First Impressions: “Hannibal”

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I was a bit reluctant to add Hannibal to my DVR this season. For some reason it felt like so many other failed shows that we’ve seen come and go – Supposedly prestigious, but not long for this world. The tone and look of the previews made me think a lot of Awake for some reason. I loved Awake and thought it was an amazingly inventive show for network television and was pretty disappointed when NBC didn’t follow through on that gamble by letting it grow a little bit. I am worried because here we are again with an elegant, intelligent, thoughtful, inventive show on NBC – shall we place bets on when they screw it up?

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Returning Shows Quick Takes: Parks and Recreation, Castle, Bones, How I Met Your Mother

The list of returning shows that I watch is astronomically long.  It’s a serious problem and depending on how the new crop of shows do, I may have to make some cuts.  While most of the shows that I’m really looking forward to haven’t premiered yet – shows like The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Revenge and Homeland – a few of my favorites are back.  But are they better than ever?

Parks & Recreation: Still my favorite sitcom I think.  I just adore the characters so much.  On last week’s premiere I felt like a few of them were a bit too much like caricatures than actual people (especially Ron and Tom) but hopefully things will even out a little bit.  I really liked Leslie’s realization that outside of Pawnee, IN she doesn’t have much of an influence and that she used that realization to have more of an influence in Pawnee.  The big fish/little pond story has been done before, but never with such an optimistic fish.  Regardless, this show still cracks me up. Continue reading

New Show Reviews: Go On, The New Normal, Revolution, Last Resort, The Mob Doctor

I guess that the official start of the Fall TV season has come and gone since both NBC and Fox have premiered both new and returning shows over the past couple of weeks.  Although, I think it would be epic if no premieres occurred until after the Emmys (which are this Sunday 9/23 – mark your calendars).  I mean, what a great kick off to the season that would be!  Anyway, that’s not the case.  On top of the fact that NBC used the summer Olympics to give a sneak peak at Go On and Animal Practice, multiple premieres have been available online for a few weeks and I have watched them all.

Last Resort: Technically, Last Resort doesn’t premiere until next Thursday, but I caught it online earlier this week (on Hulu – love that site!) and I loved every second.  That doesn’t mean it’s perfect – far from it – but I am totally hooked.  I am so glad to see Scott Speedman back on TV and in a character who is far different from those I’ve seen him play before.  While, like Revolution, there are a lot of characters and different threads being set up in the pilot, I am interested in where these stories are going and intrigued about who these characters will turn out to be.  I think one thing that really separates the handling of such large casts of characters is that on Last Resort they are compartmentalized very definitively and separately – there is the submarine crew (headed by Andre Braugher), the island inhabitants, the NATO workers, and the people in DC.  I’m excited to see all of these threads weave together and split apart.  But, I’ll be honest, like with the beginning of Fringe which I basically stuck with simply because I am a big fan of Joshua Jackson, I watched Last Resort mostly for the Scott Speedman factor and that will probably keep me coming back until the show itself finds its legs and grabs me. Continue reading

TV Trend: Airing Pilots Early (Thoughts on Touch and Smash)

Will airing Touch's pilot 2 months before the official premiere pay off for Fox?

Fox aired the pilot for Touch, starring Kiefer Sutherland, last night, almost two months before the show’s official premiere on March 19th in a move that has become a new marketing tool for networks.  Instead of launching right into a show’s season, many networks are choosing to air pilots early or make them available online far in advance of their premiere dates (like what NBC is doing with Smash).  I’m not sure I think this is a good idea.  If I don’t like the pilot, I have no reason to tune in for the next episode because by the time the second episode airs it will probably be a little “out of sight, out of mind”.  I will often give shows multiple weeks to win me over, but with this strategy, by the time the second episode airs, other new shows have the opportunity to claim its spot in my DVR. Continue reading

Justified Returns January 17th! (I love this news)

I just wrote a whole post about the dearth of shows that I look forward to in these winter months only to be given the gift of Justified’s season 3 premiere date!  This show gets under my skin in totally unique ways – probably due to Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins being awesome in more ways than I can count.  The teaser trailer that was released last week is intriguing if only because it shows Raylon and Boyd on the same side of the gun.  I like their antagonistic relationship so I’m not sure I’ll like it if they’re really working together, but knowing these two characters, that attitude won’t last long.

First Impressions: American Horror Story

The Harmon Family check out their new digs (Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga and Connie Britton)

I was talking to my dad last week about all of the new shows this season and he mentioned that he was excited about American Horror Story.  I took a deep breath before warning him that, being a Ryan Murphy production, it was bound to get off to a great start and then fizzle out dramatically.  While not exactly a great start, last night’s premiere was sufficiently intriguing to keep me coming back until the inevitable fizzle.

How Moira appears to Ben (Alexandra Breckenridge) . . .

The Harmon family are moving from Boston to Los Angeles after a particularly devastating miscarriage and the discovery that Ben was cheating on his wife, Vivien.  The victorian house they’ve purchased has been the site of some pretty grisly murders and is therefore a bit cheaper than the market warrants, but they take it anyway.  Apparently, they don’t mind creepy murals and haunted basement.  Not only that, but it comes complete with a maid who appears old to Vivien (played with some impressive fragility by Connie Britton), and young and tempting to Ben (Dylan McDermott) – I did enjoy the scene when Vivien introduced Ben to the new housekeeper; the look of shock on his face at the idea that his wife would trust him with someone like Moira around was pretty funny – as well as some pretty nosy neighbors, one of which keeps warning everyone that they’re going to die.

And how she appears to everyone else (Francis Conroy)

My first impression is that the show is pushing the limits of basic cable pretty far.  There is a creepy sex scene between Vivien and a man in a rubber suit (which she instructed her husband to dispose of upon its discovery) and an even creepier scene of Ben masturbating after the maid did the same in front of him.  He’s a psychiatrist with a very disturbed teenage patient who works out of the house which leads to some interesting run ins with the staff.  There are lots of quick cuts that reveal ghostly forms and weird visuals in order to up the creep factor as well.

One of the house's victims (Denis O'Hare) tries to warn Ben.

There are a few things that have reeled me in though.  First of all, Britton is a huge draw.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do outside of her role as Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights.  Secondly, I do enjoy being creeped out and the scene in the basement between Violet, Tate and her high school bully was pretty terrifying.  Thirdly, I would like to know why Vivian didn’t start locking the doors of the house immediately after neighbor Adelaide snuck in the first time (seems like common sense doesn’t it?).  However, despite all of these elements, the show just feels like like it’s trying really hard to be shocking and that maybe it’s not so interesting underneath all of the shock tactics.  I guess we’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks.

I think we're definitely going to have to keep an eye on Constance (Jessica Lange). She seems to have her finger on the pulse of the house.

One more note: Jessica Lange, as Adelaide’s mother Constance, was devouring the scenery as if she hasn’t eaten in years and I found her performance to be totally fascinating.  Especially when she got caught stealing Vivian’s earrings and warned Moira/the maid (Francis Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge) not to cross her or she’ll kill “them” again.

First Impressions: Terra Nova

Jim (Jason O'Mara) in 2149 where things are dark and dingy.

My first impression of Terra Nova?  I like it!  I thought it was a nice mix of family drama, sci-fi intrigue and dinosaurs!  The show clearly has a pretty healthy budget considering all those special effects and they seem to put it to good use (compare it to Pan Am, which admittedly didn’t really have “special effects” so much as fake backdrops, for an example of a show that could use a few extra bucks).  The two hour pilot introduced us to a pretty scary future – one in which the air is toxic, overpopulation is so bad that families are limited to two children, and everyone seems to live in caves.  In other words, it looks pretty miserable.  Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) is a police officer, married to a doctor (Elisabeth played by Shelley Conn), who get caught with an extra kid and when he goes to protect his youngest daughter, he attacks another officer and is hauled off to jail.  Two years later, his wife has been recruited to travel 85 million years into the past to help start civilization all over again.  In the process she breaks her husband out of jail, stuffs her youngest daughter into a duffle bag and then walks through the portal (or whatever it was called) to the land of dinosaurs, clouds and greenery.  I really liked the tension in the scene right after everyone walked through the portal, but overall, I feel like more of that is needed.

The Shannon Family protect their little stowaway.

Moving along, the new settlement was set up to be pretty idyllic what with the big airy residences and the food and jobs for everyone, but the high military presence and the invasion of a rogue society, the “sixers”, made it clear that all is not what it seems.  After Josh gave his dad some lip and ran off with a group of teenagers to drink some moonshine in the woods, they got caught by some really mean dinosaurs which led to a pretty exciting rescue scene.  I liked the look of the dinosaurs (although I thought they were dispatched a little too easily) and was glad that so many of the stupid kids got hurt (that may sound mean but how idiotic do you have to be to go out into dinosaur infested woods without any sort of backup?).  I would definitely like to learn more about these “sixers” and the commander’s son (who appears to be leaving mathematical equations on rocks) so I guess the show has me hooked.  As far as the Shannon family goes, teenage son Josh has a rebellious streak in him that echoes that of his father but I wish we had seen the family’s struggle while Jim was in jail so that Josh’s anger held a little more weight.  Right now, middle daughter Maddy and youngest Zoe are pretty much just a bunch of random clichés – Maddy is into math and science and Zoe is an adorable, precocious 5-year-old who thinks dinosaurs are nice.  They all need to be fleshed out quite a bit more, obviously.

I, for one, find it very difficult to fully trust a character carrying a gun with a smile that big.

As per usual, Terra Nova is not a perfect series right off the bat.  Commander Taylor (Stephen Lang) seems to be in charge of the settlement and has taken Jim under his wing (a little too quickly if you ask me), but there’s something about him and the whole situation that I don’t trust.  I’m not going to lie, I’m having a hard time separating this character from the one Lang played in Avatar which could prove to be a problem.  I see the writers trying to make him more sympathetic with the addition of the son and his affection for Skye, but there is something totally shady about him.  The Sixers clearly know something that the residents of Terra Nova do not, but it’s not clear why it’s so necessary for them to keep it a secret – it seems like revealing their mission might help them get more supporters.  I have a feeling that’s going to be one of the driving forces of this first season.

Hopefully there are more smiles to come for Terra Nova.

The show did ok in the ratings with 8.9 million viewers, but the expectations were huge so that’s not a good number (especially considering that Two and A Half Men brought in 20 million in its second week).  I think Fox would be pretty stupid not to air at least one season of episodes, considering all the money they’ve invested in it, but it may be too genre to earn a general audience.  It’s clear that the (gazillion) producers are aware of this issue and they’ve stuffed the show full of family drama, teenage love (god, did that guy Maddy was talking to feel shoehorned in or what?), and plenty of action along with the dinosaur and sci-fi stuff in order to make it appeal to a broader audience, but I worry that all of those elements will end up muddying the works and just leave a big old mess behind.  I’ve noticed my fondness for sci-fi has grown over the past few years and all in all, I found Terra Nova to be kind of thrilling and fun.  It is certainly different from everything else on TV and I am grateful for that and hopeful that it will find an audience and be allowed to tell its story for a while.

Hart of Dixie Preview: Rachel Bilson’s return is all sweetness and light

Rachel Bilson as Dr. Zoe Hart.

Thanks to the genius that is iTunes, I was able to download and preview the pilot for Hart of Dixie over the weekend – for free!  What I found was 1 part Gilmore Girls, 1 part Everwood and all parts Rachel Bilson.  I adore Bilson as an actress (and even more as a style maven) however, even I find it hard to believe that she is a doctor.  She’s so little and dainty and doesn’t come across as being as tough and stern as I think her character, Zoe Hart, is supposed to.  The show has a pedigree I’m a fan of, with Bilson and creator Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl) and that gives me hope, but I felt like the pilot was trying really hard to be noticed instead of accepting that it is a small show about a small town and that’s ok.  Look, it was just a pilot, so I will withhold my judgement (probably until the show dies, to be honest) but there were some flaws that may prove a little difficult to overcome.  (Please beware that I give away a few plot points)

Though Zoe jumped right in to help the patients, Bilson doesn't seem quite comfortable with the whole doctor thing yet.

1. Bilson is not a doctor.  Like I said above.  I just don’t buy it.  Something about her doesn’t scream “I’ve given up my entire life because I want to be a doctor SO badly”.  However, she is as effortlessly charming as ever and therefore I want to buy it.

2. The basic love plot has been telegraphed from moment one – she’s going to have a hot and heavy affair with the rude neighbor and belong with the engaged lawyer, George, (played by Friday Night Lights alum Scott Porter).  The engaged lawyer’s bitchy fiance, Lemon, is going to give it all up for her affair with the ex-football pro/town mayor (who really needs to stop talking in the third person) and anytime the show tries to bring on new love interests all of the fans are going to revolt.  It’s practically written in the first sentence Zoe says to George.

It's already clear that Jamie King (here with Scott Porter) is going to provide the most quotable lines per episode.

3. The partnership with Dr. Breeland could be interesting, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot about him trying to teach her the fundamentals that have worked forever and her trying to bring him into the 21st century.  I’m already a little over their “young whippersnapper” “old fogey” rivalry.

4. The medical cases in this first episode were a mixed bag – I liked the old guy who manipulated the new doctor in town into signing the DMV form saying he could see (when in fact he could not) but wasn’t a fan of the daughter who had been so beaten down by her mean mother that she hid a pregnancy until the very last moment when Zoe had to deliver the baby in the middle of George and Lemon’s engagement party.  It was a bit schmaltzy right off the bat.  Maybe if we had gotten to know Mabel a bit before she gave birth.  But really it was just Zoe recognizing the signs of pregnancy and then BAM!  Mabel has a full term healthy baby despite never seeing a doctor for prenatal anything.  It irked me.

Bilson and Porter might need a chance to warm up with each other, because right now, I'm not feeling these two.

But there are also some really great things that I think I’m going to love:

1. The scenery is fantastic.  Set in Alabama, the show is filmed in Wilmington, NC with big plantation houses and the trees that are hanging with moss (or whatever, I don’t really “get” plants).  It’s idyllic and open and I like that it’s not another show set in the city.

2. Bilson and Wilson Bethel (who plays rude neighbor, Wade) have great chemistry and I love them together already.  There are some flickers of it with Scott Porter as well, but right now, he’s a little bland whereas Bethel hit the ground running with personality.

It's too bad Nancy Travis' other pilot got picked up because I sort of liked her as a motherly figure on this show.

3. I enjoy Jamie King’s brand of passive aggressive bitchiness.  I wish that she wasn’t already hiding an affair with the mayor, but it’s a fun look on her.

4. Rachel Bilson.  She’s totally adorable and makes it so much easier to overlook any flaws this show might have.  I hope the writers up the quirky quotient of the patients and town residents and that they let the romance stuff just happen (like Wade and Zoe’s car canoodle) instead of forcing it to go one way or the other.  I think that if given a chance, Hart of Dixie has the potential to be a sweet fish out of water story about finding ourselves even when we don’t know we’re lost.

First Impressions: Pan Am

 

Christina Ricci and Margo Robbie

Pan Am is both an excellent example of what a period show can be on network TV and a case against even trying.  It has a lot of style and overall, it’s fun and frothy.  However, there are limits to the network TV budget, and those limits are visible all over this show.  There was that weird shot at the end when Margot Robbie’s Lauren turns to look at the girl as she’s getting on the plane.  There were the fake London and Paris scenes.  That terrible CGI helicopter at the beginning of the show (when Christina Ricci’s character is rushing to make the flight).  I don’t mind that the show has the goal of being worldly, but when that goal isn’t met with equal visuals, it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m watching a TV show that could use a little more money.

Margot Robbie and Kelli Garner (who play sisters Laura and Kate)

However, I think once the show finds itself and stops trying to prove that it is something other than a network TV show it has a lot of potential.  I’m particularly fond of the sweeping dramatic score (sometimes.  I think it suits the show to a tee but is relied on a little too much) which gives the show a sort of Casablanca/Old Hollywood vibe.  I think there’s some condescension towards the idea of women’s lib and the fact that the Pan Am stewardesses represented a “new breed of woman”, but that seems to be the only way television writers know how to write about women in that decade.  So far the characters are just sketches and the plot is fairly well laid out.  Not only is this the only intercontinental airline, but they aid with international incidents (like the Bay of Pigs) and the stewardesses are sometimes spies.

I don’t know, I think it’s going to take a while to really get a feel for the show and for the show to figure out what it wants to be, but at this point I’m ok sticking with it.