November 30, 2009

new comedy for nicole richie?

I love ABC for bringing some great comedy to television this year. Modern Family, Cougar Town... and Better Off Ted is returning next week. Has this success gone to their head? Will they use their power for good? This remains to be seen.

Variety is reporting that Nicole Richie will star in single-camera half-hour comedy in development at ABC. Really? Scripted television? I'll admit, she was funny as the ballsy brat on Simple Life, and I even liked her guest spot on Chuck last season. But her own half-hour comedy on primetime? I'm skeptical.

The show would feature Nicole as a "professional woman with complicated family relationships and struggling to figure out what role she'll take as her life and family evolve." Vague enough for you? I think they just described every female-lead comedy ever written.

I'm a fan of Nicole's in general. She really seems to be doing well these days. I always love her clothes, the babies are adorable, and Benji seems like a swell guy. But I have a feeling this show will have me wondering, yet again, why Samantha Who? got the boot.

Note: Keep in mind, this isn't even a pilot yet. The journey from a script to a full-blown series pickup is a long and arduous one. I'll keep you updated if I hear anything more.

November 29, 2009

TNT cancels raising the bar

TNT has annouced the cancellation of Raising the Bar after two seasons. Anyone sad? This wasn't on my regular watch list, but I did catch an episode here and there.

It seemed to have all the right ingredients - strong cast, good stories, etc. - but didn't quite come together. I had trouble with the believability of some of the main characters. It felt like major story arcs were set up to fall flat as it struggled with that fine line between a procedural and a serial drama. Characters like Jane Kaczmarek's Judge Kessler could have been used a lot more effecively.

If nothing else, it proved that Mark-Paul Gosselaar can hold his own as an adult actor. And thanks bunches for ridding him of that unfortunate hair situation from season one.

Quote from a TNT rep on

"Everyone at TNT had a great experience working on Raising the Bar with Steven Bochco and the rest of the show's terrific cast and crew. We're proud of the series and appreciate the efforts of all of the creative people who were involved. Unfortunately, ratings for Raising the Bar's second season did not reach the levels required for TNT to renew the series."

November 27, 2009

UPDATE fall 2009: fate of new shows

** I'll bring this post to the top every time there's an update.

News is starting to come in about the fate of the new fall shows. We know the first ship to sink was The Beautiful Life, which CW cut after airing only 3 episodes. I will keep a running list on this post.

FYI when reading this, "picked up for a full first season" means the network ordered enough episodes for the show to complete a full season. Usually, when a pilot is ordered and put on the schedule, they only ask for 8 or 9 episodes to see how the ratings go. If the network likes what they see, they order a "back nine" or a full season. Early full season pickups are usually a good sign for a second season order. We may even see early announcements for second seasons, so I'll list those here as well.

There are also notes about returning shows at the bottom (as they come in). If there's a show that I'm not including, please post a comment, and I'll do my best to track it down.

The Jay Leno Show
Trauma - thought cancelled, but NBC ordered 3 more episodes on Nov. 19 leaving 6 unaired episodes after the holiday hiatus, no word on when those will air
Mercy - picked up for a full first season, but ratings are struggling
Community - picked up for a first full season

The Forgotten - network ordered five more episodes, but future looks bleak
Hank - cancelled, no plans to air the remaining five episodes
The Middle - picked up for a full first season
Modern Family - picked up for a full first season
Cougar Town - picked up for a full first season
Eastwick - network decided not to order more episodes after initial 13, essentially cancelled
FlashForward - picked up for a full first season, but the showrunner left, which is curious
V - airing 4 weeks starting Nov. 3 then scheduled to return after the Olympics

Accidentally On Purpose - picked up for 5 more episodes in addition the original order
NCIS: Los Angeles - picked up for a full first season, and increased order to 24 episodes
The Good Wife - picked up for a full first season, and increased order to 23 episodes
Three Rivers - removed from the schedule on Dec. 1, no immediate plans for remaining episodes
Medium (new to CBS)

Glee - first half of the season wraps on Dec. 9, back nine episodes will start in April
Brothers - pulled from the Nov. sweeps lineup, last episode on 12/27, no word of a renewal
The Cleveland Show - picked up for full first and second seasons

The Beautiful Life (CW) - cancelled after three episodes aired
Melrose Place (CW) - Colin Egglesfield & Ashley Simpson-Wentz axed in a "creative overhaul"
The Vampire Diaries (CW) - picked up for a full first season
Stargate Universe (Syfy) - renewed for a second season
White Collar (USA)
Bored to Death (HBO)

News on Returning Shows:
Southland (NBC) - cancelled by NBC, but TNT will air the 7 episodes from last season, plus 6 news ones already produced by NBC starting Jan. 12. After that, we'll see if they decide to make more.
The Bill Engvall Show (TBS) - cancelled
Castle (ABC) - picked up for a full second season
Parks & Recreation (NBC) - picked up for a full second season
In Treatment (HBO) - picked up for a full second season, but will take a break in January
Lie to Me (FOX) - network ordered 3 more scripts, but ratings are struggling
Dollhouse (FOX) - cancelled, finale tentatively scheduled for jan. 22
Numb3rs (CBS) - cut back from 22 to 16 episodes for this season

November 26, 2009

parenthood preview

Happy Thanksgiving! Having fun with the parents on this festive occasion? Here's a first look at Lauren Graham on Parenthood from NBC. Short and sweet. I'm really excited to see her in this role.

Also, her daughter is played by Mae Whitman, who I really like. She was in Hope Floats and One Fine Day as a kid, then Rosie in In Treatment, Ann in Arrested Development, and a bunch of good guest spots in shows like Grey's Anatomy and Law & Order: SVU. Should be really fun to see these two play mom and daughter.

November 23, 2009

guys of glee

Dear People's Sexiest Man Alive issue,

Thank you.

November 22, 2009

AMA post mortem: 3 concerns

I didn't watch the American Music Awards in full, but of course the interwebs provided a full synopsis by way of video clips, photos, and analysis. With the disclaimer that I am by no means an music expert, I'm left with three concerns:

1. Why does Jennifer Lopez (and show producers for that matter) think she is worthy of a Rocky-style entrance to a main stage performance at the American Music Awards? When was her last hit? Has she ever had a hit? Wasn't Jenny from the Block embarrassing enough? Sorry, I don't mind her acting at all, but she's needs to let go of this dream. Falling on her bum during the performance may well have been God's way of sending her that message.

2. Adam Lambert, I'm a fan. I like that you're shaking things up. Who says glam rock can't make a comeback? You're different and not apologizing for it. I respect that. I'm on board. Show me what you got. I don't consider myself conservative or prudish. I like early Madonna as much as the next girl. But I'm having just a little trouble following you here.

UPDATE: I've just realized that conservative wackos are all up in arms about this performance. Just want to emphasize that the rubbing and the gesturing is fine with me. It's a performance. Parents, monitor what your kids are watching if you're concerned. We have bigger fish to fry in this world. I'm just taking issue with the style and the wardrobe. Not sure it's Adam's best foot forward.

3. The headline of this photo on Huffington Post reads "50 Cent's American Music Awards Date: Val Kilmer." So many questions.

November 20, 2009

tgif top 10: thanksgiving edition

Soon, we'll all commence our trek to Thanksgiving dinner tables with family and friends. The non-denominational holiday of thanks has provided a wealth of material for TV writers. My favorites are when something unexpectedly causes the characters to have to spend Thanksgiving all together. It's an old standby, but it gets me every time. Here are my top 10 favorite Thanksgiving episodes in no particular order.

Top 10 Thanksgiving episodes

  1. "Thanksgiving Orphans" Cheers (season 5)
    Let's start with the classic example of the whole cast being thrown together for Thanksgiving. Norm trying to cook an impossibly huge turkey leads to a very hungry bunch waiting a looong time to eat, Diane dressed as a pilgrim, and a giant food fight where we get a long-awaited peak at Norm's wife Vera, but alas, a pumpkin pie masks her face.

  2. "Thanks for the Memories" Grey's Anatomy (season 2)
    I consider season two the hey day of Grey's Anatomy, and this episode was one of the best. Izzie decides to play homemaker and cook a monstrous meal at Meredith's house. Dr. Burke swoops in with some unexpected holiday cheer and culinary skills. George (RIP) goes hunting with the rest of the O'Malley men, and dad gets shot in the bum. And Meredith treats a guy who just woke up from a 16-year coma whose family has moved on without him. And we wonder why she's the dark and twisty one.

  3. "Thanksgiving" Felicity (season 1)
    I sometimes forget how much I loved this show, and then I'm reminded with episodes like this from the first season. Another great example of the whole cast ending up together for the holidays. Felicity decides to stay in New York for Thanksgiving to look after Julie who's still getting over the rape, Ben and Elena join them for dinner in the dorm. Noel's girlfriend Hanna shows up (Jennifer Garner!) to announce that she might move to NYC. Felicity and Noel fight, and Ben catches them kissing! Oh the Noel/Ben drama. To top it off, Javier and Sean show up at the last minute to round out the group. How great were Ian Gomez and Greg Grunberg in that show? Love.

  4. "The One with the Rumor" Friends (season 8)
    Friends gets a double feature on this list since they really embraced the tradition of Thanksgiving episodes. One of my favorites was season 8 when Monica invites Ross' old (formerly fat) classmate (guest star Brad Pitt) for dinner. He announces the I Hate Rachel Green Club that he and Ross founded in high school and admits to spreading a rumor that Rachel had both girl and boy parts. Meanwhile, Joey takes Monica's challenge to eat an entire turkey, and has to stop half way through to change into elastic waste pants. Been there.

  5. "The One Where Ross Got High" Friends (season 6)
    A second favorite comes from season six when Monica and Chandler are still hiding their relationship from the Gellar parents. While hiding the secret, Monica spills that Ross smoked pot in high school. My favorite part is Rachel accidentally adding meat sauteed with peas and carrots to a traditional British trifle. "It tastes like feet!"

  6. "Miracle of Thanksgiving" Full House (season 1)
    The cheese factor is through the roof, as is Uncle Jesse's hair, but this was back in the good old days of Full House when the boy's found a way to make their first Thanksgiving without Mom Tanner a success, and Stephanie commented on everyone's rudeness.

  7. "Bon Jour Sondra" The Cosby Show (season 1)
    A really early episode of Cosby, but it stuck with me for some reason. Never-before-seen oldest daughter Sondra comes home from college for Thanksgiving and announces her intention to spend the summer in Paris. All the Cosbys vote on this decision with Cliff being the most reluctant. My favorite part is young Theo anxiously stepping up to carve the turkey for the first time, and Cliff makes him practice on a cabbage and a chicken.

  8. "Indians in the Lobby" The West Wing (season 3)
    One of many classic holiday episodes of The West Wing, this one features CJ trying to find someone in the Department of Interior to address the concerns of two American Indians who are staging a sit-in at the White House until they receive a long-awaited answer to their application to buy back stolen land. My favorite part is President Bartlett calling the Butterball Hotline for assistance.

  9. "Home is Where the Afghan is" Roseanne (season 9)
    The final season of Roseanne is a contentious topic. Many opposed the sharp direction taken when the Connors won the lottery and Dan cheated. It wasn't my favorite season, but if you go back and watch, things were basically the same in the Connor house. I loved this one when Bev came out of the closet over turkey and stuffing (such a classic performance by Estelle Parsons), and they all realized that home is truly where the afghan is. Amen.

  10. "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving" Gilmore Girls (season 3)
    Because they pretty much make it into every Top 10 list, and because this is one of my favorite episodes of the series. Lorelei and Rory overbook themselves for Thanksgiving dinner. First, the Kim's for tofurkey and Dave Ragowski tunes on the guitar, followed by Lane getting her first kiss. Then to Luke's where those two crazy kids continue to drive us nuts. Sookie's where Jackson has decided to deep fry a turkey and everything else in sight. Finally, to Emily and Richard's where Rory reveals she has applied to Yale. That's a lot of turkey.

Just for fun, here's my Christmas episode top 10 list from last year.

November 19, 2009


Chuck will return to NBC on Sunday, January 10th with BACK-TO-BACK episodes, then starting in the regular timeslot Monday, January 11th at 8:00. Three hours of Chuck Bartowski in 2 days!

November 18, 2009

late to the dance

I'm two weeks behind on So You Think You Can Dance, but that doesn't mean my love for the show has waned. Except for that unfortunate new stage. Last night, I watched the November 4th episode, and I still can't get Legacy and Kathryn's dance out of my head. I know I'm still new to the show, but this is one of the coolest dances I've ever seen. I've managed to remain unspoiled, so I'm really hoping these two are still in it!

yes, hello. mr. sorkin calling for mr. malina please.

Missing Aaron Sorkin in your television life? Or your personal life for that matter?

He's currently working on the Facebook movie with Justin Timberlake, but here's an interview with TV Guide where he talks about the next small screen project, another series that takes place back stage on a television set! As much as I loved Sports Night and Studio 60, they never really got the ratings. Let's hope third time's the charm.

Favorite quote:

Sorkin said he “hopes” to reunite on the project with at least some of the actors he’s worked with previously. “If you're a writer, when you're find an actor like Josh Malina, Felicity Huffman, Brad Whitford, Matt Perry, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, all these great actors that I've worked with, you just want to stick them in your pocket and work with them forever, so I hope so.”

YES PLEASE. All of the above.

November 17, 2009

be my guest

A lot of guest spot news coming from the scoopers this week. Here are some highlights:

House: We'll finally meet Foreman's long lost, incarcerated brother Marcus in February. He'll be played by Orlando Jones (Magnolia, Drum Line). The Foreman brothers will meet during Marcus' parole hearing, in which Dr. House will most definitely stick his nose. (Ausiello Files)

Better Off Ted: The lovely and talented Taye Diggs will play a love interest for Linda in the December 8th season premiere. Veridian encourages staff to date coworkers who are their perfect genetic match in order to save money on health insurance in the future. Ha! We owe this guest appearance to Diggs' close friendship with Jay Harrington, who also had a short stint on Private Practice. (Matt's TV News)

Private Practice: My friend Melissa McCarthy will be guesting as an expectant mother and patient of Dell's (glad he will be back) in January. (Ausiello Files)

Castle: Abigail Spencer, the infamous left-in-the-car teacher who just finished (hopefully) her stint on Mad Men, will play a murder victim's fiancee on next week's episode. Also, Perrey Reeves (or Mrs. Ari) will play the victim's wife. Uh oh! (TV Fanatic)

Parks & Recreation: No surprise, but great news. Will Arnett will guest as an MRI technician in an upcoming episode. I love him, and I love his taste in women. Also, Justin Theroux (John Adams, Six Feet Under) will join the cast in a recurring role as a friend of Ann's who's a potential love interest for Leslie. He's a great score for the show, but does this mean the cop is dunzo? I like him! (Watch with Kristin, Ausiello Files)

Modern Family
: Late edition! This piece of dream casting was just posted. None other than Fred Williard has been cast as Phil's dad. Seriously, couldn't be more perfect. I can't wait. (Matt's TV News)

November 16, 2009

favorite monday tv moment

Last night was How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and Castle for me. Sorry House, you got the DVR spot tonight. My biggest laugh of the night came during BBT.

Leonard, Raj, and Howard go camping in the California desert to spy a meteor shower. Howard bumps into some "ladies" in an adjoining camp ground (described as 50-55 year-old Greatful Dead t-shirt wearing teachers driving a VW bus), who generously shared a bag of homemade cookies. Unknown to them, these cookies have a little kick. Ten minutes later, this conversation happens as each of them lie on the ground staring at the sky.

Raj: If I could speak the language of rabbits, they would be amazed, and I would be their king.

Leonard: I hate my name. It has NERD in it. Len-NERD.

Howard: I lost my virginity to my cousin Jeanie.

Raj: I would be kind to my rabbit subjects. At first.

Leonard: You know what's a cool name? Angelo. That has angel and jello in it.

Howard: It was my uncle Murray's funeral. We were all back at my aunt Barbara's house. Our eyes locked over the pickled herring. We never meant for it to happen.

Raj: One day, I host a great ball for the President of France. But the rabbits hate me and don't come. I'm embarrassed, so I eat all the lettuce in the world and make them watch.

Leonard: People can call me Angie. Yo Angie! How's it goin'? (in the voice of Rocky)

Howard: To this day, I can't look at pickled herring without being aroused and ashamed. Ohh cousin Jeanie.

And it goes without saying that Kaley Cuoco and Jim Parson's (Penny and Sheldon) scenes were hilariously perfect. I love those two on screen together. But I had to give props to the other geeks out from under Sheldon's shadow this week.

Also, how cute is that photo?

November 15, 2009

best series of the '00s?

Last week, The Onion's AV Club posted the top ten television series of the '00s. I'm not in a mental space to even begin taking on a list of my own right now, but I like their attempt and the evidence presented. They even list "essential episodes" that must be watched to appreciate each show

You should read the full story here, but here's a summary:
  1. The Wire

  2. The Sopranos

  3. Arrested Development

  4. Freaks & Geeks

  5. Mad Men

  6. Breaking Bad

  7. The Office (UK)

  8. Lost

  9. Deadwood

  10. The Shield
Although my list would include some slightly different shows, I can get behind almost all of these picks, except I've never seen Breaking Bad (on the queue), and I'm not sure The Office UK deserves a slot over the American version. If possible, I would give them equal billing.

What's your top ten? Can you believe we're almost done with this decade?

November 14, 2009

keep a look out for "the observer" this week

Whether or not you watch Fringe on FOX, you may find yourself the victim of viral marketing this week. The network is launching a campaign in conjunction with this Thursday's episode.

If you don't watch, here's the background: there's a recurring character called "The Observer" - a mysterious bald white man. Although he has only been featured as a minor character in one or two episodes, he appears in the background of every episode making "find The Observer" a favorite game among fans. We're still not sure where exactly he fits in to Fringelore, but we will learn more in this week's episode. A good time to start watching!

The viral campaign will involve "observers" popping up Sunday's NFL game and So You Think You Can Dance. I saw him last year on American Idol (and screamed). You may also see flashes of observer images on FOX's primetime programming this week.

Those of you living in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Chicago (No DC love?) should also look out for observers wandering around the city passing out Tabasco sauce (a favorite of this mysterious character). You can do some research to track them down here:

Comment here if you have an Observer Encounter this week!

EW's Ausiello posted this exclusive teaser. I dare you to click and not want to watch this episode.

November 13, 2009

tgif top 10: tv news this week

Here are 10 TV news items for this week that seem worth repeating:

1. Kathy Griffin is returning for a 6th season of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List on BRAVO. She'll start filming the 10-episode season in January. Still love the show, but I thought last season's "lessons on how to be an A-lister" with special guests (although great) were a little too contrived since she's clearly friends with these people. Kathy is hinting at some Levi Johnston action this season. Wonderful. (People)

2. NBC made an interesting programming decision for the winter hiatus (interesting is going to be my nice word for NBC from now on). A week-long a cappella competition called Sing-Off airing as a four-night event with two-hour episodes on Monday Dec. 14 through Wednesday, Dec. 16, then ending with a finale on Monday, Dec. 21. The show will follow eight a cappella groups as they compete for a recording contract with Sony Music's Epic label. A label for an a cappella group? Do they actually have those? I thought they just burn CDs to sell out of a cardboard box during birthday parties. (Variety)

3. Some Fox executive obviously read this post because Martha Plimpton has been cast in a comedy pilot! Plimpton will co-star with Lucas Neff in Keep Hope Alive from My Name is Earl Creator Greg Garcia. The show will center around a 25-year-old man raising an infant with the help of his quirky family after the mother of his baby (one night stand) ends up on death row. Plimpton will play Neff's mother. I wrote about this a few months ago when they first announced the premise, and I was appauled. This might be the darkest of dark comedy plots, but with Plimpton, I'll have to check it out. Plus, who am I kidding, I love sick comedy. (Hollywood Reporter)

4. Missing some gone-but-not-forgotten CW/WB characters? ABC Family to the rescue. None other than Gilmore Girls' Max Medina, also known as Scott Cohen, will be staring in a new single-camera comedy pilot about a recently laid-off architect (Cohen) who begins to mentor his underdog middle daughter, while his veterinarian wife shares a closer bond with their Type-A older daughter. Also, Lucy Hale of the too-short-lived Privileged has been cast in a new drama pilot called Pretty Little Liars about four teenage girlfriends, who begin to receive mysterious messages, seemingly from their girlfriend who disappeared three years before. Spooky. (Hollywood Reporter)

5. ABC cancelled Hank and Eastwick this week, and Fox cancelled Dollhouse. ABC has no plans to air the remaining five episodes of Hank on Wednesday nights at 8:00. You'll see holiday specials and movies in that slot until the spring season begins. They will run the remaining episodes of Eastwick. I'm slightly bummed about that one - I liked the female characters, but can't stand the guy they have playing Darryl Van Horn. Oh well, further proof that female trio shows don't work on major networks. There was a rumor that Ugly Betty would take that 10:00 Wednesday timeslot, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. And Dollhouse will finish it's run with a finale on Jan. 22. See my updated list of renewals/cancellations here.

6. Christine Baranski will reprise her role as Leonard's mom in a January episode of The Big Bang Theory. I'm really glad they're having her back - the interaction between her and Sheldon was hilarious. I love me some Baranski, but I've been disappointed with her character on The Good Wife. Seems like a waste of her talent for what has seemed like a pretty one-dimensional character. (Ausiello Files)

7. Another TV site is always good news. went live yesterday. It's billed as a TV Guide for the Internet where users can search online video sources, track the availability of online programs, and set season passes for favorite shows (sort of like online DVR). You can also integrate the site with your Facebook page, and I'm guessing Twitter as well. I haven't played around with it too much yet, but looks promising, especially with the rumor that Hulu is going to start charging $$ in 2010. Does this mean I should change my blog handle? I wouldn't want them to feel threatened...

8. I really like this story about the revival of (good) network family comedies - and comedies in general for that matter. The 2009/2010 season is really becoming the year of comedies for me. Modern Family and Glee are my favorite new shows of the season, and Parks & Recreation and Community keep getting better.

9. Anyone still (or start) watching Fringe? I still think it's one of TV's best kept secrets. Unfortunately, the secret part doesn't do them any favors in the ratings. This story runs down a list of five things that could improve the show, and I agree with every one.

10. If you're looking for some procrastination on a Friday afternoon, go vote for the People's Choice Nominees, which were announced this week. I'm officially endorsing Jim Parsons for TV Comedy Actor, So You Think You Can Dance for TV Competition Show, and Glee for New TV Comedy. Also, please have the Glee kids perform. The awards will be broadcast on Jan. 6.

November 11, 2009

glee wheels

Glee, how do I love thee? I simply cannot count the ways. Some of my favorite moments of "Wheels"...
  • Kurt: "Defying Gravity"? I have an iPod shuffle dedicated exclusively to selections from Wicked. This is amazing.
    Mr. Shue: Think you can handle it Rachel?
    Rachel: It's my go to shower song. It's also my ring tone.
    (why did these kids not go to high school with me?)
  • Finn: Mr. Shue, Kids are busier than when you went here. We've got homework, football, teen pregnancy, lunch...
  • Artie performing "Dancing with Myself"
  • Kurt's outfit when he announces that he'll be trying out for the Wicked solo. High f? That's well within his range.
  • Rachel: We didn't think you would take that personally.
    Artie: Well, you're irritating most of the time, but don't take that personally.
  • Kurt's Dad: You sing like a girl. You know, in a good way. Look Kurt, I don't know how this music stuff works. I'm pretty exclusively committed to my Mellencamp collection. But isn't it more crossover nowadays? You know, chicks doing construction, guys wearing dress shoes with no socks?...
  • Kurt's dad again (pretty much anything he says for the entire episode): You can't discriminate against my kid because of his sex, religion, political affiliation, or the fact that's he's queer as a three dollar bill. I won't accept it.
  • Sue: I'm about to projectile express myself all over your Hush Puppies.
  • Tina: How did it happen? You never talk about it?
    Artie: My mom and I got in a car accident when I was eight. She was fine, but I've been in this chair ever since. But... I want to be very clear. I still have the use of my penis.
  • Both kids singing "Defying Gravity" in the Diva Off. My heart literally sang.
  • The revelation of Sue's big sister.
  • Tina's stutter is fake?? That really disappoints me actually. That scene between her and Artie about broke my heart.
  • The "Rollin' on the River" performance. I love this show.
  • I hereby volunteer to be Kurt's new mom.

November 10, 2009

new show review: v

It's a little late, but I want to weigh in on "the most talked about pilot of the season." ABC loves that line. It might actually be somewhat true this time though. Delaying the premiere until November was a smart move for the network because V premiered right when everyone was starting to get bored with buzzing about the new fall shows. Problem is, we'll only see 3 or 4 episodes before the winter hiatus, and it's not clear if the show will return before or after the Olympics.

Anyway, let's get into it. I've only seen the pilot so far, and I'm coming into the story of V as a newbie. As I said here, after some Wiki research, I learned that V was a two-part miniseries written by Kenneth Johnson that aired in 1983. Johnson wrote a sequel miniseries called V: The Final Battle to conclude the story. As networks often do, NBC decided to keep it going by creating a series in 1984. Johnson parted ways with the project, and the show only lasted one season. The new series is a remake/reconceptualization of the story - an extraterrestrial race arrives on Earth with seemingly good intentions, only to slowly reveal their true machinations the more ingrained into society they become.

With that bit of background, I started into the pilot. The first 5 minutes moved quite quickly...very much in the style of Lost or FlashForward. Not to dwell on the comparison, but I thought V had a better disaster intro than FlashForward. What initially seems like an earthquake hitting the entire planet, turns out to be a fleet of space ships hovering over the major cities across the world - the special effects around the ships are pretty amazing.

During these scenes, we meet Erica Evans, an FBI agent, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) and her son Tyler played by Logan Hufman. Also, her friend and partner Dale Maddox played by Alan Tudyk (Firefly, A Knight's Tale). Then we have Ryan Nichols played by Morris Chestnut (The Best Man, Ladder 49) and his girlfriend Valerie Holt played by Lourdes Benedicto (The Nine, 24). And cautious priest Father Jack Landy (Joel Gretsch). Finally, there's Scott Wolf (Everwood, Party of Five) playing local newscaster Chad Decker.

The "Visitors" introduce themselves by way of a videocast of their (conveniently) beautiful leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin), who promises they have come in peace and are met by applause from most civilians watching in the streets. Right off the bat, Erica is skeptical. She and Dale begin investigating a terrorist sleeper cell they believe may be connected. I imagine they're not the only law enforcement personnel in the world doing so, but of course, we're to believe they are.

If the Visitors just learned about Earth, why are they so easily adapting to Earth culture? Anna held a press conference. Many of the most experienced public speakers on this planet cannot pull that off. Science fiction, suspend belief.

I'm having a bit of a hard time seeing Elizabeth Mitchell as a cop-type (and as a mother to a teenager), but I think that's lingering Lost attachments. She's consistently authentic in her performances, and I like Tudyk playing her partner. They start to uncover some fishy stuff related to a terrorist sleeper cell, including stockpiles of hidden C4 and a murder victim.

We always believe aliens will have much cooler modes of transportation - this is certainly no exception. Tyler and his friend ride a V shuttle to the mother ship with a bunch of other curious humans. This ship is all kinds of rad. They must think humans are living like pilgrims. The lucky boys confirm the theory that all Vs are attractive, including Lisa (Laura Vandervoot), who tries recruiting them for a V ambassador program. They're too young to join, but not too young to get roped in.

Meanwhile, Father Landry sees an influx of attendees at Mass looking for support and answers, including a man claiming to have been healed of paralysis in his legs. They all seem inspired with renewed faith since the arrival of the Vs. He's not convinced this is good news. Soon after, he's visited by a gravely injured man who turns over an envelope of information about the dangerous Vs.

Turns out Ryan (Chesnut) has a connection to the case that Erica and Dale are investigating. He has a shady past connected to some kind of citizen vigilante group. Erica finds an invitation to one of these meetings believing it's tied to the sleeper cell. She goes to check it out by herself because that's what badass female television cops do. Erica learns that the group (Father Landry's there too) has formed in resistance to the Vs. They claim this is not the Vs' first appearance on Earth, that they are disguised by cloning human flesh over reptile skin and are implementing a plan for decades to exterminate the human race by infiltrating all facets of life. The leader of the group warns against their plan to gain the trust of all mankind with the promise of friendship and technology - the "saviors" of mankind.

Meanwhile, chronically underachieving newscaster Chad has been chosen by Anna for an exclusive interview. The writers haven't given him much depth yet, but superficially, Scott Wolf is the perfect choice for this character. The pre-interview begins with Anna asking Chad to refrain from "asking questions that will portray them in a negative light." She threatens to cancel the interview without this guarantee, basically threatening him. Britney Spears is wishing she had this woman running the show about two years ago. He proceeds with the interview.

Anna claims the Vs have evolved to expel all negative feelings. They care only about tranquility and peace. She's a real sweet talker, this one. She goes on about their plans to open a healing center in every major city across the world (universal healthcare). This starting to sound a little familiar?

Back at the meeting, Father Landry shows proof of Vs living on Earth - photos from the dying man at the church - including one of the sleeper cell terrorist that Erica is investigating. A sleeper cell of Visitors? Suddenly, the meeting is invaded by a scary floating computer bomb and some really violent dudes. Ryan shows up at the last minute to kick some butt, and it turns out Erica can hold her own too. Mid-fight, Erica realizes she is fighting Dale. Guess what? He has reptile flesh. He is one of them. Damnit. I did NOT see that coming. So much for that partnership.

In the end, we see Tyler forge his permission slip to become a V ambassador. Erica didn't see Ryan at the meeting, but we do seem him talking to the group leader revealing that he also has reptile flesh. He claims to be a trader/deserter who promises to help defend the Earth against the Vs. Is he telling the truth? Is Dale a trader/deserter too? Looks like Erica will be joining the resistance group along with Father Landry. She observes, "They arming themselves with the most powerful weapon out there...devotion."

I won't get into the political parallels and symbolism of the show right away, but I do think some of the major themes are not surprisingly convenient for the current political climate. Overall, the pilot was really compelling. I think there are two types of pilots - those that can stand on their own as mini-movies and those that set up a bunch of scenarios and questions for the season. The best ones do both (Lost still has the number one spot), but I think this was more of the latter.

This may be because I haven't been enjoying FlashForward lately, but I can safely say V currently has a DVR reservation as my favorite new sci-fi action drama. At least until Lost comes back. (UPDATE: I lied. That spot still belongs to Fringe for the time being).

November 9, 2009

shit my dad says

According to the Hollywood Reporter, CBS is picking up a comedy pilot based on the Twitter account Shit My Dad Says. I've been following this guy for a while (me and 700,000 others), and I can't get enough of it. The story goes, 28-year-old Justin Halpern moved back in with his parents and started a Twitter account to post observations and pieces of wisdom from his father during the course of the day.

Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick will executive produce and supervise the writing for the multicamera family comedy. Halpern and Patrick Schumacker will co-write and also co-executive produce. Halpern and Schumacker will also co-exec produce. Obviously, they'll have to change the name if the show gets on the air.

Who would you cast as Dad? I can't help picturing the dad from Wonder Years.

Here are some of my favorite tweets:

"Love this Mrs. Dash. The bitch can make spices... Jesus, Joni (my mom) it's a joke. I was making a joke! Mrs. Dash isn't even real dammit!"

"Why would i want to check a voicemail on my cell phone? People want to talk to me, call again. If i want to talk to you, I'll answer."

"My flight lands at 9:30 on Sunday...You want to watch what? What the fuck is mad men? I'm a mad man if you don't pick me the hell up."

"You're like a tornado of bullshit right now. We'll talk again after your bullshit dies out over someone else's house."

"If mom calls, tell her I'm shitting... Son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a shit."

November 8, 2009

sterling cooper draper pryce

Matthew Weiner is nothing if not a builder. A skilled architect of each season of Mad Men. And the man does not lay one brick too soon. After the rush of information about Dick Whitman we got last year, we had ants in our pants during the first weeks of season three as our characters seemed unsettling calm.

One minute you're watching a slow and steady show, the next minute some secretary is running over your foot with a lawnmower.

The third season ended last night with "Shut the door. Have a seat." On the business end of things, the show garnered 2.3 million viewers, the highest of the season. Still nowhere near major network dramas (we won't talk about how much better Khloe Kardashian's wedding did on the same night), but a 33 percent larger audience than last season's finale. I've definitely felt a stronger buzz around Mad Men this season, and rightly so.

As she often does, Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune pinpointed exactly why I loved this episode. It was a heist. She called it "Draper's Eleven". A group of unlikely allies coming together to pull off the ultimate heist (I do love a heist movie). And the writers have been setting up this idea of allies, rivals, and relationships all season. Sterling/Draper, Pete/Ken, Peggy/Paul, Joan/Greg, Betty/Don, Betty/Sally...

Of course, we must start with Don. With a harsh hand at the chopping block, Connie Hilton tells Don his agency has been sold. With the expression on his face leaving Connie's room and the memory of his father abandoning his farming co-op only to die drunk and alone as Don walks into Sterling Cooper, we see that Connie lit a fire in Don. But he can't keep it burning alone.

First stop, Cooper. Second stop, Sterling. These were some of my favorite scenes of the show.

Don: I wanna work. I want to build something of my own. You did it yourself 40 years ago. How do you not understand that? (and that's when he had Cooper)

Sterling (to Don): I want to see what you look like with your tail between your legs.
Cooper: You sold your birth right, so you could marry that trollop.
Sterling: This is your pitch? Well, move along.

Don: I can sell ideas, but I'm not an account man.
Sterling: You're not good at relationships because you don't value them.
Don: I value my relationship with you.

And there it is. Relationships. I would argue that Don isn't bad at relationships, he's just bad at seeing them for that they are. As we've seen much more of this season, he has a terrible childhood to thank for that. Disappointed in Sterling for marrying the trollop and selling the agency, he abandoned their relationship and didn't recognize how important Sterling actually is to him both professionally and oddly personally. This idea of re-evaluating relationships forms the basis for bringing a new agency to life.

Next stop, Pryce, who just got the unfairly late news of PPL's sale and feels like the neglected step-child. Lucky for all, he has the power to sever all of their contracts.

Sterling: Lane. We've worked next to each other for a year. Don't act like a stranger. We've got tea.
Pryce: Nothing good ever came of seeking revenge.
Bert: Nonsense. We'll make you a partner.

Sterling: Well, it's official. Friday, December 13, 1963. Four guys shot their own legs off.

And the plan is set in motion. But this means Don has more work to do on those aforementioned relationships. The most important of course being Peggy. Both Don/Peggy scenes had me cheering with my arms in the air. Good for her, and GOOD for him. The words had been hanging in the air for a long time.

Peggy: I've had other offers you know. That came with a sales pitch about opportunity. Everyone things you do all my work. Even you. I don't want to make a career out of being there, so you can kick me when you fail.

[Don comes crawling back the next day at Peggy's apartment.]

Don: I take you for granted, and I've been hard on you, but only because I think I see you as an extension of myself. And you're not.

Don: There are people who buy things like you and me. And then something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that's very valuable.

Don: With you or without you, I'm moving on. And I don't know if I can do it alone. Will you help me?
Peggy: What if I say no? You'll never speak to me again?
Don: No, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.

And then there was dear old Pete who faked sick to interview with other agencies on this fateful day. Sterling and Cooper show up at his apartment to make the pitch.

Pete: Oh, am I getting a few more adjectives added to my title? Don't bother. I have other plans.
Trudy (from the next room): Peter, may I speak to you for a moment?

He is so lucky to have that lady. I hope we continue to see more of her (and he behaves). She cracks me up.

And with a much-craved pitch from Don, Pete is on board. As is Harry after some "sweet talking" from Cooper. It's obvious they were confident that Harry would take the offer for fear of wasting away in his mid-level office.

Cooper: We're starting a new agency. We'd like you to join us as our new head of media.
Harry: Are you kidding?
Sterling: Yes, yes we are. Happy birthday.
Harry: I should really call my wife.
Cooper: Mr. Crane. Harry. This matter is secret. If you turn us down, we'll have to lock you in the store room until morning.

And it's the moment we've all been waiting for. Joanie is back. Only Joan can pull this ragtag group together and get the plan in motion (who else noticed the "Fart Department" sign?). And in motion it is. Before we know it, the group officially walks out of Sterling Cooper (Pete's shot gun slung over his shoulder) and sets up shop in the Pierre Hotel.

Favorite early moments at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce:

Joan (wearing her gold pen necklace once more): Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, how can I help you? Yes, Harry, it's Room 435.
Roger: Peggy, can you get me some coffee? Peggy: No.
Don doing his own typing.

Back at the old agency, Paul is dismayed to find he hasn't been picked for the cool kids' team. Sorry, Paul. You have the desire to be an "alternative thinker" but you don't have the sincerity or the talent. And Pryce has the last laugh.

St. John: You are fired for lack of character!
Lane Pryce: Very good, Happy Christmas!

In the midst of the heist, I almost lost my energy for the Draper family. But there's no way Betty was letting that happen. Well, this is it. She hired a lawyer and boarded a plane to Reno with Henry Francis to earn her divorce. I have to say, with all the build up of Don's secrets over the years and Betty just now finding out, I feel a little rushed. But I suppose that's the point. Don has had the rug ripped from under him.

Two episodes ago, after Don finally confessed everything to Betty, I actually thought they might have a chance. Betty seemed to actually warm to the wounded bird. But a shot to JFK and a few glances at Henry Francis, and she's outta there. I wish we had seen more "courting" between those two. Are we really supposed to believe they're in love? But again, I guess that's the point. We're not seeing the last of Betty, and something tells me that plane ride to Reno doesn't equal riding off into the sunset.

In the end, we're not surprised. Don tells Betty to calm down, she's had a tough couple of weeks. Betty aptly retorts "I've had a tough year." That she has. And that after years of lies from an unfaithful husband. As Don says in the end, I hope Betty finds what she's looking for. I just don't think she knows what that is.

One one hand, I found this to be a clean break in the end. (Save for those poor, poor children) And I'd like them to move on and not go back and forth with Don/Betty drama next season. But on the other hand, I can't imagine this show without Betty.

So many questions for next season. Will these major changes actually stick? How does Betty fit as the only non-agency non-Draper character? Will Pete and Peggy share more than a desk? Have we seen the last of Duck, Ken, Smitty and others? Will Greg go to Vietnam? Will Joanie get the position she truly deserves? And what about Sal? With Lucky Strike still a client, will we ever see him again? Will Don get to be a big part of the children's lives? God knows they need him.

Cannot. Possibly. Wait.

November 5, 2009

2010 winter olympics countdown: 99 days

Have you heard that Stephen Colbert is sponsoring the US Olympic speedskating team? I love this. It's for real.

On Monday, Colbert (alongside gold medalist Dan Jansen) signed a contract to fund the team, who just lost their main sponsor (a bank that went under). Racing suits for both long and short track racers will feature Colbert Nation logos on both the leg and the hood during the World Cup competitions before the Olympics. Colbert isn't exactly forking over all the cash. It looks like they provided the initial funding for the suits, and in the coming weeks, the show will plug the sport regularly and feature speedskating in a few bits. The team is counting on the generosity of Colbert's audience to provide additional support.

Colbert: "We must ensure that it is America's 38-inch thighs on that medal platform." Right on.

November 4, 2009

glimpse of a soapy franco

I wrote a few weeks back about James Franco's upcoming stint on General Hospital. Here's a first look at his character. How perfectly does he fit in a soap opera villain? Hands in pockets, suspicious sideways glance. He's got it. The guest stint starts on Friday, November 20th. Let's face it, I already set the DVR.

Great column from the Fug Girls in New York Magazine about Franco's genius move.

November 3, 2009

bradley is back

According to The Hollywood Reporter, we'll be seeing a lot more of Bradley Whitford pretty soon. Let's take a moment to soak that in.

Bradley will be staring in an hourlong series by Matt Nix for FOX called Jack and Dan along with Colin Hanks. It's a straight-to-series project, meaning there won't be a traditional pilot or pilot presentation. FOX has just ordered 13 episodes straight away (because Bradley Whitford is the man), which will most likely premiere in fall 2010.

The show is described as an "action comedy in the tone of Nix's USA Network series Burn Notice." Jack (played by Hanks) is an ambitious, by-the-book detective with a habit of undermining himself in a dead end position at the LAPD. His new partner Dan (played by Whitford) is a drunken, loose cannon veteran cop who only keeps his job because of a heroic act years before.

I'm really glad Colin Hanks was cast for this part. I've always liked his work, most recently as a priest on Mad Men, but it seems like he's never really broken out as a major actor in his age group (leaving the family connection aside). Hopefully, this means he was holding out for the good roles. I'm glad he has this chance for a major network series.
And I like the "action comedy" style that we've been seeing more and more with shows like Chuck and Psyche. That said, I'm a little disappointed this is yet another law enforcement show. I really didn't want to the plot description to bore me, and it did.

Bradley has a history of major ensemble casts with relatively risky or nontraditional plots. There will never be another West Wing. And it clearly didn't work out for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which I loved, but oh well). And maybe it will be good to see Bradley flex his muscles in a much simpler context. But the cop/investigator/catch-the-bad-guy plot is everywhere. It's become the go-to premise because it almost always works (with the right ingredients). I just wanted something more for one of my favorite actors, but I'll put my jaded ramblings aside and hope for the best.

Bradley is back!

November 2, 2009

a few programming bits

Premieres this week:
  • V premieres on Tuesday at 8:00 ET on ABC. According to my research (Wiki), V was a two-part miniseries written by Kenneth Johnson that aired in 1983. Johnson wrote a sequel miniseries called V: The Final Battle to conclude the story. As networks often do, NBC decided to keep it going by creating a series in 1984. Johnson parted ways with the project, and the show only lasted one season. The new series is a remake/reconceptualization of the story - an extraterrestrial race arrives on Earth with seemingly good intentions, only to slowly reveal their true machinations the more ingrained into society they become. You'll see many familiar faces like Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Scott Wolf (Everwood, Party of Five), Morris Chestnut (The Best Man, Ladder 49), and Alan Tudyk (Firefly, A Knight's Tale). I'll be posting a review of the first episode in the next few days, so stay tuned.

  • The original Real Housewives, the girls of the OC, premieres on Thursday at 10:00 ET on Bravo. I remember thinking the last season of OC was a little depressing. Maybe in comparison to the newer versions? There's another new girl this season, Alexis. Gretchen is back again, and if the gossip rags have it right, she's now dating Jo's Slade. Please read this amazing piece by Hank Stuever for Washington Post. He describes the moral compass that has become Brave reality programming perfectly. My favorite line:
"The channel is a sort of ESPN for gay men and their simpatico BFF divas, all of it so neon-pink and deceptively shallow-seeming, with its relentless devotion to documenting the deflation of inflated-egos. It's something the network hardly talks about or analyzes (why would it? Bravo succeeds by its ability to tantalize and scandalize, not hypothesize) but season after season, it's strongly there: an ethos. People on Bravo, one way or another, always get what's coming to them."
Other new show reviews coming up:

  • White Collar, Friday nights on USA. Two episodes have aired so far, and reviews have been quite strong. But I haven't had time to sit down and watch it. It's a Catch Me If You Can kind of story about a conman who reluctantly crosses to the other side to help solve cases. You'll recognize Matthew Bomer as Bryce Larkin from Chuck.
  • The League, Thursday nights on FX. A new half-hour comedy that premiered last week about a group of friends in a fantasy football league. Thursdays are a tough night for me, but I'm planning to catch this one online. Mostly due to promising comedic talent like Nick Kroll, Stephen Rannazzisi , and Paul Scheer.
Mark your calendars:

  • ABC is premiering a new reality competition show called Let's Dance on Monday, November 23rd at 9:30 ET. Most importantly, Kathy Griffin will host. Celebrities will perform famous pop dance routines. Hopefully, they take it for what it is and make it silly, and it's not horrible like that unfortunate circus performer competition last year. (UPDATE Nov. 10: ABC scrapped this show because producers couldn't find a cast "acceptable to ABC". Shocker.)
  • One of the new shows I'm most intrigued about is coming up sooner than I realized. Men of Certain Age will premiere December 7th on TNT. You've probably started to see previews. It's the new drama starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher (a trifecta of television success). They're a group of aging college buddies. I wasn't interested at first, but the previews are really well done. In fact, here's one:

November 1, 2009

some weekend videos

Here's the first promo for the final season of Lost. There's no new footage here - just repackaging from previous seasons, which I'm happy about. I want as few spoilers as possible, even though former and dead cast members keep announcing their return for season 6. Stop doing that!

And here are the Glee kids singing a rain-delayed national anthem at the World Series. That Amber Riley is one talented chick.