Somebody's Webpage on Twitter Somebody's Webpage on Facebook
jump to navigation

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.

 

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?)

 

666-park-ave-19

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.

 

 siberia-05

 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.

 

lucky7-13

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.

 

Summer Viewing Report 2010 September 16, 2010

Posted by Ted in : America's Got Talent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DTV, ER, Friends, General, Hell's Kitchen, Inspirational, Lost, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The X-Files, Whedonverse , add a comment

The DTV Nightmare Part IV: In spite of the umpteen public service announcements that promised all I had to do was hook up a digital converter box and my TV viewing would not be affected in the slightest by the digital television transition, I discovered after the switch that I was unable to receive my local ABC affiliate — in spite of buying two different antennas for that purpose — and was unable to watch the final season of Lost. Not the biggest surprise of my life. It’s OK, I’ll just pick up Lost on DVD. That show’s definitely worth owning. I’ve already started to accept the fact that this could the beginning of the end of free over-the-air television, thanks to the greedy telecom companies wanting to usurp all the extra bandwidth, and I could eventually be forced to pay for cable or satellite television for the first time in my life. Honestly, the thought of paying a monthly fee for TV makes my stomach turn, but I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it. I may have to change the name of my blog to Book Wormhole. God knows, I have plenty of books to read.

So maybe the fact that one of the major networks is out of my life for the foreseeable future accounted for the lack of things to watch on TV this summer. Although, that seems unlikely, since Lost is the only show I can remember watching on ABC since The Six Million Dollar Man. I guess part of the problem is I’m finally getting tired of some of the summer reality junk that used to amuse me on occasion. I once again elected to miss the circus of stupidity called Big Brother, and sidestepped the parade of wasted lives know as America’s Got Talent. I chose to opt out of Chef Ramsey’s masochistic cooking school for a second season in a row, maybe I’ll be bored enough to watch him next time Hell’s Kitchen rolls around, and yes, there will be a next time. There’s always a next time for these abusive British types.

Supernatural reruns: This CW show has been pretty amazing for the last couple of seasons in spite of the fact that I never particularly liked the Winchester brothers. Their melodramatic bickering and overwrought machismo are still annoying at times, but the show consistently delivers interesting, well written stories, with witty dialogue reminiscent of Buffy in her heyday (but don’t tell Dean I said that).

supernatural-290

Need To Know: I tuned in to the new PBS public affairs program, needing to know if the show was a worthy replacement for the recently ended Bill Moyers’ Journal. It’s not a bad program, but they seem to take more of an apologist stance on American foreign policy than I would have hoped for. In other words, more of the same warmed over middle-of-the-road opinions you can hear anywhere else. Well, we can look on the bright side. Maybe the talk radio Nazis will quit calling PBS liberal now that Moyers is gone. Of course, they would have to actually watch the network to figure that out, which seems unlikely.

Ghost Story / Circle of Fear: Lucky for me, I have a small stockpile of DVDs of favorite TV shows from the past. These are a real lifesaver at times when there’s nothing on but infomercials or court shows. Receiving top billing here in the crawlspace this summer was an old childhood favorite, which had never been officially released on DVD, but I was enthused to find it for sale as a bootleg. It was a supernatural-themed anthology show (meaning that each episode was a stand-alone story with a different set of characters) called Ghost Story, which was renamed Circle of Fear in its second and final season. The program is very similar in style to Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. This show originally aired in the early 70s, but I discovered through reruns in the 80s. The passing decades have only made it more appealing — the old cars, the clothes, the psychedelic music and directing style all add up to a nostalgia high for this aging potato. Plus, Sebastian Cabot adds a touch of class as a mysterious innkeeper who introduces each episode.

Hangin’ out with my Friends: Other shows in my DVD player recently included the first seasons of X-Files, ER, and Friends. You might not believe this, but I was actually going through an extended “I don’t watch TV” phase back in the 90s when the early seasons of these shows where on. But I fell off the wagon hard in 1996 when I discovered them, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Seinfeld. That was the year I became a TV fanatic. I couldn’t believe how much good stuff was on, and so happily rejoined the ranks of the low-brow and unrefined. My renewed friendship with the glowing box has gone on for 14 years now.

So sue me. I’m sure you anti-TV snobs that read that last paragraph will recognize me as a traitor to your cause, and call for an immediate intervention on my behalf. No doubt, you’ll have me sent to a TV watchers’ rehabilitation center somewhere, where my treatment will consist of a rigid daily regimen of life affirming get-em-off-the-couch activities, including skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding, cake decorating, metallurgy, tightrope walking, bee keeping, long distance swimming, marble sculpting, barehand tree climbing, helicopter piloting, CPR classes, square dancing, jazzercise, tennis, karate, taekwondo, tai chi, feng shui, and advanced survivalist training. Evening hours will be dedicated to group therapy and the speed reading of great literary classics. Concurrent with these activities, I’m guessing, will be daily deprogramming sessions involving the use of psychoactive medications and the forced viewing of Clockwork Orange-style propaganda videos. At the end of my 60 day stay I will roll my eyes at any suggestion of watching TV, and join the ranks of the sweater-wearing latte sippers at my local trendy bookstore.

Fringe is Chicken Soup for Your Sci-fi Soul October 12, 2008

Posted by Ted in : Fringe, Reviews, Sci-Fi, The X-Files , 2comments

 

 

The recipe for Fringe is familiar but comforting. First you take an FBI agent, a mad scientist, and a sardonic sidekick. Put them together in an old laboratory at Harvard, and have them solve various paranormal mysteries which are somehow connected into a larger phenomenon referred to by people in the know as “the pattern”. Their progress is sometimes helped and sometimes impeded by a shadowy megacorporation called Massive Dynamic that seems to already have some of the answers our team is searching for.

Walter Bishop, the eccentric scientist, was sprung from a mental institution by agent Olivia Dunham to aid in an investigation. In addition to working in his lab late at night, he also plays piano and hangs out with a cow and a bald guy who resembles Gary Numan. OK, you got me, he only did that once. Walter reminds me of a certain ex-boss of mine, except that the Fringe character is crazy in an endearing way instead of a mean and psychotic way. Walter’s son, the wisecracking Peter Bishop, acts as his father’s guardian and interpreter, which is a useful skill when the scientist rambles on incoherently about various subjects. Peter is played by Joshua Jackson who you remember from Dawson’s Creek. (Insert your own Katie Holmes joke here. Scientology is a perfectly valid and acceptable lifestyle choice, so don’t come looking for me, guys.)

FBI agent Olivia Dunham plays the straight lady to the Bishops’ father and son comedy routine. She was enticed into the realm of the paranormal after a mysterious disease put her boyfriend into a coma and gave him the complexion of an overripe banana. Dunham was consequently encouraged by her FBI boss to form as ongoing investigative team. I detect a potential love interest between her and Peter. There is some definite Scully-Mulder chemistry going on there.

Another similarity to the Files is that Fringe gets a little gory at times and makes you squirm around in your chair. The second episode was a particularly merciless assault on the squeamish among us. Let’s just say it dealt with the subject of pregnancy gone wrong, and it just got worse from there. I had taped the show on my VCR, and I felt compelled to stop the tape during one scene and fast forward through it. I’ve never been a fan of human suffering, or any other kind for that matter. Seems like one of the writers from the first season of Millennium might have taken over the show for what will hopefully be just one episode.

In spite of Fringe’s cringe factor, the show’s positives vastly outweigh its negatives. In addition to being intelligently written, humorous, and thought provoking, it has the one element necessary for a TV show’s survival: realistic, likable characters. In short, Fringe gets it right, and will hopefully elude the fate of other recent attempts at shows about paranormal investigators, such as the short lived Freaky Links, Miracles, and the blasphemous, unnecessary remake of The Night Stalker.

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