Tag Archives: ABC

Fall 2015 Previews and Predictions: ABC

9 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (edit: spring, now) 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 (spring, again)(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

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with set orders for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

ABC previews up now!

The Muppets – 9/22

The Muppets

The Muppets! They’re back! You should be familiar with them. After some time away, Jason Segel made a genuinely good Muppet movie, soon came a sequel, and now a full on return to television. I’m a fan of The Muppets. I don’t know if this will be great, but I hope and think it will at least be decent.

Prediction: Renewal – it’s a comedy which is a strike against, but people like The Muppets

Blood and Oil – 9/27

Blood & Oil

Remember Dallas? Blood & Oil is a prime-time soap that revolves around the oil industry; taking place in an old-west like North Dakota town where one oil baron, Don Johnson’s Briggs, rules all. That is until he’s challenged by a young upstart.

Predictiopn: 13+As I too often to, I’m halfway between having this cancelled quickly and having it renewed, so I’ll split the difference. It’s nice to see Don Johnson back on TV.

Quantico – 9/27


The first two minutes of the trailer don’t really give a lot of information. Basically, Alex is a brand new FBI recruit, going to the super tough FBI academy with a bunch of others, and the recruits are slowly weeded out by the brutal FBI practices. Then boom, there’s a major terrorist strike, and a conspiracy – the attack is being pinned on Alex. We know she didn’t do it – but how will she figure out who did?

Prediction; Renewal – it looks like a Shonda Rhimes show meets Homeland – which on ABC, makes a hell of a lot of sense

Dr. Ken – 10/2

Dr. Ken

Dr. Ken is a grouchy middle aged doctor who has to manage two kids and a thriving practice. This classic family sitcom looks absolutely brutal, a surefire contender for worst new network show of the season.

Prediction: 12- This screams early cancellation all over

Wicked City – 10/27

Wicked City

It’s LA in the 80s. Hair metal is a rocking and serial killers are a knocking. A male serial killer roams the sunset strip, and finds his female partner while cops are out to track them.

Prediction: 12- I can’t think of a show exactly like it, to its credit, but this seems like the type of show that’s probably a watered down version of what it would have been on a cable channel

Summer 2015 TV Review: The Astronaut Wives Club

8 Jul

The Astronaut Wives Club

The Astronaut Wives Club was not very good, but more than that the pilot was very odd. Not odd in that it was not linear or hard to follow or particularly complicated or surreal. Rather it was simply a strange, rambling, I-have-no-idea-what-the-goal-for-the-series-is pilot. Usually drama pilots offer some kind of statement for what the show is, and even if it’s not entirely fully formed, dramatic pilots are generally better indicators of the show’s futures than comedy pilots. Usually, there’s an obvious mini-arc that gets the show started and sets the tone for where things will go. Not here. The pilot was regular network drama episode length (43 minutes) but felt like an hour and a hour as it meandered, driving past logical ending points, being incredibly unclear about any sense of scope, or firm definition of character, and leaving me with no idea of what the show is doing.

The Astronaut Wives Club truly feels like a network series, and particularly an ABC series, trying to walk the line between prestige, family-friendliness, marrying the simple and the complex, and meeting none of those goals. The pilot almost feels more like a TV movie and then keeps going when you think it’s about to end. It crazily takes place over the course of two years, which seems like a lot of time to span for absolutely no reason.

The set up is that as the seven (real-life) Mercury program astronauts are chosen, one of whom will be the first American man in space, a reporter (played by Rectify’s Luke Kirby) will be constantly covering them to push the story for NASA, but he’ll be focusing equally on their wives to present America with a truly ‘50s wife-and-kids-support-the-man perspective of what makes American right and good and wholesome and better than the USSR. It’s tough to tell whether the article is going to be a running thread or merely a reason to have the wives get to know each other, and the answer is well, I’m still not sure. The show keeps coming back to the article, but it also doesn’t really have any point. The Astronaut Wives Club is just kind of a rambling tale about the wives mostly, with some focus on the astronauts. I actually don’t really know what it’s about. By speeding two years from the announcement of the Mercury astronauts to the first manned flight, it’s hard to get too much of a beat on any of the characters beyond the broadest characters, and not even those for some; I could not have recited more than one or two of the wives names after just finishing the pilot. Alan Shepard’s wife cheats on him, but she doubles down standing by him, while Gordon Cooper’s wife had been ready to divorce him in response to his cheating, but they stayed together temporarily for his career. There’s something about how as the boys play and carouse, the wives have to stick together and be there for one another? Or maybe not. First there are parts implying that the wives are not going to get along, then they just kind of do.

This disorder is especially surprising for a pilot that seems so relatively straightforward. The idea would be that we’ll try to see how these women in the ‘50s, though housewives, had their own complex lives and interactions, and were every bit as important as the men. It was just shockingly all over the place. From the pilot, I have absolutely no idea where the rest of the show is going, especially considering it spanned two years, from the birth of the Mercury program in 1959 to past Alan Shepard’s flight in 1961, and there were even more events after that presumable ending point. Is every episode going to take this long and just take the through the whole Mercury period?

There’s really nothing to take out of this show. I don’t really understand why it exists, what it’s goal is, and what it’s plan is, and not because it doesn’t want me to know. There’s not really a lot to note.

Will I watch it again? No. It was 43 minutes and felt like much longer. That’s rarely a compliment. It was a strange show, leading nowhere.

Spring 2015 Review: Secrets and Lies

16 Mar

Secrets and Lies

It’s impossible not watch new TV shows and movies without viewing them through the prism of existing works we’re already familiar with. It’s impossible, for example, to watch an episode of Allegiance or The Assets and not think that either of those shows is a cheap rip-off of The Americans, regardless of whether they are cheap rip-offs or merely inferior similar programs which were conceived entirely independently coincidently. Likewise, whether or not it was conceived entirely independently, it’s hard to watch the pilot of Secrets and Lies and not immediately think of Gone Girl. Both focus on a media feeding frenzy that accompanies an attractive man accused of being a cold-blooded killer in a high profile murder case, and both hold out initially the information regarding whether the did he or didn’t he actually do it. Unfortunately, Secrets and Lies has these elements of Gone Girl but none of the quality which makes Gone Girl work.

Ryan Phillippe plays a hot father who, while out on a run, finds his neighbor’s young son dead somewhere on his path. Phillippe and his family live in Charlotte, a city in which, on his block at least, every neighbor knows the other, and gossip spreads fast. When no other suspect is quickly uncovered, Phillippe becomes the primary suspect, and the media, despite the lack of any evidence, pounce. In response, the nation and the locals turn against him. At the same time, he’s struggling with his marriage, with the implication that he participated in an affair which has his marriage on the rocks.

A persistent detective played by Juliette Lewis pesters and pesters him, suspecting him the whole time, but trying to subtly have him incriminate himself, rather than attack him straight out. Most of the first episode consists of her trying to trip him up, while he never quite gives in, and this happens about four different times, as he vacillates between trying to lawyer up to be smart, and trying to convince the world he has nothing to hide. Slowly, however, some incriminating evidence slowly builds even while he proclaims his innocence to suggest at least the possibility of his guilt.

The show promises both secrets and lies, but the first episode under delivers on both, not making the most of its first forty minutes to reel viewers in. The only lies, at least that we know about, are Philippe’s about his whereabouts, which he doesn’t remember (very drunk) and the only secret, revealed at the end of the episode, could not be more obvious to anyone who has ever watched a television show.

More than lacking substance, Secrets and Lies commits the more fatal sin of being boring. For a show whose goal appears to be edge-of-the-seat entertaining with a little bit of soapy intrigue, the first episode sure doesn’t make you want to know what happened or care at all about any of the characters.

Will I watch it again no? No. Secrets and Lies tries to be a sexy, mysterious potboiler, where you don’t know whose lying, and who isn’t, and what secret, or so the title implies, is right around the corner, but it is not one of these things except surprisingly boring and unsurprisingly unsurprising.

Spring 2015 Review: American Crime

13 Mar

American Crime

American Crime is a deadly serious drama which uses a tragic murder as a window through which it attempts to show a broad picture of America how it really is, unvarnished and unfiltered. Through a diverse cast of characters affected by and associated with this event, American Crime tries to cut through a broad spectrum of race and class, a tall task indeed. In doing so American Crime, takes part in a long tradition of cultural investigation of race and class issues through crime. The upside to this attempt is Traffic, the downside is Crash, and American Crime ends up somewhere between those two pillars.

American Crime begins right after a young man, a vet, was murdered and his wife raped and left for dead (she’s in critical condition). His father, Russ, is called in by the police, identifies the body, and then reaches out to his ex-wife, Barb. Barb, we learn, apparently raised their kids while Russ gambled the family’s money away and then left, although he forged a better relationship with his sons later in life. We see a lot of the parents grieving together and feeling with one another. When they feel like the policemen aren’t doing their job, they talk to a reporter to try to get the word out and keep the case in the news. Barb takes the opportunity to be casually racist when the killer is suspected to possibly be Hispanic.

Nearby, there’s a single Latino father, trying to raise his two children the right way in a neighborhood bereft with gangs, which has become that much more difficult after the death of his beloved wife. His son, who seems to be the apple of his eye, borrowed a car from their garage (the dad is a mechanic), and without permission loaned it out to a shady gang-related dude for what seemed like some easy cash. This comes back to bite the son when that dude is suspected of having murdered the aforementioned dead vet.

There’s also a third plot strand based around a couple of drug-addled lovers. I frankly have absolutely no idea how this is related to the rest of the show and I’m not sure if I’m missing something or it simply won’t be explained until a later episode.

Considering the on-the-nose potential of taking on race and class in this manner, the content itself is generally not as heavy handed as it could be, though it definitely could a defter touch at times.  The filming style as well is occasionally too much; there are strange and awkward cuts which feel unnecessarily arty; as if the director is really trying to let us know that this is serious stuff. And it is.

For the most part, American Crime isn’t a particularly fun show.  This is the fine line shows like American Crime walk. Like all deadly serious prestige dramas, it can feel like a slog if everything isn’t running on all cylinders. There’s certainly room for extremely serious television, but the less fun it is to watch, the more meritorious it best be in other ways to compensate. There could be some real merit here but I’m also not sure there was enough going on to compensate for how much I looked at my watch as the show was passing. As difficult as attempting to talk about race and class is, it’s certainly a worthy goal, and it’s possible American Crime may have the ability to add something productive to the conversation, but maybe at the expense of being an hour of television anyone wants to watch. The one source of drive for the show could be following the mystery, but it almost feels peripheral in the first episode to all the issues happening.

Will I watch it again? I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t leave me wanting to immediately watch another episode. Maybe if I don’t forget about it, I’ll come back when my TV week gets less crowded, and that lack of enthusiasm but minor interest is about accurate to how I feel about the show.

Spring 2015 Review: Fresh Off the Boat

18 Feb

Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat has something many sitcom debuts would kill for, especially the popular subgenre of nostalgia-coms narrated by the protagonist, always a kid during the events of the show, but as an adult later remembering the events of his childhood (and it’s almost always a his). In Fresh off the Boat, the emotional foundation that underpins the show works.

Most of these nostalgia-coms are extremely generic and trope-y. There’s a hard-ass, emotionally distant father (think, The Goldbergs), a fussy more-attentive mother who puts up with him, a somewhat down-to -earth protagonist and a couple of wacky siblings. The world of Fresh Off the Boat is certainly wacky, but the wackiness is primarily by way of the world; the family members are the relative normal ones, compared to everything that surrounds them. And that makes perfect sense within the premise of Fresh Off the Boat. This premise involves an Taiwanese-American family moving from Washington DC, where they have friends, family, and Taiwanese culture, to Orlando where they have none of these in order so the patriarch, Louis, can open his own restaurant.

Because sitcoms featuring Asian-American families are so rare and in particular because this sitcom is deliberately taking on the immigrant experience and generational assimilation into American culture, there is a potentially unfair weight on the show straight away. It’s on Fresh Off the Boat to authentically, sympathetically, and accurately portray this experience while hopefully having the freedom to develop real characters who are not mere archetypes. While I can’t speak to the immigrant struggle from a first person perspective, I can speak to the qualities of emotional connection and depth of character on television, and Fresh Off the Boat does an impressive job of developing these qualities in just 21 minutes.

The family includes the father Louis, who is excited to be full-on American, opening his own Boulder Creek-style American western-motif restaurant. Jessica, his wife, is more wary of the move and was reluctant to leave her friends and family but is trying to make the best of it and encourages her children to do the same. Younger children Emory and Evan (I’m not sure which is which yet) have no trouble fitting in, while narrator Eddie is more like his mother, struggling to fit in in the mostly white suburbs. The members of the family clearly care for one another. Eddie’s childhood struggle feels real, and as obvious of a moment as it was, it was affecting when Eddie, who believes his parents have it in for him with their tough love, hears them stand up for him to his new principal. Childhood is a time of frequent doubt and it’s harder to fit in without believing your parents are on your side.

These are all good things. The missing ingredient, which is rather important for something intended to be a comedy (and, make no mistake, even in this increasingly genre-less world, this is clearly intended as a comedy designed to make you laugh), is the comedy. I get the jokes; they’re not subtle, and they’re generally on the broader end of humor designed to appeal to people like me. ABC is exactly where this show should be, as the tone and style fits in with their block of family comedies like Modern Family, the recently deceased Suburgatory, and The Middle. But the jokes are just off most of the time. For example, there’s a cutaway, where Jessica negatively compares strolling the aisles at the immaculate American mega-supermarket to the calming experience of shopping at a Taiwanese market, where we see her batting people away and yelling. It’s an obvious joke, her opinion contrasting with what we see on screen, which could work, but it just doesn’t quite connect. These humor issues are hard to diagnose and can be difficult to fix, but are fixable. They fall on fine points of timing, chemistry. Fresh Off the Boat isn’t there yet.

Will I watch it again? I don’t know. I have a pretty crowded plate at this point, and while it ha strong points, the lack of any laughs means I don’t feel any urge to necessarily tune in immediately. I’ll wait and see.

Spring 2015 Review: Agent Carter

9 Jan

Agent CarterIn short, Agent Carter is a Marvel product through and through, consistent with every film and television property Marvel has put out since Iron Man. Not all Marvel products are equal by any means, but they generally occupy a sector as good, solid action movies, that don’t take enough risks or aren’t quite interesting enough to be truly great, yet compensate for it by being consistently above average for the genre. If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I don’t mean it as such; just plain good superhero movies and TV shows seem to be shockingly difficult to make, and DC has muffed more than a few (as have other studios with Marvel products – see the Fantastic Four movies). Unlike Gotham, which is ambitious but struggles with its identity, Agent Carter knows what it wants to be straight out of the box, what Marvel specializes in; good old action suspense fare that takes advantage of tie ins with an ever expanding universe of familiar characters and concepts.

Agent Carter, for the uninitiated, was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America, where she was Cap’s confidant and handler, and she was devastated by his apparent death. In the years following the war, she’s been reduced to a copy girl and secretary in the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence agency, where the of-their-time misogynistic agents disregard her war service and credentials due to her gender. Frustrated, she is granted a rare opportunity to get back in action when Howard Stark, Tony’s father, recruits her to clear his name – he’s been framed as a traitor due to some of his most deadly technology ending up on the black market. She, believing in Stark and looking to participate in something meaningful again, jumps at the chance. With the assistance of Stark’s butler Jarvis, the namesake of Tony’s robotic assistant, she sets out to find the stolen tech and exonerate Howard Stark.


This show isn’t by any means a must watch; it’s not one of those rare brilliant pilots that draws you in, makes you think, or immediately makes you want to put on the next episode. Marvel is good at what it does though, and if you like Marvel’s movies, you’ll probably want to at least give Agent Carter a shot, especially considering it’s a measly eight episode commitment. Star Hayley Atwell is more than capable as Carter and while the show isn’t particularly original or brilliantly written or directed, it’s competent enough, and again, if you like superheroes and comic-book action, like I do, that might be enough, at least until there are so many competent superhero shows out there that we have to start choosing amongst them (that day may not be too long in coming – Netflix has four Marvel shows on the way, and there are three DC shows airing).

I wish I had a more interesting review to write, and more dynamic points to make, but that’s not what Agent Carter gives me. There’s action and adventure, but they follow the usual patterns. You know what this is from the first few minutes, and if that’s the sort of thing you like, you’ll enjoy it well enough, and if it isn’t, there’s really no reason to stick around.

Will I watch it again? Yes, I probably will. Marvel has ensnared with me with their tie-ins and tempted me with their limited runs; I’m not sure I’d sign up for a season of this, but eight episodes I can do in my sleep. It’s not highest priority though, so it could get away from me without me knowing.


Spring Previews and Predictions: ABC

5 Jan


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (edit: spring, now) 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 (spring, again)(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

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with set orders for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

Galavant – 1/4/15


Galavant is a musical fairly tale comedy. If those words scare you as much as they do me, you’d think we were in for a bumpy ride. To be fair, this is the second example of the genre in a couple of months behind the admittedly less comic and generally well-reviewed Into the Woods film. This looks much, much sillier, and partly because of that, possibly much harder to stomach. It feels very Disney and the songs are impressively co-written by Disney legend Alan Menken. If it’s good, it could be cute, but if it’s bad, it could be very, very bad.

Prediction: 12- Galavant is designed as an eight episode limited series. While I’m sure if the series is somehow a hit, ABC will connive a way to make more in the future, if it’s anything but, it will be merely a zany miniseries airing with little to lose in January before the year really gets going. Musical comedy as a genre often walks a dangerous line between cute and funny and just plain awful, and while this is a logical family-friendly fairy tale companion piece for Once Upon a Time, I’ll take the conservative bet that it doesn’t earn another go around.

Agent Carter – 1/6/15

Agent Carter

Comics have taken over the movies, and now they’re on their way to taking over television. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven so far to be a mild, if relatively disappointing by Marvel’s high standards, success for ABC, so it’s only logical that the network under the same parent company (Disney) as Marvel makes another effort in that direction, pulling another show out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time it’s a limited eight-episode run based on Peggy Carter, an agent with the Strategic Scientific Reserve from the Captain America movies. Agent Carter takes place in the 1940s and features Carter on a super secret mission recovering weapons stolen from Howard Stark, Tony’s dad. She’ll work with Stark’s butler Edwin Jarvis, the inspiration for Tony’s computer of the same name. It’s full of comic-book action-espionage, and though I couldn’t wager how good or not so good it’ll be, it probably won’t be awful and anyone who is familiar with Marvel products can probably hazard some idea of the appealing-but-safe tone the show will take.

Prediction: Renewal* – Another limited series, but since everything Marvel touches seems to turn to gold these days, I’ll take the upside. Even though I don’t necessarily think it’ll be a smash, it hardly needs to be to be a success on network TV these days. The biggest obstacle may be unwillingness by Marvel or Atwell to return for more episodes.

Fresh Off the Boat – 2/10/15

Fresh Off the Boat

First, before I say anything else, it’s worthwhile mentioning how rare and how welcome a sitcom about an Asian-American family is. Fresh Off the Boat is an ethnic family fish-out-of-water situation.  An Asian-American family is moving from multi-cultural Washington D.C., where they have friends and family to white=bread Orlando where the father just purchased an American Outback Steakhouse/Boulder Creek-type restaurant. Everyone struggles to fit in, driving each other crazy but ultimately loving one another, and hijinks ensue.

Prediction: 12- I don’t feel strongly, but the trailer didn’t particularly impress and it’s strangely slotted on Tuesday next to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with which it seems to have little in common. Wednesday is ABC’s big family comedy block, and sensibly fall newbie Black-ish is getting a coveted spot there; the Tuesday spot and general lack of promotion give me little faith in Fresh Off the Boat.

Secrets & Lies – 3/1/15

Secrets and Lies

A young boy is murdered. I had thought at the beginning of the trailer that this would be a classic season-long whodunit, but to my pleasant surprise, the show seems to skirt around the mystery and have a slightly different focus.  Ryan Phillippe plays the man who discovers the boy’s body, who is the prime suspect of the investigation. The show seems to focus on Phillippe and how he is hounded by the press, the locals, and the cops, while he denies any involvement. I’m not sure how long something like this can last, and it probably won’t be too different because it’s on broadcast TV, but it’s not a terrible idea, which is something. It’s based on an Australian show of the same name.

Predicton: 12- Midseaosn guesses are much harder than fall guesses. Between this show and American Crime which follows I simply have absolutely no idea.

American Crime – 3/5/15

American Crime

Timothy Hutton is finished applying Leverage and back into play as a grieving father in this attempt from ABC to catch on to the wonderful seasonal anthology wave (True Detective, American Horror Story) taking TV by storm. Hutton’s son’s death sets the story in motion, which prominently features both the grieving parents and the investigation into the son’s death. This does not appear to be a methodical season long whodunit in the style of The Killing or Broadchurch, but rather a faster-paced suspense oriented tale slowly unlocking a deeper mystery, while traversing the complexities of the American legal system.  Oh, and also, race is a major issue, which likely means, since it’s a network TV show, it will be poorly handled, although the show is created by the writer of 12 Years a Slave, so there’s hope. I love the seasonal anthology trend, so, why not.

Prediction: Renewal – I have absolutely zero confidence in this prediction. It’s got a couple of strong TV names, with Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman, and it looks like it might try to be important which could help it or backfire. I’m flipping imaginary coins here people.

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?

Spring 2014 Review: The Assets

18 Aug

The Assets

(I’ve fallen way behind on both my TV viewing and writing, but not to worry – dear reader – I don’t give up that easy – I’ve rapidly been viewing the first episode of every new television show of 2014, with the intent of seeing them all by the end of August. To facilitate a respective blog catchup, I’ll be posting lots of much shorter entries on each show)

Oops. The Assets had the poor fortune, well, to not be very good, but more than that to basically mirror the subject matter of one of the best new shows on TV in the past two years. The Assets is about a cat-and-mouse game between the CIA and a mole inside the organization working for the Soviets. Based on real life, the show stars a female agent doggedly pursuing the mole, who we know will turn out to be Aldrich Ames, a seemingly mild mannered fellow agent, who sold out to the Soviets for lots of money. The female agent notices her missions have been falling apart in ways that could only happen with the presence of a mole working against her, and she works relentlessly towards to find the culprit.

In case you haven’t figure it out, The Assets basically tramples right on the same ground as The Americans, a vastly, vastly superior show, both because The Americans is excellent and The Assets is, while not truly awful, simply not very good. All of the interesting layers driving The Americans seem to be flattened out here; instead, this is a story we’ve seen time and again; a cop/federal agent so driven to catch a criminal, so desperately chasing him that it threatens to ruin the rest of the her life which she’s so carefully planned out. Actually, in the first episode The Assets has even flattened out the anti-hero aspect that drives many of these shows; while she worries she’s working too much her husband is the picture of calm and acceptance, reassuring her that she’s great at her work and doing it for the right reasons and telling her not to worry about her absences at home. There’s nothing so bad here, it’s just more that there’s nothing at all.

The one smart decision The Assets makes is to show the mole initially, rather than drawing it out; meaning we know who the mole is while the characters don’t. That decision makes sense in light of the fact that tge mole is a real person; it would have seemed a little foolish to hang the huge spoiler of the villain on something that people paying attention during the ’80s could have known even before starting the pilot. Still, that’s a small credit in a world of mediocrity.

Will I watch it again? No. To say The Assets is a poor man’s The Americans is to give too much credit to The Assets and the two shows’ similarities. It’s by no means an unwatchable show, it’s just standard mediocre fare with the particular bad luck to have a vastly superior show on virtually the same topic and in the same era airing at the same time.

Spring 2014 Review: Black Box

30 Apr

Kerry Reilly and her Black Box

Spoiler alert: The titular black box refers to the human brain.

Sorry if I just blew your mind there (or your black box, so to speak), but I wanted to let you know what you’re up against. The show states this explicitly about three quarters of the way through, but if you can’t figure it out within about fifteen minutes, you’re in serious trouble.

Black Box fits nicely into the category of shows where the main character is an absolute genius at his or her job but has debilitating problems equal to their genius bringing down their personal lives. (I could, and perhaps should, make a comprehensive list of these shows one day, but importantly, House is the modern example which inspired a legion of followers). Kelly Reilly plays protagonist Catherine Black (Yes, the show Black Box  and her name is Black – the meaning is double, and I’m ashamed to say it took me reading her name maybe 10 times before I figured that one ount) is a brilliant and famous neurologist. She also has a deeply serious and secret case of bipolar disorder which has caused and continues to cause serious issues in her life. She’s able to keep her life functional when she takes her meds; unfortunately she also has penchant for not taking those very meds and throwing them out instead in her irresistible drive towards the fruits of a manic high (please excuse me if any of this sounds pejorative – any judgment is against the show, and not at all the condition).

The show is told through the plot device of a talk with her shrink, played by Vanessa Redgrave, who really, honestly, has got to be able to find better work than this with her resume. Catherine recounts the events of the pilot to the shrink, and Redgrave responds occasionally with questions and commentary. Redgrave knows about Catherine’s condition, as does her beloved brother, less beloved sister-in-law, and super beloved niece, who ends up to actually be her daughter, who she gave up to her brother because she didn’t believe she was fit to be a parent with her bipolar disorder.

No one associated with her job knows about her condition and it’s apparently integral that they never find out. She reveals her condition to her boyfriend during the pilot, terrified he’ll leave her when he finds out but he appears to be at least initially supportive.

There’s some fake-ambitious vaguely hallucinogenic manic sequences in her flashback, which seem like they’re aiming to be sophisticated but come of ass confusing, faux arty, and not particularly helpful, interesting, or revelatory.

There’s a case-of-the-week aspect. There are two cases actually in the first episode. Catherine spars with workplace rivals over the problems, and comes up with solutions, or the lack of solutions when helpful; one elderly patient has a rare condition when she talks with a non-existant small person – drugs can treat it, but if it makes her, already deteriorating mentally irreversibly, feel better, why treat it.

I’m not sure if this show thinks it’s asking deeper questions about mental conditions and the brain; I lean towards believing it doesn’t actually think that, while trying to vaguely acknowledge that those questions exist (which only makes me hunger for a show which deals with those questions in a much more interesting and compelling way.) This, is, a poor, poor, man’s third tier House, no more and no less.

I thought there was a chance Black Box would be truly terrible, and instead it was just really derivative and seriously sub-par. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but calling a compliment is generous. Still, it’s just lousy and not truly putrid. I was a little bit confused at the end of the first episode about the events of the show, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case probably meant the plot was simply poorly told. There was an original idea for a character a show tackling mental health in a serious way, but the idea was a superficial one, put over all the tropes of typical procedurals.

Additionally, quick props to apparently having some of their science correct. I watched the pilot with someone who knew what they were talking about on the show, and identified what the case-of-the-week subjects had before the show identified them.

Will I watch it again? No. Honestly, the title is the best part of the show, and I surprisingly mean this because it’s a pretty good title more than I mean because it’s not a very good show, although it isn’t. Black Box really could have been the title of a better show.