Tag Archives: Fox

Fall 2015 Previews and Predictions: Fox

14 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)

Minority Report – 9/21

Minority Report

Minority Report is squarely a Future Cop show, which is a real genre (think: Time Cop, Seven Days). You’re watched or at least are familiar with the almost 15 year old film. Police departments arrest people based on pre-crime; they know what crimes are going to be committed and by whom before they happen. In the show, pre-crime has been outlawed, but a pair of twins who could see the future are still out there and want to help stop crime, along with their foster sister. An enterprising detective teams up with them to get back to stopping crimes before they happen.

Prediction: 13+ – Nothing about this show stands out. I can see it failing, or being renewed, and am going to take the middle to hedge my bets

Scream Queens – 9/22

Scream Queens

Think Scream meets Mean Girls. Something bad happened at a sorority party 20 years ago, and now in the present an angry dean is taking it to a bunch of preppy entitled sorority girls by making them take in every girl who wishes to pledge this year. This leads to a wacky contrast between the WASP-y it girls and the freaks and losers they’re forced to deal with. One of the characters is the daughter of a former member from 20 years ago and is investigating. Oh, and their sorority house is haunted, and a lot of people end up dying. Like many a Ryan Murphy project, focus is not its strong suit and it will have to be gleefully (pun kind of intended) fun for the over-the-top campiness to work. A who’s who of young actresses show up.

Prediction: Renewal – Ryan Murphy has a pretty good record. The New Normal didn’t succeed but this is way more up Murphy’s alley.

Rosewood – 9/23


Wow. Color-by-numbers would declare Rosewood too by the numbers. What is this doing not on USA? A cracker jack private medical examiner (the titular Rosewood) swaggers around Miami until he’s paired with a lady partner who doesn’t want a piece of his attitude. Rosewood is daring and dashing because he knows, due to his medical conditions, his life is doomed to be short. Of course, this unlikely team eventually gels and makes a formidable foe for Miami criminals. The only thing not mind blowingly generic about this show is the fact the stars are black and latino, which is great, but next time put them on shows that will survive.

Prediction: 12- This looks like a classic failure. The only defense would be that it seems kind of Bones-esque and that show lasted and lasted and still lasts. But, every other comp points the other way.

Grandfathered – 9/29


John Stamos has it all. A thriving restaurant, money, friends, women. He’s a playboy, and the only traditional marker of success he doesn’t have is a family, which he’s not sure he wants anyway. His life is upended when he learns he has a son, from an old flame, and on top of that, his son has a son, and thus he has a granddaughter. These new family members force him to grow up and learn that maybe even though he didn’t realize it he does want a family after all. It’s a network comedy, people. Don’t expect anything revolutionary.

Prediction: 13+ It looks bad, network comedy is in a sorry state to begin with. I think I might be being charitable by not predicting a more immediate cancellation

The Grinder – 9/29

The Grinder

This one’s got a nifty little premise. Rob Lowe is just coming off an eight year run as the star of a fantastically successful legal procedural called The Grinder. He’s looking to make his next career move. His brother and father are lawyers, and spending some time at home, he realizes he wants to be a lawyer, and be more a part of their lives. Moreso, he believes that his eight years on the set of a legal procedural give him the knowledge necessary. His brother his the legal knowhow, he has the charisma.

Prediction: Renewal – I can’t really defend this prediction except under the “some shows have to be renewed” caveat, and it seems a more likely candidate than Grandfathered.

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: 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 Review: The Last Man on Earth

2 Mar

The Last Man on Earth

Hey, The Last Man on Earth was kind of funny. There were more laughs than most network comedies, or really any comedies produce in a pilot, Many a somewhat promising pilot has had other aspects of their show more or less coalescence over the course of 21 minutes, such as the basic premise, the relationships between the characters, the vague personalities without being, well, funny. That can be okay; humor is the hardest part to get right, and often takes some time as the stars develop chemistry and writers learn to write to their actors. But if you can be funny in the first episode, well, that’s a big one up over everyone else.

The Last Man on Earth takes place in a world in which, to his and our knowledge, Will Forte’s Phil Miller is the only man remaining in, if not the world, at least the United States. He, in an opening montage, drives around the country trying to find any other living humans. Everyone was wiped out by a virus, and any information beyond that, and really that in and of itself, is really beyond the point; the apocalypse exists to get us to this end of the world scenario. The distinctive part of the idea is that seeing a post-apocalyptic world, usually played for drama (see currently the phenomenally successful AMC’s The Walking Dead), actually played for laughs.

The Last Man on Earth made a smart decision to air back-to-back episodes as its premiere because the show, which is very up and down humor-wise in the first half hour with Forte as a solo act, really starts to pick up when person #2, a game Kristen Schaal, shows up. The hit and miss early scenes feature Miller having fun blowing stuff up and knocking stuff and down and were far and away funniest when Miller talked to his cadre of friends he assembled from different balls. Schaal and Forte in their back and forths play a version of the very classic men-are-from-mars schtick, but the absurdity of the surroundings and the fact that they are two very funny people really made it work in a way that it didn’t have to and could have easily not. Schaal is purposefully ridiculously annoying and grating, insisting on following ridiculous rules that don’t make any sense. Schaal’s insistence on correct, or really incorrect grammar, and parking in parking spots in the face of the apocalypse were funny, again as much due to Schaal’s delivery as much as the material

Not a lot actually happens in the hour, which shouldn’t be surprising consider the nature. Phil fucks around, does a bunch of stupid shit, talks to balls, meets Schaal, shoves her aside after she’s so irritating, and then gets slightly inspired to try to actually improve his circumstances rather than just defecate into a giant pool, blow stuff up, masturbate. Some of the jokes were one-note, and while funny the first time could easily grow old – namely jokes that work around the humor of seeing someone try to comply with typical rules in the face of the apocalypse where those rules make no sense.

Still, it’s one episode; there’s only so much you can ask. My expectations were reasonably high coming out of the gate for a network show, because of the personnel involved, and while the show wasn’t a masterpiece right out of the gate, it was different, interesting, had its share of laughs, and did more than enough to warrant watching another episode.

Will I watch another episode? Yes, I’ll give it a shot.

Spring 2015 Review: Backstrom

28 Jan


If Mad Men is the direct inspiration for a generation of stuffy, somewhat humorless period dramas, House is the direct inspiration for a generation of procedurals starring a male protagonist who is savantish in his line of work while being a jerk and all-around misanthrope who can’t get his personal life into order. Backstrom falls squarely into this cadre of House successors.

Rainn Wilson plays Backstrom. An assholish cop with no friends, he is, at the start of the show, being given another chance to work homicides for the Portland police department after being demoted earlier because, of course, he’s damn good at his job. He sees what no one else sees, particularly because he makes dark and disturbing assumptions about everyone that others who are more inclined to see the good in people are unwilling to make. His life is a mess. He does it all – drinking, smoking, gambling, hookers. While on the job, he works with a crack team of oddball rejects, who for one reason or another, be it competence, personality, or sordid history, don’t fit in with the rest of the department. And damned if, for all his many, many negative traits as a human being, he doesn’t solve those hard cases.

 Backstrom is created by Hart Hanson, the man behind Bones, and the show shares Bones’ tone, feeling light and jokey with plenty of humorous asides despite an array of dead bodies and dark plots. Backstron would fit right in on USA; Backstrom is a character, and I have no doubt he’d be welcome.

Backstrom is a show that’s supposed to be fun, only it isn’t, and that starts with the main character. The issue is that I’m so tired of this character, the limitedly brilliant jerk, and I hope that America is to.  By no means do I need all characters to be likeable.  But there are two problems in this case. First, beyond being unlikeable it feels like the show, rather than being agnostic to how we feel, actively wants us to root for him, because deep down he has some capacity for change that we need to be supporting. Second, he’s boring and not worthy of our attention. Tony Soprano is often despicable, but he’s always interesting. Backstrom isn’t. 

There’s really all there is to it. By no means is it unwatchable, but it feels derivative and stale, more out of 2008 than now. More is expected of TV in 2015 than Backstrom is ready to give.

Will I watch it again? No. I really do wish weird character actor Rainn Wilson could get a better second memorable television role, but this ain’t it. Hopefully the police department will fire Backstrom and hire a competent police officer who at least makes some pretense of being cordial to his fellow humans.

Spring 2015 Review: Empire

12 Jan


There’s a lot of riding on Empire for Fox, which is placing the show in the plum post-American Idol spot and promoting it everywhere, including during their high-rated NFL playoff games. Empire, to its credit, is at least partially up to the task.

Empire is the story of a family entrenched in the big-time music business. Terrence Howard plays patriarch Lucious Lyon. Lyon, in his twenties, was a small-time gangster making music in what spare time he had, hoping to earn enough from his criminal activities to release an album and go legit. He did eventually, but the price is paid by his wife, Cookie, who takes the hit for him, serving almost 20 years in prison for dealing drugs while Lucious’s music career becomes everything they thought it could be and more. He rises in that time from mere artist to label founder and mogul. While he spends his days in the world of boardrooms and stock prices now, we learn, over the course of the episode that the gangster still lies deep inside.

A couple of major premise events occur within the pilot of Empire to really get the story moving. First, Cookie gets out of prison after 17 years and wants what’s hers. While she was locked up, Lucious divorced and forgot about her, and her sons stopped visiting. She wants remuneration for the 17 years she spent locked up while the beneficiaries of her sacrifice racked up millions and millions and she wants a piece of the action at the label. Around the same time, after Lucious has already decided to take the company public, he finds out he has ALS, and his days are numbered – the doctor gives him three years, maybe more, maybe less.

Lucious thus decides he must anoint one of his sons as his sole successor, fueling competition among his children. His oldest, Andre, is an executive for Empire. He seems to be the most qualified to succeed business-wise, but Lucious believes the post should go to a musician. Middle son Jamal and youngest Hakim both qualify, but Jamal, a piano-playing R&B type, is gay, which rules him out in his homophobic father’s eyes. Hakeem, a rapper, is clearly his dad’s favorite, but equally clearly the least able, at present, to take over. He’s irresponsible, immature, and doesn’t take his craft particularly seriously, coming in to record hungover.

Empire is part family power struggle, part music performance show. There are three and four minute music video-esque concert scenes that are reminiscent of fellow music-centric show Nashville. They fit within context, taking place at either a recording studio or a venue, but still, they feel outside of the show, and they took me out of the action for longer than they should have.

Empire isn’t quite engrossing but it sets up enough nice foundational building blocks to construct a decent show on top of. The family power struggle story is a classic one (one of the sons smartly namechecks King Lear when his father tells him only one of them can have the company) but the music world is a fairly fresh, relevant, and interesting choice of setting (Nashville, again, is the closest recent subject matter overlap, but not certainly more than different enough). The five primary family members on whom the first episode focuses are all solid bases for potentially complex characters; the challenge will be for the show to flesh them out as it goes further.

It doesn’t have the transcendent feeling of a great pilot (most recent example: Transparent) but it’s competent and has potential, which is quite promising by network standards.

Will I watch it again? Yes. I appreciate a network actually trying to make a really good, big show, even if it’s not there yet. It might get boring and repetitive fairly quickly, like Nashville did.  In fact, I’d say the odds on me making it through the first season aren’t very high. But I’ll try another episode. I owe a network series that tries at least that.

Spring Previews and Predictions: Fox

7 Jan


(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

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with designs 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)

Empire – 1/7/15


This is Fox’s big midseason player. Terrence Howard plays the founder of a massive music empire (actually named Empire as well), which he built from nothing, starting out as a small time drug dealer to fund his music career. After he learns he’s dying, he realizes he must pass on his company to one of his three sons, who compete for the honor. Added to the picture is his ex-wife who appears to be getting out of a long prison sentence and wants what’s hers, having contributed to the label way back when it was just beginning. This is definitely an attempt for the network to do a big show, a cable-type show, and it’s from director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong of Lee Daniels’ The Butler fame. I rarely get hopeful for new network shows in this day and age, so forgive the tepidness you see throughout these predictions, but this show holds a halfway chance at maybe being decent, which is just about all you can ask.

Prediction: Renewal – Fox is pumping its promotion machine into this show, airing commercial after commercial, and if it fails, it’ll be a major black eye for Fox’s development team.

Backstrom – 1/22/15


You’ve seen this show before. The detective, who on the job is an absolute genius, who sees things absolutely no one else can see, has an absolute wreck of a personal life. He’s a misanthrope and an all-around asshole, but he’s damn good at what he does. This time Rainn Wilson plays that wacky detective, who is, of course, named Backstrom, and has a team of characters with a capital C that would be welcome on USA any day of the week.

Prediction: 12- It’s from the Bones creator, so I don’t know if that buys the show any good will (though it didn’t for Bones spin-off The Finder), but it feels like we get one of these shows every year, and those they may succeed occasionally, odds are against.

The Last Man on Earth – 3/1/15

The Last Man on Earth

Now, that was a weird trailer. The title is literal, not figurative. Will Forte appears to be the only remaining man on earth as he shops and then sings The Star Spangled Banner to an empty Dodger Stadium. I have absolutely no idea what to think. Presumably he at least meets a couple of other people, or the show would probably get boring fast, but I kind of like the fact that it’s so ridiculous. The pilot is directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the men behind The Lego Movie and 21 and 22 Jump Street, which is a good sign, and I’ve always liked Forte.

Prediction: Renewal Why not? It’s not really a sensible prediction. The Last Man on Earth seems probably too insane, it’s airing way too late in the Spring, at a time where very few debuting shows ever get picked up, but it’s fun to pick surprises. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be good.

Weird Loners – 3/22/15

Weird Loners

I can’t actually find a trailer for Weird Loners which is never a great sign for the success of the show. There is an exceedingly small amount of information out there for a show set to debut in just a couple of months. Weird Loners is apparently about four relationship-phobic thirty-somethings who through some odd circumstances are forced to live together. Former Happy Endings cast member Zachary Knighton and How I Met Your Mother Barney love interest Becki Newton are among the cast members.

Predictoin 12- Well, I know so little about it, so it’s hard to judge based on quality, but the fact that there’s so little out there leads me to believe that unless it somehow generates an unlikely groundswell of support it’ll be a mid-Spring show which airs a few episodes before being completely forgotten about.

Wayward Pines – 5/14/15

Wayward Pines

A mystery-horror-suspense-mindbender. Matt Dillon is a special agent of some kind who winds up somehow in a town called Wayward Pines, Idaho. This is a mega-creepy Twilight Zone style town where everything looks hunky dory but everyone is watching (think Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life). It’s the type of town where you can enter, but you can never leave. One would imagine that over the course of the 10 episode series (it looks like an event-type series that’s over for good after 10) we’ll dive deeper into the dark secrets of this town and maybe find out a thing or two.  Juliette Lewis, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, and Toby Jones are among Dillon’s co-stars. M. Night Shayamalan is producing which is always troubling, but he’s not writing it, for what it’s worth.

Prediction: It’s a limited series, so there really isn’t one. It’s 10 and out, and it doesn’t seem like the type of show that would be easily anthologized, considering the title is the name of the town.

Fall 2014 Review: Gotham

8 Oct


I rarely chastise ambition on TV, because usually I appreciate a show trying to do something different, even if it fails, more than a show trying to do more of the same and being meidocore. There’s a thin line, though, sometimes between uncharted ambition and simple directionlessness that can sometimes be hard to read. It’s difficult, when you’re watching every fall TV pilot, to not instantly compare The Flash to Gotham, the two comics-based new shows to debut this season. And while Gotham feels like the more ambitious show straight out of the gate, The Flash, without being great, knows exactly what it’s doing and what it’s going for, and settles quickly into a solidly enjoyable hour, while Gotham feels rudderless and unsteady.

The premise is thus; Jim Gordon, the future commissioner, is just starting out as a detective, and as he gains experience and fights the good fight, several of Batman’s most famous villains are also on the rise in the dark and sinister underworld of Gotham. Bruce Wayne himself is a kid, his parents having very recently died as of the first episode. Gordon meets with Wayne and his caretaker Alfred, determined to solve his parents murder, and builds a bond of trust that we know will last a life time.

His partner is Harvey Bullock, he’s played by fantastic tv actor Donal Logue, and is probably the best supporting character in the show, as a cop whose working both sides, cozy with the city’s organized crime, but somewhat looking out for Gordon as well, though mostly trying to make sure he doesn’t stick his nose where it doesn’t belong. There’s Fish Mooney, an overwrought gangster played by Jada Pinkett Smith, who didn’t quite work for me. There’s also a young penguin and a young riddler, both of which are unnecessarily over the top as if to scream instead of merely winking that these are the villains from the Batman universe you know and love.

The dominant motif is film noir, which makes an abundance of sense in the Batman universe, but it feels off at various places and doesn’t have the chops, dialogue-wise or cinematography-wise to entirely pull it off. I do think there’s a show that works here; my version eliminates all the familiar characters except Gordon, who I think can be compelling enough on his own, and has him deal with organized crime and other seedy, but less familiar villlains, struggling to stay above the filth, and figuring out what comprimises he needs to make to survive.  Gotham is in a way hamstrung rather than helped by the fame and general awareness of its source material; most of the major characters have made strong impressions in our minds, and we have distinct expectatoins for them, which makes it more difficult for Gotham’s creators to make them their own. Sticking with less familiar characters could allow the creators to both focus on the noir and be a little more inventive and free.

That’s just one version though. It’s not inconceivable the creators could work out the kinks but I’m not convinced from the first episode that they have a plan, other than throw together a bunch of familiar elements and hope people get attached and want to see origin stories. The dialogue and writing feel stilted and the plot is relatively uninteresting, considering its head start of stuff we already know about Batman. Knowing its about the Batman universe fairly or unfairly increased expectations somewhat, and Gotham didn’t meet those.

Will I watch it again? No, I’m not planning to. It certainly wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t particularly inspring either, and though, this is a unfair to take against the show, I have a little bit of Batman fatigue (a much weaker case than my vampire fatigue).  I just didn’t see enough to make me feel like I need to come back with so many other shows demanding my attention.

Fall 2014 Review: Mulaney

6 Oct

Mulaney and friends

John Mulaney is undeniably a very talented young stand up comedian. Unfortunately, the scripted television show bearing his name is far less successful than his stand-up specials. While the vast majority of network television are mediocre or worse, and some are outright bad, only truly disappoint me because very few lead me to have any expectiation of quality, either because of an intriguing trailer or because there are people involved with the show that I respect. This case is one of the latter.

While I want to devote the bulk of this review to talking about what’s wrong with Mulaney, I should at least briefly discuss the set up. Mulaney plays a struggling stand up who lives with two roomates, has a strange neighbor across the hall, played by Elliott Gould, and just got a job with  a vain and self-centered comedy legend played by Martin Short.

Mulaney, based on both his comedy and his sitcom, is influenced heavily by Seinfeld, the comedian, and the show. His comedy is largely clean and observational, and the sitcom features bits of his own stand up, like early Seinfeld episodes do.

Here’s the problem. Mulaney takes exactly the wrong lessons from Seinfeld. Insead of learning from Seinfeld and being influenced by Seinfeld, he tries to replicate Seinfeld, which makes his sitcom seem about twenty years out of date.

Seinfeld is one of the best comedies of all time, and incredibly important to modern sitcoms in several different ways. However,  if Seinfeld started today I very much believe it would look very different than Seinfeld did when it aired 25 years ago. In fact, as the closest thing to evidence we can possibly have, Curb Your Enthusiasm, from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David did look very different when it appeared a decade ago – featuring a similar style of comedy to what made Seinfeld great but in a notably more modern form; shot in single-camera with no laugh track. Those are the external trappings of modernity and I’m going to bring up the laugh track in a moment. But more than that, Curb Your Enthsiasm felt of its time, modifying the deeper lessons of Seinfeld – no sappiness, clever plotlines, memorable phrases, obessions with the foibles of modern life, to a moment a decade later. Certainly Mulaney is set in the modern era, and the charactesr aren’t making references to the first Bush administration or not carrying cell phones. But the feel is trapped squarely in the ’90s, particularly the pacing, and even the jokes feel sometimes like material that would feel more at home 20 years souped up with phrasology and references that are more current.

The laugh track. I’ve generally eschewed complaining about it in each and every review of a show that features one, because you can only talk about how terrible it is so many times. But it needs to be talked about here for a couple of reasons. (I need to quickly point out that I made no distinction between a laugh track and a live studio audience laughing; to the TV audience, they’re the same thing, real laughs or not.) Mulaney, for one, is a young comic who, as previously mentioned, I expect more out of than say, a Tim Allen sitcom buried deep on ABC Friday nights. Second, Fox may be the most progressive current network in terms of comedy, featuring the three best network sitcoms currently airing New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Mindy Project, all of them single-camera and mercifully laugh track-free.  Thus, Mulaney is the exception in terms of its laugh track on its network, rather than simply following the trend.

As for the multi-camera format, well, I prefer single-camera, but I can certainly understand the appeal of multi-camera and I’m open to a show that shows me that there’s good reason to use it. A laugh track, though, outside of some brilliant anti-humor bit, is never acceptable.

The laugh track simply slaughters any sense of timing. Seinfeld, revolutionary is so many ways, had a laugh track when it aired, because every show had a laugh track. Now we know better, and there’s no excuse. Shows are much more fast paced, but with a laugh track, there are wasted minutes over the course of a 20 minute sitcom that offer nothing but dead space and canned laughter.  What’s particularly astonishing is that the laughter comes at the strangest times; when there are jokes, but even when there aren’t. It made this viewing experience borderline unwatchable for me and constantly cringeworthy.

I wanted deep down to believe this was some sort of meta-sitcom, a commentary on the modern sitcom, but I don’t think it was.

The laugh track though, was far from the only issue. Mulaney’s acting was stilted, performing much better when he was reading a joke to the audience, than with a line to another character, but that worked well enough for Seinfeld, who got at least slightly better as he went along. The jokes, though, were largely  just sad. They weren’t entirely without merit; but what quality was in the jokes was absolutely destroyed by the format.

One more quite note: Just about everyone I know in my generation does not care for Martin Short. He’s so, well, much. There’s no trace of subtlety. He’s just so loud. He has old-fashioned sitcom written all over him, that makes it really difficult for him to slip into an ensemble without trying to dominate whoever he’s standing next to.

Will I watch it again? No. It was very bad. John Mulaney can do better, and I hope he knows this. If he thinks he’s created a good show, I have to severely question his judgment.