Friday, October 19, 2012

Nashville: A Little Bit Country, A Whole Lot of Drama

Nashville premiered on ABC television last Wednesday at 10pm.  If you’re anything like me, you had to be begged or bribed to watch it because of the title.  It’s not that I dislike Country music.  In fact I love country folk and bluegrass and even some alt country.  But I never “got” the Southern ambiance, and I wondered if this series would make any sense to me.  I once spent at year attending school in Knoxville, Tennessee and let me just say that while the Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful, a football obsessed town is not a good cultural “fit” for this native New Yorker.

Therefore I’m happy to say that you can be southern, northern, western or even urban and still find something compelling about this series.  It stars the always fascinating Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story) as the fading Queen of country music, Rayna Jaymes.  Britton does her own vocals and she sounds terrific.  Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) stars as her baby faced nemesis Juliette Barnes.  She’s an oversexed, auto-tuned monster, as cute as a Pomeranian but with the bite of a Pit Bull.  Juliette grew up in a troubled home; absent Dad, Meth addict mom.  She was destined to be the terror of her local trailer park, but is instead a fast rising cross-over star ala’ Taylor Swift.  In her spare time she’s starting a business empire by marketing her own perfume and her new hobby is making Rayna’s life a living hell.  When they are first introduced she tells gushes that the aging Rayna is “her Mom’s favorite”. There will be no further need to watch Internet cat videos when these two get their claws out.  It’s a more interesting rivalry than the one between the cast members Karen and Ivy on NBC’s Smash, mainly because cattiness is a blood sport for some southern girls and they are very, very good at it.  If you have any doubt, see Vivian Leigh’s performance in the classic movie Gone With The Wind. She was all fiddle-dee-dee on the outside and “I’m gonna rip out your eyeballs and feed them to your little sister” on the inside.

There’s more tension from Rayna’s family members too, so she will be quite stressed out in this series.  Her husband is a stay-at-home Dad who just happens to be running for Mayor.  Her father Lamar Wyatt (Emmy winner Powers Boothe) is a wealthy industrialist and political king maker.  He’s a control freak and a snake but will make a convincing villain for the series if they let him become a bit less one-dimensional.  Layered bad guys are all the rage these days (Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men) so I hope they will allow Lamar to evolve.
If you’re able to access the pilot that aired last week (you can stream it from the website),  pay close attention to the last ten minutes.  We’re introduced to Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) an affable song writer with a fierce falsetto and a remarkable resemblance to a young Bruce Springsteen.  He’s paired with Scarlett O’Connor, a shy gorgeous poet who may herself be on the way to country music stardom.  The alt country duet they sing is mesmerizing.  I predict a lot of real life downloads for that song which (like all the music in Nashville) is available on iTunes.
More fireworks are anticipated in episode two. Juliette's making a video dressed in white Daisy Dukes and a bustier. Rayna's manager wants to pair her on stage with an old beau to spice up her lagging concert ticket sales. Save me a seat!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall TV Preview: The CW

The CW Fall 2012 Schedule

The CW has three new dramas premiering this season, perfectly reflecting their youthful demo and perfectly complementary to their current line-up of shows.  With shows frequently set with one foot in the beyond and one in the real world, the CW is able to cast a smaller net but often with greater accuracy.  Though they come nowhere near getting the kinds of numbers than the other networks often attain -- but not always, we must remember -- the CW knows its audience well.

Tuesdays at 9pm the CW premieres Emily Owens, M.D., starring Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer (The Good Wife, The Big C) as the title character, a young woman newly graduated from medical school who is interning at a Denver hospital alongside several of her friends and enemies.  Emily quickly learns that life at the hospital is a lot like high school, with all its attendant cliques, rivalries, romances, secrets, lies and like that.  Dr. Emily is surrounded by an interesting circle of colleagues, including her actual former high school rival played by Aja Naomi King (Blue Bloods), her med school crush played by Justin Hartley (Smallville, Passions), a friendly intern played by Kelly McCreary (White Collar) who's a closeted gay woman and also happens to be the daughter of the Chief Resident played by Harry Lennix (Ray, Dollhouse, Little Britain USA, 24).  Emily's cardiac surgeon role model is played by Necar Zadegan (The Event, 24), and her other doctor pal on the staff is played by Michael Rady (The Mentalist, House of Lies, Melrose Place, Swingtown, Sleeper Cell).

If the young women watching the CW want a medical soap opera of their own -- the younger version of ER or Grey's Anatomy -- then Emily Owens, M.D. will be the perfect prescription.  We know that part of the appeal of medical dramas is the heightened sense of drama with lives on the line and enormous medical bills being piled up every second, but the main appeal, to be sure, is the white coat and scrubs uniform fetish that gets played out on these shows.  Whatever works, right?  Whether Gummer and associates end up looking like real docs or just kids playing Halloween dress-up remains to be seen.  Emily Owens, M.D. premieres on 10/16/12 at 9pm on the CW.

Wednesday night at 8pm brings the comic book superhero The Arrow to the CW.  The story of a pampered young billionaire who's lost at sea but later mysteriously turns up alive, is returned to civilization and turns into a secret vigilante against crime. The Arrow stars Stephen Amell (Heartland, Private Practice, Hung) in the title role, with James Ramsey (Dexter, Outlaw,Blue Bloods) playing his chauffeur and confidante.  Colin Donnell (Pan Am) co-stars as The Arrow's best friend, Katie Cassidy (Supernatural, Gossip Girl, Melrose Place, Harper's Island, and she's David Cassidy's daughter) is his ex-girlfriend for whom he still holds a torch.  Willa Holland (The O.C., Gossip Girl) is The Arrow's little sister, and Susanna Thompson (Cold Case, Kings, NCIS) is his mother, an ambitious woman whose present is even more dastardly than anyone guesses.  Paul Blackthorne (The River, The Gates, Lipstick Jungle, 24, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India) is The Arrow's resident skeptic, a hard-nosed police detective who's determined to get to the bottom of what's up with the new secret crimefighter in his city, and he also just happens to be the girlfriend's father.  What a tangled web we weave....

Perhaps the best thing about The Arrow is that it gives the CW a terrific Wednesday night, with its long-running and always outstanding series Supernatural following in the 9pm time period.  The CW often knows how to get it right with series with fantastic elements, from their current hits to way back with the network's progenitor the WB and its history-making Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The Arrow is a perfect companion piece to Supernatural and we wish the network luck with this great twosome.  The Arrow premieres Wednesday, 10/10/12 at 8pm.

Thursdays at 9pm is the home for the CW's new Beauty and the Beast, a sort-of reboot of the 1980's cult favorite series of the same name.  While the original was famous for Ron Perlman's fantastic leonine look as Vincent, a beast-like man/creature (cause known) who lived underground with a mostly genteel bunch of society's drop-outs, this newest take has its Vincent as more of a Hulk character.  This Vincent, played by New Zealander Jay Ryan (Terra Nova, Young Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess) is a former military doctor who has been living in hiding after being stricken with a condition that causes him to gain superhuman strength when enraged.  Totally Hulk, right?  Catherine Chandler, played by Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) is a homicide detective -- the 1980s Catherine worked in the D.A.'s office -- and her police partner is played by Nina Lisandrello (Nurse Jackie, Law & Order).  Football player-turned-banker-turned-actor Brian White (The Cabin in the Woods, The Shield, Moonlight) is their boss, Brit Max Brown (The Tudors) plays the flirty medical examiner, and Nicole Gale Anderson (Jonas) is Catherine's little sister.  Austin Basis (Life Unexpected) plays Vincent's childhood friend and only confidante.  

The twist here is that Catherine eventually figures out that a decade ago Vincent saved her life during an gun battle in which her mother died.  She didn't know what or who had rescued her then, but there's a bond between Vincent and Catherine that is inexplicable and unbreakable.  Question -- did the CW think that audiences today wouldn't accept a Vincent that was mostly beast and not conventionally handsome?  Maybe the CW demo doesn't like its heroes to be facially-challenged; the decision to nix the ugly in the beast's make-up job feels like pulling your punches, but the network seems to understand their audience so perhaps this was the best way to go.  In any case, Beauty and the Beast has a compatible lead-in with the successful The Vampire Diaries and there's no reason why viewers who watch that series would want to turn away from this one.  (There was a second Beauty and the Beast project that almost made it to ABC this season, too.)  Beauty and the Beast premieres on Thursday, 10/11/12, at 9pm.

That does it for our Fall Preview for the major broadcast networks.  There are many mid-season entries also coming up, but we'll catch them as they premiere throughout the season.  

Happy Viewing!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall TV Preview: Fox

Fox Fall 2012 Schedule

Fox is in a fairly good place right now, with their strong Sunday animation line-up which continues to perform well, their musical competition shows, several strong comedies, and an interesting dramatic double-feature on Fridays.  At least one of -- and depending what you read, both of -- Fox's new Tuesday night comedies have also managed to garner good buzz, and that's always a boost.

Monday nights on Fox at 9pm brings a new half-medical/half-crime drama to life.  The Mob Doctor is exactly what it sounds like -- the saga of a doctor who gets involved with the Mob.  Jordana Spiro (Must Love Dogs, My Boys, Dexter) stars as Dr. Grace Devlin, a brilliant young surgeon who's forced into cahoots with Chicago mobsters to help pay off her brother's gambling debts.  By day she's helping her regular patients with life-threatening situations, and by night she's catering to banged-up gangsters and ailing ladies-of-the-night.  Her bifurcated work life is a strain, making it increasingly difficult to maintain the pretense and keep her mob connections a secret from her co-workers.  Her swanky doctor boyfriend played by Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights) certainly can't find out, nor can her nurse best friend played by Floriana Lima (Franklin & Bash, Glory Daze).  It also wouldn't be good if the head of Surgery at the hospital found out either, and we're thrilled to see the wonderful Zeljko Ivanek (Damages, Big Love, True Blood, The Event, 24, John Adams) co-starring in the role.  Nor should Jaime Lee Kirchner (Rent, Just Legal) playing Grace's hospital nemesis find out, either.  And you better add to the "can't find out" list Dr. Devlin's kid brother, played by Jesse Lee Soffer (Two of a Kind opposite the Olsen twins, As the World Turns, The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel), and her mother, played by Wendy Makkena (Sister Act, State of Play).  

Who does know about Grace's walk on the wild side is a more select list, including a contract killer with a conscience and a whole lot of ambition, played by the always interesting William Forsythe (Dick Tracy, Boardwalk Empire, Raising Arizona).  Grace also has an ex-boyfriend who works for Forsythe's character, making her double life even more fraught with dangerous intrigue.  James Carpinello (Felicity, lots of Broadway like Saturday Night Fever and Rock of Ages).  The Mob Doctor didn't get a lot of love from its premiere last Monday night, but the season is young.  However, we all know that first impressions are important, and Fox is definitely hoping that The Mob Doctor can do better the second time out.  The Mob Doctor premiered on Monday, 9/17/12 at 9pm, and continues in the time slot.

Fox debuts a new comedy in the Tuesday 8:30pm time period.  Ben and Kate is either incredibly adorable and heartwarming or ham-handed and annoying, and it's probably actually a little of both, right?  The premise sounds a little of the latter -- a young single woman who had a daughter and dropped out of college is surprised when her devil-may-care immature older brother comes to live with her.  It's a culture clash, a parenting-style clash, as no-nonsense Kate vs. let-it-all-hang-out Ben find out that they really do love each other a lot and that their unconventional household arrangement might just work out for all of them.  It's based on the real-life adventures of creator Dana Fox and her brother, and is produced by the folks who brought you New Girl, which could also send you into heaven or else violent convulsions.  I like New Girl, yet somehow I hate it a little, too, but Ben and Kate supposes that you enjoy watching comedies with kids. 

Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, 21 Jump Street) plays Kate, and Nat Faxon (Bad Teacher, Reno 911!, and Oscar-winning co-screenwriter for The Descendants) is Ben.  Maggie Elizabeth Jones (We Bought a Zoo, Footloose) is Kate's little daughter Maddie.  Kate's best friend is played by Lucy Punch (The Class, Ella Enchanted), and Ben has his own best friend in Tommy, played by improv comedian Echo Kellum (Upright Citizens Brigade).  You know how comedy is -- either it hits you or it doesn't, it's a very personal genre -- so will the adorableness of Ben and Kate delight you or the just the opposite?  We think you ought to watch once to find out.  Ben and Kate premieres on Tuesday, 9/25/12 at 8:30pm.  

The Mindy Project is Fox's other new comedy.  It gets the Tuesday 9:30pm slot after New Girl, and is also getting lots of positive critical attention.  It's from Mindy Kaling (actress/writer/director on The Office) and she plays an OB/GYN who is trying to balance her super-charged professional life with her personal life which is not quite so buttoned-up.  Not another show with a doctor, please...but there it is.  I know why medicos are favorite subjects -- the audience figures that the real problems that people have -- mostly financial, of course -- aren't an issue with doctors so they can be saddled with other relatively petty concerns that make terrific comedy fodder.  I get it, I'm just sort of sick of it.  But, yes, it is Mindy Kaling, which turns this up a notch.  From the description this is one comedy that's firmly rooted in the mindset of the 1% -- Mindy's best friend is the Governor's daughter -- and I'm going to be churlish about that point, so there.  One of the clips on the ABC site is all about Dr. Mindy complaining about poor patients wasting her time -- I guess that's funny to somebody.  

Chris Messina (HBO's The Newsroom, Damages, Six Feet Under, Julie and Julia) is one of Mindy's office colleagues.  British actor Ed Weeks (The IT Crowd) is another OB/GYN, a notorious womanizer, comic actor Ike Barinholtz (Eastbound & Down, MADtv) is a male nurse, veteran actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day, Memento, Glee) is the owner of the practice, and Anna Camp (True Blood, The Help, The Good Wife) plays Mindy's pal the Governor's daughter.  Enough said -- you will either fall in love with Mindy Kaling and The Mindy Project or you won't.  Will it turn out to be Sex in the City meets Scrubs?  I don't think there'd be any cure for that.   The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm.  

Next up, the perennially youthful CW Network!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall TV Preview: ABC

ABC has a handful of new shows on tap, with one of them getting on most of the early "Must Watch" lists for this season.  The continued success of Dancing with the Stars is keeping ABC alive on Mondays and Tuesdays, and their successful comedy block on Wednesdays is still strong.

Sunday night brings a new stylish drama to ABC.  666 Park Avenue, obviously set in New York City, is the story of The Drake, a swanky high-rise apartment building where the tenants are often more than what they seem and the supernatural world is never far away.  The adventures begin when a young idealistic couple from Middle America come to the city and end up managing the tony premises.  The cast is good -- Terry O'Quinn (Lost, Harsh Realm, Alias) is a high-powered and devilishly well-connected real estate magnate; Vanessa Williams (Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Eraser) is his beautiful and equally strong-willed wife; Rachael Taylor (Transformers, Grey's Anatomy, the ill-fated Charlie's Angels TV reboot) is the innocent new manager of The Drake; Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters, Reunion) is her ambitious boyfriend; Robert Buckley (Lipstick Jungle, One Tree Hill) is a troubled playwright; Mercedes Masohn is the playwright's photographer wife; Samantha Logan is a resident with budding psychic abilities, and Helena Mattsson (Desperate Housewives) is a vixen from across the street who stirs up trouble.  666 Park Avenue promises to deliver a swag bag full of glamour, together with generous doses of otherworldly chills.  666 Park Avenue premieres Sunday, 9/30/12 at 10pm.

Wednesday night will see the debut of one new comedy to the strong line-up.  The Neighbors is a outright gimmick comedy -- a middle-of-the-road suburban couple seeking a nice safe place to raise their kids ends up living in a community entirely populated by a  group of stranded outer space aliens.  Jami Gertz (Still Standing, Square Pegs) plays the human mother; veteran performer Lenny Venito (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is her husband; Simon Templeman (The Royal Shakespeare Company) is the head of the alien contingent; Nigeria-born Toks Olagundoye is his wife and Tim Jo and Ian Patrick are their sons.  Amber Mamet (playwright David's daughter, as is HBO's Girls star Zosia Mamet), Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Isabella Camp are the human kids.  I've read some good about this series, and some not-so-enthusiastic.  Clearly it's going to be silly, but in its 9:30pm time period it doesn't post a threat to the rest of ABC's comedies on the night.  There must be something there that ABC thinks is good enough to warrant The Neighbors being given the coveted post-Modern Family timeslot.  We'll see.  The Neighbors premieres Wednesday, 9/26/12 at 9:30pm.

Nashville, ABC's Wednesday 10pm show, is where the network is really getting its critical buzz on.  The raves are already flowing in for this country music-set drama, starring Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story) as Rayna James, Nashville's current biggest star and certified legend, whose future looks a little dimmer because of the rise of young and vivacious crossover star Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Scream 4).  Nashville has super soap opera written all over it, with the added plus of the well-liked and talented Britton in the title role.  She's a critical darling after her years on Friday Night Lights, and that will definitely help the reception of Nashville.

The uber-talented Powers Boothe (The Hatfields and the McCoys, Tombstone, Blue Sky, 24, Deadwood, The Guyana Tragedy and so many others) co-stars Lamar Wyatt, the tycoon father of Britton's character.  Eric Close (Without a Trace, Now and Again, the Taken miniseries) is Rayna's frustrated husband who is about to go into politics to escape being 2nd fiddle to his wife.  Charles Esten (Whose Line is it Anway?) is Rayna's loyal accompanist and co-songwriter who has held a torch for her for decades.  Robert Wisdom plays a longtime friend of the Wyatt family who is being ostracized, Australian actress Clare Bowen plays a rising country singer, British actor Sam Palladio (Episodes) is a talented newcomer, and Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital) is another musician with big ambitions.

Thelma & Louise writer Callie Khouri is one of the creative forces behind Nashville, and it's this kind of provenance plus some impressive casting that appears to have pushed Nashville to the top of the short list of "Most Anticipated" new series.  What do you do if you don't like country music?  Presumably the drama will carry you through. And yes, Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere do their own singing, with coaching from musician T-Bone Burnett (who is married to Khouri, btw).  Nashville premieres Wednesday, 10/10/12 at 10pm.

If you can turn away from all the comedies awaiting you on Thursday night, ABC's new 8pm adventure series Last Resort offers up an intriguing premise.  In some near future, a nuclear submarine with orders to fire on enemy territory if the United States is destroyed receives the dreaded order.  Simple, except the U.S. is mired in a political mess with military officials battling with the White House, and Commander Chaplin, played by Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age, Homicide: Life on the Street, Gideon's Crossing) wants confirmation of this world-ending order.  When he refuses to arm the missles, it's the U.S.S. Colorado vs. the world.

Scott Speedman (Felicity, Underworld, My Life Without Me -- a wonderful movie, seek it out) is Chaplin's second-in-command,  Robert Patrick (The Unit, Terminator 2, The X Files, Safe House) is the sub's Master Chief, Australian actor Daniel Lissing is an unhappy Navy Seal, fellow Australian Daisy Betts (Harry's Law) is the sub's navigator and the daughter of a Pentagon chief, French actress Camille de Passis is a resident of the mysterious island where the sub makes port,  Sierra Leone-born actor Sahr Ngaujah plays an island local with his pulse on the underground economy, Autumn Reeser (The O.C., Entourage, No Ordinary Family) is an ambitious scientist whose pet project is lost onboard the wayward sub, Jessy Schram (Once Upon a Time, Veronica Mars, Falling Skies) is the wife of the sub's second-in-command, and Nepal-born Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) is an island woman whose life becomes entangled with the refugees.

Last Resort seems a bit of a throwaway as an 8pm show, but it does present a clear alternative to the comedies and provides another DVR-worthy choice. The cast is good, the acting equally so, and if you want to, you can catch the pilot online right now at ABC before it hits the air.  The show looks good at the very least, and it -- and Revolution on NBC -- bring us something a little different and predictive as we face a future of our own that isn't guaranteed in any way.  Last Resort premieres on Thursday, 9/27/12 at 8pm.

Lastly, Fridays at 8:30pm will bring the late-starting comedy entry Malibu Country, starring Reba McEntire (Tremors, Reba, Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway) as the wronged singer-wife of a country music star who hightails it out of Nashville to California to begin a new life.  Lily Tomlin (Laugh-In, All of Me, Desperate Housewives, Nine to Five, The West Wing, Murphy Brown) co-stars as Reba's feisty (what else?) mother, with Juliette Angelo and  Justin Prentice as Reba's teenage kids.  Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect) also stars as Reba's new next-door-neighbor with a gay stepson.  Jai  Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) plays Reba's new agent's assistant who becomes her best friend.  You've certainly got a barrel-full of ripe stereotypes in the premise for Malibu Country -- Robert Altman's Nashville meets The Beverly Hillbillies, perhaps -- but  Reba has been known to be funny, and Tomlin (who played Miss Jane Hathaway in the Hillbillies movie but now looks like she's graduated to Granny) always lends an air of talent to any production.  Malibu Country is kind of a lost comedy on a network that reserves its strong titles for Wednesdays, but though the buzz isn't kind so far, I think the cast deserves a look, at least.  Malibu Country premieres on Friday, 11/2/12 at 8:30pm.

That's it for the Alphabet Network!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall TV Preview: What You Can Watch on Tuesday Night

Tuesday Night Broadcast Network Fall 2012 Line-ups

There are no new Fall Series making their debuts tonight, although you can watch new episodes of NBC's newest comedies, Go On with Matthew Perry and The New Normal, beginning at 9pm.  Next Tuesday night will see the premieres of Fox's new comedies Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project (more on them soon), as well as CBS' interesting (we hope) 1960s-era Vegas with Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid.  The CW is waiting until mid-October to bring in their newest offerings.

Tuesday is a real mixed night, with musical competition shows Dancing with the Stars and The Voice going head-to-head.  CBS viewers will feel right at home with the NCIS franchise duo and the new Vegas.  Fox goes all comedy, including the returning Raising Hope and New Girl, as well as their two newest. CW goes with a current favorite and adds a new girlie medical drama starring Meryl Streep's daughter.

Fall TV Preview: CBS

CBS 2012 Fall Schedule

CBS is in a good place this season, especially with two successful nights of comedy working alongside their usual stable of police procedurals and a couple of stalwart competition shows.  We all recall how Thursday was wrested away from NBC dominance several seasons ago after the bold seeding of the night with the move of The Big Bang Theory from Monday.  This year Two and a Half Men follows, possible primarily because the CBS Monday night line-up remains very strong in part thanks to the unexpectedly solid performance from the returning 2 Broke Girls.

8:30pm Monday nights sees the introduction of a new comedy into the line-up, the creation of real-life writer/producer best friends David Kohan and Matt Mutchnick (best known for Will & Grace).  The Partners plot mirrors Kohan and Mutchnick's own life, centering around the longstanding "bromance" of two guys (who are also business partners), one straight and one gay, and what happens when each of them falls in love.  David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) stars as the straight friend, and his fiancee is played by Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill, John Tucker Must Die).  Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) is paired onscreen with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns).  If Kohan and Mutchnick can do as well with Partners as they did with the still hilarious-in-reruns Will & Grace, this one could be another notch on CBS' Monday comedy belt.  It's in a crucial timeslot, and the continuing success of 2 Broke Girls and Mike & Molly somewhat depends on Partners coming out strong.  Partners premieres Monday, 9/24.

Tuesday nights at 10pm will be the home of Vegas, yet another series revolving around the legendary gambling mecca and with an exceptional cast that could make this one a sure bet.  Set in the wild and woolly 1960s heyday of the city when gangsters ruled the casinos and laws were made to be broken, Vegas brings the incredibly talented Michael Chiklis (The Shield, The Commish, Fantastic Four) back to TV, and it doesn't get any better than that.  If Chiklis weren't enough incentive, Vegas also stars the always-interesting Dennis Quaid (Far From Heaven, The Day After Tomorrow, The Parent Trap, Great Balls of Fire!) in his first TV series role.  The intriguing, lovely and talented Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy, Memento) co-stars as a dedicated District Attorney, along with Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova, Band of Brothers, Life on Mars) and Taylor Handley (Jack Frost) as Quaid's brother and son.  Quaid is a local rancher who's drafted to become a lawman, and Chiklis is his mobster nemesis who's determined to do things his way.  I think this one is a winner based on the cast alone, but the mixture of neon and sagebrush sounds like a combo that will keep the action coming and offer up involving characterizations.  Vegas premieres Tuesday, 9/25 at 10pm.

Thursday nights at 10pm brings Elementary, the newest twist on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes. This time Sherlock is a high-living ace detective from London, now disgraced, who leaves London to find sobriety in New York.  He finds himself paired with Dr. Watson, a surgeon who lost a patient and her medical license but turns out to be a perfect companion for the broken but brilliant Holmes as he tries rehab.  Sherlock is played by authentic Brit actor Jonny Lee Miller (the charismatic cult leader from Dexter a couple of seasons back, Eli Stone, and he's a former Mr. Angelina Jolie).  Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal, the Charlie's Angels movies) is the flawed but indispensable Watson.  The talented Aidan Quinn (An Early Frost, Benny and Joon) co-stars as the New York police captain who's worked with Sherlock before and knows both his expertise and his eccentricities.  Everybody knows Sherlock Holmes, including viewers who recently fell in love with PBS' presentation of the newest British incarnation of the characters as played by Benedict Cumberbatch (with whom Miller recently did an acclaimed role-sharing stage version of Frankenstein) and Martin Freeman, the star of the upcoming The Hobbit.  We deduce there's more than enough room for more than a few Sherlocks and Watsons, and Elementary should be a success for CBS, especially capping off a strong Thursday line-up.  Premieres Thursday, 9/27 at 10pm.

CBS' Friday 9pm new entry Made in Jersey is one of the shows not getting a lot of love in early reviews, maybe due to the feels-like-we've-seen-this-already-even-if-we-haven't premise and maybe also a general indifference to anything with "Jersey" in the title after MTV's over-exposed Jersey Shore. In any case, Made in Jersey is the tale of a sassy young woman lawyer from a big Italian family who ends up working at a swank NYC law firm.  Cultures clash, tempers flare, but at least she can go home to some good lasagna, right?  British actress Janet Montgomery (Skins, Black Swan) stars as the plucky heroine, and her fellow law office colleagues include the terrific Kyle McLachlan (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Dune), Kristoffer Polaha (America's Prince as JFK, Jr.), Megalyn Echikunwoke (The 4400, 24, Creature, Like Family), Toni Trucks (the Twilight movies, Barbershop), and Felix Solis (The Good Wife, Arbitrage). (Donna Murphy (Broadway's Passion, Star Trek: Insurrection) was in the pilot but it doesn't look she's a regular). Viewers who are hooked on lead-in CSI: New York and lead-out Blue Bloods will probably want to stay with Made in Jersey and its version of crime-centric drama, and they won't even have to change the channel.  On the other hand, there are several interesting if not exactly super-strong alternatives -- Grimm, Fringe, Nikita -- on the other nets at the same time and they're only a click away.  Premieres Friday 9/28 at pm.

Next up -- ABC, the network with the new drama that's making all the "gotta watch" lists.  We'll see!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall TV Preview: What You Can Watch on Monday Night

Monday Night Broadcast Network Line-ups

As we continue our look at the new season, you can catch the premieres of Fox's The Mob Doctor tonight at 9pm -- we will diagnose the series in our Fox analysis coming later today -- and of NBC's Revolution at 10pm, which we wrote about yesterday.  CBS' Partners (more on that soon also) debuts next Monday.

Here's a good question -- what day of the week do you think the TV week begins on?  Back in the day, TV Guide was my bible and I devoured it cover to cover.  Now, we're talking decades ago before navigating the television universe was a combination of hit and miss, careful planning, and just plain luck in stumbling on something good to watch.  You could actually manage to read about the coming week's viewing choices, back when there were mere handfuls of channels, stations and networks and not hundreds of them.  The weekly TVG edition began on Saturday, somewhat unconventionally but I'm sure to get people to buy the magazine before the local newspapers' various weekly TV guides came free in the Sunday edition.

So if you went by your newspaper, you started your TV week on Sunday.  After working for so long in broadcast and cable television, my television week always started on Monday and ended with the weekend. However, the big premieres usually hit on Sundays, mainly because we could give them a bang-up lead-in with a strong Sunday daytime and afternoon line-up of high-rated movies, a terrific place to place promos for the evening's event.  Discovery Channel starts their Shark Week on Sunday night, too.

I'm going with Monday as the start of the TV week.  Perhaps more pertinent is what week is the official start of the TV season.  This week is generally considered to be the 2012 official beginning, though NBC sprinkled some of their new show debuts as far back as August to ride the Olympics wave, and ABC and CBS are waiting until next week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Flaming Nose Fall Preview: NBC

NBC is going gung-ho for comedy with four new entries on deck, maybe a surprising move since even on Thursday their laugh line-up is far from strong as in seasons past. Their current comedy roster is full of fan favorites with devoted cults like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Community, but the renewal of the generally awful Whitney is a puzzler.  Matthew Perry's Go On and Animal Practice were previewed on the heels of NBC's Olympics coverage in August, and at least a week before the other network fall debuts The New Normal and Guys With Kids premiered.  Whether this plays as a clever leg-up on the competition or something with less impact is yet to be seen.

Turning first to Monday nights, the buzz is positive for 10pm's Revolution, a post-electricity saga which is being touted as a swashbuckling adventure even more than as a doomsday downer.  Producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek reboot) is among the bright creative minds behind this intriguing concept, and fans of mesmerizing shows like his Lost are hoping that Revolution will offer up the requisite thrills and intricate mythos that will keep them tuning in.  With a cast of characters that is spread out over every possible demo group, including young folks with the Hunger Games-like female lead played by Traci Spiridakos (Being Human), Revolution boasts an impressive cast.  Breaking Bad's terrific baddie Giancarlo Esposito co-stars, along with Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell, The Twilight Saga's Billy Burke, Daniella Alonso (One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights), Tim Guinee (The Good Wife, Iron Man), Maria Howell (The Color Purple, The Blind Side), Australian David Lyons, and other talented performers.  As is often the way, Revolution's competitive climate on Monday nights at 10pm is super-tough in two other very worth and watchable series, ABC's Castle and CBS' Hawaii 5-0.  It'll be a DVR-ing melee, we think, with machines whirring away trying to capture all the options in a very lively time period, probably the most entertaining hour of the entire week.

The interesting and likable Matthew Perry is the chief attraction of Tuesday night's Go On, about a recently widowed sports radio personality trying to find his way back to life. The talented theater veteran Laura Benanti (The Playboy Club) co-stars as the rooky therapist who takes the reluctant Perry under her wing.  Fellow group therapy participants include Brett Gelman (Upright Citizens Brigade), Suzy Nakamura (Second City), Julie White (Grace Under Fire), and John Cho (Star Trek, Harold and Kumar...) appears as Perry's pal and boss.  If you like the ensemble and Mr. Perry, you will want to take a look at this one.

Tuesday's The New Normal hasn't been getting quite the reception NBC hoped for, not even counting the decision early on by at least one station to decline airing the sitcom because of its subject matter.  You've got several cultural touchpoints converging in The New Normal, including surrogate motherhood, gay marriage and child-rearing, plus all the attendant controversies.  Plot in a nutshell -- a male married couple (he's a doctor, he's a...actually, I'm not sure what he does but he likes to shop) decide they want to have a child via surrogacy, and they find a perfect candidate.  Justin Bartha is the doc (National Treasure, The Hangover), Andrew Rannels (The Book of Mormon on Broadway) is his spouse, Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, The Big Easy) is the opinionated mother of the surrogate mom played by British actress Georgia King. Early buzz is swinging both ways on this one, and naturally the comedy will rely on either smashing stereotypes or gleefully embracing them for laughs, or both.  If we like the characters, The New Normal could make it.

Animal Practice anchors Wednesday in the 8pm slot.  It's another ensemble comedy, this time centering around the workers and patients at a busy veterinary clinic.  The chief doc is crabby, more fond of his four-legged patients than their human owners, and he's played by Justin Kirk, most famous for his role as the eccentric brother on Showtime's Weeds.  Joanna Garcia Swisher (Better with You, Gossip Girl, Privileged, Reba) co-stars as the office manager who of course is often at loggerheads with Doc Crabby, Tyler Labine (The Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is a nice veterinarian, Bobby Lee (MADtv) is a playboy vet, Betsy Sodero (Upright Citizens Brigade) is a nutty vet tech, and comic actress Kym Whitley is the even-handed receptionist.  The most buzz for the show has been thanks to monkey co-star Crystal, star of The Hangover II and Community (among many other productions), and though you can never underestimate the power of a monkey to liven things up, it's a little unfair to put all the hopes for a successful launch on the hairy little shoulders of Crystal.

Wednesdays at 8:30pm NBC debuts Guys With Kids, with a concept that's fairly easy to get: men are lousy at taking care of children (though maybe that's only heterosexual men because The New Normal would seem to posit otherwise).  The cast is good --  Anthony Anderson (Law & Order), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show), Jesse Bradford (Flags of Our Fathers), Zach Cregger (The Whitest Kids U'Know), and Erinn Hayes (Worst Week).  All are talented and personable performers, and if guys dealing with dirty diapers when they'd rather be playing videogames is a notion ripe enough for a weekly series, then Guys With Kids could make it.  It could be dragged down by an under-performing Animal Kingdom if that one doesn't work, though.

Going serious again, NBC features the new firefighter/paramedic action drama Chicago Fire Wednesdays at 10pm.  Featuring a uniformly attractive -- and attractive in uniform -- cast, Chicago Fire promises to mix the best of several genres into a irresistible combo.  This is Law & Order maestro Dick Wolf's newest TV outing, and he generally has a golden touch for offering up winning formulas.  Jesse Spencer (House) stars, along with Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries), Charlie Barnett (Men in Black III), Monica Raymund (Lie to Me), Lauren German (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Eamonn Walker (Oz), David Eigenberg (Sex and the City) and Teri Reeves (General Hospital).  The time period competition for Chicago Fire is an aging CSI on CBS, along with ABC's highly-touted new musical drama Nashville.  If CSI viewers are looking for an alternative, Chicago Fire would be their go-to choice.

We'll deal with the shows coming in mid-season closer to their debut dates.

Next up, CBS and its small contingent of new series for 2012.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Abby & Brittany are Coming to TLC Tonight!

Amazing human beings have always been a genuine fascination of mine, and clearly TLC Network is on the same wavelength, especially starting tonight.  Long ago abandoning their original "The Learning Channel" identity for something decidedly more ratings-friendly, TLC today skirts an interesting line between exploitation and emotion.  Probably the first show many of us watched on the network was Trading Spaces, the home decorating switcheroo series (adapted from the British version) that was a smash and ran for eight seasons.  TLC (and the now-OWN Discovery Health net)also hit gold with Jon & Kate Plus 8, the multi-season multiple-child reality series that eventually broke apart a marriage but was continued to gather headlines as Kate tried to parlay her childbearing fame into other venues (not particularly successfully, however).  Fashionista viewers get a kick out of the two style experts who tear apart the wardrobes of unsuspecting schlubs on What Not to Wear, and those who like cooking combined with histrionics can watch the overwrought shenanigans on shows like Cake Boss

Ex-Amish people, little people, gypsy people, people who talk to ghosts (the new-ish sensation Long Island Medium), extremely little people (the primordial dwarf brother and sister stars of Big Tiny), child beauty pagent people, bridalwear people (of the Say Yes to the Dress franchise which has spawned a couple of spin-offs), polygamist people, and many other examples of life's rich pageant are having their more than fifteen minutes of fame on TLC.  We don't want to forget about the super-fecund Duggar Family of 19 Kids and Counting which -- almost totally thanks to the completely charming, down-to-earth and extremely likeable Michelle Duggar -- is much more watchable than one would ever imagine.

But tonight TLC goes to an extra-special place.  Tonight at 10pm TLC premieres Abby & Brittany, a new reality series starring Abigail and Brittany Hensel, the dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins -- two heads on one body -- who have been mostly quietly living their lives in Minnesota and growing up into lovely 22-year-old young ladies. Quietly, that is, until now.  Abby and Brittany are truly extraordinary and amazing, not only simply in terms of how rare their unique medical situation is, but also because they are living in a time when thankfully they have choices they can make, and they have decided to open up their lives for us to learn from and appreciate.  These two young women, who surely know what it's like to be considered different, are helping us to see that they aren't really that different after all, and that's the essence of the appeal of Abby & Brittany

from April 1996
As we've seen in previous television documenaries about Abby and Brittany, these are two distinct individuals, probably no more the same than any two sisters, who just happen to share one body between them.  Somehow, with inexplicable coordination, concentration and communication, Abby and Brittany do everything that any other two women can, but they have to do it in concert and seamlessly.  Each of them controls one arm and one leg, for instance, and yet they knew how to make it work, "it" meaning everything they've had to do together since they were born. 

Maybe you'll just want to stare at them for a while in their new series.  That's just fine, because they are something special.  Over the years they've stated repeatedly that they don't like being stared at, but it seems like they must have come to terms with that in order to have their own reality show.  Reality shows are all about staring, but there's a great deal of understanding and knowledge that can come from such a base beginning point. 

I'm going to heartily recommend getting to know Abby & Brittany.  I think we should be honored to be able to look inside their lives, and I assume that TLC is making it well worth it for them.  These girls were handed a situation that is unimaginable, and yet, they thrive.  "We throw it out there, and let it go," says Abby.  Go for it, Abby & Brittany!

For more background information on Abby and Brittany, I'd suggest watching the incredible hour-long documentary from 2006, which you can find here on YouTube.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The AV Club cover "Monty Python's Flying Circus"

We thought you also might want to know that The Onion's The AV Club has just started their episode-by-episode coverage of Monty Python's Flying Circus!  Zack Handlen is doing the honors, and he's spot on!  If you're a Python-lover you'll also enjoy perusing the comment section, which will convince you that you're not alone in loving the show!  Hilarious!

The direct link to the Python coverage is here.


"Kirk Your Enthusiasm" on HiLoBrow!

In our never-ending quest to show that Star Trek is the most awesome series that television has ever produced, we direct your attention to the HiLoBrow website where they are in the midst of an terrific multi-part celebration of all things James T. Kirk. 

Kirk Your Enthusiasm began a couple of weeks ago, and will ultimately include 25 individual posts on the character of Captain Kirk, and it looks like it's all Shatner.  We can't think of anything better!

So go over there and start reading!

Nose-talgia! Toshiro Mifune in "Shogun"

Make a visit over to Turner Classic Movies' Movie Morlocks blog for a look back at Japanese film legend Toshiro Mifune's amazing turn as Toranaga in the groundbreaking 1980 miniseries Shogun!

We plan on celebrating the miniseries genre around here in the near future.  Many of us grew up watching these major viewing events, and there has been a nice comeback recently with, for example, A&E's very successful The Hatfields and the McCoys.  It's a TV format that deserves recognition for its ability to excite viewers, and we're all for that!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


We hope that you're anxiously -- excitedly -- awaiting the landing of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover which will take place at 1:31am Eastern time this Monday morning, only about 40 hours away from now as of this very moment.  You should check out NASA's Curiosity website for all the latest information on this historic mission, which NASA so creatively and dramatically showcased in the incredibly popular video "7 Minutes of Terror".  Enjoy!

There are mass-viewing events scheduled around the world, including a big one in NYC's Times Square at 11:30pm on Sunday evening, and of course great TV coverage planned.  NASA TV will of course be providing continuous coverage, online and on their channel if you are lucky enough to have it on your system. 

How could we not also bring to you another terrific NASA video, this one narrated by our favorite starship captain William Shater, entitled "The Grand Entrance" and all about the history of this incredible exploratory mission to the Red Planet.  Enjoy this one, too!

The purpose of Curiosity is to try to determine if Mars ever harbored the building blocks of life as we know it.  As NASA explains, it's not just a geological rover, but a geochemical explorer looking for the chemical elements leading to microbial life.  Be sure to go to NASA's Curiosity Mission Page for a huge selection of fascinating videos and other information that will get you totally prepared for Sunday/Monday's incredible landing. 

Afterwards, Science Channel will be premiering their Mars Landing 2012 special on Monday evening at 10pm Eastern/Pacific time, with essentially same-day coverage of the mission, with no doubt their trademark high production quality.  We're big fans of Science Channel around here; so many great shows and that crazy little eggy logo!

This is the Universe, kids!  Enjoy it while you can!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith, We Bid You Farewell

The Flaming Nose has been rather dormant lately (sorry!) as its writers have been traveling and working and otherwise buried in the minutia of life. But it would be terribly out of character for a classic TV blog to stay silent for the passing of one of the all time greatest TV (and film) characters, Andy Griffith. Born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina in 1926, Mr. Griffith died today on July 3rd at the age of 86. See this older Nose-Talgia post for a sense of how sad we are to mark his passing. Andy Griffith was an award winning actor best known for creating a lovely, gentle homage to small town America, (The Andy Griffith show), but also had immense talent as a singer-songwriter and serious dramatic actor (A Face in the Crowd). Andy Griffith could play a knee slapping country boy or a menacing Hollywood ladder climber with equal aplomb. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, after a lifetime career that included nominations for Emmy Awards (Andy Griffith Show), Grammy awards (1996 gospel album) and Tony Awards (No Time for Sergeants).

I was watching The Andy Griffith show just last week on TV Land, and was moved to tears by its simple message. In this particular episode, Barney (the unforgettable deputy played by Don Knotts) gave a slingshot to Opie (child actor turned great Director, Ron Howard). Opie accidentally shoots and kills a mother bird in his front yard. His attempts to make her fly again are so heart rending, I believe that The Andy Griffith show earned its stripes as the first "Dramedy" at that very moment. Opie is miserable until he decides to adopt the orphaned baby birds in order to make things right with nature. He raises them by hand in a cage and wonders if he could keep them as pets, but his wise Dad convinces him that they were meant for the air. Opie sets them free. "That cage sure looks empty now, doesn't it Paw?" he says. "Yeah, but don't the trees look full?", is Andy's lovely reply.

Our lives were full because of Andy Griffith's enduring work. Rest in peace, sir. I picture you at the fishing hole with your dear friend Don Knotts forever.

TV Land has just announced that they will feature a day long Andy Griffith Show marathon tomorrow on July 4th. Let's get it started a bit early on the Nose with this snip from the "Opie the Birdman" episode.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Farewell to the Sherlock Holmes of Medicine

If you've followed House on Fox Television at any point over the past 9 seasons, you are probably aware that the central character is one of the most brilliant, nihilistic, misogynistic and just plain rotten fellows to ever grace the airwaves.  Personally, I think Dr. Gregory House suffers from a form of Asperger's syndrome, as in nearly a decade he has yet to form a single normal relationship with another human being.  The closest he comes to having a friend is with long suffering fellow doctor James Wilson, who is now making Dr. House miserable by refusing treatment for terminal cancer.

House is played to perfection by British actor Hugh Laurie, who has been nominated year after year for Emmy Awards but has so far only won Golden Globes.  In 2012 he will no doubt be joined in this honor by Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson) whose suffering as an oncologist who now faces cancer himself has been heartbreaking and an agony to watch.  I have always loved Dr. Wilson best, as he was the Ying to House's Yang.  While Wilson provided sweet balance and kindness...exactly the kind of doctor you'd want at your bedside... House was the mad genius who always saved the patient. No matter how dire or obscure the diagnosis, House and his team found the solution.  Alas the sad doctor could never rejoice from his medical victories.  At the end of the day, House would always be alone, wrapped in pain and whiskey, torturing a few notes of a blues song from his piano keys.

With one episode left to go before the show ends forever, I hope Dr. House and Wilson can find some sort of peace from their enduring friendship.  It really has been one of the great "bromances" on television...right up there with Starsky and Hutch, Barney and Fred, and (my personal favorite) Spock and Kirk. I'll be there next Monday as their saga draws to a close.  Will you?  Here's a wonderful video montage of House and Wilson as we near the end.