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 ]

The Cast of FOX' The Mob Doctor

Jordana Spiro and William Forsythe in “The Mob Doctor”

The Mob DoctorFOX. Cast: Jordana Spiro, William Forsythe, Floriana Lima, Zach Gilford. Premiered on September 17.

Young M.D. takes on family debt by serving local mob. It’s a one piece, mid-week, early evening show plot, completely unsustainable as a long-term series. I don’t know how it was pitched to the network, but to my surprise it was not the mostly low-key cast that let it down but the execution of the script in the pilot was just poor and borderline snooze-fest. For a show that could theoretically provide series long heart thumping mob story, season long undercover investigation plot and per episode adrenaline shot of medical drama, “The Mob Doctor” does neither. It just doesn’t work. Three initial episodes felt too long and boring, the show does not know what to do with the characters and what kind of drama it wants to be. It feels like something that was pitched to get contractual obligation for TV series idea out of the way and then creators got surprised when the show was put to series before anyone could pull plug on it and nobody knows how what to do with it.

My verdict is “snooze fest – pass”. My prediction – will not survive more than 10 episodes before cancellation

[Note: On November 28, 2012, FOX announced the network will not continue with the show but will air all 13 episodes made to date.]

The cast of NBC's "Revolution"

Tracy Spiridakos and Billy Burke in NBC’s “Revolution”

RevolutionNBC. Cast: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, David Lyons, Anna Lise Phillips. Premiered September 19.

About 15 years after entire world lost ability to create electrical energy and falls into anarchy and disrepair, one of the surviving families is torn apart after the only son does something stupid, gets his father killed and finds himself subject of enforced conscription to militia ruling local lands on behalf of the ruthless strong arm leader. Rescue mission involving additional relatives ensues.

“Revolution” premise suffers from massive plot holes, almost immediately evident to anyone above age of 15. Complete energy blackout, as presented in the series, would for example require massive changes to physics and universe in general to stop people from fixing it almost right away with few simple water mills, fleet of old diesel tractors and steam engines. In attempt to provide as many mystery elements as possible, the world of “Revolution” is also almost entirely devoid of modern weaponry, forcing all characters into resorting to musketeerial sword fights and flamboyant displays of archery whenever possible, with involved parties on both ends conveniently not wearing any police issue stab vests or bulletproof kevlars as if lack of electricity caused all protective clothing to disappear overnight.  However, if you are willing to overlook such “trivial” things, the show tries to be as composed, well put together and action packed as possible. Execution of the idea is relatively good, dystopian world looks interesting and believable while in the same time, thanks to quality green screen scenography and few novelty “recycled” props, escaping typical “Canadian” budget end-of-the-world look (eg. two handful of extras walking around the same set at different angles like in “Jeremiah” or “Falling Skies”). Some questionable cast choices make it hard to care for some of the characters on the screen, but overall, “Revolution” shows promise. The only worrying bit is that the show appears to be as confused as “Terra Nova” about its target audience and in due course it might attempt to resort to several “kids” episodes to probe alternative niche, which will inevitably alienate the 18-30 sci fi viewers who, in my opinion, are the shows only true hope of survival. Give it less P.G. lines and doe-eyed naivety, more drama, gore and adrenaline and it will be good for years.

My verdict: almost good – will watch. Prediction – if it doesn’t try to do infantile episodes revolving around children, it will survive at least 1 season. Cost vs viewership is its biggest enemy.

[Note: After returning from hiatus the writers killed off adolescent story arc, the show picked up in ratings and in May 2013 was renewed for second season.]

The Cast of CBS' "Partners"

David Krumholtz and Michael Urie in “Partners”

PartnersCBS. Cast: Sophia Bush, Michael Urie, David Krumholtz, Brandon Routh. Premiered on September 24.

Straight couple vs gay couple ensemble life and work comedy. There isn’t much more to the plot than that. In an odd way – this is what “The New Normal” should have aspired to be. A simple straight/gay setup without massive exaggerations. That said however. The cast is very good. The plot is bland. The execution is absolutely disastrous. A prime example of a wrong show setup. “Partners” should have been a single camera dramedy like “Happy Endings” but instead it ended up as multi camera studio setup with characters shouting lines at each other in risen theatrical voices to the tune of one of the most antiquated “in front of the live audience” prompter induced laughter soundtracks on this side of Jay Leno snare drum cues. And ultimately that is going to be the show’s ultimate downfall.

My verdict: waste of time – pass. Prediction – not a chance this will survive winter.

[Note: The show was cancelled on November 16, 2012 ]

The cast of CBS "Vegas"

In good company: Dennis Quaid, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jason O’Mara and Taylor Handley

VegasCBS. Cast: Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Jason O’Mara, Carrie-Anne Moss. Premiered on September 25.

Cowboy becomes sheriff of Las Vegas in deep 60ies. Star studded cast, ambitious, based on real life characters plot, entertaining antiquated investigation techniques, mobsters vs hard men. What’s not to like? Well, for starters, the pacing of the show is taken straight from the “Magic City” and “Luck” script book, that’s to say it flows like a blood from cold corpse. I’m absolutely fine with that, but it might not be the right network for this kind of pacing. I’m not sure if CBS audience interrupted for adverts every 15 minutes will reserve enough patience for the rest of us to witness culmination of this, otherwise, well made and interesting story.

My verdict: good – will watch but I will record it and watch after full season is guaranteed. To avoid disappointment if the show is cancelled without proper ending. Prediction – single season of less than 20 episodes, unless it focuses on more action.

[Note: On October 23, 2012 CBS picked up Vegas for a 22-episode full season but announced that the first season order was cut to 21 episodes, so the show is not out of the woods yet.]

The cast of NBC's "Guys With Kids"

Three men and no babies.

Guys With KidsNBC Cast: With: Jesse Bradford, Anthony Anderson, Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Premiered on September 26.

Three fathers with small kids sitcom. That’s pretty much it. Three infantile characters as stay at home dads meet up in various inappropriate places like pubs to prop each others parenting skills.

Rubbish premise, not too bad cast, no story, no plot, no arc, short throw sketches with one flat joke every three minutes enforced by “live audience” cues. I have no patience for trash like this, it’s a waste of life in twenty-first century. “Guys with Kids” serves no purpose other than something to fill up air time. It’s old school, bland, unfunny and completely forgettable, so I wish the show quick descent in ratings and swift retirement.

My verdict: not in a million years.  Prediction – how is this still on air?

[Note: On November 15, 2012, NBC announced it has ordered four more episodes, bringing the series to a total of 17 episodes but ultimately the network did not renew the show for second season]

The cast of ABC's "The Neighbors"

Toks Olagundoye, Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito in “The Neighbors”

The NeighborsABC. Cast: Jami Gertz, Lenny Venito, Simon Templeman. Premiered  on September 26.

Family moves into suburban closed gate estate just to discover it is entirely populated by stranded aliens who adopted human form but no social skills or understanding of human behavior.

Just about everything in this show shouldn’t work. Odd idea, strange casting choices, especially among younger actors, practically no long-term plot. But it manages to be amusing, in a strange, over the top, laughing-at-the-bizarre way.

It’s not for me, and it doesn’t have the all-family heart warming appeal of “Alf” but it’s mildly funny, and probably super cheap to make – I can see it potentially surviving couple of seasons in some non competitive time slot.

Verdict: not for me – pass. Prediction – might go on for few seasons.

[Note: On October 29, 2012, The Neighbors was given a full-season order and in May 2013 was renewed for the second season]

Last ResortABC. Cast: Scott Speedman, Andre Braugher, Daisy Betts, Autumn Reeser. Premiered September 27.

The cast of ABC's "Last Resort"

Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman in “Last Resort”

Nuclear submarine receives order via backup network to nuke one of the asian countries. After captain and crew demand the order to be issued via proper channels they get accused of treason and have to vanish off the grid. They do so by hiding around one of the small leafy islands in the middle of the ocean, run by local crime leaders. With a bit of imagination, great things could be achieved in this show. Long term political conspiracy plot, short term a-team like local crime fighting action packed episodes, and who knows what mysteries could awaiting them in the jungle, right? Well, not quite. It’s yet another show this year where it looks like the writers were surprised by getting order to series and didn’t have enough ideas beyond the original sketchy storyline they pitched to the network. Right at the end of the second episode, you realize that after the main pilot plot of nuclear submarine going rogue was over, the writers just had no idea what to do with it. Instead they desperately attempt to buy some time by pulling all threads in opposite directions, but 45 minutes later they just end up going nowhere. Even if you don’t expect “Last Resort” to be “Crimson Tide”, or “Hunt For The Red October” or “Das Boot” after the original pilot, the episodes that followed were so messy and chaotic I wondered how was it even possible for the show with this many primary and secondary characters (and the cost it must be incurring on location) to have this degree of no script supervision or even some sort of focus group to point out the obvious shortcomings. Looking at the cast struggling with poor script I just thought – never have so many, done so much, for so little gain. I’m truly disappointed, because I hoped “Last Resort” would be THE action/conspiracy show of the season. But it is just so poorly done it will inevitably collapse. “Last Resort” is instantly forgettable and character building is so sloppy I can’t even remember half of the names among the main characters few minutes after watching the show.

My verdict: sadly, waste of time – pass. Prediction – can not see it surviving half a season, if that.

[Note: On November 16 network cancelled the show. It is understood ABC will make an effort to air all 13 episodes ordered to date.]

The cast if CBS' "Elementary"

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in CBS’ “Elementary”

ElementaryCBS. Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn. Premiered September 27. Modern take on Sherlock Holmes (now based in New York) with female Dr. Watson as a sidekick. What I found most surprising about this show, is the fact, that unlike BBC’s fantastic “Sherlock” with  Benedict Cumberbatch, “Elementary” doesn’t actually need persona of Sherlock Holmes at all. It’s just another detective drama with “magical investigator” in a long chain of shows like Monk, Medium, Numb3rs or Perception.  Although Holmes character in “Elementary” appears to suffer from mild hyperthymesia (wasn’t there a show about that recently – oh yeah – “Unforgettable” on the same network) and “The Mentalist” (from the same network again) like crime scene observant jump to conclusions, the actual Sherlock vehicle is used more to explain Johnny Lee Miller’s accent than to introduce audience to principles of deduction and attention to details. As with all magical investigators on prime time TV, “Elementary”‘s Holmes suffers from galore of life impairing quirks and problems, which require constant supervision of one Watson M.D. (played by Lucy Liu). Despite the obvious repetitive fatigue of “special” investigators on our screens, “Elementary” defends itself aptly, which is more of a reflection on relatively uninspiring level of about every current show in this genre rather than testament to its exceptional greatness.

Verdict: almost interesting – record it for later viewing. Prediction – several years run.

[Note: On November 15, 2012, CBS ordered two additional episodes to its current season, bring the total of episodes to 24. In May 2013 the shows stable ratings secured the second season order ]

The cast of CBS' "Made In Jersey"

Janet Montgomery, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Kristoffer Polaha in “Made In Jersey”

Made In JerseyCBS. Cast: Janet Montgomery, Stephanie March, Kyle MacLachlan, Erin Cummings. Premiered on September 28.

New Jersey suburban girl becomes a lawyer in top class firm in New York and approaches court cases with her street smarts and compassion. What meant to be Jersey Shore cross with Ally McBeal is one yawn short of watching Judge Judy with full dubbing on foreign language channel.

I’m not even going to waste two paragraphs on this series. It was just garbage. You know the show is in trouble when they have to cast British actress from Devon to play loud mouthed Jersey girl.

Verdict: waste of time – pass. Prediction – will be cancelled shortly.

[Note: Show was pulled from the schedule on October 10, 2012, after only two episodes aired ]

The cast of ABC's "666 Park Ave"

Terry O’Quinn and Dave Annable in “666 Park Avenue”

666 Park AveABC. Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Dave Annable, Rachel Taylor.  Young couple moves into posh Manhattan building possessed by a demonic force. Odd things ensue. A mystery show, with good cast but dangerous writing as it relies on “Lost” like “WTF”ism for suspense. Unfortunately, after “Lost” majorly didn’t deliver in plot wrap up aspect, leaving tens of millions across several continents after years of watching deeply disappointed with “answers” it provided,  this story narration type, where writers just magically spawn more and more Lindelof-esque “what-the-hell-just-happened” moments on screen without following them with any explanations is pretty much dead, buried and unsustainable and it will take many, many years before general audience will fall for any mystery series with no answers delivered on per episode basis again. I will be watching it with interest, but I would be surprised if the long term plan wasn’t purely based on piling up all the bizarre events until audience attention span breaks, viewing figures plummet and the show gets removed from schedule.

Verdict: unlikely to succeed, but will record for later viewing. Prediction – single season, if that.

[Note:  On November 16, 2012, ABC announced that the series had been canceled, but the network will finish its 13 episode run ]

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