Check out the first trailer for Luck, a new show coming to HBO in January. Starring Dustin Hoffman (!) and Nick Nolte, the show follows a gambler fresh from prison (Hoffman) and a horse trainer (Nolte) as they navigate the world of horse racing. Also attached are director Michael Mann and David Milch, who previously created Deadwood for HBO. Based on the talent involved, Luck seems to be a sure thing.
Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impression of Revenge.
Revenge - ABC (Wednesdays, 10:00pm EST)
I did not expect to like this show as much as I did. It is not a sterling drama by any means, but it drew me right in with its no-nonsense approach and sheer melodrama. Emily VanCamp plays Emily Thorne (formerly known as Amanda in a previous life), a new arrival at the Hamptons out to avenge that life that was taken from her. More than a decade earlier her father was set up and destroyed by the Hamptons “royalty” and she intends to make them rue that day. It’s a pretty straightforward premise that could play out nicely as a serialized concept. At the same time, after viewing the pilot where Emily strikes down one of the people involved, it seems that there might also be a weekly element where Emily plots against one person per episode. Some of the most successful shows are the one that can blend the self-contained adventure of the week with a long, slow burn serial element throughout the series (see: Justified). For Revenge to be a success, though, it needs to maybe not take itself quite so seriously, maybe toss in some dry humor, and also fill us in more about Emily so she’s more than just a revenge-machine hiding behind a fake name. But like I said, the intense relationship between Emily and Victoria Grayson, the Queen of the Hamptons (played by Madeleine Stowe) sucked me in and the take-no-prisoners pacing of the pilot mixed with the flashbacks to Emily’s were intriguing enough that I will be back for more - I especially enjoy a show that can pull off a first scene showcasing a murder in the first few minutes which then goes back months previous to see how this all came to be. Also, kudos to ABC for making the pilot script available for free download on Kindle - it cleared up some things I missed with so much going on with the relationships between these characters after just the first episode. The verdict: B-. Not top-quality by any means, but we all need at least one melodramatic guilty pleasure on our schedule, and I’m not a CW guy, so this will do.
Fan of “How To Make It In America”? This should hold you over until the premiere on October 2nd. Luis Guzman.
Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impression of New Girl.
New Girl - FOX (Tuesdays, 9:00pm EST)
Fox has been using the word “adorkable” to promote this new comedy starring Zooey Deschanel. And to be honest, the description isn’t too far off. Jess, Deschanel’s character, is indeed adorable. And she is indeed a dork, right down to the Smeagol reference. New Girl is one of the most anticipated comedy of the new fall season, and while there is a lot of promise, there are also some elements that need some work. Jess is cute and nerdy and everything promised, I’m just worried creator Liz Meriwether will be tempted to pour this on a little thick. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Jess needs to get a little more grounded and we need to see exactly how she got so quirky lest the show develops into the let’s-see-Zooey-make-some-more-cute-faces show. The supporting cast - the three guys with whom Jess lives, could also use some work. The sad-sack, the douche, and the jock, as it were, all seem to have a decent rapport with each other - they have inside jokes and I believe they have lived together for a while - but they need work individually. Coach, played by Damon Wayons Jr., will be sadly missed as he returns to Happy Endings after the pilot and I’m interested to see how his replacement will do. That all being said, I really did enjoy this pilot. These hurdles New Girl needs to maneuver aren’t too daunting - in fact, these are issues faced by almost every comedy pilot in the history of comedy pilots. It’s hard to really get into a rhythm while muscling through the exposition that is necessary in a pilot. I’m glad the show is single-camera, and the use of the flash-sideways has been pretty decent so far. The one thing that CANNOT happen too soon is the will-they-won’t-they between Jess and one of the roommates. It is eventually inevitable, sure, but it will be much more satisfying if they can wait a few years to really build the characters and relationships before trotting it out. The verdict: B. I’m in for the long haul on this one.
Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impressions of 2 Broke Girls and The Playboy Club, both of which premiered last night.
2 Broke Girls - CBS (Mondays, 8:30pm EST)
Created by Whitney Cumming (who also has Whitney premiering this week on NBC) and Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City), the show follows Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) as two girls struggling to make a decent living at a slightly run down diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Max is the consummate Brooklynite and Caroline the daughter of a Bernie Madoff-esque character recently devoid of a family fortune. Broke is a a multi-camera comedy filmed in front of a live audience, which for me is normally a huge warning sign. But I gotta be honest, these two girls grew on me before the half hour was finished. The characters (if not their supporting class, who are all fundamentally one note and written with a vaguely racist tinge, at least in the pilot) are pretty relatable (especially as a 20-something hustling to make a living and living in Brooklyn) and share a decent rapport with each other. The jokes are funny for the most part and can only get better as we get to know the characters better. Sure, some fall flat, but no comedy pilot is perfect - the writers need to get to know who they’re dealing with just as much as the audience does. The verdict: B. I will continue watching and hope this good start can pick up even more momentum. And also, congrats on being the only CBS show I’m currently watching regularly!
The Playboy Club - NBC (Wednesdays, 10:00pm EST)
In all honesty, it’s not as laughably bad as I thought it was going to be. That being said, it’s still pretty terrible. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) is a watered-down Don Draper who distracts more than entertains as the viewer is only thinking how Nick Dalton is so clearly less than Don Draper and why won’t he stop trying so hard? The Chicago mob is already heavily involved in the plot, which is not a good sign. When was the last time a good mob plot was played out on network TV? Chicago Code did a decent job this past year but still couldn’t avoid cancellation. Leave that to the cable shows, guys. Hugh Hefner’s voice over attempts to convince us that the show will enlighten us as to how liberated these bunnies were in the 60’s, but the actual representation we get is a far cry from that - one attempted rape, one sex scene in the club bathroom (classy), a gaggle of girls who lament on how their dream is to live off the sleaziness of rich men at the club, and one bunny in a guy’s button-down while she hides from another girl that guy is already having a relationship with. So they may not be actually on the menu at the Playboy Club, but the women portrayed here aren’t necessarily leading the movement. The verdict: C-. I’m handing in my key and moving on.
The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards are this Sunday. Hosted by Jane Lynch and airing on Fox at 8:00pm EST, it is the biggest night in television. So, obviously, I must test my TV knowledge and share my input as to who I think will be called to the stage. I will be making two distinctions for each award, who should win - the choice I would make if I were voting - and who will win - my choice as to who the Emmy voters think is most deserving. Read on to see my picks!
Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impressions of two new NBC comedies, Up All Night and Free Agents.
Up All Night - NBC (Wednesdays, 8:00pm EST)
I had high expectations for this show leading up to the premiere. While it didn’t disappoint, it definitely has some work to do before it gets up to cruising speed. The comedy stars Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as Chris and Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?) as Reagan, former party animals adjusting to a new life with their infant, Amy. Maya Rudolph (SNL, Bridesmaids) plays Ava, the host of a talk show on which Reagan is a producer. While I did laugh a handful of times, the pilot was not as straight-forward funny as I thought it would be. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Many of the gags were given away by the promos, but there was also some heart showing through that I wasn’t quite expecting, but welcomed anyway. The characters are very appealing (it’s nice seeing Arnett not emulating Gob Bluth for the first time in a long time) and I look forward to seeing how showrunner Emily Spivey (SNL, Parks and Recreation) keeps them relate-able while building the laughs as the show progresses. As several other critics have noted, it seems like there are two different shows happening at the same time. The show at home with Chris, Reagan and baby Amy seems much more heartfelt, eliciting comedy from the real struggles of raising a newborn for the first time. Alternatively, the show at “Ava”, the daytime talk show where Reagan works, is more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the standard workplace comedy - zany situations and big personalities only spurred on by Rudolph’s larger-than-life portrayal of the talk show host - but not as good. For this show to reach the quality of its network’s Thursday-night counterparts, it will need some time to get to know the characters and find a tone that meshes the two worlds a little better. The verdict: I give the pilot a solid B and will no doubt continue to watch.
Free Agents - NBC (Wednesdays, 8:30pm EST)
NBC is once again trying to remake a British series - the original actually will begin airing on BBC America in October. It has received very mixed reviews going in, though I would say the general trend leaned on the negative side. Still, I was intrigued by the premise - more often than not a sitcom will play the will-they-or-won’t-they angle with the main pair, but Free Agents puts it all out there with the first scene. Co-workers Alex (Hank Azaria) and Helen (Kathryn Hahn) are shown in bed together right at the outset. Alex is recently divorced with two kids while Helen’s fiance has recently passed away. They are both damaged people, clearly surprised by what just happened with their relationship. For the rest of the pilot, Alex is nothing more than a sad-sack, constantly crying about his wife and kids while Helen seems pretty poised and realistic about the whole thing, that is until we see her breakdown towards the end of the episode. The humor was spotty at best throughout. The leads and supporting cast (Al Madridal, Natasha Leggero and Anthony Head reprising the boss role he played in the British series) are great and are placed in good hands (Jon Enbom of Party Down), but I think the show needs to work on its tone. Is it a goofy workplace comedy with lots of iffy sex jokes or will it be a darker comedy about two damaged people as they find out what this turn in their personal lives means in conjunction with their work lives? The verdict: the pilot gets a C, but I will give it another handful of episodes to get out from under the thumb of its British predecessor and find its own rhythm. After all, it took The Office a good stretch to complete the same task.
This past Sunday was a day for closure on HBO. Entourage aired its series finale while both True Blood and Curb Your Enthusiasm completed their seasons. One was great, one was OK, one was everything I thought it would be…horrible. Care to guess which is which?
SPOILER ALERT - do not read on if you haven’t seen these finales.
Let’s start with the great: Curb Your Enthusiasm. The season ended with a very good episode after a run of both very good and simply fantastic ones. I mean, Larry teaches a “pre-gay” 7-year old about Hitler and Swastikas and gets in a battle with Michael J. Fox over whether his slights towards Larry are “pissed or Parkinson’s”. This episode landed squarely in the category of fantastic episodes this season along with “The Divorce”, “Palestinian Chicken” (the best of the season), “Vow of Silence” and “The Bi-Sexual.” I won’t say much more because it would mostly be repeating great jokes from this season - I suggest hitting up OnDemand and catching up on this season if you haven’t watched already. And let’s all hope that Larry David feels feels motivated and gets to work making another season sometime in the near future, else we may have experienced a series finale instead of simply a season-ender.
True Blood comes next in the HBO finale power-rankings. Honestly, it wasn’t great, but there was just enough good to make is passable as a finale. The whole business with Marnie was settled rather quickly - Marnie/Lafayette kills Jesus to obtain his Brujo-magic and puts Bill and Eric on a burning stake, but all is undone in a matter of minutes. Marnie’s ranting means she can’t pay attention to Holly sprinkling salt around her and circling up with Sookie and Tara to cast a spell. They raise the dead, which, since it’s Halloween is a no-brainer, and Gran and Antonia convince Marnie to move on to the Great Beyond. The rest of the just episode plods along. Most notably, Sookie breaks up with both Bill and Eric, and it is tough to watch. Not because of the emotion, of which I felt none at this point, but because it drags on FOR-EV-ER. Also, Pam has the best line of the night (per usual) as she yells her frustration about everyone’s obsession with Sookie: “I am so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name. Fuck Sookie!”
Then the last 7 or so minutes show up and things finally get interesting. Reverend Steve Newlin from season 2 arrives at Jason’s house and reveals himself to be a vampire (which gives meaning to his disappearance, as noted by the local news earlier in the season) - of course this could all be taken care of in 30 seconds if Jason simply does not invite him in or if his fangs are revealed to be a Halloween costume. I wouldn’t put it past you, True Blood. Russell escapes from under the cement where he lay for the last year-plus. We don’t actually see him, but Alcide finds a glamored worker, a big hole in a parking garage floor, and some silver chains. Nan is fired from the AVL and the Authority - she says she is marked for the true-death and Bill and Eric are next unless they can help her lead a revolt. She reveals she knows about Sookie being a faerie to blackmail them, so Eric decapitates all three of her guards and Bill stakes her. Best scene of the evening. Sam seems hap and at-peace with Luna and Emma after Tommy’s funeral, but is promptly confronted by a werewolf the last time we see him. We don’t know the identity of the wolf but I figure it must be Debbie because…
Debbie then shows up at Sookie’s house, shotgun in hand, hell-bent on revenge. She looks to be at the end of her rope, which I hope means she just came from losing a fight with Sam. She aims at Sookie, but Tara jumps in front of the bullet (YAY! Like the Tea Party contingent at the CNN debate said: “Let her die!”) and her head is blown half off. Sookie gets on top of Debbie, points the gun at her head, and shoots. Booyah! The season ends with Sookie holding Tara, sobbing and yelling for help.
Now a couple things could happen - Tara could die right there, which I think is what most of us are rooting for - she has been dead weight for a long time now and I despise almost every scene she’s in - OR Bill and Eric will sense Sookie’s plight, run on over and heal Tara like it never happened. It will become one of the many, many story lines that get forgotten by the show, never to be brought up again (this season alone: Jason and the werepanthers in Hotshot, the faeries - both the battle at the beginning of the season and Andy’s sex-encounter last episode, Bill fucking his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter, and how Tara used to be a lesbian). Or, and this might be the only acceptable option, Tara might be turned into a vampire in order to “live”. That might be interesting, and could possibly play into what will hopefully be a vampire-centered 5th season. No more witches, no more faeries, only a select few shifters and werewolves, and all the rest we can leave to the vampires. I mean, c’mon, Russell Edgington is back and Eric and Bill are outlaws that are going to need to mount a resistance to the AVL and the Authority. That much I can get down with.
Finally, we have Entourage. In a word: Ugh. The sad part is that I knew this was the way it was going to go. Everyone gets exactly what they always wanted because nothing really bad ever happens in Entourage-land. The guys stick up for the guys and in doing so convince Sloan to get back with E. Ari realizes family is more important than success (because he already has a tremendous amount of it) and quits his job to be with his wife, and Vince gets married. Yeah, I know, he actually gets married. See what I mean - this stupid show! They took one of the only female characters that actually seemed to have a head on her shoulders instead of a few bikini-straps, one who is smart, driven, and could see right through Vince’s BS, and they reduce her to another girl that Vince wins over - though we don’t actually really see him do it on their magical 24-hour date - and then Vince buys her a million-dollar ring. Because the moral of Entourage is that it’s OK to be money and fame-obsessed as long as you do it with your bros. Oh, and Drama and Turtle were there, too.
So Entourage is finally over, but wait! Everyone attached to the show in any capacity is straight-up guaranteeing a movie - Mark Wahlberg is even willing to fund it himself to make it happen - so we’re not done with the crew just yet. So we’ll see whether Vince is still married, where E went on that plane with Sloan, and if Ari ditched his new-found promise of a simple life with his wife in Italy for a year to take the offer to run a network and studio parent-company. Oh, and Drama and Turtle will be there too. If you ask me, this would’ve been the better ending.
Guys, this is the most exciting time of the year. Can you feel it in the air? The Emmys are one week away (my Emmy Picks are coming later this week, no worries) and the new Fall TV schedule begins rolling out TOMORROW.
As this is such a highly anticipated time of the year and there are a literal shit-load of shows to preview, I am working together with my good friend Jenna Kim Jones, a local NYC comedian and fellow TV-lover to give the low-down on everything you should be watching. Good shows, bad shows, newbies and returning favorites - we cover it all.
If you like Jenna and think she’s funny, check out more really good stuff at her blog http://www.jennakimjones.com/
The full lineup available after the jump!
Graham Anderson and I break down the new network shows we plan on watching, discuss some returning favorites, touch on some notable cable entries, and give our picks on who should and who probably will win at the Emmys. The breakdown:
New Network Shows - (00:00 - 28:00)
Returning Shows - (28:00 - 40:00)
Cable Spotlight - (40:00 - 45:00)
Emmy Picks - (45:00 - 1:00:00)