Fall 2014 Network TV

There’s quite possibly too much television to talk about nowadays and sorting through it can be quite a daunting task. But, alas, I’ll try my darnedest.

CBS has never interested me as a network, probably because I’m not in their target demographic, so there’s not much for me to discuss here.

ABC has launched a campaign to diversify their lineup. SelfieBlack-ishHow to Get Away with Murder, Cristela, and mid-season replacement Fresh Off the Boat, all feature minority leads, countering the network’s Caucasian-dominated programming.

NBC, on the other hand, seems to be adding more of the same “white-centric” sitcoms, with shows like A to Z, Bad Judge, and The Mysteries of Laura. The latter two sitcoms might have too specific of a premise to survive the year (think back to other NBC flops like Save Me and The Michael J. Fox Show). Once the kings of comedy, NBC is putting all the eggs in their Saturday Night Live basket, where they are still in a sort of generational transition. With a set of powerfully comedic women, lead by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, as well as strong newcomers Michael Che and 20-year-old Pete Davidson (yes, 20…like, my age), the show premiered last weekend to mixed reviews, as Guardians of the Galaxy star and NBC family member Chris Pratt hosted alongside musical guest Ariana Grande. The best bit of the night came as Pratt poked fun at the obscurity surrounding Marvel’s blockbuster hit, and the gang mocked a some of their upcoming flicks, including Marvel’s Pam 2: Winter Pam (a play on Captain America 2: Winter Soldier). Click the picture below to see the full sketch on Hulu!

AidyBryant_Marvel_Pam-690x262Last, but not least, is Fox. And I like Fox this year. Their solid Tuesday line-up of The Mindy Project and New Girl is sure to cure your mid-week blues, not to mention the sigh of relief that came with the solidification of both of their casts. Brooklyn Nine-Nine took a move to Sunday nights, along with the network’s famed Animation Domination, which includes newly-crowned Emmy winner Bob’s Burgers. While Fox seems to know their comedy, they’ve also taken a dark turn to fill the gaps in the drama department, once championed by House, M.D. and 24 (might we see yet another return of Jack Bauer??). Gotham takes a look at the world of the Batman before the Bat-Call. The heroes and villains we have come to know and love all have their own backstories, from the Riddler to Poison Ivy, Commissioner Gordon to the Penguin. Rumor has it that the Joker will be revealed at the end of the first season, so let’s hope they make it past the mid-year cuts.

In the coming weeks, the cable networks will take control of the airwaves. This Sunday, Showtime revamps Homeland sans Damien Lewis. On Wednesday, FX takes us under the tent with American Horror Story: Freak Show. And the following Sunday, AMC hunts the hunted with the Season Five Premiere of The Walking Dead. 

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Summer Lovin’

As the title of this post suggests, I have found love this summer. A newfound love of summer television. And I’m not just talking about summer’s #1 show – America’s Got Talent (which I non-ironically watch and non-ironically tweet about).

This summer has been a gem for television, between Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and HBO’s The Leftovers, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and FX’s TyrantFox’s 24: Live Another Day and the highly anticipated Netflix revival of The Killing, love is in the air(waves). Puns.

My hope is to blog about these shows before the summer is over, but, alas, my 9-5 internship can kind of put a damper on my blogging spirit, as it is so much easier to binge my DVR than it is to pause and reflect on each individual episode.

Side thought: Merritt Wever in the Nurse Jackie finale was amazing. Pulling for her to take home a second Emmy.

Side thought to the side thought: Emmy nominations will be announced on Thursday. I will surely post my thoughts on my reaction and picks for the awards (which will be held on a Monday in August because NBC doesn’t respect television…if the Oscars were held on a Monday in March, the world would go apeshit).

Be blogging soon,

Rob

FLASHBACK: STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP

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During my screenwriting class last semester, our professor showed us the teaser to Aaron Sorkin’s pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and I was in awe. First of all, they introduce us to flustered production assistant, scurrying around the studio moments before the broadcast of a fictional variety show – think SNL on the West Coast…and on Fridays…and on a fictional network, NBS. Anyways, this PA turns out to be none other than my favorite actress at the moment, Merritt Wever! But back in 2006, she didn’t have her Emmy.

Anyway, the show follows veteran comedy duo Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) as they are called back to the variety show that helped define their careers. Matt is somewhat hesitant to return to Studio 60 because his ex, Harriett Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is now the show’s star, alongside Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddrey).

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To complicate matters, NBS has just hired a new president, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), an attractive, young, sensible woman who doesn’t have the social wits about her. Sound like another Aaron Sorkin character to you? Sloan Sabbith, anyone? And that’s not the only Sorkin staple he throws into this show. The power outage right before airtime? The same problem plagues The Newsroom staff before News Night with Will McAvoy. The show also executes Sorkin’s famous “walk and talk” scenes, as made famous in The West Wing.

The combination of writing in acting in this show is surprisingly succinct for an NBC drama, but the lack of ratings and the promising comedy 30 Rock kept Studio 60 from being renewed for a second season. In its one season, however, Sarah Paulson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, a well-deserved nod that put the show on the map too late in the game.

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If you’re interested in watching, you’ll have a tough time finding it online. I found the complete series at Newbury Comics for nine bucks – quite the bargain compared to my subsequent Chipotle lunch.

September: The Television Enthusiasts Purgatory

Now that September’s here and I’m back at school “studying,” I face a sort of “atheist’s dilemma,” only you have to replace “atheist” with “television enthusiast” and it kind of makes sense. While I am super grateful that Breaking Bad has been delivering Sunday after Sunday (and while Dexter has become a chore to watch), I am not fulling satisfied. I need everything back.

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I need Homeland and Modern Family.

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I need Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.

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If I pray hard enough, maybe this fall will see new seasons of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Or maybe that would be pushing the envelope a tad.

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Be on the look out for posts on these shows and more (including, but not limited to, Parks and Recreation, The MiddleCommunityNew GirlThe Mindy Project, American Horror Story: Coven, and Girls. I might try to get into some new shows, but they all just look so bad this season. The ones I’ll test are The Masters of SexSleepy HollowAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Dads. If you have any suggestions, let me know ASAP. Well, not, like, super ASAP, just whenever you feel like it. Cool. Good talk.

And shout out to tumblr for having these TV cross-over images. I’m glad to know my Internet folk are keeping busy and paying their bills.

Flashback: Three Shows Gone Too Soon

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Eli Stone

Network: ABC

Duration: 2008-2009

In Eli Stone, the title character, played brilliantly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a San Francisco lawyer who develops a brain aneurysm, which gives him visions of God, who speaks through the one and only George Michael. Like an adult version of That’s So Raven, Eli’s visions act as his moral compass in working his various cases.

Eli confides in his acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who is able to facilitate Eli’s darkest memories – particularly those of his abusive father.

His once secure job under supervision of his fiancé’s father becomes compromised when the couple calls off their marriage. The tension in the office only grows with Eli’s newfound gift.

The show is in the ever-evolving comedy-drama genre, with quirky musical/fantasy sequences to the tune of George Michael songs, making Eli Stone one of a kind. The cast is supported by veteran film actors Loretta Devine (Crash) and Victor Garber (Titanic), which gives the show’s side stories real depth, without ever lagging.

In the final moments of the second season (right before it’s cancellation) Eli’s nose begins to bleed a dark red, hinting that his aneurysm had ruptured, but did God have other plans for him? Did the writers? All I know is that ABC, for sure, killed him off too soon.

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FlashForward

Network: ABC

Duration: 2009-2010

Riding off the coattails of Lost (and borrowing some of its actors, too) comes the second show gone too soon: FlashForward. The show follows the FBI investigation of a worldwide human blackout, which gives people a brief vision six months into the future. While many try to make their lives fit the ominous prediction, others strive to change their fate. But those who see nothing, like Agent Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story: Asylum), worry that they will meet their demise before the fated day.

The investigation gets heated when the FBI discovers footage of a hooded man walking out of a baseball stadium during the two minute and seven second blackout.

With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Sonya Walger (Lost), the show surely should have lasted for a second season.

Like Eli Stone’s ambiguous cliffhanger, FlashForward ends with the world blacking out yet again. The vision we see is that of the Agent Benford’s daughter, Charlie, who receives a phone call saying that “he” has been found. The “he”? Possibly her presumed-dead father. And possibly not.

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Person’s Unknown

Network: NBC

Duration: 2010

While the first two shows actually received some buzz in their short-lived runs, NBC’s summer flop Persons Unknown was kind of my guilty pleasure show, full of countless plot holes and terrible acting. Regardless, I would have liked to see it renewed for another summer slot.

The show follows a group of strangers who wake up in a ghost town with no communication to the outside world. They receive a series of tasks from the many monitors planted across the town. Soon, the castaways become restless and a mole is revealed.

After the strangers unite and rebel against the system, they are all placed in a new setting, called Stage Two. The show closes on the castaways opening the door of their new hotel to discover they are now on a freighter in the middle of the ocean. I want to watch Stage Two, please.

A Word on CAMP

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After watching NBC’s latest failure of a dramedy, Camp, I am convinced that the network will need to take a few more years to rebrand itself after losing The Office and 30 Rock this past year. And if they continue in the Hannibal/Dracula direction, I don’t think I would be too happy.

Camp follows the various adventures and mishaps of Little Otter Family Camp (and I’m still not sold on the whole “family camp” aspect of the fictional summer getaway). I feel as though there’s a new breed of helicopter parents that actually go with their kids to camp. And this brings up another point: if parents are present, why is there a need for counselors and CITs? But, alas, this show is just not worth thinking too much about.

The thirteen episode season was filmed in its entirety in New South Wales, and the cast is primarily made up of Australian nationals – which makes me question why us Americans are subjected to its pure awfulness.

THE OFFICE: Robtrospective

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Oh, where to begin this post. I don’t know if I want to do a traditional review of The Office series finale or just give a retrospective of my own (or a “Robtrospective”) of the show that has been defining American television for the past nine years. I’ll go with the Robtrospective.

To be honest, I didn’t start watching The Office from its pilot back in 2005. The first episode I saw was season three’s “Branch Closing,” and I kind of stumbled on it by accidently. Back in the day, our family only had one computer, but we each had our own user account that we could log into. However, iTunes used to operate on a computer-wide scale rather than restricting to each individual user’s account. That being said, my older brother’s iTunes would sometimes accidently start syncing when I would plug in my now-vintage iPod Video. One time, the computer recognized my iPod and began syncing The Office season 3. Being scared for my life, I quickly unplugged the device to avoid my brother’s wrath if I had so much as clicked on one of his iTunes playlists. However, I was too late. “Branch Closing” had been downloaded onto my iPod.

Now that it was downloaded, I figured I would see what the show was all about… and the rest is history.

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I finally started to watch the show religiously in the show’s fifth season, having caught up through my brother’s iTunes account. I remember being intrigued by the show’s mokumentary style, reminding me of my favorite show at the time, Survivor. The short-and-sweet testimonials never ceased to elicit a chuckle and the real-time lens scopes truly captured the essence of everyday life.

The show embraced pregnant pauses in a way that no other show had done before. It’s greatest foil, yet partner-in-Thursday-night-crime, 30 Rock, literally used all of its 22-minutes to spit joke after joke, reference after reference. What killed Tina Fey’s show (and many others like Arrested Development) was that it was too fast and too smart for the average television viewer. In contrast, The Office’s greatest triumph was that it appealed to the masses and the distracted. Missing an episode of the work-place comedy would not set any viewers back in terms of understanding the characters or their interactions – which is why it, along with its contemporary How I Met Your Mother, have already been syndicated on countless cable channels.

In the end, what The Office is truly about is the people and their relationships. And while the veteran employees will forever bask in the show’s glory, two latecomers truly kept the show moving following Steve Carrell’s departure from Dunder-Mifflin.

Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) and Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate) brought fresh new faces to The Office in seasons 5 and 8 respectively. Erin, the naïve receptionist, initiated many a love triangle around the office – most of the time not even realizing she was in the midst of them. Nellie, the pompous, British saleswoman, created much-needed tension in the show, as she vied for the position of Regional Branch Manager against Andy and Dwight.

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Regardless of whether you liked it, didn’t like it, thought it should have ended with Michael Scott’s departure, The Office is, and always will be, one of the greatest feats of American television – even though its roots do trace back to England. From inappropriate “that’s what she said” jokes to “Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica,” the show has taken on a persona of its own and will be cherished by generations and generations to come.