Monthly Archives: September 2011

In with the new?

As a media glutton, I find myself watching all of the new pilots regardless, unless they truly seem awful.  Sometimes the pilot puts me off and I don’t watch again, sometimes I give it a chance and then stop after a few episodes, and sometimes a show is good enough to keep me watching long term.  As a geeky tv viewer, I find that I’m less forgiving of some new programmes, unless there is something specific or novel about it that means it deserves more of a chance, or I know it is rubbish and watch it to deliberately give my mind a rest, although this is unusual!

The last week or so has seen a glut of new pilots and the question is, are any of them good?

The Comedies:

Up all night

Will Arnett and Christina Applegate star as a couple who are adjusting to being parents, as she returns to work.  A script with some genuinely well written sections gives this some potential, and is ably played by the leads.  A good supporting cast helps the whole ensemble, but the main support role played by Maya Rudolph needs some attention to prevent it from being almost a parody of a sitcom character.

Free Agents

Free Agents is a standard, half hour, single camera comedy about two agents, both of whom have relationships troubles and personal hangups, and stars Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn.  A remake of the British series of the same name, which had Stephen Mangan and Sharon Horgan in the main roles, this is not a patch on the original, which executed the material with more style and wit.   To compound the problem, is that aside from Anthony Head (reprising his role from the British original), the supporting cast is poor, possibly due to badly outlined and clichéd characters.  The best thing about this show is that it has a theme written by Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed’.  I can’t imagine this will last that long.

The New Girl

There is a slight feel of a ‘reverse Big Bang Theory’ about this, with a unconventional, nerdy girl moving in with three guys, each of whom is a different male stereotype.  Zooey Deschanel plays the nerdy girl (I guess the Americans would say ‘kooky’) and is clearly having some fun, giving the role some spark.  Support comes from Max Greenfield (of Veronica Mars) and Jake Johnson, with Damon Wayans appearing in the pilot, but who won’t be in the rest of the series due to other commitments.  If the show can stay away from cheap laughs and keep the spark that Deschanel brings alive, without it becoming an annoying schtick, then this could be interesting.

2 Broke Girls

This is a standard US sitcom, set in a diner, with the two main characters being a mismatched pair of stereotypes, played by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs.  It is formulaic, predictable, badly written, and full of canned laughter.  It is atrocious.  As it’s co-created by Whitney Cummings, who has connections with Chelsea Handler, I should have known better.  Kat Dennings deserves better.  It is so bad that I’m keeping sentences short so that I don’t start ranting…

Whitney

The second show created by Whitney Cummings this season, which I’m sure I should have avoided, especially after watching the debacle that is ‘2 Broke Girls’; the supporting cast however, includes Rhea Seehorn (Franklin & Bash), Maulik Pancholy (Weeds) and Jane Kaczmarek (loads of things!), so I gave it a go as those three have good histories.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the time, despite some effort by the actors.  Whitney Cummings is clearly a better actress than a writer if this script is anything to go by and the whole thing was serious drudgery, although not as bad as ‘2 Broke Girls’.

The Dramas:

Ringer

One of a few ‘twins who swap places’ stories that have appeared this year, this one centres on a pairing played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, with one sister being a poor, recovering addict on the run from the mob, while the other is a wealthy socialite, who also has problems.  After the wealthy sister apparently commits suicide, the ex-addict takes her place.  Now on it’s second episode, having debuted last week, this is unfortunately more lightweight than hoped for and has a definite cheesy soap opera feel to it.  Although SMG can be great, I’m not sure if the casting is right for this show and is not as convincing as it could be.  I also suspect that the plot is going to become increasing labyrinthine, preposterous and convoluted, which will just kill it in the long run.

Unforgettable

This years ‘memory and/or deduction’ show, following on from Psych, The Mentalist, and Lie to Me in previous years, this revolves around a woman with ‘perfect memory’ (hyperthymesia) played by Poppy Montgomery.  Although having a good cast all round (including Kevin Rankin), this feels like the general crime procedural, ‘with a gimmick’, as expected.  Many of the standard things are in place, such as: cop partner is old boyfriend, main character has old unsolved homicide in the family that bubbles under the surface, supporting cast doubt value of main character, and main characters mother is in a nursing home with Alzheimers thus providing lack of memory to counterbalance perfect memory for those poignant moments.  It is weak, but may come good, so will need a couple more episodes to know whether it’ll be good; in it’s favour, being shallow for a moment, there is Poppy Montgomery as a redhead. 😉

The Secret Circle

Oh dear.  Secret Circle is a CW drama about a girl who, after the death of her mother and moving back to her mother’s old home town, learns she is a witch.  Several students at her school have already formed into the eponymous circle and actively recruit her.

Exec. produced by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, who had previously worked on Angel, The Shield, Dollhouse and Lie to Me, this should be better than it is, with the premise seemingly being devised almost by the numbers, and trying to tick off as many clichés as possible.  Given the quality of work that the executive producers have been involved in previously, we can only hope that this will come good, but I suspect that it will remain largely targeted at the tween audience and stay hokey and formulaic, never to reach the standard of Buffy, especially as (with the exception of Britt Robertson and Thomas Dekker) the main cast are relatively poor.

The Playboy Club

Set in 1963, The Playboy Club tells the story of Hugh Hefner’s exclusive club for the elite of Chicago, woven around an ongoing plot started by an accidental murder in this pilot.  Amber Heard stars as the new ‘Bunny girl’, who becomes linked with a high flying lawyer, played by Eddie Cibrian, that is currently dating Laura Benanti’s ‘mother Bunny’ character; cue lots of cliché new vs old, struggle for dominance plot points.  The cast do a good job with the material, but I would have liked to see more of David Krumholtz’ character and some more detail about the back stories; hopefully, this will appear in later episodes.

With Pan Am yet to air, this is the first of the ‘Mad Men’-esque shows to come out and so will come in for some comparison and critical views based on that.  For me, it doesn’t feel as authenic as Mad Men does, but while it might actually be authenic in tone, albeit without as much smoking as there must have been, it seems to have a very stylised air to it.  Mainly, it just feels more like a conventional gangster based plot, which happens to be set in The Playboy Club, rather than an examination of the times and situation.  With more episodes, they’ll be able to explore some of the issues they’ve introduced, such as: race, gender, sexuality and power, so hopefully the following episodes will expand it’s scope and take it in a better direction, away from a simple crime drama.

In other news, several older shows have returned recently or are about to, such as:  Sons Of Anarchy, Greys Anatomy, House, CSI, Castle etc.. so if none of the new ones excite you, maybe the return of an old show will! 😉


Gears 3 arrives tomorrow…

As the title says, Gears of War 3 is released tomorrow (squeeeeeee!). I’ll be attending a midnight opening of the Harlow Game store to pick up my pre-ordered copy tonight, and having just finished reading the excellent fourth and final book in the series set between the three games (Aspho Fields, Anvil Gate, Jacinto’s Remnant, and Coalition’s End all by Karen Traviss) I am just a little bit excited. So excited in fact that I want to take my replica Lancer and run around work trying to chop people up with the chainsaw bayonet whilst I pretend to be the Cole Train!

Anyway, here’s the Dust to Dust trailer, to help you Gearheads get hyped up like me today!

 


Garrison Clearance Pt 2a

This isn’t really a full update to my quest for garrison clearance, but from my point of view it’s quite a big change – I’ve upgraded the helmet padding!

See, when I bought the armour it had a hard-hat harness wedged into the dome of the sun bonnet. This seemed like a rather good idea at the time, as it was adjustable, sat comfortably, and allowed the circulation of air around my head. However, in practice (and after the initial excitement had worn off and allowed me to actualy look at what I’d bought) I realised that it didn’t work. It lifted the helmet too high, so that the chin of the helmet barely covered my chin, and the eye holes were half way up my forehead!

So, I removed it, and set about figuring out another way to stop the helmet spinning freely around my noggin’. As I was quite pressed for time (I decided to start making these changes less than two days before my first public appearance in the armour), I got creative – and in the cupboard we had sheets of fake snow bought buy Hibiscus for a christmas photo shoot. Once wadded and stuck in place with masking tape it made perfect padding.

However, it didn’t last long. First off it would never last longterm, and secondly I made the mistake of letting a friend of mine try on the lid, and despite my stern admonishment that he not adjust the padding in any way, he did just that. Which meant it no longer fit properly.

So fast-forward to today, one week away from my next appearance, and I’ve decided to finally fix the problem in a more permanent fashion. Today at work we received a delivery of new hard drives, all of which came in their own little boxes, padded with sheets of foam! So after squirreling them away in the boot of my car, and much chopping, fitting, re-chopping, taping, and more fitting, I now have a very snug helmet!

OK, so it won’t win any beauty contests, but it stops the lid from wobbling about on my head! At least, that’s the plan. I guess I’ll see on Monday, when I’ll be in Harlow town centre at HMV….

TTFN


Science (and other songs…)

The art of the satirical composer is a creation that can be sublime or hideous.  Many people try, but end up with horrible songs that do not stand up at all; at the other end of the spectrum, one of the finest ever, especially for the nerds, was Tom Lehrer.

You may not have heard of him, as he wrote mostly in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when he wasn’t gaining his degree from Harvard, teaching Political Science at MIT or Mathematics at the University of California, working at Los Alamos, or serving in the Army (at the NSA!).  There is still much interest in his work however, and lots of material available, despite the fact that he withdrew from the music scene and focussed on teaching Mathemathics from the early 70s until 2001, when he retired.

Typically, he used to parody songs, writing new lyrics to fit old tunes, and tended to concentrate on political, current affairs, or scientific topics, although there are some songs that were a result of his time at Harvard and in the Army.

The two most well known songs of his are ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’ and ‘The Elements’, the latter of which is actually the Periodic table of the Elements set to music; educational!

It is well worth looking into his work, especially if you like nerdy subjects, parodies, or just sharp wordplay!


(Nearly) New TV – Only slightly used…

Ahhhhh!  The new US TV schedules are due to start in September/October and a whole new load of TV shows are set to rise or fall, based mainly on random events, Neilsen boxes, or unknown political machinations.

Having looked at a few lists of the new shows though, there doesn’t really seem to be much originality as per usual, and there are a few especially tired old ideas.  This years themes appear to be ‘Mad Men’, ‘Memory and Deduction’ and ‘The Supernatural’.

The Mad Men effect:  Two shows are set to appear after the critical success of Mad Men.

1.  Pan Am

Set in the 60s and revolving around Pan Am Stewardesses, this looks likely to be very much ‘Mad Men in the air’.  Promising elements include Christina Ricci in a starring role and direction from Thomas Schlamme, who has ‘West Wing’ and ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ pedigree.

2.  The Playboy Club

I guess this will be ‘Mad Men with bunny tails, with a bit of crime thrown in’, if the trailer is anything to go by.  Good things?  Amber Heard and a solid cast, including David Krumholtz, who is always quality.

Memory and Deduction: Really???

3.  Unforgettable

First there was ‘Psych’, a comedy based crime drama, which worked exceptionally well and is still going; Psych involves a hyper observant son of a Cop, who can deduce clues about crimes and so he can consult for the Police, pretends to be Psychic.  Several years into the run of Psych, ‘The Mentalist’ appears, which has a consultant to the CBI, who is hyper observant, has excellent deductive reasoning and used to be a fake psychic medium.  Then we got ‘Lie to Me’, which had a group of consultants who used psychology, deduction and facial microexpressions to help law enforcement solve cases.  All three of these series are good, especially Lie to Me, but strangely (or not so strangely I guess), the weakest, most formulaic one, The Mentalist, is the most popular, based on ratings and Lie to Me was recently cancelled.

So now we have Unforgettable – A woman who has hyperthymesia, so has perfect recall and remembers everything; therefore she will use her ability and deductive reasoning to consult with the Police. *sigh*

If there are any positives to take from the available details so far, it is that it does star Poppy Montgomery and Kevin Rankin, as well as other solid actors, so that might make it ok.  I’ll give it a chance based on those two actors, but I do not hold high hopes.

4. Person of Interest

Now this one could be a little better, but could suffer from the J.J. Abrams curse; namely, it could start extremely well, then he could ruin it later on by making it farcical (see Alias, Lost), although he has managed to make Fringe consistently good.  Maybe he has learnt something! 😉

This show involves a billionaire who has invented a method of predicting who will be involved in a violent crime in the near future.  To aid him, he enlists an ex CIA agent to deduce whether the person is victim, perpetrator or witness to try to prevent the crimes from happening.

A bit of a mixture between the Philip K. Dick short story ‘The Minority Report’, Tru Calling and even elements of Quantum Leap, it doesn’t seem that original, but it will no doubt grab a massive audience, even if it is just for the connection to J.J. Abrams.  Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson star, so it has quality leads at least and the trailer actually seems quite interesting; we’ll have to see how it develops and hope it doesn’t become a ‘monster of the week’ type show.

The Supernatural ones:

5.  Grimm

Based on the idea that fantasy creatures from the Grimm fairy tales really do exist and there is a whole other world under the surface of ours, this is sort of like ‘The Lost Girl’, or ‘Neverwhere’, but set in Portland.  A good cast, including Sasha Roiz and the likelihood of good writing gives me hope and I look forward to its debut.

This was created by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, the latter of which has an excellent pedigree including Buffy, Angel, Moonlight, X-Files, Eureka, and In Plain Sight, so if the quality isn’t of a high standard then I will be surprised!

6.  Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time is set in a town where “the magic and mystery of fairy tales may just be real”.  This doesn’t sound the most promising new show and could be quite ‘light’, based on trailers.   Created by Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, both of whom worked on ‘Lost’, this could be ok, but could be horrific.  The relatively recent addition of Jane Espenson as a producer could help!

A good cast includes Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jessy Schram and Giancarlo Esposito, so that is a good start and we’ll have to see how original it can be; one issue though: It could be infused with Disney schmaltz all the way through…

7.  The Secret Circle

From the online details this sounds like The Vampire Diaries with Witches.  oh dear…

Positives?  It’s good to see Thomas Dekker finding something after ‘Terminator: TSCC’ and Britt Robertson is good, so it has that going for it.  It’ll probably be a hit with the tweens and just be beneath the people involved in making it.  I don’t expect anything of the quality of Buffy for instance…

There are some more bits of news kicking around about new shows, so if I get the urge I’ll put my two pennies worth in on those too… Hopefully, there will be some really original stuff!


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