Saturday, October 17, 2015
Viewers approach every new fall TV season with excitement. Our DVRs get programmed to bursting, recording every new show that looks remotely interesting alongside our returning faves. Gradually, as the weeks wear on, we find our new faves and discard the shows that didn't win us over. Early cancellations weed out the schedule even when we don't want it to.
This year began with a lot of excitement. So many new dramas and comedies with big names, big ideas, and tons of promise. While it's still early in the new TV season, we can't help feeling a sort of television limbo. Rather than big hits and tragic misses, the series we've tuned in for have been...mostly sorta okay. There's nothing that we immediately want to banish from our DVRs and scrub from our memories, but there are very few shows that hold much excitement for us, either.
THE OBVIOUS WINNERS
"The Player" -- As far as generating excitement, we're still loving "The Player." The trio of Wesley Snipes, Philip Winchester, and Charity Wakefield light up our small screens in so many smooth and sexy ways. The adventures are fast-paced and entertaining, the stakes are high, and the underlying mystery tying the characters together offers just the right amount of frustrating suspense that has us looking forward to the next installment.
Despite the rather ridiculous plot of wealthy gamblers betting on crime, the show has a lot more wit and unpredictable twists than your average crash-bang action romp. We genuinely hope this show sticks around.
"Heroes Reborn" -- Even the beloved first season of the original "Heroes" had some irritating characters that we dreaded spending time with. This sequel series so far has gifted us with a lot of interesting, likable characters that we actually care about. Miko (Kiki Sukezane) and Ren (Toru Uchikado) may be two of the most awesome, ridiculously adorable characters in TV history.
Noah Bennett (Jack Coleman) is a fantastic focal point, playing at hero but with wiped memories that hide some big secrets about deadly events in the past and the future. We get to revisit and remember some former heroes, and meet new ones with interesting powers. And we're back to the "Save the World" connecting thread, which is what sucked us all in to its predecessor. So far, so good--we're hooked.
THE BIG MEH
"Blindspot" -- We're willing to forgive a lot because of the awesomely unique storyline of a former Navy Seal who wakes up in a duffel bag in Times Square, with amnesia, her body tattooed with an intricate array of mysterious codes and clues to a network of crime. Plus, we love Jaimie Alexander so much. But by the second episode we were already cringing over the show's flaws. Despite the disappointing execution of a fab idea, the show has earned fans with its intriguing hook and recently earned a full season order. The actors seem to be getting a bit more comfortable with each other as the series progresses, and we're hoping some of the eye-rolling plot moments and dumbed-down dialogue improve over time.
"Rosewood" -- This is probably never going to break free of "guilty pleasure" territory, but we need it to step up its game a bit more. The show skates on the amusing heights of positive energy and charm from the Miami-Vice-2.0-wardrobed Morris Chestnut, and the Sherlockian crime-solving can be a lot of fun. The pilot was horrendous, however, with over-the-top scenes of private coroners examining dead bodies in club wear, with no protective clothing or gloves or consideration for all the possible germs they then carried outside on their fashionable outfits.
Subsequent episodes have made a better attempt at reality in that regard, and the family drama provides some touching moments. But despite some entertaining banter with Rosie's police detective collaborator Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz), the writers have made the troubled cop way too abrasive and often gratingly unlikable.
"Minority Report" -- We're thankful that tough cop Vega's (Meagan Good) cleavage is no longer stealing every scene, but the show has already gotten repetitive with its formula every week. See Dash (Stark Sands) have a vision at an inappropriate time. See him suffer agonizingly as they try to suck further images out of his head. Cue naive adventurer versus jaded, experienced cop banter. Watch our heroes ask the same people for help who express reluctance to help. And on and on we go. A subplot forming with the other precogs has added interest, however, and a hint of the ominous creepiness that helped make the original film so riveting.
"Grandfathered" -- Sitcoms play with caricatures of course. But this John Stamos vehicle takes it too far. A flashy, suave bachelor restaurant owner meeting a previously unknown-to-him nerdy son and grandchild is a perfect set-up for "Odd Couple" levels of comic conflict. But "Grandfathered" makes Jimmy such an obnoxiously selfish asshole and his son a mortifyingly doe-eyed pathetic dork that we are usually thoroughly disgusted with both of them by the time the "feel good" portion of the program is supposed to kick in. The supporting players have their moments and sometimes the comedy lands well. But it's 50/50 enjoy/hate every week and that will spell doom pretty quickly.
"The Grinder" -- Marginally better than its "Grandfathered" lead-in, this show about a lawyer whose actor brother decides to join the family business at least has some sharper wit. Rob Lowe is supposed to be the main draw as the narcissistic charmer, but Fred Savage steals the show with his wry delivery as the "sensible" brother who resents living in his famous bro's shadow. The series still has its irritating, predictable moments, but so far the relief has been that the "lesser" brother's wife is always supportive instead of a nagging shrew, and the flashy actor brother doesn't always get his way. We're still overall a bit meh about the whole thing, but this one seems to have a bit more potential to stay on the DVR.
"Limitless" -- We were promised Bradley Cooper would remain a part of the series based on his feature film, but so far he's only turned up in the pilot--then they've replayed that same footage in every episode that follows. Jake McDorman does a good job of believably portraying both halves of his character Brian, the affable loser musician who's always between jobs and the ridiculously brilliant and suave FBI liaison whose sudden brain power comes from a dangerous drug. It's mildly entertaining during the investigations, but all the secrets and lies and threats between the characters has already become exhausting.
"Quantico" -- This drama had a promising premise about new FBI recruits going through tough physical and emotional training together, and then finding out one of them is a terrorist who executes a devastating attack. Priyanka Chopra plays the innocent recruit the whole mess gets pinned on, and while she's fine at playing sexy and athletic, her attempts at emotion are pretty cringe-worthy. She's often not helped by the writing, which heaps on corny dialogue and melodrama. The characters get a bit more interesting over time as we continually learn that people are not at all what they seem, even when you've done extensive background checks on them. The mystery and manhunt is enough to keep us interested right now, but the show fits well inside our ongoing theme of wasted potential in new shows.
What do you think of the new season? Any new favorites, or is it all just "meh" material to you?
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
"Gotham" episode "Knock, Knock," definitely delved into darker territory this week. As someone who's more a fan of atmospheric psychological drama than scenes of mass murder and gushing blood, it was a little disturbing to see a general reaction to this episode as "Most violent ever = Best episode ever!"
So it was pretty cool to find this online webcast, "After Gotham," that gets three geek guys together to dissect the entire episode and actually explain what made this a strong installment of a show that has struggled to find its exact voice. Deserved props are given to actor Cameron Monaghan as a possible-Joker, and the trio's initial reaction to the mention of Barbara (Erin Richards) hilariously sums up how I've felt about the character.
The webcast also goes over the show's comic book origins, parallels, contrasts, and recs for relevant issues. It's good stuff for "Gotham" fans, and my Night Session webcast partner Courtney Massey will be happy to know that we're not the only ones who have trouble wrapping up an episode.
Plus, there's a Christopher Walken impression. There's no beating that.
If you're looking for more "Gotham" wrap-up goodness, IGN has a good review on this second episode of the season, including an insightful take on why no Penguin this week was a very good thing.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
|Seriously. Look at them. They're adorable.|
Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) had some lovely flirtations back in Arkham, but we couldn't quite enjoy it because we weren't sure if she was a psychopath or not. (Just a minor issue.) Now that those suspicions are hopefully out of the way, we get an interesting, feisty partner for Jim to contend with. And now that she's the chief medical examiner, they get to flirt every day at work, too.
It's tough not to love the interactions between these two. They are practically beaming at one another, wonderfully conveying that giddy feeling you have when you begin a relationship with someone and you can't believe how well it's going. Jim keeps trying to be all gruff and manly and stoic, but Leslie continues to surprise him in all sorts of ways. This turns him into a grinning, "aw shucks" pile of adorableness that is delightful to watch.
In "The Blind Fortune Teller," Leslie invites Jim on a date to the circus. He thinks it's a weird idea, but he dives in and ends up totally enjoying himself.
(Check out: Why FOX's 'Gotham' Deserves A Season 2)
Leslie turns out to be very helpful to the cause, since the performers are more willing to open up to doctors than cops. She convinces Jim that she can do even more, and he keeps her involved throughout all the steps of the case. Even when she decides to follow up a lead from the circus psychic.
This is the only part that worries me. The fact that Leslie is interested in Jim's work, in solving crimes, is a good thing. She can be an integral part of his life. That's what Barbara claimed she wanted but then totally balked at. But Leslie seems a little crazily invested, to the point of only letting Jim have two bites of her home-cooked dinner before dragging him into the woods to follow a hunch.
I'm not sure if "Gotham" is just making her quirky, or if they're setting this couple up to fail so Barbara can work her way back in. Please no. So far that doesn't seem to be the case, as drug-addled Babs can't even rise to the level of street kids--who advise her to dress classy for her "accidental" meeting with Jim. "Like you've just gone sailing," Cat and Ivy suggest.
Maybe Barbara's been sailing in a cocktail dress and stiletto heels, who knows. But she gets an eyeful of Jim/Leslie canoodling that quickly squashes any idea to woo him back, no matter what she's wearing.
And we get an eyeful as well, and it's good stuff. Jim and Leslie make for a very affectionate, playful, and sexy couple. Please please please let us have more of this in "Gotham."
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Abbie (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod (Tom Mison) are Witnesses in the lore of "Sleepy Hollow," connected on a much higher level than a mere romance, where every choice they make together has repercussions toward, yah know, minor stuff like the Apocalypse. As Beharie herself says, impending doom tends to be a bit of a “mood killer” when it comes to flirtations between these two characters.
Still, despite the dire circumstances, most fans of a show like this can't help wanting their favorite duo to get together. So the writers gave Ichabod a witchy wife, and that's not just metaphorical. This is a woman Ichabod digs up graves for demon heads and takes possibly one-way trips into Purgatory for, so that instantly put the kibosh on any sort of romantic feelings for Abbie from the man-from-the-past.
This week, however, *SPOILER ALERT* the marital bliss between Ichabod and Katrina took a major hit. Considering Mrs. Crane's been living with and batting her eyelashes at the Headless Horseman for some time now, that's saying something. In the episode "Weeping Lady," a former betrothed of Ichabod's turns up as a vengeful spirit, thanks to some black magic from Henry.
The spirit goes on a rampage of attempting to kill every woman that is close to Crane, and only when he and Abbie work together to save Katrina is the full truth of the Weeping Lady revealed. Ichabod had thought that the fiancee he'd ended things with had gone back home to England. Now he finds out that she died, albeit accidentally, and Katrina hid the death from him with a fake letter--all to avoid him taking off back to England to console with her family--thus abandoning his mission--and Katrina.
Not surprisingly, Ichabod is a bit stunned and miffed at this revelation. When he tallies up all of Katrina's deceptions, it's a pretty striking list. She does get points for immediately saving him from the Headless Horseman's wrath, though.
With all that she's done now laid out for us, Katrina is looking pretty manipulative and more devoted to "the cause" than to Ichabod himself. As this compelling wedge is driven between the couple, we can't help wondering if this will open the door to a single Ichabod and a chance of him seeing Abbie as more than just a fellow Witness and friend.
As fun a couple as they make, do we really want the romance? As Vulture points out, Abbie is no mere sidekick or comic foil on "Sleepy Hollow." She's one tough woman, and she's strong and focused and not wasting time making googly eyes at her Apocalypse-fighting companion. While there's potential for it to be an awesome additional bond between the pair, there's also the potential that Abbie might be diminished somehow, relegated to emotional support as many cool female characters before her have been.
It is also pretty stellar to have a TV relationship with a man and a woman that have a deep love and affection for one another that has no sexual component. Men and women CAN be friends, and fight the Four Horseman without stopping to snog between battles! What could be more noble than that?
What do you think, "Sleepy Hollow" fans? Are we heading towards an Ichabod/Abbie romance? Do we want them to be together now, later, or never?
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I gotta be honest, the majority of my investment in "Gotham" came from lead actor Ben McKenzie's soulful-eyed trustworthy-guy face in the promos. The "Southland" vet has Dutch, English, and Scottish ancestry, the blend giving him the perfect blond, tough, noble bearing for those good Irish cop roles he's well-suited for. The thought of watching Gordon as a young detective, with his pure soul shining out in the dark and creepy Batman universe, suddenly seemed appealing.
And yet the premiere of "Gotham" seems to disregard its greatest asset, giving Gordon a lot rougher edges, murky motives, and moral compromises right from the get-go. He's sort of pre-jaded, and while he's definitely painted as a good and (mostly) honest guy, he lacks the warmth as yet that would make him a truly appealing central character.
Not helping that appeal is Gordon's girlfriend Barbara (Erin Richards), who has the helium voice and demeanor of a Playboy model and of course had a possible relationship with Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena), a major crimes cop. A bit of sexual diversity is nice, but this feels more like comic book geek guys going, "Heheheheh, two hot chicks doin' it! And the guy might get a threesome!"
"Gotham" is presented as a noir crime drama, and pairs Gordon with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, taking a little side-step over from his role on "Copper"), a veteran detective who lives in all the gray areas of police corruption and mob control of the city. Jada Pinkett Smith is a bright spot in the pilot, playing her head-cracking "legit businesswoman" role of Fish Mooney with just the right amount of flash and relish.
Like many pilots, in its effort to make an impression, "Gotham" threw as much paint on the canvas as possible. For a 7-pm-Central show that is going to get family viewers, there was a lot of emphasis on the "noir," which the show interpreted as dimly lit scenery and vivid blood, blood, blood. Let's see Bruce Wayne's parents actually getting shot, let's see blood on Bruce's hands, let's see a guy getting beaten with a baseball bat, then another guy beaten bloody, and another guy shot, and on and on. It felt a lot less noir and a lot more "gratuitously violent monotony".
We also got the usual "look how many comic characters we can throw into an episode!" issue, because the Gordon/Bruce intro wasn't enough for 45 minutes. We also had to have a young Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, and Poison Ivy, and probably more that aficionados will pick up on. For all the dark and soulless feel of "Gotham," though, young Selina (Camren Bicondova) lurking around the edges of Bruce's life with large, sympathetic eyes inspired a few welcome notes of emotion.
"Gotham" also isn't quite sure of its tone or style yet. While largely sticking with a traditional cinematic look, the pilot suddenly interjected a few odd close-up perspective shots of Gordon during a chase scene. While you could imagine these views as frames in a comic book, they stuck out oddly in a show that hadn't really used any stylized shots beforehand.
All-in-all "Gotham" fell flat when presenting its first impression. But shows like "Arrow" and timeslot follower "Sleepy Hollow" were a bit slow out of the gate, as well, so it's possible that "Gotham" will hit its stride as the season progresses. There is plenty of opportunity for juicy character arcs here, with the intertwining lives of future heroes and villains, and a chance to see those well-worn stories get tweaked in new directions.
The key will be for Gordon to be more engaging and likable, someone we can both identify with and cheer for amidst all of the chaos and crookedness around him. Maybe I'm crazy to wish for a smooshy moral center in a dystopian nightmare tornado, but a gal likes to have something good to hold onto in a show she invests in weekly.
"Gotham" airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.
PHOTOS: 2014 "Gotham" pilot screencaps, IGN promo video, 2014, fair use.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
|The hero of "Sleepy Hollow". (*CLICK* all pics for larger versions!)|
The "Sleepy Hollow" pilot puts an interesting biblical spin on the old tale of the Headless Horseman, and gives us an entertaining, pulpy, creepy good thrill ride that hopefully will continue throughout the episodes. We begin the pilot with a flashback to one of our soon-to-be central characters.
['Sleepy Hollow': Has Abbie Found Someone Even Older Than Ichabod? … and Other Questions Answered]
As you see in the pic above, this handsome soldier (Tom Mison) is fighting in the brutal Revolutionary War. Things are already quite bad enough for him, you think.
Then this scary dude shows up.
Bullets don't kill him, but his ax slices through our soldier quite well.
Turns out our dying hero's sword also slices through the evil Redcoat's neck very well. They collapse next to each other on the ground.
Then our soldier wakes up, not from a dream, but from his own grave...in a cave.
While our soldier's busy trying not to get run over by motorized conveyances, we zip over to a local diner.
We meet the Sleepy Hollow sheriff, August Corbin. We are amused that he is played by Clancy Brown, who starred in that chopping-off-heads cult classic, "Highlander."
We also meet Lieutenant Abbie Mills. We can tell the sheriff is a father figure to her, because she acts a bit like a teenager around him. He wants her to be interested in the weirdness worth exploring around them. She wants to move on to bigger and better things than Sleepy Hollow.
The two get called to a local farm that has something spooking the horses. This is where we run into a whole lot of things you don't ever want to see.
Like a guy with no head that's impervious to bullets.
And a bloody ax coming at you through a barn door...
And what's on the other side of that door...
Being that this is a small town and our soldier is the stranger who is acting crazily in the middle of the road, he gets arrested on suspicion of murder.
This is where we find out that our dear revolutionary is Ichabod Crane. And he learns that he's somehow woken up 250 years after his glorious battlefield death.
Officer Andy Dunn (John Cho) doesn't care what this crazy dude says, he's the most likely suspect.
Captain Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) really has no idea what to make of any of this.
While he won't let Abbie interrogate the prisoner in the station, he allows her to be the one to transfer Crane to the local mental hospital.
That awkward moment when your prisoner asks if you've been "emancipated."
It seems that on TV, 90% of policewomen are played by someone half the size of the men. Sure, she's got a gun, but impossible not to think he could knock her over in a second.
But on to brighter subjects, such as Ichabod's tendency to look all soulful. He also calls Abbie "Lieutenant," in that sexy old school British way: "Leuf-tenant."
Abbie bends the rules and gets Ichabod to take her to the cave where he woke up. In it he finds a bible that he was buried with. There's a special passage marked in Revelations.
Ichabod looks soulful in the dark, too.
That terrifying moment when your possibly time-traveling companion tells you that headless dude you don't want to admit to having seen is actually one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Things get even freakier after that. Ichabod finds out his wife was killed as a witch...
...when a strange bird leads him to his wife's headstone.
Abbie just doesn't want to believe in witches or headless horsemen or apocalypses...so she does her job and takes Ichabod to the mental hospital.
Ichabod looks even more soulful in his new sterile prison...
...so Abbie tells him about the time when she and her sister had a terrifying experience in the woods.
They saw four creepy-as-hell white trees and a strange shadowy presence.
The experience left both girls emotionally scarred, and Abbie's sister has been in and out of mental hospitals ever since.
Abbie leaves Ichabod and goes to the late sheriff's office. She discovers a hidden key and secret files, all about the occult and weird happenings in Sleepy Hollow.
Meanwhile, Ichabod gets visited by that strange bird again...
And enters a strange hazy world where his wife has been trapped. She warns him of the impending danger of the Four Horsemen, who will bring the End of the World with them.
He sees the same creepy white trees Abbie did. Katrina warns him that he must prevent the horseman from retrieving his long-buried skull.
After finding all of the secret files, Abbie busts Ichabod out of the hospital so they can work on all of this crazy $%#! together.
You know, things like a headless dude climbing out of his watery tomb to hop onto his red-eyed horse and go off in search of his missing skull.
And doing a little light evening grave digging...
And finding the Horseman's missing head in Ichabod's wife's false grave...
|Yeah, that's pretty much the same face we made.|
Oh look, The Horseman has upgraded to some serious firepower...
While Ichabod is dodging bullets, Abbie gets knocked out and dragged by Andy into the back of his police car. Turns out he's working with that Death guy...
Abbie does a bit of thumb-biting to get Andy's hand off her face, and pretty soon she's got things under control...
Finally, reinforcements arrive, in time to see stuff they totally don't want to believe. Abbie and Ichabod share a wry smile over the absurdity of it all.
Andy has to face that evil demon, however, and the consequence of dealing with an entity like this is that your head and body end up in a configuration they were never meant to be in.
Abbie and Ichabod arrive to find their potential infomant on Evil totally dead, and wait, what's that in the mirror?
|Yep, that's pretty much the same freaked-out face we made.|
You might also enjoy: 'Sleepy Hollow': Has Abbie Found Someone Even Older Than Ichabod? … and Other Questions Answered
"Sleepy Hollow" airs on Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.
PHOTOS: 2013 "Sleepy Hollow" pilot premiere screencaps, Fox, fair use.