Thursday, June 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 4 “All the Right Friends” (B)

I would definitely say that this show is smart to pair up its lead character with other agents from foreign organizations on a regular basis. I didn’t like Annie all that much last season, and she’s starting to get on my nerves once again now. I think she tends to be most obnoxious when she’s trying to defend her credentials to a challenging entity. It’s better to demonstrate than to defend, and I think that’s one thing Annie does do well, as evidenced by her smooth getaway driving after Carlo told her that she shouldn’t be driving because she’s a woman. Carlo was entertaining, to be sure, and credit is due to actor Ignacio Serricchio, but the character seemed a bit too squeaky-clean in terms of his noble intentions for the treatment that he was being given by the CIA. I do wish that Benito Martinez, who was once so terrific as David Aceveda on “The Shield,” got better roles than the grumpy commissioner from Buenos Aires, though at least he did get to shoot the assassin and save the day at the end of the episode. Arthur consulting Auggie and offering him the opportunity to become one of the public faces of the CIA is certainly intriguing, and I’m wondering if Auggie’s voicemail left for Annie was a red herring or a truthful indication that he accepted the post. Regardless of what Auggie is up to, Jai needs to better utilized on this show since he’s doing nothing at the moment except feeling like the kid picked last for gym class.

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Toni Collette, Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lea Michele, Amy Poehler

The competition: The only nominee who won’t be back for sure is Louis-Dreyfus, whose show was cancelled last year. There’s no doubt that Tina Fey (30 Rock) will be back, and it’s highly probable that Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) will be as well. Golden Globe winner Laura Linney (The Big C) is sure to join the pack, following in the footsteps of Showtime series stars Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), both of whom won the Emmy for the first seasons of their shows. Lea Michele (Glee) will probably be back despite a reduced role, since none of her challengers are too strong. Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) failed to make the cut last year, so it’s not too likely she’ll be back, and Courteney Cox (Cougar Town) also has a shot but didn’t make the list last year. Two new contenders, Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) and Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), could garner some votes, as could two veterans, Patricia Heaton (The Middle) and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives).

The predicted nominees: Collette, Falco, Fey, Linney, Michele, Poehler

The predicted winner: Linney

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 4 “Dentist of Detroit” (B)

It’s interesting to see just what this show has become. When supporting characters like Diana and especially Mozzie get entire episodes essentially devoted to their backgrounds, it’s clear that this series has moved far past the initial cat-and-mouse relationship between Peter and Neal. That said, this episode is mostly pure entertainment, with not all that much logic and sense mixed in. The mustachioed-Peter flashback was one thing, and this is something else altogether, presuming, hilariously enough, that Mozzie was a con man as a kid. The Dentist of Detroit is a fun moniker, and it was actually clever to see how that morphed into a go-to patsy for any unsolved crime. Mozzie’s elaborate ruse to escape his “safe house” confinement was amusing, and it’s nice to see him take an active interest in a case, even if he nearly gets himself killed in the process. I like the fact that this show has developed to the point where Elizabeth deigns to go visit Mozzie and play gin with him, and I’d argue that their dynamic is one of the best things about this show. The amount of bad guys Peter poses as is also nothing to scoff at, and I enjoy seeing him try to be bad. It was also meaningful – and funny – to have the double meanings of everything he and Neal said to each other in the midst of their fake fight. This might have been one of the show’s sillier installments, but it was still a blast.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Big C (Season Premiere)

The Big C: Season 2, Episode 1 “Losing Patients” (B+)

This show begins its second season in more ways than one, picking up where last year left off and also starting into the fall of Cathy’s prescribed year to live. Because hardly any time at all has passed since we last left these characters, it’s easy to pick up with them. A few things have certainly changed, of course, and they’re very relevant to how the show operates at this point. Paul and Adam are now both fully aware of Cathy’s cancer, and, thanks to a drugged dog and some pent-up frustration on Cathy’s part, so does Rebecca, and, by extension, Sean. It’s somewhat of a shame that we don’t get to see Sean’s initial reaction to the news, though we did actually get the opportunity to do that back in season one when he got really sad and then she told him that she was only kidding. It’s much more productive for the show’s purposes to have Sean hate Cathy because she didn’t share her condition with him. Cathy may have told people, but she’s still just as lonely as she ever was, haunted by Marlene’s very obnoxious ghost. I enjoyed seeing Paul confront Todd about kissing Cathy, and it’s good that Todd called to get Cathy an appointment, though you have to admire the way that she stormed into that office posing as a pharmaceutical rep, ready to get that appointment all on her own. This should be a good season, different from the first but hopeful and individualistic in its own way.

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, Larry David, Matthew Morrison, Jim Parsons, Tony Shalhoub

The competition: Count out David, whose show didn’t air during the eligibility period, and Shalhoub, whose show ended last year. At the head of the pack are Steve Carell (The Office), for his final year of the show, two-time winner Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), and last year’s winner Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory). Since there’s so little competition this year, Matthew Morrison (Glee) should be back. Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), who earned nominations for the last three years of “Friends,” has a chance to score a nomination for playing himself on Showtime’s new series. Despite being in the wrong category, Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation) stands a chance of taking the last slot. Fighting for that last slot are a slew of never-nominated actors on returning shows, such as Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Joel McHale (Community), Thomas Jane (Hung), and David Duchovny (Californication), as well as one previously-nominated actor now eligible for a new show which was swiftly cancelled, Matthew Perry (Mr. Sunshine).

The predicted nominees: Baldwin, Carell, LeBlanc, Lowe, Morrison, Parsons

The predicted winner: Carell

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Weeds (Season Premiere)

Weeds: Season 7, Episode 1 “Bags” (B)

Each season, this show has headed in a truly different direction. It's no surprise, therefore, that this seventh season start takes off in a completely different manner, jumping ahead three years in time. This is a device often used by shows that can be abused, but here it works fine, skipping over what might have been less interesting to presume certain changes on the part of its characters. Nancy making out with her cellmate as she is released from prison might seem strange, but given the way that she has tended to use whatever man is most in power, it makes sense that she would create a relationship with her female cellmate since that would be her best chance of achieving favoritism in prison. It was amusing to see Shane as a puppeteer and Silas as a model in Denmark, with Andy and Doug leading tours in typical sarcastic fashion. From that debut, things are promptly uprooted as Nancy doesn’t even try to stomach a full hour of her new life at the halfway house and instead requests leave, only to pick up a rock and steal someone’s suitcase. Obviously, it might have been boring to see Nancy in a halfway house while her family is away in Denmark, but it’s just the need to shake things up and not obey the rules that sometimes becomes frustrating on this show. You’d think that three years in prison might have affected Nancy slightly, but it seems that’s not the case. Oh well. We’ll have to see where the rest of the season takes us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Round Two: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 1, Episode 3 “Prisoner of War” (B+)

In its second airing, this show manages to hold up pretty well, delivering both awesome alien action and plenty of melodrama. Its major weakness is a sense of continuity, in that it does have a main character, and he and his family will be will featured much more prominently than others and be prone to being saved and staying alive on a regular basis. It also allows a considerable amount of conveniences, like something being accidentally dropped from the top of a building that alerts the alien to the presence of the scouts. I’d like to think that the harnessed kids being executed in front of Hal is akin to the zombies proving themselves intelligent and cunning in “I Am Legend,” rather than another convenient plot device. I think that the final shot of the alien opening its eyes paired with the shot of the de-harnessed kid indicates that there is more to these aliens than just a violent and swift invasion, and I think that’s very promising. I also liked the presence of Steven Weber as Dr. Harris, and it was definitely a good character for him to play, entirely full of himself and not willing to take the blame for the death of Tom’s wife, instead asserting his own greater importance to society. Having Pope become the chef is a good use for his character, and it’s a good to see that even Weaver has a boss, one who’s somewhat more open-minded and able to see the big picture than the pilot’s military man.

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Connie Britton, Glenn Close, Mariska Hargitay, January Jones, Julianna Marguiles, Kyra Sedgwick

The competition: 2009 winner Close is out of the race this year since her show didn’t air within the eligibility period. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) is the frontrunner since her show was even hotter this past year than it was the year before. She’ll almost certainly be joined by Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), nominated in this category two years ago and then in the supporting race last year. She’s back in this category now after a more substantial role in the show’s fourth season. She’ll probably take the place of January Jones (Mad Men), who barely had a part this past season. Last year’s winner Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) should be back, as should Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), who would earn her eighth consecutive nomination, and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), who would earn her second. I’m hopeful that Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) will be able to earn her first-ever Emmy nod, though she’ll face her toughest competition from newcomer Mireille Enos (The Killing). Additionally, recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo (Treme) could factor into the race, as could never-nominated Lauren Graham (Parenthood), breakout star Emmy Rossum (Shameless), and Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), who could earn her ninth career nomination for her latest role.

The predicted nominees: Britton, Hargitay, Margulies, Moss, Sagal, Sedgwick

The predicted winner: Margulies

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 10 “That’s What Lovers Do” (B+)

On the heels of last week’s tragic ending, the episode-long tribute to Harley was predictably heartfelt and executed in true musical style. We saw a lot of emotion from Annie, a character who has usually only been portrayed through her relationship with either Sonny or Davis. It was particularly moving to see her hypnotized by the song in the bar as Davis watched over her in the background and betrayed to learn that Harley’s Texas twang wasn’t anywhere near real. Antoine had plenty of headaches in this episode as well, first getting into it with Ladonna after she got mad at him for finally paying alimony and then getting quit on mid-gig after interrupting the vocalist’s solo. His “stage persona” is getting him into trouble with the missus as well, though it’s not like this is much of a surprise for the philandering Antoine we saw last season, and at least now he can paid full fare for his cab rides – with generous one dollar tip included. I’m relieved to see that Sophia is finally making smart decisions in her new job at the coffee shop, judging that it would probably be irresponsible to lock up the joint for a few minutes to go smoke in the back with some musicians. Janette is also having success, introducing Southern dishes to her restaurant’s menu, and the recording went much smoother in New Orleans, and not just in Albert’s opinion. Unfortunately, Toni isn’t making progress in her case, and Colson isn’t having much luck in his new position, but with each other’s help, they’ll get there.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Link What I’m Watching: True Blood (Season Premiere)

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 1 “She’s Not There” (B+)

We're diving back into this crazy show after a year-long hiatus, not just for us but also for our number one heroine Sookie. Though its contents were peculiar at best, this episode was actually quite strong. The fairy land was seriously nutty, and I very much liked how Sookie managed to see through the images and realize its duplicitous nature. It was a pleasure to see Gary Cole as the kindly, naive Granddad if only for a flickering moment. Now that the issue of the terrifying fairy leaders is resolved, at least for the time being, it's interesting to check back into the real world to see where our favorite characters are. It's impressive to see a freshly-goateed and deputized Jason keeping on top of a V-addicted Andy, and entertaining to watch Arlene panic about her baby decapitating Barbie dolls. I enjoyed seeing Pam do televised press for Fangtasia, and the intercut scenes of both Bill and Eric making speeches to community members. Tara's new life as a cage-fighting lesbian is decently amusing, but it's probably good that she's getting far away from Bon Temps. I like the new cast additions, such as Fiona Shaw as a possession-prone witch, Courtney Ford ("Dexter") as Portia Bellefleur, and Dane DeHaan ("In Treatment") as a seemingly troublesome member of Crystal's cult. Hoyt yelling at Jessica for not cooking for him while she fends off her desire for human blood and Sam managing his anger by meeting with a group of shifters are also interesting plot points, but the craziest revelations are saved for the end of the episode. Lafayette's role in the temporary rival of a bird was pretty insance, and Bill as the vampire king comes as a huge shock. Eric buying the house and claiming to own Sookie is something else altogether, and I'm curious to see what becomes of that.

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Kyle Chandler, Bryan Cranston, Matthew Fox, Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, Hugh Laurie

The competition: With Fox and Cranston, who won this award the past three years, out of the running, the race is considerably more open than it’s been in recent years. Both Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Michael C. Hall (Dexter) are frontrunners after having strong seasons, and the number one challenger for the win will be newcomer Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), who won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award this past year. Hugh Laurie (House) should return with his sixth nomination, and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) stands a good chance of making the cut again. Fighting for the final slot are a variety of contenders, some from new shows and some from returning shows, including Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), William H. Macy (Shameless), Peter Krause (Parenthood), and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead). Olyphant’s show was even more well-reviewed this year, and Byrne has been nominated both times his show was eligible in the past, so they’re at the head of the pack. Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods) and Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) might also garner some votes.

The predicted nominees: Buscemi, Chandler, Hall, Hamm, Laurie, and Olyphant

The predicted winner: Buscemi

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Round Two: Outcasts

Outcasts: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

While this second installment isn’t quite as spectacular as last week’s pilot, it’s still a more than able follow-up. I had thought last week that Julius Berger seemed to me to resemble Gaius Baltar from “Battlestar Galactica” in many ways, and the first episode in which he actually appears only validates that claim even more. Unlike Gaius, Julius seems to be full of bad intentions, rather than being forced to lie based on his circumstances. Eric Mabius isn’t always the strongest actor, but I think he’s a good choice for this party because he’s not capable of being truly terrifying but can still do disconcerting quite well. The prisoner swap in this episode was definitely tense, as Jack proves himself to be quite a hothead and Lily not the darling baby angel that her mother had hoped she would be. All this business about cloning and reproduction is truly intriguing, and I like the idea that Stella and Tate are, in theory, the bad guys, while Rudi is positioned as some sort of revolutionary hero. Fleur’s role in this conflict will also surely become truly complicated. Tate is extremely skilled, it seems, at giving motivational speeches, getting Stella back on track by reminding her that it’s always been about staying alive. As for the paper moving all by itself in his office, that’s something that’s going to require some explanation at some point soon. For now, I remain fully and sincerely hooked, and eager for the next six episodes of this series.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pilot Review: Suits

Suits (USA)
Premiered June 23 at 10pm

USA expands its “Characters Welcome” brand with two new shows this summer, starting with this interesting entry set to follow “Burn Notice” each week. Unlike some of USA’s previous shows, this series casts two relatively unknown actors in the lead roles. The advertising slogan “Two lawyers, one degree” is clever and fairly appropriate for summarizing what the show is, but there’s plenty intriguing about this particular show. Harvey Specter, played with considerable charisma by Gabriel Macht, oozes self-confidence and obnoxiousness in just the first few minutes, immediately establishing himself as a lead equally detestable and endearing. Patrick J. Adams’ Mike Ross is far more clearly sympathetic, appearing honest and hopeless at the same time, eager to do good while others in his place have clearly given up trying to do the right thing. It’s fun to have Rick Hoffman in the cast as Harvey’s nemesis Louis Litt at the firm, and his overzealous shows of fury are entertaining. Gina Torres has found a great role as boss Jessica Pearson, and her relationships with Harvey and Louis are terrific. The dynamic between Harvey and Mike will have to develop itself, but for the moment it works. Meghan Markle, like the stars of the show, seems to have plenty of potential, and hopefully the role of overqualified paralegal Rachel Zane should given her enough to do. One thing that is completely glossed over is the fact that Mike doesn’t have appeared to have even faked any records to assert that he actually went to Harvard, and therefore Louis’ test of his credibility feels rather flimsy. At least the memory recall flashbacks are considerably better done than they could be, which is a relief. I think this show demonstrates great potential, and it’s a perfect fit for USA. On an unrelated note, doesn’t Tom Lipinski, who played Trevor, look exactly like Josh Brolin?

How will it work as a series? This first episode was the exposition but already managed to get into what the show should be like on a weekly basis. While it seems unlikely that Harvey will pawn each and every one of his undesirable cases off onto his new hire, I do imagine they’ll be working together on a regular basis using their distinctive abilities, kept close by the knowledge that Mike isn’t who he pretends to be.
How long will it last? All of USA’s shows from at least the past five years have gone on to have successful, healthy runs thus far, and there’s no reason to think that this show won’t enjoy a similarly happy future. To its credit, “Suits” held on to most of the audience for lead-in “Burn Notice” and seriously outperformed the series debut of another recent USA show, “Fairly Legal.” This show will likely make it to a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Wilfred

Wilfred (FX)
Premiered June 23 at 10pm

If you’re looking for a show unlike any other, this is it. While past series have seen people talking to dead or imaginary people on a regular basis, like “Six Feet Under,” “Rescue Me,” and “The Book of Daniel,” I can’t remember a series where a character so blindly and fully accepted the existence of something like a man dressed up in a dog costume. Somehow, it works here, and this show is instantly offbeat and eccentric even before Wilfred the talking dog shows up. Elijah Wood is perfectly cast for the role of the doe-eyed Ryan. He’s just right as a clearly doomed protagonist, who isn’t even able to kill himself thanks to placebo pills prescribed to him by his sister and now has the misfortune of having his life incrementally complicated by Wilfred. Jason Gunn plays very well off of Wood as the wicked Wilfred, and he gets the most out of every scene in which he appears. My favorite member of the cast so far is Dorian Brown, who plays Ryan’s fury-prone sister Kristen. This is a small, tight-knit cast, supported by Fiona Gubelmann as Wilfred’s owner Jenna and Ethan Suplee as Ryan’s motorcycle-riding neighbor, and I think that each member contributes just enough to make this show work. It’s definitely enthralling, and it’s hard not to sympathize with Ryan and to lament the unfortunate and unbelievable situation in which he’s been put. This, like most of FX’s other fare, is certainly not contained in any box.

How will it work as a series? I’d imagine that there have to be more characters added at some point, but for the moment it’s all about Ryan’s journey back towards some sort of self-satisfaction and fulfillment in life, and Wilfred’s going to be around to ruin his life in the process of making it better. Half-hour installments will likely be just the right dose of this particular brand of crazy.
How long will it last? Ratings for the pilot were great, and given the fact that the Australian original on which this show is based was such a hit, I’d expect this show to live on for as long as its creators desire. Given the long-running success of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and recent shows like “Louie,” “The League,” and “Archer,” I think FX will be more than eager to welcome another oddball comedy to its lineup.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Love Bites

Love Bites: Season 1, Episode 4 “Sky High” (C-)

This episode just did not do it for me at all. None of the three plotlines worked terribly well, and I don’t quite understand the purpose of both the first and the third vignettes featured this week. Judd and Colleen getting high and then having to go to Judd’s godson’s christening wasn’t funny at all, and I do wish that they were featured much less prominently, as the far superior Becki Newton has been for so many episodes now. Arguing that pregnant women should be given the same parking privileges as handicapped people isn’t enough material for this talented actress, and connecting her tangentially to her niece is not an effective use of her abilities. Though it was certainly heartwarming, the story of the freshman boy being a sloppy kisser and ultimately going for his female best friend was highly predictable and extremely over-the-top, particularly when it came to him running into her classroom and making out with her. The third plot, set in space, was completely dumb and a superb example of what happens when you find good cast members and don’t know what to do with them. All three of these guys are from other NBC Universal projects, Eddie McClintock from “Warehouse 13,” Ken Jeong from “Community,” and Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa, who guest starred on “Chuck” this past season. Their astronaut plotline was extremely thin, uninteresting, and entirely unfunny. These guys could have done a whole lot better, and so can this show. This installment was definitely the worst thus far.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice (Season Premiere)

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 1 “Company Man” (B+)

This season opener gives me plenty of hope for the future of this show. There was always a chance that if Michael actually succeeded in making it back into the business that the show might be forever transformed in a negative way, losing its token off-book edge. Yet that’s hardly the case here, but we’re still seeing a much sleeker version of this show and of Michael. His slick-backed hair is only part of his new getup, as he operates with new recurring cast members Grant Show’s Max and Dylan Baker’s Raines. His “No, I need answers” response to Raines’ offhand “You want answers” is what we’ve been hearing all along, but the quick catch-up in black and white in the opening minutes of the episode show that some progress has in fact been made. I like that Michael is being repositioned as an extra-governmental agent with free reign to do whatever he wants, sent in to interrogate in his own way when CIA tactics prove ineffective. The fact that he’s trying to keep his friends – namely Fiona and Sam, rather than Jesse, who I’m surprised to see is still around at all – involved in his missions is hopeful, and I think that their frustration with being sidelined is going to make for some good drama (and comedy) this season. Michael isn’t a different character, still narrating his worst-case strategies, like firing off names and simply hoping something sticks, and this new role for him is just right and should prove very intriguing to watch.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Fall Preview: Suburgatory

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to do a summer feature where I took a look at one upcoming show each week. Come back every Friday for a new Fall Preview, and suggest an upcoming show to be featured if you’re looking forward to it!

Suburgatory – Wednesdays at 8:30pm (ABC)

I noted last week that most of this fall’s comedic fare looks awful, and I’m therefore pleased to find another show besides “Up All Night” that at least looks it has some potential. This is the replacement for “Better With You” in ABC’s Wednesday night comedy lineup, and it looks like it’s going to be considerably edgier and somewhat more in line with the other shows aired in that block. Star Jane Levy looks like she has just the right attitude for this kind of part, and I didn’t even recognize her as the same actress who plays Mandy on “Shameless.” I’m very excited to see what she does as a lead. The others members of the cast featured in the trailer – Jeremy Sisto from “Six Feet Under” and Cheryl Hines from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” who previously starred together in “Waitress” – look well-suited for their parts as well. I’m also thrilled to see Alan Tudyk from “Firefly” and Allie Grant from “Weeds” rounding out the ensemble. As someone who has watched hundreds of shows over the past five or so years, it’s fun to see actors return to television in new shows. I think this show looks like a solidly constructed and entertaining riff on popularity and suburbia, and I’m looking forward to it.

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 1, Episode 4 “Bro-Bono” (C-)

One might have presumed that this show couldn’t get any more ridiculous, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As if seducing and kissing a witness on the stand wasn’t enough, now Franklin has to actually get drunk in court to keep viewers rolling their eyes just as possible. To be fair, these cases weren’t nearly as interesting as the ones that preceded them, and it doesn’t ever seem as if the dream duo of Franklin and Bash actually split up and handle separate cases. Throwing Karp a surprise fiftieth birthday party is exactly the kind of nonsense that throws this show over the line from remotely unbelievable and over-the-top to completely preposterous. Those expectations aside, this show is still a good deal of fun. Hannah’s claim that her tryst with Franklin led her to pleasure nineteen times is rather amusing, and Infeld seems to think that such office romances are actually productive, going so far as to encourage Bash to sleep with one of the employee’s wives. It was good to see more of Carmen in this episode, showing off her skills with bottle-kicking and expressing her distaste for vomit anywhere in her vicinity. The affair case that involved both parties seeing the same woman was decently intriguing, but I quickly lost interest and failed to follow exactly what happened with all of it. I do enjoy seeing Franklin act like a jerk to Bash’s ex, and it’s nice to see that these buddies really do look out for each other after all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 3 “Bang and Blame” (B)

This is a perfectly fine episode, but for a “back-to-school” hour, it’s not all that invigorating. Isn’t Annie not supposed to stand out or draw attention to herself? Wearing a pink shirt and being the only recruit not to use a gun in the training exercise seem like definite red flags, and therefore it’s no surprise that her cover was quickly blown. Breaking curfew consistently also seems unwise, and I see little reason why another spy sleeping with a trainee in someone’s office is a proper excuse for not reporting that kind of infringement. There’s nothing like a good mid-air fight that takes you outside a plane to get your blood pumping, and Annie rocked that combat and effectively took down the bad guy with ease. Her romance with this friendly, forward doctor played by Ben Lawson from “The Deep End” seems to be moving quite quickly, and I would just request that he is actually a kindhearted human being rather than an undercover spy since Annie and this show have seen more than enough of that. Arthur meeting with his ex-wife, played by Rena Sofer, seems like a bad idea to start, and clearly she still harbors quite the vendetta against the woman who stole her husband, dropping that bombshell while the two of them were out to dinner. I do suspect that this CIA probe isn’t close to over, although someone else will have to take up the mantle now that Arthur has managed to allay one foe.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 3 “Deadline” (B+)

It’s fun to get a bit of a peek into the lives of one of the less featured characters on any show, and it’s a great chance for Marsha Thomason and Diana to shine. While I’m usually against characters being given crutches to speak in their native dialects (Michelle Ryan in “Bionic Woman” is perhaps the most grievous instance), having Thomason pretend like she is from Manchester was very well-incorporated into the story. Jayne Atkinson was a good choice to play the less-than-patient Helen, and I like how Peter and the FBI were incorporated into that storyline, especially with Peter commandeering the robot gift for Helen’s son. Diana having Helen take the handcuffs out of her purse was a nice touch, and I like how Helen came in and asked her to come back to work for her. The dinner party was a blast, and it was nice to meet Diana’s girlfriend and see her get along so well with Neal (and have Naomi yell at him for using contraband cheese). Neal’s delivery of “People always say they’re going to get together and then they never do” was perfect, and I like the idea of him and Sara as a functional couple. Sara telling Mozzie “We are in a room” was a highlight of the episode, as was Neal getting Peter obsessed with trying to peel apart paper. Regardless of the content of each episode, it seems that this season will always come back to Mozzie and Neal’s efforts not to get caught, and the early departure of the list puts a definite snag in that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 9 “What Is New Orleans?” (B+)

There are quite a few developments in this episode, and a number of them are less than positive. Colson getting transferred into the very unit he so overtly criticized is definitely a negative, as it’s going to greatly limit his ability to be effective and also probably put his livelihood in danger. His relationship with Toni, especially in light of the recent happenings with Sofia, is become extremely interesting and complicated. It’s good that Sofia got not one but two stern talking-tos since she’s been headed to a dark place and doesn’t seem to care how it affects her life. Ladonna is continuing to have a tough time getting off her couch and back to her life, and Larry is deciding that he needs to take a less forgiving, enabling approach. Albert’s adventures in New York are more entertaining than anything else, and it’s nice to see Delmond finally stand up for himself and talk back to his father. The vegetarian-hating pork infusion at Janette’s restaurant is quite disturbing, and I’ll defer to my comments about her storyline being completely tangential at this point and entirely unconnected to the rest of the plot. The investigation being conducted by Toni and King is being well-handled in that it doesn’t dominate the episodes or feel like it’s too unrelated. Of course, the big event in this episode comes at the very end, as Harley gets himself killed right in front of Annie for calling a mugger “son.” That death will certainly have repercussions in the season’s final two episodes.

Pilot Review: Falling Skies

Falling Skies (TNT)
Premiered July 19 at 9pm

This long-in-development sci-fi series finally makes its premiere on TNT, and expectations are certainly set high. The good news is that, some slow-paced and obvious bantering aside, this show is pretty good. It’s almost as ambitious as FOX’s forthcoming “Terra Nova,” and an expense that a network needs to make up for with positive ratings and enough return in viewership. Fortunately, Steven Spielberg is fronting both shows, which means that they have a better chance than most from the outset. “Falling Skies” is typical Spielberg territory, reminiscent in many ways of his take on “War of the Worlds,” setting his post-apocalyptic adventures in broad daylight and then finessing them with rather fearsome night terrors as the aliens come out to play. At times, it’s incredibly exciting, and the action moments are never a letdown. The original score by Noah Sorota helps considerably with that, and each fade to commercial is enhanced by the thrilling music. I particularly enjoy the frequent Boston references, with trips to West Newton and along the Commuter Rail line, and I like how Tom works in the Red Sox beating the Yankees to his diatribe about revolutions. Pain being gauged on a scale from “bad” to “wicked bad” is also quite entertaining. Noah Wyle seems an able lead, and he’s playing the character who’s supposed to be the main protagonist in this kind of fare. Moon Bloodgood is at her best as a hard-headed and determined nurse, and having Will Patton in command reminds me of “The Postman,” but not in a bad way. This show is like “Jericho” meets “The Walking Dead,” and that’s a fantastic combination. I’m in.

How will it work as a series? This double-decker of a pilot is probably considerably more heavy-handed than the rest of the episodes, partially because it establishes the leadership dynamic and also has to deal with the other human forces working against the regiments. I’d expect more alliances, more conflicts, and more aliens in the coming episodes, which should certainly be action-packed, very similar, I’d presume, to “The Walking Dead” in the balance of drama and fearful interaction with the other.
How long will it last? The ratings were great, as the premiere was trumpeted the #1 cable series launch of the year, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. An early second season pickup would be good news, since that would seem to prevent a potential cancellation due to overexpense (a fate suffered after only two seasons by “Rome”). For the moment, I’d give it an edge to survive, with a second season renewal coming sometime soon.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Killing (Season Finale)

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 13 “Orpheus Descending” (B-)

There are definitely a few things I liked about the season finale of this show, but there’s more than one thing I just can’t get around, starting with the fact that Darren could be the killer. Beyond that, the idea of him having been framed doesn’t add up either, since the Darren we saw in this episode and the one before it was not the same man who has been running for mayor all season long. He’s changed into a much harsher, less caring human being with few traces of the good, honest politician that existed before. Positioning Holder as someone who framed him is peculiar and lamentable. I was thinking earlier in the episode that Holder has somehow finally become a good character and a believable, flawed detective, and to have him engaged in such fraudulent activities undermines the credibility of his character. I really liked the dynamic that was building between him and Sarah, and to think that it was all a front is a shame. I did find Sarah screaming at Richmond to be extraordinarily effective, especially as he right back at her. Having her aboard the plane when she found out that the case wasn’t as finished as she thought (and snapping at that stewardess) was an effective way to keep her immobilized and ensure that she couldn’t alter the course of events, at least for the duration of the flight. Another strong scene was the one at the vending machine between Stan and Bennett’s wife at the hospital, and, improbable as it might be, I’m glad that they didn’t realize each other’s identities. Ending this episode on an entirely in media res cliffhanger is a bit of a gamble, and I would have thought that season two might have concerned a new case rather than this same one. I don’t much like the thought of Holder on the wrong side of the law, Richmond injured and with a vendetta, and the Larsen family continuing to be involved, so I’m hopeful that maybe season two will pick up a few months later and start off some new case. This season has been fairly consistent, even if that consistency was less than entirely inspiring.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: No one in particular

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Finale)

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 10 “Fire and Blood” (A-)

These ten-episode seasons really fly by. It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the end of the first year of this show, though it’s traceable in the fact that it went from being intriguing and highly dense to being relatively accessible and deeply exciting and enthralling (and terrifying in its violence at times). This episode was loaded full of powerful quotes from a variety of different players. Lady Stark gave her son proper motivation by telling him, “They have your sisters. We have to get them back, and then we’ll kill them all.” Her yelling at Jamie was something uncensored that we hadn’t quite seen yet, and I was shocked to hear him outright admit that he had pushed her son out the window. The chanting of the “King of the North” was also very moving, and the repeating of the oath of the night’s watch to Rob worked extremely well. Daenerys rocked this episode as she chastises the sorceress and demands that she show her what she has brought with her son’s life, only to be told that Drogo’s state is exactly how she was when Daenerys saved her. Angering a queen does run the risk of burning at the stake, as Daenery’s pledge to the people to have “those who would harm you die screaming” suggests. The last shot of her sitting naked with dragons covering her body is certainly memorable, and it serves as an interesting transition into season two. I like where almost everything has ended up, with just enough left unresolved to make the season premiere next year unmissable. Joffrey has become such a tyrant, having a musician’s tongue cut out just for fun and then putting up heads on spikes and forcing Sansa to look at her father’s head. At least Sansa stands up to him, saying that perhaps her brother will give her his head, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the war pans out next season. Tyrion is headed to court, which is definitely a good thing, bringing along his prostitute lady in purposeful defiance of his father’s commands. Arya makes quite an impression as a boy, and I’m eager to see where life takes her. This show got very good very fast, and I’m hopeful that season two starts out strong since I think it’s going to be terrific.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pilot Review: Outcasts

Outcasts (BBC America)
Premiered June 18 at 9pm

I couldn’t be more thrilled that I heard about this show and opted to watch a program on a Saturday night on a network I’ve never tuned into in the past. This is a prime example of an excellent pilot that could have stood well enough on its own (as “Virtuality” did on FOX two summers ago), and which will most certainly take on a wholly different shape as it eases into its plotlines after wrapping up a number of arcs within the hour of the pilot. This future-set drama is instantly interesting and never lets up for even a second, ending on a powerful note and providing more than enough enticement to tune in for episode two next week. It’s not simple to describe what’s happening in this show since there is so much happening, and reference is made to those who died before, those coming back, the children, and whatever creatures may lie beyond the borders of Forthaven. What is explained thus far is absolutely spectacular. I’ve never seen a president quite as simultaneously unassuming and assertive as Richard Tate, wearing a button down without a tie and acting like a war room general rather than an elected official. Liam Cunningham is superb in the role. Fleur is also a great character, so determined and loyal, and I thought that even before she pulled on and shot Mitchell, affirming her belief, contrary to his, that human beings can in fact live together in peace. Jamie Bamber proved to be a truly convincing villain, something I wouldn’t have expected after his do-gooder part on “Battlestar Galactica.” The ship trying to come into the atmosphere after five years was a very strong plotline, and Captain Kellerman’s rapport with Tate was the most moving parts of the pilot thanks to a knockout performance from Patrick Lyster. I’m intrigued to see more of Julius Berger, who will be played by Eric Mabius of "Ugly Betty," seen only for a moment in the final shot of the episode aboard the emergency pod. This show seems so fiercely committed to making each and every scene worthwhile, as evidenced by the extremely intense whiteout that came from out of nowhere and caught everyone by surprise. This show handles its dystopian aspects well and also manages to balance its drama and its science fiction facets, so I couldn’t be more excited about seeing the next episode.

How will it work as a series? It’s hard to tell since a major part of this premiere – Mitchell – won’t prominently feature in the core of the series since he’s no longer alive. Yet there’s more than enough firm footing for this show to explore, as the passengers of the pod arrive and more is unearthed about the mysterious and treacherous path that led to the foundation of Forthaven. For sci-fi junkies especially, it’s going to be stellar.
How long will it last? Well, that’s the really tragic part. While this show is just coming to US viewers now, it already aired back in February in the UK, where it was cancelled after just one eight-episode season. Knowing that that’s all we have to look forward to is going to make me very sad, but I suppose that’s just the way it is. Maybe it will fare better here.

Pilot Grade: A-

Take Three: Love Bites

Love Bites: Season 1, Episode 3 “Keep On Truckin’’ (C+)

I’m continually astounded by the sheer number of guest stars whose names I recognize at the start of each episode of this show. It’s not necessarily that I recognize them but rather that there are so very many. For an hourlong show, it seems to incorporate an awful lot of people. That’s what comes from having only three core cast members, of course, and therein lies the show’s main problem. No matter how much his association with tattoos is emphasized, I’m never going to believe that Greg Grunberg is actually Judd, the character he’s supposed to be playing. He simply isn’t convincing, and Constance Zimmer, who barely appeared in this episode, lacks just the edge and believability that Pamela Adlon brought to the role of Colleen in the pilot. I was thrilled to see the third star, Becki Newton, finally get a showcase worthy of her talents, even if it did involve an extremely unoriginal and over-the-top plotline featuring a terribly underused Matt Winston. Newton and Matt Long (of “Mad Men,” “The Deep End,” and “Jack & Bobby”) stood out in this episode as they tried to escape aborted dates together. Laura Prepon’s “Goodbye Boob” storyline would have been more effective had she been given a stronger scene partner than Steve Talley. Donald Faison wasn’t too great in the terribly unserious and generally unproductive “Ninja Vanish” segment, and I was considerably more impressed with Joy Bryant’s subtler, smoother take on the same kind of character. I’m still inclined to watch this show, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a bit more consistency in the quality of storylines.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Emmy Musings: Best Comedy Series

Now that the 2010-2011 TV season is officially over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Curb Your Enthusiasm returns this summer.

Last year’s eligible nominees:
This musical dramedy is on fire this year, and managed to score three Golden Globes back in January. The question of quality is one that could damage it, since both “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” experienced shocking snubs for their second years. My feeling is that there is hardly steep enough competition to knock this show out of the race, and it would be a true surprise if it didn’t make the top category again.

Modern Family
This series is in the best shape of all as the returning champion in this category. The second season was just as strong as the first, and the fact that it managed to overtake “Glee” at the SAG Awards to win Best Ensemble means that others are coming around to its quality, which happened to “30 Rock” during its second and third years. The show will likely win this award again.

Nurse Jackie
This series’ chances are a bit more fickle than the rest, for two reasons. This black comedy on Showtime is considerably darker than the other contenders, and it also only aired one season as compared with the two that were eligible last year. Because it’s so different from the others, and much more arc-dependent, it stands a chance of being left out, just as fellow Showtime series “Weeds” did after its solo mention back in 2009.

The Office
Just when are Emmy voters going to decide to drop this show? “Will & Grace” held on through its penultimate season, long after it should have been rescinded from the lineup. This show had an uneven year but ended on a high note with Steve Carell’s departure, so those positive memories will probably keep it in the game. But don’t be surprised if this is the year the show doesn’t make the cut.

30 Rock
We’re looking at nomination number five for this series, which won the category three years in a row before being dethroned by “Modern Family” last year. Though its quality has waned a bit, Emmy voters shouldn’t be anywhere near giving up on this show, and so it will definitely be back, even if its chances at winning are pretty much slim to none now that it’s settled in its past winner perch.

New contenders:
The Big C
Showtime’s newest popular series may be seen as much more accessible than other shows like “Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie,” despite its deathly themes, thanks to the sunny nature of its protagonist. That may not be enough to get it nominated, but it certainly feels like the kind of show that could straddle into a comedy category, and it’s hard to argue with its proven quality. It has a good shot of breaking into the top six.

Raising Hope
Greg Garcia’s last show, “My Name is Earl,” earned acting, writing, and directing wins but never a mention in the top race. As this season’s only successful new sitcom, it stands a chance of breaking into the race. That said, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea and probably hasn’t made enough of a splash on the FOX network to really make waves. It’s a dark horse.

Other possibilities:
The Big Bang Theory
What exactly is taking Emmy voters so long to get clued in to one of television’s highest-rated shows? Despite two nominations for star Jim Parsons, and a win last year, “How I Met Your Mother” was the CBS show that broke into the race two years ago. Sometimes it takes voters a while to catch on to a quality show – “Scrubs” didn’t make it in until season four – so hopefully that’s the magic number for fans of this show as it presumably finally breaks through this year.

This NBC comedy got shut out entirely last year, despite some very well-humored car ads featuring the cast during the ceremony itself. Devotees seem to have enjoyed season two just as much as they liked season one, and it’s puzzling that this show, which is frequently praised for its strong cleverness, didn’t earn any accolades last year. Expect it to make some sort of showing this year, even if it’s not in this category specifically.

Parks and Recreation
This NBC comedy earned slight recognition last year for its star Amy Poehler, and hopefully this is the year that voters realize everything about the show is excellent. It’s impossible to find a weak link in the cast, and each episode is hilarious. Sadly, Emmy voters have a history of recognizing great stars on great shows without recognizing the shows themselves (“The Shield,” for one), and I’m terribly worried that might be the case here. Let’s hope not.

Emmy Musings: Best Drama Series

Now that the 2010-2011 TV season is officially over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Breaking Bad returns this summer, Lost is over

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Though it couldn’t match the show’s John Lithgow-enhanced fourth season, the fifth year of Showtime’s serial killer drama brought in Jonny Lee Miller and Julia Stiles for another strong season. The show continues to be popular enough that it should not have any trouble returning to the list of nominees, but this isn’t the year that it wins (if that ship hasn’t sailed already).

The Good Wife
This show, nominated last year for its freshman season, has only gotten better in year two, and it’s certainly going to repeat and show up here again. If not for some very critically-acclaimed HBO dramas, it might have a decent chance at winning, and it still might, given just how good this year was and how excellent its performers were. It’s at both an advantage and a disadvantage as the only broadcast network show in the mix.

Mad Men
If any returning show is a lock, this is it. The AMC drama, which has won this category the past three years running, shows no signs of letting up as it showcased plenty of impressive installments throughout its fourth season. It was trounced at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards this past year by newcomer “Boardwalk Empire,” so it will have, for the first time, a truly strong opponent to contend with come Emmy night.

True Blood
This show was a huge surprise last year as it made it into this category and very few others, and it’s likely a fluke. Fantasy and science fiction shows rarely get nominated for Emmys, and this show’s third season paled in comparison to its second. That said, Emmy voters sometimes get with the program too late, as evidenced by repeated mentions for “Entourage” well past its prime. Competition is stiff this year, though, so don’t count on this one showing up again.

Past nominees:
Big Love
This HBO drama managed a true surprise nomination in this category for its third season, even more surprising given that it was the show’s only mention that year. After an agreed-upon awful fourth year, the show concluded more strongly with a fifth and could repeat. It’s unlikely, however, due to steep competition and the fact that, aside from that one nod, this show has only managed minor nominations over its other three years, and only seven in total.

New contenders:
Boardwalk Empire
This HBO drama set in the 1920s has Emmy written all over it, and given its recent triumphs at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it’s probably the frontrunner at this point. Even though “The Sopranos” never dominated the top category as much as it should have – only winning for the first time after season five – this show has a leg up since no other new show should rally strongly enough to defeat it.

Game of Thrones
It’s hard to judge whether this midseason HBO drama will be able to break into the awards circuit for its first season. Some of the network’s more ambitious series, like “Rome,” and even its more critically-acclaimed shows, like “The Wire,” don’t make it onto Emmy voters’ radar. This show will mostly face competition from a few other new shows and an already hefty slate, so it may have to settle for recognition in the technical categories for year one.

The Killing
AMC’s latest show has a lot going for it entering this race. Its reviews have been great, at least for its first half, and AMC has had two shows in this race for the past two years running (one of them, “Breaking Bad,” is not eligible this year). It may be either too dark or dull for some, but it definitely has the gravitas necessary to manage a nomination, and could easily appear here.

I still contend that this show should be submitted as a comedy, but I won’t waste time trying to sway Emmy voters. Showtime’s only entrant in this category has been “Dexter,” and this show is wholly different from that and, truth be told, from the rest of the fare usually nominated here. The show is excellent, but it will much more likely pop up in some of the acting categories only.

The Walking Dead
AMC’s fall series was an enormous hit but has two distinct disadvantages going into the race. Firstly, it aired only six episodes, so it may not be as plentiful as some of the other contenders. Secondly, it’s a zombie show, so voters, who branched out and welcomed in “True Blood” last year, will have to be willing to really think outside the box to include it. Its chances are good if not very good, but by no means guaranteed.

Other possibilities:
This FX series was ignored by Emmy voters last year, and though it was even more astounding in its second season, it may be type of series that never earns awards recognition. I’m hopeful that it won’t be the case, and fortunately “Damages” already set the precedent a few years ago and became the first FX show nominated in the top category. It’s a tough year, but I’m pulling for this one to do well.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pilot Review: Happily Divorced

Happily Divorced (TV Land)
Premiered June 15 at 10:30pm
On the heels of its huge hit “Hot in Cleveland” and its decently successful but awful “Retired at 35,” TV Land is continuing its foray into original programming. What’s especially definitive about the setup of these shows is that they’re designed to mimic the kind of classic television that the network airs, updating each in its own way for modern times. Hence, in this show, Fran Drescher’s husband Peter, played by an unusually sedated John Michael Higgins, announces one night in bed that he is gay. That’s hardly a premise that would have been seen on a comedy from the 1950s or 1960s, yet it’s a jumping off point that still leads right back to familiar ground. The comedic territory covered by “Happily Divorced” is entirely predictable and expected, and while the specific twist may be original, and the tagline great, the show doesn’t boast much in the way of differentiating qualities. Drescher’s character is more annoying than she was on “The Nanny,” and that’s only half problematic given that it’s supposed to be the case. I’d love to see a little more enthusiasm from Higgins, and I’m curious as to whether D.W. Moffett will stick around as Fran’s new boyfriend Elliott or if she’ll soon be treated to a revolving door of potential partners. I’m intrigued by the fact that Tichina Arnold is following up her standout lead role on “Everybody Hates Chris” with a supporting best friend part in this rather more tame sitcom. An ensemble which includes Rita Moreno and Robert Walden as Fran’s parents may excite older viewers, and should clue younger viewers into what to expect when it comes to this show. I know that I’m nowhere near the intended audience member, and therefore I’m tempted to give it another episode or twoLink to see if it can hold my attention or whether it’s really just not worth it.

How will it work as a series? The premise is something that needs to evolve as the show continues. The “how did I not know” gimmick regarding Peter’s sexuality becomes tired midway through the pilot, so that’s something the show will have to learn to graduate from, a la “Cougar Town” and its distancing from its title. It could, if executed properly, potentially be a new “Will & Grace” for an older crowd, and that could work decently well.
How long will it last? Given that TV Land renewed “Retired at 35,” this show is a lock for a second season. On top of that, the show’s ratings matched those of its lead-in, “Hot in Cleveland,” pretty much cementing a speedy pickup for a second season and a bright future for this show on a network with which it is perfectly paired.

Pilot grade: C+

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Fall Preview: Up All Night

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to do a summer feature where I took a look at one upcoming show each week. Come back every Friday for a new Fall Preview, and suggest an upcoming show to be featured if you’re looking forward to it!

Up All Night – Wednesdays at 8pm (NBC)

In my research thus far, I’ve found that most of the fall’s forthcoming sitcoms look pretty abysmal. This show, while it may not be excellent, at least has a few things going for it that should prevent it from being totally awful. The two stars, for starters, are both enormously appealing, and have proven that they are able to carry a show (and offer support on at least one more). Christina Applegate was charming and endearing on “Samantha Who,” and having her back as a hard-working young mother should be a great fit. Will Arnett recently came off of “Running Wilde,” a peculiar attempt at originality that just didn’t fly, and this should be a much better part for him. This show appears to be quite heavy on the deadpan, but I think that will work in its favor. Maya Rudolph is going to be taking a break from playing down-to-earth women in “Bridesmaids” and “Away We Go” and appearing as Applegate’s nutty boss, which looks like a fun part. I especially liked recognizing Reid Ewing, better known as Haley’s boyfriend Dylan from “Modern Family,” as the famous actor in the pilot, who presumably will only appear from time to time, if even more than once. This show is hardly wholly original, but with the right people, it could be just right. What’s slightly puzzling is it placement on Wednesday nights rather than Thursdays, since it could be the perfect companion to NBC’s other Must-See TV fare. Hopefully it will do well and thrive on another night, since NBC and these stars could sure use a hit.

Take Three: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 1, Episode 3 “Jennifer of Troy” (C-)

This show isn’t content with just being semi-ridiculous. It seems determined to go the whole way in each of its many wacky plotlines, as evidenced just by the banter that goes on within the firm and the way it’s meant to be taken seriously. The fact that bets are placed on case verdicts and the boss approves of them is quite silly. It also seems terribly unproductive for one lawyer to purposely sabotage another. In terms of this week’s most notable plotline, of course Bash can’t stop at seducing his client on the stand. He has to go ahead and kiss her in front of the entire courtroom, just to get his point across fully. It’s a ridiculous case, to be sure, but it seems abundantly clear that it’s exactly the kind of thing we’ll be seeing on this show on a regular basis. Pairing it with the Chinatown storyline ultimately made sense because of the rather obvious power of love in both cases, though it really didn’t quite fit the tone of the show aside from Franklin and Bash’s inability to carefully and respectfully maneuver worlds not their own. I’m always pleased to see a “Lost” alumnus turn up anywhere, and therefore the presence of Francois Chau, better known as Pierre Chang and a few other aliases, as the father and shop owner was welcome. Malcolm McDowell puts little effort into his performance as the very powerful, cultured patriarch of the firm, and it’s at least good to see his talents put to some productive use.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 2 “Good Advices” (B+)

After an iffy start last week, this episode helps to bring this show back in a strong way, just like “White Collar” earlier that same evening. I absolutely love it when the credits music starts before the credits, and that little whistle that came while Annie was looking around in the gallery for the asset was just perfect. I’m always thrilled to see recurring guest stars pop up again, especially when they’re Israeli, and therefore Oded Fehr’s return appearance was quite welcome. The asset figuring out that they were both spies and subsequently playing them against each other was a neat twist, and having the two operatives in the same place helped create an exciting multi-person roof chase. The relationship between Eyal and Annie is wonderfully complicated, and his happy birthday note was a nice touch. It’s good that Annie does have someone to come home to like her sister and her kids, and that video voicemail was a much-need pick-me-up while Annie wasn’t doing all too well in Paris. Joan’s jury deliberation was more than a bit silly, but I’ll admit that it was fun to see her try to clandestinely make phone calls wihle in jury selection, have her phone get taken away, and then instantly get herself excused with a quick text. Auggie in charge proved to be an interesting sight, and it’s good to see him step into a more official leadership role very much like the one he often assumes, especially when it comes to his work with Annie.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 2 “Where There’s a Will” (B+)

After last week’s less-than-stellar start, this episode returns the show to form, demonstrating that it’s able to properly handle the subplot of Peter and the art being investiged without distracting or detracting too much from the episodic plotlines. The new opening credits caught me completely off guard, incorporating different music, much more stylized and intriguing, with the painting being taken away from the all at the end to reveal the creator’s name. I was thrilled to see Anna Chlumsky, always good at playing the overcompetent, highly flirtatious assistant, as the agent looking into the missing art, and her scene with Neal at the end of the episode was superb. He did, as always, an excellent job of impersonating an Interpol agent and tricking her into telling him about the status of the investigation. It’s a rare thing to see Neal panicked like he is, and we have to hope that Mozzie hasn’t yet sold any of the art. In terms of other guest stars, I was so focused on trying to figure out how the first brother was that I didn’t even realize I recognized the second one too. It turns out that they were played by real-life brothers, Chris and Danny Masterson. The former was Francis on “Malcolm on the Middle,” and the latter was Hyde on “That 70s Show.” The methodology used to read the treasure map was quite a bit hokey, but I liked Mozzie and Elizabeth being there. Mozzie spouting off different con codenames is always entertaining, and seeing the text disintegrate a la Alias was also a decent thrill, even if it was supposed to be more dramatic.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Double Pilot Review: Teen Wolf & The Nine Lives of Chloe King

Teen Wolf (MTV): Premiered June 5 at 11pm
The Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC Family): Premiered June 14 at 9pm

I make it a policy to review just about everything here at TV with Abe, and I do have to choose, every once in a while, not to include a post about a pilot for some reason or another. Most often (and it only occurs rarely), it’s due to the fact that I know that I don’t look anything like a member of the target audience and that my review wouldn’t contain much of intellectual or true critical value. I did that for “Bob’s Burgers” earlier this year, and had planned to do that for MTV’s “Teen Wolf” from last weekend. But when I was watching ABC Family’s “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up to take the two on together. Deciding that tens minutes into the latter episode, I didn’t realize that both shows would actually be so similar, featuring a far too young mentor who initially seemed like a threat, and that was before the same twist was played in both pilots: the major crush is the child of the man most directly responsible for hunting the protagonist. Originality isn’t meant to be emphasized on either of these shows, yet there’s still a level of creativity that could have been included. “Teen Wolf” is based on the original 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox, while “Chloe King” is adapted from a book series. The latter is certainly more exciting and appealing than the first, even though the dialogue is nearly as heinous and awkward. Skyler Samuels, who plays Chloe, has a distinctive appeal, though she’s not my kind of heroine. Tyler Posey, who plays Scott the teen wolf himself, isn’t anywhere near as charismatic, and I can’t imagine going back to watch more of that show. I also know that ABC Family stuff almost always isn’t for me, though fans of fare like “Pretty Little Liars” may well find it enjoyable. I can’t say I’ll be watching.

Teen Wolf: F
The Nine Lives of Chloe King: D-

What I’m Watching: Treme

Treme: Season 2, Episode 8 “Can I Change My Mind” (B+)

We’re coming to that point in the latter half of a show’s season that there are plenty of turning points for a number of the characters and there’s a sense that a new wind is blowing. Sophia getting arrested is a major part of that, as her rebel arc seems to come to an end with Toni breaking down about Creighton in front of her and in turn needing to be comforted by her daughter, suddenly innocent again. It’s impressive to see just how quickly and strongly Toni rallies to her daughter’s defense, and her identification as mother rather than lawyer in court is meaningful. Her new hire, the very efficient investigator, is proving to be an intriguing character, if not one who was necessarily needed as an addition to the show. Ladonna gets a more central tragic showcase this week as her husband finds out about what happened to her, and while that’s something that was obviously coming sooner or later, it’s no less difficult to watch. Janette seems to be bouncing around to her own tune in New York, shuffling from restaurant to restaurant, and while I like the character, I question the value of keeping her around if she’s not going to be connected to anyone. I liked everything involving Davis in this episode, from the start with his crowd-pleasing impression of George W. Bush during his band’s gig to his very adorable unseen watching of Annie as she performed her song at the end of the episode.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 1, Episode 12 “Beau Soleil” (B-)

We’re back to the main storyline now, as both Holder and Sarah take on their own avenues of investigation and we discover a major bombshell about who might be (and seemingly is) responsible for Rosie’s murder. Much as I’m all for shock value, and I’m impressed by how Darren’s complicity was revealed simultaneously by Sarah hearing the inbox chime and Holder being led to his campaign posters, it doesn’t quite make sense. I was thinking earlier in the episode that gloating really doesn’t suit Darren, who up until this point had seemed like a genuinely nice guy and a rarity in the world of politics. What really doesn’t fit is the fact that he could be a cold-blooded killer. We’ve been in far too many intimate situations with him not to know that he might be capable of such rage and violence, and therefore I find myself floored but not convinced by this newly gleaned information. In terms of the rest of the episode, it featured the best performance thus far from Michelle Forbes, who I know has already impressed other fans of the show, as Mitch. Her bitterness when it comes to her husband’s actions and her attitude towards Belko shows through in a way that’s so scathing and realistic. I'm always pleased to see a BSG alum getting work, and Tahmoh Penikett was great in just one short scene as Sarah's ex-husband. In what could be considered both semi-surprising and semi-expected news, this show has been renewed by AMC for a second season. It’s the definition of a one-season premise, but maybe another case could prove interesting after next week’s season finale.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 9 “Baelor” (B+)

This episode isn’t quite as well put-together and awe-inspiring as a few of the episodes that came before it, for one reason in particular. Very often, it’s the build-up to the explosion of the conflict that’s most exciting rather than the climax itself. Now that the war has finally broken out, there’s less opportunity for individual character development and more chances for bloodshed and general mayhem. That’s not true, of course, of one Tyrion Lannister, who decides it’s a good idea to play a soul-searching drinking game on the eve of battle and guess the life stories of his companions. The dark story of Tyrion’s first time proved very effective, and the mood seriously dramatic thanks to the strong use of music. I enjoyed Tyrion being told that he was sleeping through the war, and then having him fall down and get trampled within moments, essentially being unconscious throughout most of the war. The episode’s ending is considerably more difficult to bear, with Arya watching her father being brought out to trial. It’s hard to watch Ned admit that Joffrey is the rightful heir to the throne, and one million times more shocking to see Joffrey not listen to both his mother and his bride-to-be, ordering Ned to be executed. This show is nothing if not incredibly brave, killing off the second main character in just a few weeks. No one is safe if even Ned can’t survive, and things definitely aren’t looking bright for the good guys. Next week is the season one finale, and hopefully it should be a doozy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2010-2011 TV season is officially over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
The straight woman on this comedy full of loud players is still one of the show’s funniest, and after managing a nomination last year, she’ll definitely be back for another round. Bowen handles whatever comes at her with an extraordinarily willing attitude, and she may well be rewarded for her efforts now that Jane Lynch has taken home her trophy.

Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Krakowski managed to hang on to another nomination last year and avoid the fate of two of her male costars, who were recognized for season three and then forgotten the following year. That makes me think that Krakowski might well become a default nominee. She was often ignored and abused during the season, but she went out on a high note with her Paul-animal material in the finale, so I think she’ll probably be back.

Jane Lynch (Glee)
Last year’s winner and the recently announced emcee of the ceremony shouldn’t have any trouble returning to the race this year. It seems unlikely that she would win again given the considerable decrease in the amount of material she had this season as compared with the previous one, but it’s important never to underestimate the pull of popularity, which she and the show clearly have at the moment.

Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)
It’s still perplexing to fathom that Taylor has managed four nominations sprinkled over the past four years for what is essentially a recurring role. She has appeared in less than half of the show’s episodes over the years, and therefore the fact that she only popped in for six episodes this past season may not impact her chances at all. I still don’t think this show is ripe for any more nominations, and I think she’ll be out the door.

Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
This Colombian actress is one of the outright funniest parts of her show, and if her Golden Globe and SAG nominations this past year are any indication, she’s only getting more popular by the minute. There’s plenty of material in the show for Vergara to have a wealth of options to choose from, so she’s definitely getting nominated and could very well win if she isn’t edged out by her calmer costar.

Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
Here’s an important question regarding the chances that this variety performer will return for a third consecutive nomination: does having a big-screen career take off help or hinder your TV reputation? Wiig’s presence here has always felt fickle to me since she doesn’t have the consistency of a weekly scripted series to work from in terms of her material. Still, she’ll probably be back for another nomination.

Past nominees:
Jenna Fischer (The Office)
It continues to astound me that Fischer has only ever been nominated once in this show’s six-year history, and though it’s not entirely likely, the seventh season could be just the ticket for Fischer’s return to this category. No longer the secretary and now a self-proclaimed office administrator, Pam has had a lot to do this past year, and been one of the most consistent characters. Can she make a return to this race?

New contenders:
Tamsin Greig (Episodes)
Two questions arise here: is anyone watching this show, and do those who are like the character enough to nominate its portrayer? Matt LeBlanc’s self-depiction may be the only aspect of this show nominated, but the hard-headed, no-nonsense female half of the writing duo deserves recognition as well. It’s a subtler, more stern kind of part, but Greig earning a nod is within the realm of possibility.

Phyllis Somerville (The Big C)
I’m still not sure how this show is going to play with Emmy voters and whether it will earn any love aside from star Laura Linney. This long-working actress, however, was excellent as nutty neighbor Marlene, and her hilarious and heartfelt performance could well grab her a nomination. It’s all a matter of how the show does in other categories.

Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
At this rate, Betty White could get nominated for anything. White has netted four nominations in the past decade for guesting on four different shows, and having her on a regular program will definitely get a nomination, and she’ll probably win too, following up on her SAG victory over Golden Globe champ Jane Lynch.

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2010-2011 TV season is officially over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
This doof of a dad is definitely going to be back, since the show hasn’t decreased in popularity at all and Burrell continues to be just as hilarious. In fact, this may be Burrell’s turn to win now that costar Eric Stonestreet has taken home his trophy. He has plenty of fun episodes to choose from, and it’s not to like (and laugh at) him.

Chris Colfer (Glee)
When Colfer made this list last year, his inclusion came as a bit of a surprise. Now, he’s a sure thing, after winning the Golden Globe this past year and essentially carrying his very own tangential plotline all season. He’s more of a lead than a supporting actor at this point, but that should help rather than hurt him since he’s had more material to work with and more episodes from which to choose.

Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Is this the year that this actor and his show finally drop off the awards map? Cryer won on his fourth try two years ago and was back again this past year. This season was truncated to sixteen episodes, and though Cryer wasn’t part of it, the bad press this show has gotten shouldn’t do it any favors. He’s still a possibility, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
No one expected this actor to get nominated last year, presuming that he would lose out to his other three cast members. As it turns out, Ed O’Neill got snubbed and he made the cut. The truth is, he’s pretty great on the show, and could easily come back, just like Kevin Dillon did after having a good year and then earning two follow-up nominations after that. His chances are about fifty-fifty, since this category has twice in the past ten years looked exactly the same two years in a row.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
It seems highly unlikely that Harris, now shooting for his fifth nomination, won’t be back. Yet it also seems just as improbable that the actor could win this year when he couldn’t manage a victory two years ago over Jon Cryer. Like Hugh Laurie, his ship may have sailed, and it’s possible that he won’t ever get rewarded for his work on this show, especially when he won two Emmys last year for his role on “Glee” and as host of the Tony Awards.

Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
This actor won last year for his showy performance as Cameron, and he’ll definitely be back to compete again. Honestly, he has enough ammunition this year to take home another trophy, and it’s really just up to his costars to beat him out for it. I imagine this will play out like a “West Wing” scenario, with a different supporting actor winning each year, so I’d bet that it won’t be Stonestreet again this time around.

New contenders:
Oliver Platt (The Big C)
Platt earned four Emmy nominations in the past decade, two of which came for his supporting role on Showtime’s “Huff.” Back on the network, Platt is second fiddle to series star Laura Linney but still manages to be funny and steal a decent number of the scenes. Supporting males on Showtime dramedies haven’t tended to get nominated, however, so I’d leave Platt’s chances at iffy to good.

Other possibilities:
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
People were left scratching their heads when this veteran actor was the only adult cast member left off the list of nominees last year. He’s chosen to submit himself in the supporting category again this year rather than the lead race, so chances are decent that he’ll be snubbed again, if only because Emmy voters sometimes prove that seeming flukes are anything but. Just ask John Krasinski, who got snubbed year after year.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)
In a cast full of funny people, Offerman stands out for his dry delivery and love of all things meat. Offerman knocks it out of the park every episode, and hopefully his omission last year is only because voters had yet to catch on to the show. Now, there’s no excuse, and hopefully his Critics Choice nomination is a proper precursor that should help him get nominated.

Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Wilson didn’t get a nomination last year, but it’s a bit too early to toss him off the list of contenders altogether. This past season was just as uneven as the one before it, but Wilson’s part proved to be interesting at certain points, and if voters want to honor more than just Steve Carell’s departure, Wilson would be an easy choice. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Emmy voters often like to forget about past nominees once they’re passed over in any given year.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series