Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CBS' "Mike & Molly" -- A Little Too Potty Mouthed for Such a Nice Couple

Watching just one episode isn't usually enough to get a real feel for what's going on with a series. The Flaming Nose likes to take a look at a couple to see what the trends are -- is the comedy pilot jam-packed with laughs, and the rest of the episodes too dry, or maybe the pilot is spotty, and things get better in the subsequent weeks.

Let's take a look at CBS' new Monday night 9:30pm comedy Mike & Molly, starring Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy as two oversized Chicago singles who start a relationship. It's plenty funny enough to fill The Big Bang Theory's former timeslot, and with a Chuck Lorre it has a lot in common with that now-quite successful show. Mike & Molly takes an essentially nice central couple of characters and surrounds them with dialogue which is often raunchy and sexually-explicit.

During the first two episodes there were references to masturbation, queers and queens, condoms and lube, penis and weiners, "snapper" as synonym for vagina, Molly's first period compared to tomato sauce, vomit, and pot jokes. For comparison, in an episode of FX's Louie it was entirely appropriate and brilliant to have a poker game conversation revolve around gay bath house activity, with no-holds-barred descriptions and quips about gay male sex, culminating in an honest and stunning moment of drama, and then more dirty jokes.

In Mike & Molly the aforementioned references felt out of place, shoehorned in for shock effect. As I've said many times here I'm no prude, but Chuck Lorre seems to enjoy smashing the audience's face into edgy -- but not in a good way, in a childish showoffy way -- content that doesn't do the show any favors. The Mike & Molly dialogue provoked, for me at least, more of an "ewwww" reaction, not so with Louie. Mike & Molly uses dirty words as a cheap trick for cheap laughs, and it doesn't need to.

To the credit of leads Gardell and McCarthy, Mike and Molly are personable characters and already you're rooting for them. Gardell manages to achieve something that perhaps some viewers might find unimaginable -- his Mike is a strong and sexy man with tremendous personal appeal. McCarthy's Molly is nice but not cloying, a real woman living with her mother and sister who unfortunately are completely cartoonish laugh machines, as is Mike's cop friend and partner played by Reno Wilson. So what, it's a comedy, right? But please, do we need to hear penis jokes in a show like this?

The fat jokes? Plenty and often self-inflicted so that's maybe better. American culture hasn't figured out how it really feels about fat people. Are thin people watching Mike & Molly to laugh at the chubby leads? I doubt it, because they are only characters who have any heart. Are fat people watching as an affirmation? I don't know. What Mike & Molly seems to do best is be a love story. Maybe that's not what CBS wants out of a comedy with Two and Half Men as a lead-in, but unless the show gets nastier and more cruel (and dirtier, which happened to The Big Bang Theory), I think that's what's working.

Will I continue to watch? Online, yes. Somehow it seems to fit the computer monitor. I don't think I want to watch Mike & Molly's gratuitous weiner jokes on my big TV screen. They don't deserve the exposure. (And it's not the jokes, it's the show they're in).

Mike & Molly airs Mondays at 9:30pm on CBS.

A Few Good Shows that are NOT on Sunday Night!

While we all agree that Sunday night is a cornucopia of fabulous television programming, the rest of the week is not quite the viewing desert one might think. Last week, a number of established series had season premiers and there are a few that are off to a very good start.

HOUSE (Monday nights at 8pm on FOX), took the plunge by giving the brilliant, drug addled doctor a reason to stick to the rehab program for good. He and bosomy hospital Director Cuddy are finally an item. They kissed...they had naked sex...they're planning a European vacation together. It's all fraught with peril, of course, given that Dr. House is borderline Asperger's syndrome and almost completely incapable of a normal human relationship. Towards the end of the episode he actually said the "L" word to Cuddy, which I found touching. My more cynical sister Leslie said, "That's it then, we're looking at the last season for House!".

Moving over to Tuesday nights at 8pm on Fox, the Emmy award winning GLEE turned in a champion season opener. Starting with a full cast cover of Jay Z and Alicia Keys rap/song masterpiece "Empire State of Mind" and introducing a few fascinating new characters. Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester has a new nemesis with the towering and formidable football coach Beiste (The Panther). They clashed from the start, it was like watching butch gladiators fight it out in the halls of a public high school. New singers are being introduced as well, with the Filipina exchange student giving a goose-bump inducing audition.

Modern Family is the one to watch on Wednesdays (ABC at 9pm). Winner of the Best Comedy Emmy for their first season, Modern Family is living proof that broadcast television can still come up with a series that is fresh, innovative and absolutely hilarious. The season two open had Mitchell and Cameron building a huge pink Princess Castle for Lilly, while Phil and Claire try to get rid of the ancient family station wagon. The irrepressible 12 year old quipster Manny goes on a date, making his mom moan that "the leading cause of death among Colombian women is when their sons get married".

Saving the best for last, Thursday night features 30 ROCK (NBC at 8:30pm). Long a Flaming Nose favorite, 30 Rock dispels the myth that it's not possible to make a successful TV program about a TV program. Wait...that myth has never been true...what about The Dick Van Dyke Show? All the greats are back with Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) trying to merge with a new pilot boyfriend (Matt Damon!), and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) head over heels for his uber-competitive TV newswoman doppelganger. There's trouble in paradise, however, as Kenneth the Page is missing. Has he gone over to CBS? Absolutely love the constant references to GE and NBC being sold to "Cabletown", a dig at the pending real life take over by Comcast.

There you have it, something to love for every night of the week! And oddly enough, not one of these programs is on cable. What's the world coming to? ;)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Everything Good Is On Sunday Nights!

Your DVR is going to be smokin' tonight. How is it possible, what conjunction of the moon and stars makes it so, that Sunday nights bring forth such an abdundance of television riches? It's preposterous, it's counter-productive, but it's the way programming is done around these parts.

Tonight, Showtime brings back its hit serial killer Dexter for a fifth season, at 9pm. We've been big Dexter fans since the beginning, loving Michael C. Hall's cool and collected performance in the title role, Jennifer Carpenter as his sister (and Mrs. Hall in real life), and the great ensemble cast at the police department, including David Zayas, Lauren Velez (whose characters got married on the show last season and honestly were a little too cloying), C.S. Lee, Desmond Harrington and of course James Remar as Dexter's late father. Actress Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity, Mona Lisa Smile, The Omen) joins the cast, and we are also promised several appearances, by some means, of Juliette Benz, as Dexter's slain wife Rita.

After last season's bravura freak-out of a performance by John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer, there doesn't seem to be one Big Bad this time around. Sounds more like it'll be Dexter Morgan integrating his monster into his new role as widower and single parent. We fervently hope that the show doesn't dwell too much on the kid angle; we're not looking for another domestic drama here. We want some of the thrilling Dexter-esque edge-of-the-seat action that we loved from previous seasons. We shall see!

So, Dexter is up against HBO's just-launched Boardwalk Empire, the Atlantic City-set gangster drama set in the vo-do-de-o times of Prohibition when the U.S. went dry but nobody stopped drinking. Boardwalk Empire is a must-watch, as is Dexter. As much as Dexter is a product of today's neurotic times, so Boardwalk Empire is a perfect representation of the 1920s, when traces of the 19th century still abounded but the vicious pace of the 20th was speeding up and crowding out the last vestiges of gentility. Highly recommended and of course you get the chance to see the wonderful Steve Buscemi fleshing out a conflicted Nucky Thompson on his rise to infamy.

If you stay with HBO you'll be treated to the return of two wonderful comedies in their sophomore seasons. Bored to Death, starring Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis (who thank goodness didn't bail after his movie The Hangover was a big hit) is up at 10pm. We loved this last year; it's an absurd, addled and delightfully silly comedy adventure of three guys -- an author, a magazine publisher, and a struggling cartoonist -- who are friends and get involved in detective capers, liberally aided by liquor and pot. It's got Brooklyn running through its veins, and the heart and soul of writer and show creator Jonathan Ames beating loudly within. Bored to Death is wonderful.

Back at 10:30pm is Danny McBride as washed-up baseball player Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down, which this season finds Kenny working in the Mexican leagues south of the border. The comedy here is rough, tough, profane, and of course hilarious, and McBride is a great physical comedian which is used to perfection in Eastbound & Down. Powers is also a rabid womanizer and all-around crazy man, so expect the insane with this new season.

Of course, you're probably already watching AMC at 10pm as Mad Men continues its 4th season, where we're still grieving from the death of the precocious and hilarious secretary Miss Blankenship in last week's show. I think it presages a dark and ominous turn in the whole show -- enough of the laughter, now things are going to get serious. Don's daughter is seriously freaking out, Don himself is trying to turn over a new leaf but seems to me just as cagey as before, Joan and Roger are secret lovers doomed to unhappiness, and all the rest, including the not-so-ideal marriage of Betty and Henry. What a mess, and what a treat to watch!

Fire up your DVRs or arrange your viewing during the various encores of each show. There are plenty of opportunities to watch these great series -- not as many with Mad Men, though -- so no excuses for missing them. Five terrific series, so much talent and entertainment!

Sunday nights rock!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Eddie Cantor and "Boardwalk Empire"

We hope you caught Episode 1 of HBO's 1920's Atlantic City-set gangster drama Boardwalk Empire, which premiered last Sunday night. It was a stylish -- how could it not be, with the participation and direction by Martin Scorcese -- and multi-layered evocation of the beginning of America's failed experiment of Prohibition, with a bravura performance by the always interesting Steve Buscemi. He carries the show on his shoulders, giving us a wonderful interpretation of a complicated character -- part gangster, part businessman, part human being -- and it's wonderful to see him headlining a series.

We also loved the use of period music in the show (good article about it by Ann Powers from the L.A. Times here) , and I was particularly thrilled to see one of my favorite performers, the comedian Eddie Cantor, used generously in the episode. I'm not sure you would have gotten the impression that Eddie was particularly funny given the part of his vaudeville act they re-created, with the able assistance of Stephen DeRosa who did a great Cantor. Cantor was very funny, particularly in the movies he made for Samuel Goldwyn in the early 1930s. Highly recommended, particularly Roman Scandals.

But here's some very early sound footage from 1923 -- about the same time period as Boardwalk Empire -- with the real Eddie Cantor doing some of his act. It's fascinating at the very least. Then, another YouTube user found and posted I Never Knew I Had a Wonderful Wife (Until the Town Went Dry, the Cantor song that was used during Boardwalk Empire. Thanks to both these YT users who brought Eddie Cantor into the 21st Century!

Don't forget to watch Episode 2 of Boardwalk Empire tomorrow night on HBO! Check out the official Boardwalk Empire site for more information and view the entire schedule when you can watch this terrific series, undoubtedly the most accomplished of this new season.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to Basics with "Meat & Potatoes" on Food Network

I used to love Food Network, but too much Rachael Ray and idolizing chefs-as-superstars eventually turned me off, but promos for their newest offering might make me a believer again.

Meat & Potatoes premieres tonight at 10pm, starring chef Rahm Fama traveling around looking for the most awesome titular items. As a voracious carnivore -- I know it's philosophically wrong and a big karmic boo-boo, but I gotta have the steak! -- just seeing the shots of juicy cuts of meats and overflowing sandwiches brought me back to the network.

I hope this is more about the meat than about Fama; I love to see enthusiasm and knowledge but am not so found of the comedy bits that pervade these "on the road" food/travel shows. Note to hosts: We already know you have the best jobs in the business -- eating for pay -- so try to calm down a little and stop gloating about it. Just show us the beef, please.

No promos were available anywhere to embed here -- how is that possible, Food Network? -- so we can't actually show you the slathering goodness, but we still recommend tuning in tonight for "Between the Buns" as Fama highlights smoked meat sandwiches in Brooklyn, amazing hot dogs in Chicago, and huge burgers in Kansas City. Jeez, but that sounds good!

Check out the show's official Food Network site here, and you might also enjoy reading some of the other recent coverage about the show, here from Serious Eats, and at the Food Network blog here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

William $#*!ner Rules!

We know you're not expecting much from tonight's premiere of William Shatner's new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says -- at least not if you've been reading anything about it -- but we still love Shatner and will be thinking good thoughts for his latest venture.

Shatner is one of those guys who has managed to create a vivid persona that straddles his real life and his screen life, and his very special position as one of the most iconic pop culture figures in American history. For pete's sake, he's Captain Kirk! What else do you need?

Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a piece in today's Salon about Shatner, and makes merry with the old "he's a bad actor" gag line, but he's really not. Shatner is a wonderful actor, a marvelous stylist who started out as a classically trained thespian and soon enough learned how to make a living at it, and it was things like Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and Star Trek that paid the bills. Not subtle? Perhaps not, but certainly effective.

We want to see him in commercials, not because we think he's an authority, but because we like him. We truly do.

So let's all take a look at $#*! My Dad Says, tonight at 8:30p on CBS, because it's $#*! Shatner Says, and that's a good enough reason for us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Watching TV Online -- It Doesn't Make Everybody Happy

You'll want to read this Los Angeles Times article about the proliferation of sites offering easy links to online TV content. It paints them as the latest Big Bad, but really...with cable and satellite prices so insanely high -- and they are! -- do you blame anybody for using these? I don't.

I basically subscribe to everything, but I go online occasionally to see something that I've missed and couldn't DVR, that the networks don't put on their own websites for viewing -- unbelievable! -- or that I didn't know I needed to watch until too late. Also these are sources for international viewers who can't access content from other countries because of geo-blocking and because nobody runs the shows over here. (I'm thinking particularly about BBC America and how they don't run most of the amazing British comedies that fans crave, but instead play reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation! And they wonder why people go to these sites??)

There's nothing quite as ludicrous and utterly unsympathetic as prosperous Hollywood megacorporations freaking out and trying to stamp out these TV fan-skewed sites when they should be examining their own practices and charges and maybe trying to make things more accessible with a reasonable price tag.

Hollywood sounds alarms as streaming video websites enable a new wave of piracy - latimes.com

This is one more issue where I've got to say "Power to the People!".

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Flaming Nose Fall 2010 Network TV Preview

The Flaming Nose 2010 Fall TV Preview is here! With a few exceptions, the week of September 20th is premiere week, with most networks rolling out their new series and their new line-ups right about now. As we venture into a new season, we think this is the major question: Are the Broadcast Networks tired of Cable getting all the buzz? Probably, but there are at least some returning favorites that we can all get excited about, plus perhaps a new series or two that could cut through the pack. (We're old-fashioned so we always start our TV week on Sunday). Let's take a look:


Sunday is a traditional night, with only four of the nets in competition and nobody taking any chances. ABC remains the same, as does Fox with their successful animation line-up and NBC with their Football Night in America which will be replaced in March. CBS continues its mid-season reality entry Undercover Boss, and moves CSI: Miami in from Mondays.


Monday night is full of new shows, new schedules and new hopes for some new hits. ABC, with Dancing with the Stars and Castle, and the teen-centric CW both stick to their current line-ups, while Fox debuts a new series at 9pm. CBS has moved a new show into the 9:30p post-Two and a Half Men comedy block slot and are using ever more popular The Big Bang Theory later in the week to seed a new night.

The new entry is Mike & Molly, starring stand-up comic and actor Billy Gardell as Mike, a kindly Chicago cop, and Melissa McCarthy as Molly, a 4th-grade teacher. They meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and it's instant attraction. Mike & Molly is from Chuck Lorre, who has done so much for CBS and comedy and is poised to do it again. Co-star Billy Gardell has been a familiar face on series like My Name is Earl, Yes, Dear and many others; McCarthy is well-known to viewers of Gilmore Girls and more recently Samantha Who?, and is a cousin of actress/comedienne Jenny McCarthy. Also starring in Mike & Molly are show-biz veteran Swoozie Kurtz as Molly's mother, Katy Mixon (Eastbound and Down) as Molly's sister, and actor Reno Wilson (I liked him so much in Sci Fi's short-lived but charming monster comedy The Chronicle several years ago) as Mike's police partner. Can Chuck Lorre do for regular chubby working class Americans what he did for egghead physicists, that is, make them hilarious and lovable (and sexually-active, because that's the direction the show has gone in)? CBS certainly hopes so.

CBS also has big hopes for its update of one of the network's signature series from the 1960s and '70s, the iconic Hawaii 5-O, made even more iconic by one of the coolest theme songs ever, which is being retained but updated for this retread. The network continues to believe in the star potential of Alec O'Loughlin, so much so that they've kept trying to find a hit for him, first with the vampire actioner Moonlight from 2007 (missed the vampire craze by that much, Chief!), and last year's Three Rivers medical drama that also failed to thrive. Can he step confidently into tight-lipped and helmet-coiffed Jack Lord's territory? Hmmm...

Lost's Daniel Dae Kim co-stars as Chin Ho, along with Grace Park as a lady cop, Scott Cann (Entourage) as Danny, as in "Book 'em, Dano", and Jean Smart as the lady governor. Early word is not as universally positive as one might think. The show seems to have all the requisite ingredients starting with its pre-sold title, but might be leaning more on pyrotechnics (certainly in the pilot) and beautiful bods in bikinis instead of the kind of solid and well-crafted police tales that were the hallmark of the original. Also the buzz out there is that co-star Scott Caan may be more charismatic than star O'Loughlin, which is probably okay if it still makes the show work. Hard to tell how this will go; since viewers are so less likely to stay tuned to one channel these days than in the old days, the comedy block halo may not be enough to guarantee a hit here for Hawaii 5-O.

NBC brings in two new series, The Event at 9pm and Chase at 10pm. The Event, coming from the Lost and 24 camp, features big action moments liberally doused with mystery and intrigue, with some possibly supernatural notes thrown in. It's got everything -- Blair Underwood as the President, Jason Ritter (The Class, Joan of Arcadia) as a guy caught up in a global cover-up, Zeljko Ivanek (True Blood, Damages, Big Love, Heroes) as a cagey White House advisor, Laura Innes (ER) as a lady with a secret, and Ian Anthony Dale (Daybreak, Surface) as a guy who knows something about the secret. The Event has detainees, hair-raising airplane sequences, attempted assassinations, and reportedly a big white flash of light at the end of the pilot episode, signifying something major. Everybody's wondering if audiences have had enough of series with a big "???" and its own mythology at the center -- like Lost and last season's ultimately unsuccessful FlashForward or Fringe -- or intricately serialized -- like 24 -- which went out with more of a whimper than a big bang. The preview for The Event looks top-notch and snazzy, we'll say that!

NBC's Monday 10pm show is The Chase, starring Kelli Gidish (All My Children, Past Life, The Burg) as Annie Frost, a U.S. Marshal fugitive hunter from Texas, along with co-stars Cole Hauser (K-Ville, Pitch Black), Amaury Noscalo (Prison Break), Rose Rollins (The L Word, M:I III) and Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives). Produced from Jerry Bruckheimer's group, The Chase looks like something that belongs on USA Network, which is not a knock at all, only USA has a better handle on the successful integration of action and banter than network TV does anymore. The Chase feels a little light coming out of the potentous The Event, but viewers needing somewhere to go after Fox signs off -- or who don't like the hula or Nathan Fillion's charm -- might need what The Chase can deliver.

Over at Fox at 9pm, coming out from a House lead-in, the network debuts Lone Star, a sort of Dallas-meets-The Grifters, starring newcomer James Wolk as a skilled con man who's embroiled in a double life in Houston and Midland, Texas. In one incarnation he's a family man secretly dealing in fraudulent investments, and in the other he's married into a big Texas oil concern, with the ultimate aim of taking it down and getting away with the profits. His sexy swindles find him juggling him two wives, played by Adrianna Palicki (Friday Night Lights, South Beach) and Eloise Mumford (Crash), two brothers-in-law -- one suspicious (Mark Deklin, The Ex-List), and one not (Bryce Johnson, Popular) -- one rich and powerful father-in-law, played by veteran actor Jon Voight, and his actual scheming-mastermind father, played by David Keith, another terrific actor. The buzz on Lone Star is good so far; perhaps the intricacies of The Event may just be too much for most viewers and they may opt for the sexy, soapy, swindle-y Texas delights of Lone Star instead.


Tuesday brings several new series to the front. ABC leads off at 8pm with the fanciful hour-long superhero family dramedy No Ordinary Family, with an impressive cast headed by Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), and Julie Benz (Dexter, Desperate Housewives). Their son is played by Jimmie Bennett (young James Kirk in Star Trek) and their daughter by Kay Panabaker (C.S.I., Summerland). One the one hand a family drama, and on the other the fantastic story of people who mysteriously acquire superhero-like powers, No Ordinary Family promises action and emotion (and some laughs) and could be a great 8pm show if it weren't for Fox's returning fan fave Glee which will siphon off youngish potential viewers who might have liked the show. Is NOF destined to fizzle like Heroes? Other 8pm competition is NCIS on CBS, two hours of The Biggest Loser on NBC, and the teen drama One Tree Hill on CW.

At 9pm, only Fox introduces a new series, the baby-on-board-a-beater-car comedy Raising Hope, where a good-hearted young fellow finds himself raising his infant daughter (from a one night stand) while the mother is on death row. The baby is personable, and the cast -- comedy vet Cloris Leachman as the crazy great grandma, child star turned Broadway actress Martha Plimpton (The Goonies) as the grandma (I forgot she was Keith Carradine's daughter!), Garrett Dillahunt (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Deadwood, No Country for Old Men) and Lucas Neff as the baby daddy -- is good. Whether or not you like babies used the way they often use animals in movies -- as the butts of jokes and rather roughly -- might decide whether or not you find this funny, but if you've dug My Name is Earl (same producer) you might really love this. Already dividing opinions -- best? worst? -- so we'll see how it plays out.

Advance word is not kind to Fox's 9:30pm show Running Wilde, starring Will Arnette (Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation), Keri Russell (Felicity, the terrific movie Waitress) and young Stefania Owen (The Lovely Bones). Arnette isn't the only Arrested Development connection here -- the shows share a creator in Mitchell Hurwitz -- but the premise here, of a spoiled rich guy who's trying to woo his free-spirit childhood sweetheart, seems not to be hitting the right buttons, or getting enough laughs. Tinkering might have revved up the chances for this show; we'll see in the coming weeks. Running against these two newbies at 9pm are ABC's Dancing With The Stars, the back end of America's Biggest Loser two-hour, NCIS: Los Angeles, and CW's life and love after adoption drama Life Unexpected.

ABC does an about-face at 10pm with new cop drama Detroit 1-8-7, starring Michael Imperiolo (The Sopranos), theater actor Jon Michael Hill, Aisha Hinds (TrueBlood, Hawthorne, Dollhouse), Erin Cummings (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and Canadian actor/comic Shaun Majumber (24, many Canuck series). Originally planned to use a documentary filming gimmick, that's evidently been dropped in favor of a more conventional but still action-packed premise. Detroit 1-8-7 is certainly the toughest 10pm offering, going against The Good Wife (starring Emmy-robbed Julianna Margulies) and Parenthood, but advance word hasn't exactly been kind.


Wednesday brings the most new series. CBS opens the night with the still-powerhouse Survivor, transplanted from Thursday. New for NBC at 8pm is the snazzy husband 'n wife spy caper Undercovers (from J.J. Abrams). This is clearly where the beautiful continental people live this season, with gorgeous stars Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food, Second Time Around) from Germany and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Doctor Who, MI-5) from Britain playing the ex-CIA spicy spouses who are pressed into service once again. TV vet Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon, Major Dad, Promised Land) co-stars as their boss, with Mekia Cox as Gugu's sister and Carter McIntyre (American Heiress) as their missing colleague.

ABC continues its comedy strategy, changing out one series at 8:30p to bring in Better With You, revolving around three couples and their various romantic conundrums. Young love, contented love, and mature love are on parade here, played by a cast including Josh Cooke (Big Day, Four Kings), Jennifer Finnigan (The Bold and the Beautiful, Close to Home), Kurt Fuller (Supernatural, Psych), Joanna Garcia (Gossip Girl, Privileged, Reba), Jake Lacey and Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show and many others). Not exactly going to break any new ground, but mostly importantly can it hold viewers through to Modern Family at 9pm? Even if it doesn't it probably won't matter for Modern Family, but it's always better to get a little boost where you can.

At 9pm only the CW brings in the new, with its Memphis-set Hellcats which premiered earlier this month. Revolving around the world of college cheerleading, a special place which never seems to lose its weird and utterly trivial pop culture mystique, it's a typical CW offering, and that's no diss. It stars beautiful young people facing tremendous hardships -- romantic, academic, flyaway pompoms -- and does it with the style that perfectly captivates its audience. The cast includes singer-actress Aly Michalka (Phil of the Future, Super Sweet 16: The Movie), Ashley Tisdale (Phineas and Ferb, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), Robbie Jones (One Tree Hill), Matt Barr (One Tree Hill, Harper's Island), Heather Hemmens, Sharon Leal (Boston Public, Dreamgirls, Why Did I Get Married?), Gail O'Grady (NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives, American Dreams) and D.B. Woodside (24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

It's a three network cage match at 10pm -- three new dramas, one with heritage, two brand new concepts (but is anything brand new anymore?). ABC comes in with The Whole Truth, a Jerry Bruckheimer courtroom drama starring the always excellent Maura Tierney (E.R., NewsRadio, Rescue Me, Baby Mama, and who dropped out of NBC's Parenthood due to her recent cancer treatment), and Rob Morrow (Numb3rs, Northern Exposure), along with Christine Adams (Pushing Daisies, NY-LON, Batman Begins), Anthony Ruivivar (Third Watch, Traveler), Eamonn Walker (Kings, Oz, Justice) and Sean Wing (Beautiful People). The twist in The Whole Truth? We see the case from the prosecution -- Tierney --and the defense -- Morrow -- sides, and viewers will be guessing about the accused's guilt or innocence until the last moment. As if being on opposite ends of the law isn't enough, our two lead characters used to be romantically linked, so there's that's tension to be resolved, too. Sounds like a respectable network offering with high-class provenance and a good chance.

CBS brings in another law series, this one with a slightly comic overtone, with The Defenders (no relation to the groundbreaking series of the 1960s with E.G. Marshall), starring TV series survivor Jerry Connelly (Crossing Jordan, Do Not Disturb, Carpoolers, Las Vegas, My Secret Identity, Sliders) and James Belushi (According to Jim). They're Las Vegas defense attorneys working for the underdogs, crazy guys in a crazy city, doing a crazy job. Do you like your attorneys serious or wisecracking? You've got your pick between ABC and CBS.

NBC goes for the reliable with Law & Order: Los Angeles, possibly a last burst of cream from Dick Wolf's cash cow, whose head has been cut off but body continues to thrive. This one's got a great cast -- Terence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Crash, Iron Man), Alfred Molina (Frida, Prick Up Your Ears, Not Without My Daughter), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho, Miracles, Ride with the Devil), Regina Hall (Scary Movie), Corey Stoll (Lucky Number Slevin), and Megan Boone (My Bloody Valentine) -- and will doubtless deliver exactly what Law & Order fans crave, and perhaps a bit more. Tough choices at 10pm, all three series worthy; ABC would seem to have the toughest job, NBC possibly the easiest with the flow out of L&O: SVU.


Thursday is also in upheaval. CBS moved Survivor and seeded a new comedy night, shifting The Big Bang Theory to anchor 8pm and compete directly against NBC's fan favorite The Community. Will TBBT bring its own base over to a much earlier timeslot and different night? CBS follows with its new William Shatner comedy $#*! My Days Says, the Twitter-inspired series which sounded like so much fun when it was first announced but which has received nothing but razzies from nearly all sources since then. Obviously conceived as the perfect nerd match -- the avid Trekkies of The Big Bang Theory as a lead-in to Captain Kirk himself starring in his own sitcom! -- but the problem seems to be that they haven't made a funny series for Shatner, who could be terrific with the right material. Will Sasso (MADTV), Jonathan Sadowski (American Dreams, Friday the 13th) and Nicole Sullivan (MADTV, Rita Rocks, The King of Queens) co-star in SH*! My Days Says and the premise is Shatner as a cranky old bastard with three ex-wives who moves back in with his younger son. Why isn't it funny? Maybe it will be, as there has been some reworking and cast alterations. But then again, maybe it won't be, leaving room for NBC's not-quite-as-much-now critical darling (and Flaming Nose Favorite) 30 Rock to surge ahead at the much-too-early-for-it 8:30p time period.

ABC premieres a new drama My Generation at 8pm, about a bunch of Texas high school grads who've been followed by a documentary crew for the past ten years to see how life has been treating them. The big multicultural cast includes Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield, The Black Donnellys), Jaime King (Gary Unmarried, The Class, Kitchen Confidential), Keir O'Donnell (Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Daniella Alonso (Friday Night Lights, One Tree Hill), Julian Morris (ER, 24), Kelli Garner (Lars and the Real Girl, The Aviator), Sebastian Sozzi (Six Degrees), Mehcad Brooks (The Deep End, TrueBlood [as Eggs], Desperate Housewives, The Game), and Anne Son. This has ended up on some "Worst" lists already; could be pretentious but not in the right way.

The CW at 9pm early preems the new action drama Nikita, based on the successful La Femme Nikita series from more than a dozen years ago, which was itself based on the original 1990 French film directed by Luc Besson and which also spawned a U.S. remake Point of No Return in 1993. This is seemingly a premise that can't miss -- bad girl is given a chance to go straight by being a kick-ass spy -- and with the alluring Hong-Kong-action-movie-trained Maggie Q (Balls of Fury, Mission: Impossible III, Live Free or Die Hard) as Nikita, this one has potential. In terms of appeal, unfortunately Fox's Fringe is looking for the same adventurous audience, but this might be one to DVR. Co-stars are Shane West (ER, Once and Again), Lynday Fonseca (Hot Tub Time Machine, How I Met Your Mother, Big Love, Desperate Housewives), Aaron Stanford (Traveler, Tadpole, The Hills Have Eyes), Melinda Clarke (The O.C., The Vampire Diaries, CSI), Tiffany Hines (Beyond the Break, Bones, 10 Things I Hate About You), and the you've-seen-him-everywhere Xander Berkeley (CSI, 24, Shanghai Noon).

NBC at 9:30p introduces Outsourced, a new sitcom about what happens when an American novelty company's very green manager is sent to India to set up yheir new call center operation. It's getting some bad buzz, mainly because of the expected "Oh, look at the Indian people with their funny accent" jokes, and maybe that's all there is, but maybe there could be more here than just a one-joke premise. Indian characters have been popping up with much more frequency lately, often used for comedy spice in sitcoms just as the sassy black women and fey gay guys have always been, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong or not funny. Starring in Outsourced are stage actor Ben Rappaport, comedy vet Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, Office Space, Meet the Spartans, The Beverly Hillbillies), Australian actress Pippa Black, Parvesh Cheena (Help Me Help You), Sacha Dhawan (The Deep, The Last Train, The History Boys), Rebecca Hazlewood (Bad Girls, ER), Riswan Manji (FlashForward, 24, Better Off Ted, Privileged), and Broadway actress Anisha Nagarajan. NBC either expects a lot from Outsourced, giving it The Office as lead-in, or else they just hope it won't kill The Apprentice at 10pm.


Friday, somewhat surprisingly, has a slew of new shows, too. Everybody's programming pretty strong on this night, going a bit older but there's plenty to watch or DVR. ABC goes with two hours of new shows, starting with Secret Millionaire, a premise that sounds a bit like a Republican commercial for keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Each week a mega-millionaire goes undercover to do volunteer work and ultimately give $100,000 of their own money to someone deserving. This is looking to push the same buttons as Extreme Makeover, and though I'm all for millionaires getting rid of some of their excess money, I'd really rather they just pay more taxes, you know? Obviously the intended audience isn't millionaires, but rather regular folks who might get too rosy a picture of the ultra-rich with all that philanthropy on display. Secret Millionaire sounds too much like propaganda to me, and just the kind that we don't need these days in a country where we already somehow think the rich are the "good guys".

Beginning 10/15, NBC also goes reality for School Pride, a makeover show about communities "coming together to renovate their aging and broken public schools" according to the official show description. Pretty sad that in America we have to rely on TV to fix our broken educational infrastructure -- see why I think those multi-millionaires should be paying more taxes? -- but this is a show with an extremely good heart. Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines is one of the exec producers of School Pride, and the team of regulars motivating the various schools includes a police SWAT officer, a journalist, a comedian/teacher, and an interior designer. Neighborhoods to be highlighted include coast-to-coast locales like Compton, Nashville, Detroit, and Baton Rouge, and I'm sure these schools need all the help they can get. Maybe School Pride can get some younger viewers to watch, though they are probably either out on dates or watching CW's Smallville.

At 9pm, ABC debuts Body of Proof, the story of a contentious surgeon who can't operate anymore and becomes a medical examiner who's really good at solving crimes. This Philadelphia-set drama stars Dana Delaney (China Beach, Desperate Housewives, Kidnapped) as the cranky distaff version of Quincy, M.E., along with Geoffrey Arend (Trust Me), Australian Nic Bishop (Past Life, Home and Away), Jeri Ryan (Boston Legal, Star Trek: Voyager), prolific character actor John Carroll Lynch (K-Ville, Close to Home, Carnivale, The Drew Carey Show), Windell Middlebrooks (The Suite Life on Deck, Scrubs), and Sonja Sohn (The Wire, Brothers & Sisters, Cold Case). It's already being likened to the police verison of House, but maybe the viewers looking for that kind of action already getting it from CSI: NY, which incidentally is getting a big cast change with Melina Kanakaredes leaving and Sela Ward (another House connection!) coming in to replace her. We'll see if the shows can duke it out and co-exist somehow.

Both CBS and NBC are throwing in two new series in the Friday 10pm hour. CBS gives TV stalwart Tom Selleck his own series again with Blue Bloods, co-starring Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown, Runaway, Band of Brothers), Bridget Moynahan (Six Degrees, I, Robot, The Sum of All Fears, Sex and the City), Will Estes (Reunion, American Dreams, Seventh Heaven), and Len Cariou (he was the original Broadway Sweeney Todd, Damages, Brotherhood, Murder, She Wrote, A Little Night Music). Selleck plays the chief of the NYC police department, and his son (Wahlberg) is following in his footsteps. Blue Bloods sounds like a solid, old-fashioned police/family life show, but with a terrific cast and a compatible lead-in with CSI: NY. Can the network's bright shining light of 30 years ago when he played Magnum P.I. do it again for the Eye? I wouldn't bet against it.

NBC at 10pm brings in what has even this early earned the howler award from most critics, Outlaw starring Jimmy Smits as a sexy Supreme Court justice who gives up the highest court to defend the poor in private practice. Good motive, really silly premise. Smits being Smits, his sex-appeal and charisma is undeniable onscreen but it comes off more ridiculous than realistic and this one might -- unless slackers or somebody else start watching it ironically -- get a swift kick off. Maybe Outlaw is a straight-faced parody of self-important lawyer shows? Probably not intentionally. A really good cast backs up Smits: David Ramsay (Anton on Dexter, The Wire, Ghost Whisperer), Ellen Woglom (Californication, Crash), Carly Pope (24, Dirt, Popular), and Jesse Bradford (The West Wing, Flags of Our Fathers). We've also heard that the subsequent episodes are better than the pilot, which might give us hope.


Saturday is business as usual, meaning football and lots of encores, which seems like a great way to play it. Put some of those 10pm shows earlier for those of us who can't manage to stay up late and even forget to set the DVR.

So that's the new season. What do we personally like? We've got to try The Event, especially if it's some crazy sci-fi threat thing or the end of the world. We love people in panic mode on a cataclysmic scale. Maybe CBS's The Defenders? Sounds like lawyer-y fun. However, I wonder at this point if we shouldn't just watch USA's great selection of light action shows like White Collar or Burn Notice instead of thinking the Broadcast Networks can get the lead out and put something zippy up there in the genre? I can't imagine it will be anything new or perhaps even interesting, but the cast of Blue Bloods is good and this might be the time for a little Selleck strength. I also can't imagine actually sitting down and watching it but I will send it good thoughts.

I feel the same about most of these shows, mostly because of the actors and actresses in them. Some really terrific talent is out there this year on all the networks-- Alfred Molina, Terence Howard, Skeet Ulrich, Len Cariou, Jason Ritter, D.B. Woodside, Dana Delaney (I can't stand her but lots of people love her), Selleck, Blair Underwood -- and maybe that's what we need to look for: good performances in "Eh..." shows.

The Flaming Nose TV Blog Official Recommendation for this year: lower our network TV expectations, look to cable and pay TV -- big shout out to FX, USA, HBO and Showtime! -- for the really good stuff, and be thankful that there are so many interesting TV choices out there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" Returns Tonight!

FX's outrageous and hilarious comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadephia returns tonight for its 6th season. Crazier and more subversive than anything else on TV -- except maybe FX's own recent Louie starring Louis C.K., and much funnier than anything calling itself a comedy on the pay nets -- IASiP might be something that you're not watching yet, despite 58 episodes since its August 2005 premiere. When you watch something like this you realize how tame network sitcoms are (and probably should be), but if you crave something with a very high laugh-per-minute score and a very low good taste level, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia will hit you just about right.

If you're not familiar with the show, all you really need to know is that it takes place at Paddy's Irish Pub, a ratty bar in South Philadelphia. Created by co-stars Rob McElhenney (Mac), Glenn Howerton (Dennis) and Charlie Day (Charlie), the series also features McElhenney's real-life wife Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee and Danny DeVito as Frank, Dennis and Dee's rich and enthusiastically eccentric father. All are superb, with veteran DeVito absolutely at home and completely delightful in these utterly raucous surroundings, and especially so in his scenes with Charlie Day. Frank and Charlie are roommates in Charlie's small and scabrous apartment, sharing a bed and getting into some great physical comedy with their wonderfully lowbrow antics.

Actually, most of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is aggressively lowbrow and that's what keeps the anarchic comedy energy bubbling throughout every episode. Never afraid to tackle
crude, lewd, or usually verboten subject matter -- abortion, sexual molestation, welfare recipients, religious fervor, cancer, the mentally challenged, cannibalism, pooping, public masturbation and so on -- IASiP so consistently delivers the laughs that all is forgiven. Even though they're kind of hard on felines in several episodes -- but I did love the way Dennis became super-enamored of the junkyard cat who was pressed into service as "Agent Bauer" when he and Frank became fake policemen -- they're equally as hard on babies, gays, homeless people, priests, gangsters, mothers, and everybody else.

All five seasons of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are available on DVD, used to be available on Hulu, and can undoubtedly be found around the web if all other sources prove fruitless, and you should also visit the FX official show site here. There's a fun make-your-own-trailer mash-up feature to play with, and many other clips and background info for your enjoyment. For a crash-course in all things Sunny, check out their Season 6 viewer guide, too.

We're not going to claim that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is for everybody. If you like your comedy polite and contrite, this show isn't for you. If you want gentle titters and soft rippling chuckles, also not so much for you. However, if you're looking for belly laughs and spit takes, this show has "YOU" written all over it.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has its 6th Season premiere tonight at 10pm on FX. Encores seem to be scattered around the schedule, including Fridays at 1am, Saturdays at 12:30am, and maybe somewhere else but unfortunately FX runs so much Paid Programming that's hard to suss it out. We hate when real networks run Paid Programming. It's degrading and incredibly off-putting. No wonder people go to the web to watch TV -- so often the networks are wasting hours when they could be presenting their shows and instead running really crappy Direct Response ads. Not. Good. Ever.

But don't despair! It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is back! All Hail the DayMan!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Real Temple Grandin on C-SPAN

While driving from Nova Scotia to Florida last week, I was lucky enough to turn on the hotel TV and see most of this incredible interview with Temple Grandin from November of last year. We loved that the HBO movie made about her swept the Emmy Awards last months, and the real lady is no less fascinating. We highly recommend taking a look at this terrific interview; in addition to presenting Ms. Grandin in all her intriguing glory, it shows us why C-SPAN is such a precious television resource for us all.

(I can't seem to get it to embed, but check it out on C-SPAN's website here!)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

HBO's "True Blood" Season Finale Tonight at 9pm!

Don't miss tonight's last Season 4 episode of HBO's vampire meller True Blood, tonight at 9pm! It's been a bloody season, somehow a little less compelling for us than previous years, but still stylish and exciting.

We're also tremendously excited about HBO's next series, the Roaring Twenties-set Atlantic City gangster saga Boardwalk Empire starring Steve Buscemi. More on it here soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Flaming Nose Remembers 9-11-2001

On the 9th anniversary of one of the most shocking days in America's history, The Flaming Nose honors all of the television coverage that kept us informed, horrified and riveted throughout the nightmare. From the time the first planes hit the towers, through the endless funerals and memorials and tributes for all of the poor souls who were lost in this terrorist attack, television was there for us all. It is said that this was the most watched, most photographed event in history. We all watched, and could not turn away.

Here's to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Here's to CNN and all the local stations in NYC that kept broadcasting through the day of horror. Here's to the History Channel, which is airing 9-11 specials all day long today. The History Channel never forgets. Neither should we.

Most of all, here's to all of the brave people who helped each other in NYC, in Washington and on Flight 93 nine years ago today. Heroes all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Valuable "Mad Men" Resources!

Of course you can just watch the show, but we think that you really always want to know more, don't you? Here are some good places to check out for additional Mad Men insight that can only add to our enjoyment of this multi-layered show.

"Mad Blog" at MediaPost Publications: Well-written and concise synopses of Mad Men episodes, posted not immediately but within a few days. Many comments, often by ad industry professionals, add to the dimension of the discussion.

"Mad Men Unbuttoned" -- The Footnotes of Mad Men: Natasha Vargas-Cooper started a blog and now it's a book, but you should still go to the blog and check her latest entries where she provides annotation of the real history behind Mad Men references. It's a great concept which helps fill in some of the blanks for viewers who may not get all the references, using contemporary magazine ads and so forth to furnish our MM world.

"Mad Men Fan Site": Not sure who's behind this but it seems to be a good site with lots of resources. Worth a look.

"Basket of Kisses": The Lipp Sisters' terrific Mad Men blog which has been a favorite here for a long time.

Dyna Moe's Mad Men Illustrated: She's got a book coming out next month, too, with more of her great MM-inspired art. She's the artist behind the "Mad Men Yourself" feature on the AMC-TV Mad Men website. Fun to look at.

AMC's Mad Men Site: Video, photos, all things Mad Men on the official site for Mad Men's network.

Miss Blankenship's Facebook Page: Definitely become a friend of Don's irascible and hilarious secretary, played to perfection by Randee Heller.

If you have any other favorite Mad Men sites, let us know in the comments section!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lucy and Superman

We're featuring the lovable Lucille Ball and stalwart George Reeves as Superman on our header these days, mostly just because we love them both. Reeves as Superman was our childhood hero, even though he was already dead (he died in June of 1959) by the time many of us saw Superman reruns as kids.

No matter. Reeve's infectious charisma, sturdy good looks and Superman's incredible sense of justice made him the perfect hero for us all. Of course you remember the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy and Superman" which culminates in the sequence below. At once hilarious, heroic, charming, and adorable, this scene shows why we'll never stop loving Lucille Ball or George Reeves.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nearly Overlooked -- Terrific Female Performances on HBO's "Hung"

Though the show is often far from being merely the titillating sexual thrill that its title promises, HBO's Hung features a trio of don't-miss ladies -- make no mistake, they're the ones with the balls in this show. Hung's mostly unsung lead actresses toil in relative obscurity, but not for any lack of talent or excellence. Hung hasn't quite risen to the level of cultural touchpoint and probably won't, but that doesn't mean this 'male pimp and the women who love him' premise isn't worth watching.

Star Thomas Jane is fine as the well-endowed high school coach Ray, and this season he's getting some good competition from co-star Gregg Henry as fellow coach Mike Hunt (say it fast) who's unknowingly embroiled in an almost poignant man-for-hire relationship that Ray has blown off. Of even more interest are Jane Adams as Ray's pimp Tanya, Anne Heche as Ray's ex-wife (who has discovered old feelings bubbling up again), and Rebecca Creskoff as Lenore, Ray's other pimp. Creskoff casts a voluptuous visual aura similar to Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, and in fact she guested on two early MM episodes as the older sister of Rachel Katz, Don's department store heiress squeeze.

Jane Adams is a ragged thread as Tanya, nearly unraveling then getting it back together. She's always superb as she's found herself nearly overshadowed by Ray's business and personal relationship with the more aggressive Lenore. Anne Heche as Jessica is playing out a great storyline now. Her character is not exactly unhappily but surely mundanely married to a kind but average-looking big-bucks dermatologist (played so well by Eddie Jemmison) who of course knows deep down he bought himself a gorgeous wife. Jessica can't seem to get Ray off her mind, and in the last episode she ended up going moonlight swimming with him at the lake by their old house.

Hung has been praised for its neurotic verve, mostly thanks to Jane Adams incredible Tanya, and for its morose and cynical take on modern sexual relations. I'm all for that. Is it funny? All the half-hour so-called "comedies" on HBO or on Showtime are hardly that, or at least not always nearly that. It's their complexity that makes them so addicting and even...no, especially..when they fail as comedy they're even better.

The Season Two finale of Hung will air on Sunday, September 12th at 11pm, on HBO.

Nekkid "True Blood" Stars For Your Enjoyment, Courtesy of "Rolling Stone"

Did you see this (last?) week's Rolling Stone cover with the stars of True Blood? It definitely embodies what's been going on with the series -- lots of sex (though mostly in the earlier eps of this season) and lots of blood (ditto). There are more photos from the shoot and also some on-set shots that you'll enjoy checking out, here. (Did they have Alexander Skarsgard standing in a hole for this shot? He normally towers over Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer.)

I thought it fitting that in the clip montage for Outstanding Drama at last Sunday's Emmys, the featured True Blood scene was the amazing moment when Godric (Allan Hyde) sacrificed himself and burned up on the rooftop. Has there been anything so far this season to approach that sublime and beautiful moment? I haven't seen it.

Last week's episode was the season's penultimate; the finale airs Sunday, September 12th, with no new episode this Labor Day weekend but instead a three hour catch-up mini-marathon on HBO. Here's to vampire Eric managing to unshackle himself from the languid and ultimately tedious Russell Edgington as they try a little sunbathing after drinking Sookie's fairy blood!

Well...maybe not!