September 29, 2015

Fall TV Premieres: NBC

For the past few posts, I've been writing about the returning and new shows I'm excited about for fall. You may have noticed a glaring omission in these broadcast network roundups - NBC.

That's because the new fall crop of NBC shows is even more disappointing than ABC. The likely very soapy but possibly interesting medical drama Heartbreaker (starring Melissa George), has been pushed to mid-season and replaced by the what's sure to be an unimaginative crowd-pleaser from Dick Wolf - Chicago Med. There's Blindspot, a drama (reminiscent of John Doe or Dark Angel) which may compete for the Quantico audience, though it airs on a different night, and has the benefit of following The Voice. Add to this one very stupid looking multi-camera sitcom, and you've got a network that's nearly unrecognizable when you consider the glory days of the 30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Rec trifecta. (As I noted in an earlier post, FOX now carries the great single-cam sitcoms.)

There is also, of course, the reboot of Heroes - Heroes Reborn (one in a trend of TV revivals.) I never got into the original, so my interest level was low, but I gave the "next generation" resurrection of the show a try. From the first moments of the premiere, it was clear that new viewers had a lot of catching up to do if they wanted to fully understand this sci-fi drama. Getting dropped in the middle of this very bizarre story was tricky, and my confusion only intensified through the quick series of blink-and-you-miss-it flashbacks that began the episode. Only the introduction of Zachary Levi kept this Chuck fan watching. (Did anyone else catch the "stay in the car" line? Loved that reference to my old NBC fave.) I also loved the mysterious penny-toting benefactor. Is he from the original series?

I made it through the two hour premiere, but how much longer can this Heroes newbie stick with Reborn? Will I always be left wondering if a twisting plot point is meant to build suspense or if it references something I'm supposed to know from the original series? And while I'm a big fan of the ensemble cast, the idea of an ensemble setting is making it hard to keep track of all the players. All this leaves me wondering how many new viewers the show will capture. And believe it or not, popularity is a valid concern. I mean, why should I get all into a show if an inevitable cancellation is only going to break my heart? Here's the good news: Reborn is being billed as mini-series. Which probably means that even if the reboot isn't met with resounding praise, we're still going to get a neat wrap-up of the story before the show fades into television oblivion... with the rest of NBC's new fall premieres.

September 20, 2015

Fall TV Premieres: FOX

Tonight, the Emmy Awards will air on FOX, hosted this year by Andy Samberg. Samberg also happens to star in the FOX show I've selected as my pick for favorite returning show on the network. Here's my take on the comedy coming to FOX this fall:

Returning: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the show that arrived in time to fill the void left in my heart after The Office and Parks and Rec went off the air. It's another hilarious single-camera workplace comedy from writer-producer Michael Schur. (Office fans, you also know Schur as "Mose.")

It's a brighter, more cartoonish workplace comedy than The Office, which, for its first few seasons thrived on jokes about boredom and was set in a room so beige you could practically hear the hum of the overhead lights. By comparison, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is flashy, filled with a cast of stand-up comics and improv masters who light up the screen and lighten the mood individually and collectively. Of course, this isn't to say the show doesn't also have heart. The romantic tension between Andy Samberg's Jake Peralta and Melissa Fumero's Amy Santiago culminated with two "cover" kisses and one actual one in the final moments of last season's finale. Just how that relationship will shake out (or fallout) is yet to be seen. (You may recall that The Office Season 2 also ended with a long-awaited kiss - and a third season which left the tension unresolved.)

The cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Season 3 also promises to bring some personnel changes to the precinct. The departure of Andre Braugher's dry but lovable Captain Holt was the final cliffhanger of the Season 2 finale. Promos have revealed the new boss will be played by none other than Bill HaderSNL alum and all around hilarious guy. Hader is on a roll lately, having hit the big screen this summer with Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. Braugher isn't going anywhere, though; he has his own storylines in premiere promos. So what's currently listed as a "guest star" role for Hader may last only an episode or two. Of course, this hearkens me back to the revolving door of Dunder Mifflin managers following the departure of Steve Carrell on The Office. Some of those who walked in were hits (Hello, Idris Elba!) and some were misses (cough...Will Farrell). I can't imagine Hader's stint at the Nine-Nine - however long it may last - will be anything but a hit. 

By the way, don't mistake these plot connections for unoriginality. Brooklyn is a great show in its own right, and that distinctive feel just proves that Schur, co-creator Daniel Goor, and the writing team know how to set up and tell good stories. What you can be sure of, though, is that if you liked The Office, you'll enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns Sunday, September 27 at 8:30 PM.

New: The Grinder

I'll admit it. This show interested me for one reason: Rob Lowe. I loved him as Sam Seaborne, literally adored him as Chris Treager, and the former Brat Pack heartthrob is back to TV again, this time playing an actor who played a lawyer, who's decided an actual career in law is for him. In addition to Lowe, the show stars Fred Savage. (I'm hoping these big names don't lead to an early flop.) If the trailer is any indication, they won't. Unlike the ABC trailers I blogged about last week, this one doesn't try so hard. Take a look:

The comedy here is clearly not in one-liner jokes, but in the characters, in the acting, and in the overarching setup of the plot. And that setup is an interesting one. It's a spin on a family comedy and a legal comedy and a comedy about the tv business.  (So meta.) The show's success may hinge on the chemistry between the brothers played by Lowe and Savage. If they can manage that, and the writing and directing continues on the path laid out in the trailer, it'll be a hit.

The Grinder premieres Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 8:30.

And with that, I'll say it. NBC has passed the comedy baton to FOX. FOX grabbed Schur, and (until recently) another Office alum in The Mindy Project. With The Grinder, FOX got Parks and Rec's Lowe, for a comedy created by the brains behind that network's successful New Girl. Bottom line: everything NBC was doing right when it came to single camera sitcoms has been nabbed by FOX, including all the right people.

Check out what I'm watching this fall on ABC here and on CBS here.

September 14, 2015

Fall TV Premieres: ABC

Lately, I'm deciding which returning shows I'll have time for this fall, and which new ones I want to give a chance. Let's see what there is to see on ABC:

Returning Show: The Middle

Oh, Heck. I love this show so much it made me use a pun. And I hate puns! Last season we saw a lot of growth and change for our favorite family from Orson. Axl got a girlfriend and got to have a beer with his dad. Brick started a podcast and went to the Planet Nowhere convention. Sue didn't get engaged, didn't go to Prom, didn't win the attendance award, and, in the sweetest graduation-themed episode ever, didn't lose her yearbook after all. Meanwhile, Mike and Frankie kept on being the most well-meaning, not to mention the most realistic, parents on TV. How does anyone not love this show?

In Season 7, Sue will head off to college, and Brick might be headed to high school. We're apparently also in for a Halloween episode that can't be missed. Overall, I'm looking forward to more madcap adventures with household appliances, classic sitcom misunderstandings, and heartfelt endings that give us the warm fuzzies to the tune of the show's jaunty theme song that makes the viewer feel like Orson is home.

The Middle premieres Wednesday, September 23, at 8 PM.

New Show: Quantico (And mid-season expectations)

Unless you love The Muppets, you might not be that excited by the new shows in ABC's fall lineup. Two of the leading men from Gossip Girl got their own gig on the network this season, with Chase Crawford starring in the somewhat promising drama Blood and Oil, set in the North Dakota oil fields, and Ed Westwick exercising that American accent in the horrifically creepy looking Wicked City. (Seriously, the trailer will give you nightmares and possibly prevent you from ever going on a first date again.) As a fan of Community, I'm interested to see what comes of Dr. Ken, starring Ken Jeong. Of all the shows debuting this fall on ABC, the trailer that captured me the most is Quantico. It starts out looking a bit like NCIS but ends up with a twist that I found to be not exactly believable, but nonetheless intriguing. See for yourself:

If this show has anything going against it, it might be the use of a single actress as the star vehicle in a TV world that's currently embracing the ensemble cast. Priyanka Chopra is relatively unknown here in the states; but she's a Bollywood actress and singer, and a former pageant winner (Miss World 2000). Taking on this big role could make or break her, no? Her co-star Johanna Braddy is a talent I'm familiar with. This summer, I binged on UnREAL, a scripted drama that aired on Lifetime (but please don't judge it by that!) and is well worth your time if you are interested in a piercing satire (commentary?) of The Bachelor. (Unfortunately, you can't watch it on Lifetime's website anymore without a subscription, so if you have an antenna like me, you missed your chance.) Johanna was absolutely brilliant on UnREAL, and I have little doubt she'll make a similar splash on Quantico if she's given the screen time.

Quantico premieres Sunday, September 27 at 10 PM.

For whatever it's worth, the shows slated for mid-season premiere look far more interesting. There's Of Kings and Prophets, an epic that appears to be only very loosely based on the Biblical account of Saul and David, The Family, a thriller that seems to combine the political intrigue of The Good Wife and the sinister content of a classic episode of Dateline, and the quirky comedy The Real O'Neals, a show that has the advantage of being headlined by Emmy winner Martha Plimpton and Mad Men alum Jay Ferguson. But since we'll have to wait at least until January for those, in the meantime, I'll be excited to see what's new with the Hecks in Orson, and I'm at least curious to see what happens to Alex on Quantico.

Check out what I'll be watching on CBS here.

September 10, 2015

Fall TV Premieres: CBS

Fall TV premiere season is upon us! And while in the cable TV world, seasons have become more fluid and half-seasons can be separated by months, the calendar still seems to hold true in the broadcast network world. So what am I looking forward to this fall? There are some great returning shows as well as some new ones that look promising. In this and some upcoming posts, I'll clue you in on one of each from a few of the networks I tune to with my rabbit ear antenna. First up: CBS

Returning Show: Survivor 

The cast of Survivor: Second Chance
Anyone who's visited Rabbit Ear Reviews before knows that I am a fan of one and only one reality TV show: Survivor. And this season - I think - is shaping up to be its best yet! Season 31 is titled "Second Chance," and each cast member is a returning player who has only attempted the game once before. PLUS, the players this season were voted in by fans like yours truly.

If we're lucky, that means these players know the game, and will play it strategically. Smart players make the game interesting to watch. This way, instead of each castaway voting to eliminate whoever ticked them off that day, we get to watch shrewd people make calculated decisions with an endgame in mind. And if we're really lucky, we as the fans have picked not only real game players, but folks who won't incite a lot of useless drama. Then there's the added piece that some of these players have played the game together before. Will they stick together? Hold a grudge? I can't wait to find out!

Some of the castaways from recent seasons are my favorites to win. Probably because their gameplay is fresh in my mind, but also because I suspect the games nuances are fresh in theirs. Two of the "Brains" from Season 28 are favorites of mine. Spencer, because he reminds me of one of my favorite Survivor winners, and Tasha, because she definitely wasn't given a fair shake at the game her first time around. And then there's Shirin, from Season 30, who had the most amazing character arc - unlike anything you'd expect to see on any reality show, let alone Survivor. Kelly Wigglesworth, from all the way back in Season 1 (!!) is a wild card. Then there's good ol' Stephen Fishbach, arguably more of a student of the game than any of the rest, and a guy who may have won, had his opposition been less likable.

Survivor premieres Wednesday, September 23 at 8 PM.

New Show: Supergirl

I haven't really gotten into a superhero show since the days of Smallville. And before that, Lois and Clark. So it's fair to say that there's really only one superhero for me, and that's Superman. But I'm thinking his cousin will make for a great show, too.

I found this "first look" preview to be a little too expository, but keeping in mind that CBS is not the usual venue for the comic book adaptation, it's a fair guess that the network's viewers aren't the typical Comic-Con set either. So I guess it makes sense that the preview for this new show be filled with explanations re: Krytonian history and mythology. The inclusion of staple characters Jimmy Olsen and Cat Grant makes for an interesting twist on the old tale of the Man of Steel.

I harbor some concerns that this show doesn't have the star power to keep it alive past one season. Sure, you've got Calista Flockhart,  but she hasn't been back in a big way since Ally McBeal. And Jeremy Jordan is known mostly to the musical theater loving set and fans of Smash. But, then again, CBS seems a little less predictable when it comes to cancellations, so maybe they've found something great here that another network couldn't have made work. From the preview video, they seem to have found something great in Melissa Benoist, who apparently was in the cast of Glee after I stopped watching.

It may not have star power, but it has girl power, and if the show plays its cards right, it could make some interesting statements about culture, gender stereotypes, and heroes. I'm hopeful.

Supergirl premieres Monday, October 26 at 8:30 PM

September 3, 2015

Summer TV Binge Part I: The X-Files

There's a slow trend gaining momentum in the TV world. I guess you could call it un-cancellation. Some shows that get the boot from one network are subsequently picked up by another. Others are picked up by an internet streamer, or, as is the case with The X-Files, are rebooted after years and years off the air. A Twin Peaks revival was not far behind (although its ultimate revival has not always been certain.) Fox struck again this month with the announcement of the revival of the cult favorite Prison Break. And that's just to name a few.

Poster from Season 1 of The X-Files featuring Mulder and Scully
A promotional poster for
Season 1 of The X-Files,
one of a handful of shows
that have been rebooted.
Image credit:
So here's the question: has the industry finally run out of ideas? I suppose it may be better to bring back a known favorite than just rehash the same old concepts in uninventive ways. (Provided the revivals are well-done... I'm looking at you, season 4 of Arrested Development.)

A second possibility is that the networks - and the streaming services that scavenge on the cancelled - have finally realized that they've been giving up on shows too soon. That can give viewers a little bit of hope, right? I mean, some shows aren't even given a chance to get off the ground before they are oh-so-unceremoniously cancelled. (Of course, it's not the hidden gems - like last season's Weird Loners or the darlingly odd Pushing Daisies - that receive a second chance. Wouldn't it be nice if they did? Come on, Yahoo Screen! Can you grab those?) Sometimes it's shows that deserve a new home - like Community. And sometimes it's shows that probably would have been better off being filed into the TV archives. (Sorry, Mindy Project, but you had your chance to give us a good third season, and frankly, you let me down. I doubt I'll follow you to Hulu.)

And speaking of streaming platforms, I'd argue that the networks (Fox, in particular) have these to thank for the revival opportunities.

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video stream all nine seasons of The X-Files. That's where old fans rediscovered the show and folks like yours truly - too young to watch the show when it aired - basked in the good writing and 90s nostalgia of this sic-fi masterpiece. This reignited and expanded fan base made revival of the classic possible.

Which brings me to my summer binging. I started watching The X-Files last summer, so news of this revival (13 years after its cancellation) had me excited. But it also made me realize that it was high time I catch up. I didn't quite make it to the series finale last summer, and to be honest, I still haven't. I'm in Season 8. But the show's coming back in January!

New X-Files logo with an updated sans serif font. Intriguing, no?
New millennium, new font.
Image credit:
And folks like me are motivated to catch up before the new episodes air. I'm not crazy enough meet the challenge of watching an episode a day until the premiere. Heck, I don't even have enough time to watch every single episode. (Die-hard fans, go ahead and balk. I admit I can't stand among you at Comic-Con.) But I do have some advice for those of you in a situation similar to mine: you want to watch the new season of The X-Files, but you don't have enough time to prepare thoroughly. Here's my guide to effectively binging on The X-Files while still having time to, you know, go to work and have a social life.
  • The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of episodes: Monster of the Week, and Alien Mythology Arc. Someone - or several wonderful someones - took the time to create what might be the most comprehensive episode guide on Wikipedia. There's a handy table that lets you know which episodes are in the mythology arc, and which are the stand-alone "Monster of the Week" episodes. Then there's an additional page describing each episode's plot, reception, and writing. It's worth watching most of the mythology arc episodes; that's the plot that matters to the show as a whole. But... in general... I think the Monster of the Week episodes are more fun. 
  • Second, go with your personal taste. After watching some of the show, decide! Do you like the comedic episodes? The dark ones? The episodes Chris Carter writes? The ones directed by Kim Manners? You'll figure it out. I happen to like the funny ones.
  • Third, use GraphTV to locate the episodes you can't miss and those you'd be better off skipping forever. This handy little site visualizes the IMDb user ratings of a show to show you the highs and lows and overall trends in viewer appreciation. Sure, user ratings might not be as on-the-nose as critic's reviews, but the graph will tune you in to the episodes that are most significant to viewers, and thus give you a good basis for conversations with fellow fans. 
And there you go! Everything you need to know to get reasonably caught up before The X-Files reboot premiere.

Still, I find it strange that the networks and streaming platforms would find use of one another in this way. Aside from the monetary gains on both sides when a streaming platform licenses a show,  as long as they are creating new content, the internet streamers are competitors of networks and tv show owners. And yet, here we find the former using the latter to reignite interest in old favorites, and the internet platforms picking up the best cast-offs that the networks didn't realize were great. But if this inadvertent partnership leads to more quip-filled conversations between Mulder and Scully, who am I to balk?