Archive | September, 2014

Fall 2014 Review: Scorpion

26 Sep


My friend Victor a few years back coined the term “nerdface,” referring to several modern television shows and movies, but primarily to the far and away most successful and notable example of the phenmoenon, The Big Bang Theory. Nerdface is a superfacial showcasing of nerdom – showing nerds as stereotypical, extreme archetypes who are brilliant book-learners but totally non-functional socially. They love Star Trek, they can’t talk to women, and they generally simply can’t interact with regular non-nerd people in any way. Are there people who legitimately have trouble with social intereaction for any number of reasons? For sure. But these nerdface examples aren’t nuanced, complex, character portraits. They are instead reductive displays of character tropes everyone knows and instantly recognizes played for broad laughs. I could, and should, write an entry on how perplexing and frustrating it is that The Big Bang Theory is far and away the most popular comedy on TV, and hopefully someday I will, but this is certainly one of the reasons.

Scorpion brings nerdface to the police procedural genre. Scorpion is essentially some mash up of The Big Bang Theory and The A-Team (or the far less well-known Breakout Kings).  Scorbian features nerds who form a superteam solving especially difficult cases each week using a combination of the distinct super skills that each of them possesses (Yes, neither comparison is perfect – The A-Team is not affiliated with the government and Breakout Kings are former criminals, but work with me here). We see the four primary geniuses working together early in the episode, trying to start a profitabile company on their own, but their personal issues are holding them back in spite of their brilliance. There’s Walter, who’s a super genius and functions as the group’s leader and the closest they have to someone who can deal with the outside world. There’s Toby, a brilliant behaviorist who has an amazing ability to read people. There’s Sylvester, who is the nerdiest of the nerds and whose area of specialty is statistics. Rounding out the team is the one female member, Happy, an expert mechanical engineer. The four are recruited by federal agent Gallo in the premiere to solve a crisis, after which he recruits them full time, an outcome which Walter claims to have anticipated from the outset. Gallo continues to play the role of their government handler. The last member of the cast is Paige, an ordinary waitress whose child Walter recognizes as a prodigy. Walter recruits her to be their normie, helping these nerds interact socially with regular folk, while also helping her raise her genius son.

This is also a matter for a seperate post, but I generally ascribe responsibility for gender and racial diversity to networks rather than individual shows; TV networks should be responsible for fielding more diverse shows, but individual shows shouldn’t always be responsible for being more diverse, depending, of course, on the circumstances and context of the individual show. That said it’s disappointing and not particularly surprising that the four nerds are three male to one female, and all the characters but one are white. That’s certainly not a big enough factor that I would choose to watch or not watch a show becuase of, but just another example of what’s par for the course on television, and especially network television.

Every week there will be a new crisis and every week the team of super nerds will be there to solve it. Intrinsically I understand the appeal of the super team, but the nerdface in particular rubs me the wrong besides the show just having absolutely nothing else which would make it stick out from the pack of CBS procedurals.

Will I watch it again? No. I don’t hate procedurals as a rule; while I don’t watch any outside of the original Law & Order (my love of that show is a topic for a post in itself) with any regularity, in general, the genre has a fairly high floor and low ceiling. Of CBS’s newbies this season though, I’d take NCIS: New Orleans over Scorpion.

Fall 2014 Review: NCIS: New Orleans

24 Sep

NCIS: New Orleans

Most shows are fairly easy to peg both quality and content wise after watching the previews and reading even just a small amount of information about the cast, creators, and premise. Sometimes they’re a little different than you think, sometimes they’re a little better or worse than what you’d guess, but mostly within a certain range of initial expectations. The really noteworthy exceptions are those that differ greatly. There’s also a place, though, for shows that don’t differ even in the slightest – that are exactly, on the nose, what you’d imagine: the most predictable shows on TV. No show this season is more predictable than NCIS: New Orleans.

Of course, a large part of the reason NCIS: New Orleans is so predictable is that it’s the third edition of an extremely popular franchise whose formula is well-established. While I still find it hard to believe there are this many naval-related murders each year, the NCIS crew is a likeable team which takes on and solves a new one every week. The only difference in this edition is a little cajun flair.

Television veteran Scott Bakula heads this team of NCIS special agents. He’s a veteran investigator respected both by his underlings and the community at large and he leads in a calm and casual but authoratative and confident fashion. He’s similar to Mark Harmon’s Leroy Gibbs, who is, in the show’s backstory, reputed to be a long time friend of Bakula’s Dwayne Cassius “King” Pride. Bakula’s charges are Christopher, a native Alabaman, and Merri, a transfer from the midwest, whose unfamiliarity with Louisiana gives the show a chance for some exposition on the nature of working in New Orleans and what makes it such a special place. Rounding out the cast is another longtime veteran of the small screen, CCH Pounder as medical examiner Dr. Loretta Wade.

The first case of the series is naturally one with a personal connection to King (Pride? I’m not sure what he goes by most often yet – I’ll just use Bakula from now on). A member of the navy who Baukla had mentored personally, taking him in from the wrong side of the tracks and getting to see him turn his life around, ended up dead. While the initially investigation pointed in the direction of the victim turning away from his naval training and back to his unsavory gang roots, Bakula has trouble believing it and insists on digging deeper.

The three agents work the case, throwing in little tidbits about the city they live and work in here and there as they go – where Merri should live, and what the neighborhood she chooses will say about her is discussed along with native food and drink. Eventually, they figure out and nail the culprit. They also find a tenuous connection between the murderer and a possibly corrupct city councilman played by white-collar actor extraordinaire Steven Weber, who looks like he might be the big bad in a series that I didn’t think had big bads.

Bakula knows what he’s doing, and CBS continues to make smart calls in putting TV veterans atop their procedural spin-offs. Their goal isn’t to make breakthroughs or anything brand new or interesting, they merely want a level of competence and professional acting which cast members like Bakula will deliver day in and day out. There’s nothing special about NCIS: New Orleans. It’s not a top notch procedural, nor is it really a bad one; it just is. Really, if you have even the vaguest familiarity with the franchise, you really didn’t need to read this review to learn anything about the show. It’s a mediocre procedural that will surely satisfy those who like that sort of thing, and be of just about no interest to most others.

Will I watch it again? No. I love Scott Bakula, but not nearly enough to watch NCIS. That said, there are worse shows for my dad to be watching every week.

Fall 2014 Review: The Mysteries of Laura

19 Sep

The Mysteries of Laura

The Mysteries of Laura stars TV superstar Debra Messing as a crackerjack homicide detective who also has to take care of two unruly young children on her own. Her soon to be ex-husaband is a fellow cop, and the twist of the pliot is that he gets promoted to be her superior, leading to an awkward relationship at work with her ex, while she deals with the kids by herself at home. Of course, one would think the police department would want to avoid this situation, but we’ll put that aside for the moment.

What exactly are the tiular Mysteries of Laura? That’s a good question. Are the mysteries the individual murders cases she’ll be forced to solve each week? Is the mystery how she handles the stress of a high-pressure job catching deadly criminals, endangering herself in the process, while simultaneously raising two kids? Is the mystery whether The Mysteries of Laura is supposed to funny or serious? Is it who thought The Mysteries of Laura was a show that would have any sort of natural audience?

The Mysteries of Laura attempts to both be funny and dramatic over the course of an hour, and fails at both attempts. If I had to guess, the closest analogues to what The Mysteries of Laura is going for are the hour long comedic procedurals Monk and Psych, both on USA. The Mysteries of Laura would have probably have done better on that network, where,  that’s the type of programming they specialize in and they know how to take on that format successfully.

The Mysteries of Laura is just a mess all over. The first episode features the murder of a wealthy man, which Laura and her fellow detectives, but mostly Laura, must solve. The tone is goofy, and she rattles off jokes and shows off her skills in a jokey manner. She’s unprofessional by serious procedural standards, but that’s okay, because she’s silly and competent and everyone loves her except for the one uptight play-by-the-rules female detective who doesn’t. Again, think of her as the Monk or Shawn from Psych, the skeptic-who-is-always-right-in-the-end and overrules her boss every episode. Those shows though fit this format well because they’re often funny, and when not laugh-out-loud funny, enjoyable to watch – perfect for putting on while lying down before bed or just waking up when you don’t want to think too hard. Mysteries of Laura isn’t amusing or fun to watch.

The first episode, crazily enough, ends up with the revelation that her captain and mentor was the killer (played by Keith Mars himself, Enrico Colantoni). The tone changes oddly here at the episode’s end, implying that we’re supposed to feel some sort of serious, climactic, dramatic moment of pain and shock for Laura, but of course there’s none of this, not only because it belies the tone of the rest of the episode, but because it’s the first episode of the show and we barely know who any of the characters let alone care about them.

It’s just a strange show that aside from just generally not being very good, clearly doesn’t know what it wants to be. Waffling rarely works in TV. It’s possible to span multiple categories and genres (think Louie) but its a hell of a lot harder to do and a show of ambition as modest as The Mysteries of Laura should certainly not be shooting above its pay grade.

Will I watch it again? No. It succeeded at none of its aims. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t particularly enjoyable, and it didn’t really work as a procedural, either, it wasn’t tense or exciting, or suspenseful.

Fall 2014 Review: Red Band Society

17 Sep

Red Band Society pilot

Red Band Society is the story of a bunch of teens who live in the pediatric ward of an Los Angeles hospital, struggling with all the same hopes, fears, emotions, and bodily changes of normal teenagers, while constantly having to deal with the spectre of sickness and death.  There’s Leo, the popular kid who runs the ward, and has cancer, Dash, his running buddy, and Emma, his anorexic sometimes love interest. The two new kids are stuck up mean girl cheerleader Kara and good guy orphan Jordi who shows up hoping to get his cancerous leg cut off by a top doctor. These people, we’re informed, have little in common and would not have said as much as “hello” to each out in the regular world, but in the pediatric ward, they’re stuck with who they’ve got, and they simply learn to make due. The adults who watch over them are nurse Jackson played by Octavia Spencer, and Dr. McAndrew.

The show isn’t good. Instead of transcending cliché, it walks right into it. In trying to be different – and I’ll grant there’s not a show I can think of about a pediatric ward, which I should credit it for, since new subject matter is rare enough in network dramas –  Red Band Society instead feels the same. Everything about the show felt paint-by-numbers, rather than original; the show still felt like it was going through the motions. The writing wasn’t particular sharp, and for a show featuring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in top billing, she basically gets nothing to do in the first episode. The show felt Lifetime movie inspirational; it hit the notes that everyone knows will elicit emotion, of which sick kids are at the top of the list, without ever even attempting to being to earn it through story, build up, and plain old good writing. Obviously it’s very difficult to earn emotion in a first episode, but it’s certainly possible to work towards it.

As I spent the lash paragraph discussing, the show is mediocre, largely unremarkable, and will be easily forgotten. Here’s the one thing we need to talk about though. The narration. The show is narrated by a 12ish year old boy in the pediatric ward who is in a coma.  The boy tells us, the audience, all about the ward, and all of its residents within. He’s apparently omniscient while in the coma. He sees everyone in the hospital, and reports on their doings. What are the limits of his vision? It’s unclear. Can he see outside the hospital, throughout the entire hospital, or only within the ward? Is it assumed that everyone on the ward comes and talks to him in private as a sounding board? Is he a reliable narrator?

Not only this, but two of the characters meet with the narrator while they’re unconscious and he gives them messages. Apparently, there’s some magical nether world where people in comas can interact with those otherwise living people who are just temporarily below the surface of consciousness. The kid in the coma has the cheerleader give his dad a message about how the accident the put in him a coma wasn’t his dad’s fault fault and the kid commands her to bring him pizza, which he believes might break him out of the coma. We later find out that one of the other boys got an inspirational message from coma kid as well, making it seem unlikely that the kids are hallucinating and more likely that coma kid is actually transmitting messages. I’m going to take this bizarre coma kid narrator as the one memorable aspect of this show over anything else.

Will I watch it again? No. It wasn’t very good. They wanted us to feel feelings, but the feelings are cheap, manipulative and the show is poorly writter. There’s nothing to see here.

Fall Previews and Predictions: NBC

15 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

NBC ties ABC with a high of six new shows, and outside of the early debut of The Mysteries of Laura, pushes more of its shows slightly later in the fall than the other major networks. There are three comedies and three dramas. A comedy from Happy Endings creator David Caspe, a dramedy starring Debra Messing, a Keither Heigl political thriller, a Kate Walsh legal comedy, a lesser known DC comics property, and a romantic comedy. To the shows we go.

The Mysteries of Laura – 9/17

The Mysteries of Laura

TV vet Debra Messing plays a cop who must apprehend perps while at the same time dealing with two unruly children as a single mom. I’m not sure if the mysteries refer to each case, or to how Messing manages to be such an expert detective while taking care of her kids. It smells like a dramady, light-hearted humor about how Messing does it all while also dealing with serious whodunnits that will be solved on a weekly basis.

Predictoin: 12- I may be underestimating the power of Messing who seems to be on TV just about every year, but it looks bad (which of course is not enough in and of itself to get a show cancelled usually) and I’m just not sure how it fits. It almost feels like it’d have been better sold as a USA show.

Bad Judge – 10/2

Bad Judge


Prviate Practice’s Kate Walsh plays a judge who doesn’t have her life together; she’s drinking, having sex in her office, and doing all sorts of silly behaviors we don’t normally associate with members of her profession. Apparently, shockingly enough though, deep down, she has a heart of gold; when a young boy whose parents she put in jail calls about her, she goes out of her way to help, dishing out the kind of unorthodox advice that makes her actually a better mentor than most grown ups. It does feature the always enjoyable Ryan Hansen of Veronica Mars fame, who also appeared in the short-lived Bad Teacher; make of that what you will.

Prediction: 12- It looks bad. NBC has cancelled comedies for less.

A to Z – 10/2

A to Z

Katey Segal is clearly narrating this trailer. I needed to get that out first. Ginsberg from Mad Men is a guy’s guy, and the Mother from How I Met Your Mother is a girl’s girl, and they’re destined to meet and make romance, etc, etc. Watch out for falling cliches everywhere. I’m not sure I got what the A to Z hook was from the trailer, unless that’s a pun on their last names. This seems more like a straight forward rom com than the other romantic comedy this fall, Manhattan Love Story, as there’s more romance than humor in the trailer..

Prediction: Renewal – NBC if it wants to keep airing comedies has tokeep some of them right? Maybe we’ll end up in a land with only NBC dramas; considering every single attempt at comedy by the network seems to generate no viewiers, but presumably they’re not ready to give up yet.

Marry Me – 10/14

Marry Me

Wait a second. A show that might actually really be good! Of course, I was biased in a positive way before even watching the trailer. Marry Me is created by Happy Endings creator David Caspe, and stars Happy Endings’ Casey Wilson and Party Down’s Ken Marino, I very much like all of these people, and the trailer gives me no reason not to the thing the show might actually be good. Marino and Wilson play a couple who have been together for a long time and finally become engaged, and the hilarity that ensues thereafter. It’s not really an uproarious trailer, but being a constant cynic is tring and I’m desperate to give a show the benefit of the chance and might as well to one whose people I all love.

Prediction: Renewal – I’m not sure this is a good prediction, but I’m supporting people I like, and since this may be the only time this year, I’ll take a chance. After all, Happy Endings got three seasons with no one watching, and NBC renewed Community and Parks & Recreation a surprising amoutn of times for shows no one watches, so maybe NBC will be patient if it’s good.

Constantine – 10/24


A highly successful long running Vertigo comic series, it’s already been adopted into a terrible Keanu Reeves movie, and I”d like to think that at the least this show has to be better than that film. Constantine is a mouthy British excorcist with his own share of figurative demons. I’ve read seperately that being on a network means that Constantine can’t, say, smoke, which is a fairly prominent feature of the comic book character, which just reminds me again of the stupid restrictions of network television, but I’ll try to hope the show can be decent because I like the character even though the alternative seems more likely.

Prediction: 12- I’m not sure this show makes sense for NBC, and I’m not sure they care a lot about the success of this show. I think Fox would make more sense as a home for Constantine, worked around maybe Sleepy Hollow or Gotham. It seems like a bad network fit regardless of the quality of the show.

State of Affairs – 11/17

State of Affairs

Katherine Heigl is a super duber CIA agent with, you’ll never guess, problems in her personal life that equal her professional successes. It’s hard not to imagine State of Affairs outside of its post-Homeland context; obviously the show is different by Heigl seems a Carrie analogue. Alfre Woodard plays the president who has a special relationship with Heigl; in additional to being the most brilliant CIA analyst out there, Heigl happened to be in a relationship with Woodard’s son, a humanitarian aid worker who died in shady circumstnaces. The most important thing I learned was that Heigl seems to be at least half a foot taller than Woodard.

Prediction: 13+ I think there’s too much invested in this to cut the cord quick unless it’s a total disaster; the trailer screams tentpole show, and as it seems to have connections to people behind The Blacklist, NBC’s biggest new scripted hit in ages, you know NBC’s going to want it to succeed. Still, there’s something about me that strikes me as not going to work. Maybe I’m wrong.


Fall 2014 Previews and Predictions: ABC

12 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

ABC ties NBC with a high of six new shows amongst the networks. Four are comedies, a high in that category, which makes sense for a network whose comedies, namely Modern Family, have been more successful than any network’s besides CBS. We’ve got a new Shonda Rhimes show, a comedy loosely based on Pygmalion, a comedy based around a successful female latino comedian, a romantic comedy, a drama about an immortal medical examiner (I’m not making that up), and a comedy about an upper class black family living in a largely white neighborhood. Let’s take a look.

 Forever – 9/23


Henry Morgan plays a New York City medical examiner. The hook? He can’t be killed.  Everytime he dies he respawns back in the water, a secret known to only one associate. He teams up with a ultra-competent female cop, Castle-style, and they pair up to make a hell of a team. He uses not just the experience of having been around forever, but also the ability to experiement on himself, to solve murders, though he may have to reveal his secret to his partner eventually to avoid incriminating himself.

Prediction: 12- Something’s got to fail right? This seems a little too strange/random/not well-promoted enough, and it starts a welshman, Ioan Gruffudd, and we all know, absolutely no one can pronounce welsh names. Enough strikes against it for me.

Black-ish – 9/24


Anthony Anderson is a highly successful advertising executive, and his wife is a highly successful doctor, and they’re rearing their family in a largely white upper-middle class Los Angeles suburb. Anderson is proud of his and his family’s success, and wants to do right by his family, but is also petrified that, growing up in a sheltered lily-white town, they’ll lose the sense of identiy that it’s equality important for him that they grow up with. Oh, and the always awesome Laurence Fishburne plays Anderson’s dad.

Prediction: Renewal – Credit to ABC for bringing a black family to network primetime and giving it every chance to succeed with some solid talent, a plum time slot, and a good dose of advertising. I’m not sure how good it will be, but it seems to fit well with the general ABC comedy ethos.

How to Get Away with Murder – 9/25

How to Get Away With Murder

ABC continues it’s impressively diverse line-up of new shows with the Viola Davis-led How to Get Away with Murder. Created by Shonda Rhimes, the queen of ABC Thursday nights, Davis portrays an unorthodox law professor/defense attorney who invites her students to help with her cases. Of course, she’s unafraid to be as positively unethical as necessary to get her clients off (as a former law student, I’ll avoid comment on the fact that not only is she ruthlessly unethical, but that he’s teaching students this at an accredited legal school, and that she is totally not teaching criminal law). Also, she says the name of the show in the trailer, so big points there.

Prediction: Renewal – Whether it ends up being right or not, this is the smart choice. The show looks like it could well be a success no matter what, but on top of that, it’s being promoted well, and Shonda Rhimes is a very important part of the ABC family,, and I’d think they’d give her show a longer leash than one from somebody else with no strong ABC ties.

Selfie – 9/30


 It’s a modern day take on My Fair Lady. Eliza is vain, vapid, and obsessed with getting famous via social media, but her world collapses when she’s caught in an extremely embarassing viral video. She hires image/marketing master Henry to fix her up, post-disaster. Initially, naturally they hate each other, but they begin to rub off on each other, and each change for the better, and maybe even fall in love, if what I know about the original My Fair Lady is any indication. Again, credit to ABC for the surprisingly rare casting of an Asian male as a romantic lead.

Prediction: 13+ This is by far getting more promotion than Manhattan Love Story and Cristela, and features the very capable John Cho and Karen Gillam. Still, the premise seems rather thin and the trailer is not particularly convincing, and comedies don’t succeed like they used to. Also points docked for not featuring #Selfie in the trailer.

Manhattan Love Story – 9/30

Manhattan Love Story

Two people with possibly not a lot in common get set up on a blind date in New York. The man is a veteran New Yorker, the woman has only been around for a few days. The man seems like a total douchebag, the woman seems, well, like a person. The date goes awful, but events conspite to get them dating again, and we viewers are luckily to be along for the allegedly hilarious ride. The gimmick seems to be that we hear both of their inner monologues, as sort of a stream of consciousness. This approach worked wonders for the brilliant Peep Show, but if the trailer is any indication, this is no Peep Show.

Prediction: 12- It doesn’t look particularly promising, and it feels, in the way it’s important to have arbitrary feellings when making predictions, many of which, will inevitably wrong, that this, and the show below, is far behind Selfie and Black-ish is comedies ABC is banking on. Without being good, there’s just about no other reason to see success here.

Cristela – 10/10


Stand-up comedian Cristela Alonszo stars in this eponymous sitcom. Again, credit to ABC for the diversity of its fall lineup; hispanics are dispiritingly hard to find on network television. Unfortunately, though, this sitcom looks pretty stale and terrible. Cristela appears to be slowly working towards going to and graduating law school, but it’s taking longer than expected, to the frustration of her and her family, with whom she’s staying in the meantime. She’s suitably sassy, at home, and at work, especially to a woman who assume she’s a cleaner at work, and she gives one of those most predictable laugh lines you’ll see in a trailer (you have to watch to find out, but trust me it’s not worth it). Also, there’s a laugh track.

Prediction: 12- – It’s stuck on a Friday, which is never where you want to be as a new show, even though the expectations are low, It has a laugh track, and doesn’t really seem to fit into the current ABC ethos, except maybe with Last Man Standing, on before it, which I can’t belieev is still on. How is that still on?

Fall 2014 Previews and Predictions: CBS

10 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

CBS next. Four shows, all dramas, as all comedies not titled after universe-starting events on CBS and really all of network TV are struggling relative to hour long series. One spin-off of a long-running and fabulously successful procedural, one Criminal Minds-type brutal murder procedural, one procedural about a group of genius misfits, and one Good Wife-like adult political drama. Let’s get to work.

Madame Secretary – 9/21

Madam Secretary

Tea Leoni plays a former CIA higher up, out of the game and working a low stress job teaching a university, recruited to be Secretary of State by the president, her former boss at the agency, when the previous Secretary dies in a plane crash. She’s an original thinker. Actually more than that, as the trailer makes clear in one of my favorite trailer lines in recent history – she doesn’t merely think outside of the box, she doesn’t even know there is a box! She struggles to make her mark in the administration as the new face, battling a hostile staff, a hostile chief of staff, and a conspiracy which may have resulted in the death of the prior secretary and may go all the way at least near the top. It’s all very adult; think The Good Wife mixed with an ounce of Scandal.

Prediction: Renewal – This seems like a smart bet for CBS in the adult vein of The Good Wife, which has succeeded on the back of critical successs and just enough commercial success, and aired on the same day. I’m not sure it will be good, but I doubt it will be awful, and I think it’s a safe play, targeted at higher income viewers on a snug Sunday night spot.

Scorpion – 9/22


A group of super genius nerds who are crazy brillaint but struggle to relate to normal humans on a social and emtional level are recruited by the government to help solve different problems and diffuse difficult situations. Useless by themselves, they’re rediscovered by an old aquaintance of our main character, who puts them to work. They’re also joined by a normie, a waitress, whose young son is a future genius, to help them deal with regular people in social situations. It makes sense on CBS  as a variety of the superteam type shows where everyone has a specialty, except in this case, all the specialties are nerrdy, but with cool uses – think A-team or the more recent Leverage meets The Big Bang Theory.

Prediction: 13+ I’m not sold by any means on its success, but it hardly seems like an obvious bomb, and I think with only four shows and a largely settled line up CBS will be willing to give its new shows a decent amount of leeway. There’s nothing about Scorpion that screams disaster, and I could honestly see it going any way, so I’ll take the middle path.

NCIS: New Orleans – 9/23

NCIS: New Orleans

Same story, new city. Legendary TV actor Scott Bakula is at the helm, manning the Mark Harmon role. CCH Pounder and Lucas Black co-star. There will be no surprises here; you know exactly what you’re going to be getting. One case a week, covering the remarkable number of navy-related murders in the Crescent City, which seems an obvious place to set a procedural, as it makes up for its lack of size compared to some of the bigger US cities with an abundance of ambience and terrible accents.

Prediction: Renewal – Could it fail? Absolutely. Might America be sick of the NCIS franchise? Perhaps. Still, it would be folly to bet against the current king of the CBS procedural franchise family. The original remains shockingly strong after so many years and NCIS: LA is successful as well.

Stalker – 10/1



Stalker is advertised next to Criminal Minds and for good raeson; the show seems to feast on the same kind of psychotic, sociopathic, insane murders which Criminal Minds does. The difference is simply that while they’re wanted serial killers in Criminal Minds, they’re, well, stalkers, in Stalker. Maggie Q heads a division in Los Angeles which tracks and aprehends stalkers and she pairs with doesn’t-get-along-with-others cop Dylan McDermott, fresh from New York, and looking to cleanse himself of some personal and professional demonds while still being a little bit of a pain in the ass. These stalkers are not the well-motivated villains of the CSI and NCIS franchises but rather true crazy persons who are to be extra feared and require a special division to stop. Oh, and Maggie Q knows this better than anyway, because it seems like from the trailer she was once stalked herself.

Prediction: 13+ I have the least faith in this show of the CBS debuts; if push was to come to shove, I would take Scorpion above it. Still, I’m betting that McDermott’s TV power and the fact that, as mentioned in my Scorpion prediction, CBS has just four shows, on it making it at least past midseason. That said, McDermott’s Hostages last year on CBS was a failure, so I may be giving him too much credit.

Fall 2014 Previews and Predictions: Fox

8 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

We’ll kick off this season’s previews and predictions with Fox, one of two networks airing their first premiere of the season on Wednesday, September 17. Fox, which still doesn’t air programming in the 10 o’clock hour, has fewer hours of programming than any network this side of the CW (which is kind of a half network, as is), and thus has fewer new programs, with four. There’s not a ton in common amongst the group. There’s a comedy by a prominent young stand-up, a make-you-have-feelings drama,  a small town murder mystery, and a DC spin off. Let’s dive in, shall we.

Red Band Society – 9/17

Red Band Society

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer is nurse on a pediatric ward where a lot of sick teenagers live long term. They live, they lean, they love, always on the precipice of death, facing the challegnes of puberty along with far more serious challenges than most teens fade.They laugh, they cry, they inspire you, themselves, and each other while Olivia Spencer presumably keeps them in line.

Prediction: 13+ I’ve seen more ads for this than any of the other Fox shows, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have a better reason than that, but that’s kind of how predictions work.

Gotham – 9/22


Batman origin story. Commissioner Gordon is a young rookie cop, just exposed to the cesspool which is Gotham, rife with crime, organized and isolated, premeditated and psychopathic. We get to meet all your favorite characters that we know and love from the Batman comics/tv shows/movies before they are those characters, including Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler, and not least among them Batman, who is merely a kiddie Bruce Wayne, learning from Gordon after the shocking murder of his parents. Yes, the thought of making a show about Gotham without Bruce Wayne was probably always impossible.

Prediction: Renewal. I don’t think it looks great, but hell, the Batman name can do no wrong right now – this might be the first chink in its armor, but I’m not about to call it.

Gracepoint – 10/2


An American adaptation of British show Broadchurch, Gracepoint is the story of a small, peaceful beachfront tourist town that is torn asunder by the murder of an innocent child. Everyone, as you might imagine, is a suspect, and it turns out, also unsurprisingly, that everyone’s got a secret. For as potentially clichéd as that sounds, the British version was actually a pretty darn good little murder mystery, and it was greatly benefited by having just one short season, something it looks like Fox has learned from, giving Gracepoint an unusually short 10 episode order. Hopefully they’ll be bold enough to avoid a Killing and end the mystery in one season.

Prediction: Renewal. The 10 episode order screws up my normal system, but since I’m going Renewal it doesn’t really matter. This looks fairly faithful to a pretty solid show, and while that’s no guarantee of a good translation I’m hopeful.

Mulaney – 10/5


John Mulaney is an indisputably talented stand up and a former Saturday Night Live writer, a position which is obviously impressive in spite of the often mediocre SNL output. All this personal promise makes it all the more disappointing that his namesake sitcom looks simply awful. Mulaney portrays a comedy writer for a legendary game show host played by Martin Short, who has always been a bit much for my taste. Elliott Gould and fellow SNLer Nasim Petrad also co-star. There’s a laugh track which is never a good sign and absolutely none of the jokes hit in the trailer. The show looks like a sitcom dug up from an earlier era, and I mean that in a bad way; it looks dated in every sense from the look to the humor. Maybe the trailer is inaccurate, but I’m not expecting much.

Prediction: 12- This looks bad, and while Fox has been willing to give a decently long leash to comedies it has faith in, I’m betting that is if the show is as bad as the trailer, the audience will dwindle quickly.  Mulaney is a very promising comic and should have another chance one day.