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The Great Reality Escape September 14, 2017

Posted by Ted in : 24, 24: Legacy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CW, Designated Survivor, FOX, General, Ghosted, Heroes, Inspirational, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Kevin Can Wait, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Smallville, Supergirl, Supernatural, The Exorcist, The Gifted, The Good Place, The Office, The Orville, The X-Files, Will and Grace , add a comment

Well, it’s my favorite time of year again, late summer. The kids are starting a new year of school, football has returned, baseball is approaching it’s wondrous post-season, and the first hint of autumn is in the air. All of this signals the best thing of all, the start of the new television line-up. It’s a time for us to forget the divisive politics, monster hurricanes, and impending doom of our dystopian age and completely escape from reality. Care to join me?

Returning Favorites

The good news, for starters, is that my two favorite shows from last season, The Good Place and The Exorcist are back. These two shows, one about heaven and the other about demons, are the yin-yang of the current broadcast TV landscape. Dark and light. Oceans and deserts. Sneakers and shoelaces. Donuts and coffee. You can’t have one without the other, as the learned among us will tell you. One show is dark but cheesy, the other lighthearted and campy. Questions abound. Will Eleanor and Chidi figure out the heaven they live in is just a twisted version of hell? Will Angela Rance, played with finesse by Geena Davis, return to her semi-peaceful family life or be plagued further by the dark forces of the underworld? Will Fathers Ortega and Keane start charging a fee for their exorcisms in order to support themselves or find side jobs delivering pizzas or something. Tune in and be enlightened.

 

Somehow, you made it to the good place.

 

My research of the upcoming season has surprised and delighted me in several ways. First of all, I was stunned to learn that one of my all time favorites, Supernatural, is still airing with new episodes on the CW. I had assumed, for some reason, that it ended around season 10 or so and never bothered to check back. Turns out it is alive and well and entering lucky season 13. I’ll definitely be checking in on Sam and Dean this fall, but I’m a little nervous about what state they’ll be in after having faced every conceivable non-human creature and entity in existence for 12 years. I’m guessing at this phase they have permanently jumped the shark into the waters of self-parody, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At its best, the show managed to channel Buffy’s vibe of irreverent humor infused with metaphorical and metaphysical storytelling.

I was also unaware that Sleepy Hollow, although cancelled in May of this year, had lasted four seasons. I watched a couple of episodes of this in the first season and it was not the greatest, but still kind of lighthearted and fun. This series may be a candidate for future DVD viewings here in the crawlspace. Kudos, as usual, to FOX for sticking by their shows and giving them a chance. One thing that made me an enemy of NBC was their fondness for killing great shows like Siberia and 666 Park Avenue before the first seasons were even finished. I understand that you NBC executives want to see big money fast so you can continue to provide your mistresses with sports cars and luxury vacations, but that’s not a great way to treat your viewers.

 

 

Every basement-dweller’s favorite show, The X-files, is returning yet again this fall to bring joy to our hearts with all things supernatural, extraterrestrial, and conspiratorial. This time we’re getting 10 episodes instead of 6, which means they’ve been giving the aging David Duchovny power smoothies or something for breakfast. He had been somewhat ambivalent in interviews toward doing full seasons of the show again. But this is only half a season, so he and Gillian are probably safe and won’t be expiring of exhaustion any time soon. The truth is still out there!

Probably the biggest news of the season is that the classic sitcom Will and Grace, perhaps emboldened by the resurrection of The X-files, is returning with its original cast to Thursday nights on NBC. This was one of the first sitcoms to feature openly gay characters when it debuted back in 1998. Even though I’m a straight guy, the first several seasons of Will and Grace made me laugh like a drunk hyena. In later years, the humor got to be a little predictable, but I’m still looking forward to seeing this old bunch again.

Two new shows from last season that I thought I would like until I watched them are also returning. After viewing half of the first episode of 24: Legacy, I lost interest, probably because of the absence of Kiefer Sutherland, who played my close personal friend Jack Bauer in the original 24 series. Kiefer moved on to a new show, Designated Survivor, which is a 24 meets The West Wing kind of thing. Instead of working for the president, this time Sutherland gets to be the president. The premiere episode that I watched last year seemed like a promotional video for the Washington political establishment, and was somewhat lacking in the cloak-and-dagger edginess that made 24 so great. It just honestly left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’ll probably give both of these shows another shot because you can’t always judge a show by the pilot episode.

New Shows

With all the great returning shows, there’s not much room in my schedule for watching new ones. Thankfully, there’s only a small handful of newbies that interest me this time around, including:

The Orville – The first episode of this live action sci-fi parody is about what you would expect from producer Seth McFarlane (who also plays the lead role of starship captain), except that he holds his bawdy tendencies in check a little more than in his cartoon shows, making The Orville almost appropriate viewing for the whole family. But not quite. As always, McFarlane’s saving grace is the merciless socio-political commentary that he blends into all of his shows.

Ghosted – Another FOX comedy about two paranormal investigators, played by Craig Robinson (of The Office) and Adam Scott (of  Parks and Recreation). Hopefully the greatness of their former sitcoms will be transfused into this new show. Ghosts and humor sounds like a winning formula to me. It certainly worked for the Ghostbusters movies.

The Gifted – As you can see, FOX seems to have all the shows I want to watch these days. This one, loosely connected to Marvel’s X-Men franchise, is about a family of mutants with superpowers. The premise seems derivative of Heroes, but then again the X-Men came first, so this is kind of like if Rick James made a comeback rap album after MC Hammer sampled his classic tune “Superfreak.” Except in this case Rick James is a huge media corporation.

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World – Last season gave us Kevin Can Wait, the new sitcom with Kevin James (from King of Queens) that I still intend to watch when I get a chance. Now he is joined in TV-land by this other Kevin who is on a mission from God to save the world in this ABC dramedy. What does this duplicity of Kevins signify, exactly? Is it an omen of some kind? Most importantly, will he save the world or wait until later? Consult your astrologer.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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