Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review of this past Thursday in TV

Originally, this was gonna be the whole past week in television but time constraints prevented that. The five grades are all very high but last week they would have been significantly lower (The Office and Community last week both dissapointed me, for example). Also, every other show I saw this week (Running Wilde, Castle, No Ordinary Family and Modern Family) was a lower grade and I just didn't have time to get to those shows.

30 Rock “Reaganism” A
A-Plot: Jack is having a perfect day and comes up with some ninth-inning challenges he needs to fix (mainly in the form of Liz’s love life) to be able to keep his hot streak rolling
B-Plot: Jenna convinces Kenneth to assist in scamming a Caravel Ice Cream shop and creates a monster in the process (Kelsey Grammar guests here in a wonderful role)
C-Plot: Tracy can’t do a commercial to save his life

The difference between a great 30 Rock episode and the kind of episode that makes you mourn the old days of 30 Rock isn’t much at all. This wasn’t a big gimmicky week like last week’s live show, but they had a pair of solid storylines to start out with and infused them with great anarchic fun. The C-plot of Tracy Jordan messing up a TV commercial was Tracy being unleashed in a way that we haven’t seen him in a while.
Fun fact: Tracy is what calls a Cloud Cuckoolander

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia “Mac’s Mom Burns the House Down” A-
A-Plot: Charlie and Mac (along with Dennis) try to get their mothers to live together
B-Plot: Dee gets sick. Fearing she won’t take care of him when he gets older, Frank tries to be a good dad and tend to her
Best episode I’ve seen in a while and that was solely on the strength of an exceptionally well-executed A-plot (the B-plot was pretty forgettable). The episode really had some great misdirection. The opening title and the fact that 98% of the show’s episodes don’t end happily led me away from believing that Mrs. Mac and Mrs. Kelly would be able to coexist and that’s where the storyline would end up. You know what? An occasional happy ending not only doesn’t hurt, it was actually very sweet. And as an added bonus, the dog miraculously survived. Just when I thought the show couldn't bring me any more joy. The best part was that they didn’t have to sacrifice the show’s trademark nastiness to accomplish this. I also loved how Charlie and Mac were trying to fit their moms into an episode of Golden Girls.

Community: A-
Plot: Shirley decides to make a Christian film for anthropology class. Abed, the always-entrancing film student decides to one-up her by making an extravagant meta-film on Jesus’ life that’s ridiculously complex, sacreligious on many levels and self-serving (the film’s name is “Abed”). Shirley is infurated

If you’re one of those reviewers that likes using the word “meta” (as in meta-textual or self-referencing) then you are going to have a field day with this episode. It is probably the most “meta” thing ever put on film. It references Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” so that automatically makes it one meta-level above that. This episode was definitely a thinking man’s episode but in reality it probably didn’t make any sense. It was just complete anarchy. The show ended up just getting profoundly silly in the best of ways because that silliness was built out of this façade of grandeur that was the Abed film. Abed is usually relegated to the sidelines as a sort of zany wild card character who delivers golden little nuggets. When an episode is centered around Abed, it’s always been a more typical sitcomy episode (i.e. Abed’s dad is displeased with his career choice, girl has crush on Abed but maybe he’s too weird to approach her) and the plot tones Abed’s quirkiness down considerably and fortunately, that wasn’t the case here. It was also a good episode for Shirley who I think is the most limited character of the gang. The minus on the A is because the ending seemed like a cop-out.

The Office: “The Sting” B+
Plot: Dunder-Mufflin sets up a surveillance operation to try to learn the secrets of a suave salesman who’s stolen a lot of their clients
B-Plot: Andy decides to form a band. Creative disagreements ensue with Andy and bandmates Kevin and Darryl.
Overarching Plot/Long-Term implications: Dunder-Mifflin hires a new traveling salesman

It was nice to see Jim and Dwight working together like they did in “Traveling Salesman” although they didn’t show much of it. I think, on a larger note, my main problem with the episode came down to timing. They should have ended the episode with the introduction of the new salesman and left the quarrels between Danny and his coworkers for another episode to keep the suspense. It would have also given more time for the hijinks that this episode really thrived on. This episode had a set piece that turned into one of the most memorable scenes “The Office” has done in years: Meredith poses as a manger and as Oscar and Ryan try to intercept her she thwarts each of their plans brilliantly. The show works so well (or at least used to work so well) on awkward tension and that segment of the episode had you glued to your seat. The band subplot was a little cliché and the payoffs weren’t that great but I did like the Andy-Darryl chemistry. In the past, Darryl has been somewhat aggressive (he was downright intimidating and villainous to Michael in the first season’s basketball episode) so I'm glad to see an improvement there.

Outsourced: B+
Plot: Todd is accused of sexual harassment but he doesn’t know by whom

The sexual harassment episode is a staple (and if it isn’t, it should be one) because we’ve all seen that sexual harassment video and giggled at the lame acting. In India, as would be expected, the results were far different. It was pretty admirable to take that shared awkwardness we get when we watch the sexual harassment video and make a pretty solid episode out of it. The episode reminded me of how “Outsourced” isn’t getting the credit it deserves. Todd’s efforts to single out his accuser made for hilarious results that reminded me of actors improvising in an Adam McKay movie. The show’s good characters got better: Rajiv’s passive-aggressiveness was sprinkled in at the right places to punch up the tension with humor and Asha and Todd had some good moments. It’s becoming easy to see why Todd would mistakenly fall for Asha: She’s smart and relatable and to this guy who’s lost in this foreign land, she feels less foreign than anyone else. The lesser characters also had their moments: Gupta was used as a punch line as usual (the joke Manmeet made towards Gupta about him bringing shame to his family was awkward, but I might accept at as a cultural difference) but it ended with Manmeet making a nice gesture which shows that there’s hope for Gupta (at least for the other characters) and the shy girl (Madhuri) was used very well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How 30 Rock Lost my Dad and the Implications Therein

First off, I finally got around to posting a new column at the examiner where I write about the film industry: Jackass 3-D: A Deserving Box Office Champ or the Decline of Civillization. Do please check it out, because that's my professional outlet and my job is to get readers on that site (not this one, even if I'm spending more time here).

Second, thank you to a number of friends who supported me and expressed interest in me when I told the news that I was being considered for an A.V. Club position.

I recently had the experience of watching 30 Rock a couple weeks ago with a somewhat culturally outdated man (my dad-a guy I love and apologize to in advance for ragging on) who was unaware until then that any good TV has come on the air since "Frasier" and "Seinfeld." His sensibilities were trained for laugh-track TV and I could tell that he was disoriented by the lack of a laugh-track and unprepared to give the show’s funny moments the benefit of the doubt unless something hit him in a familiar way as laugh-out loud funny. The end result was that he laughed less than I thought he would.

It was also a little bit of an off-week. When 30 Rock reverts to the same “Liz’s love life is awry” or “Tracy goes crazy” plots, the humor can get tired and stale. Last night was a better episode. Laughwise, it would have worked on my dad but it also would have worked on me (wait, it didn’t theoretically work on me, it did work on me because I was there. Sorry, getting my tenses confused) and rewarded me more on second-viewing. Last night’s 30 Rock worked in so many ways that it reminded me of that feeling I had in the first two seasons of watching a masterpiece unfold.

In the larger sense, I thought the “Reaganism” analogy was lame but the idea of Jack having a perfect day (without the term “Reaganing it” that they coined for this episode) lent itself to hilarity and two things about the episode felt inspired to me: 1) The way Jack fixed Liz’s psychosexual problem was so bizarre that it was more a satire on psychology than something to be taken at face value. It came off to me as a parody of the Hitchkock movie “Spellbound” but I have a feeling that the writers weren’t even thinking of "Spellbound" and were just going for general zaniness and 2) I loved the idea of rich movie stars jumping on board a scheme to rob Caravel ice cream of hundreds of dollars. It slowly pushed the boundaries of believability until it slid right out from under our feet.

But I want to focus more on the things I got when I viewed the show a second time. Some of those things were:
-“Let’s take a quick 500” which came off another zinger “Scripts get in the way of my process, Shawn. Let’s just shoot 100 of these and see what we get”: There is so much to admire things in these combined three lines. It demonstrates two of Tracy’s character traits extremely well: 1) He’s selfish and is a pain to everyone around him (his director is already bitter at him for messing up his last movie) but he’s oblivious to this trait which makes him likeable and 2) Even though he’s clearly insane, he has a consistency to it (if he needs 100 takes to nail one line, he’s going to also need 500 minutes of rest). I also love the way “quick” proceeds “500” as if there’s any way to “quickly” proceed about a stoppage of work that runs eight hours and fifteen minutes longer than the industry standard.
-“Could you put a human on the phone?” It took me until a second viewing to realize Kenneth was, in fact, talking to an animal. Humor really makes me laugh sometimes by getting me to ask hypotheticals. I’m right now thinking: Exactly how is an animal going to put a human on the phone and will that break Kenneth’s illusion that an animal can listen to him when the animal fails to abide by his request?
-Also on the hypothetical note….this one’s more obvious “You did it sir…a day of perfect problem solving….gifts have been coming in all over” This is funny because your mind goes to so many hypotheticals such as how people can be sending him gifts so quickly, how people can possibly know about his perfect day, etc…..
-“A couple hundred dollars [Is all you need]? I can help you out but first I’m gonna need $50 to get started” –Kelsey Grammar in a wonderful guest role
“Yes, you are the sexual equivalent of a million Hindenburgs, but….”-Jack, on a good day, comforting Liz
-“Forget it, I didn’t have a perfect day” –This wasn’t so much the line itself but the way Alec Baldwin said it with the gravity of Jack Bauer on “24”
-“Slip and falls”: The vernacular for the con-game Jenna and her mom used to play at grocery stores.
-“I don’t understand what you’re saying, but I like that it has the word ‘we’ in it” Evidently, this is all it takes to ask Kenneth to betray a moral code so strong that he was willing to shoot himself rather than adhere to lifeboat ethics.
-“I’ll do stuff with the dog, but I get to pick the dog.”–A soliciting prostitute who has her list of demands.

And most importantly this one because it leads to my next point:
-“I’m a real woman, not some oversexed nympho like those sluts from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’” 30 Rock often does this. They take a random sentence in the dialogue, play it entirely straight in delivery and put it in the context of an entire conversation or scene that isn’t particularly humorous except for one single substitution of one thing for another.

It’s almost as if they’re misleading you away from the laugh by stacking that one joke on either side with so much non-funny material. In the episode I saw with my dad, the A-plot was tied together with a dramatic confrontation scene between Jack Donaghy and a Queen Latifah’s congresswoman character. The final third of this line was the only humorous bit in the entire scene: “The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things, the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas, the third generation snowboards and takes improv classes.” This was one of those things too subtle for my dad to get but I caught it.

This got me thinking: In order for someone like my dad (and he is a very smart guy, I don’t mean to be ragging on him so much) to be on board “30 Rock,” it would help if he got a lot more jokes on first viewing. Why would "30 Rock" want to lead its viewers away from the jokes? A laugh track would guide him towards the funny like a highlighted used-textbook might help a college student study.

Chuck Klosterman’s book “Eating the Dinasour” has an expose in it answering the question about why shows don’t use laugh tracks: It’s condescending to tell the audience when to laugh. It’s considered smarter and more sophisticated and that’s a good convention to follow. Shows that have laugh tracks tend to be “ghettoized” although there is room for a few of them on the schedule because occasionally older viewers (like my dad) like the nostalgic old-timey shows too.

Maybe it's important to consider that it's not pure nostalgia. In the interest of attracting a broad audience, laugh tracks have merit because they ensure that the better jokes hit their targets (AKA my dad). Remember that "30 Rock" is on a network that was so desperate to climb out of 3rd or 4th in the ratings that they displaced a third of their programming last year for a comic who by all accounts is mediocre simply because he attracts a broad audience. Having a comedy line-up entirely devoid of laugh track shows makes the lesser established shows ("Parks and Recreation," "Community," and "Outsourced") hard to distinguish from each other and sometimes invites unnecessary critical comparisons. I am actively rooting for every comedy NBC currently has to stay on the schedule so I'm not advocating going back to the drawing board. I am suggesting, however, that the newer comedies that might not be performing well in a critical or ratings sense, "Parks" and "Outsourced," do face unique challenges which we need to consider. I am also saying in the future: Don't rule out a show with a laugh track.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Updates on New Fall Shows I've Defended Pt. II: )&#@ My Dad Says and Outsourced

A month ago when the new shows premiered, there were four series getting critical pans that I tried to gallantly defend. Here's an Update on $)&# My Dad Says and Outsourced:

3. #@)$*() My Dad Says on CBS:
What I said before:
"William Shatner, who can be easily pigeonholed in our heads as that caricature of his Captain Kirk character he's been doing for years, is delightfully fresh here. Thanks to the writing, his character is a relatively unique comic creation. The show has heart as well. When the father and son are dancing at the end of the pilot, it's an earned moment. The best indication, however, that I wanted to see more is simply that the show made me laugh. Numerous times."

How I feel about it now:
The show has no over reaching arcs with little change from episode to episode, so not much has changed. That's a good thing and a bad thing. I don't think will ever think this show will ever be brilliant but it's reliable. It's got good chemistry and it's funny. It was also one of the highest rated shows of the season.

4. Outsourced on NBC:
What I said before:
"Outsourcing has a natural go-to place for its humor in the form of culture clash jokes and the writing seems competent enough that they know how to mine it. Culture clash humor is going to rely more on the relationships between the characters than the "Hey, you guys are wearing funny hats" type of observational shtick. In that category, potential is developing in the network of relationships that’s being established. The protagonist has an American colleague (Diedrich Baker) who’s kind of boorish, a passive-aggressive assistant manager and a team of subordinates with whom he’s having several awkward Michael-Scott-like moments. There’s also an flirty Australian love interest but she’s been kept in the background so far."

How it's been coming along:
The show is gradually improving in characterization and plotting with each episode.
I'm already liking a lot of the characters who I couldn't differentiate between in the pilot. The soft-talking Indian woman and the awkward Indian guy who talks too much are still both a little cringe-worthy, I will admit but Maneet is a good confidante character, Asha is a very good character and the Rajiv is great. Aisha is a strong romantic foil to Todd and has bucked at least a couple stereotypes so far. The last episode showed more of this interesting tension within Rajiv as a guy who wants to usurp his boss but also has that non-confrontational ever-pleasing attitude that we tend to associate with most Indians who work at a call center.

Lastly, I applaud the show for handling the love triangles with range and sudlety. Normally, when a character has a crush on another there's practically a nametag on them stating as such. There were virtually no tipoffs that Todd might have made a move on Asha while Tonya (the Australian) gives us a big contrast with her directness. Love and infatuation comes in many forms and this is one of the few shows that really recognizes that.

A couple of bloggers who are former TV writers have also got onboard Outsourced. Ken Levine, who wrote for Wings, Becker, Cheers and a million other things, said that he doesn't necessarily dislike the show and sees potential but they tend to be going the safe route. Another former TV writer (for the Cosby Show), Earl Pomeranitz, detailed how fond he was for the show but thinks it will probably be cancelled.

In response to Earl: It got a full season renewal, so don't be so down. Thursday night shows that haven't been amazing have gotten a second year before. Christina Applegate's vehicle "Jesse" got a second season and the Mark Fuehrstein vehicle "Good Morning Miami" got a second season. Neither show was very good. That would basically mean that even if this show never catches on, it could easily produce 40-ish episodes.

And yet another somewhat tangential argument: For the first time since about 2002, NBC could be able to build a solid block of two nights of comedy (it tried in 2006 and failed). Office would have its swan song of a season, Parks and Rec would be back, throw in Community, 30 Rock, Outsourced and one to three new pilots and NBC has 6-8 shows to work with. They could try Outsourced on a different night and pair it up with Parks and Recreation or Community and it might be able to do fairly well (hopefully, the critics will either get behind it or the critics who are behind it will be a little less ashamed of it and a little more bold and proactive in it)

As for Ken: I think a lot of criticism might have to do with whether the show really feels like it's in India but if it was actually set in India and the show went 100% in making us feel like we were in India, trust me, it might be a great show but it wouldn't be broad enough to keep an audience. It would be like a weekly installment of Slumdog Millionaire. This isn't HBO where they have a niche market, this is NBC. They have to play it safe to some extent.

Related post:
My take on the best comedic shows of 2008

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

AV Club Sample 2-Office Episode Review-Nepotism

Nepotism Grade: A-
The most compelling case to stay with The Office after six years is that the show is capable of evolving. No other show that I can think of has tinkered with its basic premise so often and in such an impressively organic fashion. The show started out with a loyal middle-manager with bad interpersonal skills, a pair of overqualified office peons destined to be together and a behavioral outliar in the form of Dwight. Over the years, the show has changed Michael Scott into a more capable leader and social being, supplanted Jim and Pam with new power couples, and replaced Dwight as the eccentric power-hungry foil with a slew of other characters who threaten the Office status-quo in different ways (Andy, Ryan, to a smaller degree Angela, and now Gabe although it looks like Dwight could return as the #1 enemy this season).

If you get tired of the show because there’s too much focus on Pam and Jim or because Ryan is annoying, there’s always a good chance that the romantic focus will shift elsewhere or that Ryan will disappear entirely for six months or more.

Past season openers to “The Office” have often introduced drastic changes (i.e. Ryan’s the new boss, Jim gets transferred, Pam and Jim are dating, etc.). True to form, this episode introduced some new changes as well. The biggest is probably that Erin and Gabe are dating. What do you all think of that? The ambiguity between sexual harassment and romantic wistfulness over Erin’s initial reason for agreeing to go out with Gabe was certainly entertaining. There’s also Kelly on a management track, Dwight owning the building, and a new office assistant (at least there’s one at the start of the episode).

What sticks out most about the episode, even the changes this season, is that it’s a return to the way the show used to be. The first subplot is that Dwight’s purchase of the building motivates Jim to revert to the less mature version of himself who would devote his day to playing pranks. The added hitch that prevents the show from being a complete rehash of some earlier episode is that Pam suddenly wants to join in on the pranking. She devises to trap Dwight in an elevator and record his panic on her phone. The payoff on this plot was absolutely hilarious as Dwight rises above Pam’s expectations of doing something unexpected in the most shocking of ways: Within seconds of being trapped in an elevator with Pam, Dwight immediately starts marking his territory by establishing a pee corner.

The main plot also centers on what the show was originally about: Michael’s big heart leading to his incompetence. Like the B-plot, it’s also fresh and new. The growth as a person Michael’s made over the past seasons hasn’t been negated here because he’s not repeating the same mistakes he was before. This time, he wants to hire his nephew as an office assistant with the problem being that the nephew is grossly incompetent. This definitely brings up the question: Was there ever a standard for competence at Dunder-Mifflin? It’s unclear whether Creed is ever being productive if his job isn’t directly at risk or whether Erin is a capable receptionist (she sure does get yelled at a lot and even Michael finds her too annoying). But nonetheless, the workers at Dunder-Mifflin-Sabre (is that what it’s called now?) are apparently united by at least some minimum standard of professionalism and Luke Cooper falls below that line. Eventually, Michael caves in and decides to discipline the kid. Rather than fire him or handle it in some professional way, Michael forgets his surroundings and spanks him which is as good s bit of cringe-worthy awkwardness as The Office gives.

I don’t know if I entirely trust where The Office is going and I don’t love it all the time. I could see the show going in directions this season that make me less inclined to want to tune in, but the season started out on the right foot with this episode, so I’m optimistic.

Stray Observations:
-That viral video at the start was amazing and endlessly rewatchable and I would be glad to write a whole separate review of the opening. I could see that going viral. While The Dunder-Mifflin attempt at making a viral video (because Ryan broke the flow of the lip-synching by pimping his blog and Angela didn’t want to participate) failed, the video for the viewers at home was perfect.
-Even though he went to Costa Rica, Toby might be the biggest constant in the show. Poor guy never stands up to Michael.
-“I just want to say something off of what Daryl said about the level playing field. That is actually a zoning issue” Kelly in another example of how things stay the same.
- “This summer, I blew up my knee playing softball, I don’t know how we’re gonna get out of Afghanistan. I hate the new kid…” How wonderfully abrupt of a change in direction that sentence
-“The guy sucks. He calls me the nard man. He’s the nard dog, ok. Nard Man is my father”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Episode Review of Community-Sample for the AV Club

Community C

As the first season closes, I can’t help but applaud how far “Community” has come since that awkward pilot episode. The show has not only gotten more comfortable with its own rhythm but we’ve grown towards the show and its characters. Unfortunately, the season ended with a clunker which is made worse by the fact that last week’s episode seemed like a legitimately capable season finale. The main question of the season- “Will they band together as a group in order to pass Spanish?”- was resolved and that was when the curtain should have dropped.

This week's wholly unnecessary plot centered on the return of the Jeff-Britta-Professor Slater love triangle. This triangle later unexpectedly turns into a love rectangle. Or is rectangle the right term when you consider there are three people connected to one person and no romantic complications in between? Maybe a three-pronged fork of love? Anyways, Professor Slater lets Jeff know she wants to get back with him which awakens a sense of competition in Britta for Jeff’s affections. There’s a certain ambiguity over whether Britta really wants Jeff or if it’s more of a case of love tasting better when it’s gone. Or maybe Britta just thinks that Professor Slater is a bitch. If I was convinced it was the latter, I’d be more inclined to justify this episode’s existence.

However, if Britta suddenly came to the realization that she wants Jeff, it turns a character dynamic that was one of the show’s biggest strengths back into the cliché it originated as. The Jeff-Britta relationship grew to the point where it never boiled down to “When will he get her?” or “Will they or won’t they?” It is to the show’s credit that as Jeff’s purpose in life stopped being directed by a desire to sleep with Britta, the audience became sufficiently distracted from those expectations. Britta suddenly coming to terms with feelings for Jeff threatens to turn into a standard rom-com what was once a relationship wonderfully devoid of definition and unbound by sitcom convention. I very much liked that the show didn't treat Jeff and Britta sleeping together as a defining moment in the series.

In other plot lines, we have Annie and her struggle over whether to transfer with Vaughn or stay at Glendale. His reason for transferring (to me, this was the single most hilarious thing in the episode) is because he’s being recruited to join the number one hackey-sack team in the nation. Annie is so full of ambition that she’s always seemed destined for better things but it’s fairly clear that this isn’t one of them, so it’s no surprise she stays. Oh yeah, and she also kisses Jeff. The way I wrote that was the same way I reacted to it: It felt like an afterthought to the story. Of course, we can be sure it won’t be treated as an afterthought next season since the repercussions of Jeff kissing Annie can’t be ignored. Still, it felt like too desperately plotted a moment to register with me.

One of this show’s strengths was that it avoids gimmicky drama in favor of realism. Relationships don’t just turn into things they’re not supposed to just because the drama demands it. I’m hoping that this was a case of bowing to network demand. Maybe, the network wanted a classic “Ross kisses Rachel”-type cliffhanger (correct me if I’m wrong but I’d have a hard time believing that at least one Friends season didn’t end with Ross kissing Rachel) that made sure the audiences were coming back.

Maybe the show’s references to jumping the shark was a tacit acknowledgement that the show knew what it was doing something wrong but couldn’t help itself for whatever reason. At many colleges (at least I know this was the policy at mine), there’s a policy of having to clear out your dorm room after you take your last final rather than stick around during finals week. I wish “Community” had followed the same policy.

Stray Observations:

-There was also a C-plot which I wasn’t able to work into the above recap that deserves mention as well: Troy has to move out of his home and hopes Abed will take him in as a roommate. Abed turns him down but Pierce agrees to take him in. I neither liked nor disliked this story but it does get me looking forward to the possibilities of what will happen with those two.

-Also, there are a lot of smaller little developments relevant to the bigger picture. The D-, E-, and F- and G-plots are that Shirley is reconnecting with her kids, Senor Chang is looking for a shortcut, Jeffery Winger has made friends with a lot of people outside the study group too, and Dean Pelton is dancing with a bear. I’m sorry I don’t know why he was dancing with a polar bear. Was that important?

-John Oliver makes a nice return and steals the little screentime he has. His best line: “I have a counterproposal. How about I point out to you that we’ve never been friends and then laugh at your very well-deserved misfortune”

-On jumping the shark: “And for the record, there was an episode of Happy Days where a guy literally jumped over the shark and it was the best one”

-The closing credits bit was a great bit of humor that felt like the kind of unrestrained improve you see in a Christopher Guest film. I liked Britta’s line: “I don’t believe in yearbooks.”

-“I’m sorry do you have a patent on loving people?”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

$(#@ My Dad Says and Outsourced

3. #@)$*() My Dad Says on CBS:
Hook: #@$*( My Dad Says comes from a unique source in the form of a guy on Twitter who started blogging funny things his old-fashioned dad was saying. That doesn't necessarily mean the show will be good, but it gets my attention because if the show is created by an outsider, I'll probably get a fresh perspective. Also, it is a perspective that is pretty relatable: Most of us have at least one elderly relative who casually says things in the privacy of their own home that would get us in a lot of trouble if those words came out of our mouths.

How it delivers: William Shatner, who can be easily pigeonholed in our heads as that caricature of his Captain Kirk character he's been doing for years, is delightfully fresh here. Thanks to the writing, his character is a relatively unique comic creation. The show has heart as well. When the father and son are dancing at the end of the pilot, it's an earned moment. The best indication, however, that I wanted to see more is simply that the show made me laugh. Numerous times.

What the detractors say: One reviewer (TV Guide) sees Shatner's character more as a "shallowly conceived grouch belching trite punch lines." Alan Speinwall and Joel Keller of AOL's TV Squad both think Shatner's character is too crude to solicit empathy although Keller thinks Shatner showed potential in one scene. There was also some criticism that the rest of the cast is somewhat weak in comparison to Shatner.

My defense: First off, the cast includes Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan who might be taking a while to find their chemistry but they certainly have the talent as evidenced by their work on "Mad TV." Jonathan Sadowski was a last-minute replacement and he's the straight man to Shatner's funny man so he doesn't have to be the show's strongest link. The major question here is whether Shatner is convincing and it's just a matter of me buying it whereas others didn't.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this show is on CBS. The network's bread and butter is mediocre middle-of-the-road comedies like "Everybody Loves Raymond" "Yes Dear" and "Two and a Half Men." Admittedly, "Raymond" has more pathos, but none of those shows were innovative in anyway, whatsoever. At best, they were good for a few laughs in a familiar setting. If it can get past the initial torrent of negative reviews and survive its first season, there's no question "#@$* My Dad Says" could at least deliver at the bar set by the other shows on the network.

4. Outsourced on NBC:
The Hook: Outsourcing is interesting. An article on what life is like for an American middle manager transplanted to India would be intriguing so a TV show set in that world would naturally be intriguing as well. It’s not just because I was a geography major in college but because it’s relevant and has affected people I know.

How it delivers: Outsourcing has a natural go-to place for its humor in the form of culture clash jokes and the writing seems competent enough that they know how to mine it. Culture clash humor is going to rely more on the relationships between the characters than the "Hey, you guys are wearing funny hats" type of observational shtick. In that category, potential is developing in the network of relationships that’s being established. The protagonist has an American colleague (Diedrich Baker) who’s kind of boorish, a passive-aggressive assistant manager and a team of subordinates with whom he’s having several awkward Michael-Scott-like moments. There’s also an flirty Australian love interest but she’s been kept in the background so far.

Criticism: Todd van der Werff of the A.V. Club declares this is the end of NBC Thursday night's glory days. According to him, the show's scenes between Americans feel like they're on a different show than the ones portraying American-Indian culture clash and neither are executed particularly well. Some critics found the characters boring like the blogger from Film School Rejects who named this show the failure of the season. James Poniewozik acknowledges "satire is a dangerous zone" but says the show is a disappointment with cheap jokes that insult the audience.

My response: Again, it's a matter of placing too much emphasis on the pilot. Characters might be one-dimensional in the pilot because there's not enough screen time to develop everybody and give exposition in 22 minutes. The show's breakout characters in Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson and Tom Haverford, seemed like dumb one-note characters in the pilot too. Swanson gave a speech about he preferred Chuck-E-Cheese to government and it seemed like the writers were trying too hard to inject the characters with quirks. Over times, his quirks formed part of a fully-fleshed personality that strengthened because it stayed consistent over several episodes. I could see three or four of these characters as pop culture stalwarts like Ron Swanson or Dwight from "The Office." In addition, there were only a few one-line gags in the pilot which is an indication that the show is going to be going for broader situational laughs.

Updates on 4 New Comedies Pt. I: Raising Hope and Running Wilde

Here are where I now stand on two of the four shows I was previously defending against the critics:

1. Running Wilde on Fox
What I said before:
"The premise of a rich man who is absurdly out of touch with reality being brought down to Earth by the only woman he's ever had any contact with is certainly unique. On top of that, add in the two obstacles that she's: 1) Already engaged to someone and 2) Is voluntarily on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum than him"
"Even though the reviewers only have the pilot to work with, they should be ashamed of themselves for writing off Hurwitz so quickly....The massive improvement between the pilot and the second episode shows how promising this show can be."
"Will Arnett was deservedly nominated for a supporting Emmy as Gob and he regularly stole the show from an incredibly talented cast. He is more of an extreme than Bateman's Michael Bluth but he's counterbalanced by greater extremes as well and there do exist relatively normal characters in the form of Migo and Puddle."

How the show is coming along: One slight weakness is that the show jumps somewhat erratically from plot to plot: One minute the family moves into the tree house and the next, the daughter's already at school and has acclimated enough to her new environment that she has a boyfriend. Meanwhile, the mom has already betrayed her entire life's calling by helping a Fortune 500 company drill for oil in Alaska but reverted to her normal self again.

Even if the episodes don't tie together or even belong in the same universe as one another, each episode has the same sense of fun and multi-layered complexity that we loved Arrested Development for. As it stands, it's a good collection of stand-alone episodes that fails in its ambitions towards a larger arc. Then again, "Seinfeld" and "It's Always Sunny" are also stand-alone series and no one complains there.

As for the characters, Migo and Mr. Lunt have not gotten much more developed although we can tell them apart a little better (Migo's more duplicitous and less effeminate). David Cross's character, Andy Weeks, is gold and Peter Serafinowicz, as Fa'ad, has been a great third wheel. The writers seem to know exactly where to insert him within the episode so that he amplifies the comedy. In the last episode, his big reveal (that his acting coach, Alan Alda, taught him only to act like Alan Alda) was the punch line that made the show memorable.

2. Raising Hope on Fox
What I said before:"I'll concede that the show's premise isn't as novel as 'My Name is Earl.'........However, many of the same elements of "My Name is Earl"- characters driven toward unexpected self-improvement; exploring people on the socio-economic fringes of Americana; characters who are endearing in spite of their stupidity; moments that are genuinely touching- are here as well and that's a good reason to invest yourself in this show."

How I'm feeling about it now:Of the four comedies I'm following, this is the one that's getting the best reception and it has earned a full season order from the network (No full-season order for "Running Wilde" as of yet). Unfortunately, this is also the only one that I now like less and wouldn't even mind if this one gets cancelled.

This show does have the same elements as "My Name is Earl" but it's got a much less interesting premise and that restrains its flexibility as to where it could go plot-wise. It's not only far less interesting but frankly unoriginal: There have been many shows and movies about white trash families or guys who knocked up a girl before they were ready to be a dad. How many variations of the three plots they've been working with so far-"Dumb unemployed kid struggles with being dad", "Boy likes girl who works at supermarket"; "Inexperienced father puts up with equally incompetent parents"- can they pull from this before the audience starts to get bored of the same and where can they possibly go from there?

It's all the more troubling because "My Name is Earl" boasted the extraordinary talents of Jason Lee, Jamie Pressley and Nadine Vazquez and I don't think this cast here has it in them to raise this above the derivative. For those of you who will point out that Chloris Leachman is an Oscar-winning actress, that's true but as a senile grandmother, Leachman doesn't have anything to do but act crazy (and if you saw her on Dancing with the Stars, it's entirely possible she's lost her mind anyways).

At the moment, I'm hanging with this show from episode to episode sidled with an expectation that this will soon get boring for me. I will admit that the last episode was surprisingly good. Sabrina's a very sweet and endearing character and the romantic tension between Sabrina and Jimmy thwarted by a suddenly enraged mom who previously was doing all she could to make sparks fly between them was a good twist.

Coming up....."Outsourced" and "#@$* My Dad Says" (side question: do you have to type four specific characters for the first word of that show or can you just type any four?)

The difference between Modern Family and Arrested Development

I recently compared No Ordinary Family to Heroes and wanted to do another blog entry comparing another current hit to a recent predecessor.

If you don't count shows on the WB that catered to tweens or minority niche shows (George Lopez, Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris), Arrested Development is the first major hit family sitcom since the days of the Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and TGIF.

However, Arrested Development was a parody of family sitcoms.

Sitcoms are celebrations of the family. Arrested Development follows that external framework of family celebration but the theme of the show is it's just a facade.

The idea that "family is important" was just something that Michael Bluth would toss around as a lesson to his son, but he would violate that golden rule quite often, because he would often want to skip town, betray his brother, or turn his dad in. The whole premise of the show, in fact, was that Michael Bluth was moving back home with his son and making a personal sacrifice because his family needed him and he in turn wanted to help the family, so it makes it all the more hilarious that he regularly doubts his commitment to his current life's purpose in practically every other episode.

George echoes that same "The family is most important" sentiment and, ironically, abides by it more, but he's pretty twisted about his motives and he outright doesn't care about Buster* Ironically, Lucille really never cares for anyone besides Buster in a way that isn't self-serving and downright diabolical.

Occasionally, the show has a third act reminiscent of TGIF sitcoms (Full House, Step by Step, etc.) where the characters come together and learn a lesson but unlike those shows, the third act is subverted just before the closing credits that serves to undo any progress the family made.

Modern Family has none of that. It mines comedy out of the absurd quirks of the family and mines drama of the forces that tear the family apart, but the comedy doesn't suggest that the family is worthless and the negative vibes in the family are always overcome (or at least ameliorated) by episode's end.

Arrested Development was a hit show about a family but Modern Family truly has revived the sitcom from the corniness it was engulfed in when it was last thriving.

*I know Buster's probably not his biological son, but we don't know that at the start of the show and he's still a ridiculously neglectful surrogate dad. He talks about how much of a waste Buster is while he's 3 feet away from him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Me outdoing Letterman's entire writing staff with better top ten lists

These are actual top ten lists used on David Letterman's show. I copy the titles and come up with my own versions

Top ten things going through the Chilean miners’ minds as they were being towed up
1. If they tow me up a little quicker, I can beat rush hour traffic on the Trans-Atacama Expressway.
2. If my wife doesn’t show up, I’m just gonna passionately kiss the first woman I see
3. I’m finally gonna get to find out what happened on the series finale of Lost!
4. Sure we were all friends in the cave because we needed each other for survival, but I’ll bet Jose will be too cool to talk to us when we get back on the outside
5. Who was taking in the mail while I was gone?
6. Honestly, I was starting to like the cave
7. Ah man, I left my wallet down there
8. Next time, I go down a mine like that, I’m taking out an insurance policy
9. We weren’t really starving. There was actually an Olive Garden down there, but the whole being without food or water angle plays better for the media
10. Man, if I get out and learn that Chile lost in the 2nd round of the World Cup to Brazil by more than 2 goals, I’m just gonna go back down to the cave for another four years

Top 10 Barack Obama enemies:
10. The members of his staff who keep asking him about his birth certificate
9. Oil
8. Vinegar-Worse for your sodium intake than oil at the salad table and faaar more tempting
7. Education Seceretary Arne Duncan-The bastard is white, plays basketball better than him and outscored him on the SATs. Hates him.
6. Jay Leno-Barack lives to watch Conan at night and Jay took that away from him
5. Former Chicago Bulls Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon-No one leaves the Chicago Bulls as a free agent for more money under Obama’s watch
4. The Punahou High School coach who opted not to start Barack Obama on his high school team. Oh sure, they had a nice photo op in the Oval Office last year, but it was all a facade.
3. Sunlight-It melts him
2. The ladies on the View-Completely humiliated him by asking him pop culture questions he didn’t know the answer to
1. Sarah Palin-duh

Thanks for reading, and as usual, be sure to click on my links:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

50 Different Ways to criticize a show + Me: Studio 60

I recently came across a great article in the Los Angeles Times about three years ago concerning the sharp and rather open criticism the comic community was throwing at TV show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (2006 to 2007).

If you've ever seen this TV show that detailed the backstage workings of a fictional version of Saturday Night Live, it was simultaneously one of the best and worst things you've ever seen. The acting was impassioned and there was a palpable drama to it but there were a number of jarring problems with the show as well. It was such a delight to know that people shared the same level of frustration with me at watching this show three years ago. Considering TV critics were in the sack for it at the time and Aaron Sorkin continues to have a career in Hollywood (he wrote the biggest film of this past weekend: "The Social Network"), who'd have thought.

It appears that there was a tremendous amount of very creative Studio 60-hate when the show was on. There was a comedic sketch troupe in Los Angeles who would reenact the truly awful sketches within the show. There was also a live blog in which a rotating group of panelists would critique Studio 60 episode-by-episode and talk about why this show was not good. That I absolutely loved reading every single guest blogger's take either says something about the nature of criticism when done well or the power of that one show to invoke such a large volume of insighftful criticism.

I thought I'd add my own unique voice on why this particular show was such an abomination of TV. Here are five completely original reasons why I didn't like Studio 60:
1. The characters all sounded like the exact same person. That should be the first rule of screenwriting: Don't make every single character in the movie sound like yourself. They were all highly intelligent, impassioned and could easily quote various sources of knowledge which they would throw out in conversation as if they were constantly at the world's most pretentious cocktail party. More than anything else, I wanted to see the introduction of some character in a scene who had an IQ under 150 and just go "huh?" to whatever the other characters were saying.

The characters also had a terrible habit of going on tangents when they spoke, but what was even worse was that the other participant in the conversation would willfully follow them. Two executives would be walking down a hallway talking about how the ratings have taken a turn and all of a sudden one of them would talk about the critical concensus on Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gough. How many business executives would willingly want to hire people who all of a sudden start breaking out into tangents like that? Fortunately the guy who likes to start talking about Dutch filmmakers lucked out by being surrounded almost entirely by people who have the same problem as him, so they all willingly participate in each other's tangents.

2. The laugh track of a show that isn't funny-One of the biggest complaints was that the show-within-a-show wasn't funny. I completely agree. It is interesting to note that the real SNL used the same premise as one of Studio 60s sketches "Science Schmience" to pretty good effect in the Michael Phelps episode. The way that the show suddenly stops becoming realistic and/or entertaining lack of has been covered pretty excessively, but I'm going to add something new to the conversation: How about that obnoxious laugh track? To me, the most obnoxious thing a sitcom can do is to have more laughter than the show's humor merits. Everybody Loves Raymond, Will and Grace and The Cosby Show all dissapointed me on this level. They were funny shows at one point but oftentimes the audience was laughing just because Bill Cosby or Ray's mom entered a room and the audience was just familiar with how funny that character was. It was an unearned laugh.

An overused laugh track stings far worse here because the show was never even funny in the first place. It was excrutiating, however, in scenes set in dress rehearsals or the writer's room where the characters are cracking up at each other's jokes. Because the jokes aren't there, if the characters are laughing at those non-funny things then you stop beleiving that they are competenet.

3. The idea that Harriett Hayes' religion would be an issue for anyone beyond Matt Alvey. Two of the most universally agreed upon flaws of the show were that Sara Paulson was terribly miscast as the show's star comedienne and that the show practically turned itself into a dysfunctional romantic comedy with all the attention between Matthew Perry's Matt Alvey and Paulson's Harriet Hayes.

For reference purposes, Matt used to date Sara but it didn't work out because they had religious differences and they are now awkwardly working together.

It was a pretty dysfunctional relationship which understandably might consume a lot of Matt's thoughts for a variety of reasons, but the show's flaw is assuming that anyone else would care about it. First of all, no one should care about Sara Paulson's Harriett Hayes because she was uninteresting, broody and not geared to be the star of a comedy show. But more to the point, the personal hang-ups that Matt has about Harriett shouldn't be an issue to other cast members (in an opening episode, a fellow cast member teases her for praying to God), the press or the show's viewing audience. The very idea that you could use a joke in a sketch (the episode where they did a Gilbert and Sullivan cold open) wish a verse of that song focusing on Harriett's religious beliefs is rediculous. What makes this worse is that Aaron Sorkin used his real-life break-up with actress Kristin Chenowith as inspiration for that plot so he basically thinks on both a show and a show-within-a-show level that his romantic hang-ups are something that a TV-viewing audience should know.

4. Nate Curddroy-There was a lot of talk about how obnoxious Harriet Hayes was but how about Nate Curddroy as Tom Jeter (he played another one of the actors on the show-within-a-show)? He was also not particularly funny on camera or off-camera either. At best, his comedic instincts might make him a somewhat decent character in a dramedy by Wes Anderson, Sophia Coppolla or Noah Bombauch.

Needless time was also consumed on a secondary romantic pairing between Tom and one of the show's writers that had no believable chemistry. Did the two have anything in common? Was there any reason for the writer to ask him out other than that he was the same height as her or famous?

One of the most rediculous attempts the show ever made to try to imbue serious themes was an episode in which Tom's parents came to visit the set and they tried to link one of thse oft-used "Dealing with Daddy's Dissapointment" subplots in a context that didn't makes sense. The dad's all grouchy throughout the episode and it's revealed that he doesn't think much of his son because he's not in the military. Seriously. That's his dad's big thing. He finds the idea of someone not being in the military distasteful. He basically wants the U.S. to be Ancient Sparta where every single able-bodied man must fight.

5. How obnoxious is the nickname "Big Three"? Coming up with this nickname for the three cast members who are also members on the show-within-a-show was an effort by the show to explain to the audience why the producers and directors would spend so much time talking to and talking about just three of the SWIAS's seven character and neglect the other seven so heavily. It was because these guys were the core of the show? But honestly, what lazy journalistic outlet would come up with such a dumb generalized nickname and what do these three performers have in common? The only people who get nicknames on Saturday Night Live would be like "The Women of SNL" because they're know..female or "The Lonely Island guys" because they were on the Lonely Island before. The "Big 3" is a weekend update anchor and two disparate performers. Plus it assumes the show is that important with such a catch-all nickname.

On another note, please oblige me by checking out my columns

No Ordinary Family as Compared to Heroes

It's hard not to compare the two shows "No Ordinary Family" and "Heroes." They're both very uniquely grounded takes on superherodom and they both explore characters faced with the ramifications of suddenly having superpowers and the consequences therein.

The main upside of NOF is that the stories are a lot tighter. Heroes had about 10 disparate characters at any given time and I was only interested in about 3 of them (the cop who read minds, the Indian who's father had something to do with it all and Hiro). This show compresses all of it into one family and essentially one storyline. There are also two sidekicks (Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser) who make the show better with every minute of screen time they get. The sidekicks each have unique personalities-one's an impassioned district attorney and good friend of the dad; the other's an adorably nervous (and easy on the eyes) lab assistant of the mom and brings an overeagerness to live out her comic book fantasies through her-and they take you away from the family when needed.

The main downside is that this can get a little sappy and melodramatic. If this guy portrays his love for his wife and kids once more, I'm going to throw up.

The show's premise is that it's about the conflict between suddenly being a superhero and managing a family. Suddenly being a superhero surely is dramatic but does that make your family's conflicts any more dramatic? All I know is that from the very first episode this was a family that functioned better than 90% of families in existence yet the show treats the Powells as if they have legitimate problems. It helps justify the need for this family to have all these family meetings but it's a sense of false drama.

Here's an example of this in a nutshell:
In the first episode, the husband says to the wife, "If you paid more attention, you'd know that your son has a learning disability and your daughter just got dumped." To quote Seth and Amy from Saturday Night Live: Really?!!? The thing that's keeping you from jumping full-force into embracing your superhero lifestyle is the guilt that your ADD kid (you know schools today have enormously bloated special-ed departments which take care of that, right?) and your rediculously normal daughter getting dumped makes you feel like a bad mother?

The bottom line is that if there is palpable drama to this family, they need to show it and the kids need to really be dysfunctional for those mushy moments to be justified.

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The Fading Era of Women on Saturday Night Live

The most visible failure on behalf of SNL this past decade was keeping the wrong girl from the 2008-2009 season.

Why was it so important?
One of the really strong things about SNL this decade has been the women. In fact, it's the only solid argument about Saturday Night Live that you can make that the present is better than the past. You can't say that in any other decade of Saturday Night Live had women who outstaged their male counterparts, wowed the critics, and could become box office commodities and TV show leads then the 2000's.

To be more specific, I'm referring to Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig. No offense to Rachel Dratch who was in the mix at the same time: You were serviceable and nothing was wrong with you, but in terms of star power, talent and respect that they attained while they were on the show, those are the four most successful women in the history of the show:
-Lorne Michaels once said in an interview that Kristen Wiig is one of the three most capable performers (guy or girl) he's ever had on Saturday Night Live. She has her detractors and some people think she overuses certain impressions but before fans felt that she was too much, they loved her more, they universally agreed that she was talented and she generated tremendous buzz whether you loved or hated her. She has also had a role in practically every comedy movie of the last 3 years.

-Maya Rudolph was beloved while on the show and highly recognizable to people outside the world of Saturday Night Live. She's later appeared with high-calliber directors such as Sam Mendes ("Away We Go") and Rob Altman ("Prairie Home Companion")

-Tina Fey routinely makes lists of the funniest people in America and her stock has only gone up. Her acting and writing in the hit film "Mean Girls" raised her profile in a positive way, 30 Rock became one of the most rewarded shows on television, and then to top it off, she single-handedly resurrects Saturday Night Live's popularity through a series of guest roles as Sarah Palin in 2008. Ironically, the total amount of sketches that Tina Fey was in during her time on SNL (she was a Weekend Update anchor from her first episode to her last) probably would rank among the lowest in the history of the show's cast members.

-Amy Poehler is a household name and was so before she left the show. She is now the star of the follow-up to the Office. To build a comic show on NBC around a female, particularly one with as much pressure to succeed as Greg Daniel's follow-up of The Office pretty much says it all. That woman has to be a big deal. Her talent is also unquestionable: She's entirely fearless on stage.

In case you're thinking Julia Louis-Dreyffus could rival any of these four, it was Seinfeld and her recent Emmys that made her popular and not Saturday Night Live.

Now here's the important thing: During every era of Saturday Night Live, people have always complained that it wasn't as good as the past, but at least the argument can be made that the woman are stronger than they've ever been and that keeps the critical brand of the show alive.

In choosing the right successor to these women, they hired Casey Wilson, then Michaela Watkins and Abbey Elliott. Wilson was serviceable, Elliott drew a little bit of praise with an Angelina Jolie impression, but Watkins clearly was the star. Her impressions and characters were hits right away. And that was only half a season.

It made virtually no sense to fire Michaela after so soon a time and keep her unproven counterpart. I think the pressure to find new girls to replace the female stars has been so strong that they've been a little trigger happy out of an urgency to find that strong women right away. Before this year, SNL has bought in five new females as Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig were departing and over that time they only brought in one male.

The following season, neither of the two new girls nor Abbey made as much of an impact as Michaela. It could be that even he knows that neither of the girls are as talented as he hoped but the problem is that firing both of them shows that he admits the girls he replaced Michaela with weren't any good either and that the era of good women is over. So he has to keep one of them: He picks the one who created a couple good characters and went with it hoping that she'd grow into the role.

I'm not saying that Nassim is necessarily bad I am saying that her survival from last season to this season wasn't entirely based on her.

Also, I'm beginning to see Abbey Elliott's kind of raw. She might have her moments but she seems inexperienced and doesn't really nail her roles with the same precision as someone who's been doing this for a while. When I read the other day that she was only 23, I felt like that sounded about right.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fall Schedule I'm settling on

I do this every year:
Monday: Castle-I think I'm going to with this after a search for another drama or two in my schedule. I looked at Fringe and some HBO shows but decided that because this is on cable and I don't have to pay through the roof to watch it, it will suffice. I like the chemistry between the stars and it held my attention better than Fringe.

Tuesday: Glee-I liked this show plenty last year. Issues about its annoying lack of consistency from episode or even within each episode linger, but it's good imperfect escapist fun. Looking forward to seeing more guest stars and more Michael Chang this year.

*Raising Hope-I defended it as one of four new shows with promise in my last blog post, but lately I don't see it as going anywhere significant like My Name is Earl did. After three episodes, I feel like most of the will-they-or-won't-they drama between Sabrina and the protagonist has run dry and a lottery winner who interacts with different parts of the community every week has much more to it than a show about a guy raising a baby. I don't see an ever-expanding universe of quirky characters (i.e. Norm McDonald, Giovanni Ribisi, Mike O'Malley, Jon Rappaport, Katherine Kinney, Alyssa Milano, Burt Reynolds, Clint Howard, etc.) and I don't see many interesting plots they can pull out of this. That being said, I'll give this show a little more of a chance and I might find myself watching this because it's between Glee and Running Wilde and I don't feel like leaving the TV for a half hour.

Running Wilde-Running Wilde has improved greatly between the first and third episodes and is starting to look like a promising entrant on my top ten list. Disturbingly, the negative reviews are getting increasingly worse.

No Ordinary Family-I still intend to give this show a chance. It's on the same time as Glee so I'll have to watch it on itunes/hulu.

Wednesday: Modern Family-Definitely becoming a favorite

Thursday: Community-30 Rock-Office-Outsourcing-I'm in for the penny, in for the pound on these four.

#@%*) My Dad Says-I'm liking it for the dialogue

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Saturday: SNL-So far so good. I have an increased interest in this show just for the sake of distinguishing the cast members from each other alone

Sunday: Family Guy/American Dad