Thursday, October 16, 2014

Doctor Who Re-Watch - The First Doctor 1963-1966

 Last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary and 800th episode of Doctor Who.  This year, I have decided to watch the entirity of the show in order from the beginning.  Although I have seen (as much as you can see the episodes, since currently 97 of them are missing) nearly every episode of Doctor Who, I had never watched them in the order they were first shown in.  I just finished with all three plus seasons of the First Doctor.




We start out with William Hartnell in the role of the Doctor.  In the very first story he basically kidnaps two school teachers who burst in on him and his granddaughter (who happen to be aliens from another planet and time).
Grandfather and I don't come from Earth.  Oh, it's ages since we've seen our planet.  It's quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burned orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.  -  Susan (The Sensorites)

Ian and Barbara (the school teachers, both from Coal Hill School, which is where current companion Clara also teaches) and Susan (the Doctor's granddaughter) are the first companions we meet in the show and travel with the Doctor throughout the first season into the second.

As I rewatch these episodes in order, I will go through and point out some of the interesting things throughout each Doctor's runs.

best story:

The Romans 



For me, this was a hard decision.  There were so many stories I love from the first Doctor's era.  I ultimately chose to go with The Romans because I felt that it was the best of the historicals, a genre that basically only occurred in seasons of the First Doctor.  The historicals were stories that took place in the past, and apart from the Doctor, his ship, and his companions, featured no science fiction elements.  All of the historicals are, in my opinion, great stories, but this one is my favorite (and we have the whole thing, unlike many of the historicals which are either all missing or are missing episodes).  This was the first episode that intentionally attempted out and out farcical humor, and it completely succeeded.  At the same time, there were some harrowing and dark moments in Ian's storyline, and the four episode story wove them together masterfully.  This is a great example of early Doctor Who and a ton of fun to watch!

worst story:

The Web Planet

This one was not at all hard for me to choose.  This was the only story that I actively dislike from the first Doctor's run.  While others may complain about The Sensorites and The Gunslingers, I found many admirable qualities in those stories.  I can't say the same about The Web Planet.  A nonsensical story with the most ridiculously cheesy aliens a show about cheesy aliens has ever had, The Web Planet borders on un-watchability.  The sound that the giant ant aliens (Zarbi) make reminds me of a car alarm going off relentlessly for hours at a time.  And the butterfly/bee aliens fight them by yelling the name of the Zarbi in a high-pitched tone for no discernible reason (ZAAAAAAAAR-BI!).  The Doctor's ring gains magical powers, never seen or heard of again, and at six episodes long, the story drags on much longer than it probably needs to.  I wouldn't hate you if you skipped over this story on your watch of the First Doctor.



best TARDIS crew:

Ian, Barbara, and Vicki


This might be a bit of a controversial opinion, but this is when I think that the show really began to work.  Susan is one of my favorite characters conceptually, but I don't think the writers really knew what they were doing with her, so too often she became the damsel in distress, limited to screaming for Ian or her grandfather to save her.  The moments when she actually did something (the reason I love the Sensorites is that Susan actually has something to do!), she shined, but the writers couldn't seem to make it work until they replaced her with Vicki.  Vicki was often what Susan should have been.


Let me get this straight.  A thing that looks like a Police Box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space? - Ian (An Unearthly Child)

The Doctor's curious, that means we stay.  -  Barbara (The Space Museum)

Why have I got to keep pretending I'm a boy?  Why can't I be a girl again!? - Vicki (The Crusades)

best companion departure:

Susan

Although Ian and Barbara's was probably more emotional of an exit for me (as I've said, I don't think Susan was properly utilized in the show), I still have to go with the first companion departure here.  I'm sure it was a shock for first time audiences to realize that these people wouldn't travel with the Doctor for the duration of the show (but there would be much larger shocks to come!).  Susan's departure led to one of the best moments of the show, as an emotional Doctor made the decision to allow his granddaughter to have a life outside of the constant traveling in the TARDIS (which for the duration of the First Doctor had no way for the Doctor to know where they would end up each time they dematerialized, the travels, from the Doctor's perspective at least, were completely random).

During all the years I've been taking care of you, you in return have been taking care of me. You are still my grandchild and always will be. But now, you're a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David you will be able to find those roots and live normally like any woman should do. Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear. - The Doctor (Dalek Invasion of Earth).

most surprising moment:

companion deaths/the doctor regenerates

I have to split this one, because I think the most surprising moment for modern watchers (especially those who have primarily only watched since the regeneration of the series in 2005) is the death of two companions in The Daleks' Master Plan (and yes, I totally consider Sara Kingdom a companion).

















Katarina joined the TARDIS crew after Vicki decided to stay behind and become a part of history (The Myth Makers).  As a Trojan servant, Katarina was completely unequipped to understand what she had become a part of by joining the Doctor and Steven.  She viewed the Doctor as a god (to be fair, so did most of the Greeks in The Myth Makers, who mistook the Doctor for Zeus) taking her to the Place of Perfection (or the afterlife, sometimes referred to as the Promised Land?  Is this a clue that the episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan have been found, Mr. Moffat?).  The difficulties of writing for a character who was so out of time (she didn't even know what a key was) caused the writers to decide to write her off.  They did so quite dramatically.  Taken prisoner in a ship by a stowaway, Katarina either accidentally hit the airlock button jettisoning herself and her captor or sacrificed herself in order to keep the kidnapper from using her to stop the Doctor, Steven, and Bret from working against the Daleks.



 
However, Katarina was not the only companion to die in this story.  After Katarina's death, Sara Kingdom, a space agent, gets caught up with our heroes, The Doctor and Steven, and although she thinks they are traitors at first, she quickly realizes that they are working to stop her boss, the master of the solar system, who is working with the Daleks to take over the universe.  Sara ends up joining the TARDIS crew and even travels throughout space and time before the Daleks are finally defeated.  (Although Sara is only in this one story, she has multiple trips inside the TARDIS and is in more episodes than many that are considered companions, so for me, she unquestionably deserves the title).  Once the Doctor, Steven, and Sara Kingdom foil the Daleks, they are left with the doomsday device the Daleks had been attempting to use.  Sara refuses to leave the Doctor to deal with it alone, and that leads to her undoing.  Whereas the Doctor's physiology allows him to face exposure to the ravages of the Time Bomb, Sara is not so lucky.  She ages to death in just seconds, another casualty to the master plan of the Daleks that the Doctor thankfully thwarted, though at great cost.

As dangerous as traveling with the Doctor can sometimes be, very few companions have actually met their end while with the Doctor.  Two, however, did in season 3, and we have known ever since that your safety while adventuring in the TARDIS is not guarenteed.

However, I think for the audiences watching the show originally, especially in a time before spoilerific media coverage and things like Twitter, the most shocking moment was yet to come.  For the original audiences, there only was one Doctor.  Now, we're quite used to the convention that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate, but the original audiences had no idea that such a thing was possible, much less that it was about to happen.  Ben and Polly watched as the Doctor we had grown to love over the last three plus years slowly changed into someone completely alien from the sometimes grumpy, always arrogant, but still loving grandfather that had won the hearts of everyone who had watched the show.

misc thoughts:

Change had already been a large part of Doctor Who before the Doctor himself changed.  The fact that the producers were able to navigate the first few changes in companions plays a big part in why this show is still on today (with a few years off in between!).  Replacing Susan with Vicki and then Ian and Barbara with Steven, the show nailed the first companion changes.  Replacing Vicki would prove to be more difficult (as we would quickly go through Katarina and Sara Kingdom before spending some time with Dodo, which was the most disappointing companion entrance and exit in show history in my opinion*), but the fact that the show succeeded with the first replacements meant that it could do so again (and would before the First Doctor's time came to an end as Ben and Polly proved to be excellent companions both in their short time with the First Doctor and the rest of their time with the 2nd).

That is the dematerializing control, and that, over yonder, is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner; those are the doors; that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy! Now please stop bothering me. - The Doctor (The Time Meddler).

Season 3 is probably my favorite of the First Doctor's seasons, despite the fact that so much of it is missing.  We owe the fans of the show a lot as we are still able to experience the show on some level due to the audio of every episode having been recorded by enterprising fans early on in the show's run before there were such a thing as VCRs, and the work of fans in using telesnaps and promotional photos as well as photoshop and CGI to piece together reconstructions of the missing episode.  The Loose Cannon reconstructions are incredibly watchable and serve as an enjoyable way to experience the episodes that we can't currently actually see.  Although I'm holding out hope that more of these missing episodes will be (or maybe have been) found and will be made available soon.


Until Next Time, I am already into my re-watch of the 2nd Doctor's run (which is going to include my first time seeing the recently recovered 2nd episode of The Underwater Menace!).  As soon as I get to the 3rd Doctor, I'll fill you in with my thoughts of Patrick Troughton and the 2nd Doctor!

*Dodo unceremoniously runs into the TARDIS believing it to be a real police box and is completely unconcerned by its true nature.  Then for her exit, she is hypnotized by the evil robot WOTAN and after being cured by the Doctor heads to the country to recuperate.  We never see her again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Jane the Virgin and Marry Me

With two more shows premiering this week, we're coming close to the end.  This week we take a look at the new telenovela inspired Jane the Virgin and the Happy Endings inspired sitcom Marry Me.





JANE THE VIRGIN (CW, premiered 13 Oct 14, airs Mon 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Definitely a show I wouldn't have watched if I weren't doing this project, but it was a surprisingly funny and engaging show.  I'm a little hesitant on how long the original conceit can carry the show, and if the show continues to rely on ridiculous happenstance common to the telenovela, I will probably ultimately lose interest, but the mistake of accidentally inseminating the sworn virgin was pretty original and led to some genuinely funny moments in the pilot at least.  Overall, a lot of the "surprise" moments in the pilot were a little telegraphed, in that I could see them coming long before they actually occurred in the show, but the humor, writing, and acting were all strong enough to overcome the predictableness of the plot.  And really, the show was flat funny.  I enjoyed it and laughed many times.  Isn't that what television is supposed to be about?

86%

Interesting fact:  While I'm not typically a fan of narration, I didn't mind the omniscient narrator in this show.  In fact, it reminded me of Pushing Daisies, which is never a bad comparison.  The narrator is a voice over professional who has often done voice over work for sports and also has a part in the Grand Theft Auto video game series.


MARRY ME (NBC, premiered 14 Oct 14, airs Tues 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Absolutely hilarious.  Casey Wilson (formally of Saturday Night Live and Penny on Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Low on Veronica Mars and Ron Donald on Party Down) are a great comedic combination.  They play off of each other perfectly.  It seems to have a strong supporting cast as well, although they don't have as much to do in the pilot as they hopefully will as the series progresses.  Great banter and realistic, if hilarious, situations led to a rapid pace that went by way faster than the 30 minutes (less not counting commercials of course) run time should have.  I absolutely recommend this show, which gives NBC three very strong new comedies.  Let's add one more, get rid of Biggest Loser, and turn Thursday night back into Must See TV!

98%

Interesting fact:  As I alluded to in the opening, this series has a lot in common with the recent cult hit Happy Endings.  Not only is the main character, played by Casey Wilson, an alum of that series, but this show is also created by the same person who created Happy Endings (and who married Casey Wilson in real life!)

Until Next Time, we have reached the end of these for a couple of weeks as we wait for the next new show to make its fall premiere.  Of course, if any network people want to send me a screener of any of the pilots yet to debut, I will gladly get up my review a little early!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: The Flash, Mulaney, and Cristela

We're getting close to the end.  There are a couple more pilots next week (Jane the Virgin on Mon and Marry Me on Tues), a couple in late Oct (Constantine on the 24th and The McCarthys on the 30th), and then one more in November (State of Affairs on Nov 17th).

So, the posts will not be as frequent as they have been, but I promise to at least finish out the fall reviews.  If there is a lot of requests for this to continue, I might do the same in the winter and spring.  You (the readers) will have to let me know that you want me to continue though!

But now, lets hit the three latest releases:


THE FLASH (CW, premiered Tues. 7 Oct 14, airs on Tues 8/7c, available on Hulu)

For the most part, I hate voice over narration.  The times I can stand it are on series such as Arrested Development and more recently A to Z where you have an unexplained omniscient narrator.  But I almost always hate when a character provides narration.  I view it the same way that I view breaking the 4th wall.  It takes me out of the world of the show.  Plus, narration is often weak storytelling.  If you have to tell me what's going on with a voice over, that is work you aren't doing in the television show.  The Flash opened up with the titular character doing a voice over narration.  I began to get worried.  Then the show started and my worries dissipated.  An even better pilot than Arrow (the show this spun off from), The Flash was pretty close to perfect throughout.  The nods to the larger superhero world of which Flash is a part (POSSIBLE SPOILERS -  but there were references to Gorilla Grodd and more importantly Hal Jordan/Green Lantern with Ferris Air to go along with the reveal of Reverse Flash right off the bat) were awesome easter eggs without overwhelming the plot (ahem, Gotham), and with The Flash, those easter eggs have every chance of actually paying off.  From the comic side of things, it kind of feels like this version of Barry Allan owes a lot to Wally West and Bart Allen, as this Flash is younger and a little less serious then I view Barry, but the actor playing him wins you over pretty quickly.  The episode ended with a little more narration from Barry, and hopefully the show loses that convention for opening and closing quickly, because everything else was great.

98%

Interesting Fact:  A few awesome casting decisions have been made for this show.  First, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry's father Henry.  Previously, Shipp played Barry Allen/The Flash in the short lived 1990 TV version of the hero.  Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell played brothers at the heart of the conspiracy laden action show Prison Break.  They are reunited on this show as Flash villains Captain Cold and Heat Wave respectively.  And finally, as one half of Firestorm, Robbie Amell will be appearing on the show.  Robbie is cousins with Stephen Amell, who appears on this show (as well as stars on his own) as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow.


MULANEY (FOX, premiered 5 Oct 14, airs Sun 9:30/8:30c, available on Hulu)

CRISTELA (ABC, premiered 10 Oct 14, airs Fri 8:30/7:30c, available tomorrow on Hulu)

Comedians getting their own sitcoms is a time-honored tradition and has led to some fantastic shows: The Cosby Show, Rosanne, and Seinfeld to name a few.  Both of these shows feature successful comedians.  That's where the similarities stop, however.  Mulaney definitely seems to be trying to replicate the success of Seinfeld, but fails miserably.  Apparently, Mulaney as a comedian is funny, but you certainly can't tell from the show.  The stand up scenes on the show seem out of place (and even Seinfeld realized this and got rid of those cutaways eventually) and aren't that funny, unless of course they're compared to anything else on the show.  Another similarity to Seinfeld is that the main character can't really act, but whereas Jerry clearly was the worst actor on his show when it started, he was still watchable and, most importantly, funny.  But compared to Mulaney, Jerry Seinfeld was an Oscar winner.  It's painful to watch, Mulaney is so obviously out of place as an actor.  You can't laugh when you're spending so much time cringing.  Elliot Gould and Martin Short steal every scene they're in, but unfortunately that isn't enough.  And they're clearly playing second fiddle to the young, attractive cast that we're supposed to be laughing with.  Unfortunately, Mulaney the show seems to believe that Newman deserved to be made a main cast member on Seinfeld, becuase the Newman stand in (Andre), the annoying drug dealer they for some reason know, hangs out all the time with the other characters.  It's not funny.  It's just sad.  They should put that on the poster.

Cristela seems to be taking its cue not from Seinfeld, but from Rosanne, and it actually might compare favorably to that show.  However, it recognizes something that Mulaney apparently forgot, and that is that comedies should be funny, and Cristela is unquestionably funny.  It's also surprisingly smart and rather heartwarming.  All of the cast are funny, the writing is sharp and often brings you to actually laugh out loud (as in for real, not just in a "reply to someone with lol" type of way).  And there's a few great Jerry Jones jabs, which is a great way to win me over.  The previews didn't lead me to think that I was going to enjoy Cristela as much as I did, and I worry about the Friday night slot that the show finds itself in, but I highly recommend it.  While there have been a few funny and promising sitcoms to premiere so far this year, this one might actually be the funniest.

Mulaney - 6%

Cristela - 99%

Interesting Fact:  Cristela is the first ever show that is created by, written by, produced by, and stars a Latina, as Cristela Alonzo performs all of those roles for this show. 


Until Next Time, if you're enjoying these reviews, let me know!  Leave a comment!  What's your favorite new show so far?  How have the shows improved (or the opposite!) since their pilots?  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Stalker, Bad Judge, and Gracepoint

We're back with some more pilot reviews!  A surprisingly good batch as of the three I was only excited about Gracepoint.  Let's get to it!







STALKER (CBS, premiered 1 Oct 14, airs Wed 10/9c, available on demand from CBS and the CBS app)

Another procedural with a twist from CBS, this show is about the team in LA that deals with stalking.  A fairly interesting opening mystery with a couple nice twists accompanies two very capable lead actors (Maggie Q best known as Nikita in the show of the same name and Dylan McDermott best known as Bobby Donnell from The Practice).  As I was watching, I believed there were a couple intriguing mysteries that would help lift this into more arc driven territory, but they were way too many answers provided in the episode for those mysteries.  The things that were left over for later episodes weren't nearly as interesting to me.  What really recommends this series is that it is from Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and, of course, Dawson's Creek), and there were quite a few good scares throughout the episode.  There aren't many shows that can provide some creepy moments on network TV, so part of me is rooting for this one.  However, it is a little too formulaic for me to probably stick with it long term since cable TV provides quite a few good horror alternatives.

76%

Interesting Fact:  The fourth episode of the show is directed by Roxann Dawson, better known to Star Trek fans as B'Elanna Torres from Voyager, who is becoming quite a respected director in television.  Recently she has also directed two episodes of what is quickly becoming the best show currently on network television, Agents of SHIELD.


BAD JUDGE (NBC, premiered 2 Oct 14, airs Thurs 9/8c, available on Hulu)

The synopsis and previews (and obvious reminder of the failed Bad Teacher from last season, even to the point where both starred Ryan Hansen as the possible love interest) did not give me high hopes for this show.  In fact, going in I fully expected to not like it.  Then, as I was watching, I found myself continually laughing and completely engrossed with the story and the characters (even though I still have a hard time imagining that Ryan Hansen - who played Dick Cassablancas on Veronica Mars and pretty boy actor Kyle Bradway on Party Down, as well as playing a fictionalized version of himself in Play it Again, Dick right now on CW Seed - as a respected psychiatrist).  The show is hilarious, the actors are all fantastic, and even with the seemingly incongruity of Ryan Hansen as someone with brains, he stole nearly every scene that he was in.  This and A to Z which follows directly after it are bringing back memories of the great comedy block NBC had on Thursday night 10 years ago.  I highly recommend both shows.

95%

Interesting Fact:  The show was created by Anne Heche of all people, but she has unquestionable comedic talent working with her on the show: Will Ferrel and Adam McKay of Anchorman fame!  I look forward to the inevitable Will Ferrel cameo on the show.


GRACEPOINT (FOX, premiered 2 Oct 14, airs Thurs 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Gracepoint is a 10 episode mini-series based on the BBC show Broadchurch (which also starred David Tennant - the 10th Doctor in Doctor Who), although apparently it will deviate somewhat in the mystery.  I didn't see Broadchurch, but it got rave reviews.  I will probably check it out at somepoint, as really good mysteries aren't something that are that common in television as we too often just get mysteries-of-the-week instead.  I'm glad, however, that I'm coming into Gracepoint somewhat unaware of what occurred on Broadchurch.  The last great mystery show on television (in my opinion) was Veronica Mars, a show that coupled mystery of the week episodes with an overarching mystery that went through the season (in the case of the first two seasons, and two half season mysteries in season three).  How To Get Away With Murder seems to be following this same plan.  Gracepoint, on the other hand seems to be working with only one mystery that will be teased throughout the ten episode season, the murder of a local twelve-year-old boy.  Everyone in the town is a possible suspect.  The acting is beyond fantastic, and the dialogue and direction are equally top-notch.  The show is dark, somewhat disturbing, and continually has you at the edge of your seat.  British television is excellent at having seasons that are mostly self-contained, and it is a good thing, I think, that US television is giving this a shot.  I'm not sure that they plan for a second season, meaning that they have a specific story to tell and it will take 10 episodes.  Hopefully more American television will begin to follow this model, or at the very least follow a similar model to HBO's True Detective, which will feature a different cast and mystery for season 2.

100%

Interesting Fact:  David Tennant does a stellar job of an American accent (while Christopher Eccleston's accent in The Leftovers leaves a little to be desired), but perhaps that shouldn't be too big of a shock.  After all, he's putting on a fake accent as the Doctor in Doctor Who as well.  David Tennant is actually Scottish, and who could imagine the Doctor with a Scottish accent!?  (Everyone, quite easily now, as current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who is also Scottish is using his natural accent to play the Doctor.)

Until Next Time, We have our first 100!  Will anyone else reach this magical number of perfection?  You'll have to wait and see!  Coming soon are reviews of Mulaney and The Flash.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Mysteries of Laura, How to Get Away with Murder, and Manhattan Love Story

I haven't forgotten you.  Here are more pilot reviews for your perusal...



MYSTERIES OF LAURA (NBC, premiered 17 Sept 14, airs Wed 8/7c, available on Hulu)

While there was a pretty good twist in the "case of the week" and I enjoyed some of the interactions between the family, there were a few things that I can't really overlook, primarily the "twist" involving her husband, with whom she is separated.  First, I saw it coming from a mile away but hoped I was wrong, because without spoiling anything, it was something that would never be allowed to occur due to conflicts of interest.  While I like Debra Messing, I'm not sure I'm totally buying the character she's playing.  It is almost a caricature of Peter Falk's Colombo, which was bothering me.  At the end of the episode, her partner refers to her as Colombo, which almost made it worse.  I think it's intentional, but it comes off as a cheap imitation and certainly not as an homage if that's what they were intending.  All in all, there's not enough here for me to invest any further time in it.  I am a little sorry I waited three weeks to actually view and review it, but at least now I know I don't have to catch up with the next two episodes!

31%

Interesting Fact:  It was really hard to accept Janina Gavankar as the annoying character she is portrayed to be in the show.  In everything else she's in, she's all kinds of awesome.  She has recently appeared as Detective Hall in Arrow, but is more awesome as Shiva, the inspiration for the trophy in The League, and shapeshifter Luna Garza in True Blood.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (ABC, premiered 25 Sept 14, airs Thurs 10/9c, available on Hulu)

The mysteries presented are intriguing and original.  Honestly, these are probably the best mysteries I've seen on TV since Veronica Mars.  The show presented the two main mysteries (a murder that hasn't occurred yet and a missing girl that I have a feeling will be somehow connected to the murder that takes place three months in the future) in a very coherent way, switching between present day and three months from now.  I have to admit, the story intrigued me.  I did have a few problems with the pilot, however.  I'm not entirely sure that a lawyer would want a bunch of first year law students working on her cases.  It seems they would be far more likely to get in the way than actually help solve a case, but I'm somewhat willing to over look that.  However, what really bothered me about the pilot is that none of the characters seem to be worth rooting for.  The one "good" law student we find out, before we even get a chance to like his character, is involved in the murder.  All that being said, I'm intrigued enough for the mystery to stick around.  I just hope that at some point there is a character that I can really root for in the show.

76%

Interesting Fact:  Super annoying first year law student Asher Millstone (even his name is annoying) is played by Matt McGorry, playing way against type considering his other huge role is that of super sweet (if technically guilty of taking advantage of Diaz) guard John Bennett.  He was immediately recognizable, but it almost seemed impossible it was the same actor because the character was so different.  Pretty impressive acting, and even though I hate his character, I'm interested to see how he plays into the story since he isn't one of the murderers.


MANHATTAN LOVE STORY (ABC, premiered 30 Sept 14, airs Tues 8:30/7:30c, available on Hulu)

Right off the bat this show fell into some borderline sexist but absolutely cliched traps.  (He's deciding if he would sleep with each girl he sees!  She's deciding whether or not she would use every purse she sees!  Ha ha ha.  Men like boobs.  Girls like purses.  So original.  /sarcasm).  Nothing in the episode was remotely surprising, and the characters were so cardboard cut-out obvious, there was no real draw to make you care.  The in the head narration of the two main characters wasn't very clever, and seemed like just a way to get in some easy jokes.  The only redeeming moment was the super awkward date, but even that was weakened due to the first person narration in each of the characters' heads.  It actually took you out of what could have been an incredibly funny, if uncomfortable, scene.  Watching this really made me appreciate how unique How I Met Your Mother really was.  The characters in that show, Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney, were so original and at the same time so real.  It probably isn't easy to do a romantic comedy type sitcom with such an original frame to the story and such original and real characters, which is why we haven't really seen something as good as HIMYM either before or since (although I am holding out some hope for A to Z).  This show is sadly much more the norm.  Cliched characters in a tired will they or won't they storyline, where it should have been clear to everyone, including the characters themselves, that this was a bad idea right from the start.  Unfortunately, the characters aren't even remotely interesting enough for me to care enough to watch the inevitable crash of this relationship.  And I definitely am not interested in the possibility that it actually works out!

14%

Interesting Fact:  The one interesting and seemingly (although we didn't really get enough info about her to be sure) character in the show is the sister of the male half of this Manhattan love story, played by Chloe Wepper.  She doesn't even currently have a profile picture on her IMDb page, but she steals each short scene she is in the pilot.  Her resume is currently a little light (highlighted currently by her role as "Barista" in Criminal Minds), but of everyone in this show, she's the one that I might expect to have a future once this show is quickly cancelled.

Until Next Time, we are fast approaching the premiere of a couple of the shows that most excite me, Gracepoint, the ten episode miniseries staring David Tennant (aka The Doctor) reprising his role from the British version of the show only now with an American accent (which should be fun, hopefully it is better than Christopher Eccleston's in The Leftovers, they can compare them at Doctor Who conventions) and The Flash!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: Forever, NCIS:New Orleans, Black-ish

More Fall Pilot Reviews!

If you want to check out the ones we've already done, Selfie, Red Band Society, and Madam Secretary can be found here and A to Z, Scorpion, and Gotham can be found here.

Now, Forever, NCIS: New Orleans, and Black-ish!



FOREVER (ABC, premiered 22 Sept 14, airs Tues 10/9c, available on Hulu)

The premise and arc defining mystery both are interesting enough, the cast is good, but the show just doesn't work.  Ioan Gruffudd plays Henry who is over 200 years old, because he can't die.  Every time he dies, he wakes up naked in a nearby body of water.  I'm not sure what happens to his body when this occurs, since the episode doesn't deal with that possible inconsistency.  Ignoring that, there are still some huge plot holes, plot holes you could drive a subway train through (that's how we first see Henry die in the pilot, as a subway train drives through the back of a stationary subway train).  Consider this, Henry died in the crash that is being investigated, which, remember, means he shows up in a nearby body of water, naked, which resulted in him being arrested and spending the night in jail for indecent exposure.  Therefore, there is proof of Henry being arrested shortly after the crash far from the site of the crash.  Yet despite this obvious alibi, the detective spends a fair amount of the episode convinced that Henry somehow was responsible.  And then when she begins to admit maybe he is innocent, he completely is invited along on the investigation.  As a medical examiner.  Why is a ME going anywhere besides the morgue on an investigation?  It would be nice if the show at least tried to offer an explanation.  The show made a big deal about Henry's investigative abilities, they might as well have made him a detective.

There are a couple of good twists at the end of the episode, but the story still was mostly predictable and obviously procedural driven, which is not a big draw for me.  Sure it offers a couple big arc-type mysteries that presumably will occur each week inside of the week to week mysteries, but it still felt entirely like a weekly procedural and didn't do enough to make me overlook that fact.

41%

Interesting Fact:  Ioan Gruffudd was Horatio Hornblower in the series of films based on that iconic character and also one of the best parts of the unfortunate Fox produced Fantastic Four films.  When the next Fantastic Four movie bombs, I'm hoping Fox will allow the property to lapse back into Marvel control and when Marvel gives us the first great Fantastic Four film, here's hoping Ioan Gruffudd is back as Reed.

NCIS: NEW ORLEANS (CBS, premiered 23 Sept 14, airs Tuesdays 9/8c, available on CBS on demand and app)

In case you couldn't tell in the last review, I'm not a big procedural fan, and this is all procedural all the time.  You could pick up any episode of this show and not be lost, because there is little character development or ongoing plot points, it is all mystery of the week.  No thanks.  That by itself was enough to make me dread having to watch this (so you don't have to!), but it was worse than I could have imagined.  I was hoping at least the greatness of Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap and Enterprise) would help mitigate the pain, but his poor attempt at a New Orleans/Cajun accent was grating.  Then there was the odd effect of starting each act with a freeze frame of where the act would end.  I'm not sure what that was about, but it was extremely annoying.  The episode story itself required a huge coincidence to drive the story and the way it was told highlighted that coincidence even more.  The back and forth bickering between the secondary characters (assuming Bakula is the main character) was incredibly forced and had me continually rolling my eyes.  There's a reason I don't like these types of shows, and this one did nothing to change that.

12%

Interesting fact:  In my head, Scott Bakula's character is actually Sam from Quantum Leap and each case could be his chance to finally leap out of this body.  Watching with this idea gave me a little more incentive to make to the end of the episode, but the lack of Al and no jump to a new body at the end of the episode brought me back to reality.  Okay, I didn't care enough to find you an interesting fact on this show.  Sorry.

BLACK-ISH (ABC, premiered 24 Sept 14, airs Wednesdays 9:30/8:30c, available on Hulu)

As I've mentioned many times before, sitcoms have the hardest time finding their groove.  It wasn't until well into season 2 that The Office really worked.  Parks and Rec is one of the best comedies of all time, but its first season isn't that good either.  Black-ish actually has a stronger first episode than many sitcoms have had, but you can tell it hasn't quite got everything down yet.  The episode had many laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters are strong, but the pacing of the episode was off.  The show had a fun, funny, and quite relevant storyline for the first episode, but it spent nearly the entire episode building that storyline up.  The ending was ridiculously rushed, which completely took me out of the story.  I was shocked at how fast everything was wrapped up, and a few of the moments that were part of the build-up were completely dropped at the conclusion.  That was a little frustrating.  However, I've learned not to judge sitcoms too harshly on their pilots.  After I watched the first episode of The Big Bang Theory, I was never going to watch it again, but now I'm glad I've stuck with it.  I see way more potential in this pilot than I did in The Big Bang Theory.  While I had some problems, primarily with pacing, with this episode, the show is definitely one I plan on giving a chance to find its rhythm.

83%

Interesting Fact:  The Great Lawrence Fishburne (who plays Pops, the father of Anthony Anderson's main character) had his first acting role in Apocalypse Now when he was only 14 years old (though he celebrated his 15th and 16th birthdays while filming).  Before his arguably biggest role as Morpheus in the Matrix films, he was probably best known for his role in John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood.  Oddly enough, Fishburne and Singleton met while they were both working on Pee Wee's Playhouse, Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis and Singleton as a PA.


Until Next Time, At the very least, reviews of The Mysteries of Laura and How to Get Away With Murder should be coming very soon!  Enjoy your fall TV!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: A to Z, Scorpion, and Gotham

The Fall Pilot reviews continue.  So far we've already done Selfie, Red Band Society, and Madam Secretary.  Today we take a look at A to Z, Scorpion, and the first of four new Super Hero Shows this season, Gotham (and remember, the last two winners of Josh's Choice for Best New Show of the Season have been Super Hero Shows, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will there be a run?  We'll have to wait and see!)



A TO Z (NBC, premieres Oct 2, 2014, airs Thurs 9:30/8:30c, pilot is available now on Hulu)



There is a large HIMYM sized hole in my heart.  This show might be able to start to fill it.  While nothing can fully succeed in making me forget what I believe is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, this show is certainly in the mode of HIMYM and does something HIMYM did, but few other sitcoms do, it excels immediately.  The jokes are spot on, the characters are intriguing, and the concept is top-notch. 


While HIMYM made us wonder who The Mother might be (and interestingly enough, The Mother from that show is the female lead in this one, and more time with Cristin Milioti is certainly welcome), this show makes us wonder what happens in 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, and 1 hour.  Will they break up, will they get engaged?  The show is unclear, but it looks like it will be a really fun time finding out.  I'm in.


 91%

Interesting Fact:  Rashida Jones (Karen from The Office and Anne from Parks and Rec) is a producer!  Here's hoping she makes a cameo at some point!

SCORPION (CBS, premiered Sept 22, 2014, airs Mon 9/8c, available on CBS/ondemand and app)

 
Imagine the group from Big Bang Theory solving crimes and having adventures.  Could be a slightly ridiculous premise, but with the right execution...  And Scorpion is definitely the right execution.  It immediately makes you care about the characters, and that's a majority of the battle.  These are characters that have trouble relating to the real world, and for some reason that makes them all the more relatable.  Like Madam Secretary Sunday night, this was a show that I did not expect to like, but absolutely loved.  Fantastic characters, an exciting plot, and an intriguing back story that will hopefully play out throughout the years.  I was tense, totally engaged, and found myself alternatively freaking out and laughing at the tension relieving moments.  Fantastically done.  CBS is on a roll.  My only question is how they keep the waitress involved in the story each week.  If they can pull that off believably, this show is a real winner.

93%

Interesting Fact:  The real life Walter O'Brien on whom the show is based helped catch the Boston Bombers and serves as an executive producer for the show.

GOTHAM (FOX, premiered Sept 22, 2014, airs Mon 8/7c, available on Hulu)


For me, part of the most intriguing thing about the DC characters is the idea that the rise of Superheroes is what brought about the rise of Supervillains.  This is often especially well examined in the work of Batman.  Batman became what he is in order to bring justice and yet sometimes, he wonders if he is bringing about more darkness simply because of how he goes about his pursuit of justice.  This show seems to be actively challenging that interpretation.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  Although I suppose it could be taking a long view at that very idea.  Showing us these people and putting them on the brink of supervillain-hood without quite pushing them over, allowing the rise of Batman to be what actively turns them into the villains they become.  However, I really wonder how long it can sustain the premise without straying into ridiculousness.  Especially since they can't bring in Batman.  I was also a little annoyed at how many future Batman villains they felt they had to shove into the very first episode (we saw an easily recognizable Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, and Poison Ivy in the first episode).  That felt a little gimmicky, which worries me about the future of the show, but otherwise the show absolutely worked.  But we aren't here to talk about the sustainability of this show, we're here to talk about the pilot.  And let me tell you, the pilot rocked.  Of course, working with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne leads to pretty easy storytelling, and it's possible that this story will continue throughout the run of the show.  Seeing how Gordon becomes the Commissioner and father to Batgirl we all know and love while working within such a corrupt and corrupting environment has promise and the pilot certainly made the most of that promise.  Again, however, I'm not sure that seeding all the Batman into the story without ever actually giving us Batman is the smartest move in the long term.  But in the short term, it made for a hell of an entertaining hour of television, and I'll certainly be in for more.

89%

Interesting Fact:  Alfred Pennyworth is played by Sean Pertwee, whose father was none other than 3rd Doctor Jon Pertwee.  Now if only we could somehow get Alfred to say, "Reverse the polarity of the nutron flow, Master Bruce" my life might be complete.


Until Next Time, this is the 300th post of the blog!  Pretty exciting.  And there's more to come.  Forever is on the DVR and ready to be watched along with even more pilots to air in the next few days.  Come back for more reviews, and good luck finding the new shows you plan to stick with throughout the season while I search for what show will win the coveted 10th Annual Josh's Choice For Best New Show of the Season Award!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pilot Reviews Fall 2014: Selfie, Red Band Society, Madam Secretary

Ten years ago today, the television world changed forever with the advent of a pilot that blew our minds and would continue to challenge and thrill us for six seasons.  That show that aired for the first time ten years ago was, of course, LOST.


LOST would go on to win the first annual coveted Josh's Choice for the Best New Show of the Season.  As we enter the television season ten years later, what show will go on to win the award this year, following in the footsteps of LOST, Invasion, Friday Night Lights, Journeyman, Dollhouse, Good Wife, Chicago Code, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

There is only one way to find out, and that's watching some television.  We will start by reviewing each of the new shows this fall.

SELFIE (ABC, premieres Sept 30, airs Tues 8/7c, available on Hulu)

I really wanted to like this, because I love Karen Gillan (aka Amy Pond from Doctor Who).  I actually rooted for Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Alas, this My Fair Lady remake (her character's name is Eliza Doolie) is not very good.  Karen Gillan (who is outstanding throughout her Doctor Who run and making a name for herself with her great performance in Oculus and the aforementioned part in the best film of the summer, Guardians of the Galaxy) does as good a job as anyone could, but the premise and writing leave a lot to be desired.  I highly doubt this show gets another viewing from me, and that's a shame, because I do love Amy Pond, but maybe its quick demise will allow her to get back to playing some roles that will make her the star she deserves to be.

There are a few interesting costars as well (including John Cho of Harold and Kumar fame), but like Gillan, there is no rising above this material.  I don't foresee this show lasting too long.  In fact, if we were having a poll for the show most likely to get cancelled first, Selfie would be getting some great odds.

31%

Interesting Fact:  David Harewood, who plays Eliza and Henry's boss, also appeared on Doctor Who in the two episodes proceeding Karen Gillan's turn as Amy Pond.


RED BAND SOCIETY (FOX, premiered Sept 17, airs Wed 9/8c, available on Hulu)

Narrated by a kid in a coma, yes, seriously, its a dramedy about a bunch of sick kids living in a hospital.  I think its going for a Glee-vibe.  We've got an over-achieving girl who has an eating disorder, a super bitchy cheerleader (who, shocker!, has a lesson to learn), the cool kid in a wheelchair, the black dude who "always knows where the party is" and who has graffitied his name throughout the hospital (I wish I was making that up), the kid that talks his way into the hospital because he doesn't think his doctors are as competent as the one in the hospital (who otherwise is exactly like the kid in the wheelchair, they even made that joke in the show), and then the nurses and doctors who take care of the kids (who seem more interesting to be honest, at least to this point they're better actors).

If it weren't for the ridiculous coma narration and all the cliches, there could be some promise; unfortunately, every character is a cliche and the lack of originality makes banal anything that might be fresh about the show.  And this might be the first time I've ever seen a show have a "Jump the Shark" moment in the pilot episode (and yes, it involves Coma Boy).

48%

Interesting Fact:  Octavia Spencer from The Help (the best part of that movie) is the best part of this show as well.  Although, the rich, eccentric hypochondriac who has a wing in the hospital named after him (the wing he lives in despite being totally healthy) seems interesting, but it seems like he's only in the pilot as of now, so that's disappointing.

MADAM SECRETARY (CBS, premiered Sept 21, airs Sun 8/7c, available on CBS/ondemand and app)

Primarily comedic actors Tea Leoni (although best known as the real life wife of Mulder, and as a joke on that fact, she played Skully in an episode of the X-Files where they were making a movie on Mulder and Skully), Tim Daly (Joe from Wings), and Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Cheers) in a smart drama that looks like there's going to be a pretty interesting subplot running through involving Tea Leoni's characters past in the CIA.  But now, she's thrust from life as a civilian to being the new Secretary of State.  And it is immediately engaging.  The episodes main plot is interesting and evokes a touch of West Wing (which coincidentally premiered today 15 years ago), never a bad thing.  While mostly serious and exceedingly well written and acted, there are few laugh out loud moments as well.  I especially loved how at one point the Secretary used media's obsession with fashion for powerful females to keep the main plot story from reaching large media attention.  Smart and funny.  This show has potential.  As I said to a friend as I was watching this is CBS at its finest, more Person of Interest and The Good Wife - CBS than NCIS and CSI - CBS.

93%

Interesting Fact:  Tim Daly is also the voice of Superman in the DC Animated Universe, which the way things are looking might be the only DC universe on our screens ever worth watching unless you count Arrow and Flash.


Until Next Time, Madam Secretary wasn't a show I had any interest in before watching it, but now, I can't wait to see where it goes.  It has thrust itself into contention for JCFBNSOTS.  Of course, there are four new super hero shows airing this year (Gotham, Flash, Constantine, and Agent Carter), so competition figures to be tight.  See you soon with some more pilot reviews!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thoughts on the Summer Movie Schedule 2014 Part Four: August

The fourth and final installment of my thoughts on the Summer Movie Schedule.

I have to be honest, there hasn't been a film that I've been incredibly, can't wait for it, counting down the days excited for up to this point in the summer.  That changes on day one of August

aug

1st

Guardians of the Galaxy



When Marvel announced this would be an upcoming film I thought Marvel was making the first large mistake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but ever since I have only gotten more and more excited.  It looks like they have knocked this out of the park.  Marvel continues to excel while the DC movie universe continues to do everything it can to make Marvel look better.  This is by far the film I'm most excited for out of the entire summer movie schedule.

Get on Up

A biography film on the life of James Brown, the musical one, not the football one.

aug

8th

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Honestly, as much as I love the Turtles, I will probably wait to hear some word of mouth before I make a decision to see this or not.  Michael Bay's involvement really turns me off.  I don't know if I can watch another of my childhood loves destroyed by Bay after the travesty that is the Transformers.

Into the Storm

Yeah, I'll probably just rewatch Twister.  Now that was an awesome movie.

The Hundred Foot Journey

An art film from Spielberg and Oprah.  It'll probably score Helen Mirren an Oscar Nom.  Not sure why this is getting a summer opening though.

aug

13th

Let's Be Cops

Be warned, this is the Red Band trailer, so there is some language



What would happen if Nick and Coach from New Girl pretended to be cops?  This movie.  I'm in.

aug

15th

Expendables 3

This was an intriguing idea for one film.  I think they might have expended (see what I did there?) all of the originality in that one film though.  Of course they're still making Rocky movies, so what do I know?

The Giver

Outstanding young adult novels sometimes make amazing movies.  This does star Jeff Bridges, and the Dude is definitely a plus in its favor.

aug

22nd

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

I hated the first one.  No heart, really just relied on a "cool look" as the entire conceit of the film.  This looks like more of the same.  Plus, I'm never a fan of violence simply for the sake of violence.  No thanks.

If I Stay

When the Game Stands Tall

It looks like it might be a pretty good sports movie in the vein of Miracle and Remember the Titans.

aug

27th

The November Man



Pierce Brosnan as a spy returns for one last mission and has to face off against his former pupil.

aug

29th

As Above So Below

A found footage horror film set in the catacombs underneath Paris.  I really wish the "found footage" phenomenon would die.

Jessabelle



While the previous horror film just causes me to roll my eyes, this looks a little better.  It might just be a sufficiently creepy way to end August!

Until Next Time, there you have it, the films of the summer.  Hope you find some enjoyable ones to watch!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thoughts on the Summer Movie Schedule 2014 Part Three: July


Continued from Part One - May and Part Two - June

What will July bring us?

As with the last posts, the titles will link to the movie's IMDb page for more info

Opening Today:

july

2nd

Deliver Us From Evil

A cop/exorcism movie, because those two genres have been screaming out for a mash-up.

Earth to Echo



I'm a little intrigued.  I like the ET feel this has going for it, but I really wish that it weren't a "discovered footage" film.  Those are starting to get on my nerves.  Blair Witch Project was interesting, but it really shouldn't have started such a trend.

Tammy

Melissa McCarthy causing more trouble on the big screen.

july

11th

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes



A prequel sequel!  Hopes are raised after the first film.

Boyhood

I think it is a little strange that this film is getting a summer release date, as Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Waking Life) movies are not your typical summer movie fare.  However, I am a big Linklater fan and am looking forward to this film.

july

18th

Wish I Was Here



Zach Braff returns to writing and directing which brought us Garden State.  This might be the film I'm second most excited for this summer.

Sex Tape

Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz reteam with the director of Bad Teacher.  What might make this a little better is the script from Segal and Stollar, who also brought us Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets (this is probably closer to the former...)

The Purge: Anarchy

I haven't seen the first one, so...

Planes: Fire and Rescue

The fourth (4th!) film from the Cars universe and we still are waiting on Incredibles 2.  (Thankfully, Incredibles 2 is actually, finally coming!  Now that will be worth seeing.  This?  Not so much).

I Origins

From the director of Another Earth, an interesting film a few years ago, a philosophical film about the soul.  It was at Sundance earlier this year.  Not sure how wide an opening this will get, but if its in your area it might be worth a look.

july

25th

Lucy



Luc Besson (Fifth Element, Leon the Professional) brings us Scarlett Johansson as a super hero.  Considering that Cap 2 has proven (to me at least) that the Black Widow is the most interesting hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if this does well, perhaps Marvel will give us a Black Widow solo film.  But it's Luc Besson.  I'm in regardless.

Hercules

The Rock stars.  I'll probably see it.  It will probably suck.

The Fluffy Movie

A comedy concert film on Gabriel Iglesias.  I figure if you wanted to see this, you probably don't need me to tell you about it.

Step Up:  All In

Yeah, no.

Until Next Time, I'll try and have August up before it's actually August!