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.

2011 upfronts: nbc

Programming Notes:

You can see the full list of renewals and cancellations here. NBC has ordered six new pilots for the fall 2011-12 schedule - three dramas and three comedies - and another six are planned for midseason. Other interesting notes:
  • NBC will start a one-hour comedy block on Wednesdays
  • Thursday will go back to two hours of comedy followed by an hour drama
  • 30 Rock will be held until midseason to work around Tina Fey's bun in the oven
  • This will be Chuck's fifth and final season - 13 episode order with the possibility of more
  • A primetime news magazine show with Brian Williams is in the works
  • Crazy ratings hit The Voice will be back midseason (they're coming for you Idol)
  • Holiday special The Sing Off will adapted into a weekly competition series for the fall
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:

You guess it, this one is inspired by the Grimm's Fairy Tales. Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli, who's had guest spots in everything) is a homicide detective whose aunt informs him that his family are descendants of an elite group of hunters, also known as “Grimms,” who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world. Still with me? Nick must now shoulder the responsibility of his ancestors -- and contend with a larger-than-life mythology of the Brothers Grimm. You'll recognize some folks: Also starring: Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights), Bitsie Tulloch (Quarterlife), Silas Weir Mitchell (Prison Break), Reggie Lee (Persons Unknown) and Sasha Roiz (Caprica).

My take: You know I love a unique premise, but the dialog in the trailer felt like a bad CW show. Even so, I'll check it out. I'm always a sucker for pedestrian, mythical sci-fi, and the special effects look pretty cool.

Prime Suspect
Another hugely popular British series adapted for us Americans. You probably know this as the detective series made famous by Helen Mirren. Maria Bello is filling those intimidating shoes. I feel kind of blahh about that. She plays homicide detective Jane Timoney - an outsider who has just transferred to a new NYC precinct dominated by an impenetrable boys' club. Timoney has her own vices too -- with a questionable past -- and she tends to be forceful, rude and reckless. You'll recognize a bunch of faces in this one, including Aidan Quinn (always Benny to me), Brian O'Byrne (Flash Forward, Brotherhood), Kirk Acevedo, and Peter Gerety (Blue Bloods, Mercy).

My take: Something tells me this isn't really my thing, but Peter Berg (FNL creator) is directing the pilot, so I'll at least tune in for that.

The Playboy Club
Executive producer Brian Grazer (FNL, 24, Parenthood, etc) brings this new drama set in the early ‘60s at the legendary Playboy Club in Chicago. Inside the seductive world of the bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, the clientele rubs shoulders with the decade's biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian, CSI: Miami) is one of the city's top attorneys and the ultimate playboy. With mysterious ties to the mob, Nick comes to the aid of Maureen (Amber Heard, Zombieland), the innocent new bunny who accidentally kills the leader of the Bianchi crime family. Dating Nick is Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti, Eli Stone), an established star at the club who knows her days as a bunny are numbered and finds herself continually at odds with Billy (David Krumholtz, 10 Things I Hate About You), the club's general manager.

My take: Playboys and mobsters? Pretty sure I will love this. The film style looks pretty, but it also feels a little bit like Cibrian is doing a Don Draper impression.

Awake (midseason)
When Detective Michael Britten (Jason Issacs or Lucius Malfoy) regains consciousness following his family's car accident, he is told that his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, “Terriers”) perished but that his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, “Saving Grace”), has survived. As he tries to put the pieces of his life back together, he awakens again in a parallel reality in which his wife is very much alive -- but his son Rex died in the accident. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive at one time, he begins living in parallel worlds -- in one moment, Michael and his wife debate about having another child to replace their son, while in the other reality, he is attracted to his son's tennis coach (yipes). Of course, he also returns to crime-solving with the help of two different partners -- Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris, The Practice) and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, That '70s Show). Also starring: Cherry Jones (24) and BD Wong (Law & Order: SVU) as therapists in each respective world.

My take: I implore you to watch the trailer (link above). I can't tell if I love it or hate it. Or don't understand it. WTF? The cast is really strong, at least I know that.

Smash (midseason)
A musical drama (still with me?) about the creation of a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe -- written by the successful songwriting duo of Tom (Christian Borle, Legally Blonde: The Musical) and Julia (Debra Messing, Will & Grace). Julia recently began the process of adopting a child with her husband, but her focus is torn when she has the opportunity to write another Broadway hit. A rivalry forms for the lead role between a youthful, inexperienced Midwestern beauty (American Idol Katharine McPhee) and a stage veteran (Megan Hilty, 9 to 5: The Musical) looking for her big break. A tenacious producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) discovers the "Marilyn" project and jumps on board with a brilliant director (Jack Davenport, Pirates of the Caribbean).

My take: I like that NBC is taking a chance on something different here. There could be an audience for a show like this, but probably a small one, which I'm not sure they're after. Also, I can't help it, I'm not wild about Debra Messing.

The Firm (midseason)
Based on John Grisham creation, “The Firm” continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events of the film and novel. As a young associate, McDeere brought down the prestigious Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, which operated as a front for the Chicago mob -- and his life was never the same. After a difficult decade, which included a stay in the Federal Witness Protection program, Mitch and his family now emerge from isolation to reclaim their lives and their future -- only to find that past dangers are still lurking and new threats are everywhere.

My take: Without knowing the cast members or seeing a trailer, it's hard to judge. I feel like it belongs on CBS though.

New Comedies:

Up All Night
From producers Emily Spivey (Parks and Recreation, SNL) and Lorne Michaels, this is a comedy about balancing a career, marriage and a new baby. Christina Applegate stars as Reagan, a successful public relations executive, and Will Arnett (Arrested Development) plays her supportive, stay-at-home husband. The two have just become parents – a surprise that has set their lives on a new path as responsible adults. Maya Rudolph (SNL) stars as Reagan's outlandish boss and best friend, whose whirlwind social escapades serve as constant reminders of Reagan's former carefree life. James Pumphrey (High Road) plays Brian, Reagan's socially awkward hipster assistant.

My take: It's a different camera style for an NBC comedy. It's a really good cast that made me laugh out loud a few times during the trailer, so I'll check it out.

Whitney (Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Lately) and Alex (Chris D'Elia, Glory Daze), are a happily unmarried couple. However, after attending yet another one of their friends' weddings, Whitney realizes that she and Alex are close to relationship boredom. (ugh, this is painful) Whitney consults her close circle of opinionated girlfriends -- including Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones, The Other Guys) and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn, The Starter Wife) -- and then snaps into action. A few awkward sexy costumes and one botched seductive evening later, the couple ends up in the emergency room. Even so, Whitney and Alex realize that while their relationship might not be perfect on paper, they really do love each other -- and that works for them.

My take: Is this a TV show or a bad romcom? The laugh track during the trailer annoyed the crap out of me.

Free Agents
Another UK import, this one is a workplace/romantic comedy about two public relations executives on the rebound. Alex (Hank Azaria) is newly divorced and can barely keep himself together while his co-worker Helen (Kathryn Hahn, Hung) thinks she has it together but is obsessed with her deceased fiancé and actually is falling apart. They drunkenly sleep together, and in the resulting sober confusion, Helen decides that they should only be friends. Alex finally agrees to start dating again, she gets jealous, and he gets cold feet, so they end up back where they started -- in a weird, awkward relationship.

My take: Another really strong cast, but I'm having visions of myself fast-forwarding through the awkwardness.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (midseason)
Inspired by the best-selling book by Chelsea Handler, this one follows the exploits of twentysomething bartender Chelsea (Laura Prepon, That '70s Show) who is determined to live life to the fullest and make no apologies. Her friends are along for the ride but they all know it is Chelsea's way or the highway. She's surrounded by friends and co-workers: Mark (Jo Koy, Chelsea Lately) a charming bartender whose wit makes him the perfect foil for Chelsea, Shoniqua (Angel Laketa Moore, ER) a waitress who looks out for Chelsea's best interests, and close friend and fellow bartender Todd (Mark Povinelli, Water for Elephants) whose wry sense of humor that keeps her in check. Also starring: Natalie Morales (Parks and Recreation) as Ivory, Chelsea's feisty best friend as well as Handler herself, who plays Chelsea's sister Sloan, a happily married new mom who has little in common with her sister.

My take: I've always found Laura Prepon charming, but I'm unsure of her ability to deliver Handler's lines. And again, lose the laugh-track. It makes the show feel like a series on one-liners.

Best Friends Forever (midseason)
Another comedy about unhappy 20-something friends. When Jessica's (Jessica St. Clair, In the Motherhood) husband files for divorce, she flies across the country to move back in with her best friend, Lennon (Lennon Parham, Accidentally on Purpose). But Lennon's boyfriend, Joe (Adam Pally -- unless Happy Endings doesn't get renewed), has just moved into the apartment and turned Jessica's old room into his home office. Three's a crowd as Lennon struggles to find balance between her previous life with Jessica and her new life with Joe, and Jessica's reentry to single life is complicated by the unresolved feelings from an old friend, Rav (Stephen Schneider, The Funniest Movie Ever…Just Kidding).

My take: The only thing I liked about the trailer was Adam Pally, who I'm guessing (hoping) will be staying on Happy Endings.

Bent (midseason)
A romantic comedy about two people who find themselves attracted to the qualities that typically repel them. On the surface, Alex (Amanda Peet, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") and Pete (David Walton, "Perfect Couples") could not be more different. The recently divorced Alex is a tough lawyer raising her eight-year-old daughter as a single mom. She hires Pete, a recovering gambling addict and womanizer, as the contractor to re-do her kitchen. The remodeling job is Pete's last chance to prove that he is no longer a screw-up -- but he doesn't know what's about to hit him when he encounters the force of nature that is Alex -- nor does she realize that she's met her match in Pete, a man unafraid to call out her flaws.

My take: Who, in fact, is the boss?

May 15, 2011

2011 upfronts schedule

** Look for CBS's renewals and cancellations blog later this week - they haven't leaked all of the dirty details yet.

As I explained, upfronts are the opportunity for networks to present their fall schedules to the advertisers. It's kind of an outdated practice, but it's an opportunity for us to get a glimpse of the new pilots that have been picked up for next year.

Here's the schedule for the week. Check back here for some quick descriptions and reactions to the new show announcements.

Monday: NBC and FOX

Tuesday: ABC

Wednesday: CBS and TNT/TBS

Thursday: CW

May 14, 2011

rejects and renewals: fox

FOX has been the reigning champion of the coveted 18-49 age group for many years now, due almost exclusively to the American Idol ratings beast. This week, the network got some attention for canceling almost all of the new 2010-11 programming - everyone expected them to keep at least one given the network's history. Let's take a look at the list...

American Dad
American Idol

Bob's Burgers

The Cleveland Show

Family Guy


Raising Hope
The Simpsons

Breaking In
The Chicago Code

The Good Guys

Human Target

Lie to Me

Running Wilde

Traffic Light

The only two newbies to survive this year are Bob's Burgers and Raising Hope. Never seen the former, but enjoyed Raising Hope this season. I's not winning any awards, but Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt are just so fun to watch, and the show really has a charming family heart surprisingly enough.

As for the graveyard, every other new show, plus some low-rating carryovers like Lie to Me and Human Target, were axed. The comedies pretty much failed across the board - I tried to watch both Running Wilde and Traffic Light this year hoping to like them given some great actors in the lead roles, but no dice. They just didn't click. Almost everyone expected FOX to keep at least one drama, probably Chicago Code, a spring starter which got some good attention from critics. I did enjoy Chicago Code as sort of a unique take on the cop drama, so I wouldn't mind a Southland-style pickup from a network like TNT, but I'm guessing that won't happen since it's a FOX-produced show.

The drama backbone at FOX is still anchored by House and Bones, both of which are veterans at this point. They don't pull the same high ratings these days, but are still worth FOX keeping around. For me, House struggled at bit to keep my attention this year. I wouldn't cry if next season is its last. On the other hand, I would argue that Bones has some of the strongest writing yet these days. Quick word on Fringe, which has stayed relatively steady on Friday nights and earns incredible critical acclaim for a cult-like show. I'm behind, but I'm catching up. Look for a blog about this season coming up soon.

I guess that brings us to FOX's music corner: Glee and American Idol. I still consider myself a fan of Glee, but that was a painful existence at times this year. Musically, it's always entertaining and those kids give some great acting performances - namely Kurt, Brittany, and Santana this year - but the adult storylines are boring and sometimes the show just takes on too much. I'll write a more comprehensive blog after the season finale, but it's safe to say FOX's little buzz show isn't going anywhere for a while.

Confession: I didn't watch American Idol this year. You're shocked and appalled. Though it may appear that I've been living in a hole for the past six months, I promise I'm still the same dorky TV fan. I just didn't have the time to devote to AI this year. I will say that I'm not at all opposed to the new judges panel. In fact, I'm glad the show has seen some success post-shakeup. Maybe next year.

rejects and renewals: abc

Like NBC, ABC has been more of a comedy network for me this year. The network didn't have as much success with new shows as previous seasons, but the list of returning programming is still pretty solid. Here we go...

Dancing with the Stars
Desperate Housewives
Cougar Town
Body of Proof
The Bachelor
The Bachelorette
Grey's Anatomy
Happy Endings
The Middle
Modern Family
Private Practice

Better With You
Brothers and Sisters
Detroit 1-8-7
Mr. Sunshine
No Ordinary Family
Off the Map

ABC boasts more survivors this year than NBC. The only show I'm sort of sorry to see go is Off the Map. It was quite literally Grey's Anatomy in the jungle, but I just really liked having Matt Saracen (ok fine, Zach Gilford) on my screen. The idea of Matthew Perry and Allison Janey in a comedy together was dreamy, but Mr. Sunshine just didn't come together. It was awkward and a little painful to watch at times. Long time Brothers and Sisters fans must be bummed that the show didn't get a proper send off.

As for returning comedies, Modern Family, The Middle, and Cougar Town stayed near the top of my list this year. They're just always fun and easy to watch. Happy Endings was a mid-season starter that grew on me this spring. Seemed like every network tried the 6-friend-sitcom format this season -- Better With You, Traffic Light, Perfect Couples -- and I was ready to reject Happy Endings straight away. But I've laughed out loud often enough - especially in the most recent episodes - that I'm glad this one survived.

This might be the first year that I've only watched one drama on ABC. I'm not sure how or when, but I just stopped watching Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. For Grey's, I just got a little bored but always meant to go back to it. And eventually I realized that Private Practice is shamelessly sad. All the time. And who needs that? So, that leaves Castle. I'm not the hugest fan of the will-they-won't-they story, but Nathan Fillion will always have a place in my DVR.

I feel like ABC can still find it's Lost Part 2. One great breakout, unique drama next year would help bring new energy to the network. We'll see what pilots come to fruition next week!

May 13, 2011

rejects and renewals: nbc

Upfronts start next week - that's when each of the networks present their fall schedules for the advertisers. Over the last couple of days, we started to hear news about which shows will return and which won't be back next year. Overall, there seemed to be a whole lot of cancellations across the board.

I'll go through each of the networks' existing shows before we tackle the new shows next week. Here's the body count at NBC:

30 Rock
The Biggest Loser
Harry's Law
Law & Order: SVU
The Office
Parks & Recreation
The Voice

The Cape
The Event
Friday Night Lights
Law & Order: Los Angeles
Perfect Couples
The Paul Riser Show

I'm not shedding too many tears for NBC cancellations this year, except of course for my beloved Friday Night Lights (I'm currently milking season 5 for all it's worth - not ready to say goodbye. At. All.)

As for the remaining shows, I'm really happy the Thursday comedy block will stay intact. Parks & Recreation turned out to be my favorite comedy this year. If you watched the first season and didn't love it, I really encourage you to take a second look. With the addition of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe and the writers really hitting their stride developing Leslie, Tom Haverford, Ron Swanson, etc. some of the recent episodes have been perfection. Community's second season was amazing too. Both of them have worked perfectly with 30 Rock and The Office.

On the drama side, I don't watch much on NBC anymore. I dropped Law & Order: SVU - just getting too repetitive and not enough time in the day. Sadly, I also dropped Chuck this year. I plan to catch up this summer, but the plots were starting to feel repetitive early on, and it just didn't seem as urgent to watch every week. The new one that still has my attention is Parenthood. It's not perfect, but damn that show for making me cry almost every week. Some great performances, especially among the young actors on the show.

So, that's NBC - the network that's struggling most these days with the lowest ratings. With some new leaders at the helm going into next season, let's hope they bring some much needed resuscitation to the peacock.