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.
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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.
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Bryan Fuller, creator/producer of top-notch now-defunct series Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, will be teaming with Bryan Singer (director of X-Men and Usual Suspects, and exec producer of FOX series House) to adapt the Augusten Burroughs novel “Sellevision,” whose previous memoir “Running With Scissors” was turned into a feature helmed by Glee and Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy and starred Alec Baldwin.
The hourlong comedy-drama for NBC will revolve around the inner workings at a fictional home shopping channel. Being a world rich with great metaphors of consumerism, buying happiness and chasing material things, Fuller stresses the show won’t satirize the home-shopping genre itself but instead will be a more grounded take on that sphere through the eyes of one player in it.
Fuller also has a second script — his first stab at a half-hour comedy — in the works at the Peacock. No Kill is a workplace laffer set inside a no-kill animal shelter. Fuller, a self-described “animal lover,” believes that there is humor in people who identify more with animals than other humans, and that his show will be a comedy about “becoming human.”
In between these two scripts, Fuller is still working on a comicbook adaptation of his late ABC series Pushing Daisies, and remains hopeful that the 12 issues of the comicbook will eventually serve as a blueprint for a Pushing Daisies movie.
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.