in her job that she resorts to drawing on watermelons for entertainment. I might go so far as to compare her dead-end job to having a starring role in this show. There may be funny moments, but as a whole, it’s so repulsive and off-putting that it’s simply not too bearable. It would be hard to imagine watching this show on a weekly basis, and while I would like to continue with it from a critic’s perspective to see how it shapes up, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand more than a couple more minutes of it.

How will it work as a series? The painful ending of episode one sets it up so that the family is raising both a child name Hope and going forward with a renewed sense of hope. I do imagine, however, that the show will continue to be just as depraved as hapless new father Jimmy tries to figure out how not to screw up his baby like his parents did to him. Star Martha Plimpton purported in an interview that the “possibilities are endless,” but that just means they’ll continue to get even more and more ridiculous.
How long will it last? It’s hard to imagine this show developing a devoted following, though creator Greg Garcia did gain an audience for four seasons for his previous show, “My Name is Earl,” which I despised but not nearly as much as this show. It doesn’t strike me as a show that will complete its first season, but I’m clearly not part of the desired audience, so perhaps it will go ahead and amaze me by continuing to exist.

Pilot review: F-

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I’m Watching: NCIS & NCIS: Los Angeles (Season Premieres)

NCIS: Season 8, Episode 1 “Spider and the Fly” (B) / NCIS: Los Angeles: Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2 “Human Traffic” & “Black Widow” (B+)

This will likely be my last review of these two shows. Although it’s probably less than usual, it feels like there are so many new shows premiering, and I imagine I’ll be swamped in the coming weeks and months with a number of new and returning shows. Additionally, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to review both of these programs because the characters are fun but the plotlines are much more procedural than the other shows I tend to watch. Since “NCIS” ranks as the longest-running show that I’ve watched since the first episode was originally broadcast, I figure it’s worth bidding it a proper farewell, and though I don’t have the same loyalty to the most recent spin-off, the two-hour second season premiere did leave me with a few things to say about it.

To address the original show, this seemed like an appropriate episode for closure, as it sealed up the plotline begun late last season without providing enough intrigue to make me want to stick around (the text from Eli David to Vance saying “I found him”). This was a living in fear episode just like the season three premiere after Kate’s death, though this time that target was Gibbs’ family rather than the NCIS team. It also featured another pair of duplicitous siblings, although this time both were actually bad guys rather than last time when Ziva ended up killing Ari. I do have a bit of a problem believing that a legitimate law enforcement agency would allow someone to be intentionally murdered as part of a sting operation, but I won’t press the matter.

The L.A.-based spin-off definitely earned points with me for opening the episode in media res with Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” track from “Requiem for a Dream” thundering in the background, not to mention all the jumping over cars and mall structures. The new intro images are fun, and the first episode would definitely have been more suspenseful regarding the mystery of Deeks being dead or alive if Eric Christian Olen hadn’t been officially announced and credited as a regular cast member. The second episode featured the cool plan of having the agents pose as members of a crew only to discover that they were posing as the wrong members (only a test, as it turned out). I couldn’t place the actress who played Emma, and after a quick IMDB lookup, I learned that it was Liane Balaban, recently seen as Auggie’s open source-thumping Russian ex-girlfriend on “Covert Affairs.” The sting operation in the supermarket was also definitely pretty intense.

So that’s it for me and the “NCIS” shows, unless you’re watching and think I should too. Leave any thoughts in the comments; otherwise, adieu.

What I’m Watching: Glee (Season Premiere)

Glee: Season 2, Episode 1 “Audition” (B+)

Last year’s phenomenon returns for a second season, and the operative question is whether the show can live up to the hype and avoid some of the sillier avenues it went down last year. Fortunately, the answer is more positive than negative thus far. The introductory video from Jacob Ben Israel and the fantastic New York number served as great ways to welcome the show back from the summer while launching the show into its primary second season plotline, the quest to make it to Nationals in New York. Showcasing the two potential new members with fabulous musical numbers in concert with existing glee club members was a great strategy, although it seems it will just be the familiar crew now that Sam has become the football quarterback and Sunshine has been poached by the new coach of Vocal Adrenaline, played by Cheyenne Jackson, also known as the robot from “30 Rock.” It’s fun to see Will and Sue teaming up and working together, even if it’s only for one episode. The presence of the female football coach is a bit of a distraction, and if it would be better, in my opinion, to focus on the glee club members in their existing lives rather than shuffling them all around to new roles, like Finn and Quinn as new and returning cheerleaders, respectively. Rachel’s impossibly selfish attitude is a part of her personality, but it’s important to keep it tempered by giving her the opportunity to sing strong solos so that she doesn’t become a completely deplorable character. What did you think of the premiere?

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 1, Episode 5 “Blue-Eyed Iris” (B+)

It’s a shame that this show is getting more interesting just as Monday night is getting way too crowded with no less than five new shows premiering (two of which are decent). In any case, I may now have to rethink giving up on this show since there’s plenty to say about it. For one thing, the addition of Idris Elba, recently seen as Charles Miner on “The Office,” as the school handyman who offers Cathy a chance to re-experience her sexuality and who prompts Andrea to try and get in shape is definitely a positive force. The increased spotlight on Sean is fantastic, and his interactions with Marlene were just as hilarious as his suited attempts to make a stand for what he believes in. Cathy watching porn while her students are taking a test does seem like a bit of a stretch, but this kind of behavior has come to be expected from the distinctive woman seeking to get a new lease on life. I enjoyed the fact that Paul was most dismayed by the fact that Cathy watched porn with her son when she never watched it with him rather than that he was watching porn or that she was joining him in the act. Paul asking about whether he looked like Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean” with his new eye patch accessory was a pretty ridiculous moment very typical of the character. Good news for fans of this show – earlier this week, it was renewed for a second season.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 6, Episode 5 “Boomerang” (B+)

It didn’t take long for things to completely fall apart for the Newmans. Andy registering the van under the name of Shane Botwin probably helped speed up their eventual discovery, though things weren’t necessarily going too well for them anyway. As if Nancy’s life hadn’t spiraled downward enough in the past, I think simultaneously having child protective services at her door, a rival maid trying to steal from her and take her out, and Shane being kidnapped by Cesar is the lowest point she’s reached yet. She raises a good point about anyone who sleeps with her ending up dead, even if Esteban is still living. I enjoyed Andy’s many puns in this episode, including “penis flytrap” and “sexless in Seattle.” Shane blackmailing all three of the mothers was also pretty funny, as was their hilarious conversation about bread and gluten. It’s proving less than distracting to have Doug being paraded around by Cesar and Ignacio considering his humorous musings about the bible being a “less interesting Lord of the Rings” while Cesar carves the initials of him and his girlfriend into a tree. Unfortunately, thee discovery and apprehension of Shane by Cesar and Ignacio turns their presence into a much more deadly serious matter, as evidenced by Nancy’s very panicked reaction at the end of the episode. It’s a shame too, considering just how much Silas has gotten attached to his new environment. In an interesting turn of events, “Weeds” will have even more crazy places to go since the show has just been renewed for a seventh season!

Pilot Review: Chase

Chase (NBC)
Premiered September 20 at 10pm

Here we have an instance of a show about an elite squad that focuses on a specific type of criminal. The trouble is, there’s nothing elite about the show. It’s a perfectly generic cop show with unenthusiastic characters and relatively unexciting villains. The team of U.S. Marshals is particularly disappointing. Half of the cast is taken from now-defunct FOX shows – Kelli Giddish, star of the five-episode “Past Life,” Cole Hauser, star of the ten-episode “K-Ville,” and Amaury Nolasco, star of “Prison Break,” which mysteriously and miraculously went on for four seasons. Also assembled for this fugitive-hunting group is Jesse Metcalfe, of season one of “Desperate Housewives,” and Rose Rollins, who played a tough army chick in “The L Word.” While Giddish and Hauser have never really displayed much talent, it’s disappointing to see Nolasco, Metcalfe, and Rollins relegated to one-note roles. The show isn’t much better than its lackluster performers based on this first installment, pursuing super-serious serial killers in the heart of Texas. As Rollins says to newbie Metcalfe, it’s like “hide and seek with guns.” It seems that whoever conceived of the idea (and the dialogue) for this show has about that same childish outlook on life. There isn’t much else to cite regarding this show’s quality, and it’s certainly much inferior to CBS’ offering in the same time slot, new series “Hawaii Five-0.” Sure, Hawaii may naturally be more exciting and appealing than Texas, but there has to be more to a show than an emphasis on footsteps and running.

How will it work as a series? The cast doesn’t speak too well for itself, so it will depend largely on how well the show can incorporate episodic villains for Giddish’s Annie Frost to pursue. While it could theoretically go on for a while, it’s going to really depend on the quality of each episode and arcs contained within.
How long will it last? The future does not look promising. This show will likely go the way of NBC’s “Trauma” and “Mercy” from last year and get cancelled by the end of the season. Up against the season three premiere of “Castle” and the series debut of “Hawaii Five-0,” the pilot did not fare well, and I imagine that it may be gone before 2011.

Pilot grade: C-

Pilot Review: Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)
Premiered September 20 at 10pm

I’ve never seen the original series on which this one is based, so this review won’t address any comparisons. Instead, I’d like to acknowledge right off the bat that this is a perfect enjoyable, action-packed cop show with a fun cast. Whether it needs to be on TV is another matter, but let’s stick with the positives for the moment. Alex O’Loughlin was awesome as a cop on “The Shield” before he tried his hand at two CBS shows, “Moonlight” and “Three Rivers.” Now, he’s finally found another role that suits him, and he’s an able lead for this show. Scott Caan’s wit and dry humor works great opposite O’Loughlin’s sterner attitude, and his taunting of his prisoner towards the end of the episode was especially amusing and should be indicative of much entertainment to come. Daniel Dae Kim isn’t quite as cool as he was as English-speaking Jin on the final two seasons of “Lost,” but he’ll do just fine. Grace Park got some good seductive training from “The Cleaner” and will do well with her combat skills learned from “Battlestar Galactica,” and it’s good to have a woman on the team to help ensure there’s not too much testosterone (though she’s one tough chick, it appears). The casting of William Sadler as Steve’s dad, James Marsters as the first episode villain, and Jean Smart as the governor indicate that the casting people behind this show know what they’re doing. If anything, this show goes a little overboard with the action, and my only comment would be that it seems much better suited as a time slot companion to “NCIS: Los Angeles” on Tuesdays rather than following all of the Monday night comedies (“The Good Wife” would probably fit better on Mondays, truth be told). I’m not sure this show has the potential to be great, but it sure will be fun. I may not keep watching simply because there’s other stuff on the same night, but we’ll see.

How will it work as a series? This was the requisite formation of the team episode, and they already managed to cram a lot of action into the back half of the pilot. Therefore, this should have no trouble being a thrill ride from here on out, and the four main characters offer up more than enough potential material for back stories, so this show shouldn’t have any trouble churning out villains and showcasing heroes for quite some time.
How long will it last? Given the success of the shows in the CBS “CSI” franchise, I’d bet a long time. Ratings for the pilot were strong, and unlike most other shows these days, it’s the kind of series where viewers can tune in at any time without feeling left out. I predict a renewal right around the corner for this show.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Mike & Molly

Mike & Molly (CBS)
Premiered September 20 at 9:30pm

Ah, the laugh track. For so many years it was a staple of the sitcom, and now that many shows succeed without the assistance of canned laughter, it often feels grating to have the laughs spelled out for viewers. That’s the case for this show that isn’t necessarily unfunny but doesn’t offer a terribly entertaining first half-hour to recommend itself. The premise is simple enough and the jokes try to stay true to that by generally being as obvious and generic as possible. It’s frustrating because there are definitely some talented people in the cast, most notably Melissa McCarthy, formerly of “Samantha Who?” and “Gilmore Girls,” as fourth-grade teacher and Overeaters Anonymous attendee Molly and Katy Mixon, who played dumb like no other on the first season of “Eastbound & Down,” as her sister Victoria. I’m not as convinced of the skills of main actor Billy Gardell, whose resume includes “My Name is Earl” and “Yes, Dear.” Reno Wilson is certainly trying his darndest to fill the role of the loud-mouthed sidekick, and Nyambi Nyambi seems to be an attempt to mimic the role of the limo driver on “How I Met Your Mother” but with considerable less success (and a much bigger headache). This show has the potential to be endearing, yet the emphasis right now is placed solely on making fat jokes. There’s little else to say about the pilot other than that it could do better, and I don’t think I’m really interested either way.

How will it work as a series? Well, they’ve already met and sort of begun a relationship, so now there will have to be trials and tribulations for the couple as they face the challenges of intimacy and eating healthily. More fat jokes are sure to ensue, and I’m honestly not sure what else. This does seem like a fairly limited premise in terms of how far the show can actually go as it progresses.
How long will it last? Nestled in CBS’ successful Monday night comedy block, the show should do okay. “Rules of Engagement” has somehow hung on this long. I actually can’t decide whether this show will go the route of “Accidentally on Purpose” (an inferior show, for the record) and up and disappear after a season or whether it will find a home on Monday nights. I would guess that it won’t be going anywhere at least until the end of the season.

Pilot grade: C-

Pilot Review: Lone Star

Lone Star (FOX)
Premiered September 20 at 9pm

A TV show about a man who lives two lives. Reader Charlie pointed out to me that some that this might be reminiscent of the short-lived Christian Slater series from fall 2008, “My Own Worst Enemy.” In that case, there was technology to make it so that regular guy Henry wasn’t even aware that spy Edward existed. On FOX’s new drama, however, Robert Allen is a con man who lives two lives without any technological or supernatural existence. He is literally dating more than one person and possesses multiple wallets, cell phones, and whatever else he needs to ensure that his covers are intact. As a premise, it’s a cool idea, though actually buying its sustainability is a bit more of a stretch. It’s clear from the premiere that an inequitable emphasis is going to be put on one of Bob’s lives (partially due to the casting of heavyweight Jon Voight as his father-in-law), which makes the other one seem trivial and like a distraction. The show is clever enough about revealing its ruse, taking the very gregarious and smiley Bob from one of his homes to the other, showing just how easily and seamlessly he does it. Once the jig is up (for viewers, at least), the show seems to settle into a sort of normalcy that has people in both communities putting way too much trust in Bob, while others are curious enough to start digging but don’t seem to hit anything even though they really should based on the extent of his duplicity. I don’t like James Wolk as Bob since he seems way too genuinely likeable to actually pull off a con like this, and casting hard hat David Keith as his speech-spewing father doesn’t help matters much. Voight has seen much better days, and there isn’t really a standout in the cast. The show seems like a difficult idea to sustain week-to-week, and this pilot didn’t wow me at all. It wasn’t overly boring, but if the new season provides more enticing shows, I could drop this one just as quickly as Bob might run from danger in the middle of a con gone sour.

How will it work as a series? This is an entirely week-to-week series rather than a show where one episode isn’t overly significant, and, as mentioned above, it seems to be that more than one person would be on to Bob by now, especially his wife’s brothers who seem so intent on taking him down and reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs. The presence of his father should prove nothing more than a distraction, and I fear that this show will quickly lose its footing.
How long will it last? It’s been touted as one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall, and the concept is appealing to many, so I assume it should be a good series for FOX to get started on now that some of its other serialized shows like “24” have gone off the air. Unfortunately, going up against NBC’s “The Event” and “Two and a Half Men” proved to be a bad idea in week one, so this show’s future may be bleak unless strong reviews can help it proceed along. I think it should be okay for the rest of the season, though not much longer, I’d estimate.

Pilot grade: C+

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pilot Review: The Event

The Event (NBC)
Premiered September 20 at 9pm


What can I say? I’m a sucker for sci-fi. Even if I was a little bored during the first fifty-five minutes of this pilot due to the extensive flashbacks to snorkeling and other seemingly inconsequential adventures, the sight of a plane disappearing into a wormhole just as it’s about to take out the President’s Florida retreat got me hooked. After all of the extensive promotion, including a postponed Times Square screening I had planned to attend and NBC’s own incessant reminders of the premiere during the broadcast of tonight’s episode of “Chuck,” I had imagined this would be a letdown. Speaking about all but the last five minutes, it’s sort of true, considering the lack of adherence to any coherent chronology due to the continuous flashbacks to a given number of days earlier to fill in all the blanks and frequent repeating of scenes to show an enhanced perspective. By themselves, none of the plotlines are all that interesting, and those that are intended to be fascinating are too shrouded in mystery and obnoxiously vague talk (I’m looking at you, prison in Alaska). I hadn’t anticipated some of the episode’s violence, even if we don’t have the full picture of what actually transpired yet: I knew that Jason Ritter’s girlfriend was going to be kidnapped, but I didn’t realize that her younger sister might be as well and that the mother would be shot to death in her own home (as appears to have happened). The link between Ritter’s character and his future father-in-law, played by Scott Patterson, was interesting, and the complete erasure of Ritter’s time on the cruise was pretty trippy. The show does have some overly technobabble-oriented dialogue, especially when it comes to the guy who tried to speed ahead of a plane in an SUV, Simon Lee. I don’t love the line “they saved us” from Laura Innes’ Sophia at the end as much as the opening up of the wormhole, and I’m certainly intrigued but don’t have too much faith in the show to provide too much satisfaction for a while.

How will it work as a series? Many questions have been raised in this pilot, and now it’s up to the show to carefully address a few of them at a time in order to keep viewers both happy and hungry for more. It’s going to be a delicate balance, and I have a feeling that it won’t be executed so smoothly. Its fulfilling factor will also be how long it lasts and how much of its story it can tell before vanishing from the airwaves at some inevitable date in the future.
How long will it last? It seems that all of the advertising paid off and this show may in fact have a bright future ahead of it (though not for the characters, it seems). Beware, however, of the fate that befell “Flash Forward,” which got too convoluted after a promising premiere and then ended after only one season. I predict a similar future for this show – it feels like a one-season premise to me.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Chuck (Season Premiere)

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 1 “Chuck Versus the Anniversary” (B)

It’s certainly good to have the reliable Chuck and his very entertaining bunch of friends and coworkers back, but this is hardly the strongest start for the show’s latest season. Fear not, however, since the three-hour third season premiere last year didn’t come close to matching the quality of the ensuing season, so there’s still hope left. What’s peculiar about this very introductory, transitional installment is that most of the action doesn’t actually happen on screen. While we’re treating to an entertaining graphic of Chuck’s avatar (for lack of a better descriptive term) hopping around the globe, we don’t actually get to see any of their adventures, and the only subsequent reference we get is the oft-repeated mention of running like hell in Tangiers. This device worked well in this summer’s film “Knight and Day,” but here it would be nice to see more of Chuck and Morgan as they traversed the globe looking for his mother. And while I did love the line “you clearly don’t know who I am if you only sent ten of your men after me,” why don’t we get to see Chuck whip out his kung fu skills and take down the entire army? This feels very much like Chuck Lite, especially with the somewhat humorous but generally inappropriate sexting. The idea of General Beckman working at the Buy More is an interesting one, and it contradicts the notion of a fresh start since Jeff and Lester (both unseen in this episode) had burned down the store in the season finale, paving the way for a potential reboot of the show. Still, I’m not too worried since the presence of Chuck’s mom and Ellie’s pregnancy should help enliven a season that should get back on its feet in no time.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Beautiful Girls” (A-)

“I’d have my secretary do it, but she’s dead” is one of the more memorable lines Don Draper has ever uttered. It’s also at the same time one of the most heartless and funny lines from him. The death of the unsinkable Miss Blakenship is a bizarre event akin to the razing of a poor British guy’s foot in last season’s “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency.” Her absence isn’t one that will be felt too much, despite the humor that actress Randee Heller provided, yet it serves as the anchor for this episode. Don can’t tell either his daughter or the clients, and the meeting he’s in is more important than figuring out how to quietly remove her body from the middle of the office. Cooper’s futile attempts to write a fitting obituary underlined just how little we knew about the peculiar, slow-moving, ineffective Miss Blankenship. The fear of mortality that it stirred in Roger also proved moving, and paved the way for a dinner date with Joan and subsequent stick-up to get the classic couple back together again, even if just for one time. Sally’s rebellious journey into the city was very interesting, and it’s particularly fascinating to see just how defiant she is to Don. Young actress Kiernan Shipka, who is only ten years old, really does a fantastic job of portraying Don’s daughter. Peggy’s newfound desire to stand up for justice in the work of the firm was very intriguing, especially when posited alongside the immature reactions of Ken and Stan and the sterner, business-oriented response from Don. I’m happy to see a character named Abe on a primetime television show; I just wish he wasn’t such a troublesome jerk. There’s always so much to talk about with every episode of this show – what piqued your interest?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pilot Review: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Premiered September 19 at 9pm

HBO is a network that can have their pilots advertised and hyped to death and actually deliver. After seeing numerous old-style ads for the show plastered on the walls of the subway and countless previews for the 1920s prohibition-set show, it’s finally here. It’s probably most efficient to offer a couple of overarching instant reactions before tackling the finer subtleties of the show. This struck me a lot like the pilots of two of HBO’s other historical dramas, “Deadwood” and “Rome.” It’s extremely intriguing but doesn’t reel me in. The plethora of featured characters and the intricacies of the plot make it hard to find this show terribly accessible, and I’ll admit to being more than a bit confused about exactly what transpired in the pilot. That said, the show certainly rises to the task of setting a tone and adhering to proper, marvelously decorative aesthetics. The cast is full of talented players as well, some of whom we haven’t seen for more than a minute (Michael Kenneth Williams) and others who show great promise due to fascinating characters (Kelly Macdonald and Michael Pitt). I was also pleased to see Michael Stuhlbarg, who was the star of last year’s “A Serious Man,” as a dangerous rival for Steve Buscemi’s Enoch Thompson. It’s great to see Buscemi finally have a fitting lead role, and he definitely knows how to deliver a good speech, and the sight of him taking a swig from a flask right after he delivers a rousing condemnation of drinking to a hall full of teary-eyed women immediately establishes his superb sleaziness. Michael Shannon seems like a good fit for the role of the leading lawman trying to bring down Thompson, and that dynamic should prove very interesting as the show goes on. The pilot was generally slow and immersive, though it did have some truly shocking moments, like the revelation that Michael Pitt’s Jimmy was the gunman holding up the shipment. The show certainly has positive potential for longevity, and at this point already has the makings of a classic series. I’d like to be able to connect to it more in coming weeks. Sunday nights aren’t that crowded (“Desperate Housewives,” “Dexter,” “Bored to Death,” and “Eastbound and Down” are the only shows joining “Mad Men” next week), I’ll probably continue to tune in even if the show doesn’t majorly pique my interest.

How will it work as a series? Fabulously. HBO never has a problem of running out of ideas, and its other historical dramas were gutted mainly due to lavish costs. There are so many characters here and such rich material to be milked that this show could go in an infinite number of directions, and should remain fresh and compelling for quite some time without any problems.
How long will it last? A couple of years, probably. The show is likely too expensive to continue forever, and so much money has already been poured into production design and extensive advertising, so the show will have to go on for a few years at least. Near-universal raves will help spirit the show to a second-season renewal quite soon, I’d imagine.

Pilot grade: B+

Round Two: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 2 “2.0” (C)

Week two for the new programs of fall 2010 has not been an optimistic one. I’m purposely neglecting to review the second installments of both “Hellcats” and “Terriers” because the former quickly got horrendous and entirely trite while the latter proved just as bizarre and boring as its first episode. The saddest news has to do with the CW’s Thursday night program, which wowed me as the strongest out of ten pilots I’ve seen so far this fall. Tragically, episode two preserves none of the thrill or excitement of the first installment. I owe an acknowledgment to G1000 in regards to the dialogue, which he generously called “clunky” last week. I didn’t notice it as a negative in episode one, but now nearly everything anything says pains my ears. It would be particularly great if the Birkhoff character was turned into a non-speaking role, and I also cringe whenever Nikita and Alex are chatting and the text-to-voice service has to interpret what they’re saying even though they can both read it on their respective computers. Plot-wise, this episode tried to have a standalone operation that both the Division and Nikita were running, and the show quickly runs into the problem of having them interact way too much. Will every episode feature a lame standoff between Michael and Nikita? The pilot of this show got me pumped for it, but now I’m really not so sure. Thursday nights really aren’t all that crowded for me considering the one other new drama is a certified dud (“My Generation”), so I’ll likely keep watching. I’m not impressed, however, and I’m saddened by all the lost potential here.

Guest Review: Survivor

Survivor: Season 21, Episode 1 “Young at Heart” (B)

Hi, I'm Andy and I’ll be your guest blogger for Survivor: Nicaragua!

This season’s theme, Young vs. Old, is not terribly surprising, but definitively interesting. It’s a good step forward for the game. Oftentimes, older players are voted off early because they aren't as strong as the young people. However, they do add some much needed diversity to the crowd. The current split will ensure that more older players will make it further into the game (unless of course the older tribe is completely decimated by losing challenge after challenge. I don't think it will come to that though).

Another good thing about the tribal division is that in past seasons, the older castaways were often at a disadvantage right off the bat because they had trouble relating to their younger tribe mates. Now, this problem should be greatly reduced.

I must say that I'm a bit surprised that CBS would drastically reduce the number of young attractive contestants. Usually the cast is stocked with attractive young people and only a few old ones. And of course the young attractives are used to bring in ratings. Notice how all members of the young tribe are good looking this season? Without the Young vs. Old factor, there would be even more! Very refreshing to see that they are toning it down a bit this season.

I really like how we went to Tribal Council not really knowing who was going to be voted out. Usually, Tribal is the most exciting part of the episode but it is often dulled when the outcome is already known. Hopefully this uncertainty will occur more often.

The introduction of the Medallion of Power (MoP) has me a little bit weary. Basically the way it works is that one tribe starts off with the MoP and if they choose to use it in a challenge, they will get an advantage. Once they use it though, the MoP gets transferred over to the other team, and they could use it in the next challenge.

I like the competitions to be fair from the beginning, and the Medallion ruins that. Do we really need it? If the goal is to create an equalizer so that the older tribe could compete, then why not just make the challenges a little simpler and easier (like this week's episode)? Challenges that are less work intensive aren't necessarily less exciting to watch. (Although this week was kinda weak).

I’m still a little iffy about how I feel about the inclusion of Jimmy Johnson. It feels a little too gimmicky for my taste. Time will tell.

Comment below!!