Midseason Replacements or Wow, Do These Shows Suck

March 20, 2007

What’s the deal with the current crop of midseason replacements?  It’s like the networks took their second tier shows that didn’t make the cut for the new season and released them all at once.  I’m going to walk through them one by one.

The Wedding Bells – 2 episodes in and this dramedy about sister wedding planners is neither funny nor dramatic.   I’ve liked Teri Polo since she played Rebecca on Sports Night and it’s good to see Kenny from Picket Fences again but this show is garbage.  The characters are uninteresting and the show’s device where the characters gain insights into their characters and lives by seeing the people who come through their wedding business is a cliched device for sloppy storytellers.  I won’t say I was offended by this week’s effeminate groom as much as I was bored.  Basically, another show from the David E Kelly who gave us Ally McBeal, Girls Club and even Boston Legal rather than the genius who gave us Picket Fences, The Practice, Boston Legal and Chicago Hope.

Avi’s Show Rating: C-

October Road – If The Wedding Bells was garbage this show is a whole garbage dump.  Boy leaves his hometown to go to Europe and doesn’t return abandoning all ties with his girlfriend, friends and family.  10 years later after writing a book using his old friends as characters (and not in a good way) he goes back home to find out that many of his friends hate him, he might have a son and shock of shocks their lives have moved on.  Oh yeah, and he has writer’s block.  Any one want to bet that he starts writing his next novel by the time this show concludes its initial run.  The dialogue is terrible and makes me yearn for the poetic conversations on Beverly Hills 90210.  The constant music-over (like a voice over but with music) is distracting.  I counted no fewer than 10 songs in the hour.  The one saving grace is Laura Prepon.  She looks great and it’s good to see her moving on from That 70’s Show and I hope she finds a better show than this next season.

Avi’s Show Rating: D+

The Black Donnellys – I get the sense that there’s a good show somewhere in this story of four brothers, one of whom is the Michael Corleone of the family.  The problem is that when you strip away the bloody murders and the posturing between the Irish and Italian mobs, there’s nothing here of interest.  The brothers aren’t really that sympathetic and the stories are just kind of boring.  If The Sopranos moved the mob story into the 21st century with its complexity, this one sets the genre way, way, way back.

Avi’s Show Rating: C+

Raines – The premise of a detective who solves crimes aided by the dead victim was too silly to get me to watch even one episode.  It may not be as bad as I think but I will never know.

Avi’s Concept Rating: D

With all this bad TV there’s one silver lining – April and May is right around the corner with the final Sopranos ever, the return of Entourage and The Shield and more Heroes, Lost, The Office, Friday Night Lights and Veronica Mars.

Capsule Reviews – Heroes, Studio 60, Desperate Housewives

October 25, 2006

Heroes – Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5

Heroes (along with Friday Night Lights) is quickly becoming my favourite drama on TV. Note I didn’t say “favourite new drama”. I truly mean best on the air. Unlike Lost, which I still like despite how it continues to get mired in complexity and a continuously expanding cast list, Heroes seems to have a winning formula. Each of the characters gets screen time every episode and the “A” plot moves forward every week alongside the individual character “B” plots. I also sense that the show will stick to a comic book formula (like Buffy and Angel did) with each season consisting of a large arc and a “big bad” that the heroes fight which is mostlyresolved at season end. Some of the highlights from the last 2 episodes are:

  • Future Hiro coming to warn Peter and making contact at the end
  • Matt using his powers to reconcile with his wife after getting captured and mind wiped last week
  • Nathan flying away and his conversation with Hiro
  • Claire driving her car into the wall and her father (the “Big Bad”) mindwiping the quarterback
  • Nathan’s negotiation with his blackmailers
  • Great inside joke NBC with the hotel being the Montecito
  • The mission revealed: “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”

Also if you haven’t checked it out yet, go to NBC.com and read the online Graphic Novels created for the show.

Avi’s Episode Ratings: A

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Episode 6

Could I be any more conflicted about this show? I really want to like this show but I just can’t. It’s like a chef got all these great ingredients but only used them to make a peanut butter sandwich. If it was any other show I would have dropped it already but I keep hoping that somehow it’s all going to get better. Based on last night’s show I’m getting less and less hopeful. Does the head of a network really need friends so badly that she needs to beg for them? Did anyone not see the baseball player writing his number on the ball coming from miles away? Could they really not think of anything better for the talented Lauren Graham to do? Did you feel the story with Tom’s parents was as unecessary as I did? On the not as bad side, I didn’t mind the story with the black comedian or legend Eli Wallach as the blacklisted writer but wasn’t wowed by them either.

I’m even growing tired of the dialogue. The thing about the dialogue on the West Wing is that the people involved were having a conversation and it was interesting and about something (even if the topic was as mundane as an agricultural bill stalled in Congress). Here it’s just banter and unless this show starts to be about something, I don’t think it’s long for my list.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B-

Desperate Housewives – Season 3, Episode 5

I’ve definitely enjoyed this season far more than last but the show is all fluff that I tend to forget right after watching. Here’s what I remember. Susan finds out that Mike doesn’t remember her and that Edie is poisoning him against her so she in her typical Susan ridiculousness, kidnaps him from the hospital to take him on a tour of their memories. Bree’s daughter is having an affair with her teacher and Bree’s interference opens for the door for her daughter to create consequences for everyone but herself seemingly with Bree’s blessing. Mike’s number is tattooed on the dead woman connected to Orson. Carlos and Gabrielle continue to fight and one up each other with Gabrielle, finally bringing a man home she met with a bar so that Carlos can catch them in bed. Finally the worst story of them all, Lynette continuing to redefine overbearing wife, Tom living in a dreamworld where he’s a pizza chef and his daughter’s mother scheming to break them up, something which, if not for their 4 kids, I’m starting to think wouldn’t be a bad thing given their relationship.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B

Capsule Reviews: ER and Survivor

October 23, 2006

I’ve fallen a bit behind in my TV viewing the last week and as much as I’d like to do long reviews and recaps I’m going to do some shorter ones over the next day or 2 to catch me up.

ER – Season 13, Episode 4

Another great episode. I don’t know what’s up with this show but 13 is shaping up to be a very lucky season number for this show. As recently confirmed, because of a ratings resurgence, the show which was originally supposed to air uninterrupted this year now will follow it’s normal on-off pattern over the season. I don’t care too much about ratings but I will say that the show has had a creative resurgence that merits the higher ratings. This week’s episode introduced the always excellent Forest Whitaker (robbed from a deserved Emmy nom and a win for his work on The Shield) for a 4 episode arc as a patient who is suing Dr. Kovac. The episode did a fantastic job flipping back and forth between the characters’ testimonies in court and flashbacks of what happened in the ER, alternating perspectives as it went. Whitaker and Visnjic are to be commended for portraying their characters as simultaneously sympathetic and culpable with the clear message that regardless of who the jury favours neither of them are coming out of this winners.

Avi’s Episode rating: A

Survivor – Cook Islands, Episode 6

It’s been 13 seasons and although I know a lot of people wrote this show off a long time ago I’ve stuck with it, until now. I can’t attribute this change to a single factor but a whole bunch of things. I’ve written in previous posts about the increasingly uneven balance in any given episode between challenges and the character dynamics that originally drew me to this show and this remains an issue. I thought this week’s episode where both teams are forced to kick off a team member is a cheat on the basic rules of the game – losing teams kick people off, not winning teams. This isn’t a twist, just a cheat. Also, I really don’t care that much who wins or loses. I watch the show and 20 minutes later I can’t remember who gets kicked off. This isn’t a good sign.

Here’s the most important reason I’m dropping Survivor. There are way better shows to occupy my time with. In addition to the shows I watch week to week, I have an entire queue of past shows that I’ve recorded but have yet to watch. All of these are better than Survivor.

Avi’s Episode Rating: Irrelevant

Capsule Reviews: Survivor, Ugly Betty, The Nine, Lost

October 17, 2006

Survivor: Cook Islands – Episodes 4 & 5

After a promising start that emphasized the social game over the last few seasons’ increasingly complex (not in a good way) and lengthy challenges, we had 2 episodes that returned to the excesses of the past.  Of a 43 minute episode, more than 20 minutes was spent in challenges.  There’s nothing else to say.  If this continues another week, I’m dropping this show.

Avi’s Episodes Rating: B- 

Ugly Betty – Episode 1 and beyond

I finally got around to watching the first episode which is also the last as far as I’m concerned.  I would end this article right here except I have to express my confusion as to what the critics who are gushing over this show are seeing that I don’t.  Let’s start with the concept which I don’t think is enough to sustain a crappy movie let alone a weekly show – ugly girl works in fashion industry and shows that brains and inner beauty are more important than superficial appearances.   Nothing wrong with the message but this show takes this base concept and makes everyone in the show mean.  Now I admit I don’t work in fashion or pretend to care about fashion and maybe I’m naïve but I find it hard to believe that any workplace is as unprofessional as this one.  Even if I’m wrong about the fashion industry or even society in general, this show takes it one step beyond reality and common decency and mixes in even worse dialogue and background music.  Even despite these issues, I like to give new shows the benefit of the doubt and would have watched one more episode, until the last 5 minutes.  The big reveal that the believed dead editor of the fashion magazine is still alive, attached to a machine and conspiring with Vanessa Williams’ character to take on the CEO and his son (Alan Dale and Eric Mabius who both deserve way better) took this show into ridiculous soap opera territory and made me erase the remaining episodes off my PVR.

Avi’s Episode Rating up to the Last 5 Minutes – C+

Avi’s Episode Rating after the Show – D

The Nine – Episodes 1 & 2

 If you’re not watching this show, go right to ABC’s web site and get caught up.  The premise is a simple one – 9 strangers are held hostage in a bank robbery for 52 hours and emerge as different people who together now share a unique bond.  The mystery of what happened in the bank unfolds in short clips over each episode as the story follows the characters in the aftermath.  The cast is a “who’s who” of TV actors in particular the great Tim Daly (I miss Eyes) as the detective with a gambling problem who stepped up as a hero during the crisis, the understated Chi McBride as the bank manager who has bottled up everything that happened to him and his daughter, the ever dimpled Scott Wolf as a surgeon (like his former older brother now on Lost) who last episode killed the hospitalized bank robber and finally the outstanding John Billingsly as the formerly suicidal man who becomes a hero and finds a new lease on life.  There’s a lot going on and I don’t know how they can keep the show going for more than a year or 2 but I don’t care.  It’s a great show and I don’t know why more people aren’t watching.  Go watch now!!!!

Avi’s Episodes Rating – A-

Lost – Season 3, Episode 2

I enjoyed this week’s episode much more than the season opener.  Sun and Jin’s back story was great and answered the question (maybe) from last season whether Sun’s pregnancy is an island miracle or the result of an infidelity.  Kate and Sawyer’s chain gang adventure was lots of fun ending with Sawyer’s assessment of the Others’ troop strength.  It was good to see Sayid the hunter back in action and I appreciated the irony that generally passive Jin could be more dangerous than Sayid if he wanted.  Finally, the ending with Ben holding out to Jack the possibility of returning home made me hopeful that the show may actually have an ending.

Despite all these good things it finally hit me 5 minutes into this episode my issue with Lost.  The thing I like the best about this show is also what in my opinion is its biggest weakness.  I love the complexity of the show, the sprawling cast, the numerous mysteries and the large canvas where so many things are simultaneously happening I can’t wait to see what happens next.  The problem is with a cast roster that takes the first 10 minutes of the show to unroll most characters don’t appear week-to-week.  The huge mysteries and sweeping storylines unfold at a pace that I find frustrating when it only runs 22-24 episodes a season.  I want more.  I want to see all the characters every week.  I want lots to happen every week.  Unfortunately it’s just not possible in a network TV show.  To be clear, I’m not going anywhere.  I do, however, increasingly understand why some people like to wait for the DVDs where these issues become less obvious.

Avi’s Episode Review – A-

Capsule TV Reviews: ER, Gilmore Girls, Six Degrees

October 10, 2006

ER – Season 13, Episode 3

I surprised even myself with the positive review I gave ER for the first 2 episodes a few weeks ago. This is a show that without a doubt has been past its prime for many years already. Although I enjoyed those first episodes I was definitely reluctant to say that the show was having a resurgence. After the third episode, I am almost ready to go out on a limb and say that this show is once again Must See Viewing. John Mahoney should already be pulling out his tux for the Emmy nod he surely deserves for his role as a gay, female impersonator whose lover is dying.  Besides being a showcase for Mahoney’s considerable acting skills, it also gave us an introduction to John Stamos’s new medical intern character whose know-it-all and laissez faire attitude immediately brings him into conflict with Pratt and has disasterous consequences for his patient.  I ended the episode already looking forward to next week.  What more could you want from a show that is more than 13 years old.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A-

Gilmore Girls – Season 6, Episode 2

This was the episode.

To be frank, I was coming close to giving up on this show.  Last season there wasn’t much to like about any of the characters or the stories they were immersed in and the actors just looked bored.  After a first episode that started to clean up the mess that was left at the end of last season, I was still on the fence.  It was good but seemed like it was trying a bit too hard.  Last week, however, had everything that makes this show great.  The dialogue was dead on for the characters and for the first time in a long time the actors actually looked like they enjoyed saying it.  From the opening scene of Luke punching out Christopher to his continuing declarations about how “fine” he is to his heartwrenching scenes with Lorelai where he states out loud his realization that they were never right for each other, I actually cared about Luke for the first time since they got engaged.  The scene with Rory and Lorelai where Rory finds out why the wedding got called off was so well played by both actors that it made the reconciliation at the end of the episode appropriate and real at the same time.  It wasn’t all serious.  Kirk opening up a diner across from Luke’s and Lane’s honeymoon adventure gave the episode the tonal balance it needed.  I hope this season continues to build on this fantastic episode.

Avi’s episode rating: A

Six Degrees – Episodes 2 & 3

This show has 1 more week with me and then it’s being dropped.  I wrote in my review of the first episode about my belief that people do cross paths with each other in ways that don’t become significant until a much later date.  This show, however, is not really about that, despite its title.   Instead it’s a show that is trying too hard to create overlaps that are more like 2 degrees of separation than six degrees.  The result is storylines that are contrived and unsubtle in how they intersect.  I look forward to seeing these generally talented actors, Campbell Scott in particular is excellent, in far better material in the future.  As I read over what I just wrote, I’m not even sure it’s going to get even another viewing.  Keep an eye out on the sidebar.  This should be on my dropped show list by next Friday.

Avi’s episodes rating: C

Capsule Reviews

October 4, 2006

Kidnapped – Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

I finally got around to watching the first 2 episodes of this new series and I loved it.  It looked like a big budget movie and had twists, turns and cliffhangers like the best serials.  Jeremy Sisto is great as the maverick ex-FBI agent who hunts down kidnapped children and has his own traumatic kidnapping experience in his past.   Delroy Lindo brings a new level of coolness to his FBI agent who has an uneasy working relationship with his former mentee, Sisto.  Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany haven’t had much to do yet but I feel their pain as the rich parents of the kidnapped boy.  Besides a great cast, the case is compelling.  After a first episode set-up, the second episode ramped up the action with an attempted kidnapping of the family’s older daughter as well.  It puts Vanished, the other kidnapping show this season, to shame.

What makes me sad is this article where the NBC CEO expressed disappointment with the show’s performance.   I’m worried about whether this show will make it to the end of the season, and hopefully the end of the kidnapping.  If the show doesn’t make it, it will be our loss.

Avi’s episodes rating: A-

How I Met Your Mother – Season 2, Episodes 2 & 3

I’ve liked this show since the beginning but this season I love it.  Next to The Office it is my favourite comedy on the air.  (Yes, that includes My Name is Earl).  The breakup of Marshall and Lilly has been heartbreaking and realistic mostly as a result of their amazing portrayal by Jason Segal and Alison Hannigan.  Last night’s episode with Ted’s parents who got divorced and didn’t tell anyone was an excellent vehicle to explain why in the end Ted doesn’t marry Robin but are able to remain friends.  Josh Radnor’s knowing look at the end of the episode really said it all.

The amazing thing about this show is the way it’s able to balance the melodrama with comedy.  This is the role of Neil Patrick Harris’s career.  He brings an energy to every scene he is in and defines the term scene stealer.  Most important his jokes (and everyone else’s) are laugh out loud funny.  If you haven’t watched this show before, start now.  You won’t be disappointed.

Avi’s Episodes Rating:  A

Prison Break – Season 2, Episodes 6 & 7

I admit that for me this show had been steadily losing its appeal.  I have been asked a number of times recently whether Season 1 was worth purchasing on DVD.  Before Season 2 aired my answer was a definitive yes.  Since then I have reversed my opinion based on the lackluster and, to be frank, really boring season.   A few weeks ago I said I’d wait until the baseball break and then decide.  Basically, I was about 2 episodes away from dropping it from my rotation.  Well, I’ve now seen those 2 episodes and I’m still in.

The last 2 weeks were actually fun to watch.  I think it’s clear what was missing – the interaction between the cons.  The way that they played off each other in season 1 made the show as interesting as the conspiracy and escape plot did.  With the crew back together and the conspiracy plot moving forward, the show was finally back on track.  The one-two punch of last night’s ending with Mahone killing Tweener (is he really part of the overall conspiracy) and Sucre trying to run off with DB Cooper’s money has me looking forward to the show’s return 3 weeks from now.

Avi’s season to date rating: C+

Avi’s Episodes rating for the past 2 weeks – B+

Capsule Reviews – Sunday September 24th

October 1, 2006

Desperate Housewives – Season 3, Episode 1

Much ado was made by critics and viewers last season about how the show had crashed in its second season from the “brilliance” (their word not mine) of the first season.  I partially agree.  I thought the first season was decent and the second season was generally awful.  So, I watched the first episode of this new season to see which way the wind was going to blow because I do like the cast.  Verdict is that the show is much closer to the good first season than it was to last season.  The ladies actually got in the same room together to discuss Bree’s upcoming marriage to Agent Cooper.  I liked Gabrielle’s story – for me she was the best this episode.  Susan was about a bit less annoying as she watched over Mike and bonded over comas with the man who passed on the role of Wolverine in the X movies to do Mission Impossible 2 (“I said ha, ha”).  Unfortunately my favourite on the show, Felicity Huffman, is stuck in a storyline about Tom’s love child that is far below her considerable talents.  I’m still watching but it’s not at the top of my list.

Avi’s Episode Grade: B

Brothers and Sisters – Season 1, Episode 1

I’m going to be brief on this one.  Great cast.  I don’t remember their character names so I’m going to call them what I know them as.  I like Brenda, Sloan, Sally Field, Tom Skerrit (RIP), Vaughn-lite, cancelled Reunion guy and Thirtysomething woman.  I can even put up with Ally McBeal (although to me she is the weakest link in this show).  The problem with the first episode is it seemed to jam way too much in and most of it was kind of boring.  Why am I sticking with this show you ask?  Two words – Greg Berlanti – who ran Everwood, one of the great family dramas and one of my favourite shows ever and has now taken over this one.  He’s even bringing Treat Williams in.  I hope that his fingerprint makes this one a winner.

Avi’s episode grade: B

Introducing Capsule Reviews

October 1, 2006

In the front end of a new TV season I watch way too much TV.  I come from the school of life that says everyone and everything gets the benefit of the doubt as good until proven otherwise.  That holds for TV too.  I like to give as many new shows as possible the opportunity to impress me and as they don’t I stop watching them.

Where am I going with this.  For most shows (see my sidebar for those I’ve already broken up with) I’m still in the dating phase, giving them the chance to impress me.  This means I don’t have as much time as I’d like to give full reviews on everything I watch.  I get way too behind, way too fast.

So, I’m starting a new regular column that has mini capsule reviews of shows I’ve watched.  This gives me the flexibility to let you know what I think of a show but not have to go too crazy with detail.  

Let me know what you think of this section.