Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Season 1, Episode 14 – The Harriet Dinner

February 7, 2007

As Chandler Bing would have said: Could this show get any worse.

The show launched with such promise and as the season has progressed it’s gotten worse and worse and worse.  Well, this week the show hit rock bottom for me and I’m at most one episode away from dropping it.

I’m all for a show changing direction when things don’t work but turning the show from a SNL behind the scenes into a romance show is not the way to fix this show.  Is it possible to have storylines more contrived than getting a potential couple stuck on a roof so they have time to chat about their relationship or someone being forced to break a date with the girl he likes to take out another girl and having her show up at the same party.  When you balance the romance with humour like a lost snake chased by a ferret chased by a coyote, it’s not surprising that I couldn’t care less.

The bad storylines isn’t the worst thing about Studio 60.  It’s the characters.  I detest almost every character on the show.  Take Danny (who I admittedly still call Josh) who has either been invisible or a stalker.  Hariett who is annoying to the point where I cringe every time she opens her mouth and leave the room every time she references her religion.  Simon who doesn’t speak without being condescending.  Jordan just bothers me.  Tom has almost no personality despite the writers’ best efforts to give him one.  Run Dawn, go back to Tim.  (Sorry Office reference).  I still like Matthew Perry even though I can’t understand why he would chase Hariett.  Steve Weber is the standout who steals every scene he’s in.  He’s the Alec Baldwin character on this show and if I had my druthers they’d fire everyone and build a show around him and the network side of the TV business.

Bottom line: I’m indifferent or bored by the storylines, I hate the characters and dislike the overall direction of the show.  Stay tuned next week to see if this once promising show is permanently removed from my viewing schedule.

Avi’s Episode Rating: C-


Best of TV 2006 – Best New Show

December 20, 2006

Here are my nominees for the Best New Show of 2006.  Remember the nominees are my picks based on my favourite shows of the year, hence the omission of Ugly Betty which despite it getting lots of love from critics is likely going to make my worst of list.  Also, the show must have actually be on for the full season so ones that have been cancelled are ineligible.

Now on with the nominees:

  • 30 Rock (NBC)
  • Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
  • Friday Night Lights (NBC)
  • Heroes (NBC)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)

30 Rock is one of those shows that has grown on me as the season has progressed.  I watched the first couple of episodes and found them okay but not great.  But all of a sudden something started to click with me in particular the brilliance of Alec Baldwin, the over the top a little goes a long way Tracey Morgan and the sarcasticly hysterical Tina Fey.  Throw in Dean Winters as Tina Fey’s girl friend and we’re nearing perfection.  Now that it’s been added to probably the best Thursday night comedy lineup ever it’s drawing power is compounded.  Only place it loses marks is the annoying Jane Krakowski.

Brothers & Sisters started off horribly.  I liked the cast generally (especially the amazing Sally Field) but just found that after the first few weeks I really didn’t care about their stories.  Then something changed and his name is Greg Berlanti fresh off the fantastic and still missed Everwood.  He took over and suddenly the show seemed to have some soul as the relationships between the characters started to matter and their interactions took centre stage.  Still, as much as I’ve come to enjoy the series when I watch, I don’t particularly miss it between episodes.

I’ve written multiple times about my love for Friday Night Lights.  I can tell you right now that this show will be on my best of the year list.  It’s as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking often in the same episode.  Kyle Chandler’s performance is dynamic and understated and I need to highlight the actor playing Jason Street as truly the best find of the year.

Heroes is also a shoo in for my best of the year list.   I’m a comic book geek so I came into this show with high expectations that were greatly exceeded.  11 weeks in and the originally separated and unbelievably interesting characters (with Hiro as the breakout) are starting to intertwine around interesting mysteries (Save the Cheerleader, Are you on the List) with weekly cliffhangers that leave you anxious for the next episode.  This show is going to be a huge hit on DVD and will likely result in many viewing marathons.  After this year’s lackluster and meandering Lost season, this show has become the must see serialized drama.  I can’t believe it’s another month until it starts again.

I’ve put Studio 60 on the list because I think it still holds promise.  Still, it’s my disappointment of the year.  I loved the pilot but the episodes since haven’t lived up to the premise.  There have been many moments of brilliance and the few episodes before the break (since the John Goodman episodes) have started to pick up steam.  I still detest the Harriet character and the show’s preachy approach to religion that seems to be a talking point in every episode.  (Contrast this heavy handed approach with the intelligent integration of religion as a backdrop in Friday Night Lights.)  As I write this I need to acknowledge that maybe this show shouldn’t be on my list.  If I had time to watch Dexter perhaps this show would have been replaced with what I hear is a great program.

And the winner is:

  • Heroes (NBC) with Friday Night Lights being a close runner up.

Heroes and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Reviews

December 4, 2006

I just caught up on last week’s episodes of Heroes and Studio 60.  I’m not going to do full reviews, instead I’m going to wait until tomorrow after I watch this week’s episodes.  Still let me just give you a preview – Heroes remains one of the most engaging shows on TV and is the serial I look forward to most week after week.  Studio 60 was much better the last couple of weeks.  As long as it stays clear of a weekly religious theme and avoids boring me with Matt and Harriet’s lack of chemistry, there’s a chance this show could become great.  Unfortunately the preview for tomorrow’s episode seems to focus on that latter storyline so I’m not feeling optimistic.

Avi’s Preview Episode Ratings: Heroes – A; Studio 60 – A-


TV News: Studio 60 and Men With Trees Picked Up, Six Degrees Almost Cancelled, Jericho Takes a Break and Smith Stream Online

November 10, 2006

It seems like it’s coming down to the wire but lots of news about full season pick ups, hiatuses and Lost-like scheduling.

  •  Studio 60 gets a full season – I haven’t been shy in my criticism of the show but there’s a lot of potential so I’m glad it’s being given the chance to get better.
  • Men with Trees Gets a Full Season but it’s in Six Degrees’ time slot – I don’t watch either of these shows.  I tried them both but neither resonated with me.  I thought Six Degrees had potential but after a few viewings it didn’t look like it was going to live up to its interesting premise.  I’ll be shocked if its hiatus doesn’t really mean that Six Degrees is cancelled.
  • Jericho is going to split its season to run uninterrupted – Jericho’s fall season will end November 29th and the show will return for a winter season February 21.  I like this format for shows like Jericho and Lost.  It lets the show keep momentum by keeping you intersted week to week.  If you care (I don’t) King of Queens will air in Jericho’s time slot.
  • Unaired Smith episodes are going to stream online at CBS.com – I really liked this show and was disappointed when Smith was cancelled.  From my original posting it was clear that lots of people agreed.  You’ll have the chance to see for yourself the direction the show was headed when they put all 7 episodes and a synopsis of where the show was going on cbs.com.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Season 1, Episode 7

November 7, 2006

Did this show remind anyone else of the classic West Wing episode from the first season when Toby and Sam went to get the next Supreme Court Justice, Edward James Olmos out of prison.  Maybe it was just me.

Like all Studio 60 episodes to date, it had moments of brilliance and moments of “I don’t care”.  Let’s start with the good.  Aaron Sorkin brings out the best in John Goodman who was great as a Nevada judge who doesn’t care for Studio 60’s Liberal humor that offends him, his friends and his community and takes it out on Tom who’s been arrested for a variety of charges.  Also, Steve Weber was his fantastic self as he defends Jordan at the same time as he recognizes the politics of being an executive at a big American corporation.  I even laughed a few times as they rehearsed the Jesus skit that wasn’t going to be aired.

Here’s the bad.  No more subplots about Jordan’s ex-husband.  I don’t care.  They need to stop using religion as the central plot and source of conflict for every episode – it was interesting once or twice but it’s become lazy storytelling that does justice to no one – liberals or conservatives.  Finally, does anyone not think that Tom is going to get off in time to do the show.  Yeah, me neither.

Bottom line:  I still hope the show can get better and have more moments of brilliance but the weaknesses are becoming more apparent as the show plays through its run.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B


Fall Season 2006 – How it’s Going So Far

October 30, 2006

In September I launched this blog looking ahead to a season that was ripe with promise.  Lots of new, interesting and diverse shows that catered to the TV snob in me who hates procedurals with their “fill in the blank” of the week premises and favours complex serial shows that require a weekly committment.

So here we are 6 weeks into the new season and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag using this moment as a checkpoint. 

Let’s start with the Good.  Two of my favourite shows on the air right now started this season – Heroes and Friday Night Lights.  Unfortunately at this time only Heroes has been given a full season while Friday Night Lights struggles.  Hopefully the order for extra scripts means NBC is going to give it a chance to grow.  Brothers & Sisters is also starting to grow on me after a pretty rocky start.  If you are not watching any of these shows, please start now, especially Friday Night Lights.

I’m going to give honorable mention to Jericho and The Nine, the first of which has been given a full season and the latter which also has a script order.  I like both shows but there’s something about each that keeps them off my “must see” list.  For Jericho, I love the premise and the mysteries beneath the show but dislike Skeet in the lead and the “crisis of the week that only Skeet can fix” is wearing thin.  The Nine is kind of the opposite.  It has an excellent cast but the premise and mysteries don’t seem like enough to sustain an entire season let alone a long running show. 

Now the Bad which I’m going to split into 2 categories, shows that I hoped would be good and aren’t living up to my expectations and shows that were good but got cancelled early.

For shows I hoped for better from, there is no better example than Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which I picked as my best of the year after seeing the pilot.  It turns out that it’s all been downhill from there.  Check some of my other posts to see why this is my biggest disappointment of the year.  I’m still watching but this one is on life support with me.  I also hoped Vanished and Six Degrees would have been better shows than they turned out to be.  I’m still giving Vanished another chance after the World Series but Six Degrees got dropped long ago. 

As for shows that I liked but got cancelled before getting a real chance to succeed, Smith and Kidnapped were both in my Good list.  Smith got unjustly cancelled after 3 airings (check out this posting for comments from lots of angry viewers) and Kidnapped got sent to Saturday night to finish off its 13 episode run.  Thinking about it a bit more, I’m going to move Kidnapped to the Good category and look at the show as a mini-series since it will actually have an ending and it’s a great show.  Pick it up on DVD next year, you won’t be sorry.

Now for the Really Bad.  In this category is Ugly Betty and The Class.  Ugly Betty lasted 1 episode with me and I have no idea what the critics who love this show saw in it that I didn’t.  The Class lasted two episodes but I knew after the first that it was off my list.  Neither of these shows have anything redeeming about them.  Check out some of my earlier posts on these shows to see what I disliked. 

So where does this leave me 6 weeks into the new season – with 3 shows that I love, 3 I like a lot, a couple I hope will get better before December and some that were either awful from the get go or just didn’t appeal to me at all. 

All in all a season that started with lots of promise but turned out to be the same as all the others.  Bring on the mid-season replacements.


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


TV Review: Friday Night Lights – Episode 3 or “Why I’m no longer watching The Amazing Race”

October 20, 2006

I had a realization this Tuesday evening – I waste way too much time watching shows I don’t really enjoy. I had just watched Sunday’s The Amazing Race and couldn’t remember anything about it 10 seconds after it ended. There I was 10 minutes into Friday Night Lights, a show that is fast becoming my favourite new show of the season, and it hit me. There are a lot of shows that are truly excellent and I don’t need to watch shows just become they’re a habit. It was that minute I decided The Amazing Race was off my list. (See my earlier post on the topic to see why.)

Enough about shows I no longer watch. I’m here to write about a show that in only 3 episodes has become appointment TV for me. I wrote in an earlier article about the amazing actors in this show who I have no doubt will become big stars. I want to particularly single out the actor who plays Jason Street – his scene where he told his doting girlfriend to wake up and realize that he will never again be who they thought he would be was heartbreaking and real. This is what I love about this show. It’s clear this isn’t going to have a soap opera ending, where he miraculously gets out of bed and goes back to playing football. His life is different and he conveys his grief and bravery in every scene.

This week focused on the impact of losing at football in Dillon. In a heartbeat, the town, the players, the other coaches all turned on Kyle Chandler’s character and the inexperienced quarterback Matt Saracen. The coach demonstrated what a true leader is transforming his players back into a team with a little midnight run. At the same time we saw Tim breaking down from the guilt of not doing enough to protect his best friend and that even with a pep talk from the coach, this is not going to be an easy 1 episode journey from guilt to reconciliation.

I’m already looking forward to next week to see how the new “Katrina refugee” quarterback that they recruited is going to shake things up. If you haven’t been watching, go to NBC’s site and catch up fast. Ratings are going up but you need to jump on fast. You won’t be sorry.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A


TV Review: The Office – Season 3, Episode 5

October 20, 2006

Here’s some things I learned from tonight’s The Office:

  • I want to join Dwight’s Army of Champions.   I bet there’s a decoder ring and a fancy handshake.
  • The sales office will present itself to me when I’m ready.
  • It’s hard to be productive without a soft pretzel.  I definitely won’t argue with that sentiment.
  • There are no cuts on Pretzel Day
  • Lovefool by the Cardigans can be more annoying than a squeaky chair
  • You can’t sell until you vanquish fear or Dwight’s cousin Moe
  • I don’t know what I’m going to do when the Internet fad is over
  • If at first your sales call doesn’t succeed, egg the CEO’s parking spot
  • 28 Days is not the same as 28 Days Later

I don’t want to ignore the highlight of the episode, Jim and Pam’s first conversation since he left.  I’ve got to admit, I started to tear up a little.  There is no, more authentic relationship on TV. 

Let’s contrast this with some of the other big couples.  Let’s take McDreamy and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy.  I detest them both more and more every episode and increasingly am convinced that they may deserve each other but that’s only because no one else should have to be with either of them.  How about Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson on Studio 60?  I don’t think there could be 2 people with less chemistry and the more this becomes a focal point for the show, the less I want to watch. 

Jim and Pam’s phone call, played as always to perfection by Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski, had the right blend of awkwardness, humour and caring that said volumes about the deep relationship these 2 share even if they don’t end up together.  I have two words to end with: “Branch Closing”.  This is the name of the November sweeps episode coming soon to a TV near you.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A-


Friday Night Lights – Episodes 1 & 2 – TV Review

October 13, 2006

I like this show.  I’m a sucker for a good family drama.  Party of Five, Everwood and American Dreams were all programs that successfully blended realistic family dynamics with soap opera elements and strong casting to create memorable shows.  After watching the first couple of episodes of Friday Night Lights, I think it could be the next great family drama.

The show take place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, a town that worships God and high school football.  Kyle Chandler is the new coach of the Dillon Panthers and when the show begins he’s heading up a winning team led by its star quarterback, Jason Street.  Street has the adoration of his town, his coach, his team, college scouts and his cheerleader girl friend.  It wasn’t much of a surprise that Street has an accident in the first game that puts him in the hospital and puts the team’s fate in the inexperienced sophmore back-up quarterback who for some reason has never played in a real game, but leads the team to victory.  Here’s what was surprising, they made Street a character I cared about.  He could have been a throw away character but instead I’m becoming invested in how he is going to build a new life in Dillon with football all around him.

Other team members include: Smash, the cocky reciever, his rival the drunk running back and the new quarterback who works in a burger shop, takes care of his grandmother and has a father who is off in Iraq and isn’t ready to fulfil the role his team and town expects from him.  All are compelling and as with the family dramas listed above are played by casts of unknown actors.

The other main character is football itself which is part of the town’s DNA.  The city shuts down for every game.  Signs cheering the team on are on every person’s lawn.  Even bookclub discussions with the coach’s wife are about football.  It becomes clear that the coach doesn’t have one boss but an entire town of bosses who expect wins and won’t tolerate losses, a task that he fears may not be possible after Street’s accident.  The story of how and whether he can make it work is just starting to unfold and based on what I’ve seen so far is not likely to be as conventional or simple as the typical feel good show.

One last thought I want to share.  I’ve commented in the past few weeks on what I think has been a weak portrayal of religion and a person’s religious beliefs on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as embodied by Sarah Paulson’s sledgehammer approach.  This show has religion much more at the forefront of the show but I don’t feel hit over the head with it like they’re trying to make a statement all the time but instead think they have been significantly more successful at just making it a natural fit with the characters and town’s way of life.

I’m worried this show isn’t going to last too long given its ratings but am hopeful that critical acclaim will keep it going at least through the season.

Avi’s Episodes Rating: A