Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kalinda Goes, NPH Hosts

Today was a busy pop culture day wasn't it? Stand-alone streaming service from HBO! Every Friends episode available on Netflix next year! Superhero films through the year 2020! Yet none of those made the cut for me tweeting about them. These two news report did though...

Yup, everyone's favorite leather-bound in-house investigator is leaving The Good Wife filling me with much sadness. Apparently Archie Panjabi recently signed a talent deal with 20th Century TV and will be headlining a drama pilot for them so at least we won't be without her talents for long. I, however, can still mourn the end of Kalinda and contemplate why the show's first breakout character and Emmy-winning role has been so wasted the past few seasons. Severing her ties to Alicia in the third season hurt, but it was the abusive husband storyline in the fourth season that seemed like the point of no return for the character as the writers then decided to stop any character development at all for her perhaps out of making the same mistake again. For the best drama in broadcast TV the past few years, it's the rare blind spot for them and I truly hope that at least with the end in sight they're able to craft an ending as brilliant as the character was in the first season. At the very least, they could have her share a scene with the Alicia, which apparently hasn't happened since season 4!

And finally, Neil Patrick Harris is finally hosting the Oscars! He'll emcee the upcoming telecast and it really is about damn time. I knew that as soon as How I Met Your Mother ended, it wouldn't take long for him to get asked and for him to accept. Apparently, they first asked Julia-Louis Dreyfus (which would've been fantastic also), but she turned them down. So instead, Harris will be just one Grammy hosting duty away from claiming the EGOT of hosting as he has already hosted the Tony Awards (to much critical acclaim) numerous times as well as the Emmy Awards. Mind you, he just won the Tony for headlining Hedwig and the Angry Inch (I saw him in it and LOVED it) *and* in the midst of a book tour to promote his autobiography. Where the hell does he find the time? It will be interesting that he'll be hosting the Oscars with his latest film, Gone Girl, already one of the front-runners for the award.

Looking Forward To...

Release: October 17, 2014
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Merritt Wever, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, and Edward Norton

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: The Flash and Jane the Virgin

When I decided that I was done with Supernatural after last season, I was relieved to have at least one broadcast channel that I didn't have to mind. Well, the CW had their own plans because they brought me right back in with a couple of new shows featuring strong lead actors...

The Flash is CW banking on the success of their other current DC comic book hero show Arrow, but it's this very reason why I was first hesitant to check it out. I only mildly liked the Arrow pilot and only managed to see a handful of episodes before stopping (though it apparently got much better) and the people who created the show are the same as the ones working on The Flash. Fortunately, the show is less Batman in tone like Arrow and more like Spider-Man (films) i.e. more fun and even a little cheesy. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is practically playing Peter Parker as a CSI with his own Mary Jane and dead relatives. He's the best part of the pilot for me, easily selling the comedic and dramatic moments he's given and to skillfully balance the science nerd and hero in-the-making personas. The origin story and the world building was substantial, but easy-to-follow for a newcomer like me (even one who doesn't watch Arrow). The cast is okay to good with Tom Cavanaugh and Jesse L. Martin as the standouts as Barry two father figures while his real father, played by 90s Flash actor John Wesley Shipp is in jail. Some of the dialogue was awkward and corny (that roof pep talk with the Green Arrow was cringe-worthy), but at least the special effects were spot-on. Good first outing!

Grade: B
Willingess to continue:
I like this pilot more than Arrow's pilot so I think I'll stick around if only to find out what the deal is with that newspaper from the future!

Jane the Virgin is a show that feels like it shouldn't be on the CW with all of its supernatural/fantasy/comic book shows and yet it is and I hope for its success more than any new show of the season, because we need more shows like this. It revolves around 23-yo Jane Villanueva, played by the revelatory Gina Rodriguez, who has been raised to value her virginity above all else, and who in the pilot gets accidentally inseminated causing her to become pregnant. The concept is the "stuff of telenovelas" as the show states, but the overwhelming charm of the writing and the acting transcends the ridiculousness of it all. In that way, it reminded me of Ugly Betty which was also adapted from a telenovela and also led by a strong actress. This show, however, already feels more grounded even with all of the twists and turns the pilot takes. It's not perfect and there are some characters that definitely need work (the cheating wife, the mega-star father), but the show did well to perfectly cast its lead and I'm loving the fun sudsiness of it all already.

Grade: A-
Willingness to continue:
Uh, yes. I mean I watched Ugly Betty to its bitter end so what do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: A to Z and Gracepoint

These next two pilots I thought were quite good, but both seem to be anchored by expectations of certain older shows. You'll see what I mean...

A to Z was my most anticipated comedy of the fall mostly because I adore the two leads played by Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman, who I loved before in other TV shows, and also because the concept intrigued the romantic in me. As Katey Segal says in voiceover narration the two "will date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour. This television program is the comprehensive account of their relationship, from A to Z." It's all very high-concept and twee, but the chemistry between Feldman and Milioti is palpalble and is definitely the best of the new fall shows of its ilk. The problem of course is the comparison to How I Met Your Mother which was another high-concept comedy about finding love which ended in a whimper (and featured Milioti) down to the use of flashbacks, voice narration, and non-linear storytelling. And yet people seem to forget how amazing Mother was early on and if this show can tap into that to fill the sitcom void, I'm all for it. Plus the pilot episode had quite a lot of great moments such as the quick social media montage where we saw their relationship suddenly bloom to that wonderful flashback to the first time they laid eyes on one another to that kickass cameo from Lea Thompson. Yes, this show is way too precious, but I'm the right Gollum for it.

Grade: B/B+
Willingess to continue:
I'll watch it for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour... and more if the show is willing.

It's difficult to figure out how to review Gracepoint, especially for someone like me who saw and loved Broadchurch. It's even trickier with the pilot specifically because as far as I can tell, other than very minor details, most of the story beats and character work is a direct copy of the BBC America show. David Tennant reprises his Broadchurch role except now he has a passable American accent and a seemingly bored disposition while the terrific Anna Gunn, like the rest of the cast, has the uneviable task of putting their own spin on characters already fully realized elsewhere. So yes, the Gracepoint pilot was good because the Broadchurch pilot they "adapted" was good. Perhaps this show just isn't for us Broadchurch viewers at least until they diverge more from the original story. Even during this first episode, I felt my attention waning a few times at the sameness of it all.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Maybe, I'm not sure. It's certain the end will be different (it has to be!), but will the journey to get there just feel too much of the same?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Selfie and Manhattan Love Story

I've noticed that I've been talking about the new shows this fall in pairs even though I didn't mean to do so consciously. In any case, last week's double premiere of ABC sitcoms about men-women relationships made it easy to pair them together. And thus...

I wanted more than anything to fall head over heels in love with the unfortunately titled Selfie mostly due to my love of John Cho and Doctor Who's Karen Gillan. The bad news is that didn't happen, but the good news is the show is actually not as bad as its self-aware trying-too-hard-to-be-hip title. The show is loosely based on My Fair Lady with Gillan playing Eliza, a self-centered social-media obsessed swan who used to be an ugly duckling. She seeks the help of Henry (Cho) to rebuild her image and mild hilarity ensues. Recognizing that is only been one episode, Eliza as a character isn't working at the moment. She's too much of a lame caricature and the fact that Gillan isn't able to use her regular Scottish accent isn't helping matters. I'm hopeful though that her character can evolve (and I can get used to her new accent eventually). The call outs to the various social media trends are also a bit much, but perhaps they'll tone it down in future episodes the way black-ish did with race. The saving grace of the show is the chemistry between Gillan and Cho as well as both of them delivering in the charm department, which is no easy for her saddled with such a work-in-progress character.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Yes, because I love the actors and definitely see potential for growth. #selfie #badromance

The trailer for Manhattan Love Story appealed to me, because I found the concept of hearing the inner thoughts of a man and a woman as they date and start a relationship pretty intriguing. What I didn't count on where those inner thoughts being predictable and really lame. In the first scene alone our leading man played as dudebro-ingly as possible by Jake McDornan and our leading woman played as neurotically insecurely as possible by Analeigh Tipton think about big boobs and pretty purses respectively. As the episode churns on, you realize that inner thoughts should always be kept to themselves as almost every reductive thought we hear make the characters more unlikable (or stupid). I can see a version of the show where the thoughts are slightly more insightful and both characters deserve happiness (with each other), but unfortunately that's not the version of the show the pilot showed us.

Grade: C-
Willingness to continue:
Relunctantly yes, mostly because it's smack dab between two shows I'm watching at the moment, Selfie and SHIELD.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Gone Girl
Release: October 3, 2014
Distributor: Fox
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Patrick Fujit, Emily Ratajkowski, Boyd Holbrook, Scott McNairy, Tyler Perry, Sela Ward, Missi Pyle, Casey Wilson, and Neil Patrick Harris

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder

Even though it was Premiere Week this past week, I actually only saw two new shows so don't think I'm putting them together now just because they happen to feature people of color as lead characters (though that isn't unimportant in the least). Let's go...

Black-ish is the first sitcom pilot I've seen this season and it looks like I started out on a good note. Dre Johnson, played slightly over-the-top by Anthony Anderson, is a marketing executive who is on the verge of a promotion and is generally high on life until he realizes that his family for all of their success have forgotten their black roots. His identity crisis and paranoia about them being black-ish is compounded by his son wanting to play field hockey and have a Bar Mitzvah and his company asking him to lead the "urban" division. He's put to the paces by his bi-racial doctor wife played by Tracee Ellis Ross and his father played by Laurence Fishburne as well as his other kids and predictably all's well that ends well as things do for sitcoms. The focus on race may have been too sledgehammer-y (or at least too broad) for a few, but it gives this show a solid base for the rest of its life. Plus it was funny (Ross and the young twins provided a lot of the laughs for me). I do hope that the show is more family comedy than work comedy because I generally found all of the latter slightly dull. Now let's all take a black break and get some white yogurt.

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: High. It has tons of potential and the family characters are great. Plus being sandwiched between two shows I already watch helps A LOT.

How to Get Away with Murder was my most anticipated show of the fall season so I'm super happy that it lived up to my already high expectations. First of all, Viola Davis as the brilliant and intimidating law professor Annalise Keating is just superb. Her role feels familiar already in the well-worn TV trope of smart and tough teacher who mentors her students in an unorthodox way (in the first episode she pits her students against one another to come up with the best defense on a case she's currently working on with four of the best to intern at her firm) and yet in Davis' hands she also feels fully fleshed out already in spite of still so many unanswered questions about her. I understand people saying she wasn't in the pilot enough, because from the first time she enters the frame to write the title of the show on the blackboard, you just never wanted her to leave and you definitely miss her when she's not on. The rest of the show though intrigued me if not in equal measure, then enough. It revolves around the young folks she's taken under her wing led by the baby-faced Wes Gibbins, adorably played by Alfred Enoch, a character you can easily root for in this dog-eat-dog world/show. In flash-forwards, we see Gibbins with three of his classmates literally trying to hide the evidence of a murder that's been committed. We get small clues in the pilot about what could've led to this dark moment in their lives (the tenuous relationships between all of the characters, the origin of the murder weapon, the identity of the victim, etc.) and I have to say I'm hooked. There's also so many other things I loved about the show such as having a gay character who is actually shown to have sex and of course seeing Liza Weil (Paris in Gilmore Girls) on my TV again. The week wait for the next new episode is murder.

Grade: A
Willingess to continue:
A murder mystery and a chance to see Viola Davis weekly? HELL TO THE YES.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Mysteries of Laura and Madam Secretary

Yesterday, I talked about a couple of new FOX shows and today I'll go into two shows which highlight that a woman can be a mother AND something else. Whoa, whoa, WHOA talk about suspension of disbelief. Onwards...

The Mysteries of Laura has already been raked through the coals for its pre-premiere marketing campaign hammering the fact that Debra Messing's character is a cop AND a mom with the emphasis on the word and. The pilot doesn't help matters since it really did try to magnify how motherly she has to be in her job and how much of a cop she has to be in her personal life, the latter of which includes two twin boys who are obviously the spawns of Satan. In any case, everything about the show feels formulaic and forced and as delightful as Messing is, she just doesn't have the presence to shoulder this largely by-the-numbers show alone. She'll need help from the ensemble which isn't making much of an impression so far with the exception of her investigative aide/babysitter. With that said, they smartly take advantage of shooting on location in New York City and the case-of-the-week featured in the pilot had a nice twist in the end, but overall it all just feels a little too been-there-who-cares?

Grade: D+
Willingness to continue:
I really shouldn't, but there's nothing else on at the same time so maybe I'll catch an episode or two or just catch up on my reading.

First of all, I misrepresented Madam Secretary earlier since unlike Mysteries of Laura it's not at all underlining the fact that Elizabeth McCord, played by Téa Leoni, is the Secretary of State AND a mother. Her being a mom is not ignored as we see her interact with her husband and kids, but it's just a natural extension of the character rather than a prominent schtick (at least not yet). The President, an old CIA boss, calls her up from her civilian life as a professor to be Secretary after the current one dies in a plane crash. The first part of the pilot had to go on hyper speed to bring us to two months after she has agreed to the job so it felt slightly choppy and rushed, but then the rest of the episode focused on showing how McCord was still adjusting to the job from entertaining foreign dignitaries to handling personnel issues, namely trying to figure out how to leverage her friendship with the President against the antagonizing Chief of Staff (played by none other than Zeljko Ivanek, because of course). From there, the pilot goes on auto drive with McCord deftly handling International Crisis #1 through her connections and brilliance. There's also a possible Big Conspiracy reveal in the end, because of course. Overall, the show is solid if slightly unremarkable for now with a pedigreed cast full of Tony/Oscar/Emmy winners who seem to be overly qualified for what's being asked of them so far. Now, was anyone else distracted by the number of House of Cards actors in the episode? I counted three.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Yes and no. Yes, based on the show's quality, but no based on its time slot. It would be approximately the 1000th show I watch on Sundays and I'm just not sure if my DVR is up to the task especially since it'll also be surely affected by football overruns.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Red Band Society and Gotham

The only reason I'm putting these two shows together is because they air on FOX and nothing else since they couldn't be further from each other. One is a show about a bunch of really sick kids who band together during their extended stay in a fancy hospital while the other is the story of Batman before Batman became Batman. Onwards...

Red Band Society has been dubbed as Glee meets Grey's Anatomy meets The Fault in Our Stars and that's actually pretty on point so if you're a fan of at least two of those then this show might be for you. Unfortunately, I found the pilot just a tad cloying, over-earnest, and overall hokey. It's not easy doing a show about seriously sick kids since you don't want it to be too depressing, but it can't just be too peppy and at least based on the first episode they're leaning a bit too heavily on the latter. Granted a lot of that could just be the usual expositionary stuff every pilot goes through, but with this show all of that just seemed to magnify the over-sentimentality of it all (cue Coldplay music). And don't get me started on the coma kid who's providing voice-over narration and commentary on the goings on in the hospital and is stuck in some "in-between" world. Not even my love for Octavia "Scary Bitch" Spencer could make me tolerate that.

Grade: C
Willingness to continue: I'll check out one more episode (maybe two), but it just seemed like the show isn't for me.

Why would you do a Batman TV show without Batman? And yet the creators of Gotham did just that with the show taking place when Bruce Wayne is just a wee little boy whose parents are killed in front of him and Jim Gordon is still the boyish rookie in the form of Ben McKenzie all blue-eyed and noble. The thing is... it's not bad. McKenzie is pretty great as Gordon going up against and dealing with the shady figures of Gotham be it his opportunistic partner Bullock (Donal Logue), the  dangerous Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), the intimidating Carmine Falcone (John Doman), or the various young folks he encounters who happen to be the evil supervillains of the future. These various cameos were probably the most distracting parts of the pilot. Of course we had to see Bruce Wayne, but we also got a glimpse of the future Catwoman, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Penguin, and maybe even the Joker himself. I guess the show has to do that since without that, it would just be a run-of-the-mill cop show. At least, they got the look of Gotham City just right, feeling lived-in and appropriately dark. All of the actors also seem to be committed and I'm already intrigued by one or two things namely the past relationship between Barbara and Renee. The show does need more shirtless Jim Gordon action. Priorities!

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: Definitely for a few episodes and since I like to support genre shows, if it doesn't completely suck then it's a safe bet for a season's pass.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy September 22nd!

Apparently today is a big pop culture day. It's the 20th anniversary of Friends, the 10th anniversaries of Lost and Veronica Mars, and it's the birthdays of Rose Tyler, Draco Malfoy, and Sarah Manning (and Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena)... well the actors who play them. So...


I would never say that this is the greatest sitcom of all time, but due to its cultural reach, especially to my generation, it's definitely one of the most popular show even two decades remove from its debut. I'm pretty sure an episode of Friends is airing right now somewhere. I still watch re-runs on Nick at Nite whenever I can and recently aced a supposedly super difficult trivia quiz on it. Its series finale is one of my absolute favorites. Though I have yet to visit Central Perk so that's on my to-do list. Now go sing Smelly Cat or tweak your nubbin to celebrate the day.


Even though I've seen every episode of Lost and have love/obsessed over this show (and its cast) all the way to the end, it's pretty funny that I actually didn't start watching the show until the third episode had already aired. Couldn't commit to the 2-hour pilot (incidentally one of my favorite pilots ever) and yet once I did see it, I was all in for the 121 episode journey of madness and brilliance. Too bad there really hasn't been a true replacement for it on network TV.


I mistweeted earlier today saying I saw the pilot of Veronica Mars when it aired, but I just realize that I had disowned UPN (whoa old school!) after Buffy ended so I didn't get to see the show until a friend burned DVDs of the first season to me a year or so later. Of course, I didn't get to finish watching the first season until THIS YEAR with my roommate pushing me to do just that and watch the entire series so we could see the movie which came out in March.


Billie Piper, who turns 32 today, was the first companion of the rebooted Doctor Who and thus was a lot of people's entry to the now 50-year old sci-fi institution (she was part of the celebration last year). I had no previous history with her and didn't even know she was a pop singer, but she was fantastic both with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. All New Who companions are still compared to her. Currently she's starring in Penny Dreadful which I haven't seen, but I thought she was excellent in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

Turning 29 today, Tatiana Maslany's star continues to rise as the lead of Orphan Black winning two Critics Choice Awards and being nominated for a Golden Globe for playing half a dozen or so characters on the small BBC America show. That show is her breakout role as she mostly appeared on Canadian productions prior to that. She memorably appeared in a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation last year. Hope she gets more opportunities!

Finally, Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter films is 27 today and he seems to have been typecast in these villainy type roles the past few years such as his roles in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this year's Belle. He stars in TNT's Murder in the First and has a few films lined up where he hopefully plays not the bad guy.