M: Welcome back to the Relatively Entertaining 2015 Fall TV Previews! We’re moving on to Tuesday, after a rousing fare of shows set to air on Mondays.
C: Yes, but rousing what, is the question… And if you answered, “my anger,” well, we’ve got nothing on par with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for you today, but smarmy masculinist culture still makes an appearance. Happily, so do Rob Lowe and the Muppets!
M: Pretty sure “masculinist” isn’t a word, so let’s move on from it.
C: Good grief, the very least you could do is use google.
E: Okay, this is a TV preview, not a debate among lexicographers, siblings! Tuesdays bring us a little less reality TV and a combination of sitcoms, science fiction and procedurals.
Note: New shows are in blue, asterisks (*) mean a Sibling will be watching.
The Mindy Project (Hulu), September 15th*
E: As we started figuring out where to put the streaming shows in these previews, poor C was horrified to learn that one of her favorites — saved from oblivion by streaming site Hulu — had already started airing episodes. Can you call it airing?
M: No, I think you call it streaming… like you did in the title of this section.
C: Duh. And “horrified” is completely wrong – a classic case of tone misinterpretation over text. I was surprised and excited!
M: In E’s defense, that’s very similar to horrified.
E: Fine, whatever. At any rate, Hulu will release one episode of Mindy a week. I understand the season will be 26 episodes long, but I have no idea if they’re going to take time off in releasing them, as a network would, or whether they’ll come consistently for the next 25 weeks.
M: Wow, that’s a long season for any show! Even back in the days of “traditional” TV seasons you rarely saw full 26 episode seasons.
C: More for me! Excellent.
E: Indeed, congratulations. If I’m being honest, this show is when I feel weird or old or stodgy, because I thought I would love a romantic comedy-focused sitcom by a smart female writer, and instead I cringed because Mindy was constantly humiliating herself over lame men.
M: For my money, you could leave “over lame men” off of that sentence and it would be every bit as true.
E: And even if this didn’t seem like a cringe-fest, the little I watched seemed to telegraph that Neanderthal-like colleague Chris Messina was Mindy’s romantic end game (a fate which has since come to fruition), and that made me queasy. So, I don’t know, C. Why is this one of the few shows that’s earned your love?
C: Okay, I let you fuddy duddies get out your usual groans over this show, which you’ve barely watched.
E: Hey, I tried. I really, really thought I was going to like this.
M: I (admittedly grudgingly) watched most of season 1 and part of 2. So defend your show instead of attacking us.
C: You’ve never told me that, so it’s hardly fair to call it an attack. Now, for our readers who don’t object to a certain brand of bold, wacky humor: I love Mindy Kaling. Do I always love this show? No. It’s patchy. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes, as with Stephen Colbert’s guest appearance last season, it falls short of my high expectations. But Kaling is incredibly charming, a fact particularly on my mind as I’m currently listening to her read her new (audio)book, Why Not Me.
E: I find her super charming in interviews, which is exactly why I expected to love the show.
M: I find her not charming. Ever.
C: And you say E has bad taste in comedy… Mindy (the character) is charming because she does and says the things a lot of people would like to but wouldn’t, and is ridiculous and sometimes way too self-involved, but unlike the narcissistic characters on so many TV shows, actually cares when she blunders into hurting someone and tries to make it right. As to Danny, Chris Messina’s character — in one of the comic essays in her book, Kaling reveals that Danny is based on Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
E: Oh God, not that again.
C: Yes BUT, unlike almost every romcom writer who supposedly bases a character on Darcy these days — surely numbering in the millions — Kaling actually gets it: at first Danny’s a grump and not considerate of other people’s feelings, which he slowly learns to (mostly) change, but at heart and (mostly) in action he’s a genuinely good guy, which has been the case from the start.
E: Hmm. I guess I ought to trust you on that, since you’re as offended as I am by bad Darcy portrayals. And, you know, because you’ve seen the show.
C: Thank you. The family dynamics on the show are also great. The secondary characters from the Ob/Gyn office are where the show more often lets me down — I find Morgan far less funny than the writers seem to — but I’m fond enough of the main actors to tune in again, and I’m curious as to how this move to Hulu might reshape the show.
The Muppets (ABC) September 22nd***
M: Mmmmmmm! Wait, are we just screaming our initials, or was that a legit squeal?
E: Har har. As with most things I care about — and the Muppets were an enormous part of my childhood and M’s — I’m apprehensive about this. It has to be good. It has to be.
C: And mine! Just in movie form. Oh, man. I wish I knew what to think, here. It seems to me, from the extended previews, to lack the profound sweetness and heart that exists side-by-side to the snarky, self-referential wit in the best of the Muppets’ previous productions. It’s more the spirit of The Muppet Show than the movies, in that it’s a backstage comedy, but The Muppet Show also had an utterly madcap, silly sense of humor, which seems notably absent here. There are jokes in the preview, but they’re the kind you used to get on The Office, nothing like having Sylvester Stallone sing “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” with a lion. In short, this doesn’t feel like the Muppets to me. We’ll see.
M: I agree with both of you, and have a lot of apprehension. I’m optimistic (I mean, it’s still the Muppets) and the two recent movies have been very good, but then again I’m generally optimistic, so take my optimism for what it’s worth.
E: And I’m generally apprehensive, so that fits. It seems that the new show centers (in mockumentary format, which yeah, C, definitely comes off more like The Office than The Muppet Show) around a late night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy.
M: Hmmm, my optimism just dipped a little.
E: Would it be too snarky of me to observe that it’s apparently easier for network executives to imagine a talking pig hosting a late night show than an actual human woman?
M: Yes, it would, so you’re not allowed to observe that FACT.
E: Anyway, the new series follows the Muppet gang at their real-world jobs, many at the above mentioned talk show, and if it’s anywhere near as fun as that work-centered segment of Muppets Take Manhattan, I’ll be so relieved.
C: Okay, but… It doesn’t really feel like it’s aimed at kids and adults simultaneously — I saw nothing in the preview that would appeal to kids. I mean, there aren’t even musical numbers.
E: Yes. Yes, that. That’s what I’m not sure about, that it’s aimed at adults, with more risque, Avenue Q-like behavior, and without the zany behavior I want from muppets. Fozzy dates a human (“How will you raise the kids? Will they go to the bathroom in the woods?”), the whole gang gets sloshed at Rolf’s piano bar gig… I mean, that could be great, but even if it is it’d also be a bummer not to be able to share it with my kids.
C: “Great” is not remotely the word that comes to my mind. We need good cross-audience works, that don’t talk down to kids but also aren’t just recycled adult comedy set in a puppet world. The gag can’t forever be, “Look! It’s the Muppets doing adult human stuff!”
M: Yeah, I don’t like that aspect at all. It seems like they want to cross the Muppets with The Larry Sanders Show. I hope it works, but like you, I’d rather be able to watch with my kids.
E: They are suggesting kids can watch it and certain things will just go over their heads, but given the age of my kids I’m not so sure.
M: Well, re-watching the old Muppet show recently on DVD, there are definitely things like that in it, so maybe it will work.
C: I think we can all agree, even as we’re all hopeful, that we shouldn’t be this concerned about the fun factor and watchability of a new Muppets show.
NCIS (CBS), September 22nd
E: The one that started it all! The franchise-spawning massive hit that none of us has ever been remotely tempted to watch! Except M, which I still can’t get over. Okay, bro. You say you actually watch this one. Why?
M: Okay, two points of clarification… first, and I know we’ve talked about this before (in the “all-time bad network decisions” discussions), believe it or not, NCIS itself is a spin off. JAG actually started it all.
C: I knew that!
M: Second, I watch it every once in a while, and will occasionally DVR an episode. I don’t watch regularly, and couldn’t tell you what the current plot arcs are. That said, when I do watch I enjoy it. The weekly plots are usually well written, and the characters are always entertaining.
E: I’ve been reading that Mark Harmon’s Gibbs got shot in the season finale (by a kid?), and that this season will focus on the physical and emotional repercussions from that.
M: Sounds about right, they shoot main characters or have them near death (or in some cases actually die) in season finales on a semi-regular basis.
C: That seems pretty par for the course for any type of investigative series, from The X-Files to Law & Order to Castle.
E: I only wish they’d shoot Beckett again instead of what they actually did the last few years. Maybe NCIS knows what it’s doing.
The Flash (The CW) October 6th***
E: I enjoy this show a lot. The Flash is bright and cheery and much more in touch with my youthful experience of superheroes than it is with the dark and angsty worlds of tortured souls like Batman and Daredevil that are so much in vogue these days. Instead it’s a family show, something that disappointed me a touch at first, but now I really enjoy. I can take my measure of darkness, but I enjoy the light as well — and it’s much more refreshing at this point.
C: This should really be 2.5 “who’s watching” stars. I’ve only seen the first five episodes of Season 1, and though I’ll watch more if it becomes available to stream, I wasn’t as charmed by the ensemble cast or as engaged by the villain-of-the-week plots as I’d hoped to be. Barry and a couple of the others are extremely likable, and I don’t dislike the series by any means, but I feel like it needs an injection of either (1) cleverer plotting, or (2) wittier humor. Ideally, both!
M: Huh, you’re both surprising me. I’ve enjoyed it right from the start, so I’m wondering now what disappointed you guys at first. Maybe watching it with my kids caused me to be less critical. That said, I think it definitely improved as the season progressed.
E: Well, that’s it. The show got better, and I had time to adjust my expectations.
C: I guess I should just keep watching then… or hire a child to watch with? Not sure what’s the ideal recommendation here.
M: You’re welcome to borrow my toddler, though she may do more distracting than increasing your appreciation… Seriously though, just keep watching. Like E, I feel that the pendulum has swung to far toward the dark and gritty superhero trend, and am glad we finally have a comic-book-y comic book show again. I watch with my kids, but talk about it at work with people who have no kids and watch. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser for all ages.
E: As we said yesterday, I expect this is exactly the kind of tone that producer Greg Berlanti is aiming to recreate with Supergirl.
M: We can hope.
C: And now I’m going to tune out, because spoilers, while you guys tell the folks what to expect in the new season.
E: Season 2 is apparently going to explore the rip in the space/time continuum that Barry created, opening up our world to something called Earth 2 and letting in a host of new villains (including this season’s big bad, Zoom) for him to fight. Handy for narrative purposes, that. We’ll also meet new allies (particularly necessary after the deaths of Eddie Thawne and the Reverse Flash/Doctor Wells) Jay Garrick and Wally “Kid Flash” West, a troubled kid presumably related to Barry’s foster family Joe and Iris West.
M: It’s also necessary after Firestorm (Victor Garber/Robbie Amell) is headed off to The CW’s newest DC comics show, Legends of Tomorrow. Though, I think only Garber is on that, as Amell is currently cast in and filming the X Files revival.
E: Not that they were exactly regulars, but that’s very cool. Greg Berlanti rules the universe! Is LoT going to be a midseason premiere? (Ah, some time in 2016, I see.) Of course fans of the show will be wondering if Iris and Barry will start a relationship this season, after all Barry’s pining and Iris’s uncomfortable jealousy and confusion and mixed signals. Their happy ending might be delayed by the introduction of police office Patty Spivot, a science junky working with Joe West on his new “how can the humble police stop evil meta-humans” task force.
M: So, this year’s replacement side-crush, filling the role occupied by Arrow‘s Felicity Smoak last season.
E: Or Iris’s journalist colleague Linda Park, yes.
The Voice (NBC), September 22nd
E: Night two of The Voice, which just won its second Emmy award for Best Reality Show Competition. Of course it did. That’s the one Emmy category where I actually watch the plurality of the nominees (So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, Top Chef, and occasional seasons of Dancing With the Stars) so of course none of those shows won. Ah well.
C: Sis, the plurality sentence doesn’t make sense to me. What is the plurality of a show? Or do you mean the category, like, you enjoy watching how plural it is?
E: I don’t think I used that wrong, it means more than half. Honestly, C, I’d expect this from M…
M: Hey! I understood it just fine!
C: I knew you’d say that, M. I just don’t think it’s used that way, with the second “the”. How about “multitude”?
E: How about not? That’s not better at all!
C: Look, it confused me, so I was thinking of our readers….
M: Again, I got it, so it can’t be that difficult. Now let’s not sweat it and move on. In other news, have I mentioned before how much I hate results shows? I’m assuming this will be some combo of that and performances.
C: If people have been reading our previews for several years, there are probably two things about us they know for a fact: we’re never not surprised to learn that Grey’s Anatomy is still on, and we hate results shows.
E: You two hate results shows — but let’s not have that fight again, partly because this isn’t a results show. I’m assuming that for at least a good portion of the fall, this will take up a two-hour chunk of the schedule, since NBC doesn’t have anything else in their 9pm slot until mid-November. And in the beginning, at least, it’s just a ton of audition nights. I don’t think this show does a lot of live results; the judges do most of the choosing, going back to my initial point about the shows making stars of the judges instead of the contestants. (I do love the blind auditions on this show, but I hate it when they start pitting members of each mentor’s team against each other.)
M: As a positive, that gives us more time for shows we do care about.
Grandfathered (FOX), September 29th
C: Did you think M meant this one? Alas, no. John Stamos stars in one of those comedies about slick, sexed-up, successful men who “have it all” and then somehow are landed with an unexpected family (for an example of this premise see the movie The Family Man).
E: Maybe he means shows we recorded yesterday? We definitely have seen this before, except the unexpected family is usually the guy’s child, not his grandchild. The allegedly new aspect here is that John Stamos is too young and hot to be anyone’s grandpa. But let’s be real: at 53, he’s not particularly young to be a grandpa.
M: Seriously, pretty sure I read somewhere that John Mellencamp was a grandpa at 35. That’s too young, 53’s about right.
E: I’ll tell you what 53 is — it’s awfully old for someone to be running after the 20-something girls who walk into his restaurant. Playboy Stamos owns a hot restaurant and lives in a preposterously amazing apartment, loving his bachelor existence but giving lip service to the idea that he wants a family.
C: And voila, Stamos’s grown-up son who he never knew he had shows up at the restaurant he runs. Surprise! He’s not only a dad, but a grandfather, of the baby girl the younger man has in tow. Whose mother is apparently out of the picture, since the son is soon asking Stamos for dating advice.
M: So, it’s a rip off of Three Men and a Baby AND Two and a Half Men? I’m calling it “One Man, a Grown Son and a Baby.”
C: Paget Brewster, familiar to me from the recent online season of Community, plays the long-ago girlfriend who raised his son on her own — and at 46, she’s a more unlikely grandparent than Stamos. I’m assuming the show would prefer us not to calculate that she would have been 16, and Stamos 22, when Josh Peck (who plays the son) was conceived. After all, they chose not to call it “Statutoried.”
M: Boom! That’s better than my fake title by far.
E: Boom is right! Also, ew (even if I’m sure Peck’s character is supposed to be closer to 20 than 30). One thing about that dating advice you mentioned above: Peck, of the Disney Channel’s Drake & Josh, appears to be trying to date his (God I hate this term) “baby momma” Cristina Milian, who has weirdly friendzoned him despite having a child together. It seems a little late for that, no?
M: Not in the world of TV shows, it’s not!
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC), September 22nd
C: I’ve heard great things about this mid-season replacement from last year. Set in the 90’s, the story follows a Taiwanese family who has recently moved from Washington D.C.’s Chinatown to Orlando, FL. Has a Wonder Years-style adult narrator/child protagonist. Supposed to be very sharp and funny. I’m interested in checking it out, but probably will try season one first.
M: Really? I thought this looked lousy last year. And for lack of anything else to say about it, I’ll point out that the longer the show stays on, the less fresh (off the boat, at least) the main characters get.
C: Since they’ve been in America some time (the kids’ whole lives? I’m not certain), I think the title is more of a reference to/twist on the common slur on immigrants, than descriptive.
E: I was sort of equal parts nervous about this (would it play into stereotypes?) and heartened (a show about an Asian family? no way) when it premiered last year. I don’t actually have any friends who talk about watching it, but the critics generally seem to like it. And as it’s based on Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir (so the title’s making a food metaphor, too), and the writing staff seems to be about half Asian, so that all makes me feel better about it. I don’t know, maybe I’ll check it out sometime.
M: Oh, I actually like the food metaphor!
E: Because it’s a chef’s memoir, there seems to be a lot in the show about food from what I’ve read, especially about the kids rejecting their mother’s traditional Taiwanese cooking for hideous American processed food like Lunchables. (Shudder) And also the influence of pop culture, music and (since it’s set in the 90’s) rap on the young boys learning what it means to be American in their adopted city of Orlando.
M: There’s a lot of processed everything in Orlando, so that does appear to be a good setting. I may be coming around.
C: Yeah, you Food Network devotees ought to like a show based on a chef’s memoir!
M: Yes. No exclamation point. I don’t use my exclamation points as liberally as you two.
E: Seinfeld reference FTW. Anyway, the question for me is more the one C asked: do I join it in progress, or go back and watch the first season? That was a question that kept me from starting The Big Theory for years. Considering the amount of time binge-watching takes (which I do not have), I may just take a look at an episode and see what I think before making any larger commitment.
C: Usually that works fine with sitcoms.
The Grinder (FOX), September 29th*
C: Speaking of The Wonder Years… Fred Savage stars here as a lawyer whose brother, Rob Lowe, comes back into town after 8 years starring in Hollywood’s favorite lawyer drama, The Grinder. Deciding he knows enough about law from having played a lawyer on TV, Lowe wants to join the family firm to help out Savage, who has a implausibly bad courtroom presence. Lowe’s full of enthusiasm, Savage’s full of exasperation, everyone’s right in their wheelhouse.
E: I gotta say, this looks pretty fun.
M: I gotta say, your judgement regarding which comedies look good is still suspect.
E: What, really? Dude.
C: I’m not sure I’m into this, but I don’t think it’s crazy to have some hopes. After all, Rob Lowe is just fun. William Devane also stars as their dad, and owner of the law firm Savage works for. Also, it’s set in Boise, Idaho.
M: Well, Boise’s a different location for a show to be set, I like that at least.
E: Weirdly, the dad thinks that Lowe joining the firm is a great idea.
M: That’s because this is on TV. And because the dad is played by William Devane. Or maybe just because it’s Devane, I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that his judgement in real life is as bad as that of the characters he usually plays.
E: Snort. It’s a pretty awesome send up of self-important acting; Lowe is so pretentious and overblown it’s miraculous.
M: We have clearly watched different promo materials. Nothing I’ve seen for this would inspire any comparison to things like walking on water, raising the dead, or feeding five thousand people with two fish and five loaves of bread.
E: Sigh. Savage, who has carved out a niche outside of his famous brother’s shadow, can’t believe that big brother has talked his way into a (possibly illegal) arrangement, and that everyone’s letting him get away with it. Their sibling rivalry definitely comes to the forefront.
M: It’s definitely illegal if he hasn’t passed the Bar and doesn’t have a license to practice. Duh, anyone who watches Suits knows that!
C: He does say something in the extended trailer about taking the Bar exam. By the way, just a random note, these “brothers” have a larger age gap than we do — Lowe is 12 years older than Savage.
E: Oh, thanks for looking into that; I had a feeling the gap was substantial (though not, as you say, implausible).
M: And yet, not as large as the gap between my oldest and youngest (14 years).
E: That’s where the plausible part comes in. It’s a sitcom, so you’ll all be shocked, but I think I’m going to try to catch this one.
M: I’m not shocked, since you always pick the wrong sitcoms.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC), September 22**
C: Since I’m the one without a star up there, I’m just going to leave this segment of the preview to the two of you. People keep telling me that I need to get into AoS, that the first few episodes I watched were not indicative, that the quality is consistently high. Okay, gotcha. Whenever I have time to watch two seasons of TV, I’ll do my best to catch up!
M: Quick correction… the proper abbreviation is not AoS, but MAoSHIELD. Try to get it right. 😉
C: Oh yes, that just rolls off the tongue. Now, onto season 3 info…
E: I’m pretty psyched for the new season and the continuing drama between SHIELD and the Inhumans. How’s Skye/Daisy going to do as their new leader? And I really, really want to know what’s going to happen to Simmons, who got sucked into that creepy (apparently elastic) rock-looking Kree monolith. Yikes! And right after she told Fitz they could go out on a date! Now that’s a cliffhanger. She’ll probably come out of it, but will she come out the same?
M: You know, I feel less enthused about this season. Last season had its moments, but to me they’ve gone down a very specific track that I don’t know I’m all that interested in. I’d like to see them widen the focus and get back to more of agent-y stuff, and less special powers. I do think the liquid-rock-thing is a good angle, though.
E: That’s funny — I’m actually happier with this than I was with the whole search for the alien city plot.
M: Oh, I agree about the alien city thing, too. Hmm, I wonder if I don’t like this show as much as I thought I did.
E: Oh, stop. You like it, especially post Hydra. Plus it’s really a part of where the whole Marvel universe seems to be headed, very unsettled and new, or at least new to me. Uncharacteristically, I’m feeling pretty secure that it’s going to be good.
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS), September 22nd
E: I don’t love the formula, but I do like the cast. CCH Pounder as the medical examiner, Scott Bakula as the team leader…
M: Yeah, I know I mentioned that I catch occasional episodes of the original, but I forgot that this version even existed. And like you, I really like both Pounder and Bakula.
C: Man, when those two sit down for a beer, they have a lot of past TV roles to kibitz about!
E: Scuttlebutt has it that this season is going to concentrate not on a Big Bad, like last season’s Baitfish, but on the people and places that make New Orleans unique. Sounds relatively fun.
M: For my money, these shows are better when there’s no overarching plot, so that’s good.
E: Oh, I definitely agree. The procedurals I watch tend to be more on the comic side (Bones, Castle) and when they try to take on a mythology, it’s not good. Which I, um, might perhaps have said once or twice before.
iZombie (The CW), October 6th
E: The primary reason I don’t watch this quirky Rob Thomas zombie mystery is that my DVR is already recording Agents of SHIELD and Face/Off, which is all it can handle. Someday I’m going to binge-watch the continuing story of a medical examiner who solves crimes by eating the victim’s brains.
C: You see? That. Right there. That is why I cannot watch this show. The feedback is positive, Rob Thomas is the genius who created VM, and yet… the brain-eating.
M: But it’s comedic brain-eating. Which makes it totally okay.
E: Not a big fan of the zombies either; that was definitely the initial sticking point.
M: The commercials for this got me a little interested last year. Mrs M isn’t, and I barely have time to watch the few shows I do watch, but I’d like to try it out some time, too.
E: I hear you. Like Veronica Mars, Rose McIver’s Liv Moore (ha ha) goes from isolated to moderately happy and then back to reviled again, thanks to a plot involving her archenemy, who I think is named Blaine. “That’s not a name, it’s an appliance!” Points to those who know what I’m quoting; I bet Rob Thomas did.
M: That was my first thought when you typed “Blaine.”
E: Of course it was. This is one of the many reasons why I love you.
C: Since this is based on a comic, you’d think the show didn’t pick the kitschy names, but you’d be wrong. They changed them. Blaine, by the way, is played by David Anders of Sark-on-Alias memory. Chills.
Scream Queens (FOX), September 22nd
E: I’m not sure I get how this is a series instead of a movie or mini series, but here goes: a killer or killers (sometimes clad in a devil suit) stalks members of a sorority. Emma Roberts stars as the sorority president, and Jamie Lee Curtis as the stern dean of students at their fictional university.
M: And I star as the guy not watching.
E: The writing and producing team of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan are responsible for Glee, American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck, so obviously their interests fluctuate between comedy and horror.
C: Essentially, this looks like AHS meets Glee, even including Lea Michele. With a large dose of Pitch Perfect thrown in for good measure.
E: Glee at a college with costumed serial killers and no singing. Check.
M: These things you are saying, they are making me want to hurl.
C: On the one hand, we have nasty blonde rich girls who run Kappa House and look down on the band of misfits who want to pledge, girls we are obviously intended to laugh at as the chubby one snacks on candle wax while another dresses like a schoolgirl and is in some kind of traction device. Look everyone! People who are different in exaggerated ways! Let’s laugh at them, while we hate the mean girls who are mean to them to feel better about ourselves! Ugh.
E: Good points, C. Even though I liked Glee very much to start, that’s a fair critique.
C: Then, on the other hand, we have the part where various folks are being stalked and mowed down and slashed up and disgustingly murdered. Grace, the only pretty and blonde (but nice!) girl among the pledges, eventually stumbles on a connection between what’s happening and the long-ago murder of her mother, also a Kappa.
E: The quibbling siblings are not slasher flick devotees, to say the least, so the horror part of the equation both baffles and repels me, where the humor and the cast might have drawn me in.
C: I think I’ve made my feelings on the humor clear. The cast though, you’re right, is decent. These show runners have already demonstrated their ability to draw famous names in for some romping and bloodshed. So far, however, reviews suggest this series is not working.
Chicago Med (NBC), November 17th
E: Welcome to the third show in Dick Wolf’s Chicago Trilogy, which begins with a terrorist attack crossover with Chicago Fire firefighter Kelly Severide (played by Taylor Kinney) helping to defend not only patients but, let’s face it, a beautiful nurse (Yaya DaCosta of The Kids Are All Right, The Messenger, Whitney, and America’s Next Top Model) from a religious fanatic. Ah, Dick Wolf. You just love franchising those basic ideas, don’t you? First it was the entire concept of law & order: now it’s municipal employment.
C: The third, to be clear, is Chicago P.D., which premiered in 2014.
M: But let’s save the discussion of the whole franchise for tomorrow, why don’t we?
E: Fine. So basically this particular one ER, re-written.
M: Or Chicago Hope, which came out at the same time as ER, but didn’t last nearly as long.
C: Or every other medical show. Ever. Including the one we wrote about yesterday, the name of which I already forget. Oh right, Code Black.
E: No, that one’s tomorrow. I don’t remember yesterday’s either.
M: And none of us care enough to go back and look.
E: It should come as a surprise to no one that in addition to using Chicago Fire characters as a launching pad for the pilot, all three shows plan a crossover event in the spring. Assuming this lasts that long.
E: Anyhoo, the cast here is pretty decent, starting with Wolf veteran S. Epatha Merkison (who seems to be a very hands-on hospital administrator) and Oliver Platt as one of the head doctors and rounded out with the likes of Brian Tee, Colin Donnell, and the previously mentioned DaCosta.
C: Oliver Platt is good sometimes, right?
M: Yes, sometimes very good.
E: He used to get nominated for awards quite often. And maybe he’ll have a chance to act, as in true Wolf style the producers here promise to stick to medicine and stay clear of Grey’s Anatomy-level soapiness.
M: Well, at least there’s that!
Face/Off (SyFy), July 28th*
E: Okay, so this started over the summer, but this competition between special effects make up artists totally the best show you’re not watching. Watching them not only paint but sculpt every week? The talent is staggering. Do yourself a favor and catch the back half of this season.
C: Wow, with Minority Report being turned into a TV show and other unexpected revivals, I was honestly apprehensive that this was a TV adaptation of the Nicholas Cage/John Travolta movie! Phew. And even though it’s a reality competition show, this actually sounds like something I’d be interested by.
E: You would! You have no idea how much you would.
M: Every time I’ve seen bits of this their work has been spectacular. I just have never pulled it up to watch on its own.
E: I’m telling you, you really have to. It’s so good. This season they did an incredible Star Trek-inspired challenge (complete with Worf and Riker doing some guest mentoring and judging), literary mashups like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and a truly devious challenge where the contestants had to make a male model look like a classic Shakespearean heroine like Titania, Ophelia, or Lady Macbeth. So creative and fun.
Manhattan (WGN America), October 13th
E: I caught the pilot of this last year, drawn in by reports of smart writing and by the very cool subject matter — the nefarious Manhattan Project which resulted in the atomic bomb. A group of scientists are sequestered in dusty Los Alamos, New Mexico. Their families can’t know what they’re working on or why they’re in the middle of nowhere.
C: Did we review this? It sounds completely new to me, and I feel like I’d have remembered that premise.
M: Nope, we didn’t, because it was a summer premiere last year, as I just learned. I’ve honestly never heard of this before, but that’s an interesting start. Go on, E…
E: It was a bit of a head trip for me to see The Good Wife‘s insufferable John Benjamin Hickey playing the good guy. It seemed okay, but something about all the lying, or the characters doing it, just didn’t gel for me. It must have been an incredibly frustrating existence.
M: Having just got off a jury, where I couldn’t share any details of what was going on with anyone, I can imagine it’s very hard, and potentially frustrating to watch.
E: It was. For the new season, the project team works toward both a major test of the A-bomb in July, before deployment in August 1945, which doesn’t leave a ton more subject matter for the show in future seasons. There’s some (Bikini Atoll, the Cold War) but not much. Not that there’s anything wrong with telling a shorter story; in a lot of ways I really appreciate that.
C: Yeah, it’s kind of neat when a show sets itself a contained, finite story and sticks to that — though sadly, if it gains any popularity the temptation is always not to stick to that. Since I’ve never heard of this, or even the channel that it’s on, maybe that won’t be a source of temptation for them…
Beyond the Tank (ABC), September 29th
E: For a limited run, ABC brings us a behind-the-scenes look at the ideas that got successful bids on Shark Tank, and what it takes to bring those products to a store near you.
M: That’s actually more interesting to me than Shark Tank, which just seems like a vehicle for the “sharks” to insult and belittle people, and try to buy the good ideas off them for a song.
C: Although, insulting as they are, the premise does seem to inspire people. One hears all the time of prospective inventors wanting to be on the show.
E: Does one? Hmm. I like the behind-the-scenes idea; it does seem like a cool bit of realism. Will it be too much reality for audience who only care about the dream of a big pay day? I’ll be curious to hear.
C: “Too much reality”? If there’s a market for How It’s Made, there’s a market for this.
Wicked City (ABC), October 27th
E: And when they’re done with entrepreneurs, ABC brings you something a little different. You may possibly have guessed that the wicked city in question is Los Angeles (no, not Vegas or New Orleans or even Lynn, Massachusetts). The time is a little less obvious — 1982 and the cocaine epidemic. And the story is a hunt for a serial killer in the club scene on the Sunset Strip.
M: Oooh, I actually like that setting.
C: How many “hunt for a serial killer” shows can TV support? Stay tuned for late-fall cancellations to find out.
E: Jeremy Sisto (Clueless, Suburgatory) and Gabriel Luna (True Detective) are the cops chasing down Ed Westwick’s murderous Kent Granger and his sociopathic lady love Betty Beaumont (Parenthood‘s Erika Christiansen). And yes, that’s Gossip Girl‘s Chuck Bass as the killer. I know you’re shocked.
C: Gasp! How could this man be a killer?
M: I don’t buy it, he looks so genuinely kind.
E: Also stars Taissa Farmiga (in what might be her first high profile role as a grown up) as a young and ambitious reporter who stumbles into Granger’s orbit.
M: She’s been in our movie previews a bit in the last couple years, though nothing specific jumps to mind. And I know this may set off a storm, but I’ve never been fond of Sisto.
E: I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
M: Wait, are we talking about the sitcoms you decide to watch again?
E: Leave Suburgatory alone, M; it’s already off the air. Let me mourn its passing in peace. Farmiga, however, is probably best known for her work on several seasons of American Horror Story, so she should be right at home.
M: Or, you know, for being Vera Farmiga’s little sister.
E: And since Vera Farmiga is the lead in Bates Motel, it looks like both sisters feel the pull of dark material. I’m vaguely drawn to this, but it’s probably just all the big hair. I don’t have the stomach to watch the couple lure unsuspecting girls back home to torture and kill them, and I really question whether the show is going to fetishize and romanticize that.
C: Sigh. It would hardly be the first.
The Bastard Executioner (FX), September 15th
E: Speaking of things I definitely don’t have the stomach for, Kurt Sutter seems to have looked long and hard to find a time period and setting as violent as the last show he created, critically acclaimed biker gang drama Sons of Anarchy.
M: It’s the time for SoA folks to get other jobs, clearly, as I’ve been seeing lots of promos for Ron Pearlman’s Amazon show Hand of God.
E: Which we will definitely be profiling in our Streaming-Only Preview, for sites (unlike Hulu) that dump their shows at once instead of parceling them out.
M: Yes, can’t wait for that, as it has my most anticipated new show, The Man in the High Castle. But we digress. Again.
C: No one ever expects a digression from the quibbling siblings!
E: Monty Python reference FTW. Back to this show, though. I guess the setting makes a certain amount of sense. SoA was Hamlet in a biker gang. So does that make this — medieval Hamlet?
M: It doesn’t look very Hamlet-y.
E: Fine, but it’s definitely medieval. It’s the story of a guy named Wilkin who used to be a knight but is at the start of the pilot blissfully married with a child on the way, and somehow by the end of the show ends up as an assistant executioner (which I think really means torturer) in service of some mysterious destiny.
C: I’m not sure what Shakespeare play that might be. Semi-Macbeth?
E: Mr. E and I attempted to watch and shut it off about 15 minutes in when it abruptly switched to a scene of a torturer literally carving hunks of flesh off another man’s back. Nope! Sorry. Not for me.
C: Okaaaaaay and I’m out! Nope nope nope nope nope.
M: So, I just finished reading a book set in North Korea (The Orphan Master’s Son; for those interested, it’s good) that included a decent amount of torture. I was glad it was a book, and that I didn’t get the visuals. I think I’ll pass on this.
E: Believe me, I wish I could unsee that. Plus I’m sure the lovely wife got raped and murdered, or is somehow under threat of being raped and murdered, in order to set Wilkin down the path for his new job and his amazing mystical destiny. Helping move things along is Sutter’s wife Katey Sagal, almost unrecognizable as an old witch/healer who hopes to propel our (anti) hero down that road.
M: Yet another SoA alum, Sagal.
E: Sutter himself will show up later. Reuse, reduce — and please, reduce and recycle this show!
M: And for those who might wonder if we can be fair to slasher/horror shows, we may not be able to, but this and Scream Queens are both getting panned in reviews, so it’s not JUST our bias.
Limitless (CBS), September 22nd
E: Inspired by the Bradley Cooper movie of the same name. Did either of you ever see that? I missed it.
M: I know what it was about, but didn’t see it. Didn’t hear great things, despite Cooper and DeNiro.
C: It was very popular among my students, I remember. Yet another (kind of) sci-fi film being turned into a series this fall — is this the new trend?
E: If so, it’s not a bad one. The movie brought us the story of a failed writer who uses a drug to enhance his brain and claim the life he’s always wanted. There are side effects, but it seems he makes up an antidote for them. In the world of the show, that character is now a senator and presidential candidate, and he offers Jake McDorman’s Brian Sinclair (Cooper’s castmate from American Sniper, and the romantic lead in last year’s much less successful Manhattan Love Story) his share of NZT and the antidote on the condition that he work to solve crimes with Jennifer Carpenter’s FBI agent Rebecca Harris and under the direction of Colin Salmon’s shady, mysterious operative Sands.
M: So, it’s in the same universe, slightly connected to the movie, but telling a very different story. Cool. I actually kind of like the idea of it.
E: I can’t quite decide if this interests me or not. I mean, I like adventures.
C: It sound very much like this show is to Limitless-the-Movie as White Collar is to Catch Me If You Can. Start at the end, and tie the guy with the cool powers down to serving the government. Only it’s technically not the same guy, because you couldn’t get that actor on your series.
Finding Carter, MTV, October 6th
E: What’s airing now is the back half of the second season of the teen drama about a teen (Carter, played by Kathryn Prescott) who finds out that the woman she’s always thought was her mother actually kidnapped her as a child.
M: Oh crap, that’s nuts.
C: Yikes. That would mess with one’s head a bit!
E: Right? Way creepy, but interesting. She finds she has a twin sister and a brother, a vengeful mom and a dad who wrote a best-selling book about her disappearance. It’s hard for her to trust them, especially when her twin is resentful and her dad turns out to be writing another book about their reunion. Three guesses what the book’s called.
M: Hmmmm, I wonder.
E: In the first season and a half, there’s lot of family therapy, some infidelity, underage drinking, dating, more kidnapping, and life threatening gunshots. For season 2B, Carter struggles with school, work, boys, and a new brother – literally the mysterious, illicit love child of Carter’s biological father and the woman who kidnapped her — who’s a pack full of trouble.
C: Um, basically now this is sounding like The Secret Life of the American Teenager. AKA boring.
M: Yeah, at first I was thinking “How the hell is this on MTV?” That last paragraph from E let me know. I’m out.
The Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (NBC), September 15th*
E: Hey, it’s like when NBC brought late night down an hour and put Jay Leno on at 10 o’clock five nights a week. Except this time it’s one night, and with Neil Patrick Harris, and only for 8 episodes. NPH is great, so this should be — also great? It kind of looks like a lot of stupid human tricks, though: pranks and goofy celebrity cameos and skits and oddness.
M: Yeah… this seems NOTHING like the Jay Leno at 10:00 thing to me. The ads for this make it feel like a party, more like a variety show, prank show, game show and a few other things all rolled into one, and NPH is great, so I’m going to check it out.
C: Basically, some network boss said “You know what people like? When Neil Patrick Harris hosts things. Are there any more awards shows coming up we could throw him on? Oh, not for a few months? Well, just make something new up and have him host that. No, I don’t care if there aren’t any awards on it!”
E: I did actually record the first episode, but haven’t watched it yet. Also, I really don’t think I want late night at 10. Hell, I’m iffy on late night talk shows in late night, because they’re so spotty; I’d rather watch the successful bits online the next day than sit through an entire show which may or may not be entertaining. Perhaps ironically, I’ve read that this show aims at me — it wants to produce viral clips that people like me will watch.
C: It’s amazing that the cart is leading the horse with these things now. Financially logical, but amazing. “Go make a show people will watch clips of online!”
Chicago Fire (NBC), October 13th
E: We already know that firefighter Kelly Severide gets kind of blown up but happily saved by the good emergency room surgeons over at Chicago Med. But what else is going on with this arm of the Chicago trilogy?
M: Maybe they have to save Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago, from a fire in his factory?
E: Snort. You went deep for that one!
C: Nonsense. Ferris Bueller references are always timely.
E: So, I always forget that this action/procedural stars Jesse Simpson, long of House. Good for you for getting your own show, mister. It seems that Simpson’s character, Matt, was kidnapped at the end of last season. He’ll fight his way back, but feel the repercussions throughout this season, no where more than in his relationship with Gabby (Monica Raymund, who played one of my least favorite characters ever on The Good Wife), who debates coming clean with him about her pregnancy, or switching jobs and just hiding it.
M: That all sounds very non-Dick Wolf-like. And how do the English majors like my use of both pre and post hyphenation and pseudo-words there? Impressive, no?
C: Very, M. Good job.
Donny!, USA, November 10th
E: Sitcom about a sleazy, stupid Maury Povich/Jerry Springer-style talk show host, played by MSNBC/CNBC personality Donny Deutsch, who mispronounces kegel exercises as kugel (Yiddish for cake) and tells his teenage daughter he’s slept with her soccer coach to make sure she made the All Star team. Ew. Lots of ew.
C: Basically any show whose title is one word followed by an exclamation point is out in my book.
M: Wait, so it’s not about or starring Donny Osmond? Day. Ruined.