Posts Tagged ‘Fall Television’

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Supergirl (CBS)

Admittedly, I know very little about the comic-book cannon Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl. Absent that background knowledge, CBS’ tale of a Kryptonian on Earth feels like a lazy imitation of Kara’s better-known cousin. Just like Superman, Supergirl was sent to earth by her parents to escape the destruction of her home world, she was adopted by a couple of genteel midwest folk, moved to a big city to work in media and gets her first foray into superheroics by catching a crashing plane.

The show goes out of its way to remind you how feminist it is, having characters give monologues about how “girl” is *not* diminutive and how great it is for young women to have a role model to look up to. But like a bad comedy with a loud laugh track, if you have to try so hard to tell someone you’re funny, you’re probably not.

As Kara, Melissa Benoist is forced to adopt a bizarrely infantilized demeanor, like getting tongue-tied at the appearance of a hot new coworker. It makes for a weird blend of tones, like a Rom-com that occasionally tangents to have it’s protagonist light things on fire with her eye lasers.

Grade: B

Class: Kill and Bury

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Wicked City (ABC)

ABC’s Wicked City has a lot of interesting elements: 1980s period charm, serial killers, necrophilia. But any good intentions behind the show are buried under an avalanche of tropes, bad acting and lazy writing.

In a nutshell, you have the hardboiled cop who doesn’t play by the book, assigned to a new partner he doesn’t trust. Their chasing a serial killer who picks up women, kills them mid-fellacio and then copulates with their corpses.

If that sounds like some gritty, cable-tv-style drama, it’s not. The whole show is painted over with a waxy veneer in an attempt to hid it’s all-too-obvious shortcomings. Keep driving and leave this Wicked City in your rearview mirror.

Grade: C-

Class: Kill and Bury

tumblr_inline_nwz1vvL4zr1smw1z7_540Grimm (NBC)

Grimm made a lot of bold moves during its fourth season, and whether or not those decisions pay off the show is filled with new energy going into its fifth season.

Most of the show’s lingering villains were dealt with last year, including one who is now the mother of Nick’s son, leaving a path clear for an entirely new direction. We get that in the form of a shadowy organization that may or may not be connected to the U.S. Government and/or the Wesen resistance, seemingly working to stop a violent uprising.

It’s not the strongest premiere, mostly due to the staggering amount of clean up and exposition the writers are forced to chew through after last spring’s finale. And the impact of the new wesen threat is undercut by a laughably cheesy episode stinger that sees a clawed hand breaking the fourth wall to cut through the TV screen. You’re better than this Grimm.

As for the aforementioned child, we see the first seeds planted for what is likely to become a Nick/Adalind romance now that lady love Juliette is out of the picture. Or is she? The showrunners were fairly adamant during the hiatus that dead is dead is dead, but then who is the screaming female voice locked in Chavez’ cell? I’ve been championing this underdog show for years as escapist, fantasy fun and I look forward to finding out what’s next.

Grade: B

Class: Keep an Eye On

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Gotham (Fox)

For the second year in a row, the most anticipated release of the Fall is an ambitious comic-book based serial. Except where ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of Shield landed with a somewhat muted thud and took months to become interesting, Gotham arrives with what appears to be a fully-realized aesthetic and a world populated with an expansive cast of interesting characters just begging to be explored further.

The Batman show without Batman centers on Ben McKenzie’s Det. Jim Gordon and it’s great to see McKenzie back on a mainstream series after a critically lauded but largely unseen stint on Southland. He’s an optimistic boy scout hoping to remain a decent man in an indecent time, aided/hindered by his morally ambiguous partner Harvey Bulloch (Donal Logue). Logue does a little scenery chewing in the pilot but in the pseudo-noir Gotham it fits, rather than distracts, from the subtly stylized vibe of the show.

Cracks begin to show in the form of Gordon’s seemingly plastic fiance, who looks like she stepped step off the set of Michael Bay’s latest Carl’s Jr. Commercial, and the casting of both a young bruce wayne and his surrogate father Alfred Pennyworth have me thinking that the less time spent at Wayne Manor the better.

No worry though, with Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman and even Poison Ivy waiting in the wings, the show shouldn’t get bored anytime soon.

Grade: A-

Class: Subscribe

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Madam Secretary (CBS)

Madam Secretary, which finds Tea Leoni as an overtly Clintonian Secretary of State is the perfect Exhibit A in a discussion about the failures of broadcast television. You can practically see the money that CBS dumped into this show, from the enormous cast peppered with veteran screen actors to the setting of governmental Washington, D.C.

And yet all you get is a poor-poor man’s House Of Cards, a glaring truth underscored by the presence of several HOC veterans. But where Frank Underwood is a dramatically fascinating character who solves his problems by throwing women in front of train, Leoni’s Secretary McCord is a bureaucrat who saves the day by making phone calls to men who do the dirty work off screen and then gets a makeover. Seriously that’s her Ace in the whole, a new dress and highlights. Compelling stuff. 

With neither the wisdom of West Wing, the comedy of Veep or the intrigue of Cards, Madam Secretary is the political drama with seemingly nothing to say.

Grade: C

Class: Kill and Bury

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Marvel’s Agents of Shield (ABC)

Interesting how now that are heroes are on the run and their organization in crumbles, this show seem to have more room to breathe than ever. No longer confined to their fancy airplane, the team has a secret base, a seemingly endless supply of Patton Oswalt clones (thank you very much) and a slew of new faces.

The show picks up after a brief time jump since the finale, when the Clairvoyant was defeated and the seedy Agent Ward was taken into custody. Skye is now in full-Jedi mode thanks to the training of Agent May and Fitz is back to work, albeit with a few lingering side effects from his near drowning.

Best of all, this season waists no time getting to its new big bad via flashback to the Captain America 1 days with Agent Carter and the Howling Comandoes storming a Hydra operation and taking possession of a deadly obelisk, the original 084. It makes a reappearance, as does our villain, and in the interim the team is tasked with a mission that reintroduces Adrian Pasdar’s Col. Talbot, who will hopefully be a more regular presence on the show and who will hopefully shave that awful mustache.

All in all, the show seems to still be capitalizing on its creative resurgence in the back half of season 1. Hopefully the writers keep the cylinders sliding but there’s always the possibility that longevity will slide the show back into bad habits.

Grade: B

Class: Subscribe (cautiously)

PILOTScorpion (CBS)

I was prepared to absolutely despite Scorpion, which perhaps explains why I was pleasantly surprised. Centered on Elyes Gabel’s Walter O’Brien (how this character has an Irish surname is beyond me), Scorpion is about a rag-tag group of misfit geniuses who are called up by Uncle Sam to help solve crises of national security (watch for the laughably bad “young version” of Robert Patrick’s Cabe Gallo in the opening minutes).

Walter has a complicated history with the U.S. Government, which we learn piecemeal throughout the pilot, but he is compelled to put that aside when the air traffic control software at LAX go haywire threatning  thousands of airplane passengers with a grisly and fiery death. Luckily his team happens to have the necessary expertise — computer programming, statistical calculations, psychoanalysis and mechanical engineering — to save the day, oh and they rope in Katherine McPhee, whose ability is that she’s pretty and has a smart kid or something.

The pilot reaches levels of laughable implausibility, particularly in the climax which sees our heroes driving on a runway beneath an airliner, and the just-in-the-nick-of-time shenanigans are going to get old quick. But the show also has a certain charm that I imagine pairs well with the soft sell thrills of CBS’ NCIS-loving audience. It’s a very adequate show, which sadly puts it ahead of much of the fold on today’s networks.

Grade: B-

Class: Keep an Eye On

800x533Modern Family (ABC)

At this point what can really be said about Modern Family. In its 6th season, the powerhouse sitcom is so firmly comfortable in its ways of expertly polished 22-minute comedy that the viewer can arrive, confident of experiencing a few genuine belly laughs with little surprise, before turning in for the night.

The premiere is a strong episode for the series, particularly the Dunphy storyline which sees Phil, Claire, Luke and Haley enjoying an ebullient summer while the more pessimistic Alex is away on some humanitarian endeavor. Elsewhere, Gloria and Jay play a game of sartorial chicken and Mitch and Cameron spat (once again) over their differing levels of romantic energy.

Nothing particularly daring, but still a great way to spend half and hour.

Grade: B+

Class: Whatever you do with Modern Family, keep doing it.

MARSAI MARTIN, MARCUS SCRIBNER, YARA SHAHIDI, ANTHONY ANDERSON, MILES BROWN, TRACEE ELLIS ROSSBlack-ish (ABC)

Black-ish has been marketed and scheduled as a companion to Modern Family but the show, in tone and subject matter, is truly a modern update on The Cosby Show. Centered by Anthony Anderson, the series revolves around a black family in white suburbia and particularly Anderson’s challenge as patriarch to “Keep It Real.”

It’s a good-looking show, shot in cinematic single-camera with no laugh track and popping with bright colors. But the dialogue is a little stilted and tries to hard to make a point about race in 21st century middle class America.

I think the show would benefit by dialing down the politics and focusing on its characters, but either way its a pleasant addition to the sit-com lineup (albeit one that makes me worried about Lawrence Fishbourne’s continued involvement in the best-show-you’re-not-watching Hannibal).

Grade: B

Class: Keep an Eye On

how_to_get_away_with_murderHow To Get Away With Murder (ABC)

Confession: I’ve never watched a single episode of Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal. My awareness of Shonda Rhimes is limited only to what I hear of her work and the reasonable understanding that I am not part of her target audience.

So my viewing of HTGAWM was my first visit to Shondaland and it was not unpleasant. Viola Davis plays a law professor/defense attorney who runs her classroom like a tournament of champions and who keeps a few skeletons in her closet.

Her students, including Harry Potter’s Alfred Enoch and OITNB’s Matt McGory, are willing to cut throats to succeed, perhaps literally, as the opening scene finds them plotting to bury a dead body? Whose, you ask? Well you’ll find out by the end of the episode but it will only the answer to one of several questions teased out by the pilot.

Grade: B+

Class: Keep an Eye On

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Forever (ABC)

ABC Executive no. 1: “Man, Sherlock Holmes is sure having a good year right now. Too bad we missed the boat on that won.”

Executive no. 2: “Yeah, CBS bagged Elementary. We can’t do another modern New York City-based Holmes story.”

Executive no. 1: “Well what if we named him something else, and had him be a medical examiner in stead of a detective?”

No. 2: “Would he still use deductive reasoning and notice minute details about people?”

No. 1: “Of course.”

No. 2: “Still seems too close.”

ABC Executive no. 3, listening but so far offering nothing: “What if he was immortal?”

No. 1: “Sorry?”

No. 3: “He’s immortal. He’s lived for centuries. Every time he dies he washes up naked in the East River.”

No. 2: “Brilliant. We get a hot actor and it sells itself.”

No. 1: “A hot British actor, way hotter than that Cumberbatch guy. What happened to the stretchy dude from those Fantastic Four movies?”

No. 2: “Ioan Gruffudd? He’s been dark for years. Book it. This is it boys, we’re going to print money.”

Nope

Grade: C+

Class: Who cares

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