Fall Television So Far…

Now that the first few weeks of fall television are under our belts and we’ve bid adieu to Breaking Bad and Dexter (on gravely different terms…spoiler pun intended) it’s time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working with my line up.

What’s working:

New Girl

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I’ve gone “all in” with the third season of New Girl, and the cast has never been stronger. Between Jess and Nick’s honeymoon phase, Schmidt’s juggling of CeCe and Elizabeth (played by the hilarious Emmy winner Merritt Wever), and Winston’s obscenities, the laughs keep coming. The latest episode hit home with a broad range of emotions, when Schmidt is finally caught in his double life. Both Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone change the tone of the quirky show in a tear-inducing break-up, but Merritt Wever perks us up again with her devil-may-care attitude, giving Schmidt a pie to the face. Now, he vows to split up the seemingly innocent couple, Jess and Nick. Will he succeed? Will Winston be able to take care of Ferguson the cat? So many questions!

The Mindy Project

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The OB/GYNs are back for a take two, after Fox barely renewed the show for its second season. Mindy is back with a host of guest stars like James Franco and Beth Grant. So far, the season is fast paced, well-written, and generally funny. However, the plot line of Dr. Reed being fat just isn’t working out and Mindy Kaling needs to pen in some more lines for Betsy Putch, the more naïve version of Pam Beasley.

Modern Family

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What’s there to say about Modern Family? As much as I ragged on them for winning their fourth consecutive Emmy just last month, the first few episodes of this season have reminded me why it is one of the greatest shows on television. It’s managed to stay topical, tackling the legalization of gay marriage by having Mitch and Cam get engaged – but not before a comedy of errors. Elsewhere, Gloria is convinced that Fulgencio is possessed by the Devil and Phil has found a new niche of real estate customers – divorced wives.

Parks and Recreation

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Pawnee’s Parks Department crossed the pond in the season opener of Parks and Recreation to accept Leslie’s award for women’s achievement in government. With the town still against her, Leslie learns to come to terms with her constituent’s ignorance with the help of April. Meanwhile, Tom has a new competitor in the clothing rental business: Jean-Ralphio’s father. Retta is still doing her thing (thang?) in the office, as Chris and Ann Perkins break the news to their co-workers about their pregnancy. I’m expecting big things from this season of Parks and Rec, even though Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are slated to bow out halfway through the season.

Downton Abbey

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Over in the UK, the upstairs/downstairs drama Downton Abbey is back in full swing, but the mourning of Mister Matthew has put a damper on their lives in the past six months. Also, O’Brien skipped town in the middle of the night (little explanation here), making Anna the head Lady’s Maid for Cora. Edith is off gallivanting in London with the publisher, while Mary mourns in her room, until Carson and the Dowager pushes her to her brink and she choses life – for her and her child. I’m loving the introduction of the electric mixer in the kitchen, finally giving Daisy something she’s good at. However, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, she’s left with a fake letter from Mrs. Patmore, while Olive gets one from Alfred, but she thinks it’s from Jimmy. It’s so middle school and I love it. All the while, Thomas has had a slight change of heart, and wants to be more of a part of baby George’s and baby Sybil’s life – much like Carson was a part of Sybil, Mary, and Edith’s life. I have a feeling the first two episodes were catch-up/set-up episodes, and hopefully they keep the drama coming.

What’s not working:

Homeland

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What was going on with the Homeland premiere? I understand that Brody’s confession must have destroyed his household, but by seeing the season three premiere, you’d think Dana is our main character. And don’t get me wrong, I think Dana is a very interesting, dynamic character, played by the very talented, Morgan Saylor. We saw very little of Claire Danes freaking out, which upset me, and too much of her having sex, which also upset me. Also, I know Brody is supposed to be MIA, but at least let us know what he’s up to, right? And Saul’s wife is back? Why? That part didn’t make sense. Let’s pray that this was just a bad set-up episode and that Carrie Mathison will go ham on some terrorists.

The Middle

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Just make a Sue Heck spin-off and I’ll be happy.

CRITICS’ CHOICE TELEVISION AWARDS 2013

Last night, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) presented the third annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The always funny Retta of Parks and Recreation hosted the night of triumphs and snubs. Although winner Patton Oswald (Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Parks and Recreation) noted that the ceremony was only being broadcasted on UStream to “Internet shut-ins,” I highly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the acceptance speeches.

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When the nominations were released last month, I tweeted my support for three underdogs: Eden Sher for The Middle, Alex Karpovsky for Girls, and Elisabeth Moss for Top of the Lake. Probably because the critics read my tweets, both Sher and Moss took home the awards in their respective categories. However, Sher tied for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series with the blown-out-of-proportion The Big Bang Theory star, Kaley Cuoco. Sher noted that this was her second happiest moment, “right after [her] bat mitzvah.” As for Moss, who basically robbed Jessica Lange of the award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, she joked that she had no one from Mad Men to thank, since this was her first ever big-scale recognition as an actor.

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Lange’s co-stars, Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto, redeemed her loss by snagging their well-deserved awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series, respectively, for their bone-chilling roles in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum.

Although I have yet to see HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, I wasn’t too keen on it taking home the awards for Best Movie or Mini-Series and Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series (Michael Douglas). I was pulling for AHS to take home the big award and for Benedict Cumberbatch to receive some sort of recognition for his hauntingly detached portrayal of Christopher Tietjens in HBO’s Parade’s End. Let’s hope the Emmys don’t get it wrong, too.

As far as drama goes, HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s Breaking Bad tied for Best Drama Series. And while I think a tie is sort of a cop-out, both shows have been groundbreaking in the past year and deserve the recognition.

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While Bryan Cranston added another trophy to his collection for his work on Breaking Bad, newcomer Tatiana Maslany, from BBC America’s Orphan Black, scored her first acting award. Although I’ve yet to see this show, her win over the likes of Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss (the night’s only double-nominee), and Julianna Margulies prove that I’m missing out on the next best thing.

The Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama Series never go to who I want, which is why Michael Cudlitz of TNT’s Southland and Monica Potter of NBC’s Parenthood took home the awards. I didn’t know anyone watched these shows, let alone the critics!

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And in terms of the comedy awards, I don’t really want to talk about it. The Big Bang Theory took home three-too-many awards, but the one silver lining was Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ win for HBO’s Veep, in which she portrays a fictional Vice President of the United States. Louie C.K. took home the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series and his countless wins keep reminding me to watch his show.

A common theme throughout the night’s acceptance speeches was the diversification of television today. No longer are the four broadcast networks the kings. Stations like AMC and FX are continuing to define television, and newcomers like the Sundance Channel and even Netflix are following in their footsteps.

While the ceremony was underway, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences posted the ballots for the 2013 Emmy Awards. The nomination period closes on June 28 and the ceremony will take place September 22, just in time for fall programming.

A Graduation and a Funeral: THE MIDDLE & MODERN FAMILY Season Finales

ABC wrapped up its 2012-2013 programming last night with the finales of The Middle and Modern Family, two comedies that are continuing to define comedic television with each progressive season.

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Over at the Heck household, Axl is gearing up for graduation, but is remaining distant from his nagging mother, Frankie (Patricia Heaton).  Meanwhile, Sue announces to her classmates that it will be her last week riding the bus because she plans to pass her driver’s test. Sixth times the charm, right? As the school year ends, Brick is reminded of his duty as class historian to create a picture slideshow of his grade’s elementary school memories – needless to say, he’s got nothing.

After a disastrous road test, Sue is awarded her license for braving all the elements, and she, once again, breaks out her accomplishment dance.

The episode ends with Axl walking across the stage, as Frankie, who has already declared she would not miss her son when he departs for college, turns into a sobbing mess. This, in turn, translated into my own mom breaking out in tears.

In the final scene of the season, Axl and Sue, both with their licenses, go off to see their friends, and Frankie clutches onto Brick, comically pleading for him to never leave.

The Hecks will be back for a fifth season in September, and recent Critics’ Choice nominations should give them a well-deserved boost in ratings. The show was nominated for Best Comedy over their glorified rival, Modern Family, and Eden Sher is finally getting the recognition she deserves with a nod for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy.

The Critics’ Choice Awards take place on June 10th and will be hosted by fan-favorite, Retta, who plays Donna on Parks and Recreation.

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On Modern Family’s season finale, the clan heads down to Florida for Phil’s mom’s funeral. Again, another somber scenario for ABC Comedy Wednesday.

While Mitchell clears up Gloria’s alleged prostitution charges in a Florida court, Cam is out making friends with the elderly women in the retirement community – stirring up gossip amongst the ladies.

Jay bumps into his “first,” a woman thirteen years his senior, and he is discouraged to find out that what he thought was a special night between the two of them was just another one-night stand for her.

The Dunphy kids each receive a gift from the deceased grandmother, and Alex contemplates the meaning of hers: a lighter. Soon, she discovers an accompanying note, which informs her that Paul Newman had left behind the lighter in her restaurant and that she had taken it without attempting to return it to him. The one customer who saw her steal it turned out to be her future husband and Alex’s grandfather. She reminds the straight-edged Alex to break the rules every now and again, so Alex uses the lighter to set off a beautiful fireworks display during the funeral, giving the perfect backdrop for the season’s close.

The Dunphy/Pritchett/Tucker gang will also be returning to ABC in the fall. Oddly, the Critics’ Choice decided to nominate Sarah Hyland, who plays the dim-witted, but good-intentioned oldest daughter Haley. Hyland’s nod is the only for nomination the show received, who could be a testament to the show’s waning dominance in the comedy world. Don’t get me wrong, the show’s consistency and originality is almost unparalleled to anything else on television, but new niches being created by premium cable shows like Girls and Veep, are changing the game completely.