E: Welcome to the Relatively Entertaining 2015 Fall Preview, Thursday night edition. And now, feel the power of Shonda Rhimes. Feel it. Feel it, I say!
C: No. I shall not. You may take my life, but you’ll never take my dislike of Rhimes’s self-absorbed characters.
M: FREEEEEDOOOOOOMMM!!!! I refuse to bow to the shrine of Shonda!
E: Good luck watching anything on ABC, then.
C: Okay, so I do think it’s valuable that Hollywood feels her power, in terms of representation and diversity. But I’ve never seen anything she wrote that I enjoyed.
M: I agree it’s important that Hollywood feel the power of representation and diversity. Like you, I just happen to think she’s a horrible vessel for it.
E: Hey, you take what you can get. Speaking of which, Thursday seem to be a very light day on cable. Is Rhimes so powerful that she’s intimidated all the other content providers? That’s not a serious question, but there’s definitely something up. Friday and Saturday teem with cool cable shows, overwhelming the paltry network offers, but on a Thursday? Eerie silence.
C: Doesn’t that make perfect sense? Thursday night is a classic live-TV-watching night, while a lot of people watch cable shows on DVR, on demand, or online.
Note: New shows are in blue, asterisks (*) mean a Sibling will be watching.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), September 24th
M: As C stated previously, one of the things we are surprised by every year is that this show is still on. Seriously, my high schooler was in first grade the last time Mrs M actually cared about this show.
C: And that was considerably after the first season. That was the only season I watched, and I know literally nothing about the show now, so I’ll let you guys take this one from here.
E: I can’t remember how long it’s been since I quit, except than it being more recent than that. I really loved the first few seasons, but as Shonda became more successful and spread her wings as a producer, and the series became less grounded in reality and more “aspirational,” I liked it less and less. (I hate quotes that don’t actually quote anything, but I have a real difference of opinion about what to aspire to.)
M: I’m perfectly fine with quotes that don’t quote anything. Like when the judge in the Tom Brady case referred to the Wells investigation as “independent.” Loved that, and now I’m going to put tons of things in quotes for the rest of this post. Conversely, I hate Shonda Rhimes.
E: I’ll talk about this more as the preview goes on, but this show is famous for it’s monologues.
M: And self-obsessed doctors having sex with each other. And fighting. And dying.
E: Rhimes excels at self-righteous speeches (often penned for the excellent Chandra Wilson) where the speaker denounces anyone who questions their right to do whatever they want.
M: Whatever they want, as long as it’s something that Rhimes and the rest of the “tolerant” left agrees with.
E: Of course the big question of this season is, how does Meredith’s heart go on without McDreamy? In the run up to the season, we’ve been seeing a quote from the dearly departed Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) about how Meredith mistook her husband for the sun, the center of her world, but ought to know that she’s her own sun. This season is supposed to be her chance to shine and be extraordinary without him; the aim seems to be fun after last season’s darkness. And who knows, maybe date a little while she’s at it (or at least sleep around), maybe with new cast member/Darcy from Bride and Prejudice Martin Henderson, though no one’s going to confirm that.
M: Right, because, you know, the guy she’s been pining over/committing her life to over the past 10 years died a few months ago, clearly it’s time to buck up and start having fun!
E: Perpetually unlucky-in-love Alex is moving in with Jo (whoever that is), and Jackson and April struggle to make their marriage work after the loss of their baby. Meanwhile, the Chief has his own marital troubles now that he’s tied the knot with Jackson’s mom, Catherine Avery (the magnificent Debbie Allen). The apparently divorced Callie and Arizona start dating other people (boo) and Bailey (Wilson) continues her quest to become the next chief of surgery.
M: Enough, let’s get to football!!!!
Thursday Night Football (CBS), September 10th
M: Not really a “show,” but it’s going to win the ratings for the night. And most weeks I’ll be watching this over the rest of this slate. Just saying.
C: Was there always football on Thursday nights? I thought that was a Sunday/Monday thing?
E: We believe you, M. Mr. E will be right there with you. Maybe that’s the reason there’s not a ton going on tonight; most competitors have ceded the men to football, and the women to Shondaland.
C: Except me.
E: And me. I’ll be watching Bones and Project Runway.
M: And we’ll all be watching Heroes Reborn.
C: While biting our fingernails off in anxiety…
E: Yes, that!
M: I’ll end this section by noting that on November 5th this moves back to NFL Network, and CBS starts putting “real” shows on again.
The Vampire Diaries (The CW), October 8th
M: While going over Tuesday and Wednesday, I was thinking to myself “Hey, we haven’t gotten to CW’s vampire shows yet. I wonder if either of them got cancelled. HAHAHAHAHAHA, just kidding.”
C: Many hearts would be very, very heavy had that happened. I would definitely have seen the howls of anguish on Facebook.
E: The funny thing about this show for non-fans is the main character — Nina Dobrev’s Elena (along with doppleganger Katherine)– has left the show. How do you have a love triangle without the girl in the middle?
M: I’m sure they’ll find a way, it is a CW vampire show, after all.
C: I did see howls of anguish about that, actually.
E: It may be a lot of responsibility to put on one person and their desires, but I (as a non-fan) don’t really get how they can keep going without her. How is it possibly better to go on? Showrunner Julie Plec likens this to the infamous Red Wedding, but Game of Thrones is an ensemble show, and it’s also infamously a show where a player — no matter how significant they seem — can and will be taken out of the equation. Elena has always been the clear center of this show.
C: Lots of significant players have gotten taken out of TVD over the years — in fact pretty much all of them. They just get resurrected or come back as ghosts or whatever. But Dobrev is apparently actually gone. Why, one wonders? She got better stuff to do?
M: Maybe she’s just made enough money to do whatever she wants? However, I thought that somewhere along the way Ian Somerhalder became as big a part of its success. Still baffles me that the friendzone dorks from a couple JJ Abrams shows, LOST (Somerhalder) and Alias (Bradley Cooper) are now incredibly popular sex symbols.
C: Um… you are misremembering LOST, I think. (Though not Alias.) Boone was not a likable character, but he was a hottie. And Somerhalder will keep the fans watching.
Bones (FOX), October 1st
E: Remember when I was ranting about stupid cliffhangers back in Monday’s Castle debate? Well, Bones.
M: Why don’t you elaborate, for those of us who haven’t watched in a while?
E: Okay, so. It turns out that when they wrote and filmed the season finale of the last season, FOX hadn’t renewed the show. Creator Hart Hanson decided to do something that could double as a series finale, which involved Angela and Hodgins almost moving to Paris but deciding not to at the last minute and Cam starting to get less cagey about committing to her relationship with Arastoo. AND Booth and Brennan, pregnant with their second child but reeling after losing Dr. Sweets (not to mention Booth’s gambling addiction relapse), decide to leave the toxic environment of D.C. and move to Kansas.
M: My biggest takeaway from that comment is that there’s a character named Arastoo. That’s AWESOME!
C: Wow, yeah! According to the internets, it is the Persian form of Aristotle. Nifty.
E: Guys, um, that’s not the takeaway. They’re moving to Kansas — Kansas, where apparently no bad things ever happens? When you ride off into the sunset, you ride off to Kansas?
M: Well, if you’re in Missouri you do. Sorry, couldn’t pass up a geography joke.
C: We’d expect nothing less from the family geography nerd. But I will say, without taking a swipe at Kansas, that it does seem an unusual place to imagine those two characters ending up.
E: Right, so of course now the writers have to backpedal this departure. Bones‘s history is littered with silly cliffhangers (Booth faked his own death, went to prison, Brennan went on the lam) so I guess this is just par for the course. It’s really stupid, though. These are people who love their jobs, and sentimentality and superstition about toxic or morbid environments have no place in Brennan’s decision making.
M: So, the question really is, would Kansas have been a satisfying end? If not, then I’m not sure if it matters that much how they bring them back, because it means you have a second chance at an ending you can be happy with.
Heroes Reborn (NBC), September 24th***
C: Oh, here we go. Remember what I said about The Muppets? That. All of that, again. Okay, except the part about Stallone singing with a lion.
M: When I first heard they were bringing it back, I was apprehensive, too. The more I’ve seen for it, I like the way they’re doing it. I like that they didn’t just “reboot” it, and that they’re playing out that there was some hero apocalypse and now the heroes are in hiding, Days of Future Past-style. But I still have concerns.
E: I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough in the trailers to be reassured.
M: Fully reassured, no. But they have looked promising to me.
C: This could be the new show I’m most likely to love. But I’m so apprehensive. For background: all the Quibbling Siblings loved the first season of the original Heroes.
M: Like most of the rest of the country.
C: And like most of the rest of the country, we were profoundly disappointed by the subsequent seasons and gave up the show before it went off the air.
E: That first half-season, particularly, was just spellbinding. Every single episode was shock and awe.
C: But then at the very start of season 2 it took this unbelievable nosedive.
M: I literally stopped watching just before the season 2 finale. The last episode of that season sat on my DVR for about 8 months, and Mrs M and I just never bothered watching it. We deleted it and the first 5 or so episodes of season 3 without watching them. It was that bad.
C: Will they revive what was great about it with this new series, or what stank?
M: I like that they seem to have a purpose again. When they focused on “Save the cheerleader, save the world” the show had purpose and was driving toward an event. After that they seemed to lose focus and just kind of drift all over the place. I’m hopeful they realized that.
E: I think the issue was that they never really had a plan or event that was an exciting and well crafted as saving the cheerleader. I think they tried. It’s a high pressure, low-time business, network TV.
M: I don’t agree, I don’t think it was that they didn’t have a plan or event after the first season that was as good. I really don’t think they had a plan or event after the first season at all. I think they were just trying to keep it going. I agree about the high pressure, low time part, and that played in. I really think that Tim Kring had been thinking up the idea, and most of the first season, for a long time before the show got picked up, and then just didn’t have anything past that. It’s been a while now, so a lot of time for someone to come up with a good idea, and a good reason to bring it back.
C: So you’re saying we can at least expect another good first season? Well, that’s something. The cast is, of course, the big draw here, with Zachary Levi of Chuck (another Siblings all-time favorite) front and center.
E: He’s the big draw for sure.
C: Except… playing a bad guy. Why? Why would you take one of the most charming actors of his generation and make him a bad guy? They literally already did this with Kristen Bell on the old series and it was stupid, her character was totally dumb. All I can hope is that Zach’s character here will transcend and be given an awesome redemption arc.
E: Why? Because Levi asked for it; he literally called NBC and said hey, I totally want in to that new Heroes show, but not in the way you’d expect. He didn’t want to be the sweet good guy again; he wanted to be a complicated, relatable bad guy. His character isn’t a cardboard, mustache twirling villain; he’s a bereaved vigilante, looking to eliminate the threat that he believes took away his child. He’s deluded, but he’s doing what he thinks is right. But hopefully he will eventually get a redemption arc, yes.
M: Well, considering that the main good guy in the reboot was one of the main bad guys of season one (the Horn-Rimmed Glasses Guy), I think that potential is definitely there.
E: Yeah, see, having HRG (Jack Coleman) as a hero worries me too. Returning cast includes Greg Grunberg’s “EVO” cop Matt Parkman, time traveler Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) and Jimmy Jean-Louis as The Haitian.
M: So glad that Grunberg and Oka are back. I don’t remember The Haitian very well. I would have liked to see Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) back, though.
E: EVO doesn’t refer to extra virgin olive oil, in case you were wondering…
C: I was.
M: But that would be “EVOO”…
E: It’s evolved humans.
C: Hm. So that’s a poor acronym.
M: Especially since the actual acronym would be “EH”, which could make people think they were just Canadian.
E: It’s an abbreviation! And the “EVOs” are persona non-grata right now, thanks to a terrorist explosion which occurred as Claire the cheerleader (aka Hayden Panettiere, now infuriating fans and fellow characters on Nashville) held a rally/press conference to explain her powers to the world. The explosion, which killed many people including Chuck’s daughter (okay, Levi’s) is blamed on poor Mohinder Suresh on the presumption that he wanted to keep the EVO’s existence a secret. Now they’re a mistrusted and sometimes hunted minority, rather like the mutants in X-Men.
C: To be fair, Mohinder was kind of the worst.
M: I’m telling you, Days of Future Past was the right way to go for them. I’m liking this.
E: We also meet a conspiracy theorist, Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) who believes that there’s more to the explosion than the commonly accepted story.
M: Quick aside… you may or may not remember my confessions in past posts about getting sucked into all kinds of “bad” SciFi movies.
C: Oh yes. Part of the thing where you like everything.
M: I know I used Timberlake’s In Time as an example. Anyway, the scene in the commercials for this show where Levi and his accomplice…
E: His wife, played by Judith Shekoni.
M: …Sure, her. Their gunning down of the support group sitting in a circle in some sort of meeting hall reminded me a lot of the Jude Law movie Existenz. Which was pretty bad, but had that one oddly memorable scene. Probably just me, but hey.
E: Unfortunately it just makes me think of the South Carolina church murders. It’s unfair, because the clip was out there first, but it just has an awful resonance to it now.
M: Way to bring us all down. Let’s move on to something cheery. What’s next? Oh, crap.
Scandal (ABC), September 24th
E: I can’t remotely follow the crazy switchbacks of this plot, but what I do know is this: after years of on and off affairs, Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope is now dating the president (Ghost‘s Tony Goldwyn), who kicked out both his Chief of Staff (Meredith Grey’s dad Jeff Perry) and First Lady/newly elected Senator/villain Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) to make way for Olivia. There’s way more to it than that, but that’s the big deal.
M: I would rather watch a Real Housewives marathon than this. I would rather watch ever stupid Bravo millionaire real estate or millionaire dating show, with my eyes held open by toothpicks, than watch this. And for what they intentionally did immediately following It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown last year, I feel like they deserve to be boycotted.
E: Oh my. That was quite a transition, especially in the age of DVRs, where you get a good thirty seconds at least of the program after the one you’re recording. But with Grey’s Anatomy on at 8, it’s not like ABC is exactly fearful about what little eyes might see.
C: They should be after a Charlie Brown special though, shouldn’t they?
M: YES! To top it off, Rhimes was tweeting that night about how great it was that people were trying to rush to cover their children’s eye. She got a kick out of it. Cannot stand her.
C: That is pretty darn smug and smarmy.
E: When this show was first announced, I was thrilled. I like political television. I like Kerry Washington. I wasn’t yet at a point where Shonda Rhimes was a negative for me, even though I hadn’t liked Private Practice. I loved the idea of a brilliant African American woman as a crisis manager, stepping in to fix problems in Washington D.C. The problem, however, is two-fold. First, there’s the complete lack of morality in everyone involved in the show…
M: A Rhimes staple!
E: Well, at least as far as I can tell from the first couple of episodes. Second is that this show takes soap to a whole other sudsy level. I wanted and expected real world politics like The West Wing and The Good Wife, not assassinating opponents’ loved ones, torturing colleagues, or blowing up buses full of civilians. It’s like a telenovela on steroids, but without the humor.
C: That last point being, perhaps, the most damning objection of all.
E: It’s the dissonance — apparently set in the real world yet way, way overboard — and then all the self serving rhetoric used to justify any means to an end that add up to something I can’t swallow.
M: Agreed. The lack of any admirable humane impulse on any character’s part–
C: Guys, do you feel like we’re beating a dead horse?
M: I want to beat that horse, because it’s only mostly dead.
C: Okay, but let’s save it for below, when we get to How to Get Away with Murder.
Mom (CBS), November 5th
C: Kind of surprised this blandly-named sitcom made it through a second season of middling reviews without being axed, but I suppose it’s cheap to produce and gets okay numbers.
E: Not only did it survive, it just won star Allison Janney a record breaking 7th Emmy (her first for a comic role).
C: All that proves is that Emmy will, whenever possible, avoid awarding someone it has not already awarded before. (For further evidence, see Julia Louis Dreyfus et al.)
M: CBS doesn’t usually hold onto middling shows, so this is a little odd. Maybe they don’t have as many new projects in the works as they used to?
E: It’s a Chuck Lorre show, though, and with hits like 2 and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, Dharma & Greg and The Big Bang Theory, he’s their golden goose. Without an impressive replacement, they may just want to keep him happy.
M: That makes sense.
E: News for the upcoming season: Janney’s Bonnie is sober again, and back on the dating market. Anna Faris’s Christy has some rocking AA meetings with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Jaime Pressly and Beth Hall wrecking havoc. As if one Oscar winner in the cast isn’t improbable enough, Ellen Burstyn has a guest arc as Bonnie’s mother. I think all of that goes to show one thing: it’s hard to find good work out there as an actress.
The Originals (The CW), October 8th
M: Or as I like to call it, CW Vampires: New Orleans.
C: That’s pretty good actually. I love the idea of paranormal dramas using procedural drama naming conventions. Heroes: Special Villains Unit? The X-Files: International Space Station? (TXF: ISS?)
M: Agents of SHIELD: Inhumans or a new reboot, Fringe: Observers.
E: So, I haven’t watched this show, nor do I want to, but I find the plot super confusing.
M: Maybe because, you know, you haven’t watched the show. Just a guess.
C: Hm, yep, that checks out.
E: It seems that last year, the Originals got rid of their parents. How do Originals have parents and still be the originals?
M: It’s like the “First People” on Fringe, who weren’t first at all. Or ever really properly explained. I hate what FOX does to Scifi shows. But I digress.
E: Yes, a lot. Anyway, as if that’s not odd enough, it turns out that the Originals (Joseph Morgan’s Klaus, Daniel Gillies’ Elijah and Claire Holt’s Rebekah) have a Trinity, a sort of shadow group composed of the first vampires each one sired — turned into a vampire — which consists of characters played by Rebecca Breeds, Oliver Ackland and Andrew Lees, who will be plotting against their parents. The parallels! Crazy!
M: So, it’s the Greek gods, but as vampires in the Big Easy. M’kay.
C: To be fair, that sounds a lot like a grown-up version of Rick Riordan’s novels, which we like. Probably with less sword-fighting though.
Sleepy Hollow (FOX), October 1st
M: E, are you still watching this? Two years ago this was my Gotham, as show I kind of liked but didn’t have time for, and had a few reasons to stop watching. Then after I stopped, John Noble (Fringe, Lord of the Rings) joined the cast, and I was sad I was missing him. Not sad enough to catch up, but sad. I know it’s fans are devoted, though, so maybe some day I’ll jump back in.
E: I don’t know about “still”; I only watched the first couple of episodes. It’s way to creepy and scary for me, which is a shame, because I really like leads Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison, and would have loved seeing John Noble play Mison’s evil son. But the show is at once silly and actually, actively freaky.
M: And at least a bit too over the top, which is another reason I dropped it.
C: I was always mildly interested in this but put off by how incredibly complicated it sounds. Hard to jump into, I imagine.
E: That’s likely. In season 3, Ichabod and Abbie are just beginning the second of seven tribulations they have to face as Witnesses of the apocalypse.
M: At least they dropped the whole “over the top” thing!
E: Should I guess they didn’t rescue Ichabod’s witch wife, who was trapped in another dimension? Anyway, as the show moves a ahead with a new showrunner, the unconventional partners continue to meet new characters from the present (Lance Gross as Abbie’s new supervisor at the FBI) and past (Twilight‘s Nikki Reed as Betsy Ross).
C: Twilight and Betsy Ross: two things I never expected to read in the same sentence.
The Blacklist (NBC), October 1st
C: So low is this on my radar that I had to look up what it’s about. James Spader plays a criminal working with the FBI to take down the titular list of old enemies in the international world of organized crime, or something like that.
M: That’s about right, yeah. It’s another early-season “like” that got dropped due to having four kids, tons of responsibilities and no time.
E: I couldn’t stomach this one either. Too much cruelty, too much gratuitous violence. From the heroes, that is, which certainly makes it different from Sleepy Hollow, where the bad guys look too horrifying for me to deal with, but the good guys are good. Here the good guys are pretty morally ambiguous, though only mildly horrifying from a visual perspective (that wig, Megan Boone, seriously).
M: If I was going to keep either one, this would have been the one. I liked the construct, and Spader — when not mailing it in like he did on Boston Legal or playing a character named Blaine — is highly charismatic.
E: Apparently at the end of last season, FBI agent Elizabeth Keen (Boone) went on the run with Spader’s Red Reddington, landing them both on the FBI’s most wanted list. Or maybe that happened because Keen killed the U.S. Attorney General? Yikes!
M: Me thinks they must’ve been trolling Scandal for plot ideas.
C: I don’t know, sounds sort of like a dark version of White Collar. When working as a team, will the “bad guy” become good or the “good guy” develop a bad streak? Drama! Also, probably the Attorney General was secretly evil.
E: Her former colleagues are reluctantly hunting her down, as are the Cabal and the rest of the FBI. They’ll use this as a chance to change up the hideous wig. Factoring in, of course, is Keen’s trickster husband Tom (Ryan Eggold), a deep cover agent who’d been playing his wife for their entire relationship.
C: Well that’s a recipe for years of therapy.
Project Runway (Lifetime) , August 6th
E: Longtime readers may know that I gave up on Project Runway a few seasons ago.
M: At least one long time sibling forgot that, so don’t feel bad readers if you didn’t know.
C: And so did the other. I thought you liked this show!
E: I was dissatisfied with Lifetime and the changes they made (first emphasizing and then disappearing the models, dumbing down challenging, decreasing the work-time, emphasize drama too much over the clothes, trading in Michael Korrs for Zach Posen). Recently, however, good friends have been pushing me to take it up again. I heeded their advice, and I’m glad I did.
M: Wait, did they resolve those issues? Because I don’t feel like they ever de-emphasize the drama.
E: No, there’s still plenty of drama, but generally it’s not more than I can handle. Anyway, if you haven’t been watching Season 14, there’s not problem just stepping in, no learning curve required. Oh. Well. It may help to know that there’s a bit of a mean girls situation going on with weird racial undertones. This may or may not be involved with the Tim Gunn meltdown promised in the previews; we shall see.
M: What was that I was asking about the drama?
E: The challenges have been really good, though. They just did an amazing unconventional challenge where they had to make outfits out of old electronics and trash. There was a stunning dress made out of polaroid pictures, and another out of metal tubing.
M: Sounds comfy.
Angel From Hell (CBS), November 5th
C: This series, in which Jane Lynch plays an angel (maybe?) guarding over Maggie Lawson’s doctor protagonist character, has so far garnered some of the worst reviews of the new season.
M: It does have a clever title, though. And Jane Lynch.
E: And Jane Lynch is really good at that weird, motor mouth talking thing. I feel like we’re just not in line with the critics this year, because they’re totally loving on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and You’re the Worst, and trashing decent-looking stuff like this.
M: Whoa whoa whoa. Speak for yourself on the “decent looking” comments.
C: Yeah, I am so not on board with that descriptor either. M and I will be over here with the critics (though I regret NOTHING I said about Crazy Ex-GF!). Basically the premise of this is that Amy (Lynch) is seemingly well-meaning, abrasive, and a compulsive liar. She starts stalking successful, put-together Allison (Psych‘s Lawson), turning up everywhere and creepily seeming to know all about her life.
E: Really unusual personal details, too, like where she got her first period (Red Lobster) and how many days it’s been since her mom died.
M: Yeah, not creepy at all.
C: This becomes helpful, though, when Amy tips her off that Allison’s boyfriend (Roy from The Office, with a beard) is cheating.
E: With her best friend, no less. Ew.
C: She encourages Allison to live a little, let go, embrace life, yadda yadda… the usual chick flick sorts of lines. Though Allison isn’t sure she believes in Amy’s angelic claims, she agrees she could use a “weird friend.” Seems like a pretty typical premise for a TV movie, but for a series?
M: Um, it seems like an episode of the Dylan McDermott-Maggie Q show Stalker, which I believe got cancelled, but still ended with a cliffhanger. Seriously, we need to start a production company, get a deal with Amazon or Netflix, and solely work with cancelled shows to produce a one or two episode “proper” ending. But I digress. Again.
C: A lot. Oh, and Kyle Bornheimer — immediately familiar to me as the obnoxious Ray Krzeminski from Agent Carter and from a recurring guest spot on Brooklyn Nine-Nine — co-stars as Allison’s comedy deadbeat brother.
M: And several short-lived comedies, like Worst Week (which was really good) and Perfect Couples. I’ve almost always liked him (Carter is the exception, but we’re supposed to hate him on that).
E: He and Lynch have excellent timing together. Their flirting scene was my favorite part of a trailer that generally made me laugh.
C: Can I just say, by the way, that the names Allison and Amy are way too easy to mix up?
M: Yes, please do.
C: The names Allison and Amy are way too easy to mix up.
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), September 24th
M: Ugh. I’m leaving Shonda Part 3 to you guys.
C: Can E just handle it alone? Ever since I saw the trailer for this last year — law professor tells her students that the essence of law is doing anything and everything it takes to win your case, up to and including committing crimes yourself — I have avoided it like the plague.
E: Okay, let me start by saying that, like Scandal, I had high hopes for this one.
M: I had no hopes for it.
C: Sometimes you baffle me, sis. How can we have such similar taste and yet have these total 180-degree reactions to things 5% of the time?
E: Hey, listen to what I’ve got to say, will you? I adore Viola Davis with her growly deepy voice and her wise, weary eyes and her fierce delivery, and because she talked so frankly about how hard it is to be a darker skinned African American woman in Hollywood, and how amazing it was for her to have a script where she gets to be smart and sexy and sexual rather than frumpy and supportive and perfect, I was incredibly happy for her to be headlining this show. I was also pleased to see Alfred Enoch, Dean Thomas of the Harry Potter films, at her side as a young law student from the wrong side of the tracks. Also, I love legal thrillers and mysteries, so I really felt like this show was going to be everything.
C: Okay, I do see all that, 100%. But…
M: Enter Shonda.
E: Well, yes. Instead, I realized something about Shondaland shows. It’s easier to like doctors even when they’re narcissistic and ambitious, because they’re also saving lives.
C: I just want to mention that that’s almost verbatim something Mindy Kaling says in her new book, among many great observations about current TV. Plug over. Continue.
E: ACHEM. A doctor’s mandate is inherently selfless and good even they aren’t, even if they’re doing it just because it’s the most challenging thing they can think of. But to see students swoon over Annalise Keating as she lies and cheats to get her clients acquitted? To like her better when her clients are the guiltiest and slimiest, because those are the hardest people to get juries to like? Yeah. There’s no pretending to approve of that. It’s like watching a crowd fawn over Donald Trump just because he’s rich. I love the war on The Good Wife between the expectations of the legal profession and the various characters’ morality; on How To Get Away With Murder, there’s no fight. Any means to an end is celebrated as the highest form of meaning.
M: Because Rhimes has no discernible morals. And her shows encourage others to act unscrupulously.
E: There are, however, quite a lot of dead bodies belonging to members of the cast. Last season we saw in flashbacks how the Keating Five (Annalise’s interns, her brightest students) disposed of her husband’s body which we saw them crying over in her home office. And of course, we saw a stunning scene where Davis stripped her face entirely of make up, pulled off her weave, and (exposed, vulnerable) asked her soon-to-be-dead husband why there was a picture of his penis on a dead girls’ phone.
M: Note to audience, cheating is bad (implied: when it is a man cheating), but murder is okay.
E: Enoch (a member of the five, not for his brilliance but because he caught his law professor Keating cheating on her husband with a cop) made friends with his neighbor Rebecca (The Killing‘s Katie Findlay), who turned out to have all sorts of information on a murdered sorority girl, including the phone with Sam Keating’s phallus in it. In the beginning of this season, we’ll find out who killed Rebecca, which will inspire another mystery.
E: Plots that showrunner Peter Nowalk (a protegee of Shonda Rhimes who produces under her Shondaland umbrella) will confess to involve the affair between intern Asher and Keating’s employee Bonnie, and playboy Connor’s struggles as his boyfriend/tech source Oliver comes to terms with a HIV positive diagnosis. As much as I really dislike the tenor the show takes, I’m happy for Davis, who this weekend won a lead actress Emmy for her work in it. It was the first lead actress award for an African American woman. So even though she’s not the Oscar winner that FOX’s Emmy onscreen notes proclaimed her to be (she famously lost to Meryl Streep in a squeaker a few years ago) I’m thrilled that she continues to break barriers. I just wish I liked her character and her show more.
M: And she’s from here. One of the guys that works for me went to high school with her.
Elementary (CBS), November 5th
M: I lost this one part way through last year. I was lukewarm on it when it first started, then it really grew on me, then it just got lost in the purge, when I dropped to only watching a handful of shows. It’s too bad, this was quite good. I hope it still is.
E: I never really got into it — I didn’t feel the synergy between the characters after the first few episodes — but C and our folks like it a lot, I think. C? Why don’t you take this one.
C: I’m sorry, I wish I could. We need our parents for this, who do still watch it. I watched about a season and a half and really, really liked it but ended up in that position where I missed a few episodes and waited to catch up and missed a few more and then it was the end of the season and I had to wait for fall for it to be available on DVD or streaming platforms and by that point I had just moved on. I tried jumping back in much later, but got a bit confused by the very changed dynamics between Lucy Liu’s Watson and Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes, who didn’t seem to be getting along, and she, like, had her own detective agency or something? I’m sorry, this is unhelpful. I could look up news about this season for our readers but I don’t want to be spoiled in case I finally catch up some day. Hey, readers! Yeah you! Anyone still watching this show? Tell us what you think in the comments, please!!
The Player (NBC), September 24th
C: Primarily, I must say, I am impressed by The Player‘s very cool retro advertising art:
E: Okay, that’s cool enough. Very Bond.
C: However, the show is exactly what that poster suggests: Retro. Old-fashioned. A retread. So your level of interest is going to really depend on how much you like the tropes it’s retreading. For instance, do you like stories where the rugged male action hero is motivated by the murder of his wife? Because we’ve got that trope. Do you like stories about a secret organization solving crimes before they happen, a la Person of Interest or this season’s Minority Report? We’ve got that too. They call themselves “the dealer,” “the pit boss,” and “the player” but that’s just window dressing for a supercomputer predicting crimes.
M: Huh, I thought it looked like it was just Human Target set in Vegas. This is far more interesting to me.
E: Hm. I had it set to record and then read an interview with Wesley Snipes which made it sound awful. Your synopsis makes it sound much more interesting than he did (and yeah, the stunts at the beginning of the trailer look super impressive), but I think it’s probably still gross.
M: To be fair, C’s a soon to be PhD. Snipes is a good actor, but that doesn’t mean he can necessarily articulate the essence of his projects well in interviews.
C: I may not be that great a writer, since I wasn’t actually trying to sell it. It looks like a pile of warmed up old tropes to me. So, is there a reason to tune in? The cast, I must say, is impressive. Snipes is “the pit boss,” the mysterious man in charge.
M: When I first saw the ads I questioned if it was actually Snipes, partly because his look is different (I thought it looked like Orlando Jones at first glance), and partly because I didn’t expect him to be on a TV show, and even more to be on one and not be the lead!
C: He’s a major character, pretty much exactly the Michael Emerson role on Person of Interest. Charity Wakefield, well-known to British TV fans from the 2008 Sense and Sensibility, Casualty 1909, and Wolf Hall, is “the dealer.” Nick Wechsler (Roswell, Revenge) plays her boyfriend, I think. And then some guy named Philip Winchester, who’s super unmemorable to me, is in the Jim Caviezel role as action star.
M: Yeah, he’s very generic looking, kind of like the guy that’s the male lead on Blindspot. I did like Wechsler on Revenge, back when that show was good in the first half of the first season.
E: Well, here’s my issue, and it’s not the size of Snipes’ role or Winchester’s generic looks or anything to do with Wechsler, who I too liked in that first brilliant half season of Revenge. It’s that the dealer and pit boss set the player up to stop crimes (with occasional, wizard-like technical help from Wakefield), and a sort of syndicate of loathsome wealthy people bet on whether or not he can do it. It’s all a big game to them. How much of a hand they had in Winchester’s wife’s death, I shudder to think. It’s exactly the cold blooded sort of thing they’d do based on our brief, mysterious glimpses of them in the preview.
Haven (SyFy), October 8th
C: Because the SyFy channel is weird and does not understand what words mean, what premieres this October will be second half of the “final season” of this show, the “first half” of which started airing one year ago. Or in everyone else’s language, this show was greenlit in 2014 for two 13-episode seasons, with the understanding that the one about to start will be the last.
E: A lot of channels do that now, actually; they give you a string of episodes at once, with a big hiatus in between. It’s season 5b! Makes it damn tricky to find trailers on line.
M: They did this with Battlestar and Caprica, too. When I pointed it out on a message board one time I had people jumping down my throat to “correct” me, since I dared to call a climactic episode that preceded a 15-month break a season-finale. Strange network that REALLY needed new management. I hear they have it, and are talking about going back to more actual science fiction, and less B-movies-of-the-week. Here’s hoping!
E: I read a great article in the Hollywood Reporter about that, too; their new chief David Howe talked a lot about how today, Battlestar Galactica would have been accepted as the equivalent of Game of Thrones (this year’s drama Emmy winner) and The Walking Dead (the most popular show on cable), because the stigma attached to genre television has finally disappeared. Sci fi is popping up everywhere! Investors are starting to bring them enough money to compete with HBO and Netflix series. Childhood’s End and The Expanse are definitely SyFy’s foray into prestige cable TV, which makes me more likely to tune in, especially to the less bleak sounding The Expanse. But anyway. This. Back to Haven, which I watched the first season and totally forgot about.
C: Don’t ask me how many “seasons” this show has been running, but I did watch and mildly enjoy the first one, though not enough to keep up.
M: Wait, you both watched the first “season” of this, and we’ve never once talked about it? That, in and of itself, is quite odd.
C: Um, except in previous TV previews, where I’ve totally brought it up before. Anyway, the show’s kind of a Fringe- or Grimm-style series where each week the protagonists have to deal with another human with some new supernatural ability; and of course, there’s a myth arc they also pursue. Because this is loosely based on a Stephen King story, the mythology is very mysterious and unclear.
E: Mr. E loves Stephen King, which is why we watched. I think it just airs so irregularly that we lost sight of it.
M: I’ve heard good things, too, but have never actually watched. And before five paragraphs ago, I didn’t think I knew anyone who had.
C: You just have no memory. Turning into Dad!
E: From the little I’ve been able to find out, season 5 saw main character Audrey go dark and assume a new, evil personality. Did that get fixed before the “mid-season finale”? I have no idea, and the teaser trailer for 5B doesn’t help.
Fashionably Late With Rachel Zoe (Lifetime), September 24th
E: First they steal Project Runway, then they take Rachel Zoe? Bravo, better keep those knives in front of Top Chef, because Lifetime is after your best properties. Note I did not include any of those hideous housewife shows in that tally.
M: God, please let someone else steal Top Chef from Bravo!!!!
C: I’m a little puzzled here. I have never heard of this show or this person. (Also, “Rachel Zoe” sounds like that girl you know who’s trying to protect her Facebook profile from Google searches, not a real full name of a famous individual.) Is this actually comparable to Top Chef as a major property?
E: She’s certainly a famous individual in the TV/fashion world. I occasionally watched The Rachel Zoe Project…
M: Were you being punished for something? I saw one or two, and have been trying to repress it.
E: No, I was not being… argh, you’re hopeless. I’m curious to see what she and her husband have going to with this fashion-inspired talk and sketch comedy show. It’s certainly an original idea.
M: Originality is not always a good thing.
E: What? She dressed Anne Hathaway for the Oscars (and whatever you thought of her hosting, her clothes killed it) and she was pregnant. I was pregnant. Plus, she’s just an interesting character, and you know I support the idea of women making inroads into late night.
M: Much like your choice of sitcoms, I think you need to remember that quality matters, too. Otherwise you’re just being sexist.