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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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!