Fall 2016 Television Preview: Wednesday

C: Ah, Wednesday. The night I’ll probably spend watching new episodes of series that air Monday and Tuesday nights, online.

M: Wednesdays tend to be my busiest night of the week, so I’m not typically even watching the stuff from the prior two nights. That said, there are three or four shows that I’ll either be watching or checking out, none of which were on Wednesdays last year.

E: Here are the links to Monday and Tuesday. Per our usual formatting, blue mean’s it’s a new show, asterisks (*) mean one of us will be watching.

8:00pm

The Goldbergs (September 21st), ABC

E: Here’s a plotline that hits home for me: Wendy McLendon-Covey’s mom goes back to work — as a substitute at her kids’ school.

M: Very apropos for you, sis! This is a show that I want to binge at some point, having watched a little here and there and enjoyed it.

E: We definitely have friends who love it for its 80’s throw back glory.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X (September 21st), CBS

E: What do you think, guys?  Flashy and foolish, or tapping into a real and adversarial generational divide?

M: Especially given the setting of new Joel McHale show that we’ll be discussing at some point in these previews, I think every generation and Millennials is an adversarial divide right now.  😉

C: That’s because you, like these folks and Joel McHale, are in Gen X.

M: No, it’s because no one likes millennials. Duh.

E: I like Millenials, just fine (I find the whole notion that C and I are part of different generations preposterous) which might be why I think it’s a lame idea.

M: That’s because C’s not a Millennial, she’s Gen Y.

C: No one acknowledges that that generation exists, anymore.

M: And I was being sarcastic. Sort of. Anyway, let’s move on.

E: I suppose after 32 seasons, they might be scraping the barrel for new ideas to start the 33rd.

M: True enough, though I’m not sure why they feel like they need to have a theme.

C: That is just an insane number of seasons.

Arrow (October 5th), the CW

C: This is another show I’m sort of vaguely watching but am way behind on (near the end of season 2, while this is season 5 starting up). So I’m going to sidestep the spoilers here.

M: So, I’m at the start of season 3, but have sort of given up hope that I’ll catch up before the series ends. Given that it’s on the CW, that means I’ll binge this in 2028.

E: I’ve never really warmed to this show, which is so much darker than label-mates (as it were) The Flash and Supergirl.

C: I vacillate between enjoy its flashes of humor, fun characters, and ridiculous drama and being annoyed by its more boring characters and… ridiculous drama.

M: I lean more towards annoyed.

E: Word is that this season has dual big bads — first supervillain Promethius, and second an old nemesis (visited in flashbacks) from Oliver’s days in the Russian Bratva.  And I don’t even care what that is (military? criminal?) because I think it’s so cool that the Russian nemesis is played by Dolph Lundgren.

M: So cool. I really hope he says “I must break you” at some point.

Blindspot (September 14th), NBC**

E: This was definitely one of my favorite shows from last season.  Sure, a lot of it’s silly, but fun silliness.

M: Mine too, it was entertaining.

C: I haven’t seen this at all, and didn’t even know you guys both watched it!

M: Yup! It was strange, though… The male lead, Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton), is in my opinion, the weakest character on the whole show. He’s just a big stereotype, the omnipresent gruff, angry, jaded law enforcement officer with family issues. However, the female lead (and true lead of the show), Jane Doe (Jamie Alexander), and the supporting characters, especially Patterson (Ashley Johnson) and for a while her boyfriend, were so good that it didn’t matter.

E: I agree (Patterson rules!), though I did get more used to Kurt as the season wore on.

M: Used to? Yes. Like or even mildly enjoy? No.

E: This season will bring quite a different flavor.  Weller’s running things in the office after poor Mayfair (Marianne Jeanne-Baptiste) got killed off; he thinks Jane is responsible, and was taking her in when the CIA (who thinks she killed Carter) stole her. Just as he bags a suspect in a spectacular motorcycle chase, and Zapata and Reade confess to missing working the tattoos, and hey, Archie Panjabi shows up in a black helicopter.  She tells them that Jane has escaped from a CIA black site, and might be willing to be a double agent for them in the shady organization she seems to have come from.

M: Yep, new boss, new big baddie, etc. What I’m betting it won’t bring is any resolution to who Jane Doe really is.

E: You would be wrong: there was a boatload of exposition in the season opener.  Jane is the child of South African anti-apartheid protestors who were killed by the government.  She and her brother – Lincoln, who just exploded in the Agents of SHIELD finale – were taken a secret government base and trained to be superkillers, borrowing a plotline from both Marvel and Alias.  They were liberated by Shepherd, an American soldier who’s now the head of the group Agent Nas calls Sandstorm.  The two kids renamed themselves Remy and Roman.  Roman trusts Remy, Shepherd doesn’t; Kurt, Patterson, Zapata and Reade (with a little assist from uber-boss Dylan Baker) don’t fully trust Jane either.  Jane trusts no one.

M: <sarcasm> Thanks for the spoilers warning, sis. </sarcasm>

E:  Programming note: The first episode aired last week at 9.

M: Oh, now you think that’s important to mention!

E: Dude, it aired a week ago.

M: Dude, DVR.

Lethal Weapon (September 21st), FOX

M: One of two new shows on Wednesdays (along with Frequency) that is based on a movie or movie series that I really like. The remake stars Clayne Crawford, who looks familiar but isn’t, at least to me, in the Mel Gibson role, and Damon Wayans in the Danny Glover role. Against my better judgement, I like the look of the preview for this.

E: That leaves me questioning every level of your judgement, because I think it looks awful.  Although to be fair, it’s because I can’t see Wayans without involuntarily snickering.  I get that this is a comedy, but he’s not a straight enough straight man to take on Glover’s role.

C: Leaving aside how odd that sounds, I think he’s supposed to play a humorous character too, just not insane like Crawford’s. I’m more concerned about the fact that the “humor” in the trailer all surrounds the fact that — oops, haha! — these cops accidentally kill everyone they’re supposed to bring in or interrogate. Seriously? I know comedy tries to be in bad taste as often as not, but that tastes foul to me.

M: Ok, I saw different trailers or commercials, then. The ones I saw looked ok, and involved one of them shooting the other in the foot.

E: I didn’t see dead suspect trailers, either, and yet, I remain unmoved.  Crawford (who looks a bit like Skeet Ulrich crossed with, hmm, somebody else) just doesn’t have the same level of star power that Gibson (whatever you think of him) does.  It may not be his fault, though; the movie is just too good and too memorable for me to see other people in those roles and not think of it as lesser.

8:30pm

Speechless (September 21st), ABC*

E: Here’s an interesting and very new idea: a show about a fourteen-year-old with cerebral palsy, and the strong-willed mother (Minnie Driver) who fights for his voice.

M: Whoa. I thought you were being sarcastic at first, but that legitimately is a new idea. Love it!

E: Right? The actor, Micah Fowler, actually has cerebral palsy, though his movements are not as limited as the character’s.  It’s just a cool step forward for televised diversity.

C: I was immediately suspicious on separate levels, but given what I saw in the trailer and some early buzz, it seems like this might both be entertaining and appropriately nuanced in its depiction of disability. Though the mother dominates the trailer (maybe because Driver is the most famous person here), the kids all seem like developed characters and, the title notwithstanding, it seems like Fowler’s character gets to make himself heard, albeit indirectly.

E: I know this is shocking, but I think I’m going to check it out.

9:00pm

Modern Family, (September 21st) ABC

M: The next three shows are what I’m referring to as the “huh, I forgot that show’s still on” part of the preview.

E: All the dirt I’ve seen on this season centers around disparate vacations and Father’s Day kerfuffles — in other words, the small potatoes that this show turns into a satisfying meal for its fans.

Criminal Minds (September 28th), CBS

E: Talk about a cast shake up! Original cast member Shemar Moore left the very long-running show in the spring, and if you paid attention to the Entertainment news over the summer, you know that Thomas Gibson had a meltdown and was fired over the summer.  To make up for this sudden dearth in cast members, the producers have bumped Paget Brewster and Aisha Tyler up to series regulars, as well as bringing in CSI: Miami stalwart Adam Rodriguez.  The newly reconfigured group will spend time tracking a group of serial killers, including  the season’s big bad, Mr. Scratch.

M: I used to be a regular for this show, before it got just so dang creepy that Mrs M and I couldn’t keep going, but wow that’s an overhaul. I’m going to guess that it doesn’t survive the season, let alone get renewed for a 13th one next fall.

E: Really?  Yes, it’s a big shake up, but lots of procedurals survive that, and this particular show has a very devoted following even if it’s not much buzzed about in the press.  (Other than when the cast members are misbehaving, that is.)  I think it’ll do fine.

Law & Order: SVU (September 21st), NBC

E: 18 seasons now.  This show is old enough to vote in the presidential election.  It could be drafted.

M: I just saw an add for this season, stating that it’s the most watched show on TV. I don’t know if they’re including reruns, or counting the history of the show, but if it was that highly watched last season I’m incredibly impressed. Especially since I don’t know anyone that still watches it.

E: I do. Mostly the ones I know are lesbians who like Mariska Hargitay.

M: That doesn’t seem like a large enough demographic to explain its ratings.

Empire (September 21st), FOX

E: The big news in season three is that Mariah Carey’s much-teased guest appearance is really truly finally happening; she plays a flashy diva Cookie convinces to sing a duet with son Jamal.  Creator Lee Daniel’s Precious connection finally bears fruit!  Otherwise, Cookie looks mad.  So does Lucius.  There are guns, microphones, and flashy clothes: in other words, everything you expect from Empire.

M: And exactly why I don’t watch it.

E: Other random news: star Jussie Smollett has a cooking show with his (J-named) siblings called Smollett Eats, to be found on the Food Network.

M: Which is exactly what I didn’t expect from Empire!

Frequency, the CW**

M: This new show is based on one of my favorite movies of all time. Seriously, if you’ve never seen the Dennis Quaid-Jim Caviezel movie about a son who gets to speak to his long-dead father across time using a CB radio, go watch it now, we’ll still be here when you get back.

E: You and C loved this movie more than I did, but I kinda feel like I have to check out the show to see if it lives up to your infatuation with the source material.  Is that weird?  I guess I feel a little invested in the show because I’m invested in you two.

C: Actually you’re off base — it’s M and Dad who are obsessed with this movie. I did like it (though there’s a plot point that still reeeeally bugs me), but I’ve only seen it once.

M: Huh, for some reason I thought you were both bigger fans. And E, that’s not weird, I know I give things more of a chance when you guys like them. Well, certain things. Definitely not sitcoms you try, or Victorian dramas; more books and anything sci-fi-y. C, we definitely need to talk off-line about the plot point that bugs you, I’m intrigued. Okay, now that I’ve stalled enough for our readers to come back from watching the 2000 film, let’s get to the remake. I’m LOVING the look of the trailer. Of course, I love the movie, and the trailer looks like the movie, so that makes sense.

E: No, now that I’ve seen it I think the trailer looks pretty spectacular on its own.  We are big (if also exacting) fans of time travel sci fi, though, so I might be biased in another way.

M: What doesn’t look the same is the gender-swapping of Caviezel’s role, now played by Peyton List. I thought that List was good in the two things I’ve seen her in, The Flash and Flashforward, so I’m good with her as the lead in a sci fi show, and as we’ve discussed ad nauseam, there need to be more roles like this for women.

E: Can I get an amen?

C: Amen!

M: The show, like the movie before it, centers around the magical CB radio (in the movie it’s affected by the northern lights, in the show it’s lightning), the child trying to prevent the parent’s untimely death, and then the time-ripple consequences of actually doing so, which include a serial killer, and the potential death of the mother/wife. In case you can’t tell, I’m sooooo on board. As much as I like the look of Timeless and Designated Survivor, this is the new show I’m most excited for.

E: I’m right there on all three, though I’m not sure what my order of interest is.

M: And it’s on The CW, not FOX, so it actually has a chance to survive.

E: Big, big bonus.  You’ve sucked us in too many times, FOX!  Firefly, Almost Human  — even Terra Nova deserved better than it got.

M: I’m still mad about Almost Human., but glad I learned my lesson and didn’t bother watching last season’s Minority Report, which you’ll notice isn’t back.

E: In that case it was at least partly because the show wasn’t very good despite its high concept and good pedigree.

M: For which I also blame FOX.

C: My one qualm is that this may be a BAM premise. It worked as a movie, will it work as an ongoing plot?

E: How many ways can you re-write the same timeline before it becomes boring, you mean?

M: I am concerned as to how they decide to stretch it out. It’s my only concern, though. I look forward to seeing what their choices are.

9:30pm

Black-ish (September 21st), ABC

E: This is a show that loves to deal with controversial topics, and this season will tackle a lack of religious faith in affluent black youth.  The poor know they need God, showrunner Kenya Barris explains, but those raise with privilege don’t always feel the same hungriness for meaning larger than themselves.  I haven’t seen any of this show (sitcom, sorry), but that interests me.

M: He’s right about that, and it’s pretty consistently true across racial lines, cultures and religions. I’ve seen a few moments of this here and there, and it’s been better than what I first expected. Plus, Anthony Anderson and Morpheus are both draws.

E: Indeed. Other topics for the season: drugs in private schools, looming college searches, and (lest it all seem too serious) uneven growth spurts for the twins — I swear I’m not making this up — Jack and Diane.

M: Two American kids growing up in the heartland.

C: I have no doubt that was intentional.

M: Of course it was.

E: I’m assuming this means that Diane is taller than Jack, and it freaks everyone out because strangers think Diane is older?  It doesn’t freak me out, but I spent many years telling people that no, my oldest two were not twins: the oldest is short for his age and his nearest-in-age sister is very tall for hers, and so there’s always confusion.  Kids grow in mysterious ways.

M: And girls hit their biggest growth spurt sooner, so this seems like something any parent would not find particularly comical.

E: Would find familiar, anyway.

M: True that.

10:00pm

Designated Survivor (September 21st) ABC**

M: As mentioned above, I love the look of this!

E: Me too.  When both houses of congress meet for the State of the Union or some other major event, one member of the cabinet does not attend.  The job of being the “designated survivor” rotates between members of the cabinet; that person is kept in a secure location so there’s at least one senior member of the government left if there’s an attack or catastrophe like the one in Mars Attacks. Well, someone who isn’t Mars attacks, and HUD secretary Tom Kirkman ends up getting sworn in as President.

M: Are we sure it’s not Mars? It could be.

C: It could be Cylons. If you recall, former Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) ended up President of the 12 Colonies on Battlestar Galactica in a quite similar way.

M: Exactly what I was thinking of, sis!

E: Same here.  Played by ball-buster Keifer Sutherland, Kirkland is actually more of a policy wonk than a killer pol. Still, this nerd with glasses is going to have to figure out how to stay in control — and especially, just who it was who blew up the Capitol.  Showrunner David Guggenheim promises answers on that score by the end of the season.

M: The concept of this is great. The kind of people who end up as the head of Housing and Urban Development do not usually end up as President, and someone who just watched in horror as every elected official in the federal government got killed is usually in no mental state to run a country. How do you even start to pick up the pieces? How do you reassure a terrified nation? On the heels of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and with the two most reviled major party nominees for President ever, these seem like good questions to ask.

C: I wish I thought the series would ask them, but the casting of Keifer Sutherland isn’t the tiniest bit encouraging too me. We all know him too well as Jack Bauer, solving government problems with his fists for most of a decade. “Traumatized, anxious, unprepared guy” isn’t a role I see him inhabiting for long.

M: Oh, I’m not sure. He was much more nuanced and figure-it-out-without-being-physically-imposing on the underrated show Touch a couple years ago.

E: I’ve read interviews where he promises that he doesn’t slip into take charge mode from the start; it’ll be more of an arc where he figures out how to do the job.  By the way, Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle fame) costars as a speechwriter — and serves double duty as a script consultant, because of his days working in the Obama White House.  Cool, no?

M: Kal Penn worked in the White House? What?!?

C: Dude, that was news, like, years ago. He took time off from acting and everything. Keep up.

M: Yeah, clearly my bad, I should have been up on Kal Penn’s whereabouts at all times.

E: Well, duh.

Top Chef: Charleston (???), BRAVO**

E: Now, the network isn’t revealing the premiere date yet, but don’t forget that this terrific competition show is out there!  A newly svelte Graham Elliot joined the judging panel when they were filming in South Carolina this past spring.   I’m sure the 14th season will continue to make us drool and lust for far away restaurants.

M: I really love this show. Of all the reality competitions, this is the only one I care enough to DVR.

Code Black (September 28th), CBS*

E: I was 100% certain that this show was canceled.  Apparently not!  It’s still on…  With almost none of the cast that it started with, but workplace shows can do that. I’m glad, because I enjoyed it last year, especially the easy camaraderie between Marcia Gay Harden’s “Daddy” and Luiz Guzman’s “Mama.”

M: Okay, bear with me for a paragraph or so… I think the networks need to collude from time to time. So, at 9:00 we had the “I forgot that show’s still on” section of the review. There are a few other shows this season, like (directly below this) South Park and if it’s still on Grey’s Anatomy, that fit that category.

C: Curious about where you’re going with this.

M: They should all be on on Wednesdays at 9:00. Code Black should be on at the same time as all the other “I was sure that show was cancelled” shows like The Odd Couple and Lucifer. Let them duke it out, see which shows can last. You could even do a reality show each week, maybe on Friday nights, to go over the ratings and see which show is going to get cancelled. Ryan Seacrest could host.

E: Snort.  Very funny, M.  It’s The Hunger Games for television shows.

C: I’m assuming the networks don’t want their steady, though unremarkable money-spinners to cancel each other out, though I agree that would be preferable in my book to cancelling promising new shoes without giving them their fair shake.

E: Moving back to reality… This show did have quite a bit of controversy that I missed out on over the off-season; they fired Raza Jaffry and Bonnie Somerville, who played Neal and Christa, two central characters embroiled in a romance.  They then promoted to series regulars Boris Kodjoe and Jillian Murray, who played everyone’s least favorite surgeon (now in charge of both the OR and the ER, ugh) and everyone’s most favorite surgical resident/would-be girlfriend/paramour/cryogenicist.  Oh, and?  They also hired Rob Lowe, which frankly worries me even though I’ve really enjoyed plenty of things that he’s done.

C: I’m sorry but that makes no sense. What on earth is worrying about casting Rob Lowe? I don’t think, for instance, that the people behind Parks and Recreation regret doing so at the end of their second season, since the show was revitalized and lasted five more successful seasons.

E: He’s just so hit or miss.

M: Exactly. Parks and Rec worked out, but how do you think the producers of The Grinder or Dr Vegas feel?

E: I don’t think he’s done a good drama since The West Wing (though I did actually like The Grinder, and I’m sure he was wonderful in Parks and Rec). But mostly, I think his celebrity gets in the way of new characters for me.

M: Yes, when you see him you see Rob Lowe, not the character. If he’s playing a caricature of himself, like on P&R, it might work. But here?

E: Exactly.

South Park (September 14th), Comedy Central

E: Oh how I remember the days, M, when we used to meet up at our friend L’s basement apartment and watch this show with 25 of our closest friends.  And now, holy crap, it’s on season 20.

M: Seriously, right? That was so much fun… I had just started dating Mrs M, and you weren’t even dating Mr E. Also, at the time, I think C was in younger than my oldest daughter is now. Yikes!

C: Yeah, my early memories of South Park are of the other boys at school shouting “They killed Kenny!” way too often.

E: Holy cow.  I hadn’t even thought of that.  I don’t expect that it’s all that different now, but apparently they’ve been focusing on storylines that last a couple of episodes (rather than just a single one).  Expect lots of political references.  But one thing I want to know — will they have 2 different episodes ready for the day after election day?

M: Or will the whole world burn, and there will be no day after the election?

Chicago P.D. (September 21st), NBC

M: As a whole, the siblings are not watchers of the “Chicago franchise” (which just sounds stupid, but that’s what NBC calls it), so we don’t have much to offer here. It is on in this time slot, though.

E: The only casting news I can see is that Li Jun Li is on the show, and Brian Geraghty isn’t, for whatever that’s worth to whomever  it means something.

Queen Sugar (September 6th), OWN

E: I need to see if this new drama is available online or in reruns.

C: Wait, confused… how could it have reruns if it’s new? Oh, I suppose you just mean if the 2 episodes you’ve missed so far are re-airing?

E: Yup.  Lots of cable channels re-air their eps constantly.  Now, I’m not a family soap fan, but the fact that this show was created and directed by Ava DuVernay (the visionary behind Selma) makes it worth checking out.  I’m not sold that I’ll like it (that’s kind of how I feel about This is Us, to be honest) but based on the positive reviews and DuVernay’s involvement, I feel like it might be worth a shot.

M: If you’re not sure you’ll like a family soap, I know I’m out.

E: Yeah, I’m not sure it could hold my interest, either.  The story centers around sister Charley, an L.A. success (played by Dawn Lyen Gardner, familiar to me only for her voice work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Nova Bordelin, a local wreck (played by Rutina Wesley of True Blood and Hannibal) who along with their brother (Kofi Siriboe) have inherited their father’s failing sugar cane farm near New Orleans.

C: Wow, a sugar cane farm is a pretty unusual setting for a TV series. I’m not into family soaps at all, but I’m curious about how that will play out. A sort of Six Feet Under in NOLA?

Rectify (October 26th), SundanceTV

E: This is one of the best reviewed shows that I’ve never seen: Rectify enters its fourth and final season following the new life of a man released from prison after 19 years on death row. Does the new DNA evidence mean he was truly innocent, or was the crime just unproven?  The show hasn’t answered those questions, but it does look at what it’s like trying to reenter your community when no one quite trusts you.

M: I tried watching this once, partly because I recognized Timeless‘ Abigail Spencer in it, but I just couldn’t get into it. Parts of it were hard to wrap my head around, and parts of it were just dumb, so I didn’t keep going.

E: Oh, interesting.

C: I’m just going to note that that’s a funny response to what he just said.

M: Hee hee.

E: I meant, interesting because I’m pretty sure My Movie-Going Friend loves this, as well as the critics.  I just never think to look at what’s on Sundance, but I didn’t get the impression it was dumb.  The new season covers main character Daniel (Aden Young) after he’s given up on his home town, and sought another new life in the anonymity of Nashville/big city living.  Most importantly for long time fans, there should be some closure on the central issue of Daniel’s guilt.

Younger (September 28th), TV Land

E: This is another show I don’t watch that I feel like might be worth it if I had time to go back and binge-watch it from the start.  Mostly because I love Sutton Foster, who apparently spends the show pretending to be 20ish instead of 40ish, but also because I’ve heard good things from both reviewers and friends.

M: Remember our discussion about fake-sounding names like Cassidy Cascade and Brock Holt? Sutton Foster is right up there.

E: Except that’s not the character’s name, it’s the actresses real one.

M: Again, there’s a Brock Holt that plays for the Sox. Totally real. My point was that Sutton Foster sounds fake, not that it is.

E: Another plus in my book: Miriam Shor of Swingtown, GCB and The Good Wife, who just might finally be getting a love interest this season.

M: And we end Wednesdays on that note, E being excited about someone who was once on The Good Wife being in something else. See you tomorrow, folks, where we are sure to see more examples of that!

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