NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
This year’s crop of freshman shows were a little thin in the impressive department. I found myself reaching to extended and premium cable more than ever to get my TV ya-yas, while thanking the television gods that the sophomore seasons of my favorite network shows (Community, Modern Family, Glee) continued to perform admirably. Here I’ve assembled those few newbies that earned a permanent spot on my series recording list.
– There’s nothing I can add that the briefest bits of dialogue don’t already demonstrate why this raunchy yet witty animated spy spoof series with the best comedic voice cast assembled on television (particularly lead H. Jon Benjamin
and Arrested Development
alums Jessica Walter
and Judy Greer
) should be on everyone’s Must Watch list.
Raising Hope – First to admit my status as a comedy snob, I’ve set a standard that shows must impress within three episodes or I don’t invest in a season pass. The sole new network series I’ve included in my favorites fold took exactly that long to win me over. A surprise considering the pedigree of co-starring legend Cloris Leachman, but even though the pilot had some amusing bits, the pieces of the whole didn’t click together instantaneously. That changed with the episode “Dream Hoarders,” which brilliantly combined the hapless yet heartwarming aspects of the show and its characters, and throwing in a little something wacky with the sight of Cloris Leachman’s MawMaw becoming a Jenga savant when hearing They Might Be Giant’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
– No, I’m in no way employed by FOX Broadcasting Company or related to Rupert Murdoch. Usually I’m the harshest critic on series coming from Uncle Rupie thanks to inane cancellations of great series (Arrested Development
…the list goes on), but this past year they’ve really impressed me thanks mostly to little brother FX which continued its commitment to out of the box programming. In Justified
we’re treated with the classic archetypes of renegade cop and prodigal son wrapped up in lead character Raylan Givings, plus stories dripping in crime noir from the mind of author Elmore Leonard
. I also confess that my country roots make me a sucker for shows set in the south. Plus Timothy Olyphant really pulls off that gun and cowboy hat combo (see also, Deadwood
). Whatever the case, it can’t be denied that a strong lead and well-executed storytelling are at the heart of Justified
and worthy of dedicated viewership.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Honorable Mention: Terriers (RIP) – I really believed FX would give this phenomenal PI series a second season, considering it fit well with the anti-hero niche the extended cable network had started to corner. Alas, ’twas not in the cards for Terriers as it struggled all 13 episodes to gain a decent-sized audience and it’s pretty easy to put my finger on why – the head-scratching title and obscure marketing choices. I’m all for avoiding the too-obvious route in storytelling, letting viewers discover a little on their own rather than hitting them over the head with exposition, but when it comes to enticing an audience to start watching there’s got to be some explanation to a show’s premise prior to its premiere episode. Those who took a chance and did tune in to the pilot were not disappointed. Surprisingly, but thankfully, the creators were given a heads up by the network to prepare for cancellation, so there’s a good sense of closure in this neatly packaged 1-season series that I highly recommend picking up on DVD when available.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
We’re halfway through a heady premiere week and Wednesday brings almost as many series premieres as season premieres. ABC, the network that continued to give us According to Jim even after we kept repeatedly screaming “Uncle!” tries to get back into the comedy game with two new laffers (one I’ve got more faith in than the other, even with the clout of a former Friend) and what might be a laughable attempt at offering a “new” adaptation of a story we’ve already seen twenty years ago in book and movie form. CBS has an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude with its unchanged midweek line-up. NBC gives us something old and something new.
It’s been some time since ABC has made me laugh (in a non-scoffing way) and it seems to have redeemed itself with half-hour comedy Modern Family, which I am giving the highest TVOYOT honor – an immediate Season Pass. The variety of clips seen in their ads have all provided decent chuckles and a few hearty laughs, which I always take as a good sign that it won’t be one-note. On the surface Family seemed a bit mediocre, average at best (although seeing Ed O’Neill again on a weekly basis in a role that seems like an aging Al Bundy was an intriguing concept). While not being outwardly obvious in its dysfunctional humor, upon further inspection the tone bears a striking resemblance to that of the amazing Arrested Development and the characters as well-developed as the Bluth clan.
And Rebecca Romijn as Cher?
I will admit to being morbidly curious as to how a new vision of The Witches of Eastwick(always an enjoyable repeat viewing, who can resist Nicholson mugging as the devil opposite top-of-their-game Cher and Susan Sarandon)will play as a series. The fact that the first attempt just a few years after the movie was a hit (circa 1987) never took off, classified on IMDb as an “unsold pilot,” is a prime indication that Eastwick might not be long for the television world. Seems like the alphabet network slapped this one together quickly to cash in on the supernatural craze with this yawn-worthy Lipstick Witchcraft Mafia.
Worth a Season Commitment
Checking Out Once (Expect to Be Checking Out Quickly)
9:30/8:30c – Cougar Town, ABC (series premiere)
10/9c – Eastwick, ABC (series premiere)
Not For Me Before, Not For Me Now
8/7c – New Adventures of Old Christine, CBS
8:30/7:30c – Gary Unmarried, CBS
8/7c – Mercy, NBC (series premiere)
9/8c – Criminal Minds, CBS
9/8c – Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, NBC
10/9c – CSI: NY, CBS
This line, delivered with haughty tone and dramatic storm-out-of-a-room flair by choir (gold!) star Rachel Berry, aptly sums up why Glee has struck a chord (owning that pun) and is firmly at the top of my Must Watch list for the 2009 season. Equal parts musical, absurd comedy, underdogs-realizing-their-potential and coming-of-age high school stories, the mantra of the show is all about, as the definition of “glee” shown in the pilot states, opening yourself up to joy.
And what a joy it is. This is a show that deftly moves between campy (the use of a glee club sung instrumental score – “Flight of the Bumblebee” is especially amazing), wrongly hilarious (just after Rachel finishes narrating her many self-proclaimed exceptional accomplishments she gets a “drive by” slushie to the face) and sincere (embodied by protagonist teacher Will Schuester), and is instantly quotable, particularly anything coming from Jane Lynch (“You think that’s hard? Try being waterboarded, that’s hard!”) as coach of winning cheer squad the Cheerios and nemesis to our intrepid group of songsters. Most importantly it’s a show that cares enough to make its high school characters, most of which at first glance seem cherry-picked from the cliched outcast student roster – a big, sassy diva; the effeminate boy obsessed with fashion; an over-achieving prissy girl; the kid in a wheelchair – actually show signs of depth and potential for more than what they appear. There are moments where I cringed one second and felt endeared the next when introduced to each member of the ragtag group of singing misfits.
Originally premiering the pilot episode after the season finale of American Idol in May (a brilliant move with its core audience being amongst the rabid viewers to one of the biggest nights on television), I was worried that Glee would soon be forgotten, considering the next episode wasn’t set to air for another three months. However, FOX really surprised (and won major points with me, someone still smarting from un-nurtured, gone-before-their-time FOX shows like Arrested Development, Firefly and Wonderfalls) by deciding to heavily advertise throughout the summer, offer songs and videos from the show on iTunes and build a strong interwebs presence. Not stopping there, we’re also getting two encore presentations of the pilot this week, with a special Director’s Cut and a “tweet-peat” (Twitter synergized) episode. With Glee‘s official new episode return set for next week, Wednesday September 9th at 9/8c, it now stands as the most highly-anticipated and talked-about new show this Fall.
Comedies usually get the short stick when it comes to accolades, so as the funny shows are my go-to drug of choice I must give props to a few gems that have wonderful opening title sequences.
Top of the list is dearly departed Arrested Development. As the years go by it ticks higher and higher on many a list of greatest comedic series in television history, and rightly so. Even upon watching episodes for the dozenth time, the well-executed deliveries still make me laugh until it hurts and with the multi-layered writing and rapid-fire dialogue I’m continually catching new jokes. The opening credits are as fast-paced, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it amusing as every episode.
And speaking of departed, Dead Like Me was a fantastic short-lived series on Showtime from the mind of Bryan Fuller, creator of another fantastic short-lived series ABC’s Pushing Daisies (I wonder if he’s ever thought of shying away from the death-themed shows, seems almost a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point), where a young girl finds her untimely demise to be just the beginning of her life as she takes on the role of grim reaper, with a catch – she must continue to “live” in the world of the living, even holding down a temp job in order to pay for food and rent. The tongue-in-cheek premise is represented in its opening titles with a montage of death walking, working and riding the bus amongst us.
The opening for Weeds has an interesting history. In its first three years it had a full-length title sequence featuring theme song “Little Houses” and images that poke fun at how the cookie-cutter suburban life can be mind-numbingly repetitive.
As the show’s main character Nancy Botwin evolved away from subdivisions and soccer games, so has the title sequence. Nearing the end of its fifth season, each show has opened with a brief animated title card for the last two years, unaccompanied by music and only minor sound effects, the image pertains to something found within that particular episode.