Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Premiere Week... a Few Thoughts

Wow. There is way too much TV. Especially with the Jewish holidays... I am BEHIND in my viewing. Way behind.

A few thoughts, though... not on ratings (since I've largely twittered my impressions), but on the content itself.

House: Haven't watch last night's episode yet so I don't know the extent to which the show is "back to normal," but the premiere was a combination of awesome and troubling. The temporary and new setting was a fun change of pace, and we got to really see how far this show has come from it's highlight lead character but entirely procedural foundations. As all doctors are psychologists on House, even the psychologists, I found the character elements of the premiere fascinating, but the actual story chock full of meh. The character types found in the psych ward were just that... types. Totally seen every single one of them before. But a great piece of Hugh Laurie who, one of these days, might actually win an Emmy.

Big Bang Theory: I thought last night's was funnier than the premiere. The show just puts a smile on my face. It doesn't so much matter to me that it and HIMYM were split up, because DVR make me my own scheduler/programmer.

How I Met Your Mother: Last night's episode showcased exactly what makes this show awesome, and exactly why Ted is the sore thumb. His storyline was almost entirely separate and tangential to the other four characters... and it was the least entertaining part. The rest of the ensemble is interesting. Ted grates. The writers should really have him meet the Mother soon and show us the courtship and be done with it so that we aren't given these awkward little dating stories told from the year 2030 (though, seriously, Bob Saget-Ted, why are you telling your kids about Stripper Lily?) Though we've seen the doppelganger plot on other sitcoms... I really enjoyed the way HIMYM did it.

Grey's Anatomy: Like House, I appreciated the break from formula (though Grey's is certainly less "formula" than House on an episodic basis). The little vignettes were an amalgamation of entertaining, devastating, and uplifting. And I'm really glad the show chose to do with "40 day" thing and get it out of the way so we didn't have to spend the first 10 episodes dealing with mourning stories (though I'm sure we'll still get some). I'm intrigued by the Seattle Grace / Mercy West merger plotline and, boy howdy, Ellen Pompeo's face looked pregnant.

Dollhouse: The premiere wasn't anything special, story-wise. Decent twist with Ballard being Echo's client and now Jamie Bamber's arms dealer. The best part of the episode, as always, was away from Echo, this time with the Topher and Saunders/Whiskey goings-on. Hopefully we'll get more Victor and Sierra in the coming weeks. Though, honestly, I wish the show would just forgot its episodic foundation and hurtle along towards "Epitaph One" territory...

The Amazing Race: God I'm so happy TAR is back. I totally made the mistake of watching it while fasting. Which, if you watched the episode, you know was not a great idea as one of the challenges was a Japanese game show called "Sushi Roulette" (WANT!) which had the contestants standing in front of a giant wheel that spun and you had to eat whatever sushi roll landing in front of you and the only way to move on was, if a wasabi bomb landed in front of you, to eat the wasabi bomb in 2 minutes. I really, really, really wanted a wasabi bomb. I think the producers finally did a bang-up job in casting the contestants this season after a few cycles of non-standouts. Lance is going to make for a great Ugly American villain. Zev, the guy with Asperger's, is hilarious. There are two cute gay brothers. And that female poker player team... MAN, I was happy the first leg was non-elimination so they could stay in the game.

Desperate Housewives: The introduction of Drea de Matteo's character and family was not the smoothest that Housewives has ever done. Still, I'm glad for the "cliffhanger" (which in the "next time" apparently wasn't a murder as Julie is comatose / on life support) to spice the show up. I've ragged on the need for the seasonal mystery arcs in the past, but this episode was pure soap and had, for me, no drive. There was no excitement going into it from the end of last season, which showed in the ratings nosedive.

Thank god I'd already seen all of the pilots so I didn't have to watch them this week (although I did resample Modern Family, Cougar Town, and Flash Forward for the HD awesomeness)... but I definitely will have to find time to view this week. Cougar Town was much improved in reshoots versus the pilot. A lot of unfunny awkward taken out and some funny lines added in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Beautiful Cancellation

I'm not trying to gloat, but, um, THANK GAWD that CW canceled The Beautiful Life (though I'm sad for a friend of mine who worked on it and is now unemployed... hopefully they'll do post on the episode my friend wrote so I can see it at some point).

Here's to the CW, and Dawn Ostroff, for making a strong of terrible, terrible decisions as the netlet comes of age that, in the grandest of teen drama traditions, they finally learn from and grow.

Now the big question... which show gets its repeats post-ANTM?
- Melrose Place? Repeating CW's "strategy" last season with 90210, rerunning episodes that aried the day before. While the reruns seemed like they would help with exposure, when the reruns were no longer schedule, it original Tuesday airing didn't increase its viewership.
- The Vampire Diaries? The show is CW's only hit this season (we'll see how Smallville does, but it's looking to be the only show with more than 3 million viewers this week) and one could argue that adding a repeat, rather than increasing overall exposure, would dilute the original viewership... something you definitely don't want to do with your only succeeding show that is in a tough time period. However it would be airing 6 days after the original episode... not the day after. It could provide a "catch up" opportunity to viewers, while not eliminating the day-of "TV to talk about" aspect CW is aiming for.

My best and uneducated guess is CW will go with Melrose Place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Meant to post about last night's Glee episode earlier today... Oh, well. I'll be kurt...



Yeah. This episode was hilarious. And focused on the kids instead of the adults (but had plenty of Sue zingers!) And put "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" right back into constant loop in my head JUST AFTER I HAD MANAGED TO GET RID OF IT FOLLOWING THE VMAS. DAMN YOU, GLEE.

It was everything I want from Glee, and everything the show didn't deliver last week. Although I have to say that the release of Rachel Berry / Lea Michele's version of "Taking Chances" pulled one over on me... I thought it was going to be akin to her "Take a Bow," some huge emotional moment, and instead we got a snippet of the song in the episode as an audition performance. I'm fine with that. I just have to not make storyline assumptions based on pre-released music!

Next week... EMMY WINNER Kristen Chenowith! How exciting that Glee/Fox gets to promote her as such.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Trauma

TRAUMA (script review: Trauma)
Status: Premiering Mondays, September 28th @ 9pm on NBC

Trauma is very, very slick. A lot of money went into producing it and it shows. Which is a good thing (you hate to see pilot where a ton of money was plunked down and it DOESN'T show on screen... and there are many examples of that).

But, try as it might... the Tramua pilot did not get me to give a crap about it's characters. I mean, even after some of their team dies in a tragic (and explosive) helicopter-on-helicopter crash of fire and death (which, hilariously, prompts Damages ensemble member Anastasia Griffith to scream her head off for a full minute... seriously, it's FUNNY). The characters are just not strong enough. The action is ultra-dramatic and played so straight that one hopes the show is going for camp value... but it's not.

Which we find out in the last third of the pilot, when the disasters of the week are taken care of and the pilot completely falls apart because there is no emergency to respond to that is keeping us engaged... as the characters definitely have not at that point won me over.

So, first 30 minutes? Pretty good, at least from a "ooh, fire pretty" spectacle level.

Last 15 minutes? Tune-out-apalooza.

Advice for future episodes: carry the disasters the team responds to through the end of the episode.

Pilot Screener Review - Mercy

MERCY (script review: Mercy)
Status: Premiering Wednesday, September 23rd @ 8pm on NBC (tonight!)



I'll write up this review.

Here's the thing you need to know about Mercy's pilot. I was supposed to be reshot. I don't think it was supposed to be rewritten, which means that some of the problems in the pilot would still exist... but it was going to be reshot.

Because, from a pure filmic standpoint... there's no style to Mercy. There is absolutely nothing about it, visually, that astounds or amazes... or even, y'know... catches the eye. The lighting is drab. The actors (let alone the characters) don't really pop.

And that's a problem.

And it was going to be fixed because Mercy was supposed to be a midseason show.

Unfortunately, both for Mercy and Parenthood, Maura Tierney got sick (GET WELL SOON, MAURA) and Mercy was rushed onto the air, rushed into production, scripts pushed through quickly in order to make airing deadlines.

It's all a very unfortunate situation.

Which doesn't entirely give the Mercy pilot a pass... just an asterisk.

Plenty of reviews are out there that unfavorably compare Mercy to Showtime's Nurse Jackie, and it's a valid comparison. From the strident / bitchy (yet somehow sympathetic) lead character to the bumbling newbie nurse underling, to the not-quite-main-character ethnic gay nurse, to the opinion that doctors are idiots... it's cut very much from the same stuff.

On the "doctors are idiots" thing... I yearn for the days of County General, where people made mistakes but, in general, everyone - doctors, nurses, and staff - had a basic level on competency. It doesn't have to be doctors versus nurses.

I still believe that Taylor Schilling as lead character Veronica Callahan is a true find for the show (she has virtually no credits) and that there is potential in this series that many critics are missing by comparing it so wholeheartedly to Nurse Jackie (which, as a show, was waaaaaay overpraised in my opinion). But besides Taylor's fresh face... there really isn't anything new in this pilot. It is still Grey's Anatomy with nurses as the focus instead of surgeons (don't get me started on the ridiculousness of the love triangle plotting) using Nurse Jackie's characters.

However, my plate for this season is entirely full (really, too crowded if I'm being honest), so I won't be checking back into Mercy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Broadcast Final National Ratings for Monday, September 21, 2009

Since PIFeedback.com has apparently disappeared... it's final ratings time!

Dancing With the Stars (121 minutes)
- 17.794 million viewers
- 11.3/17 HH
- 4.1/10 A18-49

Castle (59 minutes)
- 9.265 million viewers
- 6.1/10 HH
- 2.3/6 A18-49

How I Met Your Mother
- 9.085 million viewers
- 5.5/8 HH
- 3.6/10 A18-49

Accidentally on Purpose
- 8.912 million viewers
- 5.6/8 HH
- 3.3/8 A18-49
(HIMYM and AOP are not truly well matched... A18-34 scores are massively different, a 3.3/9 for HIMYM and a 2.3/6 for AOP... then again, HIMYM outrates the rest of the CBS Monday lineup in A18-34, BBT is closest with a 3.0/8)

Two and a Half Men
- 13.629 million viewers
- 8.5/12 HH
- 4.5/10 A18-49 (interestingly, the same demo share as HIMYM)

The Big Bang Theory
- 12.956 million viewers
- 7.9/11 HH
- 4.7/11 A18-49

CSI: Miami
- 14.195 million viewers
- 9.0/15 HH
- 4.3/11 A18-49

Heroes (121 minutes)
- 6.105 million viewers
- 3.7/5 HH
- 2.8/7 A18-49

The Jay Leno Show (59 minutes)
- 5.812 million viewers
- 3.9/6 HH
- 1.8/5 A18-49

House (120 minutes)
- 17.133 million viewers
- 9.8/15 HH
- 6.7/18 A18-49

One Tree Hill
- 2.293 million viewers
- 1.5/2 HH
- 1.1/3 A18-49
- 1.6/4 A18-34
- 2.3/6 W18-34

Gossip Girl
- 1.966 million viewers
- 1.4/2 HH
- 1.0/2 A18-49
- 1.6/4 A18-34
- 2.4/6 W18-34

Thursday, September 17, 2009


So, Glee episode three...

Definitely my least favorite of the three that have aired. As I've stated before, I think the kids are the heart of this show, and while there was still music-aplenty (though the story didn't build to any sort of final number... whether soaring like "Don't Stop Believing" or gut-wrenching like "Take a Bow") the focus was too much on Will and his outside project - the "Acafellas" - and that left the kids' story underserviced (and, um... less Sandy, please!)

The kids could've used more attention because the episode started filling out some of the Glee Club members besides Rachel and Finn, which I'm glad to see. The Mercedes/Kurt story could've been really great, but it felt choppy and the twists too sudden... like the "Mercedes is hanging out with Kurt" plot should've been one episode, the next is "she realizes she's falling for him, but he comes out (and, um, we're supposed to be surprised?)" and the next is "they patch things up and are able to be total BFF." Amber Riley has a fantastic voice and got to showcase it, front and center, in "Bust Your Windows." A really fun number... and the most "music video" Glee has given us thus far. Previously all of the numbers were things the characters were actually singing in the moment (even if, like "Take a Bow" it carried over from a rehearsal to singing in the mirror to singing as she watched Quinn and Finn in the hallway) and this was pure fantasy. I don't think it's a bad thing to allow the show to have characters break into fantasy music video (I certainly know that, in my own head, I've done it more than a couple times)... but I hope it's used sparingly.

On the music side... without building the a key emotional beat / performance, I don't think that we'll be seeing a new Glee song on the Billboard Top 100 next week (this week "Take a Bow" hit Number 46). I'm curious... has anyone heard Glee songs played on the radio? Can people request them and actually get them played?

Anyway, next week is "Preggers," an episode that critics screened a little while back (and I think it is now obvious why Fox chose to send out "Showmance" and "Preggers" for review, instead of "Showmance" and "Acafellas"). It's the "Single Ladies" episode. And it is HILARIOUS (and very much back to what I love about Glee... the focus on the kids) and it fills out Kurt's character a lot (something that, as above, was started in this episode).

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Jay Leno Show's Ratings

Will be big tonight. What with Seinfeld and Kanye. And little-to-no competition.

But tonight's ratings, while grabbing headlines tomorrow, mean absolutely nothing.

We'll talk Leno ratings in a couple weeks when the premiere "hype" has died down and there are shows on against it.

Until then... I care not!

The Return of the VMAs

Kanye West has done something for MTV that hasn't really happened in 6 years when Britney and Christina both kissed Madonna: gotten people talking about the VMAs.

Yes, there was a blip 2 years ago with Britney's "comeback" performance of "Gimme More"... but, honestly, compared to the furor over Kanye's microphone stealing stunt... that was nothing!

Also helping this year's case... Russell Brand's, um, brand of comedy aside, it was a GOOD SHOW. Going back to New York City and really scaling the production back up from the 2007 misstep of the Vegas sit-down dinner theater show (with several insanely lame "hotel room satellite parties") and the 2008 Paramount soundstage idiocy... the performers upped their game immensely (though I did love Pink's performance from last year). The MJ dance tribute was a celebration and Madonna's opening speech was somber in an odd-yet-appropriate way for the VMAs (next year, Madge... perform!!) Janet's lip-synching aside, all of the performances were spot-on. I guess this puts me on Team Taylor, but the feat of actually coordinating and producing that subway station, subway ride, and street closure performance was astounding given the noise of subway cars (but there were crowd noises and even clinks of metal that makes me truly believe her microphone was hot for the performance)... especially as it came mere minutes after the Kayne incident. Lady Gaga was over the top drama (and that's the best she's ever sung live), Pink was, well, crazy (and the only other one I suspected was lip-synching), Green Day rocked out, and Beyonce just killed it.

The Season Finale That Wasn't What It Should Have Been

True Blood has been AMAZINGLY ADDICTIVE this season. The ratings and buzz around it show that.

But what a let-down of a finale, only slightly intriguing at the very last moment with a seemingly out of nowhere cliffhanger.

I've been of the opinion that True Blood, since Sookie, Bill, Jason, and Eric returned from Dallas to Bon Temps in episode 10, the show lost some key elements of what made this season so awesome: the hilarious Fellowship of the Sun plot, the Vampire lore brought to us courtesy of Godric and a sense of true danger... not just "wow, that's some crazy shit happening" brought to us by Maryann.

Don't get me wrong. A considerable amount of what made True Blood so awesome this season WAS the Maryann mystery and Michelle Forbes' performance (GIVE THIS WOMAN AN EMMY). But it petered out.

Also making this season a lot of fun: the Jessica / Hoyt romance.

Anyways, two weeks ago, we got a slower-than-usual episode from a series that, this season, has burned through plot like it was a SoCal brush fire (... too soon?) Which, I was sure, was setting the stage for THE FINALE OF ALL FINALES.

Perhaps my expectations were too high.

The episode began creepily enough, and continued to work its way through the plot until Maryann died... unfortunately in a way that was rather predictable (the Sam / Bill combo) given what Sophie-Anne told Bill last week. When the Vampire Queen of Louisiana this week told Eric (who, I guess, is still playing Yahtzee with her?) that the information she gave Bill may be truth based on rumors... but it also might be horseshit. Apparently, it wasn't the latter.

I wouldn't really have a problem with this if the episode had carried the crazy times and tension out to, say, the 3/4 mark. But Maryann died what seemed like under halfway through. And we were left with 30 minutes of epilogue, checking in on EVERY SINGLE TOWNPERSON and getting their thoughts on why they couldn't remember what had happened. Buffy blew by this in 20 seconds at the end of its two-hour pilot with Giles saying that "people have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't." Though some characters noted that they didn't think it's the end, there was no last minute reversal in the Maryann plot. It simply came and went.

Which was a massive, massive let-down.

The first season finale ticked me off because, the end of the penultimate episode showed us who the killer was. But we still got a finale that was 50 minutes tension and 10 minutes episode followed by a cliffhanger. The still worked as an hour of television, even if the mystery had been sucked out of it.

This season was so far above the first in quality that it really saddened me to see the finale play out the way it did. The only thing I can think of to try and, well, rationalize this and the penultimate episode of this season (the one from two weeks ago) is that the writers came up with 11 episodes but had to film 12. So two weeks ago we got a plodding pace and very little narrative movement within a "setting the stage" episode... and this week we got half an episode of "finale" and half an episode of "epilogue." Put the two of those episodes together but make them into a single hour... I think that'd be a damn fine episode of television instead of two subpar outings.

Oh, well.

As far as next season goes... yes, I'm still looking forward to it. The questions that were raised in this season and in the finale... what is Sookie, really; who are Sam's parents; who vampnapped Bill (actually, I don't really care about that so much); what is Sophie-Anne's plan with distributing V of her own blood (I've got a theory!); what will become of Jason now that he's shot and killed Eggs; what will become of Jessica (as well as Jessica and Hoyt)... they all intrigue me (and, let's be honest, the only major cliffhangers going into season two was "who is the dead body in Andy's car?" and "what's up with Maryann?" so it's not like the fervor of a great cliffhanger is lacking this go around, especially in comparison to season one).

As to my theory on Sophie-Anne (sigh, I so should not be putting this out there as, of course, it's bound to be flat out wrong)... I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse books, but given what we've been told about vampire blood (the bonding between Sookie/Bill and Sookie/Eric because she drank their blood), I'm curious whether Sophie-Anne is trying to develop, like, an army of human devotees via spreading her blood around. Just a stab in the dark... also, is Sam going to have a thing for Bill now that he's had a ton of Bill's blood?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Brothers

Status: Premiering Friday, September 25th @ 8pm on FOX

I couldn't get through the first 5 minutes of Brothers.

That is all.

Pilot Presentation Screener Review - The Beautiful Life: TBL

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL (script review: The Beautiful Life)
Status: Premiering Wednesday, September 16th @ 9pm on CW

I'm told that the adding of the odd ": TBL" after the title is due to legal issues. Why CW couldn't just come up with a DIFFERENT TITLE or, perhaps, like CSI, put the acronym before the title gets spelled out... will forever remain a mystery to me.

Please note, this review is over a 25 minute presentation screener, not the full pilot that will air this coming Wednesday. As such, many scenes are missing. Usually presentations film the key scenes along the A-plot and leave much of the rest to be filmed in case of pickup, but in this case, no exterior scenes were shot because the presentation was not shot in New York City and they knew that, if picked up, the series would be shot in NYC. So there is, actually, some connective tissue missing.

However, very little had changed since the script I read. So the "problems" I had remain. It's vapid, shallow, boozy and drugy, and I feel will be hard for anyone outside of CW's 2.5 million-ish viewers who watch Gossip Girl, 90210, and sampled the Melrose Place premiere. Spelling worse news for TBL is the fact that its lead-in, America's Next Top Model, premiered extremely softly on Wednesday. ANTM is no longer the crown jewel it once was, and it has never been that effective of a lead-in, anyway (the only "success story" to lead out of ANTM has been Gossip Girl, which really only "took off" if you think it ever did, once it moved to Mondays at 8pm). ANTM's second hour of its two-hour premieres is usually significantly stronger than the first (which is the "semi-final" round before the competition actually starts), but that was not the case this cycle, as ANTM faced Glee's premiere. So... we'll see what happens next week. ANTM might rebound. Maybe. ANTM being out of Glee's way doesn't help TBL, though, as it is moving right into the musical show's timeslot (and here's hoping Glee remains the demo magnet it was in the premiere and doesn't suffer a huge 2nd week drop-off).

Anyway. Content. This is a review, after all. I won't say much about the plot, such as it is. Several key scenes were missing. This presentation was all about the clothes, the bodies, the flash and glamour. It certainly hits all those marks. Corbin Bleu, though featured in the print campaign, is barely in the pilot... but his presence MIGHT attract a few High School Musical fanatics to the show. Another big name in the cast who I felt was underused (but, again, may be bigger in the full pilot) was Elle MacPherson as the head of the modeling agency, Claudia Foster. I really wanted to feel her Wilhelmina Slater / Miranda Priestly and just didn't get enough of a read on her.

TBL, regardless of its success, will launch the career of Sara Paxton, who plays Raina, the young hot new model in the model house. She is everything you want in a young female lead on the CW (and more)... charming, pretty, innocent, and immensely likable.

I'm not sure I can say the same of Ben Hollingsworth, who plays Chris Andrews, the other "innocent" in the show and is Raina's love interest (a point in the script about Raina's age - 15 years old - though I don't believe it was stated in the presentation but should be in the pilot as it was a key twist in a plot thread... so we'll see if this actually develops into anything that won't veer too close to statutory rape... Chris's age is ambiguous but he's older than 15).

Chris is "discovered" in a restaurant while his family and he and visiting NYC by a man named Simon. Simon takes Chris to Claudia's agency and Claudia demands he take his shirt off. So Chris does. This is terrible, but we ARE talking about models in this show. While he has a great face, my reaction was that Ben Hollingsworth needed to lose 20 pounds so that he have more visibly defined abs (the holy grail of male modeling is, after all, underwear modeling). Perhaps he has lost weight between presentation and series filming, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the abs in the print campaign are painted on. Ben is also too short to be a model (the girls are taller), as in Corbin Bleu.

But whatever.

Also whatever: Mischa Barton.

I will be watching the pilot when it airs on Wednesday to see if everything comes together with the full 43 minutes instead of just 25. But I don't see this as being a show I would stick with. Especially when Glee and Modern Family are on against it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Life UneXpected

Life UneXpected (script review: Light Years)
Status: Midseason on CW

A couple weeks back, someone asked me to list CW's new fall series in order of my preference. Here we go:

1) The Vampire Diaries
2) The Beautiful Life (though this was only a presentation)
3) Melrose Place

Which is not to say that I loved The Vampire Diaries (see my review here). It is merely the least problematic of the three (though, if you choose to watch tonight, I'd love to get a count of the number of times you laugh when the show isn't asking you to laugh but you do so anyway...)

My love of The Body Politic not withstanding because it, inexplicably, was not picked up and CW is feeling the low-rated wrath of premiering too many carbon copy shows instead of a true original, Life UneXpected is actually my favorite of CW's new series for the 2009-10 season (which, given my complete hatred of the script should shock you)!

I'm happy to say that the cheesiest of lines from the script were thoroughly reworked or just cut altogether, that Brittany Robertson as the (kind of?) titular Lux comes off as sympathetic and strong (and not the near-bitch from the script), that Shiri Appleby is quite magnetic (even if her character, Cate, isn't as fully-formed as I hope she becomes) and has chemistry with both Kerr Smith's Ryan and Kristoffer Polaha (who plays Nate, Lux's father, and is no longer the complete slacker character from the script though still a bit of a man-child).

In short... the core cast works. You care for Lux. You want her to be supported. You don't necessarily want Cate and Nate to get back together because Cate is kind of cute with Ryan (though she is stronger with Nate... mostly because they're allowed to be at odds in the pilot which ramps up the electricity). Gone are several of the unnecessary and cliche plot threads (though expect things to be telegraphed a mile away and for a heavy dose of schmaltz). There's a focus... Lux, and the adults who are going to be a part of her life's relationship to her.

That I didn't hate it made me like it even more... though it's still not something I, personally, would seek out (again, heavy schmaltz and it does still smack of things we've seen before). But the fact that the show isn't about overly sexed 20-somethings in a posh urban setting reminds me of "old school" WB shows (closer to a 7th Heaven / Gilmore Girls amalgamation than resembling, say Dawson's Creek) and gives me a bit of hope for, well, a potential future where the CW isn't just serving up remakes of '90s Fox soaps.

Glee, or Why the CW is Wrong Wrong Wrong

So the premiere of Glee's preliminary ratings are in. 7.315 million viewers, a 4.6/7 in HH, and 3.3/9 in A18-49, with approximately a 70% female audience. (EDIT: in finals, Glee improved to 7.502 million viewers and a 3.5/9 in A18-49, while HH remained the same)

Here's an interesting number, though... 5.3/14 (EDIT: 5.4/15 in finals, a 28.57% gain) in W18-34 (and in a very positive sign for Glee... this was 26.19% above its final 4.2/12 W18-34 rating from the post-Idol preview in May, which wa. This is supposed to be CW's target demo... the reason it exists. Here's the W18-34 from Tuesday's Melrose Place's premiere (also preliminary): 2.5/7. The MP premiere was just as hyped as Glee's. And Glee more than doubled MP's rating in CW's sweet spot.

A little more perspective: Gossip Girl's series high in W18-34 is a 4.3/12 (finals from September 15, 2008), though by the end of last season it wasn't breaking a 3.0.

Yes, it's too soon (following a much-hyped premiere, and without regular competition... though Wipeout and America's Got Talent are two of summer's biggest threats) to say Glee is a smashing success. We'll see how the ratings and demos trend.

But here's what I do know (and, well, we've all known it for a long time): The CW is WRONG.

I'm privy to development objectives of the various networks because, as a writer, you have to know where to take projects based on what people are interested in. The is vehement about not doing shows about high school. They do shows, like Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries, that feature high school characters, but they try and focus those shows away from school and more on the town and extra-curricular lives of the characters (I don't watch 90210, but has the school setting been largely phased out?) They are also phasing teenage characters out... they prefer 20-something female leads. It is far more interested in revamps and remakes and adaptations than original creations (that's not to say they aren't developing purely original material... just that the general industry wisdom is that they are encouraging more of the "90210 and Melrose Place revamp" ilk... though perhaps that will change after Tuesday's bombing).

Glee proves the CW wrong (as does to ratings success of Secret Life of the American Teenager, as does the success of the WB a decade ago with teenage shows about high school and high schoolers... that spoke universally to an American experience that everyone always goes through... there are always more people entering and exiting high school, while Gossip Girl clings to its 2.5 million viewer niche). Glee may have a split focus between the stories of the teens and those of adults, but its biggest strength is, very plainly, the teens and the high school experience. We don't see much of the classroom, and that's fine... the high school exists as a social entity, showing a dichotomy of cool and uncool and the trials and tribulations of teenage romance. I may enjoy Jane Lynch's zingers as Sue Sylvester... but I'm coming back again and again for the kids (and the show better not forget that and focus too heavily on the adults!) Clearly, females 18-34 are interested in this (because you cannot tell me that the musical element is the real reason people are tuning in... there's way too many examples of why that's not true, though Glee is certainly doing the musical TV show thing better than it's been done before).

I sincerely hope Dawn Ostroff is paying attention (or gets fired and someone competent is put in charge... at long last) and The CW attempts to develop shows in the spirit of The WB's heyday though at this point, it may be too little too late.

I challenge the CW to create as show as purely enjoyable (if not as unique) as Glee. If it does... I predict strong ratings would be its reward.

Top Chef Las Vegas: High Stakes, But Is The Game Rigged?

I am absolutely loving this season of Top Chef. The Las Vegas setting has been fun and, though at first I was wary of the "golden chip" high stakes quickfires, they haven't been used every week and this week even brought a "punish the loser" quickfire elimination (plus the "one bite to save your life" challenge for the bottom three).

There's only one thing that has been dampening my enjoyment of this season, though... the seemingly pre-ordained Top Four: Jennifer, Kevin, and brothers Bryan and Mike V. No one else comes close to their achievements (off the show... Eric Ripert's chef de cuisine, two James Beard Award nominees, and chef de cuisine at Michelin star-awarded restaurant!) and their consistency of high quality food and/or innovation on the show.

I'd almost feel bad for the other contestants if the women besides Jennifer weren't so comparably poor (seriously, the first four cheftestants eliminated were women... and no defenses could be made in any of their cases of the judges choosing the wrong person to pack up their knives and go...) or if the men besides those three and loud-mouth / semi-villain Mike I. had made an impression.

For now, it's just nice to sit back and watch to see (a) if any of the "ringers" will screw up, and (b) if anyone will come out of nowhere and surprise like last season's Carla.

Are you loving this season?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


While reading Nikki Finke today Isaw her post CBS Even More Desperate Marketer Than NBC?.

I received a similar e-mail from YouCast about pimping Three Rivers (which, as I've stated before, I will not be reviewing because the screener I saw will be massively recast and potentially rewritten... and for you Alex O'Loughlin fans out there... be thankful!)

Where's my $20 Amazon Gift Certificate offer for pimping The Good Wife, though, what with me writing a glowing review of my own volition?

Sigh. That's really pathetic and certainly despierate if this YouCast crap is coming from CBS (which I hope it isn't).

Anyone else out there with a TV blog gotten the YouCast spam?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Cougar Town

Status: Premiering Wednesday, September 23rd @ 9:30pm on ABC

When I heard the premise and title of this project months and months ago, I definitely threw it aside as one for the junk heap. A one-note joke played several times too often over the span of a rubbish-filled 23 minutes. So I was surprised when I enjoyed (but did not fall head over heels for) the pilot, again, aside from those opening moments, which have the beautiful Cox staring in a mirror, dressed in nothing but a towel, and squeezing parts of her body that are showing signs of wear and tear. That the camera does a close up on the "waddle" of underarm fat and unsightly stomach ripples makes me believe that the body parts in question don't actually belong to the gorgeous Courtney Cox. Movie magic, you know? Anyway, it's a jarring start.

Aside from some startling opening visuals, Cougar Town (which is the name of the town...) goes down easy and Courtney gets to revisit the light-yet-endearing realm of sitcom star after venturing unsuccessfully into Dirt. Real estate agent Jules Cobb is prone to physical comedy, which plays well to Courtney's strengths.

The plot is what you expect. A single mom / divorcee in her mid-30s decides to seek male companionship with hot, young guys. But, blissfully, it's played as something Jules rejects, struggles with (what with having a teenage son... and getting caught...), and finally accepts. If an across the cul-de-sac neighbor played by Josh Hopkins (who I really wish would get recast as there isn't much chemistry between him and Cox... due to him... and, ultimately, you'd think that they are meant to be together) can do it, so can she!

The plot isn't what you come for, though. In fact... on paper, everything about this show is really, really wrong. There isn't really a female empowerment message, as the answer to Jules's problems, at first, really does seem to be going out and getting laid for the first time in a long while. The word "cougar" has been so overplayed in the last few years that it's practically lost all meaning. But it somehow works.

You come for Courtney Cox on top of her game. You come for her character's friendship with a married neighbor (Christa Miller) and with her work partner (Busy Phillips), both of whom get plenty of opportunity to shine (Christa Miller seems to hits similar notes to Jordan in Scrubs, but far less Alpha Bitch). You come for the incredibly sitcom antics of her ex-husband (could he be any more of a caricature?) that surprisingly work in the heightened reality of this single-camera world... and help make you sympathize with put-upon son, Travis (played by Aliens in America's Dan Byrd). And you come for the little moments (such as finding an even older woman making cat claw gestures at Jules as encouragement in a club when Jules starts talking to a young man, and Busy Phillips's delivery of the line "Sweetie, you know you're not coordinated enough to walk backwards in heels.")

Again, it shouldn't work. But I found myself invited back. I don't know how many visits I'll be making to Cougar Town... that all depends on whether the show can hit a few newer notes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - The Good Wife

THE GOOD WIFE (script review: The Good Wife)
Status: Premiering Tuesday, September 22nd @ 10pm on CBS

I had to rewatch The Good Wife to really get a handle on how, well, good it is. This is an intense drama, people. And the screener I have is 47 minutes long, so some things will be gone for the "for air" version.

Julianna Margulies. Remember her? Nurse Carol? She tried the whole "lawyer show" thing a couple seasons ago with Canterbury's Law. It didn't work out. Want to know what makes Alicia Follick different from Elizabeth Canterbury, and why The Good Wife will (or, really ought to) work, besides being on CBS instead of FOX?

You actually like Alicia. From the very first moment she is on screen, which is, of course, the very first moment of the pilot. You feel for her and you root for her. She is a strong, lovable broadcast TV heroine where Elizabeth Canterbury was deeply flawed, abrasive, and better suited for cable (if anything). The challenges Alicia faces in her personal life (her husband, the States Attorney of Illinois, was caught sleeping with a prostitute and, perhaps, abusing the powers of his office...) and professional life (a competition between her and a young upstart for a sole junior associate position, for starters, but there's more as her case in the pilot plays out) are significant and, of course, Alicia has her doubts and you love her all the more for them. There is a beautiful moment about 15 minutes in where Alicia is talking to Jennifer, the woman at the center of the murder trial in the pilot, about what she's going to do with herself now that she's been released from jail for the remainder of the retrial. It's a seminal moment where you learn everything you need to know about Alicia.

But Julianna isn't the only standout among this cast. There are two other cast members I'd like to point out for their performances here, and two others I'm definitely looking forward to getting to know more.

Chris Noth plays Peter Follick, Alicia's now-incarcerated husband and, somehow, you don't hate him for doing what he's done. You can't love him, either, though... and that's because Alicia hasn't decided how she feels yet (she doesn't care about the abuse of power charges he's appealing, she cares about him cheating on her and there being video on YouTube and their kids being exposed, etc). Her POV is all-encompassing in this pilot.

Archie Panjabi plays Kalinda, an in-house investigator working with Alicia on Jennifer's case. She is... hilarious. Some much needed levity (though not comic relief) in this heavy drama.

Also adding some levity: ringtones programmed into Alicia's cell by her daughter (including the Twilight Zone theme for her mother in law).

Two characters I'm interested in getting to know are played by Josh Charles and Christine Baranski (who hopefully will be allowed to return to Big Bang Theory as Leonard's mother!) They play partners at the law firm Alicia joins, Josh's character Will is a longtime friend of Alicia's, while Christine's character Diane plays mentor who develops an ax to grind when Alicia, without informing her, takes a different strategy with Jennifer's case (it is a pro bono case going to retrail and Diane has to go back to billable hours).

It's not often that a screener of a script I loved wows me. It happens far more often when I wasn't as high on the script, but changes were made and the story translated well to the screen. I'm beyond pleased that The Good Wife works even better on screen than the script I read (and loved) did.

I'm less pleased with CBS's outdoor marketing of the show, which don't even hint at the fact that it's a legal show (the tagline: "His scandal. Her story.") Here's hoping viewers find this gem against midweek Leno (he won't be getting the biggest names on Tuesdays, I'm sure!) and the, um, whatever show ABC is airing that I won't be reviewing (much like CBS's Three Rivers) due to significant cast changes. Oh, right. The Forgotten. Quite. So the competition might not be that strong and the NCIS: Los Angeles lead-in should be good. Still, it can't hurt to be pulling for good ratings!

Pilot Screener Review - Community

Status: Premiering Thursday, September 17th @ 9:30pm on NBC (and moving to 8pm after SNL: Weekend Update Thursday is done)

I should like the pilot for Community more than I did, which is not to say I didn't like it. I laughed. Quite a bit, actually. Of course, stick John Oliver in a few scenes as a saucy foil and I'm sure to be entertained.

I believe the issue I have with Community is with its lead, Joel McHale, who I love on The Soup. He plays a shark named Jeff here. A fast-and-smooth talking shark of a lawyer who, because of a slightly amusing (but generally implausible setup) mixup regarding his undergraduate education, must now attend and graduate from Greendale Community College or else be disbarred.

Jeff fits into NBC's Thursday night lineup of somewhere between Michael Scott and Jack Donaghy... only I think his character has the least likable qualities of each and, as such, I'm worried (for a funny show that I hope succeeds) that the audience will be turned off. He can be abrasive. He outright lies to try and sleep with a young woman (though the lie is certainly found out by the end). He wheels, deals, and manipulates people to semi-nefarious ends.

And yet... we're asked to like him.

It may be asking too much.

Jeff certainly has his redeeming moments and lovable qualities, but they are not hit on enough (or separately from his manipulations) to balance out. Favorite moment, for me, is when he encounters an older black woman in a cafeteria and, because of watching too much TV, expects her to impart sage wisdom.

Which, as above, will be a shame because there is a lot of funny to be had in this pilot, and a standout supporting performance by Danny Pudi as Abed.

I'll be watching... but the show has to fully win me over by the time it moves to 8pm, as there is a lot of competition on Thursday night.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Accidentally on Purpose

Status: Premiering Monday, September 21st @ 8:30pm on CBS

You know when you're watching a traditional sitcom and you're having a totally harmless good time with the jokes flying left and right and then something comes along and stops you in your tracks? That was my experience with Accidentally on Purpose.

The first nine minutes were a lot of fun. I actually enjoyed Jenna Elfman (which is so not an easy thing on my part to admit) and the cast of characters was entertaining, even if I was confused that all three of the lead women on the show were white blondes (I guess Ashley Jensen's Scottish background helps separate them slightly). Jon Foster was amusing.

And then the first act out came. I was dreading it because you could tell (a country mile away) what was coming even though I didn't really know what the series premise was. And I cringed when Jenna's character, Billie, announced her pregnancy.

And my enjoyment of Accidentally on Purpose stopped right there.

Part of it is my fault. I read all of the drama scripts and don't, for the most part, even look at the comedy loglines to know what any given pilot is about. But, again, you could tell this "twist" was coming.

Here's my problem (well, here are several of my problems) and why I won't be watching when this premieres in a couple weeks.

Billie has a job: she is a movie critic, and rising star in that world (so, she's an opportunity for writers to throw in pop culture references while never actually showing her work). Then the pregnancy comes and there's really never a thought given to abortion (just like Lynette towards the end of this season of Desperate Housewives). I'm not advocating that all women should get abortions always, but when you're in a situation like this... why is the question not asked? I know... too risque for broadcast TV now (hell, even Family Guy couldn't get its abortion episode aired).

Billie is presented as a career woman (despite that fact that she was carrying on a longterm relationship with her boss, Grant Show, that ended and sent her into a mindset where she would seek out a one night stand with a young man like Jon's character Zack... way to be a strong, independent woman, Billie). Zack and his friends (in their 20s) are presented in a (slacking, freeloading, goofball) way that feels, honestly, as it the show is only trying to speak to 50+ year-olds. I dislike that my generation is presented as such (even if, yes, there are certainly 20somethings like this). It's cynical and it talks down to me in a way that I feel How I Met Your Mother viewers won't respond to at all. The pilot does a decent job filling out Zack's character, but the other guys are just caricatures.

And so the last 14 minutes of the pilot are, of course, about Billie and Zack's relationship (such as they have one). He even moves in with her (for a platonic relationship... sure, that'll keep). Which is just weird, if you ask me. Too soon! It's not like the baby is even remotely close to being born yet.

Speaking of... the baby. Babies ruin sitcoms. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

I think I would have loved this pilot if the show had been about this late-30s woman who, after breaking up with a longterm boyfriend, started a relationship with a much younger man, expecting it to be a one night stand and having it develop into something more. But with that something more being a baby right off the bat... nope.


I've finally accepted the fact that I need to give Travis Yanan his own Twitter account, in addition to my "real life" persona having an account. This is going to confuse me endlessly.

But, anyway. Expect reviews (certainly going to post everything that is premiering before it premieres... and will definitely be busting out the busted pilots) and linkage!

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