Archive | May, 2015

Summer 2015 Review: Aquarius

29 May


There isn’t a ton to say about Aquarius. It’s not particularly good, but it’s not really particularly bad either. It’s not even remarkably unmemorable, it’s just unmemorable enough. You’re probably not going to watch it, there’s no reason you should watch it, and you’ll probably forget about its existence within about five minutes of reading this if not sooner. I’ll get into the meat of the show for those would like to know what it’s about in a minute, but first I’ll quickly lay out the most (and by most I mean still not particularly) noteworthy facts about the show in a couple of sentences for those of you who wants to stop reading right there.

Aquarius takes place in the ‘60s, specifically in the late ‘60s when hippies and the summer of love and drugs and rock and roll music are a big deal, and it takes place in Southern California. David Duchovny stars as a cop. Famed multi-murderer Charlie Manson appears as the primary antagonist. The vast majority of spent on the Aquarius budget was clearly sent on music licensing, as “I Can See For Miles” by The Who, “Paint in Black” by The Rolling Stones, and “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane all play in the first episode. And, lastly, NBC put the show online all at once, like Netflix, while airing it week to week, the first time it, or as far as I know any other broadcast network, has done that.

Okay, those are pretty much the only potentially interesting facts about Aquarius. Here’s the rest. A teen girl, always a bit of a troublemaker, goes missing, and her parents ask Duchovny to help look for her. Because the father is an enterprising local politician, he asks Duchovny to keep the investigation off the record, and the police department, who could benefit from influence with this pol, goes along with it. Duchovny partners with a young cop who is too cool for school, constantly rubbing other people in the department the wrong way with his sideburns and long hair. Duchovny though believes he’s just the man to go undercover with the hippie types who may know what happened to the girl. Duchovny isn’t above bending a few rules along the way and ignoring due process, and eventually him and his partner find out that the girl went off on her own accord with Manson and his crew, which operate something between a commune and a cult.

They also figure out that Manson holds a grudge against the girl’s father due to early events and is using her as leverage to get back at him. That’s more or less all you get in the first episode. It’s not really such a bad show, there’s nothing embarrassing or laughable outside of the well overplayed cop-who-is-willing-to-break-the-rules trope. It’s just a nothing show. You will not be offended if you watch it, but considering it prominently features Charles Manson as a character it’s surprisingly forgettable.

Will I watch it again? No.  Why?

Summer 2015 Review: Grace and Frankie

25 May

Grace and Frankie

Grace & Frankie is a weird somewhat tonally dissonant half hour show from Netflix starring two legendary actresses in their 70s (and co-starring two legendary actors of the same age) from one of the creators of Friends.  The premise isn’t exactly unique (TV Land mined a very similar premise for Happily Divorced a couple of years back) but it is potentially fruitful and bold in its starring choices of women of retirement age. Unfortunately, it’s not quite compelling enough to be worth following.

Grace (Jane Fonda) is a somewhat uptight and prideful WASP type, who wants to grow old with dignity. She never had a passionate dynamite love affair with her husband, Robert (Martin Sheen), but she liked and respected him, and when she grew up that was more than enough; she liked their life and their children and wanted it to stay that way. Frankie (Lily Tomlin) is a hippie-ish wild child who did have that smoldering relationship with her husband Saul (Sam Waterston), the love of her life. Grace and Frankie have opposite personalities and naturally do not care for one another. Their husbands however are business partners and great friends. Grace and Frankie’s lives are turned upside down when it turns out that their husbands are also long-time lovers and are only now finally coming out to their wives because they want to get married. Grace is pissed, Frankie is heartbroken, and both are crushed. They both, after meeting and receiving sympathy from their respective children, exile themselves to the beach house the two couples share, which had been pitched to them as a financially prudent proposition, but of course was really a convenient love nest for the two husbands.

The series is billed as a comedy, but it’s not very funny. I don’t simply mean it’s supposed to be funny and fails, like Two and a Half Men, although it sometimes tries to be funny and fails. But it’s really much more poignant and melancholy than most traditional half hours; certainly from the get go. That makes a lot of sense when considering how depressing the situation is outside of the high premise. These two women have had their entire lives uprooted when they’re in their 70s and don’t have a lot of time to start over. Their husbands carried on their affair for years, and they desperately want their coming out to be a triumphant celebration of courageous love, but their decision to string along their wives for decades leaves Grace and Frankie holding the bag, alone, in their twilight years.

Grace and Frankie is, at the same time, loaded with very silly, obvious broad comedy which plays on the contrasting Odd Couple-relationship between Grace and Frankie, and which provides a strange contrast to the serious emotion at stake. The climactic scene of the pilot involves Frankie doing peyote to find some peace, while Grace accidentally has some as well, and they have a classic broad comedy drug scene, being outrageously silly while also somehow bonding.

Of the two modes of Grace and Frankie, the poignant emotional side works better; the actresses really are legendary for a reason, and it’s an unusual situation portrayed, especially in that older women are rarely portrayed as protagonists on television. As a comedy, it’s less successful. It’s really not funny and the jokes just don’t come through. I get the idea; dignified elderly ladies doing very stupid things maybe are supposed to be funny, but it isn’t.

Ultimately, Grace and Frankie is an interesting idea, but really not enough to make you come back to watch week after week (or binge, half hour after half hour, as Netflix goes).

Will I watch it again? No. It’s an interesting exercise, not without any merit, and it’s great to see people in their 70s, and women in particular, getting a chance to star. Still, there’s not enough there to be worth watching.

I Don’t Really Get David Letterman

22 May

David Letterman

In the wake of David Letterman’s last few shows, the winding down of the career on Late Night television that lasted an incredible 33 years, writer after writer, celebrity after celebrity, fan after fan, have come down on blogs, social media, television, and, well, everywhere really to praise and write tributes to Letterman, his influence, his brand of comedy, and his general brilliants. Well, in light of that outpouring, despite my minor terror at admitting it, I need to make it known: I never really understood the appeal of David Letterman.

I don’t necessarily relish being the contrarian and I’m much more unabashed about my other primary contrarian television stance, which is that Saturday Night Live is the most overrated cultural institution of the past 40 years. With that, I’m confident I’m right and everything else is wrong. With my feelings on David Letterman, I feel like I have to be missing something.

I have great respect for many of the people who love and idolize Letterman and who have penned all of these tributes to him in the past few weeks. I love anti-humor, caustic anti-sentimentality, self-deprecation, silly absurdism, and genre send-ups, all among the many types of humor that Letterman seems to be known for, and I still don’t really get anything out of what Late Show with David Letterman I’ve seen.

To be completely fair, I haven’t watched very many episodes over the course of Letterman’s run, but I’ve seen episodes here and there and I made a point to watch the final episode. Sure, there were some funny moments over the totality of the clips shown on the finale, but for a series of clips which seemed geared towards picking out the funniest, most memorable, and most definitive moments, the ratio wasn’t particularly high. The Top Ten lists in particular have never worked for me, and I’ve never been able to figure out if they’re anti-humor that I’m just not enjoying, or they’re supposed to be genuinely funny and they’re just not.

I have three major theories for why I don’t appreciate Letterman.

First, David Letterman is constantly talked about a s being groundbreaking; there was no one like him before, and he changed not just late-night but comedy forever in important, meaningful, and progressive ways.

I am one generation younger than the generation that truly revered David Letterman (obviously people of all ages did, but I anecdotally read the most about praise and influence from this group), and I didn’t really become cognizant of late night television until the mid to late 90s. Maybe what was once subverting tradition now feels like the tradition to me, and thus is less interesting and certainly less groundbreaking. David Letterman may well have been incredibly influential and made a huge impact on comedy, but by the time I really knew who Letterman was in any meaningful way, all the lessons he had taught had already been long absorbed into the mainstream and what was new and revolutionary was now just part of what I expected from any comic.

Second, the generation that revers Letterman most, Generation X, or more or less those who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, knew Dave first from his Late Night with David Letterman show which aired in the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s on NBC. I’ve only seen very little from that show and know a fairly limited amount about it, but from what I have seen and read it seems more radical and more interesting than the Late Show with David Letterman which followed on CBS. The time slot and the ability to be more out there and less buttoned up and mainstream for a smaller, younger audience probably does matter; I distinctly noticed the change when Conan moved to the earlier time slot (Jimmy Fallon is an exception; his show was built for the earlier time slot even when it was on at 12:30). I watched some clips of a Harmon Killebrew theme night which sounded kind of amazing. If someone only had access to modern day Simpsons episodes, he or she would have a difficult time understanding my reverence for the show, and it’s possible that my experiences watching The Late Show simply doesn’t do justice to the ‘80s Late Night.

Third, adoration of Letterman goes hand-in-hand with adoration for late night television as a genre. I’ve said many times that I think the traditional monologue, bit, guest, guest, music, hour-long late night format is hopelessly outdated and boring and drawn out as hell, and since Letterman is best known as one of the key progenitors of that genre, it’s hard for me to gain an appreciation of him even if I would have had he put his comedic stylings to use in other formats. I don’t have the attention span to watch full episodes of late night, and now that we live in an era where the only traditional late night I watch are Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel bits that spread to YouTube, I never have to (and honestly, I often start watching those bits, and am bored before the three or four minutes are up anyway). Maybe if Letterman had poured his clearly formidable talents into another form of comedy, I wouldn’t be writing this article.

To conclude, I recognize Letterman’s place in comedy, the way someone can recognize the importance of The Sex Pistols without ever necessarily wanting to listen to them. Like or not, he’s important, and that’s worth something, and people I respect like him, and that’s worth something as well. Still, I haven’t seen anything in the past month that has convinced me he’s particularly funny, and I’d love some more convincing evidence which would show me why I should care. Maybe one day.

End of Series Report: Mad Men

20 May

Mad Men

As a television viewer and fan writing a television blog, I’m more or less obliged to write at least a few words about Mad Men and the Mad Men finale.

I don’t have as strong feelings as I’d like to, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked the finale overall, and I think it remained true to everything Mad Men has been for the past seven seasons, with possibly one exception, which I’ll get to shortly.

Some people have claimed the series ended on a cynical note, others on a hopeful, redemptive note; I would argue it was neither. Everybody, more or less, grew as characters while remained true to themselves, which wasn’t always the best thing, but wasn’t the worst either. Objectively, it was a happy, positive ending for the majority of the central characters, but my first instinct, perhaps a cynical one, admittedly, was merely to see the ending as cyclic. For the most part, these characters were just on an up turn in their life’s stories, a high, followed by an inevitable low, to be followed again by an inevitable high. Some may remind up, and certainly higher than some better off than some of the lows we’ve seen them experience, but my experience through watching Mad Men has taught me that happiness, though it exists, is fleeting, a high to be chased after, but only rarely reached, and even more rarely held on to.

Don ran away. Don freaked out. Don got as far away as he could, to the other side of the country (California, which has stood in as the exact antithesis to New York before), in the absolute middle of nowhere, far away from everything he was buried in, all of his demons. California, where, with Anna Draper, he experienced his most pure human relationship, which he tried to recapture with Anna’s niece Stephanie. Then, just when it seemed that maybe he was too far gone and all hope was lost, he, like classic Don, struck gold, inspiration, and like so many times over the course of the series, he was born anew, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat, and reinventing himself.  He took what he knew to have always been true, his gift for insight into the human soul, and packaged it for a different time. In these final couple of episodes, it seemed like Don had finally drifted too far, maybe to a place he couldn’t come back from, but then with that final smile, and the allusion to the famous Coke “Hilltop” ad, there’s an implication that Don is going to be just fine.

I don’t think Don is ever going to be a great husband or a great father. Those skills are probably just not in him and it’s hard to imagine someone who has that much trouble staying in place changing at this point. But as a peerless ad man his days are not yet numbered.

Joan is many things, but one of her defining traits is that she is a true professional. She takes her responsibilities extremely seriously and finds a way to get the jobs, difficult as they may be, done, In the chaotic culture of Sterling Cooper’s various incarnations, Joan never joins in, and does not care to put up with the hijinks and drinking that envelop most of the firm. Joan puts in her time and hard work and while she understands the unfair world she’s in, she understandably expects to be recognized for her efforts. Unfortunately, at the time, Joan is unable to find a man who respects her and is willing to treat her professional ambitions seriously. Men expect her to be the housewife. And while they may even respect her abilities, once they’re together, the men expect to be the breadwinner, and for Joan to want and to enjoy having nothing to do but sip piña coladas and look pretty. The only man who took her work life seriously was Bob Benson, who was gay and wanted to marry her for his own professional advanced. Joan ended the series entirely in control of her own life, running a new and seemingly successful business, but again, another man abandoned her due to her ambitions.

Pete’s ending is part hopeful and part sad, and I’ve changed my mind back and forth on which is more prominent. Pete came a long way over the course of the show; it’s easy to forget how he was the unquestioned villain over the first few seasons, and with good reason. He came far enough that I was actually rooting for him occasionally in the final seasons, as one of the few, along with Joan, who cared that things got done, and wouldn’t stand for the tomfoolery always going on around him. Pete looks like he’s learned some lessons, wanting to come back to his wife, taking a new job away from the temptations of New York City, talking his brother into not cheating. At the same, we know this pattern, and we know these people. How long until Pete cheats and return to his old ways? And, does Trudy even care if he does, as long as he’s discreet? Things change, things stay the same.

Pete for so long was the anti-Don; frustratingly watching as Don got away with everything he couldn’t. Don cheated for years without consequences; Pete tried it and quickly got caught. Don did half the work and skated on charm and charisma, Pete did twice as much and got hated and laughed at. And yet, Pete’s inability to get away with what Don did could have served him well in the end. When Don’s lies at home finally caught up with him, his marriage was done for good. The fact that Pete was caught and thrown out faster may have been what allowed to him and Trudy to reconcile by the end of the series. Don’s charisma and charm got him far, but allowed him to drift. Pete stayed on point, and though he was as professional at the end as he always was at the beginning, it was now behavior that was rewarded instead of punished in the new company and the new decade. Pete’s way paid off just as well as Don’s in the end if not more so.

Roger turned over somewhat of a new leaf, hitting it off romantically with someone his own age, which was a promising sign. That said, he’s still a cad, and his new paramour seems pretty mercurial herself, so I’m not particularly confident that this marriage will turn out any better than the last couple. Roger will make it through, with a wink, and a joke, and he’ll move on. For better or worse, he’s the same person he was on day one.

Betty was always smarter and more deft than the show, and because of that, often the viewers gave her credit for in the early seasons, and the last season actually gave her a chance to show that.

Putting up with Don and his incessant cheating and patronizing attitude was a huge burden, and because Don was the protagonist and Mad Men often seemed to come from his point of view, Betty, who certainly had her flaws, was even more easily seen in a negative light. After getting out from under Don’s shadow though, Betty was able to flower more as an individual and as a character. The inner fortitude Betty showed displayed after learning her diagnosis was one of the saddest, strongest, and most poignant notes in the entire series and it’s unfortunate that her untimely demise was her ultimate opportunity to show off her strengths.

Last of what I’m arbitrarily calling the Big Six major characters who really make it through the entire run (Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan, Pete, and Betty), there’s Peggy. Peggy and Stan’s romance felt out of place in a way that no other storyline in the finale did. It’s not simply the pairing of Peggy and Stan; they’ve been close for a long time, and while I’m still not sure romance was the right play between the two of them, it definitely felt plausible based on what we knew about their relationship. The way it unfolded though, felt almost like something out of a romantic comedy, as it dawned on Peggy, slowly, after Stan confessed his love that she felt the same way. It’s an unambiguously happy result, and I like Peggy and Stan, and sure, I’m happy for them. But it tonally felt off. The “I hate you, I love you” phone banter was more Nora Ephron than Mad Men.

What did make sense was Peggy considering, but ultimately decide to stay within the confines of McCann. The recruiter she spoke with a few episodes earlier told her McCann was the best possibly place for her to hone her talents and resume, and she knows her goals and that this is the best way to reach them.

The Mad Men characters have come a long way over the course of seven seasons in real life and a decade within the show. They’ve dug deeply, discovered truths about themselves, and faced and overcome difficult obstacles. They change and learn but ultimately remain the same. That sounds like a sad lesson, but I don’t mean it that way, People stray true to the core of who they are, and that is just as often a positive as a negative.

End of Season Report: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

18 May

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

As the second season wraps up, I leave with very mixed feelings about Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is undoubtedly unfair, because it is unquestionably a good show. My immediate reaction speaks less to its overall quality than to the expectations I had before the season began. The first season was good, and left me feeling that the show could be great. The pieces were there but they just needed time to come together. After the second season, however, I came away still thinking that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a good show, but feeling that’s it more likely that the show will put together a string of good seasons without necessarily approaching greatness. There was no sophomore slump, rather merely a lack of a sophomore leap. Because I don’t want to convey a negative overall conclusion, but rather some constructive criticism, I’ll structure my thoughts in the form of a time-tested compliment sandwich, in which, I’ll note some good points first, follow it up with some problems, and finish up with some positives again.

First, and most importantly (and I haven’t written more than two lines about this show without saying this) Andre Braugher is a national treasure who should be vacuum sealed between takes so he can be preserved for future generations of television. He’s wonderful in general, and in this role, and I have nothing but acclaim for his Captain Holt.

There’s a great sense of unity in the squad room, and everyone, for the most part (Gina is not the biggest Amy fan) clearly likes each other. There’s a sense of camaraderie that feels real, and everyone, when push comes to shove, has each other’s back.

Now, for the criticism. The Jake and Amy romance feels both forced and predictable. One of my biggest more general criticisms of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that many of the characters and plots feel like they were conceived on the page as part of the premise of the show, and haven’t been changed enough in reaction to the natural rapport, chemistry, and strengths of the actors. The Jake-Amy romance is exhibit A for this in my mind; something planned far ahead of time which doesn’t really work in practice.

Two episodes before the season finale, Amy made a point about how she was not going to date cops. It would have been shocking, following that, if Amy and Jake had not gotten together in some way by the finale. I don’t expect Brooklyn Nine-Nine to be utterly unpredictable, filled with twists and turns, like Game of Thrones, but If it’s incredibly predictable that a character will do the opposite of what she says (and not because the character is simply a liar) that’s not a great sign.

Several of the characters need to be turned down a notch, especially in certain situations and character pairings. Charles is a much better character when paired with anyone but Jake. Whenever he’s around Jake, he’s far too sycophantic, and jokes that were funny based on this nature of their relationship when used just occasionally are now overused and annoying. He’s obsessed with Jake, and while Jake obviously likes him as well, it always feels like a weirdly uneven relationship, and Charles comes off as way, way more of a weirdo than feels appropriate to the show. Whenever he’s not around Jake, Charles’ weirdness seems far more endearing and less over the top, and his season finale plotline with Rosa, shows just how far he’s come from the crazily creepy early first season when he was obsessed with her, to where he’s her friend, clearly knows her well, and helps her and her boyfriend celebrate her birthday.

Gina’s weirdness can often be delightful, but her constant obsession with Terry is too much and overused. Jake is very close to an excellent character, but he drives me crazy sometimes as well. I wish he could just occasionally turn off his stupid-joke-machine, because the jokes just aren’t always good enough to be worthwhile. A couple different, or even simply fewer of these jokes, would give the good ones, which there are plenty of, time to breathe.

Last, a few more compliments to toss out. Some of the characters are great as they are. Holt, as I mentioned before. Terry perfectly functions as the straight man and den mother of the office, and the universal affection shown towards him from both above and below feels warranted. Rosa is wonderful as is, and they’ve put her in a relationship that keeps her hard edge while expanding her character’s depth. The actors in general are very good and very funny; they’re just sometimes given material that doesn’t quite highlight what they do best, or give them enough range to show it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I don’t want to give up on your chance for greatness just yet. Despite a season of treading water, you’re really not far away. Just tweak. Rewatch the seasons, learn from the characters and the actors, and change everything up slightly, and then learn from that again, because you’ll still make mistakes. Parks & Recreation had an excellent second season, but really hit its peaks with the superb third season (and the introductions of Chris and Ben, replacing Mark). Despite my reservations, I fervently hope Brooklyn Nine-Nine will become a top tier comedy and it certainly has the tools to get there.

Summer 2015 Review: Wayward Pines

15 May

Wayward Pines

There are supernatural mystery shows and then there are supernatural mystery shows. Many post-Lost supernatural mysteries have somewhat tamped down the mystery angle, probably smartly, so that they can work as character-based shows while the slow process of unfurling plot and answering questions inches its way forward. Often this effort is unsuccessful, and the dialogue and characters pale in comparison to the sheer curiosity generated by the central mysteries, but the effort is noble and well-advised. Placing all your eggs in the mystery basket often leads to disaster as Lost clearly demonstrated. Wayward Pines, however, disregards that recent trend, putting just about all its eggs in that supernatural mystery basket; every last one of them.

Matt Dillon portrays the protagonist, a secret service agent on a mysterious secret mission trying to find a missing coworker/former lover.  He is involved in a car accident, remembers little when he comes to and wakes up in a strange town in a decidedly old-fashioned doctor’s office where a seriously creepy Melissa Leo is working as his nurse. He is immediately suspicious of why he can’t contact anyone and where his belongings are. He gets up and escapes the hospital and then finds a local bar where the kind bartender played by Juliette Lewis offers him a burger on the house along with her address.

Things get weirder from there. Dillon, after an unsuccessful run in with sheriff Terence Howard, gets corralled back to the doctor’s office (I might bet getting the exact order of these events wrong, but that doesn’t really matter). He goes back to the bar, where it turns out no one is familiar with Juliette Lewis, going as far as to claim that she doesn’t exist and that he’s inventing her. When he heads to the address she left for him, he finds his fellow agent and passenger in the car in which he had his accident brutally murdered.

He tries to get out of the town, but finds that it’s surrounded on all sides by fence; it’s a trap or a prison or something. Juliette Lewis helps him escape from the hospital before surgery is performed on him against his well (more creepy Melissa Leo, along with help of doctor Toby Jones), conveying to him that she’s been trapped in this mysterious town for years. He eventually runs into the subject of his initial search, played by Carla Gugino, who looks all Stepford Wife-d up, and is older than he remembers her. It turns out, she tells him in hushed tones, because there are ears everywhere, that she’s been there 12 years, while far less time has passed in the outside world.

Oh, if that’s not enough, there are scenes outside of Wayward Pines featuring Dillon’s wife and son in Seattle, who are freaking out, naturally about what happened to him after the accident, since neither he nor his body has been found. His boss tells them he has no idea what happen to Dillon, but we learn that the boss is totally in on it, calling Toby Jones, to try to call whatever it is off, but it’s too late.

The recent summer network show that really went for the jugular supernatural mystery-wise that Wayward Pines immediately reminds me of is Under the Dome. I regret to remember that I watched nearly the entire first season of Under the Dome, despite the fact that it was probably the worst season of television I’ve seen in the past five years (Dexter Seasons 6 and 8 may be the closest competition). Asking questions is easy. Answering them is hard. It’s crazy but true that I liked Under the Dome well enough to keep watching it the first time I saw it because it got so stupid, so fast, but that’s because the easiest part of these shows is the pilot. If you believe the writers know what they’re doing, that every question asked no matter how outlandish or far-fetched it seems, hides a brilliant, intriguing answer that is satisfying, unpredictable, and wraps up all loose ends, well, these shows are incredibly tantalizing. That almost never, ever, happens, unfortunately, but the less information you know the easier the perfect ending is to imagine.

And if you’re not intrigued by the mystery, well, what else are you really watching Wayward Pines for.  Wayward Pines is obviously inspired by Twin Peaks, and while Twin Peaks was unquestionably mystery-driven – Who Killed Laura Palmer? It wouldn’t have endured without a lot more on its bones than that.

I’m not sure, from the one episode that Wayward Pines has more. The dialogue isn’t particularly sharp and the characters and cinematography are not particularly intriguing. There’s nothing else to get worked up about except for the mystery. And the mystery is actually intriguing to me, but I can only get fooled so many times by supernatural mystery shows before I stop biting. At this point it would take a lot for me to trust in a television supernatural mystery, and I’m not convinced I have that level of trust here.

Will I watch it again? No. I’m not falling for one of these again. I swear. I’m not going to do it. Just one more episode? Maybe it’ll get good? No, I’ll read about it on Wikipedia or if someone tells me I really need to watch it later on.

Reviewing My 2014-15 Predictions: CBS

13 May


Well, there’s no point in making predictions if you’re not willing to revisit them later and see just how wrong you were. Now that the final decisions are in, let’s review how I did.

CBS now. My fall predictions are here and my spring predictions are here, and in short, every show gets one of three predictions: that it will air 12 episodes or fewer, 13 episodes or more, or be renewed.

Madam Secretary

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

CBS invested heavily in this series, and it was a sensible match for its adult Sunday night lineup. Combined with the fact that CBS was debuting fewer shows than any other network, backing Madam Secretary seemed like a smart bet.


Prediction: 13+

Reality: Renewal

Scorpion looked hackneyed to me (and it was) and while it’s the type of show that could (and did) succeed on CBS, I didn’t think it had what it took. I was wrong and that’s okay.

NCIS: New Orleans

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

NCIS remains, after all these years, one of the most successful shows on TV, and the Los Angeles spin off is quite successful as well. Taking the over on NCIS: New Orleans was definitely the safe bet and worked out as expected.


Prediction: 13+

Reality: 13+

Stalker looked like the worst show in the CBS line up, and was, and also the one that made the least sense with existing CBS properties, being a little too horror-oriented; closest to Criminal Minds, but still not quite right.


The Odd Couple

Prediction: 12-

Reality: Renewal

This show was terrible and it looked terrible, and I know it’s CBS, but Matthew Perry has a couple of post-Friends network failures already and this looked like an obvious continuation of that sequence. I’m still a little surprised it will be back.

Battle Creek

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: 12-

Battle Creek also looked not quite right for CBS (more Fox like, being procedural but silly, like Bones), but more on brand than Stalker, and came from a CBS-ized vision from superstar creators Vince Gilligan and David Shore. I banked on the star power carrying the show to at least one more season; I was wrong.

CSI: Cyber

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

CSIs have faded in the wake of triumphal NCISs, but each of the three editions had a very successful run, and I figured that picking a CSI led by Patricia Arquette was just another smart wager. This one was almost, almost cancelled, but just held on.

Reviewing My 2014-15 Predictions: ABC

11 May


Well, there’s no point in making predictions if you’re not willing to revisit them later and see just how wrong you were. Now that the final decisions are in, let’s review how I did.

ABC next. My fall predictions are here and my spring predictions are here, and in short, every show gets one of three predictions: that it will air 12 episodes or fewer, 13 episodes or more, or be renewed.


Prediction: 12-

Reality: 13+

Forever seemed like an instant failure to me, as a supernatural procedural starring a unpronounceable Welshman, but then it was actually decently successful and seemed on pace for renewal. Ultimately, it landed on the borderline and ABC went with a thumbs down. I’m fine with my guess here.


Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal


This and the following show seemed like ABC’s two buzziest and most widely promoted shows, both did very well, meeting or surpassing expectations and will be coming back.

How to Get Away With Murder

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

Like Black-ish above, except probably even more anticipated because it’s from ABC overlord Shonda Rhimes. I felt best about this renewal out of all Fall network shows.


Prediction: 13+

Reality: 12-

This certainly seemed like a failure, and looking back I’m not sure why I thought it would even last a full season. Probably my personal fandom of John Cho and Karen Gillan helped, along with a prominent billboard near my apartment, but I should have gotten this right.

Manhattan Love Story

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

This was the first cancellation of the year, which I should really pick as a special category next year. This seemed like a pretty obvious dead on arrival sitcom. One of the easier calls.


Prediction; 12-

Reality: 13+

Buried on Friday night, next to a Tim Allen show that it seemed to have very little in common with, and starting fairly late in the fall, this seemed destined to fail. Cristela came out to surprisingly (to me, anyway) mildly positive reviews however, and did better than expected, which still wasn’t quite enough for a second season. Points for beating my expectations, though.



Prediction: 12-

Reality: Renewal

Galavant is a fit with ABC’s family friendly lineup, and it’s silly fairy tale like Once Upon a Time, but seriously, a comedy musical? That seemed ill-fated for sure. I was wrong, but I don’t feel bad about this pick.

Marvel’s Agent Carter:

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

I should have mentioned this above, but in what has to be an incredible rarity if not an actual first, EVERY spring ABC show was renewed. That’s insane and incredibly unlikely and I’m still stunned. Marvel’s Agent Carter, as part of the Marvel Universe, on a network owned by the same people who own Marvel, seemed about as close to a slam dunk as there is, and though it actually ended up being a pretty close call, it made it.

Fresh Off the Boat

Prediction: 12-

Reality: Renewal

In hindsight, this seems like a perfect fit on ABC and makes total sense as a renewal. At the time, I was troubled by its time slot, away from the ABC comedies it was most similar to, and from some of the not entirely positive articles about how disenchanted Eddie Huang, on whom the show is based, had been by the process.

Secrets and Lies

Prediction: 12-

Reality: Renewal

This one still seems like a 12- to me. I can’t believe it got renewed. Before I rechecked to write this, I could have sworn it was cancelled. ABC executives must have really been feeling lucky and didn’t want this to throw off their string of successes.

American Crime

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

This was an IMPORTANT show, with a couple of noteworthy actors, and though it ended up being borderline in terms of being picked up, I erred on the side that if it was borderline, ABC would pick it up for the PRESTIGE, and I was right.

Reviewing My 2014-15 Predictions: Fox

8 May


Well, there’s no point in making predictions if you’re not willing to revisit them later and see just how wrong you were. Now that the final decisions are in, let’s review how I did.

Fox up next. My fall predictions are here and my spring predictions are here, and in short, every show gets one of three predictions: that it will air 12 episodes or fewer, 13 episodes or more, or be renewed.

Red Band Society

Prediction: 13+

Reality: 12-

This was an exact example of a show I thought would make it through one full season before not being invited back for another, but it did not get that far.


Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

Comic books are hot, and while Marvel has been killing it in the movies, the Batman brand may still be the strongest of them all. Gotham only had to not be terrible to survive, and it was just not terrible enough.


Prediction: Renewal

Reality: No renewal

I really enjoyed Broadchurch, which Gracepoint was based on, and for some reason put my trust in an absolutely needless adaptation of a British show. This was always a 10-episode series, but poor ratings and being generally heralded as vastly inferior to the British version helped lead to its not being brought back.


Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

Mulaney, despite it’s eponymous creator’s obvious stand up talents, looked bad, bad, bad, and it was bad, bad, bad, and thankfully Fox’s discriminating viewers did not reward its brand of badness by watching.



Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

Fox put everything it had into Empire, leading me to feel pretty confident, and Empire rewarded Fox with the biggest network debut in recent memory.


Prediction: 12-

Reality: 13+

Backtrom looked generic and behind the times, hitting lots of tropes that had been hit within the last decade dozens of times before. It seemed dead on arrival, and somehow lasted long enough to air all its episodes before being cancelled, just long enough to screw over my prediction.

The Last Man on Earth

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: Renewal

The prediction I’m most proud of. There was no reason to pick this as a renewal, as most had pegged this high concept comedy as instant network cancellation bait. Against all odds, it was a mild success, and will be returning next year.

Weird Loners:

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

A pretty easy prediction. This aired midway through the spring, when nothing but shows that are doomed to be quickly cancelled air, and it reeked of being a poor man’s version of eight other similar shows.

Wayward Pines

Prediction: One Season

Reality: Undetermined, but probably one season=

This really shouldn’t be on here, as I didn’t know it was going to air so late, and there probably isn’t an option for a second season either since it’s miniseries-style. However, since I listed it initially, I thought I’d put it here now, if only to address how I can’t address it.

Spring 2015 TV Review: Powers

1 May


Powers is the first ever series to “air” on the PlayStation Network, and no, I’m not exactly sure what that actually means either, but it’s now producing original scripted content, and that’s what counts. Powers is based on a comic series co-written by comic superstar Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Powers supposes a world where some people have, well, Powers. The limits and types of powers are unclear from the pilot, but basically the type of powers that superheroes have – flight, super strength, teleportation, and more in that vein. As one would imagine, in a world with powers, some of the people with powers, or as their simply called in this universe, Powers, act as heroes, saving people, while some of them act as evil-doers, stealing and robbing and committing other nefarious deeds.

The protagonist of Powers is Christian Walker, a former Power, who lost his powers (there’s no getting out of using that word many times in this review), and now works as a detective in a Los Angeles Police Department division which focuses on dealing with criminals with powers. Walker was known as Diamond and has and had close relationships with a number of prominent Powers, which gives him added insight into their activities. Other characters include his brand new partner, Deena, a Power named Johnny Royalle who seems like the primary antagonist, and a Power named Wolfe who was once Walker’s mentor, went nuts, somehow took Walker’s powers, and is now locked up deep underground in a very special prison cell.

I like comics, and I like superheroes, and while superheroes sometimes ensure a number of practices that lower the ceiling of a show or movie, I’m always at the least interested. The production values are not great, particularly the visual effects, which I rarely complain about but are notably inferior enough to merit mention. It wouldn’t really matter if Powers was a cheap comedy, but for an action-oriented superhero procedural, it looks kind of cheap, and it does have a negative impact on the overall effect.

The acting isn’t wonderful either. Everything about the pilot feels a little bit clichéd, and a little bit stylized in a bad way. The dialogue doesn’t help the acting and the acting doesn’t help the dialogue. The characters in their current form need work to become more than easy types, and while that’s true of any pilot, there’s not the little hints of depth that a good pilot shows off.

These deficits are actually in opposition to the concept, which while being incredibly similar to so many other concepts still feels slightly different enough, where if you saw it in the best light possible, there’s a lot of potential. The lack of name-brand superheroes means there is more room to maneuver and more shades of gray and mystery for the characters to enjoy. The concept is most similar to Heroes but it feels slightly darker and less infused with the fate-obsessiveness that, along with several other factors, helped bring the promise of Heroes to a quick close. Powers exists in a powers are endemic, rather than fresh or new, and are envied and resented in equal measure. The nature of people who want so badly to have powers they would jump off a building to try to activate them doesn’t come up nearly as much in the Heroes-verse.

If the other aspects of the show could live up to this concept, and if the concept could continue to move in the darker more interesting directions, that subvert and separate from more traditional Marvel and DC superhero products, there could be something here. There’s not quite enough to think that from the pilot though.

Will I watch it again? I’m not going to right now. Powers is yet another entry into the tier of shows that could really go either way, and since, with as much TV as I watch, there’s some limit on the amount of shows I can continue to follow, sometimes I have to make arbitrary judgments.