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Heaven, Hell, and Reboots March 30, 2017

Posted by Ted in : CW, FOX, General, Midseason, NBC, Reviews, Supergirl, The Exorcist, The Good Place , add a comment

The 2016 television season came and went without getting much attention, overshadowed by the presidential election circus which sent all our friends and neighbors into painful body contortions and endless Facebook tirades. So I guess it was the appropriate time for FOX to launch a TV series based on the classic movie The Exorcist. This spooky rehash was one of the only shows I watched from start to finish last season. I mean, what could be better than a demon-possessed Geena Davis? Or her dirty-faced daughter floating around and talking in a man’s voice for an entire episode? The series started out as a genuinely scary psychological chiller, then slowly descended into near self-parody before the 10 episode series wrapped up in December with the whole beleaguered Rance family back to normal again. Our two superstar priests, I’m guessing, will become a demon-wrangling team if there is a season two, putting the baddies on notice in a possession-of-the-week scenario. Get some popcorn.

THE EXORCIST: The ultimate good versus evil smackdown.
Cr: Jean Whiteside/FOX

My other favorite last season was The Good Place, a quirky sitcom about the afterworld. The plot centers around Kristen Bell’s character, Eleanor, arriving in heaven (which is like some kind of psychedelic amusement park) and trying to hide the fact that she doesn’t deserve to be there, a funny premise with a deeper meaning that most people can probably relate to. Ted Danson plays the likable but scatterbrained angel in charge. There is also Janet, a database in human form who has access to all knowledge of the universe, or something like that. This is possibly the best sitcom since Arrested Development. There have been so many DUMB sitcoms in TV-land that it’s a real joy when one comes along that doesn’t insult your intelligence and make you feel like don’t belong in this world. NBC has once again postponed their much-deserved eternal damnation with this one.

Supergirl, which I thought was pretty good in its first season on CBS, has taken to the skies and flown over to the CW. I still haven’t summoned the courage to watch a season 2 episode. Maybe I’m thinking it will not be as good on the new network because superhero shows on CW tend to be very dry and humorless. (Not including the classic Smallville, or course.) These super-boring programs lull me into a deep sleep because the characters usually have the personality of a frying pan. Just take any daytime soap opera, put the cast in tights, and that’s the basic recipe for a superhero show on CW.

Yes, there are plenty of superheroes on TV these days. In general, rebooting seems to be the modus operandi of TV networks for the last 10 years or so. Last season was no exception. In addition to The Exorcist, there was Emerald City, a gothy retelling of The Wizard of Oz; MacGyver, an updated version of the brainy secret agent guy; Riverdale, based on the Archie comic book series, and a Bauer-less 24 spinoff called 24: Legacy. Any old TV show, movie, book, comic, or fairy tale you can think of, it seems, will be rebooted as a television show at some point. Why is the happening, you ask? Are writers and producers running out of ideas? I used to think this, but now I’m starting to see the big picture. Reboots are big business. You only have to look at the movie box office returns to see that people love old familiar stories. The same way the ancient Greeks told stories that were passed down to younger generations as myths, people today love to revisit their stories from the past. They find comfort in the familiarity of these tales which help them to put there lives into some kind of context with history. In other words, TV and movie reboots are modern day myths. You read it here first.

 

New Shows That Might Be Good and Stuff September 9, 2013

Posted by Ted in : 1600 Penn, 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, General, Hannibal, Heroes, Lost, Lucky 7, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., NBC, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Reality TV, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Terra Nova, The 100, The Blacklist, The Crazy Ones, The River, The Tomorrow People, The X-Files, Uncategorized, Whedonverse , add a comment

Wow, the 2013 Fall TV season really snuck up on me this year, so I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. I’ll spare you the excuses. Since I haven’t written in a while, first I’ll say a few words about last season’s shows.

As I might have mentioned last time, I’ve started to question my faith in network television over the last couple of years, with so many great new shows getting axed after one season or even half a season. Earlier in the year, two more favorites, 666 Park Ave. and 1600 Penn were tossed into the TV mass grave with the corpses of The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer.

666 Park Avenue, in spite of its campy name, turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. I think if more people had given it a chance, it would still be with us. ABC delivered the final four episodes during the summer, as promised, and the show’s writers managed to wrap the whole thing up in a way that provided closure to the fans. The ending was a suitably dark leap ahead in the show’s timeline, showing us the destiny of characters in this creepy-but-fun drama. If you have a taste for the supernatural genre, this is definitely one to get on DVD (or to watch on Netflix or whatever. I fully realize that the trend of technology is away from physical ownership and toward internet cloud-based storage and consumption. Kind of depressing, really. We’ll be sitting in our empty houses with no DVDs or CDs or books, glued like addicts to our wireless electronic devices. Not to mention, all the music, movie, and book stores will be put out of business in the process. Is there any way I can opt out of the future?)

 

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Jane tries to figure out what happened to her show.

 

1600 Penn – NBC has come up with a lot of terrible sitcoms in recent years, but this show about a fictitious US president and his family was a winner in my book. Jenna Elfman co-starred as the first lady, and exuded a kind of warm, cub scout den-mother likability (and she looks pretty stunning for her age, I might add.) The adult son’s lovable-goofball antics in a White House setting seemed like a witty enough premise, but America has once again disagreed. Yet another great show cancelled after half a season. Somebody tell me again how the hideously terrible 30 Rock lasted so long.

Siberia – Just when I was sure there would never be another show as good as 666 Park Avenue, NBC aired this amazing serial drama during the summer. It tells the tale of a Survivor-style reality show that turns incredibly weird. The first few episodes are presented in the style of a reality show, which may have had some people mistaking it for the real thing. Siberia is also similar to Lost in many ways, but is more coherent and suspenseful. It keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The writing, acting, and directing are all top notch. I can already tell from the mania in various blog comment sections that this show is destined for cult status.

Too bad NBC made the highly questionable decision to run the show in the same time slot as the CBS series Under the Dome, which is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and has been killing Siberia in the ratings. I would probably be watching the show too, but I made a rule that, as a Stephen King fan, I wouldn’t watch any TV show or movie based on one of his books until I’ve read the book first. Anyway, I think most of the Under the Dome fans would love Siberia if they were aware of its existence. For the last couple years there’s been a lot of great shows to get iced before their time was due, but I think I’m really gonna be sick to my stomach if Siberia doesn’t get at least one more season.

 

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 Sam and Daniel await cancellation on Siberia

 

Hannibal – This dark crime-thriller featuring the famous movie cannibal debuted back in April on NBC. I watched an episode to see if I could keep my cookies down. I was in luck. This version of Hannibal is suave and stylish. He doesn’t tear at his victims’ bodies like a wild animal, but instead converts them into tasty culinary creations and shares them with unsuspecting dinner guests. By day the devious foodie works as a forensic psychiatrist who aids the FBI in tracking down serial killers, and his profiler friend Will sometimes gets lost in his visions and turns to Hannibal for support. Another factor influencing watchability is Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame in a recurring role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist. (Were you aware that psychiatrists have psychiatrists? I wasn’t either, but I could probably use one of my own after watching this show.) Hannibal has been renewed for a second season that will begin in 2014.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of new shows that might be good in the upcoming 2013 Fall season:

Sleepy Hollow (Premieres Monday, Sept. 16th on FOX) – As the name implies, this is a TV adaptation of the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I’m assuming this modern-day interpretation will be a prequel of sorts, which takes place before Ichabod Crane’s fateful meeting with the Headless Horseman.

The Blacklist (Premieres Monday, Sept. 23rd on NBC) – James Spader plays an enigmatic crime boss who turns himself in to the FBI, then offers to rat out various big players in the crime world, but, for some unknown reason, will communicate only with rookie agent Elizabeth Keen. As you might know, I’m not big on the crime shows, but I will at least check out the premiere of this one.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – Despite the severely clunky title, this comic book-derived action drama could be one of the better new shows of the season. Why? It is co-written and co-produced by Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, who has been having big success with the superhero movies in recent years. Expect lots of wisecracking and fight scenes.

Lucky 7 (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – This one has a premise I can relate to: It deals with the lives of seven convenience store workers after they win a lottery jackpot. It’s based on a British show called The Syndicate. Maybe we’ll get lucky with this one. I suppose it’s a good sign that Stephen Spielberg is listed as a co-producer, along with ER‘s David Zabel. Then again, it seems like Spielberg’s name is on all the shows these days. He’s either cloned himself or he’s world’s biggest workaholic.

 

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Breakin’ out the bubbly on Lucky 7

 

The Crazy Ones (Premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 on CBS) – Sarah Michelle Gellar has risen from the ashes of the sort-lived Ringer and teamed up with legend Robin Williams in this new Office-style single-camera comedy. I would have preferred to see her in some type of supernatural or sci-fi thing, but I’ll take this as a consolation prize. Who knows, it could fly. Gellar’s comic sensibilities were part of what made Buffy such a huge hit. This girl desperately needs a second hit show, so maybe the viewers will smile down upon this one. In case you were wondering, this is Robin Williams’ first regular TV series role since Mork and Mindy wrapped up back in 1982! Let’s hope Robin is as good at picking TV roles as he is at picking movie roles.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC) – As you might have guessed, this is a spin-off of ABC’s excellent fairytale drama Once Upon a Time which focuses on the characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice will have a love interest in this version — a genie named Cyrus. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) was originally cast as the voice of the White Rabbit, but has been replaced by John Lithgow. Alice learned that curiosity can lead you to some really weird places, and hopefully the CGI effects in this live-action drama will do her adventures justice. Strangely, there’s no word on who will play the Mad Hatter.

Dracula (Premieres Friday, Oct. 25 on NBC) – NBC has finally clambered onto the vampire bandwagon with this reboot of the well-worn Bram Stoker novel. One good sign: It will be co-written by Daniel Knauf, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO show Carnivàle which aired a few years back (which I haven’t actually seen, due to my ongoing lack of access to cable television.)

The 100 (Scheduled to premiere on The CW as a midseason show in 2014) – The CW must have heard my prayers, they are cooking up two new sci-fi shows for us this season. This one is summarized by TV Guide as follows: “Nearly a century after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, a spaceship sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing.” Sounds like fun, right?

The Tomorrow People (Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 on The CW) – If you loved Heroes, this could be the antidote for your aching heart. The Tomorrow People, based on a British TV show of the same name, has more than a few parallels to the ill-fated NBC superhero drama. It tells the story of several young mutants from around the world with various supernatural powers, and is written and co-produced by Phil Klemmer, who wrote several episodes of Chuck and Veronica Mars, of all things.

 

Comments on My Son’s Previous Post November 10, 2012

Posted by Mary in : CW, Fringe, General, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Revolution, Sci-Fi, Skeet Ulrich, Smallville, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Mentalist, The Office, The River, Uncategorized , 4comments

Hi. Mary here, Ted’s mother, and owner of the spacious basement that my son refers to as his “crawlspace.” I would imagine that if you have read his previous post, you probably have a lot of questions about me. You’re probably wondering, “Did Mary’s Skeet Ulrich Fan Club really get piss-faced drunk at Appleby’s, and have a six hour stand-off with the police?” and, “Is her fan club a terrorist group?” and, “Who bailed her and her friends out of jail?” You might also be wondering what my boss, co-workers, and friends had to say about those developments.

Thankfully, Ted has allowed me to co-author this blog post in order to set the record straight about my alleged recent arrest, which is kind of him, considering that I have taken away his computer. His Acer desktop is currently locked in the upstairs closet, where it will remain until Ted understands that he shouldn’t spread malicious lies about his mom. Now, that may seem like an extreme measure for a mother to take with her 38-year-old son, but my goal is not to punish him. I just think Ted needs a break from his internet fantasy world. He needs to get out into the real world for a while and do things like find a better job and spend more time with his girlfriend Sierra, who I think is adorable, by the way.

That being said, I need to clear up the questions Ted raised about me and my friends in his last post. First of all, nobody bailed us out of jail because we didn’t go to jail. We didn’t go to jail because we were never arrested, and we weren’t arrested because that whole “fan club” incident at Applebee’s never took place. That’s right. Ted made it all up. And for the record, I don’t go out binge drinking with my friends on the weekends. I just turned 60, for crying out loud! If you thought I was a little too old to be behaving that way, you’re absolutely right! Because I don’t! I didn’t even party like that in my college days. I’ll admit that I have a glass of wine every now and then, but that’s the extent of my alcohol consumption. Even doctors say a little wine is healthy for you, so get off my case, Ted! You were pretty hung over last New Year’s Day, if I remember correctly.

And last but not least, THERE IS NO SKEET ULRICH FAN CLUB! My friends and I don’t sit around screaming about some television star like teenage girls! How stupid can you get? All of these things were fabricated in Ted’s imagination. I would say that 90% what he has written about me on his blog is a complete and total lie. I also don’t have a bookcase full of crime drama DVDs as he suggested. Maybe 10 at the most. I never even liked Law and Order, where did he get that idea from? What an awful show that is.

As you may have guessed by now, Ted has always had a hard time discerning fantasy from reality. This is why I try to cut him some slack and not take these things personally. It gets to be almost debilitating for him at times. For example, when he was seven he dressed like Luke Skywalker for Halloween. I made him a costume to wear and got him one of those glowing light sabers. He had a great time trick-or-treating with some other kids in the neighborhood, but then after Halloween something weird happened. He started to believe he was Luke Skywalker. He kept wearing his costume all the time, even to school, and demanded that people call him Luke. On Thanksgiving, when his grandmother asked him for a hug, he yelled, “I’ll never join the dark side!” and jabbed her with his plastic light saber. This went on for several weeks until his costume got “accidentally” thrown into the laundry with a load of brights and turned pink. The shock of seeing his costume like that seemed to snap him back out of his fantasy and, thankfully, he became Ted again.

And, of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that his blog posts about visiting Lost Island and playing video games with 24‘s Jack Bauer are also products of his overactive imagination. I’m not sure if he really believes all these things are real. I just know that the line separating fantasy and reality for him is not as distinct and clear as it is for most people. Sometimes it seems pretty solid, sometimes it’s blurry, and other times it disappears altogether.

Well, I think that sets the record straight. I have asked my son to stop posting things about me on his blog in the future, and hopefully he will comply with my wishes. He has handed me a yellow legal pad with his handwritten comments about the 2012 television season, which I will include as the second part of this post.

————————————————————-

Well, my fellow TV fans, Fall 2012 has turned out to be a pretty bleak and dreary television season. Old shows I liked are disappearing and there are very few good new shows to replace them. Three of my favorite new programs from last year, The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer, were axed by their respective networks after only one season. In addition to that, two of my long-time favorites, Fringe and The Office are in their final year. In trying times like these, all a devoted couch dweller like myself can do is try to have faith that the TV circle of life will eventually produce some better shows to replace the classics that are leaving. Based on the new offerings this season, however, the circle of life has a lot of catching up to do.

Revolution – I was looking forward to this show, with its premise of a future without any electricity, but it appears that NBC has delivered yet another stinker. Aside from the bland characters and the paint-by-numbers plot (righteous rebels versus an evil ruling militia), there are weird political undertones that didn’t sit well with my left-of-center ideological tilt. Revolution could be a sort of dystopic tea party vision of what the world will look like after the 2nd Obama term. People in this oppressed future aren’t allowed by the evil militia to have guns or American flags. One scene in the first episode depicts a group of people who are pulling a large piece of machinery through the woods with ropes — no easy task, to be sure. They are former citizens of the US who have been taken prisoner by the militia. One character reveals that “their only crime was not paying their taxes.” The extended fight scenes, the ridiculous amount of alcohol consumption, and the hostility of the characters toward each other seem like pretty obvious stylistic footprints of producer Eric Kripke, creator of the CW hit show Supernatural. Unfortunately, Revolution lacks the cleverness and wit of Supernatural, and plays as more of a grim post-apocalyptic adventure in the tradition of Mad Max. The dialogue is unconvincing; the characters are painfully serious and humorless. NBC’s recent promos for the show have claimed that Revolution is the “most watched new show on television,” which, I suppose, proves once again how out of touch I am with the pulse of the nation.

666 Park Avenue – I rediscovered the ABC network last year, and lately they seem to have a knack for coming up with imaginative shows in the fantasy genre. The supernatural-themed thriller The River was my favorite new show last year, but they inexplicably pulled the plug on it after one go-round. The network has redeemed itself this year with the surprisingly good 666 Park Avenue. For me, this serial drama, which documents the spooky goings-on in an upscale Manhattan apartment building, is really the only bright spot in the 2012 television season. It has a great cast, including Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams, and a surreal atmosphere which is hard to put into words. In addition to the plush surroundings, your stay at the Drake will include such things as precognitive pickpockets, ghosts that live in old suitcases, and elevators that eat people. Top that off with Faustian bargains aplenty wherein characters experience the consequences of getting the things they think they want. If Mr. Doran makes you an offer you can’t refuse, you might want to head for the exit. That is, if you can find your way out of that never-ending hallway.

Fringe – In its fifth season, Fringe has taken a bold leap into a future where the Earth has been taken over by the Observers and the Fringe team are desperately seeking video tapes which contain Walter’s plan for defeating them. The writers smartly choose to focus on the relationship between Peter and Olivia, which gives us an emotional anchor amid all the sci-fi wackiness. I also like the more coherent and functional version of Walter. This final season will consist of only 13 episodes, ending in January. It’s been a fun ride.

The Office – This has been somewhat hit-or-miss without Steve Carell, but I will still miss this classic when it’s gone. Lots of questions to be answered in the final season. Will Jim and Pam finally experience some marital discord? Will Andy and Erin go splitsville? Will we find out who Angela’s baby-daddy is? Will Creed ever get his own storyline? I’m predicting there will be a “very special” episode at some point (probably around Christmas) in which Michael Scott returns with Holly and at least one baby in tow. Hopefully the producers can wrap things up without getting too overly-sentimental and sappy. I would actually prefer an ending that’s a little bit dark and serious and semi-tragic.

Parks and Recreation – I’ve been trying hard to remember why I liked this show lately. They’ve been running on creative fumes this season, and scraping the bottom of the humor barrel on a regular basis. Recent shenanigans include Jerry having a fart attack and Leslie conducting sex education classes for the elderly. Leslie Knope seems shallow and less likable than in previous seasons. Maybe the upcoming Joe Biden episode will help to bring some respectability back to the proceedings.

Supernatural – It will be interesting to see if this show can continue to deliver the goods in its eighth season. After stopping the Apocalypse, going to hell and then purgatory, hanging out with angels, meeting such big cosmic players as God and Death, and fighting all manner of freaks, monsters, and demons, you’ve got to wonder if there could be anything left on the Winchester brothers’ to-do list. I would guess that lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jarod Padalecki are itching for greener pastures. Bobby the Cranky Ghost seems to have dropped out of the picture, and for reasons I can’t explain, watching the show on Wednesday nights hasn’t been as much fun as watching on Friday nights. All of that being said, I will keep watching this show until the end, which hopefully won’t be for at least a couple of more seasons.

Arrow – Do we really need a show about Green Arrow? This DC-comic-based drama is not a Smallville spinoff, as one might have hoped, but a complete reboot with a different actor playing Oliver Queen. I haven’t bothered to watch it yet, so it could possibly be alright. The CW has had me worried for the last few years. I used to love the network, but they haven’t come up with anything I really liked since Supernatural. Hard to believe; that was eight years ago. Come on guys, give me something — anything! The teen soaps and chickafied vampire dramas just aren’t cutting it with yours truly.

The Mentalist – I find this laid-back crime drama to be strangely relaxing, not unlike the tea that lead character Patrick Jane drinks. It doesn’t change much from season to season, and it doesn’t need to. Jane is still not much closer to catching the notorious killer Red John, and his romantic attraction to Agent Lisbon remains vague and unrealized. If the rest of the viewers are like me, those things don’t matter that much anyway.

 

Ted’s Fall TV Preview 2011 August 14, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, Dollhouse, FOX, Fringe, General, Grimm, NBC, nikita, Parks and Recreation, Person of Interest, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Event, The Office, Whedonverse , 5comments

If you believe the ancient Mayans, or the latest news reports on the economy for that matter, this could be the last full season of television before the world ends. I can’t think of a better excuse to kick back, let my calls go to voicemail, and renew my commitment to lethargically gazing for hours into the idiot box. Yes, the fall premiere season is almost upon us, and we can be grateful that the networks have once again managed to cook up a handful of new shows that might be good, and are bringing back some favorite established programs for a new season.

Here are some new shows I’ll be watching:

Ringer

Featuring the long-awaited return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to her native network (The CW, formerly The WB), where she not only stars as a pair of identical twins, but also executive co-produces the show. Ringer is described as a drama-thriller about a woman, Bridget, who is on the run from the mob, and takes over her twin sister’s life after the sister disappears. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ringer turned out to be better than Joss Whedon’s recent two-season flop Dollhouse? Then we might realize that all that time we were worshipping Whedon, Gellar was the real power behind the Buffy throne. That’s probably a stretch, but this show is first on my must-watch list this season, if only for nostalgia’s sake.

 

 

Grimm

Maybe this is NBC’s consolation prize for those of us who were hoping that last season’s sci-fi thriller, The Event, would be worth a crap and would not get the ax after one season. Grimm is described on Wikipedia as a “dark fantasy,” and has a premise eerily similar to a certain CW show: “A homicide detective learns that he is a descendant of a group of hunters known as ‘Grimms,’ who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world.” Maybe NBC has finally realized that supernatural-themed shows are — gasp! — profitable. The prospects for Grimm are more than a little iffy, however, given NBC’s record on these kinds of outings, but there’s one clear sign that it might be more than a blatant Supernatural rip-off: David Greenwalt, who was executive producer of the Buffy spin-off Angel, as well as the short-lived but excellent paranormal show called Miracles, is an executive producer for Grimm. Cross your fingers out there, fans of things that go bump in the night.

Person of Interest

I generally avoid crime dramas like the plague — except when Mom forces me to watch one of her horrible Law and Order DVDs — but Person of Interest has a science-fiction twist and is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Fringe fame, which is just enough of an alteration of the standard formula to push the show onto my “must-watch” list — for a couple of episodes, anyway. According to my sources, the plot involves “a mysterious billionaire who has developed a computer program that predicts future crime victims.” Could be interesting, I suppose. You gotta love those mysterious billionaires, putting all that money and free time to such good use and keeping America safe. I’m just wondering what kind of crimes the computer program predicts. Shoplifting, jaywalking, and that kind of thing? Entering a restaurant without shoes and a shirt, maybe?

Terra Nova

This is Fox’s latest sci-fi effort, in which a group of people in the year 2149 time travel back to the era of the dinosaurs to escape the end of the world. Hey, sounds like a good plan to me. I mean, why bother trying to fix your problems when you can just jump in a time machine and go hang out with the Flintstones? To be honest, Terra Nova sounds like a train wreck, but as a self-professed connoisseur of all things sci-fi and fantasy, I feel obligated to watch. Time travel, in general, has gotten to be the most over-used premise in sci-fi television for the last few years. Personally, I have never believed that time travel is even possible. I look at it like this: The past and the future don’t really exist — they’re just abstract concepts that help us understand our lives. How can you travel to a place that doesn’t exist? You can’t. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Getting back to my topic, Terra Nova sounds an awful lot like the old Saturday-morning show Land of the Lost. It remains to be seen if a prime-time audience will love the dinosaurs as much as kids in the 1970s did. Steven Spielberg is listed as one of 10 “executive producers.” His actual level of involvement with the show, I’m guessing, is somewhere between slim and none. They probably just called him up and offered him some money, and when he replied “uh…,” that was enough input to slap his name in the credits. Steven, your check for 10 million is in the mail…not that you’ll be looking for it.

I know what you’re saying: “Those sound like great new shows, Ted, but what about returning old shows? Tell me about those! More specifically, which ones will you be watching?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

Nikita

After avoiding this for a long time, I finally watched an episode and found it fairly entertaining. It’s about a rogue government agent, who generally kicks butt, rights wrongs and sneaks around in tight spandex. Starring the Hawaiian-born model Maggie Q, Nikita is sort of a cross between 24 and Dollhouse that takes itself less seriously than either. It will be taking Smallville’s old slot before Supernatural on Friday nights, which means I probably won’t miss an episode.

Supernatural

Somehow, over the years, this has become my favorite show. It seems to fulfill the same psychological need as Buffy or Angel, which might be something along the lines of “the struggle for personal power and sanity in a hostile world.” Also, the low-class, gritty vibe of the thing makes me feel a lot cooler than I actually am.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec has been steadily closing in on The Office as NBC’s best sitcom. Sometimes it gets a little close to chick territory, with the various romantic entanglements, but otherwise, it’s consistently intelligent, funny, and original. In other words, the anti-30 Rock.

The Office (Mini-spoiler ahead!)

Steve Carrell has set sail for the land of bad romantic comedies. It will be interesting to see whether the show withers or blossoms without him (I’m hoping for the later — Michael Scott was never one of my favorite characters). Also, Pam will be carrying Halpert baby number two at the start of the season.

Fringe

Peter never existed, according to those bald guys in fedoras and suits. I assumed this was an elaborate way of writing Joshua Jackson out of the show, but according to the show’s producers, he’s still on the payroll.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been kind of frustrated with this show lately. Time travel and alternate universe doppelgangers and blah blah blah. I’m just not buying it. I’m also going risk the wrath of Fringedom and say that I find Walter to be incredibly annoying. Sure, he was amusing for the first couple of seasons, but there’s only so much drug-induced babbling in a Shakespearian accent that a person can take. Forget all those exotic diseases — Walter needs to find an antidote to himself.

 

 

How to improve Fringe? The same way any show could be improved: Forget the complex plot gimmicks and special effects and focus more on the characters. Bring them to life. Make me care about them. That’s all there is to it.

That wraps up my fall preview for 2011. Hopefully, some of the shows mentioned above will spiritually prepare you to meet your maker if those end-of-the-world rumors turn out to be true, or will at least drown out the screams while the earth is overrun with four-headed dragons, scary bat-like creatures, giant lions with pharaoh heads, machine-gun toting gorillas on skateboards, and vacuum cleaners that come on and vacuum by themselves.

 

How Long Before NBC Kills The Event? April 16, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 24, CW, ER, Heroes, Lost, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The Event, Tonight Show , 1 comment so far

For a TV show to be truly great, I believe it has to have at least one of three things: aliens, ghosts, or conspiracies. The Event delivers two of these features (no ghosts so far) along with a fast-paced storyline that approximates the suspense of 24. The show also utilizes the Lost technique of keeping the viewer guessing by having strange plot developments in every show (SPOILER ALERT for you DVD watchers!) — there are disappearing planes, extraterrestrials held captive by the government, people who don’t age, kids who look like old people, and a villain who turns out to be a shape-shifter. And that’s just the first half season. This is an ambitious show that builds on the great shows that came before it.

Caught up in the middle of the dangerous interplanetary intrigue is an attractive young couple, Sean and Leila, who want nothing more than to get married and lead a normal life. While the two are on vacation, Sean returns to his hotel room to find that Leila is gone along with their belongings, and the room is now occupied by a different couple. The hotel desk informs him that they have no record of him or his girlfriend staying in the room. It turns out that Leila has been kidnapped, along with her father and sister. Sean eventually tracks her down and is able to free her, and they find themselves on the run from both her kidnappers and the government.

Leila and Sean connect the dots 

In the first few episodes, Jason Ritter and Sarah Roemer, the actors who portrayed Sean and Leila, had a humorous habit of stuttering and stammering in every scene, which I think was intended to convey the idea of average people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances — the sort of characterization that was pulled off flawlessly by Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for instance. Once again the old saying, “Art has a life of its own,” has found a new example. The actors’ intention of realism plays on the receiving end as a comedy routine about people with speech impediments. Which, to me, translates into “the director is asleep at the wheel.”

Also, some of the dialogue in recent episodes seems painfully artificial. The extraterrestrials are all business, with no time for walks on the beach or picnics in the park, as evidenced by such matter-of-fact pronouncements as “The uranium will be used to create a portal…that will bring many more of our people to earth,” and “The future of our race hangs in the balance.”

Laura Innes, once famous as Dr. Weaver on ER, plays the leader of the other-worldly visitors. It’s ironic that her character on the show, Sophia, ages at a tiny fraction of the rate of a normal human, because the actress has aged considerably since her early days at County General hospital. It pains me to say this, as a long time Innes fan, but she could use some sprucing up in the hair and make-up department. I mean, come on NBC! She’s queen of the aliens. Let her have some sex appeal, for crying out loud.

In spite of the defects, I can say with confidence that The Event is a must-see for fans of science fiction television. The long-term fate of the show is precarious for a couple of reasons, the first obviously being that some people automatically turn off the TV when a storyline involves aliens. The second reason is almost as obvious: NBC is notorious for axing TV shows at the first sign of lower ratings. This is especially true for sci-fi shows — Heroes and Surface come to mind. The recent Tonight Show debacle effectively solidified NBC’s status as the network that makes really stupid decisions. I’m guessing Conan O’Brien’s butt still hurts from having the rug pulled out from under him after only seven months on the job at The Tonight Show.

Other, smarter networks, such as Fox and CW, give their shows a chance to develop, give the production staff a greater degree of creative freedom, and, most importantly, they respect the fans by letting shows end with dignity, allowing the writers to tie up all the loose ends and resolve any unfinished business. Supernatural is the perfect example. The show seemed pretty hopeless in its first season, and I gave up on it after one episode. The CW network, however, didn’t give up. They allowed the show to develop and improve over time. I caught an episode several seasons later, and I couldn’t believe how much better it was. The CW had done what NBC would find unthinkable: It had actually stood by one of its TV shows and made it a big success.

As I watched the once-compelling Heroes crash and burn over the course of its four season run, I developed the impression that it suffered from too-many-chefs-in-the-kitchenitis. I pictured NBC executives in Brooks Brothers suits hovering over the writers’ computers, leaning in to retype a word here and there, and micromanaging every conceivable detail of the storyline, creating the convoluted mess that left fans shaking their heads in dismay. There’s a reason why Claire-Bear leapt to her non-death in the final scene. She clearly hoped that her super-healing powers would fail her for just once, and the unbearable folly of Heroes would be over. The viewers were right there alongside her, ready for the death plunge.

The NBC bean counters probably spend long hours in their mahogany-paneled conference rooms arguing that science fiction and supernatural TV shows are too expensive to make and don’t attract enough viewers. I can hear them saying something to the effect of, “We need to watch these dirt-bag sci-fi producers carefully and make sure they’re delivering a product conducive to the longevity of our lavish lifestyles.”

A part of me wishes NBC would just agree to never attempt any more sci-fi, then I could wash my hands of them forever. I’m sure they would do just fine with their current line-up of game shows, crime dramas, and really bad sitcoms.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...