Awards Season for Us Common Folk: TV

Even more so than my post on Movie Awards, you’ll find my awards have categories the Emmys don’t ever grant. Like the Academy Awards, the Emmys aren’t really interested in giving awards to crowd pleasers or cult favorites. Most of the awards go to a handful of cable dramas with the sort of ratings any network would consider abysmal. I’m not saying that these shows aren’t good. Some of them are excellent, but there’s a lot more TV out there that deserves to be recognized.

Before I begin, I should note that while I watch way more TV than is probably healthy, I have not watched the following shows: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, The Walking Dead, Homeland, The Good Wife, Girls, Veep. I’m still in the first season of Game of Thrones. I can’t nominate what I haven’t seen, so no need to fill the comments section with impassioned arguments for why Breaking Bad is the best show ever made.

Best Comedy: We watch a lot of comedy in our house, so this is a category with stiff competition. I thought there would be even more with what looked like a lot of good new comedies coming in last fall. Unfortunately, most of them turned out to be duds.

  • Parks & Recreation: Ron Swanson is THE BEST. This show wasn’t great in its first season and a half, but it’s been on fire since late in season two. If you never gave it a second chance, you owe it to yourself to give it another look.
  • The Mindy Project: This is another one that I didn’t find that funny at the beginning. It found its footing about halfway through last season, and ever since has been wonderfully clever and hysterical. I’ve been surprised how resistant people have been to give this show a second chance. It is the most consistently funny show I watch now.
  • Modern Family: Still a classic, although I don’t feel it’s been quite as good as normal. It’s hard to sustain that level of amazing.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Much like with Modern Family, I don’t feel like Big Bang is doing anything cutting edge, but they do it really well.
  • Brooklyn-Nine-Nine: The only newbie of the bunch, and I’m as shocked as you are that it’s here. I didn’t have high expectations for this, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. By the same people who do Parks & Rec, and they are doing miles better in their first season. This ensemble cast is already good.

mindyproject

Winner: The Mindy Project. Not only is it laugh until you cry funny, but Mindy is smart and original.

Best Drama: Other than Downton, all the other contenders were new shows in 2013—impressive. Also of note, none of them are made by one of the major American networks. I guess there might be something to the idea that more episodes can water down plot. The most episodes any of these nominees had was 13.

  • House of Cards: This Netflix political drama will probably make you more cynical about life, and certainly it isn’t one you should watch with kids, but it is very good. Even rarer, I didn’t see where it was going.
  • The Americans: I was late to the party on this FX show about KGB spies living in the US in the 80s. Now I can’t wait for season two to start next week. If you want to catch up, Amazon Prime has last season. It’s a fascinating piece of history, and one of the few dramas both my husband and I both like.
  • Broadchurch: Fox is remaking this BBC America drama about a small town solving the murder of a 13-year-old boy. Do yourself a favor and watch the original. I can’t imagine Fox will be able to match what I saw unfold on my screen. I’ve never seen such a raw picture of grief. It’s not easy to watch, and I certainly wouldn’t fault anyone for not wanting to try it, but it is amazing television.
  • Downton Abbey: Another one that was hard to watch last season, but it was good TV. How else could the death of a character depress you for weeks?
  • Orphan Black: Tatiana Maslany should have won all the Emmys for her performance as a handful of clones in this twisty BBC America show. I love a show where I frequently scream, “What!” at the screen.

house-of-cards-final-poster

Winner: House of Cards.  Always the bridesmaid but never the bride, House of Cards was nominated again and again but never won anything. It takes the cake for me, though.

Best Soap: Writing a soap well isn’t as easy as throwing in a love triangle and hoping for the best. I love me a good soap, but this year has been disappointing. Like the new crop of comedies, the pilots in this category were largely disappointing and old favorites have fallen off the rails—I’m looking at you, Revenge.

  • Scandal: I have usually bypassed Shonda Rhimes shows, but this one has me hooked. I’d probably watch just for Kerry Washington’s wardrobe, but the insane high speed plotting is also fun.
  • Reign: This show is historically ridiculous, but I don’t care. It’s another one I’d probably watch just for the scenery and wardrobe, but they also manage to make Scandal’s plotting look slow.
  • Hart of Dixie: HofD is the most lighthearted of all the shows I’d classify as a soap, and the most amusing. That’s not an easy tone to take, and I feel they are still doing it well. I do miss Lemon’s scheming, though. Surely Jaime King’s maternity leave is almost up?

reign poster

Winner: Reign. Going into last fall, I would have sworn nothing could unseat Scandal, but Reign has done it. They both record on Thursday, but I always watch Reign first.

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: This has become a surprisingly crowded field of contenders. J.J. Abrams and his Lost cohorts seem to be putting out a couple pilots a year now, and the CW has almost become Syfy II.

  • Arrow: I have to keep reminding myself that Arrow is only in its second season. It had one of the most impressive first seasons I’ve ever seen, which put it on solid footing for this year.  Laurel’s still a hot mess, but otherwise the show is leading with its great characters.
  • Revolution: As a Supernatural fan, I told my friends watching this show that creator Eric Kripke is a believer in the long game. Give him some time, and you’ll end up really loving the characters and be amazed where he’ll take you. I don’t know if anyone but me is still watching this show, but it has been so good this year. Not only is Charlie far less annoying, but Monroe is amazing, and the storylines have been more interesting now that no one really cares about the lights.
  • Supernatural: When Kripke left the show after its fifth season, I won’t lie; it got pretty bad. I watched seasons six and seven, but they were painful at times. Last year Jeremy Carver (one of Kripke’s original team) returned as show runner and thankfully corrected the sinking ship. 2013 was one of the best years Supernatural has had with the Men of Letters and Falling Angels storylines.
  • The Originals: Normally I’d have The Vampire Diaries as a nominee here, but TVD just hasn’t been as good since they lost their best villains—the Originals. I’ve been able to be patient as TVD fixes its quality issues, though, because The Originals spin-off is fantastic. Remember season 3 TVD when you had to know what happened next? That’s what The Originals is like now.
  • Orphan Black: I’ve already mentioned the premise of this sci-fi masterpiece under the drama category. This is the only one in this category that I thought was good enough to go head to head with the other drama nominees. It’s not just good genre TV, it’s just plain good.

Orphan-Black

Winner: Orphan Black. This is my favorite category, and the one I watch the most shows in, so you’d think it would be the toughest to decide. Not so. Orphan Black blew the competition away.

Best Procedural: I wanted to make this its own category because these never win anything, but they always top the most watched shows lists. Also, there is an art to writing these well. I have watched and abandoned many over the years (NCIS, Bones, Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Hawaii 5-0), so I know there’s a delicate balance of just the right amount of case of the week versus overarching storylines to develop your characters.

  • Elementary: As an avid Sherlock fan, I was skeptical of this show, and not just because CBS is the king of taking a great concept and then eventually killing it with boredom. However, I have loved how Johnny Lee Miller has explored Sherlock’s vulnerability, and the cases continue to be intriguing as well.
  • The Blacklist: The cases can border on creepy at times, and I think they need to focus a bit more on their over arching storylines, but James Spader is so brilliant that I’ll forgive them a few fumbles.

elementary poster

Winner:  ElementaryBlacklist is still finding it’s footing, while Elementary is a solid performer week in and week out.

A Newbie’s Guide to the CW: Wednesday-Friday

I’m back with my second installment of a newcomer’s CW guide.  If you’re wary of the CW network, check out my blog on 4 myths about the CW.  For the Monday and Tuesday shows, I covered them on Monday.

Wednesdays:  Arrow & The Tomorrow People

Cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell headline Wednesdays on the CW.

Cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell headline Wednesdays on the CW.

This night is jokingly referred to as Amell Wednesdays.  I think the more accurate description should be Amell Shirtless Wednesdays.  The star of Arrow is Stephen Amell and the star of The Tomorrow People is his cousin Robbie Amell.

I guess the powers that be at the CW were afraid their regular female audience would lose interest in shows that were based on comic books with lots of action and explosions if they didn’t throw in a little eye candy.  Whatever the reasoning, the poor Amell cousins are going to catch their death of cold for all the shirtless scenes they have to shoot.

These poor Amell boys can't even make it through the title credits before they've stolen their shirts.

These poor Amell boys can’t even make it through the title credits before they’ve misplaced their shirts.

On TTP, not having the last name Amell doesn’t even mean you’re safe, as fellow cast member Luke Mitchell has also been sans shirt a lot lately.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, per se, just pointing out that the shows are strong enough on plot that I don’t need the beefcake to tune in.

Trust but Verify

Arrow is about reformed billionaire playboy Oliver Queen.  If you like Batman, Arrow’s storyline is one of the closest I’ve seen.  He got stuck on a very nasty island for five years where people did bad things to him and he learned his family had done some equally evil things back home.  He returns to Starling City and becomes the vigilante Arrow, with the help of his best friend Digg and the amazing Felicity, his IT girl and the best character on the show.

Laurel?  Who's Laurel?

Laurel? Who’s Laurel?

The writers have been trying really hard to convince us his one true love is Laurel Lance (as the comic books dictate), but I’m sorry, the chemistry between him and Katie Cassidy, the actress who plays Laurel, just isn’t there.  Oliver and Felicity, however—in the words of Sheldon Cooper, “Bazinga!”

Remember when Heroes was good that first season?  The Tomorrow People has that sort of possibility.

Remember when Heroes was good that first season? The Tomorrow People has that sort of possibility.

I’ve also already described the plot of The Tomorrow People here.  If you liked Heroes before it got terrible, then you’d like this show.  Sadly, they don’t have a villain quite as amazing as Zachary Quinto’s Sylar, but then Quinto’s just an exceptional talent.  I don’t think it’s been quite as good as Arrow was in its first season, but Arrow was exceptionally good right away.  TTP is a solid first season show.

Luke Mitchell, center, keeps drawing me in, and note that the girl is still standing next to him, not the hero (far left).

Luke Mitchell, center, keeps drawing me in, and note that the girl is still standing next to him, not the hero (far left).

I have to say, though, that although I like the lead Robbie Amell just fine, supporting actor Luke Mitchell is eating him alive on screen.  Mitchell is just so dang charismatic.  I’m not sure that’s good when Mitchell and Amell’s characters are in a love triangle together for the same girl. I know I’m supposed to be rooting for the hero, but basically I think Luke Mitchell should get whatever he wants.  Like the previous shows, Arrow’s first season can be seen on Netflix, and the current seasons of both are on CWTV.com or Hulu.com.

Thursdays:  The Vampire Diaries & Reign

That dance I did on Tuesday?  I do it again on Thursday.  The Vampire Dairies was the show that got me watching the CW.  I had heard about it, and I had seen bits of an episode that someone else was watching.  Quite frankly, from the outside looking in, I thought it looked juvenile and idiotic.

Just one of the times Entertainment Weekly put Vampire Diaries on its Must List.  I finally caved.

Just one of the times Entertainment Weekly put Vampire Diaries on its Must List. I finally caved.

However, I read Entertainment Weekly, and they could not shut up about this show.  They kept giving it covers and feature articles and cross their heart swearing that it was good.  This is the same magazine that kept pleading for people to watch Fringe and Parks and Rec, both underwatched gems, so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. It was summer, and so I decided to do a little Netflix binging and watch seasons one and two before season three came on.  People, this show is stupid good.

At its most basic it follows the lives of the two Salvatore brothers, vampires Stefan and Damon, and the woman they both love, Elena.  There is much more here than a love triangle, though.  The storytelling is wonderful, and you’ll fall in love with the characters.

vampire diaries cast

Now in its fifth season, it is 100% worth it to go back and watch the previous seasons.  You can just jump in if you’d like, but this show has a pretty deep mythology, and I can’t promise you won’t get lost, but they did at least just wrap up a long story arc and are starting a new one.

Price's running gag that Elena is illiterate is just one of the reasons I keep reading his recaps.

Price’s running gag that Elena is illiterate is just one of the reasons I keep reading his recaps.  He loves the show as much as I do, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find plenty to laugh about.

While I think you’ll enjoy watching the past seasons, if you want a faster way to catch up that also happens to be hilarious, then read through Price Peterson’s photo recaps of the previous season’s episodes.  Even if you do watch them, still read his recaps when you get the time.  Half the fun of watching TVD is reading Price’s recaps the next day on TV.com.  He also does shorter reviews of The Originals.

I mean just look at that screen shot.  This show is so pretty.

I mean, just look at that screen shot. This show is so pretty.

Reign I have gone on about in a couple of different posts, so I won’t bore you again, but this is another show that I don’t understand why everyone isn’t watching.  Not only is it visually stunning, every week it takes the sort of risks that make my jaw drop. If you’ve enjoyed the insane story telling of Scandal, then you’d appreciate what the writers of Reign are trying to do.

Want Scandal the 16th Century version?  Try Reign.  Don't worry, they're not historically accurate enough to be boring.

Want Scandal the 16th Century version? Try Reign. Don’t worry, they’re not historically accurate enough to be boring.

Also not to be missed are Lily Sparks’ hilarious next day photo recaps.  She gives Price a run for his money.

I still can't remember this character's real name because Lily calls her Peaseblossom, and that's just way funnier.

I still can’t remember this character’s real name because Lily calls her Peaseblossom, and that’s just way funnier.

Fridays:  Go out and have fun; they’re not showing anything good.

Fridays is currently where they are running off episodes of shows that are already dead in the water.  The Carrie Dairies airs at 8 followed by Nikita, but I don’t believe either of them will be back after January.  They have two midseason replacements in the hopper, The 100 and Starcrossed, both of which look intriguing.  However, I doubt they’ll put both new shows on Friday night.  It’s more likely the whole schedule might get a shuffle.  Friday nights is generally where they stick proven low performers.  Ten bucks says Beauty and the Beast is headed there midseason.

So have fun and get watching!

A Newbie’s Guide to the CW: Mondays & Tuesdays

Hopefully I convinced you last week that the CW is not a network only for hordes of giggling teenage girls.  Now that you know that it’s the home of interesting programming for adults, male and female alike, I’d like to guide you to some shows that you might enjoy.  What better time to catch up and join in then during December and January, when all that is on is reruns anyway?

I’ll guide you through the schedule by day, and it’s easier than most networks.  The CW only has hour long shows, and they only have two hours of primetime a night, for a total of ten shows.

Mondays:  Hart of Dixie & Don’t Bother

Missing all the wacky citizens of Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow, Connecticut?

Missing all the wacky citizens of Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, Connecticut?

Did you love all the small town hijinks of Gilmore Girls? But, did watching Lorelei making poor life choices and forcing her daughter be the responsible one make you overly anxious and queasy?  Good news! Hart of Dixie has all the lovable characters from Stars Hollow with none of the stress!

Try the lovable residents of Bluebell, Alabama.  The outfits are better, and there's less bad life decision stress.

Try the lovable residents of Bluebell, Alabama. The outfits are better, and there’s less bad life decision stress.

HofD follows Zoe Hart, a NYC surgeon who inherits her father’s small town Alabama family practice.  There’s a little bit about her patients, but mostly only so zaniness can ensue.  Other main characters include Wade, the good looking, wise-cracking bartender; George the straight arrow lawyer; Lemon the southern belle antagonist that is so much fun you never really end up hating her; Annabeth the chipper, goodhearted friend; and Lavon, the former football star/mayor.

Half the fun of watching is seeing what they'll dress Lemon in next.

Half the fun of watching is seeing what they’ll dress Lemon in next.

There’s even a kooky couple that eventually get married and the groomsmen all dress up as Jedis and the bridemaids are elves.  It’s in its third season.  Past seasons are on Netflix; the current one is on CWTV.com or Hulu.com.

Ugh, even the title card for this show is terrible.  How brave is your love?  I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Ugh, even the title card for this show is terrible. How brave is your love? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Beauty and the Beast comes on after HofD, but it’s horrible and soon to be canceled according to TV by the Numbers’ Cancellation Bear, and the Bear is rarely wrong.  I’m shocked that it made it out of its first season, frankly.

Tuesdays:  The Originals & Supernatural

If you thought Emily was dangerous with a red Sharpie, you'll love watching Klaus's reign of terror.

If you thought Emily was dangerous with a red Sharpie, you’ll love watching Klaus’s reign of terror.

I do a little TV dance on Tuesday nights these two shows make me so happy.  If you liked that first twisty delicious season of Revenge, with the dark plotting and shifting alliances, then you’d like The Originals.  Okay, if you absolutely cannot watch another show about vampires, werewolves, and witches, then I suppose you might not like The Originals, but even then I feel like you should give it a shot.

the-originals-poster

The show follows three siblings:  Elijah (the noble one), Rebekah (the passionate one), and their half brother Klaus (the wounded one that has a tendency to be more villain than hero).  They are half of a group of siblings (the others are unimportant) that were the original vampires.  Klaus also has the benefit of being a hybrid (he had a werewolf dad).

Besides the original vampires, the show has warring clans of witches, werewolves, and regular vamps.

Besides the Originals, the show has warring clans of witches, werewolves, and regular vamps.

The series takes place in New Orleans with numerous other supernatural creatures engaged in power struggles.   All of that is fun window dressing, but the show is about these three and whether or not they are going to trust each other and come together as a family, or try to kill each other.  The actors that play the three are just fantastic and mesmerizing.

For more delightful Originals mayhem, go back and watch them on The Vampire Diaries.

For more delightful Originals mayhem, go back and watch them on The Vampire Diaries.

The siblings all began as villains on The Vampire Diaries, so if you want to see more of them (you will), you can watch back seasons of that show on Netflix.  Otherwise, the current season of this new show is available on CWTV.com and Hulu.

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I explained the premise of Supernatural last week when discussing shows for guys, so I won’t repeat it.  If you like Sleepy Hollow, or if you ever caught Syfy’s Warehouse 13 (another blatant rip-off of the show), then you should like the original.  Otherwise, I don’t know what to compare it to, because before I saw its imitators, I’d never really seen a show like it.

Fan favorites Crowley and Castiel.  Both great with one-liners, not so much with wardrobe changes.

Fan favorites Crowley and Castiel–both great with one-liners, but not so much with wardrobe changes.

The only two constant characters from all nine seasons are brothers Sam and Dean, but the angel Castiel has been with the show since season four, and the demon Crowley I believe has been around just as long.  I realize going back and watching eight back seasons (Netflix again) is a pretty large commitment, so if you want to just jump in, I honestly think you’ll be fine.

If you get bored in season one, you can laugh at Sam's bad hair.

If you get bored in season one, you can laugh at Sam’s bad hair.

It’s worth going back, though.  I think I joined in somewhere around season six, so I had to do some decent catch up myself.  A warning: it took a little while for it to find its footing, so season one can be a bit slow.  I can’t stress enough, though, how funny this show is.  I usually watch it after my husband has gone to bed, and multiple times I’ve woken him up laughing so loudly.

Coming up on Wednesday:  I’ll take you through the Wednesday-Friday shows.  I know, you can hardly wait.  The surest way to get me to shut up is to give one of these shows a shot 🙂

4 Myths About The CW

The-cw-tv-now

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know I’m an avid watcher of The CW network. I get a good amount of heckling for being a vocal proponent of The CW. I’m fine with that because I know I’m enjoying a lot of good programming. However, it has come to my attention that my hecklers are sadly misinformed about The CW. The general public seems to be suffering from a number of misconceptions that I’m here to clear up. And no, the network doesn’t pay me anything; I just really like their shows.

Myth #1: The CW is for teenagers.

Which one is watching the CW?  It's more likely the mom is than the teenager.

Which one is watching the CW? It’s more likely the mom is than the teenager.

The CW’s target market has never been teenagers. It is true that The CW has since its inception in 2006 targeted the 18-34 demographic. The network has purposely skewed young, but not under 18. Even this has changed in the past two years. According to the LA Times, the network has realized it had become a bit too niche and is employing more the strategy of aging with their viewers. The current median age of a CW viewer is 41.

Myth #2: The CW is for girls.

Supernatural is just one of a number of shows that appeal to both men and women.

Supernatural is just one of a number of shows that appeal to both men and women.

First off, I used girls because most people say girls, but I think we’ve at least established the term should be women. Now, I’ll give you that the network skews female centric currently, but efforts have been made to correct that and even more are being made. The network’s longest running show, Supernatural, is absolutely a show that guys could like. It’s about two brothers that drive a muscle car around the country and hunt ghosts, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. It also happens to be hilarious and is done by the same people that do NBC’s Revolution. Plus, most of Sleepy Hollow’s best ideas were stolen from this show. I’ve introduced a couple of guys to Supernatural, and they’ve ended up binge-watching years of it.

arrow

Other shows guys might enjoy include Arrow (based on the DC comic) and The Tomorrow People (about an underground group with the powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation). There’s also a midseason pilot called The 100 set 97 years after a nuclear war, about human survivors on a spaceship traveling back to Earth to recolonize the planet. So come this winter, four of CW’s ten primetime shows will guy-friendly.

Myth #3: The CW is the home of lame high school melodramas.

This is a reputation that the network earned with some poor programming choices early on and by letting a few shows that might have started off good air for too many seasons. Yes, the CW brought you the reboots of 90210 and Melrose Place, Gossip Girl (sadly I never liked this show for more than its wardrobe even when it was supposed to be good), and nine(!) seasons of One Tree Hill.

college-classroom

School’s Out: The CW is phasing out the one high school based drama it had left.

When Mark Pedowitz took over as the new network President in 2011, he made some dramatic changes in programming, which is really when I started consistently watching more myself. First off, you’re rarely going to see the inside of a high school these days. There is only one show that consistently takes place in a high school—The Carrie Diaries, which is a prequel of sorts to Sex in the City. Plus, Carrie’s on her way out. The CW only ordered 13 episodes this season, and once they’re done, so’s the show (TV By the Numbers).

There are more shows that feature a character or two that is high school age. I think the younger sister in Arrow is still in high school, but I’ve never seen her go to class. Two of the characters in The Tomorrow People are that age, but the majority of the cast is older. Even the cast of The Vampire Diaries has aged out of high school, not that they ever went to anything but an occasional school dance anyway.

CW shows are predominantly about characters in their twenties or early thirties (gee, that should sound familiar and like every other network). The one notable exception is the new show Reign, which is definitely about teens, and the network even made a better effort than normal to cast people that looked like teenagers. The show does not feel anything like a high school melodrama, however. The plot follows Mary Queen of Scots at the French Court when she first arrives to marry the Prince Francis. There’s no getting in with the popular kids or the normal sort of teen angst you’d find in the old kind of CW high school drama. Instead you have assassination plots, teenage girls weighing whether it’s a better move to become the wife of an old guy noble or the second mistress of a king, and Mary trying to win military support for her country when her only negotiating chip is her hand in marriage. I’d never really thought about what history was like when teenagers were ruling countries, but this show does, and it’s fascinating.

Myth #4: Nobody watches it anyway. I shouldn’t get attached because it will probably fold soon.

The CW is actually experiencing steady 9% year-over-year growth. The network’s numbers have also initially been hurt by the traditional Nielsen ratings system that only accounts for live viewing. Once DVR viewing  and streaming numbers are added, its shows’ numbers often double. The CW has increased its digital streaming by 50% over the last year, and a full 40% of its audience comes from streaming  (TV.com). Instead of being penalized for this, advertisers are finally waking up and realizing this is the future of how audiences are going to consume TV, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the CW has a jump start on its competition.

Its shows are doing well overseas, too. Arrow might be #63 in the US, but it’s currently the #1 show in the U.K., Hungary, and the Netherlands (Entertainment Weekly). Although I do wish Spain would stop propping up Beauty and the Beast’s numbers because that show is one of the few lemons the network has left.

Up Next: A newbie’s guide to The CW. Now that you know what The CW is not, I’ll introduce to what it is.

Fall TV 2013: Early Winners and Losers

About a month ago, I wrote a couple of posts about the new dramas and comedies I was most excited about. It was a season full of promise, and I was. . . aw, forget the dramatic set up. If you’ve been watching TV at all you know this year’s pilots are pretty terrible. If you haven’t yet tried any of the new shows, let this post serve as a guide so you can avoid the lemons.

A lot of pilots are just plain terrible, so I try to watch a show at least three times. If it shows even a hint of promise, I’ll extend it even more grace than that. I do this because some of my favorite current shows not only had bad pilots, their whole first seasons were cringe worthy. Yeah, Parks and Rec and Supernatural, I’m talking to you.

Fall 2013 TV show that have already been canceled.

Shows that are dead: If you were planning on watching or have sitting on your DVR Lucky 7, Ironside, We Are Men, or Welcome to the Family, don’t bother. All of these shows have already been canceled, and with good reason. The first two looked so dumb I wouldn’t even watch them. We Are Men should have been called: We’re really good actors that somehow got stuck in a really horrible comedy about men acting like idiots and we’re firing our agents. Welcome to the Family showed some early promise but quickly descended into two fathers screaming a lot.

Fall 2013 TV show that have already been picked up for a full season.

Shows that have already received a full season pick up: The Blacklist, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Millers, Mom, The Crazy Ones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Sleepy Hollow. The Michael J. Fox Show got a full season order from the beginning, so that doesn’t necessarily reflect how well it’s doing (numbers aren’t great). It should be noted that Sleepy Hollow didn’t just get a pick up, it’s already been officially been renewed for season two. The reason for the unusual order isn’t just the mega numbers SH is bringing in for Fox. It’s also because SH is only going to have a 13 episode season, so the original thirteen had likely already been ordered. Renewing it was the equivalent to Fox ordering a full season pick up (the additional 9 shows) of a normal show.

Fall 2013 TV show that have had more scripts ordered.

Shows that have had more scripts ordered but haven’t officially been picked up: Dads, Sean Saves the World, Trophy Wife, The Goldbergs, The Originals, The Tomorrow People, and Reign.

All of that news comes from either TV.com or TVline.com. I read ratings news briefs so you don’t have to. Yes, I’m a TV nerd!

So, those are the facts, but which of these shows should you actually watch? Below is the nitty gritty on each of the shows I’ve watched and my take on whether they deserve your time and DVR space.

Yep, these are good.

blacklistThe Blacklist: A crime procedural that doesn’t really do anything I haven’t seen before, but boy do they do those clichés really, really well. The show holds my attention every week, and James Spader smirks so well I’ll easily watch him for several more episodes before I get bored.

brooklyn_nine_nine_xlgBrooklyn Nine-Nine: I was actually predisposed to not like this one, not being a big Andy Samberg fan. Darn if it hasn’t been increasingly funny with each passing week. Not quite a Reno 911, not quite a Parks & Rec or Office, it has a magic all its own with an amazing cast. I was pleased to find it’s not “The Andy Samberg Show,” but a smart ensemble comedy.

Trophy-Wife-ABCTrophy Wife: I was very excited about this show, and I feel it has delivered. It’s consistently funny and the cast is excellent, even the unknowns and the kids. I wish they’d let Bradley Whitford be a little bit funnier like I know he can be, but otherwise I have no complaints. Each of the wives and their kids have interesting story lines and well developed characters for a show just a few episodes in.

the-originals-posterThe Originals: Admittedly, this hasn’t been quite as wonderful as I had hoped, namely because one of the main characters has spent almost every episode stuck in a box, which is getting a bit tedious. However, it’s still one of the strongest new shows this season and has helped the CW score some of its best Tuesday ratings ever paired with Supernatural. I’m loving this spin-off because I already know these characters from The Vampire Diaries, but I’d be interested to hear how someone who hasn’t seen TVD feels about it.

THE-TOMORROW-PEOPLE-570The Tomorrow People: Now I generally keep an open mind when it comes to the CW, because I’ve become quite fond of a number of their shows. Even so, I’ve been amazed at the quality of their pilots this season. In a fall when the main networks are feeding me dud after dud, the CW has given me three great new shows. The Tomorrow People is about a group of super humans with the three T’s (telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation). These powers manifest around puberty. Then it’s a race to see if the underground group the Tomorrow People will find you first to help you or the government group Ultra will hunt you down. If you can get past the terrible names of the opposing groups, it’s an interesting show that reminds me a bit of Heroes back when it was good.

reignReign: I’ve only see the pilot for this, but it was impressive. It’s very loosely based on a young Mary Queen of Scots and the political scheming of the French court. If you are looking for historical accuracy, I’ll remind you that this show comes on the CW. However, it’s filmed in Ireland and is visually gorgeous. I also actively lusted after a number of the dresses the characters were wearing. I’d probably keep watching for the eye candy alone, but Mary is very likable, there’s obviously a lot of court intrigue and romance afoot, and Megan Follows is the villain. I cannot pass up watching Anne of Green Gables play an evil queen.

Please, spare yourself and the children. These are terrible.

dadsDads: I’m very unclear why Fox has ordered more scripts for this show. I’m also puzzled why Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi agreed to participate in this show. You’ve probably already heard that its jokes are racist and sexist. They also happen to be profoundly unfunny. Despite early bad reviews, I watched this three times for Seth Green, but it really is as bad the rumors claim.

the-millers_612x907The Millers: Creator Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl) and Will Arnett should be a winning combination, but it’s not. I couldn’t even get through a whole second episode before I deleted this from my DVR. It’s basically another show about a family shouting at each other. Also, Will Arnett plays the straight man, which is a waste of his talent for comedic insanity. Arrested Development this is not.

Once-Upon-a-Time-in-WonderlandOnce Upon a Time in Wonderland: I’ve already abandoned the original recipe of Once Upon a Time, but I decided to give the spin-off a shot. The trailer intrigued me, and it stars Naveen Andrews (Sayid from Lost). My eyes! My eyes! I wish I could unsee this show. The CGI was so horrendous that you had to wonder if they were doing it on a Commodore 64. I didn’t even know it was possible to have CGI that bad anymore. Combine that with bad acting and even worse plot, and I feel like I should send a sympathy card to Naveen Andrews.

back_in_the_game_posterBack in the Game: I like Maggie Lawson (Psych), but if you replace Shawn, Gus, Lassie, and the rest of the Santa Barbara gang with a grouchy James Caan and a bunch of clichéd kids, I lose interest fast. Oh, and then they spent way too much time on actual baseball. I take a book to baseball games, so that was the final nail in the coffin. If you like baseball and old codgers, you might not find it as dreadful as I did.

Eh, they’re okay.

seansavestheworldSean Saves the World: Like in the case of The Blacklist, this show isn’t really doing anything new, but I have laughed a good bit. Part of why I’m still watching it is the great cast. They’ve collected a lot of my favorite side characters from other shows and put them all together: Lt. Dangle from Reno 911, Ivy from Smash, Tommy from Ben and Kate, Lester from Chuck, and Jack from Will and Grace.

the-crazy-ones-season-1-CBS-2013-posterThe Crazy Ones: Another show with a good cast, which is saving it from DVR deletion. There have been some funny moments, but they’ve made Sarah Michelle Gellar kind of lame. You’ve got Buffy, there, CBS. Use her. They also need to dial Robin Williams back about 20 notches. I really like the supporting cast in this series, though. If they’d use Hamish Linkletter and James Wolk more and Williams less, they could have a good show. Robin Williams’ brand of comedy was funny about 20 years ago.

marvels-agents-of-shield-posterMarvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: If there’s anything the world has learned from Firefly, it’s give Joss Whedon some time. You can’t build a complicated world with an ensemble cast of unknown actors and expect it to happen quickly. Give Whedon time, and he will not only deliver a great show, but he’ll likely launch those unknown actors’ careers in the process. I won’t list the examples because it would take too long. I’m a little worried because Whedon isn’t personally writing this series, but his brother is, and Joss promises he’s checking every script. So, the magic might happen a little slower, but I’m still hoping for the best. Right now it’s sort of a zany incident of the week procedural with a shadowy reference to Colson’s time in Tahiti thrown in at the end of each episode. The Whedon humor is there, but nothing’s gelling yet.

The-Michael-J-Fox-Show-posterThe Michael J. Fox Show: This is a rare example where the pilot was really good, but now it’s just so-so. I laughed myself silly through the pilot, mostly because the comedy was kind of dark, and didn’t shy away from issues Fox faces with his Parkinson’s. However, it’s become a basic family comedy that’s good for a few laughs each week, but isn’t anything special.

momposterMom: It’s a common refrain this season—this show lacks originality but has a good cast and is decently funny. Anna Farris and Allison Janney are great, but they need better material before this show could be called a must watch.

sleephollowSleepy Hollow: I haven’t been quite as taken with this show as the rest of the world is. It has improved from an almost comical first two episodes, but I’m still not completely sold. I like the two leads, especially Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane. But comedic gems Orlando Jones and John Cho are both being underused, and one is dead already. Well, you’re never sure if someone is dead for good in a show like this. My biggest beef, though, is that I’ve already seen this show. It’s called Supernatural, and they did it way, way better.

Super-Fun-Night-Season-1-Promo-PosterSuper Fun Night: I love Rebel Wilson, and there have been a few moments I have laughed really, really hard. Unfortunately, this show has also made me depressed a couple of times, which is not what I want in a comedy. I’d also like to see this mostly female cast have more of a goal than clubbing and moping about guys. I want to see Rebel succeed, but I also want Suburgatory to come back, and SFN has not been a worthy placeholder for the 9:30 timeslot. I’d recommend giving it Back in the Game’s slot so Suburgatory can return. I’m glad so many ABC executives read this blog.

Still to premiere: Dracula this Friday on NBC and Almost Human Nov. 4th on Fox.

So, what have been your favorites so far? What have you already sent to the great DVR in the sky?

Fall TV Preview: 5 Dramas I Can’t Wait to See

Okay, I waited as long as possible. People, can we talk about the new pilots? Great. What? You said, “No?”  Too bad. I warned you multiple times that this was the blog of a TV addict.   I’ll have you know I have shown great restraint. I’ve had my fall TV spreadsheet made for a good month at least, and I am only just now submitting you to a series of posts about the new pilots. Yes, you read that correctly. Series. Disney villain laugh. Disney villain laugh.

For the sake of timeliness, I’m going to ignore any new show that I already know is not coming on until midseason. There seem to be a great number of these. Much to my consternation, some of the most promising pilots aren’t debuting until after January. Still, there is plenty to talk about now.

5. Dracula: NBC has a surprising amount of shows that look promising this season. They’ll need them. Parks and Rec is always wonderful, and they got a pretty solid hit out of Revolution last year, but once again the Peacock is nearly starting from scratch. Dracula isn’t arriving at the best time. Most of the public is suffering from vampire fatigue. However, I’m not one of them, and this show has two other strong pluses. Jonathan Rhys Myers is playing the title role, and he’s got a Downton Abbey producer at the helm. I imagine the NBC pilot most people are exited about is The Blacklist. I intend to watch it, too, but I’m never going to be as excited about James Spader smirking as Jonathan Rhys Myers in period costume. Premieres Fri. Oct. 25 @ 10:00 p.m. EDT on NBC

4. Sleepy Hollow: The trailers for this look semi-amusing, but they aren’t really what have me excited about this time-travel/crime drama mash-up from Fox. What sent me into a fangirl frenzy were the names Kurtzman and Orci. For those unfamiliar with Alex and Roberto (I like to think of us being on a first name basis), they are the amazing writing team that brought us the last two Star Trek movies and Fringe. Sniff, sniff. Sorry, I need a minute. I almost asked for a moment of silence in our household when I had to delete Fringe from last year’s spreadsheet. If the power duo are back writing and producing Sleep Hollow, I’m going to expect great things; I don’t care how convoluted the premise sounds. Also, they have Len Wiseman of the Underworld movies directing. When I read that, I almost got giddy. I don’t really know any of the actors in this apart from Orlando Jones, but I have always found him funny. Premieres Mon. Sept. 16 @ 9:00 p.m. EDT on FOX

3. Almost Human: This Fox pilot edges out Sleepy Hollow for me because the trailer is just so much more compelling. The premise of a cop in the future with an android partner is interesting. It’s also one of the pilots that has critics practically foaming at the mouth. I’m admittedly jealous every time I read an article about how amazing the pilot is when I know I have to wait until November. I do like Karl Urban, who plays the main character, but once again, it’s the people behind the show that have me excited. J.J. Abrams is producing, which after Alias, Fringe, and Lost used be enough to get me to watch anything with the man’s name attached. But then I saw Undercovers, Alcatraz, and Person of Interest. I’ve become a bit more discriminating in my Abrams’s TV series since. Now I check who else he’s doing the series with, knowing that Abrams is likely lending some money, but not much time. He does have a Star Wars franchise to produce, after all. The good news here is that the name partnered with Abrams for Almost Human is J.H. Wyman of Fringe fame, so I know I’m in good hands. Premieres Mon. Nov. 4 @ 8:00 p.m. EDT on FOX

2. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : I’m not sure I even need to talk about this, because I’m not sure there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t already have their DVR programmed. Agent Colson is alive and solving cases with a team of young whipper snappers. I’m sure the guest stars will be epic. All of that would be enough, but I’ve got two more words for you: Joss Whedon. Premieres Tues. Sept. 24 @ 8:00 p.m. EDT on ABC

1. The Originals: Did I just lose all of my credibility with my number one pick? Sorry, I’ve got to be honest. The Vampire Dairies has been the show I have to watch the day it comes on for the last two years. One of the reasons TVD is so good is the amazing villain they’ve had in Klaus. Creator Julie Plec and actor Joseph Morgan have done a wonderful job creating a rich character whom I despised at first and now adore. The CW wanted to give The Originals their own spin off a year ago, but Plec asked for time to transform Klaus from villain to at least the beginnings of a hero. I am eager to see where they will go with the character now that Klaus is the lead of his own show. My only fear is that by giving the Originals their own series, the end result could be two great shows, or it could mean they gutted my favorite hour of television and replaced it with two mediocre shows instead. The Originals also gets bonus points because I’ve got my fingers crossed that Price Peterson will write the recaps of the show for TV.com. There’s no way he won’t watch it, so he might as well make some money while he does. Premieres Thurs. Oct. 3 @ 9:00 p.m. EDT on the CW before moving to Tues. @ 8:00 p.m.

I’ll report back on these to let other TV junkies know if the pilots lived up to my expectations. Other drama pilots I intend to give a try:

  • The Blacklist: Premieres Mon. Sept. 23 @ 10 p.m. EDT on NBC
  • The Tomorrow People: Premieres Wed. Oct. 9 @ 9 p.m. EDT on the CW
  • Reign: Premieres Thurs. Oct. 17 @ 9 p.m. EDT on the CW

What new shows are you looking forward to?

Review of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie

Mortal Instruments City of Bones Movie Poster

The Basics (spoiler free): I did not want the hours of my life back. However, there were scenes where I audibly groaned or yelled, “Oh, puh-lease!”  The movie did a good job of portraying the world of the Shadowhunters, and the action scenes were tense and interesting. The movie was fairly true to the book, but the changes that were made ranged from mildly irritating to one that was downright infuriating. Most of the cast was great.

Grade: B-

More in depth analysis that assumes you have read the books, so SPOILERS if you haven’t:

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I have read all of Cassandra Clare’s wonderful books in the Mortal Instrument series as well as the Infernal Devices prequels. I was excited about the movies, and would say I went into the movie with reasonable expectations. I know that movies will never be the books. Screenplays are usually about 120 pages, so they are never going to be as rich as the book itself. This outlook allowed me to enjoy the Harry Potter movies and the first Hunger Games.

On the whole, the casting decisions were great. I was particularly pleased with Jamie Campbell Bower’s Jace. I had some mild reservations about him playing Jace, and my friend who went with me had been lamenting JCB’s casting for months, and she also freely admitted that he was perfect as that character. I felt Lily Collins represented Clary well, and Robert Sheehan was a breakout as Simon.

The notable exception to the otherwise impressive cast was Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane. Gao has a great look for Magnus, but the man cannot act. You know how sometimes SNL will have a host who’s an athlete or a musician instead of an actor, and it’s just painful to watch sketch after sketch? Yeah, it was like that. Thankfully, Gao was only in two scenes, but I winced my way through both of them. As Magnus is the only character in all of Clare’s books, I think a recast might be in order. Every single one of her books has been optioned, including the Shadowhunter books she hasn’t even written yet. That’s a lot of bad to have to sit through although one would hope Gao would get better by the twelfth movie.

Godfrey Gao as a terrible Magnus Bane

Other than Gao, the most offensive parts of the movie were, not surprisingly, the parts Hollywood added in for no reason that I can ascertain. There was an unforgivably bad storyline about how Bach was a Shadowhunter. If you play his music without passion, you can irritate demons enough to show themselves. Even my friend who had not read the books found this so ridiculous that he covered his face with his hands and groaned. The film even shot to a portrait of Bach in his puffy wig where you could see the dark runes peeking out of his collar. Ugh. I assured my friend that none of that nonsense was in the books.

Bach as Shadowhunter nonsense.

Another particularly horrible scene was the one in which Jace and Clary kiss. This is a moment that I’m sure all fans of the books have been waiting a long time to see play out on the big screen. If you are twelve, then maybe your expectations were fulfilled. They were in a garden. Fine. Then the dialogue got awful, the kind of sap that Jace would have mocked in the books. Then—I am not making this up—suddenly there were little twinkly somethings everywhere. I don’t even know what they were. Fireflies? I’m praying they were witchstones to at least stay with the plot somehow. Then the music (which was pretty awful throughout the movie) swelled with something way melodramatic, AND THEN it started raining AND THEN flowers burst into bloom everywhere. They kissed! Eeee! And I threw up a little bit.

Jace and Clary in the Garden of Twee

I feel I must point out, though, that part of why those two scenes stood out so much is because for most of the movie I was quite happily absorbed in the world of the Shadowhunters. All of the fighting scenes were good. The demons were appropriately creepy and gross. As out of character and stupid as the kissing scene was, the one that followed it where Jace makes a snarky comment about Simon being in Clary’s bed was spot on.

There were a number of other changes or cuts that even if I wasn’t thrilled about them, I did understand. Alec came off as a little stilted, and Magnus and his storyline was hardly touched. Neither was Simon and Izzy’s initial tension. In fact, poor Izzy didn’t get much in way of development. Alec and Izzy’s parents aren’t even characters, nor is Max. Simon’s run in with the vampires is much abbreviated, as is all of the Daylighter stuff and his struggles with his faith and mother. The Silent Brothers, City of Bones, and the Clave were touched on so briefly that my friend who hadn’t read the books didn’t really follow most of it. He also never made the connection that Luke was a former Shadowhunter.

All of those things I can forgive—maybe even Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s ridiculous dreadlocks. The movie was trying to fit a dense book with a very complicated world into two hours. You have to pick and choose what you focus on. I felt the screenwriter made the right choice by initially focusing on Clary and her relationship with her mother/Luke/Valentine and Jace/Simon. Everyone else can be fleshed out in subsequent movies.

What the movie did that was unforgivable was reveal a major plot twist that isn’t sorted out until a few books later. Not only did the screenwriter divulge the secret, she did it as a casual aside between Hodge and Valentine. That’s right sports fans, Hodge says almost as a throw away, “Lie to them and tell them they’re related.”  Oh no, I will climb over these theater seats into the screen and throttle someone for that. Not only did you just ruin a major tension between Jace and Clary for the casual moviegoer, but then the movie also immediately proceeded to confuse the issue even more. By implying that Jace was given false memories, my friend who hadn’t read the books did not understand that Valentine had actually raised Jace. That abusive relationship explains so much of Jace’s future actions.

Anger against screenwriter decisions

So the first Mortal Instruments movie was definitely a mixed bag. I think it did more right than it did wrong, but when the movie screwed up, boy did it screw up.

Thoughts? If you read the post this far, I’m assuming you also read the books. Are you planning to see the movie? Why or why not? If you already saw it, what did you think was done well? What could be improved for the next movie?