Saturday, September 25, 2010

FOX: Raising Hope, the Gem of the Paley Fest 2010

I knew nothing about “Raising Hope” walking into the Paley Fest evening. Didn’t have much hope for it, either. In the end, it was the only show, over many nights, which elicited CHEERS from the crowds at the end.
Of all these shows featuring earnest handsome leads, Lucas Neff as Jimmy is the best of them. Created by the same talents which brought us the charming and quirky “My Name Is Earl” (Greg Garcia), “Raising Hope” is funny. Laugh out loud funny. The funniest of all these comedies paraded to us during Paley Fest.
I’ll let you discover the little gems on your own, but here’s the family you’ll be watching: the always amazing (and I predict an Emmy in her future right here and now) Martha Plimpton as the mom, Garret Dillahunt (whom you know from “Deadwood” and other dramas) is the dad. Cloris Leachman frequently takes her clothes off as the grandmother.
It’s sweet, it’s poignant, it’s damn funny. You must watch it. In fact, if you watch one thing you weren’t otherwise going to watch from the Paley Fest schedule, make it this one. It follows “Glee,” but it’s much funnier.
Did I mention there’s a baby? Normally, I hate babies, but this baby rocks. Watch it.
BOTTOM LINE: “Raising Hope” is the highlight of Paley Fest 2010 fall season.

FOX: Running Wilde is No Arrested Development

Oh, I wanted to like “Running Wilde.” After all, “Arrested Development” is probably the best comedy of all time. Mitchell Hurwitz and Jim Vallely are geniuses. Cast members Will Arnett and David Cross are attached to this project. And I watched nearly every episode of “Felicity” and kinda miss Kerri Russell. What could go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything. Whereas “Arrested Development” was a delectable comedy that you could watch over and over and still laugh at new jokes, “Running Wilde” feels like a forced mess. Will Arnett is supposed to be playing a spoiled rich guy, something he excels at (and was pretty much his stock in trade on both “AD” and “30 Rock”). Kerri Russell plays the do-gooder environmentalist, fighting Arnett’s big oil company. What’s not to like?
You know how in finely tuned comedia dell’arte, characters rush around the stage in perfect timing, the timing of everything alone is what makes you laugh, in addition to what they are saying? Well, this is the opposite of that. Everyone is running around, slapstick like. But not in a funny way, just in an annoying way.
The only likeable characters are Arnett’s and Russell’s and those are marginal.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget that the whole shebang is narrated by Russell’s daughter, Puddle. *eyeroll*
No, this was such a mess that I won’t be revisiting it at all. The only real upside is that, for once, the focus of the show isn’t Kerri Russell’s hair. Small comfort.
BOTTOM LINE: Leave this “Running Wilde” in its puddle.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FOX:Two and a Half Winners Served Up


Really didn't know anything about this series before sitting down to watch "Lone Star," the first entry in Fox's night of new TV. Well, other than it's set in Texas, of course.

So here's the gist. Handsome and sexy James Wolk is a con man who works with his dad, David Keith. He's married to lovely and rich Adrianne Palicki (who can't seem to get out of Texas, and looks WAY different than she did on "Friday Night Lights"). Palicki's rich dad, Jon Voight, offers the young buck a job at the oil company he owns.

But the man can't seem to get out of his mind the other woman, Eloise Mumford. So, SPOILER ALERT, at the end of the episode, he marries her.

In "Big Love," it's one guy married to three (or is it four now?) women. All the women know each other and get along. In this one, the women don't even cross paths (well, not yet anyway). And the man just travels a lot. Not sure how I feel about this bigamy trend. Guess it's better than the electroshock torture that the previous Fox timeslot owner had been dispensing.

BOTTOM LINE: Pretty to look at, but are we interested?


CBS: Blue Bloods Blech

The last presentation was Tom Selleck's latest vehicle, "Blue Bloods."

Some good actors in the cast (Len Cariou, Bobby Cannavale, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes). Not enough other stuff to remain interested, so I bailed on this screening.

Also, I'd heard that Selleck sees this as a "family drama," while the showrunner sees it as "a procedural." Blech.

CBS: Mike and Molly Wins Hearts

So we who are viewing this Paley Center extravaganza are slogging through these selected dramas and comedies. Eh to this one. Eh to that one. I have to admit, the one I was most excited about, of all the shows presented was "Mike & Molly."

I've long admired Melissa McCarthy, who was the devoted friend of Lauren Graham's character on the many years of "Gilmore Girls." She was also the devoted friend on the recent Christina Applegate comedy, "Samantha Who?" (Are we seeing a pattern here?)

BOY, and I mean, BOY, am I excited to see her finally headlining her own show. She's long been an underrated talent. Billy Gardell, primarily known from the standup world, seems to be her match. A strong supporting cast includes Swoozie Kurtz.

The fat jokes may get tiresome after a while, but the pilot (with Chuck Lorre's influence) was a sparkling gem.

BOTTOM LINE: This is the one show I rushed home to program into my TiVo.


CBS: Defenders Shows a Different Side of Vegas

 What is there to say about "The Defenders"? Well, it's got Jim Belushi. It's got Jerry O'Connell. And it shows you a "different side of Vegas." Different, that is, than their other successful Vegas show, CSI. It's more about the performers and their backstories. Helping the little guy, rather than solving crimes. Well, at least, that's what they said it was about.

The show reveals like a standard-issue procedural. Some courtroom wackiness reminiscent of David E. Kelley. Lots of cool Vegas shots.

But really, if you wanted to watch a good courtroom show, "The Good Wife" is already a jewel in CBS's crown, having scored that Best Drama Emmy nom this year. "The Defenders" sure isn't gonna do that. And really, how many care so passionately about Vegas that they want to watch it for all the in-jokes?

BOTTOM LINE: Myself? I'd fold on this one.


Monday, September 13, 2010

CBS: Still Churning Out What Works

First up, the comedy that used to be called "Shit My Dad Says" when it was on the Internet; now, it's written as "$@#% My Dad Says," but pronounced as "BLEEP My Dad Says." *eyeroll*

You really almost can't go wrong with Shatner. Everyone loves Shatner. If there's a male to rival Betty White in popularity and longevity, it's Shatner. (However, her series, "Hot in Cleveland" on TV Land, is much funnier.)

In any case, this is pretty much a standard-issue comedy. Shatner plays irrascible, ornery dad, and Jonathan Sadowski plays the frustrated son. Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan are in the mix.

BOTTOM LINE: Funny, but don't go out of your way for it.


Friday, September 10, 2010

NBC: Undercovers

Last and certainly not least, we have NBC's "Undercovers."

Here's the logline: "Alias," but with a couple. A sexy black couple.

That's really all you need to know. They used to be spies, but they quit. They are lured back to rescue a friend. And oh, they discover that they really liked all that spy stuff, so they get pulled back in. But is everyone really who they say they are?

And they have the wacky friend who's helping them, decoding things, and making sure they have planes and cover stories. (I so do miss Kevin Weisman in those moments.) This new guy is no Kevin Weisman.

Ah, but if you loved Alias and miss it, this may get you all warm and fuzzy all over. After all, JJ Abrams wrote this pilot and produced the show.

They have spies in great outfits, hopping all over the globe. (Or what passes for all over the globe, with fancy Photoshopping.) Leads who spew off great accents and languages on a moment's notice. And who (both man and woman) take their clothes off, to showcase great bodies.

"Under covers" (as in bed, get it?) and spies "under covers." (Get it?) *eyeroll*

Sure, if you like that sort of thing, you'll like this show. I give it the longest shelf life of the four for those reasons. There are some hardcore Alias fans out there.

My friend, however, summed up my feelings for it, as we entered the car. "At least there's no Rambaldi," he said.

"Yet," I said.

BOTTOM LINE: Alias with a couple does have a lot of advantages. But no Kevin Weisman.


NBC: Chase

I really don't know how I made it through this nightlong slog.

Next up, NBC's "Chase."

Kinda sorta like "The Fugitive" meets TV procedural. We have our crack staff of good guys, US marshalls, who go about rounding up bad guys that others have trouble catching. Person X is wanted at the beginning of the show. They keep missing him (or her, at some point, I imagine) through the whole show. Chasing, chasing. Guess what? At the end of the show, bad guy/girl is apprehended. YAWN.

Of the four NBC shows that Paley Center was showing, I hated them all. I hated "Chase" the most, though. The lead, thankfully, is a woman. She lets you know right away that her daddy done her wrong, and that's why she's now in this thankless business she's in.

She can hogtie a bad guy in seconds flat, even a really nasty one. She can fight with some moves underwater that guys don't have on land. Yep. She does it all. And she sings a good Waylon Jennings song.

She's also joined by a crack staff (of course). Jesse Metcalfe (whom I never really liked, but at least was more interesting on "Desperate Housewives," where he was taking off his shirt constantly) is out of his league here.

The violence is brutal and graphic. The bad guy they were chasing at least had nice blue eyes. His acting was actually more memorable than most of the regulars in this show. Which is too bad, because he's been chased down. It's on to a new perp next episode.

BOTTOM LINE: If every episode is about these people chasing one guy who eludes them, and he's caught at the end, this is not a show I'll be watching. Yawn.


NBC: The Event

Next up, NBC's "The Event."

I was trying to decide, during the first half hour, which was more annoying.

The fact that, "Lost"-like, you don't know what in the frack "The Event" is? Or the fact that every two minutes (or less) you get title cards like this: "Six Weeks Earlier." "Five Minutes Later." "Two Days Before." "Eighteen Hours Previous." I'm so not kidding. There are so many, in such quick succession, that's it's really difficult to figure out where the hell we are and when.

Don't get me wrong. There was a lot of madness going on in "Lost," with flash-forwards, and flash-backwards, and flash-sideways. But I could always tell where we were. In the pilot for "The Event," they lost me by the third title card. And I couldn't care by the third title card.

There were a couple of things which made me take notice for a minute, though. Blair Underwood (good actor) plays the president. Zeljko Ivanek (great actor! Did you see his death scene in "Damages"?!!!) plays an evil henchman in the White House. And Laura Innes (we loved her on "ER" all those years) plays someone... not really sure who she is yet, but she's pretty integral to the plot. And they had some pretty cool special effects toward the end of the pilot.

But it's too ham-fisted, too awkward, too on the nose, too "who cares?" for me. I don't think I care to find out what exactly The Event is, or who these people are that they are holding, and why they are stealing planes, and who the bad guys are or who the good guys are. I don't care. At least on "Lost," as crazy and convoluted as that plot got, I did care. From the very first frame.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite the gravitas of some great actors, this is no "Lost."


NBC Unveils Four Turkeys: First, Outsourced

Every year, we in LA are graced with unveiling of the new fall TV schedule at the Paley Center. Each network gets a night. I'm not going to all of them. Sadly, I'm attending most of them.

First up, NBC.

I admit. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about NBC. The whole Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien debacle still leaves a smarting feeling when I even hear the word "NBC." That, and it's firmly entrenched in fourth place. For good reason. "Outsourced" does nothing to alleviate that bad taste in my mouth.

Don't get me wrong. There are some good, funny actors on "Outsourced." But really, 16 million Americans are out of work. Are they really going to find it funny to see a show about those who took their jobs? Really?

I tried. I really tried to see the funny in this show. As the offensive stereotypes and racist insults flew by, I tried to see that, well, at least they were using a more diverse cast than they normally do on network TV. But no. As much as the moderator of tonight's events tried to put the spin on it as "at its core, it's just another workplace comedy," um, no. It isn't. This is no "The Office."

It's insulting to Indians (or as my ethnic-slurring friend calls them, "dot Indians, not feather Indians). It's insulting to Americans. They even throw in Australians. I'm waiting for the "shrimp on the barbie" jokes. Really, NBC. Haven't we moved past all this?

BOTTOM LINE: I tried to like "Outsourced." I still hated "Outsourced."


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ping is No MySpace Killer

Boy, I love a day when Apple releases (or talks about) new products. So it was with great excitement that I started reading about Ping, Apple's supposed "MySpace killer." A social network that exists right at the site where the music is? How fun.

Mashable's story on the MySpace killer Ping

Eagerly I downloaded the new version and tested it out. Well, yes, Apple, except for one small teeny tinsy little thing here: you forgot the "social" in social network. You also continue to thrust at us old world versions of the music we live today, and this "Ping" is functional for really no one.

There is no chat function. There are no forums. There is, in short, no way for one user to interact with another user, other than to "follow" them. And if you follow them, you'll see, in Twitter feed fashion, what music that person is buying. Great. More along the lines of who cares?

You'll also see which concerts they attended by which artist. Apple seems to have stolen (their format, their content structure) excessively from iLike, which is now partnered with MySpace Music.

But there's no way to ask your friend on this site, "Hey, what'd you think of that concert?" That is, after all, what a "music social network" should be about. Sure, your friend can "review" the album. But there is no connection. It's all distant viewing.

MySpace, at least, has chat and messaging all built in. You can see a band's concert calendar at the ready, and how much tickets are. You can comment when you saw their show in Portand and wanted to immortalize how awesome it was for you. None of that BASIC social networking stuff is here on Ping.

Ping, in fact, is really only a spruced up version of iTunes. The function, thrust at you, is BUYING stuff. Specifically buying their top artists. Upon setup, you have to choose only three genres of music that you like (!?!). Then you get their picks for you ("Artists We Recommend You Follow"). One of my selections was Alternative. Yet the artists they presented me with included Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. And Diddy. The only vaguely Alternative act they presented was U2.

Insert eyeroll here. Don't be worried, MySpace. Don't even bat an eye over this new "killer" in town.