Oct 072012
 

In order of premiere schedule:

The cast of The New Normal

The cast of “The New Normal”

The New NormalNBC Cast: Justin Bartha, Andrew Rannells, Georgia King, Bebe Wood. Premiered on September 11.

Novel premise – story of country bumpkin – a mother to a nine-going-on-thirty daughter, who decides to change her life around, quit her dead end job, leave bigoted parent and a small town behind, by escaping to big city and becoming surrogate mother to a gay couple. This show created a lot of buzz for all the wrong reasons before premiere – networks in hicks lands refusing to broadcast it because of “gay family” issues and insensitively chosen premiere date being just tip of an iceberg.

When pilot was made available via Hulu I meant to do full, in-depth review but in all honesty, first episode was just cheesy, preachy, over the top and simply bad, I could not force myself to waste any time dissecting it. I hoped overall ratings would inevitably do it for me. Oddly enough, “The New Normal” managed to survive the ill picked premiere date, grumpy outrage of right-wing lobbies in middle states and its own general “bleh-ness”, sloppy writing and lunatic acting. It also vastly improved in episodes that followed. But even with aforementioned improvement, I found the show to be rarely funny but overly dramatic in the way it tries to clash “raving homophobia” against “flaming campness” for viewer entertainment. Most of the time it doesn’t come out funny, it comes out loony. Caricature. Even as a show elected to be a poster boy for “agenda” driven TV productions this season, it falls short. There are simply better and smarter shows revolving around gay-in-general and gay-as-parents story lines already on the market and “The New Normal” simply doesn’t match that level. “Modern Family” it ain’t.

My verdict: waste of time – pass. My prediction – half a season then abrupt cancellation.

[Note: On October 2, 2012, NBC ordered a full season but in May 2013 the show was not renewed for second season ] Continue reading »New TV shows in late September 2012… «

 Posted by at 22:35
Aug 192012
 

The process of selling American TV series to foreign networks, similar to mechanisms behind cancellations and renewals within US networks, is full of oddities and decisions beyond comprehension of viewers like you and me. Sometimes it looks like failure of some titles to break outside of US might be due to very poor distributor or underwhelming performance from sales team. Lifetime or Starz – for example – have extremely bad luck selling anything in UK, with barely any titles filtering through for years now. Other series seem to attract bids from “mickey mouse” fringe networks without long-term commitment guarantees or any kind of viewership that would warrant handing over broadcast rights. In both cases, it’s the viewers that suffer. We live in digital age, if viewers can not find interesting titles on their screens, they reach for alternative means, and end up watching grey zone downloads, from which there is rarely any point of return. So – distributors – do you freaking job, and UK networks, stop screwing around. Below is a list of last season titles  that are either unknown in Britain or UK viewers can not find them on their silver screens anymore:

Ashley Judd and Sean Bean in ABC's "Missing"

“…well, one doesn’t simply get on air in Mordor”

5. “Missing”

When ABC announced action packed TV series with Ashley Judd, pre-emptive acquisitions around the world started almost immediately. 10 episodes of the high budget, big names show about retired CIA operative chasing kidnappers of her only son across several continents and countries aired in US between March and May 2012, and almost immediately the show was syndicated across 24 countries worldwide, from Russia, through Philippines all the way to Brazil. But when in May 2012, after leaving the plot open-ended for season two, ABC heavy handedly chopped “Missing” together with “Pan Am”, “The River” and few other high budget titles from its schedule, taught by the previous expensive lessons, UK networks hit the brakes and the show never found a home on British Isles. “Missing” was not my cup of tea, I felt it was too “nineties” and over the top, but there is no denying that it is well put together, well casted and solid family/teenage entertainment. It is a shame it was not shown in UK. It is even bigger shame season two was cancelled.

 

Continue reading »Top five US TV shows not airing… «


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 Posted by at 18:38
Aug 142012
 
The Cast of NBC "Animal Practice"

“… I don’t understand, it seemed funny during table reading?”

As part of their Olympic previews, on Sunday NBC broadcasted pilot episode of “Animal Practice” – a short form “broad audience” comedy prepared for Wednesday 8pm slot. The premise and setup are simple – bunch of doctors and nurses in veterinarian clinic is joined by new owner, who shares romantic past with main doctor. For added laughs the clinic is visited by patients in need of special care – be it – suicidal cats or dogs with owners that are willing to pay to put them down behind their daughters back. As you can see the bar is not exactly set very high.

“Animal Practice” was picked up to series in May 2012, and in the same time Irish actress Amy Huberman who played female lead role in the original pitch pilot was replaced by Joanna Garcia-Swisher (“Reba”, “Privileged”). Joining Joanna Garcia is “Weeds” regular Justin Kirk as a capable vet and keen women psyche observer Dr George Coleman, sidekicked by a team of most intolerable and lame animal clinic staff in northern hemisphere. You know the show is in trouble when capuchin – Crystal The Monkey (“Night At The Museum”, “The Hangover II”) is the least annoying and, most of the time, best actor out of the lot. Continue reading »NBC’s “Animal Practice” pilot review «

 Posted by at 01:44
Aug 092012
 
Perry Laura Benanti and Matthew Perry in NBC's "Go On"

“…seriously? We were given the same time slot as “New Girl” and “Happy Endings”?”

After the final curtain at iconic show “Friends” Matthew Perry had not much luck on silver screen. Nothing was wrong with any of the scripts he picked. Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” was good and smart, with brilliant cast and solid story lines, but barely survived just one season. “Mr. Sunshine”, which Perry co-created with Marc Firek and Alex Barnow was not bad either, but between super badly picked title and niche quirkiness of the premise it failed to capture wider audience and sunk with 4 out of 13 episodes unaired. This year Perry comes back to the roots and stars as lead in NBC’s comedy “Go On”, a show created by “Friends” writer Scott Silveri. Silveri had his fair share of silver screen bad luck himself. Having co-created one stinker of a “Friends” spin-off show based on Matt LeBlanc’s character Joey Tribbiani he then tried the  3 girls vs 3 boys carbon copy setup with short-lived “Perfect Couples”  which failed after 11 episodes despite what seemed like unsinkable and well selected cast.

 

In “Go On” Silveri sends Matthew Perry into slightly different direction. A sports radio show host who recently lost his wife to unfortunate road accident tries to move on with his life by jumping back into what he loves the most – his  work. Suspected of being in state of denial he is forced by overprotective boss to attend mandatory sessions with “life transitions” support group before he can return back to studio. The addition of an up beat character ends up having profound therapeutic impact on the group. And eventually seemingly random life events also convince the protagonist himself that remaining within the group beyond minimum requirement set by his workplace, actually does help him to move on as well. Continue reading »Matthew Perry’s “Go On” – pilot review «

 Posted by at 17:32
Jul 172012
 
Cameron, Miliband, Sigourney Weaver

Secretary Of State Elaine Barrish with Tweedledum and Twiddledumber

USA’s “Political Animals” is the only large profile, big names, known faces, high budget TV series to be premiered on American TV this summer. And it’s packaged in self-contained, mini format, six installment package.
Meet Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver), former First Lady and Democratic presidential hopeful who lost her primary bid to become party nominee. To the guy who later offered her position of Secretary Of State in his new office. Elaine recently divorced Bud Hammond (Ireland’s own Ciarán Hinds), ex governor, former President  Of US of A, self-appointed “most popular Democrat since Kennedy had his brain splattered against Dallas concrete” and a man known by the whole world as inappropriate womanizer with long record of extramarital affairs. If you are still not getting the hint who the writers pointed their pen at don’t worry, it won’t be more than 10 minutes before Bud will spell it out for you and introduce himself as “42nd President of USA”. This however, is as far as the authors of “Political Animals” venture into “based on true facts” territory.

Continue reading »“Political Animals” – more “Dynasty” than “West… «

 Posted by at 12:31
Jul 102012
 
Will and not Grace in TNT's "Perception"

Watching George W. lie. Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce and Rachel Leigh Cook as Special Agent Kate Moretti in TNT’s “Perception”

The idea of a cop/agent/detective bouncing their investigative skills off some unusually skilled, genius, specialist “consultant” with troubled past, impaired social skills, substance abuse or highly awkward persona in order to wrap up any crime investigation under 40 minutes flat is nothing new in the world of prime time television. One would imagine that after decades of Monks, Bones, Lightmans, Houses, Psychs, Castles, Numb3rs and other Mentalists helping to save lives or put bad people behind bars on our screens on weekly basis, the pool of diplomaed specialists and fringe science doctorate holders overlooked by crime story tv scribes could be counted on one hand. But while by now most of the series and characters mentioned above either byte the dust or struggle to keep viewers awake, TNT decided it’s better late than never and last night decided to roll out their own investigator plus eccentric sidekick extraordinaire summer series – “Perception”.

The series focus on a recently demoted FBI Special Agent Kate Moretti portrayed by Canadian teen romcom actress of yesteryear Rachael Leigh Cook (“She’s All That”, “Josie and the Pussycats”), returning to enlist help of her ex. teacher, a neuroscientist, university professor and avid crossword enthusiast Dr. Daniel Pierce, played by a fellow Canadian Eric McCormack (“Will  & Grace”). Within minutes we discover Dr. Pierce is a  brilliant scholar, author of countless volumes of acclaimed reading material in his field, with cognitive skills of a compulsive apopheniac and large enough portfolio of real life cases ready and waiting in nearby neurological ward to just pull them out of his sleeve for illustrative purposes on per case basis. Continue reading »“Perception” series premiere «

 Posted by at 20:12
Jun 292012
 
"Anger Management" Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen. The winner takes it all…

Last night FX shown double opening bill of Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom “Anger Management”, loosely based on movie of the same title with Jack Nicholson. 46 years old and earning considerably smaller salary than his last TV endeavour Sheen and producers of the show have managed to secure quite interesting  Debmar-Mercury syndication deal for this project guaranteeing them order of 90 episodes from FX if the show’s first 10 episodes is successful enough.

The series opening scene attempts brave bridge between the script and real life events of Sheen’s angry tirade against his “Two And A Half Men” producer Chuck Lorre and consequent raving meltdown in front of  media that spawned well known wave of internet memes and countless autotune remixes of his infamous “winning” interviews. The bridging itself was done quite well and raised a chuckle, but what followed for the rest of both episodes can only be described as very average test tape outtake material barely glued together by both leading actors.

Charlie plays Charlie (yes, again), Dr. Charlie. predictably an anger management therapist sidekicked in private life by his girlfriend, a psychologist, played competently by Selma Blair (“Cruel Intentions”, “Hellboy”) and professionally invested in a sofa full of stereotypical characters with mild anger issues, probably developed because they fail badly at comedy acting. Sheen’s safely scripted role and with Blair as second chair, the series is probably safe enough to run through all of the 10 ordered episodes, but there isn’t much going for it otherwise. This time around Charlie doesn’t have anyone to bounce his “cool kid” routine off, he looks incredibly tired and does his role on autopilot. But the sofa of highly predictable, high strung, miserable, megalomaniac, douche and bigoted patients delivered with the kind of skill and talent you would expect to find at the back of American Idol first auditions queue is an anchor to this boat. This format and topic almost immediately asks for one off celebrity guests and enough interaction between secondary characters to create secondary mini plots. None of which is delivered. Repeating the same jokes about narcissist, gay, voyeur and an old bigot,  just doesn’t make for good comedy these days and becomes very repetitive after 15 minutes. It’s not for me. I don’t think this series will survive season one without major cast reshuffle, but I wish Mr. Sheen the best at securing full 90 episode run.

 Posted by at 12:17
Jun 252012
 
HBO's "The Newsroom" poster

Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” on Sundays on HBO

On Sunday, 24th of June HBO aired 74 minute pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s new drama “The Newsroom”. Similar to last decade “Sports Night” and recent “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” it’s a tv show about tv show, an area of almost speciality for Sorkin, which usually guarantees superbly developed stories and very entertaining viewing. Unfortunately it usually also guarantees that the show will go with a loud “woosh” high over the heads of standard polled US TV audience and their attention span, which in terms means shorter lifespan for TV series then we would like here in Europe (“Sports Night” managed just two season and “Studio 60” survived single season despite both being highly acclaimed, internationally syndicated, incredibly well written shows, if not the best in their broadcast years).

I am happy to confirm that “The Newsroom” is no exception to the rule and lives up to expectations. The pilot focusing solely on introduction of the new production team to an hour long news commentary program at the brink of one of the biggest news stories of 2010, is smart and witty, with bitter punchlines and excellent dialogue full of typical Sorkin machine gun fire banter between characters. Similar to early West Wing, the pilot script is right from the start openly obvious about its political stance and doesn’t wait more than 10 minutes to deliver preachy and condescending faux pass left hook right on the nose of  the star spangled flag waving, empty head saluting, middle American red state elephantism, which makes for entertaining viewing to anyone outside of U.S. but is guaranteed to create wave of negative press and slating reviews for the series on its own soil.

Where the pilot script defends itself with musketeerial flair and finesse, things are somewhat different when it comes to casting. It’s no secret that the casting in Sorkin series always ends up with unusual set of female leads and supports. Although Sorkin’s female leads almost never lack the talent, the way characters are usually presented to us, viewers, is quite a different story. Throughout most of his previous series we were treated to one of the two character types – either “looking too old for her age” dry, agressive, almost manly, raging “forever alone” or “easy on the eye, borderline psychotic complete basket case” female leads. And although in nearly all cases the female roles in most of Sorkin’s TV series were delivered brilliantly (who can forget C.J. from West Wing) very often though this pool of repetitive character types appears to be then slightly mis-casted, as if the part was written for someone else and given to another actress at the last minute. The talent is there, but it’s the character that doesn’t fit. As a result, quite often the script later force the characters rather unachievable tasks. Like Felicity Huffman vs Peter Krause in “Sports Night” for example. As Casey’s love interest Dana was out of her depth, out of her league and on top she looked at least a decade his senior. But the script made her behave as if her role was written for Amanda Peet vs Matthew Perry. , it was due to those constraints, that very often supporting female cast  of his series are much easier to warm up to than the leads. And “The Newsroom” is no exception. Continue reading »Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” – Stands Out… «

Jun 182012
 
Season 2 of "Falling Skies"

The cast of “Falling Skies” trying to shoot they way out of the set.

Last night second season of Steven Spielberg produced sci fi post apocalyptic series “Falling Skies” returned to the US TV screens with double bill of two separate episodes broadcasted back to back. Most of us can agree the first season of “Falling Skies” was a bit of a car crash even compared to previous low budget attempts at the subject such as Jeremiah or Jericho. And most of us were surprised when the network announced season two, especially when many of the much better produced and received series that year were canned. I didn’t set my hopes high for season two, but against all odds decided to take a peek at what it has to offer.

The good news is – the budget probably improved. Or special effects got cheaper. One of the two. The new season looks better visually. While Moon Bloodgood (“Terminator Salvation”, “Day Break”) and Noah Wyle (“E.R”, “E.R” and, probably “E.R.”) look less like they were in a queue to jobcenter and more like they are leading characters. So that’s improvement. The bad news however, is, that the pace, feel and script is still shocking bad. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but let me just reveal this: Double bill season premiere. 50% of which (and 10% of the entire season effectively) is spent on two handful of extras and a bus, crossing a bridge. Of course I am exaggerating slightly, there is a tad more to the plot than that. But it’s not far off. It’s bad enough that most of the time you have to watch the same group of people moving in front of camera over and over to create crowd.  One bridge. One bus. One handful of extras. One episode. Continue reading »“Falling Skies” returns for second season, no… «