2011 Fall TV - New and Returning Shows
Based upon the long running and excellent British version starring Helen Mirren from before she was a big time movie star. After one episode, Maria Bello has reprised a role she has played before - a woman with a lot of testosterone in a predominantly male workplace(ER). In the BBC version, Mirren had a slight drinking problem, as cops are often shown to have (perhaps it is a trick by tv writers to suggest that being a cop is hard work - dunno). In the US version, Bello is on nicotine gum, oddly and exactly like the female homicide detective in "The Killing" on AMC. This must be a coincidence.
Unlike the BBC version and "The Killing", NBC's Prime Suspect appears to be following the convention of all US cop shows - the case is neatly solved in 44 minutes with an exciting but brief action scene towards the end of the last act. This is disappointing. The appeal of Prime Suspect UK is that it took several episodes in a multi-part series to solve the crime - much like real life investigations that take weeks or months to solve. Also well done in "The Killing" they spent a whole season trying to solve one ccrime.
After 1 episode, I give NBC's Prime Suspect a B-. I don't watch a lot of police procedurals on tv, but this one has the potential to be good but I am afraid it will be formulaic and predictable.
Based upon an Israeli series, and starring an all grown up Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis (best known for playing Major Winters in Band of Brothers), Homeland has the potential to be a thrilling new show. We watched the pilot, but a very edited for non-pay-cable audience version. Bad all around. I'll pretend I didn't see this and watch the proper version on Showtime October 2. So as to not give anything away from the pilot, I'll simply say that I hope there is more to the plot than what has been advertised. I'm sure the show will not disappoint, as very few series on HBO or Showtime are anything but great. I'll chime in on this in a week or so to give others a chance to see the pilot.
There is an interesting interview with series producer Michael Click right here in the COW
Person of Interest
Starring Michael Emerson as an eccentric billionaire and Jim Caviezel as a former special ops guy with some mad fighting skills and in need of a job. Together they play "Minority Report" stopping crimes before they happen by studying surveillance video. Seems like it could be good, but we know after the pilot that every episode is going to be basically the same thing. But JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan are involved, so hopefully this means things will evolve into something more complex than we have seen so far.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
This animated series fills in the 3 year gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The action, acting, writing and stories are basically better than much of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. We get to see full stories involving background characters and races seen throughout the 6 movies. For instance the season premiere is a two-parter involving a younger version of Admiral Ackbar helping his people defend their homeworld from the assault of Count Dooku and the separatists. From episode to episode, a different Jedi and/or Padawan are the lead. Padme gets more screen time and better dialogue than all three prequels combined. Different characters may not be seen for several episodes. Yoda, Windu, Obi-Wan and Anakin are each leading a batallion of troopers into different battles, but occasionally they come to one another's rescue (Anakin and Obi-Wan are unusually good at getting themselves captured). We even see folks like Jar-Jar Binks and Chewbacca in supporting roles (actually Chewie has a pretty cool fight scene showing he's more than a co-pilot).
Each season explores a different theme with multi-episode arcs. Last season we saw the Mandalorians in action and we learned more about how Anakin holds the balance between the two sides of the Force. For someone who loved Episodes IV, V and VI, and who enjoyed I, II and III but thought they could have been better, this series is just what the Dooku ordered.
Yet to premiere are:
Pan Am (one of two 60's oriented shows on the majors (the other is Playboy Club which we watched but not really worth its own entry))
Terra Nova (Spielberg gets a show on a 2nd network (Falling Skies already on NBC and it is awesome))
Charlie's Angels (really, no other ideas available?)
and the return of Walking Dead (they fired Darabont and cut the budget by $600,000 an episode - that can't be good)
Mad Men sometime in early 2012 - likely the last season as the show's stars are now movie stars and likely to start bailing, and the 60's are nearing the end in the show's timeline (DirecTv finally got AMC in HD so good times ahead)
Grey's Anatomy (yes, these people have been surgical residents for something like 11 years, but we enjoy the medical aspects of the show while gagging over the lack of realism)
Dexter - the serial killer everyone loves (he only kills bad people) - final season here too?
Chime in with your own picks or reviews.
I'm also starting a pool as to which new show falls first. I'm betting Charlie's Angels goes 6 episodes and runs out of money or viewers or both much like the Bionic Woman, Trauma, that Grey's Anatomy in the Jungle disaster and numerous other bad ideas.
You forgot one of the biggest, or perhaps THE biggest show to return. Boardwalk Empire season 2 starts tonight on HBO! Season 1 was incredible, and based on the promos, season 2 looks even more intense. Definitely check it out if you haven't seen it yet. Spectacular television.
Also in the next few weeks on HBO, Hung and Bored to Death come back with new seasons. Not their greatest shows, but they're entertaining. I think we can all celebrate that Entourage will NEVER be back.
NBC has a slew of great comedies that had season premiers last thursday. Community continues to be the smartest and most under appreciated comedy on TV, and now they've added John Goodman and Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) as regular players, which is awesome. Parks and Rec continues to be solid, and also under appreciated. Great cast, great characters, great writing. The Office is still hit or miss on most of their jokes, but it's been that way for years. Steve Carell is gone, but now they've added James Spader as the new boss, which might be interesting? Still, this comedy block continues to prove America's inadequacy to watch good television, as probably 3x more people choose to watch awful, awful comedies like Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. When will multi-camera sitcoms die? WHEN WILL THEY DIE???
I didn't bother to watch NBC's new comedy "Whitney".
On FX, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has come back like a hurricane, with two intensely hilarious new episodes thus far. The show has gotten more depraved than ever, and I love it. Rum ham!
I've heard some good buzz about Prime Suspect from other people as well. But I don't think I can watch network TV cop shows. At least not after watching The Wire. The Wire is like an antidote to the poison that is network TV cop shows. It's hard to go back once you've experienced McNulty & Friends.
Well, now I have to go watch the most unimpressive thing on television - the Miami Dolphins. (Sigh) gonna be a long season...
Best show on TV, last season and this one: The Vampire Diaries. There's a reason why Ebert tweeted when Season 2 came out on Blu-ray. It's that good, no kidding. You need to start with Season 1, but this is the only show that came roaring out of the gate for me.
Fringe, close behind. Community is on the DVR, so I'll let you know tomorrow. :-)
You probably didn't see the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday night on Reelz: SOOOOOO much better than the mainstream Emmy show on Sunday. Community's Dan Harmon and Alison Brie as the straight man did an amazing bit about the best hair Emmy, of all things. I haven't laughed that hard at a TV show in ages.
While I'm not sure that Castle ever roars, I'm a slobbering Nathan Fillion fan. If he can do wrong, I ain't seen it. Off to a fine start.
I really, really liked Three and a Half Men! I think Ashton's going to bring a lot. Of course, while I hadn't watched the last few, I enjoyed the first 4 seasons. It's back on my "record all" list. I'll take it over 30 Rock, P&R and The Office -- some of TV's biggest talents at work on shows I don't find watchable anymore. Sorry.
Two Broke Girls also airs before or after Men. Kat Dennings, comic sidekick in Thor, delivers big time...on a script whose weak spots are SO weak that they may sink it...but I'm still watching for now.
Generally though, multicam comedies will die when they cease to be the most popular kind. Which is to say, they won't. When you're my age, Scott, you'll realize that a long and happy life is contingent on living with disappointment. Best to get started on this one now.
FWIW, the leads of Big Bang and Mike and Molly both won Emmys, voted by their peers. I'm not humongous fans of either show mind you...uhm, never having watched either, ahem... and I think Melissa McCarthy won at least as much for Bridesmaids and The Gilmore Girls as for her strong work here. Anyway, I'm not saying you're in the minority here, but...oh wait, I am. :-)
Modern Family: complete letdown, even though this and Community are my favorite comedies..and this more consistently for me than Community. (And for the voters too: the show and both leads won...in, uhm, the supporting category. Jane Lynch welcomed people to the Modern Family Awards.) Still, Ty Burrell's acceptance speech is one of the all-time best Emmy moments. Truly brilliant.
The pilot for New Girl on Fox was a kick. It has a few soft spots, but it has the potential to be a bright spot in the lineup. It's also one of those deals where they replaced one of the four main characters between the pilot and the first ep, which airs this week, so we'll see.
I liked Unforgettable a lot. Not a great TV cop show yet, but a pretty good one.
And for the record, I still think Homicide: Life on the Street kicks (the still outstanding) The Wire's ass, for Andre Braugher, Yaphet Kotto and Melissa Leo alone.
Another Baltimore show, actually, a mini-series, that doesn't get its due is The Corner. Not a cop show -- more like Treme if you swap out heroin for a hurricane. Directed by the great Charles S. Dutton, starring Khandi Alexander (recently of Treme) and other fine folks, winner of 3 Emmys. Based, like Homicide, on a book by David Simon, who wrote the six episodes with Ed Burns, also of The Wire. Yes, on HBO, but still good. :-)
Only barely got through the first episode of Ringers, which is a shame. Sarah Michelle Geller, in addition to being Buffy for all eternity (that's a good thing), is a genuinely nice person from all accounts (including Creative COW's Art Director Sean Mullen, who did VFX for the last 2 seasons), and deserves a hit. This doesn't feel like that, but I'd love to be wrong for her sake.
Can't wait for Terra Nova tomorrow. We'll have an article with the VFX supervisor in the next issue of the COWmag, Kevin Blank. Look him up -- he has almost certainly worked on something you love. A great story: he said that everybody in town wanted to work on a Spielberg dinosaur show...until they saw the budget. Then NOBODY wanted to work on it. They wound up with Pixomodo out of Germany, who also has a Burbank office.
Person of Interest and Prime Suspect are both on the DVR, so too early to make a complete early judgement. I'm definitely keeping score though, and will look forward to filling in some of the brackets soon...
I can't believe I forgot to second the nomination for Walking Dead. That really became an obsession of mine.
I was amused when I tried to hook my brother-in-law on this. His favorite shows, in no particular order, are The Wire, Deadwood, Band of Brothers and Sons of Anarchy -- and Walking Dead was too much for him to take.
Since several of those are too much for ME to take, there is obviously a variation in mileage, but the Darabont mishegoss notwithstanding, I think that the signs are still right for this to be hot.
[Tim Wilson] "FWIW, the leads of Big Bang and Mike and Molly both won Emmys, voted by their peers. I'm not humongous fans of either show mind you...uhm, never having watched either, ahem... and I think Melissa McCarthy won at least as much for Bridesmaids and The Gilmore Girls as for her strong work here. Anyway, I'm not saying you're in the minority here, but...oh wait, I am. :-)"
I typically consider the Emmys to be one of the most flawed awards given out. Even more so than the Grammys. People Choice Awards still gets the all time stinker award, though. I mean look at this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/37th_People%27s_Choice_Awards), could there be a better example of how America watches the wrong movies/shows, than the winners of that awards show...?
But the Emmys... Let me just say that it's really cool that they even nominated Louis C.K. for best actor, really cool. But then to claim that Jim Parsons is more deserving of awards recognition... wow, talk about a slap in the face. I've never seen Mike & Molly, but I also assumed that McCarthy won for being in Bridesmaids more than her actual show.
I'm definitely in the minority on Two and Half Men, as it's like the highest rated comedy on TV. I've only seen two random episodes on FX, no idea what season they were from, but man... I did NOT find it funny. Cheap, generic humor. No risks. Do laugh tracks seem almost prehistoric to anybody else?
I was happy to see Peter Dinklage win, though. He deserved it. I've never watched Modern Family, but it looks more tolerable than most network comedies, perhaps I'll get around to it one day when it's all over. Apparently the Emmy voters seem to think it's the bee's knees.
I loved the pilot for Walking Dead, then liked the 2nd episode, then liked the 3rd slightly less, then started to dislike it, and by the finale, I was sick of it. I'm wiling to give season two a chance, as they've seemed to do a creative shake-up, but I'm all ready to bail on it once it starts to get boring again. It was disappointing and surprising how much it rolled downhill during such a short season. And I love zombies! They need to start using their best asset, the zombies, to kill off their weakest asset - the bad actors.
[Tim Wilson] "The pilot for New Girl on Fox was a kick. It has a few soft spots, but it has the potential to be a bright spot in the lineup. It's also one of those deals where they replaced one of the four main characters between the pilot and the first ep, which airs this week, so we'll see."
I went to high school with the new guy, Lamorne! I didn't know him, don't think I ever talked to him, but just throwing out the "I went to high school with that moderately famous person" card, for no reason. That being said, I didn't watch New Girl, because I don't care for the "super attractive girl has trouble getting men because she's 'nerdy'" angle. Zooey D could have a stutter, gingivitis, terrible BO, and a noticeable sweating problem, all while constantly quoting Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, and dudes would still be all over that.
Terra Nova looks like it has potential, I'll be DVRing it. TV could use more scripted shows about dinosaurs.
[Scott Roberts] "I don't care for the "super attractive girl has trouble getting men because she's 'nerdy'" angle."
It's what drives me crazy about most movies with Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Anniston. I know that life can be a grind, and finding love is just as hard for beautiful people as anyone else, but still...
Anyway, the Zooey thing is that she's heartbroken by a previous long-term relationship, has zero self-respect left, is out of touch with the dating scene AND generally clueless. They actually play straight into the idea that she's attractive and oblivious...and that the attractiveness should be enough to make fixing the rest easy to get started on. She gets advice from the guys that she needs make-up sex to get her confidence back. She just needs to take it easy and guys will be all over her.
She comes back after talking to this guy at the bar, "I looked him straight in the eye, we had a really good conversation, laughed at each other's jokes, it was great. And when I told him I wanted to have makeup sex he totally gave me his number." She said it funnier, but her roommates were horrified.
Then the guy is a chump, and her roommates leave insanely hot women at a party to run to her rescue. Awwww. It ends with them singing "I Had The Time of My Life" in a restaurant (she watches Dirty Dancing when she's sad...which none of the boys had seen and are deeply embarrassed that they think it's not all that bad), and it goes really badly and they get thrown out. Awwww.
It's better than my lame summary, but the set-up isn't all that artificial, and feels pretty organic. In fact, most of the best stuff isn't her being a nerd in the world, it's her and her roommates in the apartment. I can't remember the last time I saw a show where I'd call the vibe "sweet," but this is. It's a nice balance to vampires and zombies.
It might turn out to be awful, but so far, genuinely nice, , good writing, very well done. I'm sure your high school peep will make all the difference.
I don't mean to overstate, but it's not generic yet, which is a pretty big deal this season. I can't remember the last year that I didn't even get through the first episode of so many shows.
Terra Nova - wow what an expensive tv show. If the ratings are not great this will be short lived. The pilot cost $18 million, and due to the expense and the 250 sets they went straight into 13 episodes. Oddly the Nat Geo channel also ran the pilot.
Large scale production, resembling Lost in the locale and the many possible storylines (. Dinosaurs look good for television and follow the Jurassic Park model - a few hero shots at the beginning followed by action later with most action focused on the people. Worked for Jaws, worked for JP1,2 and 3.
Beautiful locations. Elaborate production design.
The Not So Good
Actors look like they walked off the set of a CW show. If these people were struggling to live in a future Earth polluted to the brink of extinction, how is it they all look like models. I realize living in paradise makes you look like a GQ model. How exactly did they get all the vehicles, hardware and building materials through the stargate-like portal? They certainly didn't build factories. Some of the structures are built with bamboo like materials, while others look like pre-fabricated homes with electricity, doorknobs and nice furniture.
Steven Lang is cool but he is basically playing his character from Avatar. Also reminds me of the character played by Will Patton in Falling Skies.
Not sure how they can sustain the action, the effects and the plot over multiple seasons. Yes they did it on Lost which was on FOX, but the scale of this show is a lot of overhead. We'll see.
I put this comment in "the bad" because it will be a shame if the production values remain high but the mainstream audience and/or budget does not. The Walking Dead faces this scenario in its 2nd season.
All that being said, it was quite fun to watch, albeit a bit too Technicolor.