Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall TV 2015

 New TV Shows are starting.  They are STARTING, people! If you are lost, and need some Primetime direction - I'm here to help.  Here is my take on the new fall offerings and if there is enough there for my household audience of 1 to tune in.


Life in Pieces - There is one reason to like this show: the cast.  James Brolin, Betsy Brandt, Colin Hanks, Dianne Wiest and my Newsroom crush, Thomas Sadoski.  I'm not really sure about the rest of it.  I did chuckle at the previews and I'm all for the zaniness of big family life.  Most critics say Modern Family already IS this show AND does it better.  I say Modern Family sprinkled with a dash (and just a dash) of Parenthood makes it all the more likeable.  I'm going to try it out.  DVR the premiere.

Supergirl - I am a bit curious about the first female superhero to hit primetime since Lynda Carter dazzled us with her gold lasso 40 years ago. I don't watch The Arrow or The Flash, the creators of which - created this.  So, my curiosity was only piqued.  My curiosity turned to general interest with Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal, Kitty Walker - will her character name end in y?!?).  And then, just because I LOVE him, general interest turns to genuine intrigue with Jeremy Jordan.  I liked Melissa Benoist on  Glee, I'm not sold on her as Supergirl.  DVR the premiere.

Blindspot - Marketing is calling this one a thriller.  Is it really?  Woman left naked in a bag in Times Square, her body newly covered in tattoos and having supposedly been dosed with an amnesia inducing drug - definitely has some mystery elements.    The tattoos help solve mysteries.  This whole premise seems like Prison Break 2.0, and Wentworths Miller's tatted body was so much more appealing to me.  I do believe there is a place for this one with the masses and many, many may may like it.  It has a lot of buzz, but I'm going to skip it.

Minority Report - If you saw the Tom Cruise movie from years ago of
the same name about a police unit in the future that stops crimes before they happen, then  maybe you will like TV version, or not.  I did see the movie and didn't hate it, but the convoluted nature of this world is too much for me and I can't imagine how it will work for TV.  The words "genetically mutated psychics" make this an automatic NO for me.   But, Steven Spielberg did produce the movie, so there is a sci-fi appeal in there somewhere.  I'm going to avoid it.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - In this show there is singing.  Not like pop culture hits on Glee singing, but like musical, break into song and dance-large production numbers-original song singing.    The premise of a successful Manhattan woman dropping everything and moving across country to West Covina, CA to pursue an old childhood crush puts the Crazy in the title. While in reverse directionally,  Felicity did something similar (okay, the exact same thing) and I really loved how that played out.    After watching the trailer  and not being able to look away from its combination of awesomeness and trainwreckishness - I'm watching it.  I'm DVRing the whole series.  Its weird and it might not last long.  But, I love the broadway community and it feels broadway.  Rachel Bloom, the creator/star, IS broadway.  What is broadway doing on TV?  Can it work?  Maybe not, but I'm going down with the crazy ship!  DVR the series.


The Muppets - Why are there so many shows without Muppets?  Muppets make everything better!  I can't wait for this one.  I found this summers 'news' that Ms. Piggy and Kermit had broken up and the accompanying statement delightfully entertaining.  A-list guest stars will abound as everyone loves these fuzzy friends.  If I could only watch one new show, this would be it!  The lovers, the dreamers and me (and ABC!).  DVR the series.

Grandfathered - John Stamos..with a baby.  Let me repeat...John Stamos with a BABY!  Does that sound appealing?  Yes, it sounds appealing, but, alas, it is not.  I want to like this show, I think John Stamos should always be with babies, but I don't.  I like Paget Brewster, but not in this.  I have watched every clip available and every review I could find.  Its just not a good show.  Some might be blinded by trying to decide who is cuter John Stamos OR the baby, and they will likely enjoy this.  But, as much as I want to, I just can't.  Skipping it.

The Grinder - I initially didn't really have an interest in this one, but the previews are funny.  And the premise is funny and the location is funny and the cast is...well, funny.  Rob Lowe plays an actor who played a lawyer on a long running procedural called The Grinder. When it is over, he decides to move home to Boise, Idaho (Yup, Boise, Idaho) because he has decided he should be a real lawyer and join his brother and father at the family law firm.  Fred Savage plays the real attorney, younger brother, who is none too excited for his shiny brother to invade his world.  Rob Lowe and Fred Savage are so cute and enjoyable, and really this show looks so funny.  DVR the premiere.

Wicked City - ABC's answer to True Detective, this anthology series (each season will follow a different fictional case in LA) follows all the participants in the serial slashings of party goers in the early 1980s.  From the Killer to the the Detective to the reporter and the Paparazzi - everyone is chronicled.  Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass!), Erika Christensen (Julia Braverman!) and even Jeremy Sisto intrigue me, but not enough for me to want to enter the gritty crime world of the early 1980s.  Not for me.  Skip it. 

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris - This one premiered last week and I watched.  I think NPH is a charming and natural host.  Clever and funny and musical and a magician, the idea of this variety show is SUCH a good one. The first one was incredibly frenetic.  NPH crammed so much in an hour - that my head was spinning.  Reese Witherspoon was enjoyable as the first celebrity announcer.  Nicole Scherzinger as his second in his command is a yuck.  Funny at times, not at others, it is disjointed all the time.  I still have hope for this craziness.  And it does make me smile just watching NPH's delight at doing the program at all.  I'm sticking it out to see if it works out the kinks.  DVR the series.

Chicago Med - If you watch Chicago Fire or Chicago PD - this one is for you.  I don't.  I have such blinders on and disinterest in this Dick Wolf franchise, that I could hardly read about it.  It appears to be standard Medical show fare.  Chicago ER and doctors handling cases from Fire and PD (I think).  Oliver Platt and S Epatha Merkerson are in it, which is a good thing.  But, I just can't make myself be interested in it at all.  Not for me. Skip it. 

Limitless - I loved the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie.  And he shows up to introduce the TV show to NZT, the pill that made Bradley Cooper the smartest man in the world in the movie.    I like Jake McDorman as the lead taking the pill.  I'm interested to see how they move the story to TV.  It looks good.  I would probably watch it no matter how it looked, as I just really liked the movie so much and it says something the Bradley Cooper is showing up to pass the torch (and Executive Produce).  DVR the premiere

Scream Queens - Ryan Murphy is at again.  Weird and buzzworthy, this show brings slasher movies and college sorority movies to the small screen all wrapped together in one.  Someone is killing people at Kappa Kappa Tau!  I have no doubt, Murphy and Co will bring the best out of the genres and parody it all with cleverness, humor and trashy perfection.  If this kind of stuff is for you, you will love it.  This kind of stuff - killing - slasher movies - sorority sisters -  is NOT for me.  If Lea Michele, Jamie Lee Curtis, Abigail Breslin and Emma Roberts can't pull me in, nothing can.  No Way.


Code Black - As I have very little enthusiasm  for yet ANOTHER medical drama - as evidence by my lackluster interest in Chicago Med, this show started on my 'No Thanks' list before I even read a thing about it. if I could only watch 2 new shows....this would be number 2.  A 2014 documentary about LA Memorial Hospitals ER called Code Black was the inspiration for this fictional telling of the grittiness of an LA ER.  With Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman at its center, this looks like the best of all the medical show worlds.  More medical than drama, I am beyond intrigued.  I am IN.  DVR the Series.

Rosewood -
Set in Miami, this forensic pathology procedural is centered around Dr Beaumont Rosewood, Jr - who has a heart condition that could end his life at any moment.  As a result 'Rosie' as he is called is both an extreme optimist and risk taker.  Since he has nothing to lose, this medical examiner could be the first entertaining one since Quincy.  But, somehow, I'm not interested.  After watching previews and reading reviews, this series seems very ho-hum.  Plus, Miami has never been a draw for me on the small screen.  Skip It. 


Heroes Reborn
 - I watched the first season of Heroes - before it got too crazy and I liked it.  And this series is supposed to be more of that first season of Heroes goodness - where different characters are finding out they have powers and figuring out what to do with them.  Plus, I LOVE Zachary Levi.  Love. Love. Love.  I'm not sure it will keep my attention as I'm not that into super heroes or fantasy and I couldn't stick it out with the first series.  But, its definitely worth a shot.  DVR the Premiere.

The Player - Wesley Snipes is The Player.  Super Rich gamblers bet on whether or not The Player, with help and intel from The Dealer can prevent a crime predicted by a super amazing algorithm.  That sounds convoluted.  That sounds like the network but something flashy and high concept together as vehicle for  to show up on TV.  It could be interesting.  I like Wesley Snipes.  But, I'm not that into gambling or TV Thrillers.  I'm out. (Shark Tank fans, see what I did there?I'm so very clever.)

Angel From Hell - Don't get me started on how much I dislike the print poster (yes, the one appearing next to this).  But, Jane Lynch is funny.  I find her acerbic deliveries delightful. That works for this show about a Guardian Angel - who seems to do more trouble than good and be more annoying than helpful.  Maggie Lawson is great.  And while, I wasn't all that jazzed about it to begin with, the show looks funny.   I'm just not sure how long it can STAY funny.  DVR the first few.  


Dr Ken - Ken Jeong is funny.  I enjoyed him on Community and in the Hangover movies.  And, yes, he used to be a real doctor.  But, no I don't think trying to put Ken Jeong the funny guy with Ken Jeong the Doctor Guy together on sitcom TV is a good idea.  This idea is a real clunker.  And as much as I hate to say this,  when I see Dave Foley show up on network TV, it is not a good thing.  He IS the 90s for me.  His humor and delivery only seem to be funny to me in the 90s.  This show is on most lists for guess for the first cancellation of the season.  The Doctor is Out on this one.  

Truth Be Told - Having already gone through a last minute title change from People Are Talking (seriously is one actually better than the other?!), this show holds no appeal for me - save one: Mark-Paul Gosselaar.  He will always be Zach Morris to me.  He plays Mitch - who with his wife Tracy have neighbors/best friends that are of a different race  - so they can talk about all sorts of taboo topics - including racism.  Ugh.  Friday Night was made for Clunkers.  Skip it.


Quantico - I had a real interest in this one.  For a minute.  In the premiere, a terrorist blows up Grand Central Station in NYC and FBI discovers that someone from their training facility, Quantico is behind it.  The prime suspect is Alex Parrish who goes on the run.  A thriller, a soap opera, a twisty goodness, all with a not awesome portrayal of a Mormon Quantico resident - which is off putting for me.  Its very well reviewed and recommended, but the more I read about it - the more soap opera-y it sounds, which should sound enticing to me.  But, I feel like my TGIT - Shondaland Thursdays fill my quota for this fare.  So, I'm not planning to try it out.  If I'm at someones house and its on TV and I happen to catch it and get sucked in - I'll probably be in for the long haul.  So, I'll be avoiding it, cause I don't need anymore of these.  I really don't.  Skip it. 

Blood & Oil - If Quantico is a current, twisty soapy drama, Blood & Oil is a flashback soapy - Dallas-esque un-necessary - Don Johnson is better than this - vehicle.  Everyone is flocking to fictional Rock Springs, North Dakota to make their fortune in oil.  The working class guy, the Baron, the family guy.  A small town is over run by big city life chasing oil.  A western and Soap.  Dallas, I'm telling ya - its Dallas.   But, the reviews say - that unlike that predecessor - its shows more than the upper class of excess - it shows the oil-field workers and middle class - all wrapped up in small town soapiness.  Nope. Nope. Nope.  

There you have it friends.  Happy TV Watching.  Enjoy my annual TV Grid and go find a good TV Premieres calendar. has a great one.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Annie - Everything Old is New Again

Look at what we're dripping with...little girls

I've seen the new Annie movie twice now, and I've been struggling with how I feel about it.  Which is odd, but I'll get to that in a minute.

In general there were some good and bad points.  I'll cover some more in depth later, but a quick run down.

The bad

 - The Auto-tune.  Holy cow, it was horrendous at times.
 - Cameron Diaz in general.  I'm not sure what she was going for in this performance.  While there were times I was OK with it, the majority of her performance was terri-bad.
 - The Auto-tune.  Yes, it was bad enough to get a second entry.
 - Changing the songs.
 - The role of Guy.  While I think Bobby Cannavale did a fine job, the whole role was written like a Rocky & Bullwinkle villain.

The good

Some of the best pieces of this movie
 - Changing the songs. (I know, it's on both lists.  Bear with me)
 - Quvenzhane Wallis
 - Jaime Foxx
 - Everything about MoonQuake Lake - the movie premier Annie attends.  Such cheese.
 - The various nods to the original 1982 Annie.
 - That they managed to keep Willow Smith out of this.

So How About a Review?

I mentioned that I was struggling on how much I like the movie.  Here's why.  If you watch the movie through the lens of the 1982 version you are going to see an entirely different movie than if you judge this movie on its own merit.  I'll admit to being a bit of a fanboy of the 1982 movie (It's probably worth mentioning that by all accounts the 1982 Annie isn't universally loved.  But I don't care, it has always been a movie I love).  And when I first the movie (with my son) I was very much comparing each point of the movie to its predecessor.  The second time I saw it (with my youngest, Denise), I deliberately avoided doing that.  Well, as much as I could.  And I came away the first feeling the movie fell flat, while the second time I walked out feeling I'd watched an eminently enjoyable movie. So I'll talk about the points of the movie that stood out, and I'll mention the biggest differences for me in each.  Note that the differences between 1982 and 2014 are not bad, just....different.

Annie - The role of Annie was a real highlight of the movie to me, and it all comes down to Quvenzhane Wallis.  What an amazing young (11 years old!) actress!  Her portrayal of Annie was so strong.  Throughout the movie, she kept a smile on her face.  I felt that you could feel her optimism jumping from the screen.  Annie's toughness was sharply contrasted by her moments of vulnerability, both depicted with keen precision.  Quvenzhane Wallis put her stamp on this role, and turned in an A+ performance.
The differences - Quvenzhane Wallis did a good job at the singing, but never felt as comfortable or as strong as Aileen Quinn did.  I also struggled with the manner of showing Annie's "street smarts", with her asking Stacks "What's the hustle?".  That seemed a bit off for an 11 year old.  I rather enjoyed the manner that she was focused on her parents; rather than focusing solely on the a locket they added a ritual with a restaurant that served to both deepen the sense of Annie's determination to hold on to hope and provide some great original scenes to the show.

Breakfast with Stacks (and Sandy)
Will Stacks/Daddy Warbucks - Another great piece, mostly because Jaime Foxx brought some serious acting chops to the movie.  He was just entirely believable in this role, effectively selling the eccentricities of the character in a way that never left me feeling that those traits were anything but a core piece of Mr. Stacks.  Too many times I've seen a character portrayed as a germaphobe and had it feel like an addition to a character, rather than a part of it.  No issues with that here.  And his singing was great, though I really wish they'd dropped the Auto-Tune.
The differences - I didn't struggle with any comparisons between Will Stacks and Daddy Warbucks, mostly because I didn't feel that two characters had anything in common aside from ending up with Annie.  I think that it would have been nearly impossible to give us an updated version of Daddy Warbucks without bringing the Warbucks part along - that bringing in the original anti-war profiteering message would not serve well in this movie.  Making him instead a business mogul, completely isolated and solitary worked quite well.

Ms. Hannigan - Ouch.  This one hurt to watch.  I don't know what Cameron Diaz was going for.  Every word and every action was hammed up so badly, it was literally hard for me to watch.  I may have even turned my head away once or twice to alleviate the pain - and that's never a good sign.  I just simply didn't click with this character.
The differences - The character of Ms. Hannigan suffered the most in the comparison to the original for me, because Caron Burnett's version was so memorable.  Maybe the only thing I liked about the "new" one was that they made her a failed 80s rocker that came oh-so-close to fame.  Then they mixed cheesy 80s music video moves - and sounds, in some cases - into her songs, which was entertainingly funny.  They more aggressively try to redeem her character, which I guess is okay.

The music - Full disclaimer that many reviews out there pan the music pretty thoroughly. 

Annie singing "Opportunity" - a real high point
I like the music, at least once I stopped waiting for the original music to start.  I liked the original movie music quite a lot.  And some of the songs were completely changed (I Think I'm Going to Like it Here, Little Girls) while others were just slightly altered (Tomorrow, Maybe, Easy Street, I Don't Need Anything But You) or just removed except for some Overture or background instrumentals (Sandy, Dumb Dog, You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile, Let's Go To the Movies).  But they added a few songs that I really liked (This City's Yours, Opportunity, Who Am I?) and the changed to the other songs worked for me.  They seemed to fit. 

Once I listened to the songs on their own I realized how much I liked them.  Opportunity and Who Am I? are awesome.  Maybe still evokes strong emotion (and maybe some tears) for the girls.  Tomorrow is used in a completely different scene (It would be hard to do it with FDR), but it is great.  Watching Annie see reflections of people with children, only to have the reality come into frame with objects that are not kids drives home the worldview of Annie and the optimism of the song.  Annie's part of Who Am I? hit me like a truck, with the facade of courage breaking down into self-doubt.  And who can't relate to the line "I want to start again" or who hasn't felt "I don't know who I've become" at some point?  So while I realize that the music was not universally liked, I loved it.  A lot.

The movie - It's easy to focus on where the movie came up short.  It tries to be original but holds on too much to the original movie to ever stand completely on its own.  The role of Guy was just horridly shallow.  He should have worn a shirt that said "Bad "Guy"" on it.  There are two noticeable parts where the editing breaks the story flow a bit by jumping the story somewhat. 

But the bottom line for me is that they made a movie I'd see again.  They got the right stars, gave me music I loved (and am listening to as I type this), and modernized the plot in a believable way.  Quvenzhane Wallis and Jaime Foxx own the screen when they are on, and Rose Byrne was quite impressive as well.  Locations were chosen well, showcasing NYC quite well.  So I wasn't sure how much I liked it at first, but that was my fault.  I should know better than to walk into a movie with firm expectations.  When I judge this movie on its own merits, I am very satisfied.

Final rating:  Tomorrow isn't perfect, but it's looking pretty bright.