Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My take on the season's new shows

My take on various TV shows presented through Helium

Cougartown, ABC-The show is clearly oriented towards a female audience in the same way Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy is, but it's surprisingly watchable to both genders. It's more about a woman going through a midlife crisis than it is "Sex and the City" with a teenage son. Courtney Cox does imbue the character with a sort of sincere desperation that puts her on just the right side of endearing.
My verdict: I'll watch it if I catch it on TV

Community, NBC-The idea of a setting of community college is a winner and the cast as pretty amicable. I like the characters of Annie, Abed, the Spanish teacher and Britta already. That being said, some are hailing this as a show that is a genuinely finished product when the show still needs a lot of fine tuning to find its groove. Attempts at sedimentality have been cringe-inducingly akward so far.
My verdict: I watch it weekly but am willing to unceremoniously drop the show if it doesn't iron out its kinks

Glee, FOX-I love this show. I had an attraction to Popular as well ten years ago which was created by the same guy so I had an expectation that we'd be taken into a world of strange extremes: rigidly defined high school stereotypes contrasted with very relatable relationships between people. The show certainly has a unique style and the musical numbers are fun. I don't buy that it's a parody so much as just a tonally different version of High School Musical. The show takes its musical numbers too seriously to be called a parody.
My verdict: Watch it weekly

Castle, ABC-Nathan Fillion just strikes me as a poor man's Jason Bateman. He looks matine-idol-like enough that if you put him on the bridge of a spaceship like in Firefly, then he's pleasant enough, but I'm not that big of a fan of him. In Castle, he's a bit smarmy. There are a number of shows featuring some duo of detectives, thieves (the show with Melissa George and John Stamos), or hostage negotiatiors (that show with Ron Livingston) with sexual chemistry but I give this show credit for not jamming these two people together in circumstances that are hard to buy. It seems that the two are genuinely stuck with each other and only one of them likes it, which is a good formula for keeping the dynamic interesting.
My verdict: Arguably worth watching. Deserves a couple more episodes

Modern Family, ABC-Some are hailing this as the great new comedy of the season and like Community, it's not fully formed enough for anyone to really make that call yet. It's use of the single camera mockumentary format detracts from the show, as far as I'm concerned. Just because the Office uses a mockumentary style and it's a great show doesn't mean that it works for everything. In this case, the humor isn't effective enough for us to laugh without some kind of cue (Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, Srubs, My Name is Earl and 30 Rock, for example have musical cues which cue us in). The combination of a gay couple, a traditional 3-children household, and a patriarch who married a Columbian half his age and takes on her son from another marriage (I'm sure that was a run-on sentence) is still a pretty good set-up and that's what makes the show work well. Some people are saying that Ty Burrell is the breakout character as the dad who tries too hard to be cool, but my favorite Sofia Vergara as the saucy Latina.
My verdict: Not the centerpiece of my TV viewing schedule, but I'll watch it. Deserves time to see where it goes, at least.

Flashfoward, ABC-This sounded like an intriguing show but too many cop cliches kept me from getting too interested in it. After seeing so many cop shows, seeing anyone act remotely like Dennis Franz is enough to get you to tune out. This isn't a cop show, but an example of breaking cliches to make a show interesting would be Dennis Leary's Rescue Me where the firemen are heroic but also pretty vulgar.
My verdict: Didn't even make it to end of episode 1

The Jay Leno Show, NBC-As many others have pointed out, putting Jay Leno on at 10 pm pretty much strips NBC of any integrity that they believe that they can deliver us a good product. It was pretty much a cost-cutting movie and it's like watching monkeys in a cage to see the network execs try to pass this off as a bold creative move that they can be proud of. The only thing to mildly be excited about is that D.L. Hughley and a couple other intriguing personalities are added as correspondents, but NBC is basically throwing in the towel at this point.
My verdict: Depending on who's the guest and if nothing else is on TV, I probably still wouldn't watch it, but maybe if I really have to watch TV

The Good Wife, CBS-I'm trying to figure out as I watch this if lawyer shows are intended only for a certain subset of the population (i.e. people who've been to law school) or if the drama is captivating enough for everyone. There's a lot of dark music to indicate this is supposed to be gripping, but I'm not feeling it. The other angle about the disgraced politician's wife, however, is plenty juicy. The show is basically about Elizabeth Edwards, Silda Spitzer or Jenny Sanford and appropriately starts off with a press conference where the political figure is apologizing while the wife "stands" by his side. As they're walking down the hall on the way out, she slaps him. Now we're talking! A little bit later the daughter asks mommy, "I just read that daddy slept with a prostitute my age. Is this true?" This is the juicy stuff but the show doesn't seem as interested in all that as it does about being a generic lawyer show about a tough woman. I can see how a weekly series that takes the tone of a Douglas Sirk melodrama might really become a drag, but that's the show's most relevant and pressing angle.
Final verdict: Don't see promise

Cleveland Show, FOX-(a bit of a longer review than I originally intended on)
On Family Guy, Cleveland Brown has never served much purpose besides being a token black character as far as I've been concerned. Obviously, Mike Henry disagrees. Henry is the white actor who voices Cleveland and when he talks about his excitement for centering a spinoff around the Cleveland character, it seems apparent how proud he is of his own creation. What exactly Cleveland's unique mannerisms are, beyond being a little timid, that make him worth watching, I'm not sure. He's certainly never been a great source of humor.

Fortunately, there are some unique characters in the background: Cleveland's son, Cleveland Jr. is an incredibly sympathetic figure because he's probably one of the most hopeless characters on television (chubby, little ambition, so eager to please that he's willing to find his niche as a bathroom attendant), his biological son Rollando is someone I could see myself liking more than Stewie (he's a smack-talking kindergartener who might be described as street-smart in the same way Stewie's book-smart), and a rebellious teenage daughter who's more assertive than Lisa Simpson or Meg (might not be up there with American Dad's Hailey). The wife, Donna, is the heart of the show. The show advertises itself as the sappier and more heartwarming spinoff of Family Guy and there's just a little bit of that gooey feeling to be found within the story of Cleveland and Donna being reunited as a married couple.

Cleveland and his three neighbors (two white guys of various socio-economic levels and an animatronic bear) form a social group that's almost a virtual clone of the quartet that drinks at Quahog's Drunken Clam which wasn't a good idea if the show wanted to set itself apart. The bear is nowhere near as funny as Roger the alien, Klauss the fish or Brian, the dog.

The setting and the fact that this will be a fairly faithful take on the black sitcom (as faithful as white writers can be) might also be seen as a plus or a minus
Final verdict: Worth watching to see where it goes. Watching 3 Seth MacFarlane shows in one night is a bit overkill, but if I'm not feeling the American Dad or Family Guy episodes, I'll tune into this

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