June 30, 2013

Under the Dome: "Pilot" Review

To be completely honest, the primary reason I watched the pilot episode of Under the Dome was this trailer:

Not that the promo indicated that the acting would be particularly good, or that the effects would be anything extraordinary. No, you see, I'm a just a really big fan of Bob Dylan, and the Devlin/Ed Sheeran cover of "All Along the Watchtower" reeled me in.

I reject the assertion that another trailer for the show made - that Chester's Mill is a classic American small town. In fact, it seems it was a bit off its rocker even before the title "dome"/force field/upside-down fishbowl descended. Remember, this series is based on a novel by Stephen King. So the fact that the dome slices a cow grotesquely in two shouldn't seem that strange. I mean, have you read Carrie?

But back to Chester's Mill: Let's start with the fact that the episode opens with a body being buried in the woods by a mysterious out-of-towner. So we've got crime. We soon learn that Sheriff Perkins and Councilman Rennie are in on something dubious, because they've been stockpiling propane for some time. So we've got corruption. Then there's the young dating couple - Councilman Rennie's son, Junior, and diner waitress Angie. But he's not so much dating her as he is kidnapping her and locking her in his father's abandoned fallout shelter. So we've got psychosis.  (For the record, I don't have sympathy for either one of these characters. Junior is serial-killer crazy, but Angie just seems like a jerk.)

Source: pinterest.com/cbstvstudios
The only characters I can feel sympathy for are the ones with familiar faces. Out-of-towner Dale "Barbie" Barbara is played by Mike Vogel. I was a big fan of the big budget, quickly cancelled ABC show Pan Am, in which Vogel played young pilot Dean. But you might also recognize him from Bates Motel or The Help. Barbie is the most intriguing character on Under the Dome to me so far. Maybe it's because his acting is best, or maybe it's just because his character seems to have the most to lose by being stuck in the town that is the scene of his crime.

Then there's Jeff Fahey, who plays Sheriff Perkins. He also played a pilot - Lost's Frank Lapidus. And speaking of Lost, that show is exactly what kept coming to mind as I watched this first episode of Under the Dome. When the sheriff walked into the diner, I could practically hear him say, "If we can't live together, we're gonna die alone." (Side note: Remember how great Lost was? That show rocked. For a few seasons, anyway.) The large cast of oddly interconnected characters and inexplicable physical phenomena also contribute to the Lost feel.

So it's a creepy small town now literally surrounded by a mystery. Is it coincidence? Punishment? The government? I think those are the questions the creators of Under the Dome want me to be asking, and they want me to keep watching to learn the answers. I'll keep watching. Partially because I'm curious, but mostly because I still can't get All Along the Watchtower out of my head. 

June 26, 2013

The Short-Lived, The Cancelled. Part #2: How to Live with Your Parents(for the Rest of Your Life)

Read Part #1 here!

Two of the shows that met their untimely ends in 2013 I'm actually sorry to see go. I also feel a little guilty that I didn't get to know them better before they bit the dust. In my last post and this one, I'll tell you why I'm going to miss two short-lived shows of this past television season.

Source: impawards.com
The pilot episode of How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life) wasn't anything special. As is so often the case, the best (read: only) jokes were used in the promo ads, which took all the funny out of watching the episode itself. I couldn't pinpoint it at the time, but I later realized what I disliked about the episode. Here's the setup: Polly, played by Sarah Chalke, falls on hard times and is forced to move into her mother and stepfather's home with her young daughter. Life is hard for the misfortunate Polly, and her hippie parents are utterly unhelpful. When Polly goes on a date, reluctantly leaving her parents to babysit, hilarity ensues. (Polly's parents gave their granddaughter coffee. That's basically it.) But rather than being funny, this episode was depressing. I just felt bad for Polly and wished that life was better for her. Suffice it to say, I didn't plan to watch another episode after the pilot.

But then I did. I forget if was sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family, or if it came on after one of those two, but my TV was still on, and I watched the episode (confusingly) entitled "How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life." It was as though the characters' roles had reversed. Hard times? No. Polly was to blame for making a mess of her own life, and her parents (although very much still flower children) were the only ones who could help her fix it. In this episode, Polly tries to move out of their house, but is not successful at turning on an oven (or any other aspect of living alone.) Brad Garrett delivered a phenomenal performance as Polly's stepfather. His back-and-forth with Sarah Chalke made for some incredibly comedic moments. In addition to being funny, this episode was uplifting. How to Live... was all of the sudden a feel-good comedy, and one I felt I would watch again!

Alas, I will not get the chance. I guess the best news in all of this is that there are still ten episodes of the show I haven't seen. Small comfort for the cancelled.

June 18, 2013

The Short-Lived, The Cancelled. Part #1: Emily Owens, M.D.

Ah, summer. The time when all our favorite television shows go on hiatus, and the networks break in with shows they expect to tank and burn off episodes of shows they've cancelled. Basically, summer is a wasteland on the networks. Because of this, I probably will be posting fewer reviews over the next two months or so. But back to the cancellations: TVLine put together this fantastic "scorecard" of cancelled and returning shows on all the major networks.

Two of the shows that met their untimely ends in 2013 I'm actually sorry to see go. I also feel a little guilty that I didn't get to know them better before they bit the dust. In this post and my next one, I'll tell you why I'm going to miss two short-lived shows of this past television season.

I'll admit it: I generally avoid shows with a medical premise. I'm squeamish and I know it. But Emily Owens, M.D. looked promising, so I watched a few episodes over the season. The show wasn't very well-recieved by critics, but I was impressed. Most impressive was Mamie Gummer in the title role. Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep, inherited more than her mother's distinctive features; She's a heck of an actress as well. The story followed the title character, a young doctor interning at a large hospital, as she navigated her professional and love lives. It also gave the viewers a look inside Emily's thoughts through Carrie Bradshaw style monologues. Unfortunately, Emily Owens was cancelled November 28th, just over a month after its premiere.

Emily Owens, M.D. didn't follow the conventional structure of a CW show. Though lovely, Gummer isn't the typical CW "it" girl. She's almost a "born loser" type. She didn't have the confidence of a Serena van der Woodsen or even a Zoe Hart. (There is classic beauty on the Y-chromosome side of things. Emily's two major love interests were played by CW veteran Justin Hartley and ABC Family alum Michael Rady.)

The show approached its medical plot lines with a more serious tone than the network's other show about a doctor, making it more similar to Grey's Anatomy than anything found on the CW. But I found that to be one of the show's strongest points. It was authentic. But authenticity isn't enough for the CW. I'm afraid the show's lack of paranormal or superheroic characters may have been its downfall, despite how similar Emily's workplace drama was to high school. Simply put, Emily Owens was on the wrong network. It couldn't capture the CW demographic, and it couldn't pull the right audience over to the typically teens-to-twenties channel. I bet if she had been on Fox, Emily Owens would have broken 13 episodes.

A word of warning, which contains a spoiler: If you think this sounds like a show you should watch in your free TV time this summer, know that the final episode ends with a choice. Both of the handsome loves pictured above are enamored of Emily, and she must decide between them. I say this as a warning because you might not like her choice. Most unfortunate of all - now that the show has been cancelled, she won't get the chance to change her mind.

June 10, 2013

Not a Review of the Tony Awards

I only watched part of the Tony Awards, which is one of the reasons why I don't plan to write about that television special in a Rabbit Ear Review. Another reason is that while I love musical theatre, I don't know nearly enough about the shows currently on Broadway to fairly assess last night's winners and losers. And maybe I just don't have the gumption to say how absurd I find it that Broadway shows are now just musicalized versions of movies.

Anyway, the best thing about last night's Tony Awards was the host - Neil Patrick Harris - as evidenced by this opening song and dance number:

Did you catch his "legendary" wink to How I Met Your Mother? I'm sure the CBS executives smiled on that one. I think the opening number, not to mention the whole night, proved that Harris himself is a bigger, far more talented star than HIMYM's recently one-dimensional Barney Stinson allows. But alas, that's a subject for another blog post. All this to say, most of all, last night's show got me excited for the Emmy Awards, which, gratefully, Harris will also be hosting. I'm hoping for an Emmy song and dance.