August 3, 2011

fall casting!

Between San Diego Comic-Con and the Television Critic Association's press tour, there have been loads of panels, interviews, and announcements from shows and networks over the past few weeks in advance of the fall premieres. Many of them have involved casting news. Here are some highlights.

This is probably my favorite. Charlyne Yi has been cast as the new member of House's diagnostics team. If you don't recognize Charlyne from her film Paperheart, you probably know her from Knocked Up. It's no secret that House is getting a little tired and may have lost a few fans in the great dining room drive-thru of 2010. Well, they have my attention now. Charlyne is so charmingly weird and hilarious --can't wait to see her play with Dr. House.

Michael K. Williams, better known as Omar from The Wire or Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire, will shift gears to join Community this fall. He'll play a professor of biology - the study group's chosen course this semester. Williams is a ridiculously talented actor. Regardless of the nature of his character, I'm pretty sure he will make Troy wet his pants. 

Another Community addition this fall is none other than Dan Connor John Goodman. In one of the funniest new story concepts I've read, Goodman will play vice dean of Greendale's nationally-renowned school of air conditioning repair. Turns out this school and its dean are where all of the power and prestige of Greendale have been hiding. 

You probably already heard that guest star standout James Spader will be reprising his role as Robert California on The Office. Spader, however, won't be taking over as the new Michael Scott. He is shooting straight to the top of the Sabre corporate ladder, and we'll see him on a regular basis in that capacity. The  manager position is still up in the air among Jim, Dwight, and Andy. Any favorites?

Much mystery and intrigue has surrounded this character: Tammy 1. Ron Swanson's famed, dreaded, and previously unseen first wife on Parks and Recreation. She frightens the entire town of Pawnee, including the devilish Tammy 2 (Megan Mullaly). Patricia Clarkson has the gig. I have a hard time seeing the lovely Clarkson as such a terrifying figure, but that might be what makes it so fun. Looking forward to her first scene with Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) for sure. 

July 18, 2011

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

Because I couldn't bring myself to let it go, I was among those who waited and watched the final season of Friday Night Lights on NBC this spring/summer, rather than bribing a Direct TV subscriber into being friends with me or tracking down an advance copy of the DVD.

So, last week marked the end of my Friday Night Lights adventure. I'm not quite ready to share my thoughts on the last season and the series as a whole. Seems so darn overwhelming. If only Coach Taylor was here to give me a pep talk...

July 14, 2011

2011 emmy noms: glad, sad, mad

The 2011 Emmy nominations were announced this morning. There's always lots to say about this often frustrating awards program, but rather than list the nominees (you can see them here), here are my reactions according to a brief, but strong range of emotions.

I'm glad that....

  • Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler are going out in style. Friday Night Lights for the win!
  • Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton were nominated as best comedy leading ladies in Parks & Recreation and Raising Hope, rounding out a category that may be stronger than the men's side for the first time. I hope Amy wins it.
  • Parks & Recreation earned a first show nomination for its best season yet. Watch this show!
  • Cat Deeley AND So You Think You Can Dance earned nods this year. Finally.
  • All four Modern Family men garnered supporting actor nominations (with some reservations about that category though - see below under "mad").
  • Josh Charles and Alan Cumming made the cut of supporting drama actors, even though the drama category seems a little Good Wife heavy overall.
  • The awesome "Suitcase" (Remember it? Think back real far...) episode of Mad Men got a bunch of nominations, including writing. Elizabeth Moss and Jon Hamm (both nominated) rocked that episode.
  • Mad Men actually has the chance to sweep the drama acting categories this year (no one from the cast has won).
  • Conan beat Leno.
I'm sad that...
  • This will be Steve Carrell's last nomination for The Office. It's crazy that he's never won. I hope Emmy voters give him one of those (sometimes undeserved) sentimental awards. He had a great season.
  • It took this long for the Emmys to recognize Friday Night Lights - the best show on television.
  • As much as I love Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother just didn't provide the material for a nomination this year (definitely don't think Jon Cryer deserved the slot though).
  • Glee doesn't have my support this year (and Matthew Morrison and Lea Michelle's absences don't bother me). The show nomination slot should have gone to Community or Cougar Town or even Louis CK
  • Ray Romano didn't join Andre Braugher in the supporting actor category for Men of a Certain Age. It could have boosted the show's chances for renewal. Big claps for Andre though. 
  • Cable actors like Shawn Hatosy (awesome work this season) and Regina King from Southland aren't recognized. 
I'm mad (actually angry, but that doesn't rhyme) that...
  • Ron Swanson is nowhere to be found. Nick Offerman killed it this season on Parks & Recreation
  • Community got NOTHING. Not even in the technical categories. I realize the show caters to a specific taste, but no one can deny the talent in that cast.
  • Danny Pudi. Abed. Where are you? 
  • There isn't more room in the supporting actress in a comedy series. I'd keep the nominees, especially Julie Bowen and Sophia Vergara, and add Busy Phillips and Alison Brie.
  • The Killing was smothered with questionable love, but my favorite character Joel Kinnaman's Holder got spongecake. 
  • Johnny Galecki got a lead actor nod over Joel McHale. I like The Big Bang Theory, but seriously? (should be noted that Larry David wasn't eligible this year)
  • The amazingly talented John Noble seems destined for an annual snub for his awesome work on Fringe.
The Emmys will air on September 18th. 

June 20, 2011

critic's choice winners

A few weeks ago, I listed and reacted to the nominees for the first ever Critics Choice Television Awards by the Broadcast Television Journalist Association.

The awards presentation happened this afternoon -- if you're interested, Reelz Channel is airing the presentation in full on Wednesday night. TV Line is updating this page frequently with the full list of winners, so I won't list them all here.

But here are some of my thoughts on the winners:

  • Predictably, these winners feel more "fan fun friendly" than most of the more prestigious award programs. 
  • Best supporting actor in a drama series goes to the so-very-well-deserving John Noble who seems to conduct an acting master class every week on Fringe.
  • Busy Phillips earns the supporting actress in a comedy award for her lovable quirkiness (and enviable ability to wear the crap out of every single shade of lipstick that they put on her) on Cougar Town. Why can't we be best friends?
  • Speaking of great lipstick, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks won for best supporting dramatic actress, tying with Justified's veteran Margo Martindale. 
  • Julianna Margulies and Jon Hamm are appropriately the first couple of dramatic acting for their respective roles on The Good Wife and Mad Men (of course, Tami and Eric Taylor won in my heart). 
  • CBS super duo Jim Parsons and Neil Patrick Harris are not surprisingly critics' darlings in the lead and supporting comedy acting categories. While I love NPH, I was rooting for Danny Pudi or Nick Offerman in that category
  • A little bit hilarious that Hoarders and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills tied for best (non-competition) reality series.
  • I really wish Cat Deeley (awards presentation host) could have presented the award for reality host to her own self (So You Think You Can Dance), but alas, it went to Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs
  • While I would have squealed if best lead actress in a comedy went to Amy Poehler or Martha Plimpton, Tina Fay continues her reign. I ain't mad at you. 
  • Some of the acting awards were a bit outside the mainstream, but there was a little predictability with the show awards: Mad Men for drama and Modern Family for comedy. Both are well-deserved, but I would have liked to see an upset in the comedy category (ahem Parks & Rec) since I didn't think Modern Family's second season was quite as strong as the first (although still really great).
Agree or disagree with the BTJA?

calling all traveling wilburys fans

This is a little off of my usual topic, but if you're a Traveling Wilburys fan (and I'm a big one), you MUST go to their site today. They're streaming a 25-minute documentary on the true origin of the group - for just 24 hours! It will be up until 3am Eastern/12am Pacific tonight.


June 13, 2011

tca award nominees

Last week, I posted about the first award program introduced by the newly formed Broadcast Television Journalist Association. Today, the more established, larger Television Critics Association (TCA) announced their nominees for the TCA Awards (est. 2002).

Like I said before, critics tend to recognize shows and performances that may not pull in the ratings or the prestige that we see in larger awards programs. A little pretentious? Maybe. But for me, that's what makes these fun. TCA gets more creative with their categories. Namely, acting achievements are not divided by gender or lead/support. This has a way of making the acting awards seem more hard-earned.

Here are the nominees:

Individual Achievement in Drama: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Margo Martindale (Justified), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

Individual Achievement in Comedy: Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Louis C.K. (Louis), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Danny Pudi (Community), Jon Stewart (The Daily Show)

Outstanding Achievement in News and Information: If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, Restrepo, 60 Minutes, The Rachel Maddow Show, ESPN's 30 for 30

Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming: Amazing Race, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Survivor, The Voice, Top Chef: All Stars

Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming: A Children’s Garden of Poetry, iCarly, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba

Outstanding New Program: Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Terriers, The Killing, Walking Dead

Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials: Cineme Verite, Downton Abbey: Masterpiece, Mildred Pierce, Sherlock: Masterpiece, Too Big to Fail

Outstanding Achievement in Drama: Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Justified, Mad Men, The Good Wife

Outstanding Achievement in Comedy: Community, Louie, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Raising Hope

Career Achievement Award: Steven Bochco, Dick Ebersol, Cloris Leachman, David Letterman, William Shatner, Oprah Winfrey

Heritage Award: All in the Family, Freaks and Geeks, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Twin Peaks

Program of the Year: Boardwalk Empire, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, Justified, Parks and Recreation

A few thoughts:
  • Surprising, but also not surprising that Glee was completely shut out this year. Many have been unhappy with the second season, but Glee earned the coveted "Program of the Year" and "Outstanding New Program" awards last year. And Jane Lynch won the comedy performance award. Ouch. 
  • Love that Julianna Margulies (won last year), Margo Martindale, and Amy Poehler are representing for women in the acting categories.Wouldn't mind seeing a few more ladies though -- perhaps Elizabeth Moss and Connie Britton? 
  • Some truly awesome supporting actors dominated the comedy category: Nick Offerman, Danny Pudi, and Ty Burrell. 
  • I know critics are largely over The Office, but I would have liked a nod to Steve Carrell's exiting performance this season. Not for nostalgia -- he was damn good in every episode. 
  • The fact that I've only seen one of the shows (The Killing) nominated in the "Outstanding New Program" category is embarrassing (sad fact: Terriers has already been cancelled). 
  • The comedy show category is pretty much completely spot on -- Louie and I have had our differences, but I know it belongs there. And I'm super happy for the oft-misunderstood Community and Raising Hope as well. 
  • I love the heritage category! How in the world do you choose?!
  • The recognition for Friday Night Lights makes me equal parts happy, sad, and angry. Basically, I feel Smash Williams-ian about it. 
  • Can we assume Oprah has this one in the bag?
Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson!) will host the awards presentation on August 6. 

June 10, 2011

summer (new to you?) throw backs

I always have overly ambitious summer viewing plans. It seems like a great opportunity to not only play catch up, but also rewatch some classic favorites as well as finally get to series that I always meant to watch.

Right now, I'm rewatching Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as an accidental Sorkin retrospective. I also just caught up on many missed episodes of this season's Grey's Anatomy and planning to do the same for Fringe, Chuck, Dexter, and Vampire Diaries. On my more ambitious embarrassed-for-never-seeing-these list: Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Battlestar Galactica and Treme.

I definitely recommend checking out the many blogs and TV sites that take on these kind of projects for summer. It's a fun way to follow along and interact with a community of people while watching -- something that's usually not possible in real time when you're watching an old show. Here are some examples:

The AV Club always has interesting retrospectives going on. These days, you can find Homicide, Veronica MarsBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete (!!).

TV critic Alan Sepinwall is doing a Deadwood rewind over at HitFix.

Sepinwall's podcast with Dan Fienberg's Firewall and Iceberg chose Twin Peaks as their summer project.

Boob Tube Dude's Ryan McGee is currently in the midst of Alias and Friday Night Lights, blogging frequently about both.

There are many more, so I'll add to comments as I find them. Speaking of comments, I'd like some! What are you watching this summer?

weekend reading

Seemed to be an abundance of fun interviews with television personalities this week. Here's a roundup for your reading enjoyment:

Los Angeles Times: Amy Poehler on all things Leslie Knope

TV Line: Joel McHale on his "boyhood dreams" coming true thanks to Community

The TV Addict: Mike O'Malley (Burt Hummel) talks Glee and Shameless (and just generally being awesome)

Vulture TV: The lovely Christina Hendricks chats about Mad Men and her nearly-identical-to-mine TV tastes.

The AV Club: Super long (4 parts!) but interesting interview with Community creator Dan Harmon. I liked the part about women in comedy (part 2).

TV Guide Magazine: The top 20 So You Think You Can Dance contestants describe themselves.

Vulture TV: Sadly, NBC's Love Bites never lived up to the hype (currently burning off on Thursday nights), but I still love love love Becki Newton. Here's a little interview to catch up with her.

June 9, 2011

more film faces headed for TV

During the upfronts a couple weeks ago, we saw many famous film faces popping up on the 2011-12 television schedule. Jim Caviezel and Oscar-nominated Taraji Henson joined CBS's Person of Interest. Leelee Sobieski will give the small screen a try at midseason on the same network with cop rookie drama The 2-2. ABC will bring us a weekly dose of Ashley Judd in Missing and Christina Ricci in Pan Am. And let's not forget Zooey Deschanel as FOX's New Girl.

Two more actors are joining the ranks. I previously mentioned NBC's midseason plan to bring The Firm to television. They have just cast Josh Lucas as attorney Mitchell McDeere, a role originated by Tom Cruise in the film. The show will pick up ten years after the events of the book as McDeere and his family emerge from hiding. In my mind, Josh will always be the Southern charming Sweet Home Alabama glass blowing Reese Witherspoon soulmate, but I'm happy with this casting decision.

In even cooler news, Danny Glover has just been confirmed to join Kiefer Sutherland's new FOX pilot Touch (which is still awaiting an official pick up for midseason). We still don't have many details about this project -- the pilot has yet to be shot. But we know Glover will play Arthur Dewitt, a professor and expert on children who possess special gifts related to numbers. He will no doubt work with Kiefer's character's autistic son, who begins to predict events before they happen using numerical patterns. The Glover addition makes me much more excited for this project.

June 8, 2011

today's goodbye to meredith

For morning news programs, I think you gravitate to the network on which you were raised. That's why those morning ratings wars seem as pointless as Coke and Pepsi advertising to me -- you know what you drink and that's not going to change.

In my house growing up, The Today Show was always in the background at breakfast. These days, morning broadcast news isn't really part of my routine, but Today is still my go-to if I need some AM headlines.

This morning was Meredith Vieira's last show. It's a sad day. To me, she's a perfect morning host (and not because she's a fellow Rhode Island native!). She's warm, but smart. Funny, but not obnoxious. A skilled interviewer who (usually) avoids those emotionally manipulative morning news questions. She found the perfect balance between hard news gatherer and fluffy show host -- a balance not often mastered -- and made it look easy.

This was part of Today's send off for Meredith. A music number! It's awesome. I surprised my own self and cried.

June 6, 2011

gleeful: the littlest warbler

I mean, come on. That long tie kills me.

June 5, 2011

first ever critics' choice television award nominees

The Broadcast Television Journalist Association (BTJA) will hold the first ever Critics' Choice Television Awards on June 20. The luncheon awards presentation (hosted by the lovely Cat Deeley of So You Think You Can Dance) will stream live on and be broadcast on June 22 on the Reelz Channel.

BTJA is a new group affiliated with the Broadcast Film Critics Association (not to be confused with the larger, more well-known Television Critics Association). While it appears to be designed for the relatively small group of "television critics on television," there are a some well-respected online critics, namely Matt Roush from TV Guide Magazine.

News of yet another award show isn't very intriguing in itself, but looking at the favorites selected by critics rather than, say, the Emmy voting pool (much less the ratings charts) is pretty interesting. At the very least, if this is an opportunity to give kudos to some oft-neglected quality programming, then I'm all for it.

Let's look at the nominees:

Many of these picks are pretty predictable --  the definition of "good drama" is usually far more widely accepted than comedy. For that reason, though, sometimes the top picks can become tiresome. Like Dexter is there just because it has to be at this point, etc. So, it's gratifying to see shows like Friday Night Lights and Fringe (John Noble!) get recognition here. Ratings shmatings. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are one of the best drama pairings in the history of television. Hyperbole? My blog. It will be interesting to see if other more recent critical favorites like Justified, The Killing, and The Walking Dead make any headway at the major award shows this year. I think it's fairly safe to say Game of Thrones will. Also glad to see the critics call out some specific good performances that might not come with a big show behind them -- Shawn Hatosy's work on Southland is a great example.

BEST DRAMABoardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Fringe, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Justified, The Killing, Mad Men, The Walking Dead

BEST ACTOR - DRAMA: Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), William H. Macy (Shameless), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA: Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), Anna Torv (Fringe)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - DRAMA: Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Walton Goggins (Justified), Shawn Hatosy (Southland), John Noble (Fringe), Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire), John Slattery (Mad Men)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - DRAMA: Michelle Forbes (The Killing), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Margo Martindale (Justified), Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Chloë Sevigny (Big Love)

Not surprisingly, the comedy picks have a much wider range that we're used to seeing. And since "good comedy" seems so much more open to interpretation, a look at critic's picks can be fun because TV critics are so often some of the biggest TV fans. Shows like Louie and Archer aren't really my thing, but they have huge fans, so great to see them recognized. I've long been concerned that Community is too "weird" for the Emmys -- but here's proof the show (and Danny Pudi!) are critically-acclaimed. Funny, I pretty much wouldn't change a thing in any of the ultra-competitive comedy acting categories, although some supporting character love for The Office would have been nice. Yay for the first-recognized brilliance of Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson, Martha Plimpton's so-bad-she's-good mom from Raising Hope, and the hilariously under-appreciated Eden Cher from The Middle.

BEST COMEDY: Archer, The Big Bang Theory, Community, Glee, Louie, The Middle, Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock

BEST ACTOR - COMEDY: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Carell (The Office), Louis C.K. (Louie), Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Joel McHale (Community), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY: Courteney Cox (Cougar Town), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Patricia Heaton (The Middle), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - COMEDY: Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Danny Pudi (Community), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - COMEDY: Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Jane Lynch (Glee), Busy Philipps (Cougar Town), Eden Sher (The Middle), Sofía Vergara (Modern Family)

These categories crack me up. It feels like an exposition of what really goes on our televisions while we're doing laundry on a Sunday afternoon (not what Emmy voters claim to enjoy). Housewives? Love it. Hoarders? Damn you, I can't look away. Same goes for Sister Wives. As for hosts, thank goodness for some MUCH-delayed love for Cat Deeley, the best host on television. As a unit, the collection of best talk shows is kind of hilarious. Come to think of it, do we ever see Oprah at the Emmys?

BEST REALITY SERIES: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Hoarders, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Sister Wives, Undercover Boss

BEST REALITY SERIES - COMPETITION The Amazing Race, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Top Chef

BEST REALITY SHOW HOST: Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance), Ty Pennington (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs), Ryan Seacrest (American Idol)

BEST TALK SHOWChelsea Lately, The Daily Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Oprah Winfrey Show

May 26, 2011

season finale watch: gossip girl and modern family

This pairing may offend you, but bear with me. These two finales struck a chord with me because both played as if they could have been series finales. DON'T get me wrong, I hope Modern Family is around for many years to -- although I can't really say the same for GG anymore -- this is more about the writing style that both sets of writers used.

Gossip Girl
I'm not as passionate about GG's shortcomings or it's strengths as most viewers. I still find it entertaining, it often cracks me up, and I like the dresses. It's fun, escapist television for me, and I try not to over-analyze it (although the New York Magazine recaps often make my week).

So, season four was just fine with me. No big complaints, except for a few obvious ones 1) Rufus has become a full on house boy; 2) Vanessa needs to leave New York forever; 3) Jenny is unrecognizable and also needs to never come back; 4) Serena's ability to easily be forgiven (and forgive for that matter) boggles my mind.

Given the melodrama we've seen in GG finales past, I found this conclusion kind of refreshing. Sure, there were some twisty reveals -- Vanessa stealing Dan's manuscript and discovering that Charlie is a fake hired by Lily's sister. By the way, what the heck? Would Lily really not know what her niece looks like? What is her sister hiding? I'm picturing something along the lines of Jane Eyre's upstairs neighbor Bertha.

This final episode finally brought us a meaningful, dramatically romantic conclusion of Blair and Chuck. This is the first time I've ever seen them part ways for reasons that seemed to make mature sense. Claps for Chuck. I'm not silly enough to think we've seen the last of this couple. but if this was the series finale, I would have been totally satisfied. Blair gets her prince, and Chuck lets her go.

The episode was also series finale-esque for the rest of them: Serena leaves New York and falls into a promising career opportunity in her Serenian way; Chuck and Nate renew their friendship and go off to do what filthy  rich, young, single men should do; Lily pays for her sins with her house boy by her side; and Dan heads to the Hamptons to write and be a brother to Eric (who seems especially pouty lately, no?)

I'm sure there will be all kinds dramatics next season, but a small piece of me wouldn't mind if that had been the end of Gossip Girl.

Modern Family
After just two seasons, Modern Family is a much younger show than Gossip Girl. And the shows have absolutely nothing in common. But this finale had a very similar conclusive tone.

The sophomore season suffered a tiny bit when writers abused some of the show's strengths -- Cam as the overly dramatic diva, for example. For me, this made some of the episodes feel like a series of hi-jinx, making some of the sentimental moments seem unearned.

That said, I laughed out loud every week, and I still can't get enough of these characters. So, while I'm definitely glad that Modern Family will be back next year, the finale was structured in a way that it could have been a series finale. Via the kids' video birthday present for Jay, we saw a great mash-up of call backs to some of the season's funniest episodes. Other great scenes that wrapped up some ongoing themes: 1) Cam mentoring Manny was a great revitalization of the Cam we love -- the unlikely sporty gay dad with a heart of gold; 2) Cam and Mitchell building a family (and actually getting along!) the way they were when we first met them; 3) Phil's boyish crush on Gloria turned upside down by the reminder that his wife is the girl of his (and his nemesis') dreams; 4) Jay reluctantly admitting that the "new Jay" is the better one, and Manny proved that sitting in his little fishing boat.

Again, can't wait to have it back, but this finale wrapped up the Pritchett/Dunphy clan for me in a way that made it okay to say goodbye for summer.

May 25, 2011

summer tv is right around the corner...


Every year around this time, I'm reminded of the boat load of summer television shows. Don't people play outside anymore? (and yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of what I just wrote)

I'll be watching these again:
So You Think You Can Dance (FOX, May 26)
Men of a Certain Age (TNT, June 1)
White Collar (USA, June 7)*
Covert Affairs (USA, June 7)*
Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family, June 14)
Leverage (TNT, June 26)
Royal Pains (USA, June 29)
Rizzoli & Isles (TNT, July 11)*
Entourage (HBO, July 24) - final season

* On a probationary basis, got a  little bored with these last summer.

Promising new guilty pleasures for summer:
Franklin and Bash (TNT, June 1): Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Brekin Meyer are a legal team.
Falling Skies (TNT, June 19): Noah Wylie leads a ban of alien attack survivors in Boston.
The Hot Zone (ABC, June 21): Drama about residents at a military hospital in Southern Afghanistan.
Great State of Georgia (ABC Family, June 29): New Raven-Symone comedy. Ok, I'm just curious.
Suits (USA, June 23): Another unlikely two-man team from USA, this one is of the legal variety.
Wilfred (FX, June 23): Comedy about Elijah Wood and his imaginary human/dog friend. Yup.
Necessary Roughness (USA, June 29): A Long Island divorcee becomes a therapist for an NFL team. A little curious?

I'll say I'm not watching these, but on boring, rainy summer days, I totally will:
America's Got Talent (NBC, May 31)
Wipeout (ABC, June 16)
Same Name (CBS, July 24): Celebrities trade places with "regular" people with their same names! Come on!
America's Karaoke Challenge (ABC, August 8)

I won't be watching these, but in case you're curious:
Switched at Birth (ABC Family, June 6) NEW
Memphis Beat (TNT, June 14)
Hawthorne (TNT, June 14)
The Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC Family, June 14) NEW
Rookie Blue (ABC, June 16)
101 Ways to Leave a Game Show (ABC, June 16)
Expedition Impossible (ABC, June 21) NEW
Burn Notice (USA, June 23)
Louie (Comedy Central, June 23)
The Marriage Ref (NBC, June 26)
True Blood (HBO, June 26)
The Big C (HBO, June 27)
Take the Money and Run (ABC, June 28) NEW
Big Brother (CBS, July 7)
Torchwood (Starz, July 8)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, July 10)
Rescue Me (FX, July 12) - final season
Damages (only on DIRECT-TV, July 13)
The Closer (TNT, July 11)
Breaking Bad (AMC, July 17 TBD)
Hell's Kitchen (FOX, July 19)
Bachelor Pad (ABC, August 8)
The Lying Game (ABC Family, August 15) NEW

May 23, 2011

season finale watch: the office and parks & rec

My reason for pairing these two together is more about wanting to talk about each season as a whole than drawing any parallels between the two finales. So, let's get to it.

Parks & Recreation
I really think this might be one of my favorite seasons of a show ever. As I'm sure I wrote here in the beginning, Parks & Rec started off on shaky ground for me. At first, Lesley Knope seemed too naive and annoying to watch every week, and it was hard to see the ensemble cast working cohesively. But, especially given the tricky production schedule and delayed start, season two really blew me away.

It seemed like the writers found the strongest points of each character and just kept bringing them out with more and more success. Some of my favorites this season: Tom Haverford's food nicknames, Leslie and Ann's friendship, everyone drunk on Snake Juice, Ben (Adam Scott) and his failed mayor back story, Lil' Sebastian, Rob Lowe's Chris Traeger as the boss, especially his scenes with Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson -- the burger competition comes to mind. Let's face it, pretty much anything Ron Swanson did this season.

I'd like to also thank the writers for bucking the drawn out romance tradition and putting both April and Andy and Leslie and Ben together by season's end. April and Andy's wedding in "Fancy Party" was one of my favorite episodes this season -- I did not see that coming, and I'm loving watching their weird little marriage. Leslie and Ben circling around each other during the latter half of the season was sweet when it wasn't completely awkward and uncomfortable -- traits that Amy Poehler and Adam Scott play brilliantly.

The finale set up some interesting possibilities for next season -- Leslie possibly running for public office and what they will mean for her secret relationship with Ben, Tom Haverford's high end entertainment empire, and the potential reveal of Ron's ex-wife Tammy the First? I really can't wait.

The Office
 It was a big season for the office. Michael Scott's swan song. I'm going to keep my thoughts retrospective and refrain for speculating on the fate of next season and the new boss -- for now. We'll save that for fall.

Any show that's been on for seven seasons is going to lose steam, especially with critics. For me, The Office writers have worked really well to bring creative revitalization through the years -- the branch merger (who remembers Scranton without Andy anymore?), a new receptionist, the Sabre takeover, Jim and Pam's saga. There has been some really adventurous evolution of characters like Ryan and Daryl as well as seamless incorporation of recurring roles like Amy Ryan's Holly (unfortunately, I can't really say the same for Gabe -- he bores me).

All of that is to say, The Office is still one of my favorite comedies, and I was happy to sit back and watch Steve Carell's victory lap this season. Long time fans know that we initially met a very different Michael Scott -- one very similar to the UK's David Brent. While certainly entertaining, something was not quite gelling. By the second season -- probably with thanks to Carell's performance in 40-Year-Old Virgin -- the writers starting playing more to the actor's strengths and appealing more to the tastes of the American audience. Sure, Michael was still a self-centered buffoon, but all of that masked a childlike quality that craved friends and a sense of belonging -- he believed he found that at Dunder-Mifflin, and by the end, his staff and the audience realized he had.

The best part about watching Michael's progression over the years has been the subtly -- The Office of course never being a show to hit us over the head with a sappy music montage (I'm looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). Moments like encouraging Jim not to give up on Pam on the booze cruise, becoming a paternal mentor to Erin, refusing to throw the company under the bus when Jan tried to sue, and finally, his relationship with Holly. In probably my favorite proposal scene ever on television, we saw the fully grown-up Michael Scott propose to Holly. Yup, I cried.

Admittedly, I could have done without the stunt casting at the end of the season, for the same reasons that I'm not upset with NBC for keeping the show going post-Carrell. I have faith that these writers and this cast will bring us more fun next season -- now don't make a liar out of me.

May 21, 2011

season finale watch: castle and hawaii 5-0

I'm actually a little surprised that these two shows stayed on my schedule this year. Nathan Fillion has always been enough to keep me watching Castle, but I never really expected to like Hawaii 5-0 as much as I do. I'll get into that a bit more below. The reason I paired the two finales together is that they both used really similar plot devices: a surprising twist followed by a traditional cliffhanger that is equal parts potentially game-changing and realistically unbelievable.

The second season of Castle disappointed me a little. It was so heavy on the Castle/Beckett romantic tension. I realize these two characters form the central relationship of the show, but it seemed like the writers were relying too heavily on that plot device for all of the dramatic moments this season. There are so many other strong aspects of the show that could be used more prominently, namely Castle's interactions with his mother and daughter, which make up some of the strongest scenes.

That said, I do think the chemistry between Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic has improved. Beckett has softened and become much more relatable and likable this season. Actual smiles are a welcome change from her uber-intense disposition last year. (Special recognition also goes to the show's stylists who finally resolved what seemed like an endless line of unfortunate hair styles on Beckett.)

The finale brought a pretty unexpected twist to the resolution of Beckett's mother's murder. At least I think it was a resolution? I'm still not sure that we know the whole story. Turns out, Captain Montgomery - long time mentor and boss to Beckett - was partly responsible to the cover up of her murder. He had been living with the guilt for years and took Beckett under his wing as a rookie as a way of trying to make amends. With the guilt finally breaking him, the Captain sacrificed his life to catch the man responsible. As a relatively low profile and light-hearted character on the show, we definitely didn't see this loss coming.

If that twist wasn't enough, in Beckett's attempt to save Captain Montgomery**, she took an apparently fatal bullet to the chest. The scenes closes with her in Castle's arms as he professes his love. As TV watchers, there are two things we know 1) this is not the kind of show to kill off a main character 2) this is not the kind of show to resolve a romance in two seasons. So, as dramatic as the conclusion was, it felt a little cheap. But at the very least, these developments will mean some changes in their relationship and  potentially a new Captain next season.

** I just realized that I completely mis-remembered this scene. She actually gets shot at the Captain's funeral. At the scene of his shooting in the airplane hangar, Castle carries her to safety when she tries to intervene and save the Captain. Whew. That was a brain fart.

Hawaii 5-0
As I've said before, Hawaii 5-0 snuck up on me this season. I'll admit, my attraction is pretty superficial. Great chase scenes, things blowing up, gorgeous men, beautiful scenery, and even some humor. It's just fun, entertaining Monday night television.

I even found myself getting attached to these characters, which is why the finale was pretty gut-wrenching, assuming of course you could suspend your disbelief (as you did in the final moments of Castle). The twist came in a similar way to Castle, McGarrett finally gets some answers about his father's death. Surprisingly, he figures out that his long time supporter and 5-0 benefactor Governor Jameson was indirectly responsible due to her involvement with organized crime and the ubiquitous villian Wo Fat. Of course, McGarrett doesn't go about proving his theory about the Governor in the most law-abiding way.

We end the episode with McGarrett arrested for the Governor's murder (Wo Fat framed him) by Chin who has just been reinstated as a Lieutenant with the Hawaii Police Department, believing 5-0 is now defunct. At the same time, Kono has been arrested for stealing millions from HPD (which she and McGarrett secretly did back when they needed to pay Chin's ransom earlier in the season). And Danno is the only left standing to save the crew - meanwhile, he's missing his flight back to New Jersey with his reunited family. Whew. Got all of that?

So, again we have a really dramatic, game-changing cliffhanger that -- while suspenseful and fun -- obviously does not signify the end of the 5-0. We'll see the gang back fighting the seemingly disproportionate amount of major crime for a tiny island next season.

Sidenote: Masi Oka has been upgraded to a series regular as Dr. Max Bergman next season, so expect to spend more time at the lab.

May 20, 2011

season finale watch: bones and the good wife

If any of you read all of that upfronts ballyhoo below, thanks for your patience. Much of that network pomp and circumstance doesn't really interest the average TV watcher. But it was a good way to clear the blogging cobwebs after my inexcusable absence and get excited for next fall. 

Now it's time to get back to some regular TV fandom as this season wraps, so I'll be posting about the finales of some of my favorites. I'll probably group them in some odd ways, but bear with me. 

First up: Bones and The Good Wife

Let me be clear that I love both of these shows for reasons that go far beyond will-they-won't-they drama. However, I'm pairing them together because both finales had some surprising developments in their respective "suspenseful relationships" that will have interesting implications for next season.

I have a soft spot for this show. Considering the violent nature of the crimes depicted and the gross out images of rotting corpses, it's funny how much I just like hanging out with these characters every week. The chemistry among the actors is some of the best on television. Emily Deschanel's deadpan performance as highly intelligent, bewildered realist Dr. Brennan (Bones) never gets old for me. I would argue that this past season has been one of the strongest in terms of Bones' journey to understand her own instincts and emotions -- told so aptly through her relationship with partner Booth. 

But it's the supporting characters that make this show for me. Hodgins and Angela's little love story has been so fun to watch. And Sweets is always entertaining -- as sort of a meta-analyzer for the audience -- and so well-played by John Francis Daley. The revolving door of interns has been the perfect solution for the irreplaceable Zack (when are we going back to that story, by the way?). The second-to-last episode brought a very surprising end to the life of intern Vincent Nigel-Murray. It was such a beautifully done episode -- that musical sequence right before the sniper shooting, rotating among all of the characters was awesome. Who knew the loss of Vincent would make me cry?

All of that said, the very last scene in the finale between Bones and Booth is really the only thing that will stick with me through the summer hiatus. Bones is preggers?! An intimate moment between the two while grieving Vincent in the previous episode was definitely purposefully left open to interpretation. Many fans feel robbed of the experience of seeing them finally give in to all of that tension and just kissy face all over the place. For me, it was done perfectly. I didn't need to see the dirty deed, and I think Bones' confession coupled with Booth's elated reaction at the very end was pretty perfect (and appropriate for how this story has been told). Just enough to satisfy the 'shipper in me while still leaving the story open to many potential complications for next season. Assuming Emily and David will not actually reproduce (despite their dedication to the craft), they better find a darn cute baby to play their offspring.

Note: Many of you probably know that Emily is pregnant in real life, so the writers incorporated it into the story. That doesn't cheapen it for me though. I'm totally on board with the story. Also, Bones will take a spring hiatus in 2012 to accommodate Emily's leave. 

The Good Wife
Aside from the strength of the supporting cast, The Good Wife really could not be more different from Bones in terms of tone and style. I'm putting them together mostly because they both gave me that mushy feeling at the end of the finale. There, I said it.

Really, any of the last three episodes (starting with the election night) could have been the finale of The Good Wife this season. The reveal of Kalinda's tryst with Peter was a cliffhanger that would have worked. But I'm glad they pushed on and gave Alicia the opportunity to have some really memorable confrontations with everyone involved -- both Kalinda and Peter, but also Jackie (woah). These scenes set up many possibilities for the show's return next season. We know Kalinda will keep her job at the firm, but the tension between the two women could be cut with a knife. We also know Peter is now in a position to either make Alicia's professional life miserable or relieve his guilt by secretly helping her out (can we assume that's what he was doing by mailing the bloody glove)?

My one complaint - I can't get behind how Alicia's kids are written. I can't put my finger on why. The writers often display the kids' mischievous savvy -- using social media and other means to sabotage Peter's opponents (they were really playing dirty!) and challenging Alicia's choices (both religious and political). They don't seem to ever redeem themselves or show compassion for their mother, and I find myself wanting to smack them. Is that because these are real teenagers, and we just don't often see teenagers written in a realistic way? Kids being kids in an extremely stressful situation? Maybe. But, even not knowing about Kalinda, I wanted them to be a little easier on their mom about the separation. I'm probably over-analyzing these two, but I wouldn't mind a lot more Eli Gold and less Florrick kids next season.

The finale concluded with a relationship that hasn't often taken center stage this season, but was always hovering in the background. I'm not always on board with the Will and Alicia tension -- it's not the strength of the show -- but the scene at the hotel bar  was a reminder of how well the two actors play together and how the two characters bring out the best sides of each other. When I still wasn't sure which way I wanted things to go, the use of those elevator doors as a suspense-building device at the very end was brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat. I fully expected Jackie, Peter, Kalinda, Elmo, SOMEONE to be on the other side of those doors. Which made it even more satisfying when they made it into the room. Christ, Alicia deserved it. And she wasn't going to let a stupid key card get in her way. 

Should be really interesting to see how this relationship impacts the next season, but with everything else in play (including cases that are becoming increasingly compelling), I have faith the writers won't get too bogged down in the relationship drama of it all. 

May 19, 2011

2011 upfronts: the cw

As upfronts week comes to a close, I don't want to neglect The CW. Darn if that little network doesn't have some of the longest running shows on television these days. Here are a few highlights:

  • Starting midseason, One Tree Hill will air a 13-episode farewell for it's ninth and final season. Thank the sweet baby. 
  • Hellcats and Shedding for the Wedding will not be returning next season. Tissues are available at the end of this post. 
  • Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural will all continue running on their respective nights (Monday, Thursday, and Friday).
  • 90210 will move to Tuesdays and Nikita to Friday. 
Six new shows are on the docket for next year...

Buffy fans rejoice. This is Sarah Michelle Gellar long anticipated return to television. She plays Bridget, six months sober and starting to turn her life around when she is the sole witness to a professional hit. She flees to New York, where she Bridget reunites with her estranged twin, Siobhan. Wealthy, pampered and married to the strikingly handsome, Siobhan lives what appears to be a fairy tale life - where no one knows that Bridget exists. The sisters seem to be mending their frayed relationship, until Siobhan disappears mysteriously, and Bridget makes the split decision to take on her sister's identity. She discovers shocking secrets, not only about her sister, her marriage, and her friends. And when someone tries to kill Bridget in her sister's penthouse, she realizes she is no safer as Siobhan than she is as herself. Look for Nestor Carbonell (Lost's Richard) as Agent Victor Machado, Bridget's witness protection officer. 

My take: Given SMG's history, I'll check it out, but this is another one that feels more like a movie to me. 

Hart of Dixie
Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson, The OC) graduated top of her class from medical school and plans to follow in her father's footsteps and become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. But when her dreams fall apart, she accepts an offer from, Dr. Harley Wilkes, to work with him at his small practice in Bluebell, Alabama. Zoe arrives in this small Gulf Coast town only to find that Harley has passed away and left his half of the medical practice to her. The other doctor in town, Brick Breeland, is less than pleased to be sharing the practice, and his daughter, Lemon (Jaime King, My Generation), is a Southern belle who's not a fan of Zoe. She does make some friends: the mayor, former football star Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams, Friday Night Lights alum!), her bad-boy neighbor Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel, Generation Kill), and handsome lawyer George Tucker (Scott Porter, Friday Night Lights' Jason Street!) - who's also Lemon's fiancé. A visit by her snobby New York mother leads to Zoe's decision to stay in Bluebell for a while. Josh Schwartz (The OC, Chuck, Gossip Girl) is an executive producer. 

My take: Is this Doc Hollywood played by a girl? Ehh...Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Josh Schwartz, and my hankering for a guilty pleasure will have my watching. 

Celebrities go head-to-head with civilians who hate them to win their "haters" over. Hosted by Mario Lopez.

My take: This is not a joke. 

The Secret Circle
Cassie Blake (Life Unexpected) was a happy, normal teenage girl - until her mother Amelia dies in a fire. Cassie moves in with her loving grandmother Jane in the small town of Chance Harbor, Washington - where her mother grew up. As Cassie gets to know her high school classmates, her new friends explain that they are all descended from powerful witches, and they've been waiting for Cassie to join them and complete a new generation of the Secret Circle. It's not until Cassie discovers a message from her mother in an old book of spells, that she understands her destiny. She soon realizes that darker powers are at play in the town, and her mother's death may not have been an accident.

My take: The quality of this one really depends on how strong all of the townspeople characters are, so we'll see. Why I am such a sucker for CW shows?

Reality Shows:

Re-Modeled (midseason)
Modeling industry veteran Paul Fisher is planning to bring together hundreds of small agencies around the world in a new venture called The Network. The Network will give Paul the leverage to change the industry from the inside out. He has two missions: to make sure agents in small towns no longer get screwed, and to empower models to take control of their careers and lead healthier lives. 

My take: It took me a good 15 minutes to realize that this is a reality show. No thanks. 

The Frame (midseason)
Ten teams of two (in existing relationships) each live in one Frame - a stripped down version of their home living space - for up to 8 weeks, with the entire world watching. Couples cannot physically see one another, but each "frame" is rigged with plasma screens & communication devices that allow for visual and verbal interaction. The teams will face outrageous challenges, punishments, head-to-head competitions, and eliminations, all while isolated from the outside world. With 24/7 web cams streaming content live, and a bi-weekly television show, audiences will vote for - and have control over - many elements of the show, from rewards to punishments to eliminations. The last couple standing will walk away with a cash prize. 

My take: This feels like something out of a bad, futuristic movie. Shivers. 

May 18, 2011

2011 upfronts: cbs

Programming Notes:
Click here to the full list of CBS's renewals and cancellations. At the presentation, CBS was going for the strong, steady image. Which is appropriate. They made few changes to their schedule -- which earns the highest overall ratings among the broadcast networks, drawing big numbers from all age groups, which is definitely a rarity these days. So, they're only adding three new dramas and two comedies this year. Here are a few other notes:
  • The Good Wife is making a big move to Sunday nights at 9:00. I'll follow that show anywhere, but I'm doing a little cheer for Parenthood, which could find a better audience on NBC without that competition.
  • Two and Half Men with Ashton Kutcher will stay on Mondays at 9:00. No word yet on Kutcher's character. I've never watched that show and don't plan to start, but I am intrigued to watch how that shakeup will play out. It's been a long time since such a high profile character was swapped out on a sitcom. Maybe since Shelley Long on Cheers?
  • Apparently, it's a big deal that CSI was moved from its long time slot on Thursday to Wednesday at 10:00. 
  • The Big Bang Theory will keep the 8:00 Thursday slot kicking off an hour comedy block with new show How to Be a Gentleman
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions after the jump

New Dramas:

Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) stars as Carrie Wells, an former police detective with a rare condition that makes her remember every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak forever (this was on an episode of House this season. Copy cats). The only thing she can't remember are the details that would help solve her sister's long-ago murder. She's unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck), when she consults on a homicide case. His squad includes Detective Roe Saunders played by Kevin Rankin, who I loved in Friday Night Lights (Herc) and Trauma. She decides to permanently join the unit as a homicide detective - focusing most on the unsolved murder of her sister.

My take: Not really for me, but I think this will do a great job filling the void for Medium mourners. A good fit for the CBS menu.

Person of Interest
Michael Emerson plays a billionaire software genius Finch who teams up with a presumed dead former CIA agent Reese (Jim Caviezel) to prevent crimes using their own form of vigilante justice. Finch invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using this technology, the two use Reese's adept skills and Finch's unlimited wealth to stop the crimes before they happens. Reese's actions catch the attention of the NYPD, namely homicide detective Carter (Taraji Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything. This is another J.J. Abrams production.

My take: Michael Emerson all I need to hear to at least watch the pilot. But I would like it better if Ben Linus was joined by John Locke to fight these crimes (Lost reference if you live in a hole).

A Gifted Man
Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen) is a doctor who lives a materialistic life thanks to his work-obsessed career and powerful and wealthy patients. But his world is rocked when his dead ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), an idealistic free-clinic doctor and the love of his life, mysteriously appears to him. Michael's off-beat sister, Christina (Julie Benz, Dexter) is thrilled that Anna's back in her brother's life, even as an "illusion," because Michael was always a better person with her. When Anna asks Michael to keep her running, his attitude toward serving the rich and poor is turned upside down.

My take: Another great show for the CBS brand. Not my thing, but I think it will do really well with the Touched by an Angel/Medium/Ghost Whisperer sect.

The 2-2 (midseason)
Follows six diverse NYPD rookies as they patrol upper Manhattan. There's Jennifer "White House" Perry (Leelee Sobieski), a former college volleyball star and Marine MP in Iraq; Ray "Lazarus" Harper (Adam Goldberg), the oldest rookie and a former police news reporter; Tonya Sanchez (Judy Marte), from a family with a criminal history with a personal connection inside the force; Ahmad "Kiterunner" Kahn (Tom Reed), an Afghani native who fought his way to freedom; Kenny McClaren (Stark Sands), a fourth-generation police officer with qualms about joining the force; and Jayson Toney (Harold House Moore), a young basketball legend who squandered his opportunity in the NBA. It's all about them adjusting to the force and putting up with their Field Training Officer, Daniel "Yoda" Dean (Terry Kinney, Oz). This one's produced by Robert De Niro. 

My take: I feel like this has been done, no?

New Comedies:

2 Broke Girls
Max (Kat Dennings) works two jobs to get by, one of which is waiting tables during the night shift at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. Caroline (Beth Behrs) is an uptown trust fund princess who's run of bad luck has her waiting tables there too. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers she must cover for, but she's surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style. When Caroline discovers Max's knack for baking amazing cupcakes, she sees a lucrative future for them, but they first need to raise the start-up money via tips at the diner. Hilarity ensues.

My take: I love Kat Denning, and the writing in the trailer is pretty funny. I'm always weary of multi-camera CBS sitcoms, and this premise my get stale, but Big Bang Theory won my heart, so I may give this one a try.

How to be a Gentleman
Andrew Carlson (David Hornsby, Always Sunny) is an etiquette columnist whose devotion to ideals from a more civilized time has lead to a life detached from modern society. Infectiously optimistic, Bert Lansing (Kevin Dillon, Entourage) is a reformed "bad boy" from Andrew's past who inherited a fitness center, but can still be rude, loud and sloppy. When Andrew's editor, Jerry (Dave Foley, News Radio), tells him to put a modern, sexy twist on his column or be fired, he hires Bert as a life coach in the hopes of learning to be less "gentle man" and more "real man." Bromance. Other funny cast members: Mary Lynn Rajskub (24) and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) playing Andrew's sister and her husband.

My take: I'm a big fan of pretty much all of the cast members, but I watched the trailer and found myself really wanting this to be a single-camera format with no laugh track. I guess CBS isn't ready for that.

May 17, 2011

2011 upfronts: abc

Programming Notes:

Click here for the full list of ABC's cancellations and renewals announced last week. ABC will introduce at least 13 new shows during the 2011-12 season! Far more than any of the other networks - I think more than NBC and FOX combined. They're really going for it. Here are a few tidbits from the presentation this morning:
  • Given the number of midseason starts, looks like ABC wants to have new shows premiering at multiple times throughout the year.
  • The 8:00 hour on Tuesday will be turning into a new comedy block with two new shows - Last Man Standing and Man Up - providing an alternative to NCIS, Glee, and Biggest Loser powerhouses airing on the other networks.
  • Cougar Town won't be coming back until spring - in the Dancing with the Stars slot on Tuesdays at 9:00. They still have a full 22-episode order though.
  • Instead, renewed Happy Endings will look for a lead-in ratings boost in the coveted post Modern Family slot on Wednesdays at 9:30.
  • ABC Sundays are being revamped with new shows Once Upon a Time and Pan Am sandwiching Desperate Housewives. I'm looking forward to the possibility of good network TV on Sunday again.
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions after the jump.

New dramas:

Charlie's Angels
This one needs no description. All you really need to know is that it's set in present day Miami, and the Angels are: Abby (Rachael Taylor, Grey's Anatomy) the Park Avenue princess turned world-class thief, Kate (Annie Ilonzeh, General Hospital) the Miami cop who lost her job and her fiance for yet-unexplained reasons, and Eve (Minka Kelly, Friday Night Lights) the street racer with a past. Eve comes into the fold after Angel Gloria - a former army lieutenant and childhood friend of Eve - dies. So, we meet them when they're first starting as a trio. And of course, there's Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire).

My take: The girl power in me wants to like this, but I just don't care about it.

Good Christian Belles (midseason)
A soapy drama set in Dallas, based on the book Good Christian Bitches. Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb, Popular), former high school mean girl, returns home in disgrace after her marriage ends in scandal. Amanda is nothing like the girl she was 20 years ago, and as she and her teenage kids try to adjust to their new lives, the ladies from her past alternate between sympathy and scheming. These ladies include Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) as Carlene Cockburn, Annie Potts (Designing Women) as Gigi Stopper, Jennifer Aspen (Rodney) as Sharon Peacham, Miriam Shor (Damages) as Cricket Caruth-Reilly. Some of the best character names ever?

My take: The producing credits include Sex and the City and Steel Magnolias. And I love the Cheno. But I always have a really hard time watching mean girls in action. It makes me want to curl up under my couch (no issues here).

Missing (midseason-ish)
Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) learns that her son, Michael, disappears while studying abroad. Her CIA agent husband was killed 10 years later, so she smells danger. This is the story of Becca's trip to Europe to track him down. And turns out, she has a secret of her own-- before her husband's death, she was also a lethal CIA agent. The kidnappers realize they’ve picked a fight with the wrong woman, as she goes back to old contacts to find her son.

My take: Like many pilots I'm seeing this season, how is this not a movie? 24 for chicks?

Once Upon a Time
From a couple of Lost executive producers, this one is described as the collision between modern day and fairy tale. Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, House) is a bail bonds collector who’s been on her own since she was abandoned as a baby. But when the son she gave up years ago finds her, everything starts to change. Henry (Jared Gilmore - Bobby from Mad Men!) is now 10 years old and believes Emma comes from an alternate world and is Snow White and Prince Charming’s missing daughter. According to his book of fairy tales, they sent her away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse, which trapped the fairytale world forever, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world. Emma brings Henry back to his New England hometown Storybrooke, but soon realizes the town is more than it seems. Fairytale characters are alive, but they don’t remember who they once were. The epic battle for the future of all worlds is beginning, and Emma will have to take the lead. Some big actors in this one, including Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) as Snow White/Sister Mary Margaret and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold.

My take: I like the idea of this, a really different path for ABC. Hard to see it finding a big audience, but I'm definitely going to check it out.

Pan Am
Set in the 1960s when air travel represents the height of luxury and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are glamorous, the pilots are rock stars and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. There’s Dean (Jonah Lotan, 24) – a cocky new pilot – the first of a new breed not trained in the war. And Maggie (Christina Ricci), rebellious bohemian turned stewardess "to see the world". There are a bunch of other stewardesses and pilots, but I don't have much more information.

My take: I feel like this and NBC's Playboy Club are the networks' attempted answer to Mad Men. The era of Pan Am is interesting to me, and the film style in the trailer is cool, but I'm worried the characters' problems will be a series of cliches.

Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp, Everwood) is new to the Hamptons. She’s met some of her wealthy neighbors, has made a few new friends and seemingly blends into the town. But the truth is that Emily isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. This was actually her old neighborhood, until something bad happened that ruined her family and their reputation. Now Emily is back for revenge. Around town, you'll recognize characters played by Madeleine Stowe (We Were Soldiers), Connor Paolo (Eric from Gossip Girl), Gabriel Mann (Mad Men), among others.

My take: The trailer feels like Gossip Girl or The OC, this feels like another departure for ABC, although I guess it could be a cousin of Desperate Housewives. Not sure I'm feeling it.

The River (midseason)
Famed explorer and TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek) went looking for magic deep in the Amazon and never returned. Six months after he vanished, his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson, Twilight) is finally ready to bury the past when Dr. Cole’s emergency beacon suddenly goes off. At the urging of his mother, Tess (Leslie Hope, 24)), Lincoln reluctantly joins her on a search for his father. To fund the rescue, they agree to let Dr. Cole’s cagey ex-producer, Clark (Paul Blackthorne, Lipstick Jungle), film the mission documentary-style. They are joined by a mixed crew: sexy and resourceful Lena (Eloise Mumford, Lone Star), loyal mechanic Emilio (Daniel Zacapa, Resurrection Blvd) and lethal bodyguard Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann, King Kong).

My take: The special effects in the trailer seem a little silly to me. I think I only have room for a certain amount of mysterious worlds in my TV schedule, and this might be one too many.

Scandal (midseason)
Created and produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice). A former White House media relations consultant, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) defends the public images of our America's elite. Hoping to start a new chapter -- both professionally and personally -- she starts here own firm, but can’t seem to completely cut ties with her past. Slowly it becomes apparent that her staff, who specialize in fixing the lives of other people, can’t quite fix their own. Also starring Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard), Guillermo Diaz (Half-Baked), and others.

My take: Since I reluctantly tend to fall for Shonda's work, and this just happens to be about my day job, I will watch, especially since it's midseason.

New Comedies:

Apartment 23 (midseason)
Midwesterner June (Dreama Walker, The Good Wife) moves to Manhattan only to lose her dream job thanks to a CEO from the Bernie Madoff school of embezzlement. Deep in debt and out on the streets, she gets hired at a coffee shop and finds new roommate Chloe (Krysten Ritter, Gilmore Girls). Chloe swindles June out of all her savings, but she and her snarky friend, James Van Der Beek (for real), soon learn that, just because June’s naïve, she isn’t stupid. June turns the tables on Chloe, who is so shocked about being scammed herself that she decides to pull June into her dysfunctional band of friends.

My Take: Watch the trailer. You will laugh. The Beek plays himself!

Last Man Standing
Tim Allen returns to ABC in this new comedy about the marketing director for an outdoor sporting goods store who drives a pick-up truck. While Mike is king of the hill at work, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by women -- his wife, Vanessa (Nancy Travis), and their three daughters, 22- year-old Kristin, 17-year-old Mandy and 14-year-old Eve. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Vanessa recently returned to work and was quickly promoted (much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers). As a result of Vanessa’s increased work load, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before.

My take: Tim Allen is a master of this format, but the trailer is certainly not anything to write home about. The whole premise seems insulting to both genders. Done with it already.

Man Up
Three modern men try to get in touch with their inner tough guys and redefine what it means to be a “real man." Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s (Jake Johnson) 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig (Christopher Moynihan) still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny (Dan Fogler) clamps down on his anger and asks himself, “What would Tobey Maguire do?,” when his ex, Brenda (Amanda Detmer), starts seeing a guy (Henry Simmons) who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, they are all faced with an opportunity to Man Up and be like their forefathers.

My take: Kind of funny trailer, but my god, do the descriptions of these guys sound boring. I guess that's the point?

Single father George (Jeremy Sisto) moves with his 16-year-old daughter from New York City to a house in the suburbs (after finding a box of condoms on her nightstand). At first Tessa is horrified by the big-haired, fake-boobed mothers and their sugar-free Red Bull-chugging kids, but somehow they start to find a home there. Still sounds terrifying to me. Also starring Cheryl Hines as one of those enhanced moms.

My take: The trailer made me laugh, and the tone reminded me of Modern Family, so I'll check it out. Plus, it's Elton (Clueless), so yeah.

Work It (midseason)
With unemployment an ongoing issue and women now outnumbering men in the workforce, two alpha males realize the only way to beat the current “mancession” and land a job in pharmaceutical sales is to pass themselves off as women. Jesus, I can't even keep typing.

My take: Terrible trailer. Are they really trying to convince us that these people wouldn't be able to tell they're dudes? This would be the second ABC comedy on this list that's insulting both genders. You gave us Modern Family, The Middle, and Cougar Town - why are you trying to dumb down ?

rejects and renewals: cbs

CBS finally leaked some of their cancellations and renewals in advance of their upfront presentation tomorrow. Not quite the bloodbath we saw from other networks.

The Amazing Race
CSI: Miami*
The Big Bang Theory
Two and a Half Men
How I Met Your Mother
Blue Bloods*
NCIS: Los Angeles*
The Mentalist*
Criminal Minds*
The Good Wife*
Hawaii Five-0*
Mike and Molly*
Rules of Engagement
Undercover Boss

*not official, but pretty much a done deal

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior
The Defenders
Shit My Dad Says
Mad Love

I now watch three drama on CBS - am I getting old? The Good Wife, Hawaii 5-0, and Blue Bloods were on my schedule this year. The Good Wife had a great season and continues to be one of my favorite shows. The other two are more simple pleasures, but still fun. Hawaii 5-0 is just pretty to look at - both the boys and the islands. Blue Bloods has good heart and some great performances, especially by Tom Selleck and Donnie Walberg.

The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother are my only other CBS shows. The first was awesome this season - Mayim Bialik has been a genius addition. Her character has helped develop the female side of the cast, allowing the show to avoid falling down a path of repetition. Unfortunately, HIMYM doesn't earn the same points from me this season. I still enjoy spending time with the characters every week, but Ted is just becoming painful to tolerate. And Jennifer Morrison's guest stint fell flat. Please just bring on the mother.

Oh, and I didn't watch any of the canceled shows, but none feel like a huge a surprise.

May 16, 2011

2011 upfronts: fox

Programming Notes:

For the full list of FOX's renewals and cancellations, click here. The network introduced four new comedies, three dramas, and one unscripted series for the 2011-12 season. At first glance, it looks like a conservative schedule for FOX - probably given the flood of cancellations last week. Other interesting notes:
  • America's Most Wanted was cancelled after 23 (!) seasons and converted to a series of specials.
  • House was moved to 9:00 to follow Stephen Spielberg's new dinosaur show Terra Nova.
  • Simon Cowell's new music competition show The X Factor will take a 1.5 hour slot on Wednesday and an hour slot on Thursday in the fall (American Idol will be there in the spring).
  • The Finder, a back door pilot that you may have seen disguised as a Bones episode a few weeks ago, will take over Bones' timeslot in the spring to accommodate for Emily Deschanel's pregnancy.
  • A new Kiefer Sutherland show called Touch is planned for a spring debut, but the pilot hasn't been shot yet, so we'll keep an eye on that one.
  • Steven Tyler is signed on for Idol next year, and FOX is "hopeful" that Jennifer Lopez will be back as well.
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions below.

New Dramas:

Terra Nova
Executive producer Steven Spielberg is behind this "family adventure" where a family travels back in time to prehistoric Earth as part of an experiment to save the human race. The family is from the year 2149 when plants and animal life are in danger of distinction. Scientists find a way to send people back in time to rebuild civilization in the past. The Shannon family joins the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in this old/new land. Of course, Terra Nova is not all peanuts and roses. Scary dinosaurs and splinter colonies and internal strife. Oh my. You'll recognize Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) playing dad, Shelley Conn plays mom/trauma surgeon, and they have three kids. In an interesting twist, mom's training as a surgeon secured them a spot in the pilgrimage, but a secret about the youngest daughter threatens their position in Terra Nova.

My take: The trailer definitely views like a Spielberg - the special effects are pretty amazing. It feels like some combination of Jurassic Park, Lost, and V. I give credit to FOX for finally putting this on the air. It's definitely a bargain, but I'm guessing it will find an audience.

Alcatraz (midseason)
A new drama thriller from executive producer J.J. Abrams. San Francisco Police Department detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones, Sons of Anarchy) takes on a homicide case and a fingerprint leads her to Jack Sylvane, a former Alcatraz inmate who died decades ago. Madsen is particularly interested in the case because both her grandfather and surrogate uncle were guards at the prison. She works the case with the help of Alcatraz expert and comic book enthusiast, Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto (Jorge Garcia of Lost!) and discovers that Sylvane is not only alive and still killing people, but hasn't aged at all! Through their investigation, it quickly becomes clear that Sylvane won't be the last prisoner to reappear from Alcatraz opening up a whole creepy world of possibilities.

My take: Could be great, could be terrible. Good to see another departure from the stale cop drama, and the historic mythology is potentially really cool. But success really depends on the quality of the writing and the performance of the main character, which I can't really judge from the trailer.

The Finder (midseason)
A one-hour procedural (case-of-the-week) about Iraq war veteran Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults, October Road), who gained a reputation for tracking down insurgents, deserters and IEDs. After an unfortunate encounter with an IED, he was left with brain damage that seemed to give him an even stronger gift for finding people and things. He starts taking on cases that regular law enforcement can't crack. He works in Key West, with the beautiful bartender Ike Latulippe (Saffron Burrows, Circle of Friends), a woman with a mysterious past and many hidden skills. She tends bar at The Ends of the Earth, which also serves as a makeshift office and home base for Walter. His other cohort is Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan), once an obese lawyer who, after the deaths of his wife and children, completely reinvented himself into a gentle giant, philosopher and Walter's legal advisor.

My take: FOX inserted an mini-episode of The Finder into a recent episode of Bones. I found Stults and Duncan entertaining, but Burrows' character was awkward and over-acted. The show has potential, and I'll probably watch for a bit since I love Key West, but I don't expect to fall in love with it.

TOUCH (in development for midseason)
How's this for a description? "A preternatural drama in which science and spirituality intersect with the hopeful premise that we are all interconnected, tied in invisible ways to those whose lives we are destined to alter and impact." Yikes. Basically, Kiefer Sutherland and a band misfits - a traumatized firefighter, an Iraqi teenager, a karaoke singer, a British business man - unknowing affect each other in mysterious ways. It all comes together with Sutherland's autistic son who senses a pattern to all of it, which becomes his way of communicating with his father to figure out the meaning of all of it.

My take: Rename it Sutherland's Heroes FlashForward.

New Comedies:

New Girl
A single-camera comedy about Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), an offbeat girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys. Described "goofy, positive, vulnerable and honest to a fault" (basically every character Zooey has ever played), Jess is not used to hanging with the boys – especially at home. The three roommates, smart, sarcastic bartender Nick (Jake Johnson, No Strings Attached), social climbing womanizer, and personal trainer Coach (Damon Wayans Jr. - unless Happy Endings isn't renewed). Rounding out this group is Jess' childhood best friend, Cece (Hannah Simone, Beautiful People), a deadpan, somewhat cynical model. And there's your dysfunctional family.

My take: This show will rely a lot on the charm of Zooey and whether that will sustain or become annoying. If only to reminisce about living with my two favorite boy roommates (mojoreid!), I will watch.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Annie (Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl) and Nikki (Katie Finneran, Wonderfalls) are former high school outcasts. Annie, who was raised in an ultra-strict, über-religious household, pretty much allows her daughter to do whatever she wants. Nikki, once an unpopular, overweight social pariah, has reinvented herself as a pretty Southern belle whose top priority is providing her daughter with the childhood she never had. They have created two mean girls just like the ones who tortured them years ago. The moms quickly realize that they must, for the first time, dole out some real punishment and fix what is broken.

My take: Ugh. The trailer is as bad as the working title. This format is just stale.

Allen Gregory
A new animated comedy series that tells the story of one of the most pretentious 7-year-old Allen Gregory de Longpre (Jonah Hill). Allen Gregory considers himself intelligent, sophisticated, worldly, artistic and romantic – characteristics he inherited from his doting father, Richard (French Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun). The pair share a bond that is sometimes annoyingly interrupted by Richard's life partner, Jeremy (Nat Faxon, The Cleveland Show), for whom Allen Gregory has minimal respect. They live together, along with Julie (Joy Osmanski, Grey's Anatomy), Allen Gregory's adopted Cambodian sister. Allen Gregory's about to embark on his greatest challenge yet: leaving the safety of his father's homeschooling and attending elementary school with children his own age. This is the story of his journey. Other notable voices: Leslie Mann and Will Forte.

My take: I'm not a big fan of animated series, but I do love Jonah Hill and this trailer cracked me up. This may have to be my first animated experience since Daria.

Napoleon Dynamite (midseason)
An animated series based on the film, continuing adventures of an awesome awkward teenager and his quirky family and friends as they struggle to navigate small-town life in rural Idaho. The original cast from the film – Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin, Jon Gries and Diedrich Bader – will voice their characters in the series, and many new characters will be added along the way.

My take: I love the idea of this cast getting back together. Realistically, I probably won't watch that often, but for big fans of the movie, this is pretty awesome.

New Reality:

The X-Factor
Simon Cowell's British import is finally here. We finally got to see why Simon looked so bored during his last two seasons of Idol. The format is what you expect - a nationwide tour of tryouts, a mentoring round (like The Voice), followed voting rounds with judges' input. The unique points - age range is 12 years old or over – and both solo artists and vocal groups are eligible. Judges are Cowell, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Cheryl Cole and Paula Abdul. Prize is $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music. Hosts are Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones.

My take: I'll feel left out if I don't watch, but it will require some effort to carve out time for a singing competition during the busy fall TV schedule.