Monday, January 31, 2011

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episode 2 “Flu Season" (A-)

What a terrific episode! I love this show. Getting to see April interact with Ann for an entire episode was a complete delight. I like how April admitted that she’d never liked Ann quite as much as she did when Ann broke down and swore at her for making her day miserable. April not being in the office was a fantastic way to enable Ron and Andy to bond some more. Andy’s suggestion of the Meat Tornado sandwich as lunch for Ron was brilliant, and I so enjoyed watching them have a genuinely good time together. Ron’s determination not to get involved in other people’s personal business didn’t ultimately but hold up, but it’s good that Andy is finally going to the right person for advice. His hospital scene with April was touching and had just the right comedic touch to it at the end. Seeing Leslie in delirium is always magnificent (remember when she parked on Ann’s lawn after the telethon?), and having Ben there to watch her go nuts is wonderful. Adam Scott is a marvelous addition to the show, and I love his interactions with Leslie, being equally shocked by her behavior and in awe of how good she is at her job. I’m thrilled that Ben and Chris both agreed that they’d like to stay in Pawnee for a bit longer since they’ve both been monumentally excellent additions to the show. It was definitely fun to see Chris’ immune system get the best of him and hear Ann talk about what that meant to her.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 1, Episode 12 “Free” (C)

After a decent episode that feels like it aired years ago (actually only about six weeks ago), this show seems determined to get back to its old ways again and fail to live up to its potential. I’m keeping an eye out for more enjoyable preposterous action like Nikita’s superhuman feat of ripping her own chains out of the ceiling like the Hulk from last episode, but sadly, there’s nothing of the sort to be found in this episode, unless you count Michael’s entirely unnecessary and appallingly showy decision to kick down the door that was housing Birkhoff. You’d think that a government facility would have some more reinforced doors, wouldn’t you? I like the idea of Ryan Fletcher (an actual good character) trying to investigate Division and bring them down the legal way, but this execution just isn’t cutting it. Nikita is coming way too close to him and interacting with him in public constantly, and somehow, he’s still alive. Additionally, it strikes me as puzzling that Amanda takes such an active interest in Alex’s romantic life yet fails to notice that she’s been spending a great deal of time at random locations meeting with Nikita. Not having Alex physically in Division anymore might create a bit of a problem since it means that Michael and Percy will likely have to appear in each episode coming face-to-face with Nikita, which will be more than a bit forced. Maybe having her out in the field will be a plus, though, since it should ensure more action and far less Jaden.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 14 “Pit Stop” (B+)

Watching this episode with my roommate, who hadn’t before seen a full episode of this show, I noticed that I was twice able to predict exactly what was going to happen moments before it did. The first event was something typical of the show – that something would occur to the hapless reality stars playing around on their jet skis that would require Hank to jump in and save the day – and the second was a more obvious plot point, that Emily would go into Hank’s bedroom and get into bed, quite accidentally, with Jill. I don’t think it’s a negative thing that I was able to call what was going to happen, firstly because it wasn’t all that difficult, and secondly because it’s part of what makes the show entertaining and amusing week-to-week. It’s good to see Emily come back to the show since she’s sort of been sporadically disappearing, and this episode was most definitely stacked with plenty of romantic interests, as Divya went to see Raj, Marisa consulted Hank about her pregnancy, and Evan spent some time with Paige. It’s a shame that Evan is so oblivious to the way that Paige perceives him, and inviting the cast and crew of a reality show on a date definitely isn’t a good move in any relationship. All of the romantic pairs on this show are interesting in that they never really go anywhere definitive, and I’m curious to see what ultimately happens between Evan and Paige, as well as Hank and whatever girl he eventually chooses.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG Awards: Quick Rundown

There really isn't all that much to say about the TV part of the SAG Awards other than that they're somewhat puzzling. Voters demonstrate that they're clearly watching new programming, honoring (somewhat untraditionally) a freshman drama in two categories ("Boardwalk Empire"), a hot, deserving comedy ensemble ("Modern Family"), and an 89-year-old veteran on another new series (Betty White). Yet somehow they find it necessary to give Alec Baldwin a fifth consecutive trophy, meaning that no one else has ever beat him since he's won every single year since the show started. It just doesn't make much sense, and while repeat winner Julianna Margulies has only improved on "The Good Wife," Baldwin's performance isn't necessarily getting any better. It's never a good idea to bet against Al Pacino or Claire Danes, also, apparently. I tragically got a mere 2/8 correct, predicting only Betty White and "Modern Family." Ah, well, the film side was somewhat more interesting. For other film-related news, check out the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards, beginning this Tuesday on Movies With Abe.

Final SAG Predictions

The SAG Awards air tonight on TNT and TBS, and while Oscar season still has a good few weeks left in it, this is pretty much the final TV-related awards event of this early part of the year. I put far too much faith in "Modern Family" at the Golden Globes two weeks ago, where "Glee" ended up triumphing in all three categories. Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch are certainly major threats, but I'm putting my money behind Burrell and the unstoppable White. I also think the time is right for both Hamm and Sedgwick to pick up their first trophies, and while any of the films besides "Dexter" could reasonably take home Best Ensemble in a Drama Series, I'm betting on "The Good Wife." And I'm not so sure that Patrick Stewart can beat Al Pacino, but we'll see. There aren't too many categories in the show, so there can't be too many surprises, but hopefully it will be an enjoyable night. Film predictions are here. Enjoy the show!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Patrick Stewart (Macbeth)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes (Temple Grandin)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
The Good Wife

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Modern Family

What Drew's Watching: Bones (Double Review)

Bones: Season 6, Episode 10 "The Body in the Bag"

So we've been back for two weeks from the way-too-long Bones hiatus, and now we're finally back from my way-too-long hiatus from doing Bones reviews. The intro to this one is truly barf-worthy, but at least it's not in an Angela-Hodgins way (that comes later). There's lots of drain-unclogging in this episode...I feel the need to warn you about this because it's particularly nauseating to me. It's fun to watch Booth walk into a Chinese apothecary, which reminds me of long ago, when Angel walked into such a place (with wildly different results!). Of course, I have to wince at Bones's Chinese -- not because I have any ability whatsoever to speak Chinese, but according to my friend Peiharn, Americans typically are utterly unequal to the task. I do not like the new Clark, but I can understand how his old personality was getting trite. The mystery is fun -- I enjoy it when they mistakenly ID the body at first -- but I got the killer immediately. (I'm very proud of myself! Can you tell?) Anyway, this episode is mediocre, with too much interpersonal stuff and not enough murder-solving stuff. It's probably bad that my favorite part was the way the creepy guy ogles Bones and Hannah at the end. Bahaha!

Plot: 8/10
Action: 0/10
Characters: 3/10
Comedy: 4/10
Bones's Makeup: 4/10

Overall Grade: C

Bones: Season 6, Episode 11 "The Bullet in the Brain"

Holy shit. I guess I should have expected what happens in the intro, but I'm pretty oblivious when it comes to such things. I'll tell you though, that this is a nice infusion of action, which has been in short supply on this show lately. My favorite line comes from Caroline: "I'm too short to see a damn thing." I think it's weird that Angela calls her husband "Hodgins." One of the annoying things about Gravedigger episodes is the preponderance of the phrase "buried alive." It would make for a fun drinking game, but unfortunately, I'm watching this alone. The scene between Caroline and Sweets is overdone; in fact, the whole "Sweets is traumatized" thing is overdone. Now, I was all ready to write a very positive conclusion for this episode, but the sad fact is that it kind of peters out after the first half. The ending could have been wrapped up more tightly, and Bones acting like a giggling girl with her father comes off stilted. Oh well. Consolation prize: I appreciate anything about Booth's sniper past, and I can reasonably hope from this episode that we'll get to learn more about that next week.

Plot: 6/10
Action: 10/10
Characters: 4/10
Comedy: 1/10
Bones's Makeup: 6/10

Overall Grade: B

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 14 “The Seminar” (B)

The premise of this episode is actually somewhat of a strong one, giving some of the more minor characters a chance to shine as they attempt to share their considerable knowledge with some interested learners. What didn’t work quite as well was the extravagance of the situation, that Jim thought it was a good idea but bailed at the last minute because someone in the crowd was an old acquaintance, that Andy didn’t actually have much content and was really just relying on everyone else, and that a legitimate presentation only really attracted an elderly crowd. It wasn’t terrible, of course, and there will still plenty of laughs. I like how Michael is approaching his friendship with Holly, seeming to be slightly more mature and reserved in the way that he goes about it. Yet he did manage to win her over and have a great time with her as his horrifically Italian-Greek hybrid of a character, and even if they’re not completely back to normal yet, they’re certainly getting there. Jim is most definitely having a hard time these last few episodes, with those people he picked on getting back at him. I like how Darryl has accidentally become a bit of a true friend to Andy, warning him that Dwight, Phyllis, and Stanley were taking advantage of him. The Scrabble stuff wasn’t that great since both Oscar and certainly Pam can definitely be used better. The Ricky Gervais cameo at the start of the episode was pretty fun, and it’s good that it was relegated to just the cold open.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Take Three: Lights Out

Lights Out: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Shot” (B+)

I knew that, given a bit of time to develop, this show would start getting seriously good. That’s tended to be true recently of a number of FX, Showtime, and HBO shows, and I’m glad that this one is the newest entry on the list. What’s especially impressive is how the show is determined to stick with some of its more minor characters and see their stories through while Patrick is clearly still the primary protagonist. Johnny, who could otherwise just have been a one-dimensional screw-up, is becoming particularly as he fights hard not just for his brother but also for up-and-comer Omar. Anna Chlumsky is also simply marvelous as the receptionist who takes a liking to him and clandestinely helps him in his efforts. Getting back to Patrick, I was shocked to see his opponent actually come to his house and try to rile him up in front of his daughter. It’s intriguing to see Patrick worry about Omar burning out, and having him putting the fear in Omar was just as powerful as Omar losing seconds before the camera fades to black and the episode ends. The music montage at the end mixing Omar’s training and Patrick’s birthday was well-done, and I love the flashes to lights beating on his daughter’s door and remembering throwing punches in his fights. Patrick trying to deal with turning forty (or rather, his family trying to figure out what to do for him) is excellently paired with a very timely remark from Chlumsky’s Charlie about how she’s happy just to have a job in the current state of things.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 11 “Forging Bonds” (B+)

I very much enjoyed this hilarious episode featuring flashbacks to the days when Neal was still an operating criminal and Peter was (not so) hot on his trail, explained by Neal to Peter over beers before the sun rises. Other shows (like “NCIS” this past season) become unintentionally silly when they try to make their characters look younger. This show purposely turned its characters into caricatures of themselves, with Peter sporting a terrible mustache that even Elizabeth can’t pretend to approve of, Mozzie wearing a horrible hairpiece, and Neal boasting slightly messier hair. One of the things that’s always been terrific about this show is the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Peter and Neal that has been less prominent as they’ve started trusting each other more. Having Neal actually go up to Peter and ask him if his own money might be counterfeit was brilliant, and I love that he gave him a lollipop. Peter’s initial interactions with Jones and Diana were well-handled as well, as similar such back story revelations often inadvertently contradict their shows’ timelines, over-asserting a minor character’s importance before he or she should actually have been prominent. I’m less interested in all of the Kate business since I never really found her to be a compelling character. Casting Andrew McCarthy as the big time villain Vincent Adler was an inspired choice, and I enjoyed how he interacted with Neal when the con man pitched himself at the party. I’m eager to see what comes next in Peter and Neal’s search for answers.

Round Two: Skins

Skins: Season 1, Episode 2 “Tea” (F-)

It’s hard to top last week’s horrendous series opener, but this one definitely goes for broke. Tea is hardly as despicable a character as Tony, if only because she’s not dead set on manipulating everyone around her. Her main vice is that she’s unable to connect to people, essentially turning her into as much of a promiscuous teen as Tony. The exposition to get there, however, is awfully rendered, with overnight guest Betty repeating the word “screwing” for no reason in front of her recent lover’s parents, amid a whole handful of inorganic dialogue. Since this show is intent on pushing the envelope until it simply bursts, why not show the lesbian masturbating to a picture of Audrey Hepburn and have her grandmother walk in and get into bed with her while she’s still in the middle of it? Turning the goofy grandmother into a Holocaust survivor was while a snippet from a whole different show, as if some decent writers came in for just a few minutes and replaced the people who pen this show. It was a staggering change of pace, and as soon as the grandmother’s brief moment of lucidity is over, the commercial break ends the moment of clarity and decency and returns to an overabundance of heinous storytelling and conversation. Tony saying “I know you like to pluck the lady harp” was easily the most obnoxious moment of the episode, and the assertion that even real lesbians can’t resist Tony is infuriating. Ending with jokes involving the crazy drug dealer and misheard slurs just sends it out a very sour note. Given the alarming rate at which this show is losing both advertisers and viewers, I’m not sure how much of its pathetic story it will actually live to tell.

Round Two: Harry’s Law

Harry’s Law: Season 1, Episode 2 “Heat of Passion” (F)

As if the pilot wasn’t enough of an indication, this episode cements what kind of show this series wants to be. Wheeling a tied-up guy out the front door of a law office after the new guy gives law advice without the consent of his bosses cements this series as an absolutely ridiculous show that wants to be seen as preposterous if only as a reason for people watch it. On top of that, this episode boasts the most ridiculous of cases, with an eighty-seven-year-old woman being sent to jail for three years for committing armed robbery and a Chinese laundromat owner trying to fight a wrongful termination lawsuit and arguing in favor of the one-child law. Factor in Christopher Macdonald’s Tommy Jefferson, a ridiculous attorney who has a slideshow of his own photos going during a meeting and even snaps and prints a picture of himself and Adam for the younger attorney to go home with and frame. As if Tommy and Adam weren’t quite as over the top as can be, even the somewhat more serious, if overly mustache-twirling, Josh Peyton (played by Paul McCrane of “ER” and “24”), hops up like a jack-in-the-box after Harry convinces the jury of the eighty-seven-year-old’s innocence to comically proclaim, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I don’t have much patience for law shows anyway – “The Good Wife” is an exception and I haven’t made up my mind yet on “Fairly Legal” – but I think I’m all set and done with this one. There isn’t even anything for Brittany Snow to do!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Round Two: Being Human

Being Human: Season 1, Episode 2 “There Goes the Neighborhood, Part 2” (D-)

I can tell that this show isn’t going to be for me, so, especially considering how crowded Monday nights are seeming, this will likely be my last review. I’m trying to give each show a fair second chance – and I’ve been watching almost all second installments, even if I haven’t reviewed every one of them – and therefore it’s worthwhile to run through what about this second episode, both similar to and separate from the first, didn’t cut it. I feel like the most compelling element of this show is just how awkward it must be to film. That’s where all the effort and emphasis seems to be going in the ghost-related scenes, and it shows. There isn’t much value to them otherwise. This show is going to need to have a constant slate of new cast members to fill in the gaps if it keeps killing off its nurses every episode. If not, they might just have to create a hospital staffed entirely by vampire nurses. The war flashbacks are reminiscent of “True Blood” in a rather inferior way. The characters here are meant to be extraordinarily layered, but the truth of it is that they’re extraordinarily one-dimensional and their conversations are entirely devoid of energy or meaning. This is most relevant for the werewolf, who decides to stare intently at his sister with longing and sadness rather than actually trying to talk to her. With so many vampires, werewolves, and ghosts in the world, why would he feel he needs to keep his identity such a secret? And don’t even get me started on the heinous dialogue that came out of the vampire nurse’s mouth.

Take Three: The Cape

The Cape: Season 1, Episode 4 “Scales” (C+)

This third outing is a bit better than the second, if only because it’s more engaging and gives more characters a showcase to spew their ridiculous overacting. I’m thrilled by the idea of Summer Glau’s Orwell going into the field and carrying out a mission, but that’s not going to work if she can’t help revealing her conspiracy theories (however true) and pretty much giving away her identity. It strikes me as far too convenient that the Carnival of Crime just happens to be hijacking the same train on which Chess is traveling without knowing it, and it also makes little to no sense that the Cape would be okay working so closely with people who are determined to be criminals, as was most astutely observed in the clandestine meeting of the Carnival of Crime. I was excited to see Richard Schiff return as a crime-fighter wannabe, dressed up as the Cape and eager to help take down the bad guys, so determinedly that he even threatened to go rogue if he wasn’t given something to do. It’s good that he didn’t try to look too polished and appeared appropriately awkward wielding a gun and trying to take control of the situation. It took me a while to recognize Dayton Callie, who plays Chief Unser on “Sons of Anarchy,” as the politician less than eager to talk to Scales on the train. For anyone who’s counting, this is now the third episode (of three) to feature a face-to-face encounter between Chess and the Cape. How many times can that happen before the show simply implodes due to repetitiveness?

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 12 “Chuck Versus the Gobbler” (B+)

It’s certainly different having Sarah as a double agent in Volkoff’s organization, even if she’s remarkably communicative with Chuck and Casey throughout this first episode. Still, her supposed assassination of Casey and refusal to respond to Chuck’s transmissions signals an effort on her part to really appear as if she’s turned so as to better assume her cover, even if it drives the people in her life away, for the moment. Casey, conveniently enough, is the only one who knows that she hasn’t actually turned to the dark side, and he’s heartily unconscious at the moment. Casey’s willingness to pretend to die for Sarah was touching and amusing, and I liked Sarah’s line: “you better be fine or I’ll kill you for real.” Casey had a brilliantly-delivered line (hardly unusual) as well, when Sarah asked him if he was okay at the prison: “it’s just frosting: don’t ask.” Casey’s response of “I love you – stupid thing to say” to Morgan was marvelous as well. Chuck was pretty adorable when he asked Sarah if his finger thing was weird and she said yes, but she loves him. The side plot of Ellie trying to get Awesome to agree to a baby name was entertaining, if only to get a chance to see more of the sporadically-featured couple. Awesome’s plan to get Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike to plug the name Grunka to convince Ellie of their enthusiasm for the name Grunka was hilarious, both in its conception and the ease with which Ellie saw through it.

Take Three: Shameless

Shameless: Season 1, Episode 3 “Aunt Ginger” (B+)

This show just keeps getting better and better. That does mean it’s getting nuttier and nuttier, but that’s hardly a problem. It makes sense that someone from some legal department would come by to interrogate Frank about the social security checks of his aunt – who has been dead twelve years – that he continues to cash every week. From the unfortunate start that was homeless former bus driver Mr. Perry in drag, the process of successfully finding and creating a convincing Aunt Ginger was remarkable. I was especially moved by the connection that Deb made to Aunt Ginger, and how upset she was when they had to return the poor old woman to the nursing home. Frank’s efforts to pretend like he was able to go shopping for his new girlfriend were equally disturbing and hilarious, and it’s impressive that the show manages to position him in a dramatic light with her as he tries (minimally) to help her cope with her agoraphobia. Another insanely strong part of the show is the relationship between Lip and Ian, and it’s great that Lip is so willing to take a beating to save his brother. Though I didn’t see it coming, I think it’s wonderful that Mandy has decided that she’s going to be Ian’s fake girlfriend in order to help protect him and to give herself someone to hang out with and do other things with other than just have sex. Emmy Rossum is simply magnificent as Fiona, juggling both Steve and Tony with her considerable charms.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take Three: Episodes

Episodes: Season 1, Episode 3 “Episode Three” (B+)

It’s about time we had an episode where we got a chance to get to really know Matt LeBlanc, the fictionalized version of the well-known “Friends” actor. I don’t think I expected Sean to actually bond with Matt, but it does make sense given Matt’s lifestyle and Sean’s status as the one in the marriage who lets himself get carried away with ideals rather than emphasizing common sense. Of course Sean openly defying Beverley by telling her outright that he agrees with Matt about the librarian not being a lesbian so that she and Matt’s character can have some hope of a relationship in season four is a bigger and far more serious deal. Merk is quite a funny character, and I enjoyed him telling Sean and Beverley that the table read was “bloody fantastic” and then being considerably less committal when asked privately by Carol as they were walking to their next meeting. I absolutely love Kathleen Rose Perkins, who plays Carol, and she did a marvelous job of handling herself when Merk came in and wanted to get frisky, and her response to Merk suggesting Matt LeBlanc for a lead role in a pilot other than “Pucks” was pretty great. The funniest part of the episode, by far, was Matt’s own explanation about his extraordinary endowment. He set it up brilliantly by positioning himself to be able to condescendingly (and somehow with a straight face) say “My eyes are up here - I’m not a piece of meat” to Beverley. Entirely hilarious.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 4, Episode 3 “Home Sweet Home” (B+)

There’s something that sets Karen apart from the long-suffering spouses of so many other philandering, unchangeable playboys, and seeing her show some much uncontrolled affection for Hank followed by such untempered fury makes for a fascinating character study. Natasha McElhone is absolutely the perfect person to play this part, and she was wonderful in this installment. This episode also showcases much more of Becca than we’ve seen in a while, and I’m glad that the show will once again be taking an active interest in her personal life. She’s one tough cookie, and it’s no surprise that she ran after the punk girls who tried to steal her earnings, though it’s a shame that she got her guitar and her amp stolen in the process. Her conversation with Hank was especially powerful, and I didn’t expect her to call Karen in and force Hank to admit to her that he wasn’t in fact trying to kill himself. It was a bit peculiar to see the usually effeminate Stephen Tobolowsky as a rather aggressive love (or rather, sex) interest for Marcy, and I enjoyed how he preemptively set Charlie up with a DTF woman so that he wouldn’t be angry at him for trying to sleep with his wife. Pamela Adlon was on her game in this episode in that one magnificent scene, and Evan Handler also did a spectacular job of handling the comedy in the scene where his partner wasn’t quite as into the action as he seemed to be.

Pilot Review: Portlandia

Portlandia (IFC)
Premiered January 21 at 10:30pm

I’m not a huge fan of shows based around sketches, and therefore this will be considerably briefer than other pilot reviews I’ve written in the past. When all of the characters started to sing about their glorious city of Portland, I had pleasant flashbacks to “Flight of the Conchords.” Unfortunately, this show comes much closer to imitating the style of “Saturday Night Live,” a series which doesn’t always fire on all cylinders. That similarity could have something to do with the fact that the show comes from the mind of SNL veteran Fred Armisen. Jason Sudeikis is also on hand in the pilot to convey that this is an SNL spinoff of sorts. What’s most disappointing for me is that the show just isn’t that funny. When I spoke to Kyle MacLachlan about his role in “Mao’s Last Dancer” last fall, he said that he would be shooting some scenes as Portland’s mayor, and I’d be eager to see that. At this point, however, this is just an underdeveloped concept that could really use a considerable amount of work. Skits like the couple going to the restaurant and actually driving out to the farm to investigate the origins of their meat are amusing at their start, but by the time the guy is wearing a dress and they’ve been living on a hippie commune for years and end up returning to the restaurant to order something else, it’s become very tired. I don’t think this show is meant to last for a while, and its skit series format should help it easily enjoy a short, relatively carefree life.

Pilot grade: C

Pilot Review: Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal (USA)
Premiered January 20 at 10pm

Let me first say that I’m absolutely thrilled to have Sarah Shahi back on television. The Iranian-Spanish actress was one of the best parts of the second season of Showtime’s “The L Word,” and I was extremely saddened to see her leave the show to go to NBC’s “Life,” where she had little to nothing to do while lead actor Damian Lewis stole the show. That series only survived two seasons, and now she’s found a home on USA as just the latest character to be welcomed into the network fold. Shahi’s Kate Reed is a fun protagonist, and what’s especially interesting when it comes to this show compared to other USA fare is that the first episode isn’t really an origin story. By the start of the pilot, Kate has already become a mediator, and the show simply picks up with her and gets rolling. It’s a good strategy, though I’m not entirely in love with the show as it stands at the moment. The ringtones and nicknames from “The Wizard of Oz” are slightly irritating, and I’m not sure any of the other characters besides Sarah are terribly appealing. It’s fun to see Michael Trucco try to stray away from sci-fi like “Battlestar Galactica” since he does have decent comic timing. The emphasis on Kate’s nerdy assistant Leonardo is a bit too much as well, and I remember a time (“Jericho”) when Gerald McRaney played more than just an angry character who insists on grumbling all of his lines, as he did in this pilot and on NBC’s recently-cancelled “Undercovers.” The cases seem rather cookie-cutter, in that they’re so over the top that their resolutions are both highly unlikely and highly unpredictable. Still, there is some appeal, mostly coming from the seemingly fearless Kate, and I’m interested to see where USA takes its newest show.

How will it work as a series? Besides the fact that there isn’t much of a supporting cast yet and it seems like Kate might have to juggle her entire case load solo, there’s infinite potential for the reworking of civil court cases into meditation scenarios. Kate also has plenty of soul-searching to do, and her tricky relationship with her ex-husband should prove fun as well.
How long will it last? You have to go back to Jeffrey Donovan’s previous show (before “Burn Notice”) to find a USA series that didn’t last a good long while. Even “The 4400” made it four seasons before being cancelled. That said, “Fairly Legal,” USA’s first show to debut in January, didn’t perform exceptionally in the ratings, but I still think it has a solid shot at officially joining the brand and being renewed fairly soon for a second season.

Pilot grade: B-

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 11 “Mrs. Donaghy” (B+)

Beginning its risky three-hour comedy block on Thursday nights, this show gets transplanted to the 10pm slot. Fortunately, this first episode is pretty terrific, so hopefully the rest will follow suit as the show tries to take more liberties as a result of its later airing time. The ‘A’ plot was magnificent, providing funny flashbacks to the wacky wedding and positioning Jack and Liz as the most unlikely couple, both of whom wouldn’t easily back down even if blackmailed into doing so. Liz’s press conference was great, and I enjoyed how they worked out all their differences and took out their anger on the geeky HR rep. Angie Jordan hasn’t been featured on the show for a while, and the idea of having her as a reality star could be entertaining. I love how both Liz and Pete get so behind that idea, even as they’re trying to counter it with all their might and resolve. Hands down my favorite line of the episode referred to Danny, from Kenneth, about how they had honestly forgotten he worked there. Even if Kenneth’s child of divorced parents syndrome was a bit cookie-cutter and off-kilter, it’s fun to see just how marvelously the criminally underused Cheyenne Jackson and Jane Krakowski work together. I’m not sure why Danny hasn’t become more of a major character, but I would certainly support that. Cohesively, this episode functioned better than almost any episode before it, taking one general theme (marriage) and running with it across the board.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (Season Premiere)

Parks and Recreation: Season 3, Episode 1 “Go Big or Go Home” (B+)

It’s so wonderful having this show back on the air. I was a fan of it from its very start (the six-episode first season), and I’ve grown even fonder while it was off the air for so long and I was watching season two again via Netflix Instant Streaming. Now, its opening credits have been expanded to officially include Adam Scott as Ben and Rob Lowe as Chris, though team members Donna and Jerry continue to have recurring status. I loved seeing Leslie round them all up, particularly when she flung Jerry’s painting into the water. Aside from the regular governmental stuff, the episodic plotline worked wonders in this episode, with a suspicious Ben tailing Leslie and Leslie tailing Chris and Ann on their date, as the plan worked flawlessly but Leslie got herself into trouble by revealing that it was in fact a plan. Ann does a spot-on Chris impression (kudos to Rashida Jones), and it was amusing to see how a dejected Chris says people’s names while pointing a bit less enthusiastically. Seeing the drastically different coaching styles that Ron and Andy employed was hilarious, and Tom’s jealousy proved to be quite entertaining. I was worried that we wouldn’t see April after Andy kept calling her without answer (and without getting the hint), but it’s good to have her back, and it seems clear that she’s going to spend just as much time trying to get Andy back for his jerkiness as she did trying to get him in the first place. Welcome back, P & R. See you next week.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 7, Episode 13 “Ultimatum” (B+)

This episode works for a number of reasons. The first is that Michael continues to be a childish guy who can’t contain himself in public, but somehow he’s managed to tone it down a bit and not be as glaringly and unapologetically offensive in all that he does. Forcing Kevin to eat broccoli made Holly leave the room, but he wasn’t explicitly and outwardly directing his anger and scathing comments toward her, and he left her alone when she said that she couldn’t talk to him. Clearly, he also had an impact, as Holly called AJ to (it appears) break up with him. The subplot with Darryl, Dwight, and Andy could have been seriously stupid, but it works quite well as entertainment thanks mostly to the sublime performance from Craig Robinson as Darryl. Dwight and Andy may be jokers who have no idea how silly they seem, but Darryl just wants to read. His comment about working at a paper company and only being able to fit ten books on the eReader was hilarious, and I enjoyed the frequent shots of him sneaking a few pages in while Dwight and Andy spewed ridiculousness. It was fun to see Pam take charge at the office and actually try to do something with her made-up position. It was great to see how everyone reacted, including Angela surprisingly being on Pam’s side in wanting to fulfill her resolution, and it’s not likely that you’ll get any argument about anyone about eliciting a non-cartwheel out of Creed.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains (Winter Premiere)

Royal Pains: Season 2, Episode 13 “Mulligan” (B+)

I’m very happy to welcome this formerly summer-only show to the winter, even if its characters don’t seem to have to experience the cold weather that does inevitably hit the Hamptons in the less warm months of the year. It’s strange not to have it paired with “Burn Notice,” and just like “Psych” did after being split from the departed “Monk,” it fares just fine on its own. I’m pleased that all of the business with Eddie didn’t take up too much of the episode, aside from a peculiarly dramatic opening dream scene that was reminiscent of the end of the magnificent “Six Feet Under” final season episode “Ecotone.” Ultimately, Eddie’s actions led more to fun comedy, with Evan trying to run away from Boris’ car and then walking towards him with exceptionally loud golf shoes. It was also entertaining to see Jill get hopped up on medication and then hit on Hank in front of Jack. Never one to be excessively concerned with interpersonal skills, Divya just covers her mouth and then has to ask Jill to stop licking her hand. Jill has always been a less serious character, but it gives the show an air of fun, and of course it did lead to a good serious ending with Jill apologizing and Hank saying that he kind of liked it. This was a great episode for guest stars, including David Costabile (“Breaking Bad”), who sadly had only like two lines, and Tom Cavanagh (“Scrubs”) and Matt Servitto (“The Sopranos,” “Brotherhood”) playing their typical yet terrific roles as a fast-talking likeable everyman and a federal official, respectively.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Round Two: Perfect Couples

Perfect Couples: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pilot” (D)

So I guess this is technically the series pilot since the episode that aired back in December was merely what the producers thought was the strongest installment they’d produced. I would argue that this one is one small degree better, but that’s only a small degree. What surprised me in a very positive way was the performance of Christine Woods as Julia. She didn’t have much to do in the first broadcast episode, and I suppose it’s more the fault of the “Flash Forward” writers that she was no good on that show. But here she seems game to go with the flow in the show’s ridiculous situations but not lose sight of portraying an organic, decently believable character. The same cannot be said for best buds Hayes MacArthur and David Walton, who ham it up like no one’s business. That’s where the show fails to rise far above its pilot potential, insisting on devolving into preposterous scenarios for no other reason other than to say, “Look at me! I’m the comedy you don’t know anything about that airs with the other great ones on Thursday nights on NBC!” I’m less annoyed with Kyle Bornheimer as Dave than I thought I would be, and it’s not Mary Elizabeth Ellis’ fault that she has to break out in song for no reason at all. The impossibly utopian relationship between MacArthur’s Rex and Olivia Munn’s Leigh continues to be a clear gimmick that in no way works and is sure to only get worse over time.

Pilot Review: Retired at 35

Retired at 35 (TV Land)
Premiered January 19 at 10:30pm

This is the kind of show that people joke about making but don’t actually make. Its premiere was particularly ironically timed for me, as I ended up watching it on a flight back from Florida, where I had been down to visit my grandparents. Unlike our hapless protagonist David, however, I did not decide to drop everything and decide to make an untimely move down to the sunshine state. While I’m sure it’s happened that people have become so overwhelmed with their work and constant stresses that they’ve migrated down south at such a young age, it’s hardly a good basis for a television show. On TV Land following “Hot in Cleveland,” perhaps, but as a series in its own right, not at all. As a comedy, it’s hugely effective, providing all too many obvious setups for all the jokes, much like “Will & Grace” did in its later seasons. There’s nothing particularly funny on this show, and all over the characters are horrendously over-the-top. The laugh track drowns out all the action, and the actors seem to competing with it by trying to be just as loud. Lines like “are you on facial book?” fall flat because they seem thrown it just to get a cheap laugh rather than said in the midst of logical conversation. It’s rather humorous that George Segal and Jessica Walter have been advertised as the stars of the show when the main character seems to be their onscreen son David, yet that makes it quite apparent just how the target audience is for this show. Jonathan McClain, who plays David, is comparable to Jonathan Sadowski, who plays William Shatner’s son on “Shit My Dad Says.” In many ways, the character is just supposed to be a stand-in to help point just out how ridiculous his parents are, and both Sadowski’s Henry and McClain’s David are ridiculously underdeveloped. Unfortunately, Segal and Walter, no matter how talented they are and how magnificently they could pull off one-liners in their previous projects, can’t hope to match Shatner when it comes to crafting an entertaining parent. Almost instantly, “Retired at 35,” as expected, is irritating at best and nauseating at worst.

How will it work as a series? Ah! Here we have one show where the premise really is everything, and it could absolutely tank come episode two when the character realizes the permanence of the decision he’s made. What will likely ensue is a struggle to piece his life back together by becoming involved in the Florida community, and I’m sure that will be plenty hilarious (not).
How long will it last? Though I still argue that this show should never have been made, TV Land made a brilliant decision by pairing it with “Hot in Cleveland.” That decision is going to help attract many more viewers to both shows, and likely keep the two on the air far longer than anyone would agree they should be aired. I’m not sure if this one makes it to season two, but the pilot ratings were looking pretty good.

Pilot grade: F

Round Two: Off the Map

Off the Map: Season 1, Episode 2 “Smile. Don’t Kill Anyone” (F)

Well, it seems it is possible to have even more sensational plotlines than I would have thought given the already outrageous, go-for-broke story arcs in the first installment of this show. When it turns out that a giant snake is the only thing stopping someone from bleeding it, I can buy that. But when the doctors decide they should postpone surgery so that the guy who continues to be about to bleed out can postpone to his girlfriend, that I can’t stomach. Additionally, it’s a suggestion that comes from Lily of all people, who just happens to be the newest doctor on the block, yet all of the more senior doctors drop everything and listen to her. It’s a case of this show lending its more prominently-featured characters an air of entirely undiegetic importance, presuming that just because they’re spotlighted more in the show they have some wisdom that the onscreen characters can appreciate and honor as much as the audience. Tommy, due to the chagrin of Zach Gilford fans everywhere, I’m sure, continues to be heinously one-dimensional, and I’m also annoyed by the fact that he undergoes overnight maturity that we get to appreciate and still has time to revert to his immature, promiscuous self by morning, like the intellectual opposite of a werewolf (not a good metaphor, I realize). Fellow newbie Ryan is imbued with an undue air of importance and life knowledge that Mina clearly doesn’t have even though she’s only been there a bit longer, and that doesn’t track at all.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 13 “Caught in the Act” (B+)

Of all the typical family dynamic issues this show explores, this is certainly one of the funniest. Watching Phil and Claire deal with the embarrassment of the situation is almost as enjoyable as watching their kids try to cope with being emotionally scarred by walking in on their parents. While that was all certainly entertaining, this episode set itself apart from most other shows in typical fashion by emphasizing drama, having the kids realize that it’s better that their parents have sex than fight or get divorced, and then bringing it all back to comedy. Seeing them all smile and nod was fun, punctuated by Haley’s overreaction to the sight of her parents making out and the hilarious finish with the very loud lock that the kids got their parents as an anniversary gift. Gloria’s e-mail flub wasn’t entirely fantastic, but it was still fun to have her come over to the house and get very confused, all the while getting Phil very excited and overwhelmed. It makes perfect sense that Cameron and Mitchell would think to bring Lily to a playdate in order to get in with the owner of a major restaurant so that they wouldn’t have to wait for a table. Of course it went bad, and it was great to follow up the revelation of their near-fatal lie with a shot of them at a takeout place being told that they were out of napkins and would have to use paper towels from the bathroom instead (but remembering Mitchell’s name!).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: Better With You

Better With You: Season 1, Episode 12 “Better with a Cat” (B+)

With an unexpected pregnancy as one of the pilot’s kickoff events, determining who might be the official caretaker for the baby if the event that Casey and Mia could not was an inevitable plotline. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks to the scenes of Mia’s childhood, and it was fun to see Vicky and Joel made up to look like they were much younger. Maddie and Ben are, as usual, rather over-the-top, but it’s very amusing so it works, especially with the lone donut joke that’s repeated at the end with Joel. The “what they heard” gimmick was entertaining as well, and my favorite part was Ben getting up and saying “I’m talking now, so no need to listen” in Vicky’s remembered version of events. I’m really a fan of Casey’s one-liners, and I like how he responded “is that a challenge” to being questioned about what he can’t turn into fake boobs and what he can’t get pregnant. His perfectly-delivered “I’m not the best judge of what’s weird” is entirely fitting. Mia had a funny line as well, recalling her somewhat strange childhood: “you mean it’s not bad luck to have your name written on a birthday cake?” The banter between Maddie and Ben was humorous as always: “I’m a lawyer so I have a photographic memory” / “I work at a hotel so I’m really good at ice skating.” Ben’s emphasis on working at a hotel rather than a motel was great, and I’m continually impressed by that running joke’s ability to be funny episode after episode.

Round Two: Lights Out

Lights Out: Season 1, Episode 2 “Cakewalk” (B)

Though I said last week that this show felt more accessible than FX’s previous drama series pilot, “Terriers,” I’m not sure how much that’s the case. Like most of FX’s project, it’s very centered around a certain field – in this case, boxing – and, as such, often feels somewhat impenetrable. It’s also hard to watch Lights continue to function like a train wreck, letting down his family more every time he’s trying to fix a mistake he’s made. What makes it even tougher to watch is the fact that this isn’t a man who’s lost everything. He still has his family, and is still married to a wife who supports him, even if he’s not entirely honest with her about things such as the dentist he beat up in the pilot. Seeing his relationship with his daughter who has discovered his debilitating mental condition is among the episode’s most compelling moments, and it’s really a shame that Lights missed his other daughter’s recital, though he did manage to arrive in the nick of time and pretend like he had been there for the event itself. It’s intriguing to see Lights so unintentionally mixed up in the corrupt local government, and Lenny Venito (“The Knights of Prosperity,” “Bored to Death”) is a great choice to play the cop who’s most definitely on the take. That final shot featuring the iPod and the shooting is a powerful one, even if it’s not clear just who shot the cakemaker and thief and how his death is going to further impact Lights’ already complicated life.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 2, Episode 13 “Opening Night” (B+)

Talk about some good drama in this episode. I’m referring mostly to Haddie’s rather loose plan to hide her continued relationship with Alex from her parents falling apart. Their breakup is made especially powerful by the fact that Alex is in fact much more mature and responsible than Adam or Kristina might have thought, but that’s exactly what in their eyes makes him the wrong choice for Haddie at this stage of her life. His apology at Adam’s office was a particularly strong scene, and it’s always great to have the inimitable Amber come in to save the day with some unfiltered honesty. It was also a rare treat to see some less prominently-featured characters get a chance to interact, most notably Kristina and her mother-in-law (though I’d still love to see Jasmine get a chance to dialog with some of the Bravermans other than just her fiancĂ© and son). Sarah was entertaining in her efforts to help her slacker son sell his Christmas wrapping paper in January, and it’s nice that Zeek came through in the end and helped bail out both Drew and Sarah. I find it relatively funny that, in the show’s universe, only the children of the two parents in charge of directing the play could contend for solos, but it’s hardly problematic, especially since it allows Jabar to do some growing while Crosby also firmly establishes his role as a parent, in addition to creating a humorous scene with a very Julia-like Sydney negotiating with Crosby.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 2, Episode 11 “Two Courts” (B+)

This is an hour filled with plenty of twists and many monumental plot points, all of which are quite dynamic and compelling. I really enjoyed the parallel scenes with both Kalinda and Cary demanding that their salaries be raised above their in-house mortal enemies (Blake and Alicia) in order to remain and return, respectively, to the new law firm that it appears will now be led by Diane and Will. I think it’s terrific and so amusing how Alicia reacts to all of Kalinda’s subtle comments about her rivalry with Blake, and it was also nice to see Will swiftly come to Kalinda’s defense after Bond’s behind-the-scenes changes and investigations. I’m excited to see Diane and Will exact their secretive plan of secession from the firm, and their somewhat awkward conversations in the restaurant were absolutely superb. The case this week was top-notch as well, and it was fun to see Will try to antagonize the judge (guest star David Oyelowo) after he fouled him in a basketball game. Alicia did a great job of following his lead and casually throwing in basketball expressions to get the judge upset. The facial expressions jury consultant was an amusing, and intriguing guest star, who it took me a while to recognize as Norbert Leo Butz, considerably more subdued than in his last legal effort, where he played the aptly-named Rowdy on “The Deep End.” An important lesson learned in this episode: do not mess with Eli Gold. He’ll rip your phone cord right out of the wall. Additionally kudos to Alicia for smartly handing a case of misunderstood situations by coming out and asking Will if they were discussing the same thing rather than just assuming and blurting out something better left unsaid.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: White Collar (Winter Premiere)

White Collar: Season 2, Episode 10 “Burke’s Seven” (B+)

It makes me so happy that USA chooses to split up its seasons and give its shows a much-deserved chance to return for a few episodes at the beginning of the calendar year, even if it does make for some very busy weeknights (currently six shows on Tuesday nights, and that doesn’t count “Glee” and “Justified,” both of which return in just a few weeks). I’m particularly happy to have this show back because, true to its network’s slogan, it has some truly fantastic characters. Memo to the creative people behind this show: I would most definitely watch a sequel series titled “Burke’s Seven,” and I loved how the first thing Neal said to Peter following their successful sting operation was that there was a seven-man con he’d been wanting to run for a while now. It was fun to have Elizabeth take an active role in their operation, and also in tending to the very particular, very paranoid Mozzie as he recovered (as Invisible Man) from his gunshot wound. I was pleased to see Hilarie Burton back as Sarah, and I think that she and Matthew Bomer have terrific chemistry. I’m thrilled that she volunteered her vacation time to go to Argentina and help Peter follow up on the mystery since that means she should be sticking around longer. It’s nice that this entire team gets along so well and manages to operate and function even when they’re not really actually supposed to be working together. As always, this show is a delight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: V

V: Season 2, Episode 3 “Laid Bare” (C)

I’m puzzled by this show. On one hand, it’s not afraid to do things like have its heroes torture and then kill one of their alien prisoners, but it can’t match that same dark tone with the appropriate intensity or compelling plotting. The show is also showing signs of sloppiness, as the usually succinct and proper Anna lets out an uncharacteristic “gonna” when describing the benefits of the Internet, in addition to her entirely unnecessary self-congratulatory demonstration of the effectiveness of her plan to a bewildered Chad. I’m glad that something has propelled Chad to actually join up with the Fifth Column, because at this point the show just feels like it’s plodding along without much aim at all. I find it hard to believe that Ryan is actually informing on his fellow Fifth Column members given the ferocity with which he skins a member of his own species, and I’m far more interested in Anna’s admittedly brilliant choice to have Tyler be the one to videotape Jack before Anna recut his words and took them out of context to appear as if he was inciting violence. I do also like the fact that a distraught and disturbed Lisa came to Erica for comfort after Anna’s plan to train her in queenship took too much of a toll on her. I still don’t quite see the purpose of having Anna’s mother on the show since all she seems to be doing is chewing a lot of scenery while events play themselves out elsewhere without her having much, if anything, to do with them.

What I’m Watching: No Ordinary Family

No Ordinary Family: Season 1, Episode 13 “No Ordinary Detention” (C-)

There’s one thing that worked pretty well in this episode, and that was Jim’s attempts to mimic Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” as he started taking out hostage takers in the police station. His brilliant and rather awesome plan was short-lived as it came to an end just like Harrison Ford’s stowaway act in “Air Force One” did. I enjoyed seeing Jim and George think smartly and try to position Jim as a real-life action hero, and that’s something I’d like to see more often on this show. I was extremely disappointed with Joanne Kelly’s guest spot since the actress is much more fun as Myka on Syfy’s “Warehouse 13.” Rebecca Mader’s role also proved rather less than impressive due to her status as the world’s dumbest shape shifter. It’s important to remember that you need to neutralize whoever it is you’re trying to look like so that they don’t show up and ruin all your plans (that would of course go against this show’s nature of never having stakes). It’s a good thing that the Watcher finally revealed to Katie that he has powers, but Stephanie definitely came way too close to showing Katie’s duplicitous other that she has powers. The detention truth or dare wasn’t terrible as a way of giving the kids something to do, but I’m not pleased that it featured one of TV’s worst characters, JJ’s sniveling teacher. Mr. Litchfield. I had hoped that his near-fatal accident would have turned him into a less cartoonish and one-note character.

Pilot Review: Harry’s Law

Harry’s Law (NBC)
Premiered January 17 at 10pm

Kathy Bates is the latest Oscar-winning movie actress to try settling in a weekly television role. Bates has already been a visitor this past year to another NBC show, “The Office,” as a fearsome CEO Jo Bennett. Now, she’s Harriet, a lawyer who is fired from her steady job and decides to take on a more uncertain career path – a criminal law practice with a shop set up in a terrible neighborhood. Her new office just happens to be a former shoe store whose owner has left a good number of quality shoes on the premises, something which greatly excites Harriet’s smiley young assistant (Brittany Snow). That happenstance setting is appropriately quirky for a David E. Kelley show. The showrunner ran the successful law drama “The Practice” for eight years before shifting entirely to create the self-referential and highly peculiar “Boston Legal,” a show which I very much did not like. This show doesn’t quite parallel the insanity and inanity of his previous project, but what it lacks in absurdity it also lacks in appeal. I would much rather watch a show about Jo Bennett than about Harriet. The character is supposed to be a force to be reckoned with, like some of the best TV lawyers in recent history, perhaps like a sarcastic and less dangerous Patty Hewes. In the pilot, Harriet just doesn’t come off as all that interesting, and more often than not, she seems befuddled by her situation. Snow has little to do other than sell shoes, and Rob Corddry, who was great on Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” plays it way over-the-top as a lawyer who abruptly picks up and leaves his stable day job to join up with Harriet after he hits her with his car. The pilot’s main case involves far too much preaching to the jury that is hardly original and highly annoying. The show takes far too many liberties in its storytelling that Kelley has learned he can get away with in the past. At this point, however, I don’t think this show is the proper vehicle to execute those daring and ultimately disappointing attempts at creating innovative television.

How will it work as a series? Far-out cases are sure to pop up in nearly every episode, and Harriet will be honing her skills as a criminal lawyer as she uses her considerable charm to miraculously win her cases. I think the ensemble especially needs much work, since both Corddry and Snow need to be taken advantage of in a much better way if they’re going to be compelling characters.
How long will it last? It is Kathy Bates, after all, so perhaps it might have a bit of a future, especially considering Kelley’s track record. NBC is still a bit shaky on its 10pm programming, so my guess is that they’ll want to see this one through for a bit, though at this juncture I’m not ready to predict that it will live to see a second season.

Pilot grade: C-

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pilot Review: Skins

Skins (MTV)
Premiered January 17 at 10pm

The second of two American remakes of British shows I haven’t seen that premiered this past Monday night is MTV’s abysmal “Skins.” It’s also my first experience watching any programming on MTV (no, I’ve never seen this “Jersey Shore”), and, unless I want to continue watching this train wreck due to that irrational human instinct to be unable to look away from horrific things, it may well be my last. It’s not too difficult to grasp why it is this show is so terrible, but it may be harder to convey just how bad it truly is. The first moments of the pilot show a fringe character at the height of her depravity, coming home to her parents’ house in the morning after a clearly rough night. From there, things get continually more unhinged, unclothed, and unbelievable. The show tries so desperately hard to push the envelope and display how uncensored (despite the occasional bleeps that are heard whenever characters curse) it wants to be. The show’s main character, Tony, is the ultimate off-putting protagonist, whose smile makes you want to punch him in the face before you even hear any of the despicable things he has to say. It’s no wonder that all the characters end up walking home after driving a stolen car into a river; these people are just absolutely out of control. It may be some depiction of how wild teenagers live, but it goes way beyond any potential degree of believability in the service of remaining as crudely appealing and outrageous as possible. Tony seems like he’s trying hard to be like Ryan Phillippe’s Sebastian from “Cruel Intentions,” and this is a pale imitation at best. Sex-starved Stanley looks like a cross between a grungy Paul Dano and a clean-cut, boyish Michael Cera, but nowhere near as appealing as either of them. All of the female characters are hopelessly one-dimensional and seem to exist only to serve the will of Tony. I realize I’m not a member of the target audience for this show, but I never expected it to be this bad.

How will it work as a series? I took the liberty of watching the promo for the rest of the season, something which I usually avoid doing so that I don’t have future plotlines spoiled for me. What I saw was even more ridiculous and preposterous than anything that has happened yet, so we can expect more of the same foolhardy, amazingly stupid and scandalous behavior from all of these heinous and horny characters.
How long will it last? It saddens me to say it, but this one is almost a sure bet for renewal. The British original is already getting ready to start its fifth season, and the ratings for this American remake were shockingly high. From what I’ve been hearing about “Jersey Shore,” this should be the perfect companion piece.

Pilot grade: F-

Pilot Review: Being Human

Being Human (Syfy)
Premiered January 17 at 9pm

The first of two American remakes of British shows I haven’t seen that premiered this past Monday night is Syfy’s extremely supernatural “Being Human,” the story a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who all live together in the same house. It sounds a bit silly, and it sure is. It’s like “The Vampire Diaries” tweaked for the Syfy brand, made to stand out just enough from relatable, accessible television so as to be genuinely uninteresting and relatively off-putting. In comedy, big can often be a problem, and subtle implications can often be far more effective than sheer volume. In this case, that’s also a wise cautionary tale to which the show doesn’t adhere. Werewolf Josh is as over-the-top as can be, and it’s hard to watch any of the scenes featuring him as a human, let alone a werewolf, since Sam Huntington overacts like no one’s business and seems intent on turning what could be a rather dark, haunting show into an all-out comedy. Sam Witwer, a veteran of “Battlestar Galactica” and “Smallville,” is the complete opposite of Huntington’s werewolf as vampire Aidan, who has to be the most depressed-looking vampire I’ve ever seen. He’s joyous on his initial date, but after feeding from her and realizing he’s got nothing to live for (a pun, of course), it’s impossible to cheer the guy up, making his friendship with Josh seem all the more…peculiar. And then there’s Meaghan Rath’s Sally, who is utterly useless as a ghost who can’t do much but offer advice and chastise her two roommates for letting their supernatural situations get the best of them. Sally would work much better as a foil to the two more active boys, yet she’s equally unhinged, and confining her to the house may not give her much of an opportunity to grow. Mark Pellegrino, last seen on “Lost” as Jacob, should be good in the role of Aidan’s vampire mentor, yet his work in the pilot leaves much to be desired. The fact that Josh’s sister just happens to follow him as he visits his secret werewolf-proof lair for the first time is awfully happenstance and a bit much to be believed, and I found myself rolling my eyes well before that took place. Perhaps someone who’s seen the British original can enlighten me – how does this one stack up? On its own, it’s quite unimpressive and unengaging.

How will it work as a series? With three distinctly unique characters with plenty of drama in their personal lives further complicated by the existence of their powers, there’s quite a bit of ground for the show to cover creatively. Having the three as co-leads of sorts should enable the show to evenly spread plotlines between them so that the show doesn’t focus too heavily on one particular superbeing. It’s not for me, but for some, especially those who watch other Syfy shows, it may appeal.
How long will it last? The BBC original is just about to start its third season, and the ratings for the Syfy pilot were extremely high. The Syfy network has been able to sustain a number of shows with eccentric characters for a few years now, and so I have little doubt that this series will quickly join the ranks of the multi-season dramas that it has on the air with a season two renewal.

Pilot grade: D+

Round Two: The Cape

The Cape: Season 1, Episode 3 “Kozmo” (C-)

I should start with something positive since I have mostly negative things to say. The transition from the opening scene to the main title was absolutely terrific, and I must say that I’m a fan of the show’s opening credits and accompanying title music. Unfortunately, that has little to do with the content of the show itself, which quickly becomes problematic when the characters start talking and the inane events start happening. As I presume many others were, I was treated to the same promo being shown for this show during the commercial breaks during the Golden Globes on Sunday night where Vince says “it is as long as I’m wearing the cape.” Perhaps this show is meant to be insanely corny, but it’s succeeding a bit too well in that area. It’s equally disappointing when the rest of the episode just doesn’t deliver at all. The incorporation of the circus into the greater Ark storyline doesn’t track well at all, and it’s way, way too early to bring in someone like Gregor. Vince has barely had a chance to establish himself as a character yet, and to have someone else try to repossess the cape as their own in only the second week of the show’s existence is a poor plan. This was also a monumental waste of Thomas Kretschmann from “24” and “The Pianist.” I’m happy to see Summer Glau’s Orwell featured more prominently, but let’s give her something better to do than just explore circus life and serve as Vince’s go-to gal.

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 4, Episode 11 “Chuck Versus the Balcony” (B+)

It’s interesting to see just how much this show has transformed from Sarah not wanting to admit having any feelings about Chuck to him to having her positioned as a woman eager to accept the proposal of her dreams from her sweet boyfriend. I enjoy any kind of interaction that occurs between Sarah and Morgan, and having them run their own sub-mission while Chuck and Morgan were conspiring to carry out the original sub-mission was quite entertaining. The main mission actually took quite a backseat to Chuck’s attempts at the perfect proposal, appropriately enough, and therefore Chuck’s ability to neutralize all possible threats seemed quite a bit easy. Of course, the greater threat revealed itself in the last moments of the shown, when Sarah told Chuck that she’s going deep undercover to bring down Volkoff’s organization and reunite Chuck’s mom with her children. That should be an interesting route for the show to take, and hopefully Chuck will be more effective as a spy without his dream girl present rather than be broken down and paralyzed by her absence. Casey telling Chuck about the time he proposed was terrific, perfectly executed with that cigar and signature tone of voice. Lester’s idea of being romantic and seductive was horrifying as ever, and it was amusing to see him completely ruin his chances after seeming as if he might come off better than expected. The show also seems to have found a good supporting role for Big Mike to take as the problem solver and default advice-giver at the Buy More.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Take Two: Shameless

Shameless: Season 1, Episode 2 "Frank the Plank" (B+)

This show is most definitely bizarre. I think it's an asset more than anything, but this show definitely doesn't hold anything back. If a girl's boyfriend kidnapping her father and transporting him to Canada is a nutty plot point, that's nothing compared to Frank getting a little more than he bargained for when he finds out that the kindly and reserved Sheila is into him in a weird way. It's not as if Frank doesn't deserve the shocking treatment he gets as a result of his crummy behavior, but it's still an alarming scene, and a magnificently crafted and acted one at that. Two of the most stirring moments of this episode involved the two most active of Frank's children: Fiona defending "her children" and Lip following him from house to house on his bicycle. As much as he might usually be a screwup parent, Debbie did a good job putting on a brave face for his young and innocent daughter Debbie. It's absolutely fascinating to see how this family operates, certainly in a most untraditional manner. I'm intrigued, as anyone would be, by the relationship between Fiona and Steve since the latter seems intent on bettering her life while the former wants to be responsible for any positive changes in her life rather than accepting his well-intentioned charity. As a second installment, this episode holds up just fine, and I'm entirely excited to see what's next in store for all the zany members of the Gallagher clan and their even wilder neighbors.

Round Two: Episodes

Episodes: Season 1, Episode 2 “Episode Two” (B+)

After being pleasantly surprised with this show’s pilot last week, I’m happy to report that episode two is just as refreshing and good. It’s patently uncomfortable for a majority of the time, yet there’s something bearable about it thanks to how entertaining it manages to be. For instance, the constant inability of security guard Wallace to recognize the Lincolns as they pull in to their gated community is a great running joke, and it was fun to experience Beverly letting out all of the fury building in her to deliver an expletive-filled tirade unbecoming of the usually prim and proper character. I liked the pairings at the party of Carol and Sean and Beverly and Matt. Carol is a great character, and the way she speaks is entirely entertaining. She and Sean work exceptionally well together in a scene. The same goes for Beverly and Matt, though they’re far less on the same page, and it was enthralling to see Beverly go from being pleasantly surprised by Matt’s apparent intelligence to unable to contain her disgust at his immature feelings about Tourette’s syndrome. Kudos to Matt LeBlanc, barely seen last week, for creating a fine parody of himself, one that’s unexpectedly serious and also quite unlikeable. The chain of events related to the Lincolns’ beloved British show are rather painful, but this show wisely focuses on entertaining its audience with smart writing and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor (thanks, Carol) than wallowing in self-pity. Bring on episode three! I’m eager to see what this new, hopelessly warped show will look like.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 4, Episode 2 “Suicide Solution” (B+)

I’m not sure there’s another show currently on television where characters prance around naked as often and freely as they do. Marcy’s morning surprise was quite entertaining, as was Hank’s relaxed, rather analytical reaction to her attempts to arouse him. The sight of Charlie completely naked ready to beat someone with a croquet bat was fun, and again, only on this show would one nude straight man climb into bed with another nude straight man and his ex-wife and not think it was the least bit strange. There was plenty of sexual and relationship-related conversation in this episode, and I liked Hank’s rather delicate way of discussing how he felt about his connection to Sasha. I’m not sure how I feel about Rob Lowe’s character on this show, especially after seeing him do sedated and serious (to an extent) so well on “Parks and Recreation.” He seems like far too much of a loose cannon, and it’s not as if this show needs are more loose cannons. Natasha McElhone was totally on in this episode as Karen, and it was also nice to see Becca again. The end of the episode took a far more hallucinogenic, serious turn as Hank retreated to his art – writing – and penned a letter to Becca while downing considerable amounts of drugs. Obviously, our lead character isn’t going to end up dead three episodes into the season, but his suicide attempt is surely going to change things for both him and his relationships with his friends and family.

Great news for fans of this show - and of Hank's livelihood - the show was renewed for a fifth season on Friday. Terrific!

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Episode 13 “I’m Still Here” (C+)

While some of this show’s plotlines tend to be longer arcs that are addressed week-to-week, it’s strange (and rather random) to see some recurring storylines spotlighted out of the blue when there’s suddenly nothing else to occupy a character’s time. I’m speaking specifically of Lynette, whose mother pops back into the picture to announce her engagement to the single most offensive man in the world. Larry Hagman really went out of his way to seem as entirely detestable as possible, and it’s no surprise that Lynette didn’t warm to him in the slightest. On the subject of less-than-pleasant people, Gregory Itzin, best known as President Charles Logan on “24,” did a tremendous job of portraying a bitter patient who didn’t immediately warm to Susan’s bubbly nature. Another dramatic actor delivered a typically terrific performance as his character discovered yet another treacherous element in his immediate family. I think Mark Moses is an extremely underrated actor, and watching him seethe and scheme is absolutely fascinating. It was nice to see a strong storyline for Renee that involved both hilarity (stopping the kid on the bike with just a gesture) and serious contemplation, as well as using Lee and Bob in a productive way. The timely arrival of Keith’s baby mama is another unnecessary complication in their lives, and I’ve had more than enough of this Gaby doll nonsense. A word of advice to Carlos: when you end up in the wrong part of town, don’t choose that moment to take the GPS out and input the address.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series


The competition: Glee, Hot in Cleveland, Modern Family, The Office, 30 Rock

For your information: This is the fifth consecutive nomination for “The Office,” the fourth for “30 Rock,” and the second for “Glee” and “Modern Family.” Freshman series “Hot in Cleveland” joins them this year. “Glee” won last year, “30 Rock” won the year before that, and “The Office” won twice in a row before that. Only one freshman series has ever won this award, and that was “Desperate Housewives” back in 2004.

Who should win: “Modern Family

Who will win: After all the “Glee” hoopla last year, this is the time for Modern Family to be recognized.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series


The competition: Boardwalk Empire, The Closer, Dexter, The Good Wife, Mad Men

For your information: This is the fourth consecutive nomination for “Mad Men,” which has won this award the past two years. “The Closer” is on its fifth nod, while “Dexter” is on its third and “The Good Wife” is on its second. Freshman series “Boardwalk Empire” joins the ranks this year. Only one freshman series has ever won this award, and that was “The Sopranos” when it dethroned four-time champ “ER” in 1999.

Who should win: All great, though “Dexter” isn’t quite in the same league in terms of all its players.

Who will win: The circumstances this year – one new HBO show up against four previously-nominated series – are a bit too familiar to count out “Boardwalk Empire,” but I think the cast of The Good Wife could steal the spotlight.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie


The competition: Claire Danes’ Temple Grandin (Temple Grandin), Catherine O’Hara’s kindly aunt (Temple Grandin), Julia Ormond’s determined mother (Temple Grandin), Winona Ryder’s supportive wife (When Love is Not Enough), and Susan Sarandon’s civil rights worker (You Don’t Know Jack).

For your information: Only Sarandon has been nominated for an individual SAG award before, winning in 1995 for her lead role in the film “Dead Man Walking,” and receiving two additional nominations, one for the film “The Client” in 1994, and the other in this category two years ago for “Bernard and Doris.” The last and only time three women from the same project were nominated in this category was in 2003 with “Angels in America,” when Meryl Streep beat Mary-Louise Parker and Emma Thompson.

Who should win: I haven’t seen a single one of these performances, sadly.

Who will win: It’s hard to image it not being Danes.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie


The competition: John Goodman’s controversial author (You Don’t Know Jack), Al Pacino’s Jack Kavorkian (You Don’t Know Jack), Dennis Quaid’s Bill Clinton (The Special Relationship), Edgar Ramirez’s terrorist (Carlos), and Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth (Macbeth).

For your information: Pacino won this award in 2003 for “Angels in America.” Stewart was nominated in 1999 in this category for “A Christmas Carol” and in 1994 for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” John Goodman was previously nominated for his work on “Roseanne,” and Quaid was a nominee for the film “Far from Heaven.” This is Ramirez’s first nomination.

Who should win: I haven’t seen a single one of these performances, sadly.

Who will win: It probably makes sense for it to be Pacino, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Shakespeare wins in a competitive category with Stewart.

Monday, January 17, 2011

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series


The competition: Edie Falco’s pill-popping nurse (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey’s nerdy TV writer (30 Rock), Jane Lynch’s tyrannical cheerleading coach (Glee), Sofia Vergara’s Colombian wife (Modern Family), and Betty White’s wise-cracking scene-stealer (Hot in Cleveland).

For your information: Despite being crowned with a life achievement award last year, White, who will be 89 at the time of the ceremony, has never received a SAG nomination before. Fey has won this category for the past three years running. Falco was nominated last year for this role, and has won three SAG awards for her performance on “The Sopranos.” This is the first individual nomination for both Lynch and Vergara. Fey, Lynch, Vergara, and White are also nominated as a member of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: Fey has won so many times, so Vergara deserves it this year.

Who will win: It’s never a good idea to bet against Betty White.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series


The competition: Alec Baldwin’s Conservative TV boss (30 Rock), Ty Burrell’s goofy dad (Modern Family), Steve Carell’s wacky manager (The Office), Chris Colfer’s individualistic high school performer (Glee), and Ed O’Neill’s sarcastic patriarch (Modern Family).

For your information: Baldwin has won this award every year for the past four years. Carell has lost to him for four years in a row. This is the first individual nomination for Burrell, Colfer, and O’Neill. Every performer in this category is also nominated as a member of his ensemble cast.

Who should win: Baldwin’s had his time. Burrell!

Who will win: It’s a tough call. Hopefully all of the “Modern Family” enthusiasm should dethrone Baldwin, but who wins? I’ll go with Burrell since costar Eric Stonestreet isn’t nominated. Back in the day, supporting players like Sean Hayes and David Hyde Pierce regularly won this award.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series


The competition: Glenn Close’s vicious lawyer (Damages), Mariska Hargitay’s hard-working cop (Law & Order: SVU), Julianna Margulies’ hard-working lawyer and mother (The Good Wife), Elisabeth Moss’ copywriter ahead of her time (Mad Men) and Kyra Sedgwick’s deputy police chief (The Closer).

For your information: All five women in this category are returning nominees. Margulies won this award last year on her first nomination for her current show, amassing two individual wins for “ER” earlier in her career. Close won a trophy in 2004 for “The Lion in Winter” and has now been nominated three times for her current times. Hargitay is now on nod number six and Sedgwick makes it five, and neither has won before. Moss wasn’t nominated last year but was the year before. Margulies, Moss, and Sedgwick are also nominated this year as members of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: Margulies, Moss, or Sedgwick

Who will win: Unless voters really go “Mad Men” crazy, this may be the time for recent Emmy winner Sedgwick to pick up her first SAG trophy.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series


The competition: Steve Buscemi’s Atlantic City gangster (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston’s meth cooker (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall’s kind-hearted serial killer (Dexter), Jon Hamm’s promiscuous ad man (Mad Men), and Hugh Laurie’s quirky doctor (House).

For your information: This is the sixth consecutive nomination for Laurie, who won in 2008 and 2006. Hall won last year on his fourth nomination, and Hamm receives his fourth nod this year. Cranston was nominated last year, and Buscemi receives his first individual nomination this year for his freshman series. Buscemi, Hall, and Hamm are also nominated this year as members of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: Cranston, Hall, Hamm – take your pick

Who will win: I think this is the year that SAG voters, who have recognized his show’s ensemble the past two years, finally honor Hamm, though Cranston is just as likely.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Globes: Quick Take

The big show is officially over, and I'd direct you to Movies with Abe to read about my successes in predicting the film categories. My prediction accuracy total went down from 7 to a mere 5 out of 11. My mistakes: betting against "Glee," which managed to top "Modern Family" in all three races where the two went head-to-head - which sadly demonstrates a lack of appreciation for a much better show while the former one gets too much praise for clumsy plotting in favor of strong musical sequences - betting against Al Pacino, and underestimating "Carlos" (which I haven't yet seen). And then of course there's the mistake I'm so happy I made: picking Piper Perabo over the fantastic Katey Sagal, who somehow managed to take home an entirely deserved and awesome trophy for "Sons of Anarchy." It was also fun to see Chris Colfer look so completely surprised and overwhelmed at his win, ending his speech by saying "screw that" to school bullies. "Boardwalk Empire" deserved its two trophies, and the absent Laura Linney was also a spectacular choice. I have to say that the ten-second montage for "The Walking Dead" got me so excited about the pilot again because the main title music was mixed in with it. In any case, as I noted on the movie site, Ricky Gervais was not funny and was overly offensive, and the show's best moment came from Tina Fey and Steve Carell presenting the screenplay award. What did you think of the show?

Since it's never too early to start thinking about the next awards show, Screen Actors Guild winner predictions begin in just a few hours!

Final Golden Globe Predictions

Here are my final predictions for tonight's Golden Globe Awards (TV categories). Visit Movies with Abe for the film categories. Happy watching!

Best Television Series - Drama
Boardwalk Empire

Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Modern Family

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
The Pacific

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Laura Linney (The Big C)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Idris Elba (Luther)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Claire Danes (Temple Grandin)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

What I’m Watching: Human Target

Human Target: Season 2, Episodes 9 & 10 “Imbroglio” & “Cool Hand Guerrero” (B)

If you, like me, tried to tune in to your favorite action series currently on television on Wednesday night, you found it entirely pre-empted for the Tucson memorial (very understandable) bracketed repeats of “Raising Hope” and “Kitchen Nightmares” (couldn’t we at least have had a repeat of this show?). Twitter was abuzz with frustrated people demanding to have their two-hour episode aired, and fortunately it only took two extra days. Unfortunately, the episodes aren’t quite up to par, matching up with last week’s installments that are a lot of fun but seem to be losing a bit (just a bit) of the indisputable awesomeness that the show had in its first season and early season two episodes. This becomes especially important given that we’re looking at only three more encounters with this show, and it’s quite possible that, despite that Twitter love on Wednesday night, the show won’t be renewed for a third season. I’m continually puzzled as to why Ames only seems to appear every other episode on this show, since her presence would have come in incredibly handy when Winston was operating solo on the outside of the gala holdup. Guerrero being spotlighted in both hours was terrific, and I also enjoyed how Ilsa suddenly switches roles when her sister-in-law becomes the resident doubter and how she managed to save Chance despite his considerable lack of gratitude. For fans desperately wishing to see more of this show, beware some schedule changes: the next episode airs on Monday, January 31st at 8pm, following by one installment apiece on Wednesday, February 2nd & 9th at 9pm.

Pilot Review: Off the Map

Off the Map (ABC)
Premiered January 12 at 10pm

A lot of people love “Grey’s Anatomy.” While I have no desire to watch it week-to-week, I find it easier to bear than most other programming of the sort (especially those shows that air on CW). What distinguishes “Grey’s Anatomy,” however, is that it was an original series rather than a remake that has spawned multiple similar incarnations, transplanting the soapiness of the plotlines and promiscuity of the characters into some new setting. This is ABC’s third attempt in two years, after the space-set “Defying Gravity” and the law-oriented “The Deep End.” Now, we’re back to medicine but our characters have been transplanted to “somewhere in South America.” The pilot is fully loaded with flawed characters bursting with the desire to tell their innermost secrets to the people around them that they can’t stand but will likely end up sleeping with sooner or later. I see no reason why at least one of these characters could be a normal person just trying to pursue their dream, and the emphasis on making each of them very specific character tropes with sensational back stories is irritating at best. The “off the map” setting leads to equally extravagant plotlines, and it’s hard to take it seriously. It may be better than the CW’s “Life is Wild,” but only slightly. It’s a horrific waste of talent, also, even if it’s just the three interns who I can certify are capable of much more than this. Caroline Dhavernas will forever be immortalized as Jaye Tyler of FOX’s short-lived “Wonderfalls,” and she’s better at playing wacky than just the good girl. Mamie Gummer, also known as Meryl Streep’s daughter, did a great job guesting on “The Good Wife” as a lawyer and shouldn’t be stuck in South America where she’s forced to have sex (eventually, of course) in order for the plot move forward. Fans of “Friday Night Lights” will surely agree that Zach Gilford should not under any circumstances be playing a partier plastic surgeon. As far as the established doctors go, Valerie Cruz was infinitely better in the first half-season of “Nip/Tuck” than she is here. With a wasted cast and poor plotlines, there isn’t anywhere for this show to go, even in the middle of nowhere.

How will it work as a series? The pilot takes the idea that these hotshot young doctors have no idea what’s in store for them in South America and runs with it for an excessively long time. I imagine that the show will be more of the same, and it’s not as if new cast members can rotate in too much, so we’re stuck with this bunch, which, aside from Rachelle Lefevre at the very end, don’t seem too interesting.
How long will it last? It’s hard to judge the pilot because it aired after President Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial service. Based on the two recent efforts by ABC, I don’t see this one making it to the fall. Being behind ABC’s two-hour comedy block might help it, but it could also hurt since it’s considerably less impressive and less enjoyable.

Pilot grade: F

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 2, Episode 12 “Our Children, Ourselves” (B+)

When it comes to awkwardness, especially concerning Mitchell and Cameron, this episode manages to outdo most, if not all, of its predecessors. Mitchell running into his former girlfriend (Mary Lynn Rajskub, a.k.a. Chloe from “24”) was amusing, and then having him see her with a redheaded child made for some hilarious musings on his part, and on Cameron’s. Their antics prove that it’s always better to come out and say stuff specifically in order not to misunderstand, and that’s how you can avoid things like giving a mitt that says “Little Slugger” to your former girlfriend’s current dwarf fiancĂ©. Jay managed to dial up the awkwardness too by doing what many people yearn to but would never have the balls to actually go through with, just coming out and telling people that their friendship isn’t made to be. Gloria managed to recover everything well by telling her guests that he was losing his mind, and that’s where Manny’s dribble cup came in extremely handy. I very much enjoyed seeing more of Claire and Phil as dorks and comprehending how it is that they actually came to get together. Anyone who claims that third or fourth sequels are better than the original is clearly nuts (which is what makes it so brilliant, of course). Phil is very funny to watch when he’s having a blast (during “Croctopus”), and it was refreshing to see the Dunphys strike back and teach Mr. Patel how to validate his parking when the highly intelligent father couldn’t seem to figure it out.